Monday, January 14, 2008

I am content...

Philippians 4: 11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This profound scripture has come to reality in my life. God has driven, beaten, squeezed and crushed a whole lot of pride, selfish ambition, and even those hidden faults of 'people pleasing', out of my soul. It’s been a difficult process, but I thank God that I can honestly say what Paul said to the Philippian church family.

The first weekend of 2008, I was directed to fast on my own behalf. The second weekend I was directed to fast for my wife and children. During the second fast, the Lord brought this word to my heart and has opened a new understanding about it.

I appreciate so much more what HE has given me. I have all that a man could ever want in this life. I have a beautiful and devoted wife. I have three sons who make a father so proud that there aren’t enough words to express how I feel. They are young men, in preparation to take the baton that was handed to me so many years ago. It took a long time for me to actually realize what I had been given. I got off track for a long time. After moving to Pennsylvania, I was given another chance to genuinely be with my sons and prepare them for life after high school. Now they can face the world with the purpose of God branded on their hearts and minds.

After three years in this wilderness and testing ground called Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I’ve been brought to a place of contentment. I’m not complacent or stagnant. That’s not what contentment means. I think I understand what the apostle, Paul, was communicating.

I’m not searching for fame and glory. I’m not looking for wealth through money or recognition. I am really content with my life and ministry. Many years ago I wrote a song called Nobody Will Know. After living here, I need to rewrite the verses, but the chorus and bridge would remain the same:





When I consider these words, I realize that I’m the most blessed man in America. I don’t have a big business and I don’t need it to make me content. I don’t have a big church. I don’t need it to make me content. I don’t need to push and drive my family (and those around me) to fulfill some inner quest and dream.

When I think about it, I realize that I just wanted to be a husband and father. I always wanted to be a writer. I later came to receive the calling to be a producer. Then came a calling to be a pastor. Like most young men, I thought the callings might bring the resources and support needed to take care of a wife and children.

However, the Lord turned it all around. I now live and work in the marketplace and my role as a pastor and producer is being fulfilled in that arena. I’m in my career and doing the things I thought I would never be able to do. After dropping out of college, I never knew I would still end up in the place God wanted me to be.

For the first time, we’ve been able to be a regular family. Carol and I go to work and we come home. Our children get to see, talk to and play with their parents on nights and weekends. We are with our sons and we are together. The time we have spent has been the most meaningful experience of our lives.

I gave a lot of my life and time to other people’s children and I almost lost my own. I'm not resentful of that. It was just a reality. I still love doing that, even today. But I was tired of the pearls being thrown... (well you know the scripture).

Most of them appreciated what we did, but we lost a lot on those who didn't appreciate it. So, God sent us to Pennsylvania so we could capture what we would have lost. There is no way we would have the testimony we have, right now, if we had stayed in St. Louis.

However, we thought our move to Pennsylvania was to establish a church called Fruitful Life, but we now understand that we were sent to Harrisburg to discover a Fruitful Life for ourselves and then impart that Fruitful Life to anyone that was willing to partake of it for themselves.

We didn’t need a church building to do that. We didn’t need a praise team or staff to do that. Yet, God let me go through the painful process to discover that truth for myself.

Now, all Carol and I truly desire is just to see our children (natural and spiritual) go forth with the purpose of God for their lives. I don’t need a ministry to fulfill me. I don’t need applause to validate me.

All I ever wanted to be was just a good husband and a good father. When my wife looks at me and there is no fear or insecurity in her eyes, I am content. When my sons call me ‘dad’ and tag me because I’m “it”, I am content.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Fasting and Prayer

I spent the weekend in fasting and prayer and the Lord met me in a very special way. It all began with my wife speaking into my life. She reminded me of who God had made me to be. She reminded me of who God had called me to be.

Then I spent most of Saturday in worship and prayer. I listened to songs like Renew Me and I Believe God from Martha Munizzi and was in tears many times.

The Lord is settling so many things in my heart right now. He is especially dealing with me on the real reason HE sent us to Harrisburg. He keeps placing the emphasis on the dreams and prophetic words that constantly talk about rescue, rescue, and rescue. Rather it's the prisons I dreamed about or the tower of religion HE showed me, there seems to be a video playing over and over again: We were sent to rescue people. The Lord has never shown me how many people would be rescued and I made many assumptions about the strategy to do this, but He's reminded me of some things that have happened in my life.

