Some Call it Foolishness. We Call it Faith.

After six years of living by faith and attempting to share the results, I am unconvinced that it’s any easier to outwardly express the pain of a difficult moment than it is to live by faith through that moment.

Mainly because seeking comfort is logical (the unspoken rule of popular Christian culture), while seeking the will of God at any cost is not. So for those with the task of publicly displaying their burdens in the name of encouragement, the risk is great that some who hear will simply not listen beyond their own understanding, and miss the point entirely.

But for the sake of those who will truly listen – for the sake of those who recognize that God will never say “Well done my good and financially secure servant” – we will continue to take that risk unflinchingly, and to seek His will at any cost by aiming to emulate the heroes of faith, rather than simply quoting them.

To that end, I believe it is necessary to continue by sharing the struggles we’ve faced since the launch of The Extravagant Fool, five months ago. As there have been moments for my wife and I that seem utterly cruel on the surface, but in the end have increased our trust in God so dramatically, that His presence has become as discernable in our home as an additional member of our family.

Thanks in advance for listening.

It’s a heckuva thing to walk into a bookstore, see your own name and title on the shelf – knowing that its message is encouraging people all over the world – and chuckle at the bitter irony of not being able to buy even a single copy for yourself, or more importantly, not being able to buy even a single bag of groceries for your family.

It’s a heckuva thing to receive phone calls of praise from powerful people – those who sell millions of books, and those who show up in movies – while reflecting on the fact that your son’s wedding is three days off, and you don’t have enough gas in your tank to get to there.

And it’s a heckuva thing indeed to carry these heartbreaking moments around, knowing you’ve done your Father’s will, but feeling like that kid who’s been sent to his room the one and only time he didn’t deserve it.

Just after the book launched in May, as people began buying and being challenged, encouraged, and even transformed by it (with hundreds of good reports stretching from our own backyard, to Canada, and the U.K.) the fiery darts of the enemy – betrayal, false accusations, and financial upheaval – began to fly relentlessly against our mind, will, and emotions, to discourage, depress and fatigue our position as living-proof-witnesses – that intimacy with God –is– worth any price.

And without warning or explanation:

  • Several close friends who’d declared the book a transformational read, and offered their full support, suddenly did an about-face, and severed all contact with my family.
  • We lost our income when I was fired by my wealthy employer, who, after reading my book, questioned its validity, and referred to it and me as ridiculous, and delusional.
  • By email I received additional accusations, character assassinations, and even a few threats, including one from an angry individual announcing that he was going to “hunt me down” after one of his family members who’d heard our story, decided to step out in faith.
  • A dear friend who’d planned on retaining my services for a writing project was forced to postpone it indefinitely when a devastating fire occurred in her home just days before the work was set to begin. She and her family were unharmed, but it left them with months of costly reconstruction, and left us with no extra income to help fill the gaps.
  • We lost the ability to cool our home in the nearly 100 degree summer heat, when inexplicably, all four of our A/C units (two main, and two wall units) stopped working within days each other.

All of which resulted in a temporary downward spiral of no income, dwindling resources, and the inability to use my office to work, write, or help promote the book. And ultimately, the inability to pay for our basic needs such as electricity, health insurance, car repairs and even food.

It’s a heckuva thing this journey of faith, not only in taking each step with a total dependence on God, but in the task of remaining credible witnesses by sharing the experience – warts and all – with everyone.

Some call it foolishness; we call it faith – the paradoxical dividing line between all that pleases God, and all that cannot. On one side we see a fool who claims to be led by God, yet he can barely afford to eat. On the other we see a God who makes fools into authors, and then requires them to continue practicing what they preach.

It’s a heckuva thing indeed, with a price tag that is hard to concede. Unless, of course, we first believe that there is no risk when we fully allow the Spirit of God to lead.

Next up:

Plenty of good news about what God has done these last few months, what we have learned from it, and where He is leading the journey of The Extravagant Fool – The funny red book that takes the risk of irritating some, for the sake of inspiring, encouraging, and offering hope to an entire culture of believers. Come along and see what happens next.

For a free preview of the book, Chapter One is available at Amazon and Extravagant Fool.com by clicking the “Book Preview” tab.

For updates, please join us at our Website, Twitter, Facebook/Kevin Adams, and Facebook/Extravagant Fool

Warm Blessings

 

 

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The Sound of God’s Voice Begins, Where Common Sense Ends

“Write for Me Kevin, and I will provide!”

This was the powerful impression of an illogical God on the spirit of a very foolish man. Yet one who after living by common sense, and losing everything he worked years to achieve, finally decided to stop leaning on his own understanding – to never again be pushed around by what is seen – opting instead to be led by what is unseen.

And by sound of God’s voice, at a time when there was no money for rent or utilities, and little food in the pantry, I began the arduous and unreasonable task of writing my first book–The Extravagant Fool: A Faith Journey That Begins Where Common Sense Ends.