I remember the rescue mission we went on to get my sister's children back. I remember the rescue mission when I helped a woman who was choking in a restaurant. I remember the two times I had to move fast to prevent our home from being burned down. This season has done a lot to change our motivation. I recall how my bishop was told to get out of the fame game, by the Lord. Now GOD has taken us out of it, too.

I now know, with great assurance, that we are not to do anything to try to draw attention or big crowds to ourselves. Everything we do, rather it’s on the website or the radio, is to put people's attention and expectation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
God is giving me a very radical strategy. It's not radical because it's bold or innovative. In fact it's not spectacular or dynamic in any earthly of man-made sense of the word.

The Lord is instructing us to fast and pray as a church family. Then, we are calling our family members to come to the prayer meeting.

After that, we will pray again as a church family, and then we'll call our friends to come to the prayer meeting. We're calling the prayer gatherings, Prayer Dates for 2008.

All this prayer is leading up to a time in which we're going to send out and cry out to the city, calling all who desire prayer for themselves and their families, to come to a prayer gathering. It's radical because it's not a secret fund raiser. It's not a prayer conference. It's not a prophecy show. It's not a secret plot to get people to join our church. It's a call to prayer. We're going to worship and we're going to pray.

I can see the Hand of God in this strategy. It's our last push in this city in this season. There is no fall back plan and no plan B. It's all or nothing this time and you know what: I believe God!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poured Out

I know I've been really down the last couple days. Mostly, I'm just venting. There's no way I'm going to give up now that we've come this far.

Last night I listened to an audio CD in which my Bishop recounted the journey of our home church from 1987 until 2007. He doesn't know it, but he reminded me how I used to stand in faith along side of him. I believed God no matter what He told us to do. No matter what obstacles we faced, we believed God would come through for us.

I found myself weeping and laughing as he went through story after story. My God, I'm still that same man, so what has happened to me? Why do I struggle to believe God will come through for me, like He did for my bishop?

Then I watched a DVD from a Teaching Series called The Seven Laws of Teaching. In this particular lesson, the instructor talked about several key things that happen to be the very things I've been struggling with the last couple of days.

He said people learn based on how they feel; therefore, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. He said you have to be willing to be transparent and open with people. He said you have to be willing to be poured out like a drink offering.

Wow! Talk about being socked right between the eyes. That was the very thing I was tired of doing. I was tired of pouring everything out and seeming to never get nothing in return. Don't get me wrong. I don't do this, just to get something back. It's just that you cannot give and give and give and never get filled back up.

But the speaker reminded me that you cannot ever become self focused. If you turn your attention on yourself, you'll begin to die. I must keep my attention outward and not inward. He confirmed the stories my bishop had just recounted by audio CD. Our attention has always been outward and God kept us prosperous as long as we did that.

The same must be done here in this region. God sent us here to be poured out. Okay Lord, I'll do that. I'll be poured out. Like the other night, at Zion Assembly, I'll be spent. If it takes three years to set up three minutes of prophetic ministry, then okay...Yes Lord!

If it takes six months to set up a six second impact on someone's life, then okay...Yes Lord.

I don't know what this confession will cost me, but I guess it really doesn't matter. I'm not my own. I've been bought with a price. I will be poured out for you.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Guard Your Heart

I got home from work last night and after pulling the SUV into the garage, I looked at my wife. She gave me that look that only a wife can give a husband. I asked, "What's wrong." She said, "It's in your eyes." She's always been able to see me when I'm hurting.

After we got into the house, Carol put her hand on my chest and said, "Guard your heart man of God." I knew she was right. This is the hardest battle I've ever had. I can't preach something that isn't working for me. If this don't work, I can't preach it."

Today is our 27th wedding anniversary and we have nothing. It's a very frustrating time. We have given and sown, tithes and offerings for months and months since we've been here and we've come to this point of lack and loss once again.
The Lord just reminded me of the song HE gave me from Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation
No fear today, No fear today
He is the strength, the strength of my life
Won't be afraid, won't be afraid
My one desire, to dwell in His house
All of my days, all of my days
He Hides me in a higher place
A secret place, a secret place
I offer up, a sacrifice today
I sing His praise, I sing His praise
Lord to you, I lift my voice
I seek your face, I seek your face
Lord lead me around the enemy
Teach me your way, teach me your way
Wait on the Lord and be of good courage
Wait I say, Wait I say
No matter what in this world I face
I Give Him praise, I give Him praise

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Priority Alert

Last night I dreamed I was lying down on the passenger seat of our SUV and someone else was driving. Our vehicle had our sons and number of other young people in it. It was morning and the driver was preparing to take everyone to school, but they were going to take everyone to their place of responsibility first. I could tell by the street they were taking, and I identified one of the streets, that they were going to go to their job first. I knew we were on our way to south county in St. Louis.
They wanted to be dropped off first and then I would have to drive all the way back to take the young people to school, including my own children. If I went along with this plan, then everyone would be late for school.

So I sat up and asked the person what they were doing; to which they disclosed the plan that I was already suspecting. I became very angry and said, "Get the young people to school first." They argued with me and I woke myself up saying “The priority goes to my children and all the other children who have been entrusted to my care."

This dream followed a long night of tossing and turning due to a very heavy heart. Carol and I prayed together and I simply told the Lord, "I'm tired...I just don't feel I can do this any longer."

My heart has been breaking because of what feels like a waste of so many years. Carol and I poured out everything for others and now we have nothing left for our own children in many ways.

I brought them all the way out here to Pennsylvania and my sons still have nothing. We have invested thousands of dollars in the ministry and in other people and now our sons face high school graduation and we have nothing to give them; not even the funds to apply for schools or take the college entrance exams.

We cannot lose our children because of the ministry. So now it's officially time to let it all go and plug everything into preparing our children for their future.

On New Years Eve, I spontaneously prophesied over the congregation of Zion Assembly, the most effective ministry in the community on the east shore of Harrisburg; at least as far as we have seen in three and half years. After I finished, I was totally exhausted and spent. I knew that I had given the one word I was sent to bring to this church family. Our task has been completed there. It feels like our task is nearly done in this area. I used to tell my bishop that we were going to be in Harrisburg between 3 and 5 years. Now it seem like it's coming to pass just as I told him. In six months, it’ll be 4 years and a season is coming to an end. We can see it. We can feel it. We just know it.

Earlier this week, I picked up the last of our equipment and furniture from Zion Assembly. The next thing I knew, I was giving, what felt like, one last final word of encouragement, through us, for our adoptive family. They have embraced us and held us up through our darkest days. We are forever in their debt.

Now we face the next six months leading up to our son's graduation and I feel that this season is over. I simply cannot lay around waiting for something to breakthrough. I cannot sit back and be led by the priority of others. My children cannot be late in getting their start because I allow the priority and plans of others to send me and my family into endeavors and efforts that will ultimately delay, detour and destroy my children. I cannot allow the ministry to do that any longer.

One of my spiritual sons called me on New Years day to thank us for ministering to him and his family through the years. He confessed that he and his peers was so messed up that our efforts to help them (back when we were youth pastors) were only met with their lashing out at us. I was speechless as he disclosed what was already a point of great frustration and disappointment for us anyway.

I thanked him for sharing it with us, but I found myself fighting the urge to just be indifferent and hard because now that he and a few others understand it now, it hasn't seemed to reap much benefit for us and our kids. I’m not angry with him or any of the people we were able to minister to over the years, but now we are watching our children and it feels like we have nothing left to give them because we gave it all for the sake of others.

A lot of those others have thrown away and squandered what we gave. I realize there are many more who have received what we gave and they have even begun passing it on to their children. However, for all the wasted efforts, I wish I had something of that time, energy, money and resources to give to my own children.

I also wasted a lot of money when we moved here, trying to establish a ministry when I should have been establishing our family. Lord, is there anyway for me to recover what was lost over the last three years?

So at this point, our children's welfare has the priority. We've cut the church services back to only once per month. I' just can't keep dragging my family out to a near empty hotel room every week.

We're not going to waste any more time, money and resources by repeating the same thing every week and expecting different results. My Bishop once quoted that kind of behavior pattern as insanity.

I'll be pushing and helping my children to finish strong in this last year of high school and we'll be taking our funds and helping them apply for schools and buy the necessary things they'll need. There's no more time to wait. They've missed most of the deadlines and we have very little time to catch up.

As things continue to unfold, it looks like the purpose for coming to Harrisburg was never to establish or build a church, but it was to come to rescue certain people from the prisons that they were in. Like Jesus going to the pool of Bethesda, we were sent to bring healing to one specific body and walk away.

I will never assume what the prophetic utterance means, ever again. It seems this was not a season to establish Fruitful Life. This was the season to build us and our family. I wish I had understood that before pouring out thousands of dollars into a pointless effort of trying to start and build a church.

I guess I'm speaking out of frustration and I don't mean everything that I'm writing. It’s just that it hurts to see how much I've handicapped my own children while trying to pursue what I thought was the will of God.

I still made the typical mistake pastors make with their kids. I pray that they can forgive me for that.