As the bank began the process of removing us from our home at Christmas, and taxes threatened to seize what few assets we had – including the computer I would use to write – the good intentions of other believers, including our own church family screamed: Enough! With words of get-a-real-job-now practicality that were impossible to rebut by any form of human wisdom:

“Yes…but these days everyone’s a writer…your real job is to put beans on the table.”

“Sure God is good…but we live here, in reality. It’s just plain selfish to put anything above your family.”

So, by the standards of the age, it was a foolish idea – one that many still believe originated deep in the heart of my own wishful thinking, certain that a God who remains silent beyond the pages of His Word hadn’t spoken such a foolish thing. And perhaps the kind of “foolish” thing that could only be believed or carried out by absolute faith – the kind of faith, ironically, that we find as our example in the pages of that Word – the very same Scriptures where victory was only achieved when human logic bent its knees to the irrational call of God.

Reality Check

Indeed, if faith comes by the hearing of the Word, then living here in “reality” is living by what we find within in its pages, despite what logic dictates. In order to courageously follow the impossible things God uses to test and grow that faith, we must begin by sitting still, and learning to trust the examples He’s already given us – the whole of Scripture – where every impractical story challenges our logic and self-appointed sense of direction. A kind of shepherd’s crook perhaps, to pull the off-course sheep back in the shepherd’s direction, and where the sound of His voice can be clearly discerned and followed with childlike abandon.

Thank you Noah, Abraham, Esther and Gideon, Mathew, Mary and Paul, for listening when it made no sense, and following like a fool at logic’s expense!

So God challenged my faith for the sound of His voice, by challenging me to first believe that the heroes of Scripture – men and women He led to victory – had heard it long before and recorded it, that we may learn to listen as well, and follow courageously against the opinions of apparently wiser men.

In other words, He inspired me to approach the Word with absolute trust, to set aside the dirty spectacles of practicality and human wisdom—to knock with certainty as if it were the door that only His personality could answer. As a result, I began to discern the plagues of my past – of relegating God’s voice to the past and parading its characters and their creator as if only cartoons worth quoting in the present. I began to have disdain for the logical sneaks who hive off chunks of the Word into sentiments and stings, as if a Deity who could speak entirety itself into existence, might struggle to say exactly what He means.

Even by logic, a divided house falls – He either did it all or did nothing at all. Meaning every single word, whether in red ink or black, spoken by prophet, king, physician, fisherman, or a collector of tax, whether from the mouth of Jesus or those inspired by His Spirit, are supernaturally in-tact.  The more time I spent, the more He revealed, the more intimate our relationship became. The more intimate our relationship, the stronger His impressions became.

Until these words: “Write for Me Kevin, and I will provide!” became the ultimate ground where faith and logic collide. Today there is a book being published by a major publisher, and my family still has a home and plenty to eat – something that was impossible for me to accomplish, yet by God’s lead, was impossible for logic to defeat. To God alone goes the glory!

Dividing the Soul and Spirit (Separating our understanding from His)

Lord, remind us again about the Word that was made flesh…Its breadth and dimension are unrestrained by the flattened landscape of paper and ink. Its Jasper walls of everlasting truth cannot be overtaken by the temporary weeds that men call facts. No literary arrow dipped in the flames of contradiction can set fire to this living water or breach the iron gates of its context. Not even the giant void of black universe can block the radiance of one single verse – “Let there be light” from Pennsylvania to Mongolia. It’s a lamp to our feet that now stretches from Amish nightstands to the glowing cell phones of shepherds in the Gobi desert.

O how the Word is alive and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword. Yet we hold it captive – locked in the scabbard – by leaving it unread. And from the comfort of our own understanding we end up leaving for dead, the still-small-voice that speaks so intimately behind every inspired pen-stoke, and corporate slice of living bread.

Help us all to be convicted to a life of resting on every word you’ve spoken, and moving with abandon by every word you speak. May our spirits be ready to listen with ears that hear, and may we pursue your voice with courage through every soulish doubt and its common-sense veneer.

Living Proof

If you’d like to know more about how we learned to truly hear, trust, and follow the sound of God’s voice to a life of absolute freedom from striving, spiritual rejuvenation, and distinct purpose carried out; Our story, chocked full overwhelming odds and miraculous impossibilities, offers an inspiring glimpse and undeniable proof of God’s unfathomable goodness, along with His loving desire for each of us to step past our own understanding, and finally be led by His Spirit.

The Extravagant Fool is about encountering God with an uncommon intimacy. About honing your ability to discern his voice, leading to a revelation of who you are and what you are to do here on earth, plus the provision to carry it out.

Sound impossible?

Hear the living, breathing testimony offered by the extravagant fool, a man who staked his welfare—and future—entirely on the goodness of God.

My wife Holly, and I, hope you will be deeply encouraged by what God has done, and be equally challenged, and inspired by what He will gladly do for anyone willing to rest in His arms like a happy child. Thank you for taking the time to read the rest of our story!

For updates, please join me on Extravagant Fool.com , Facebook, and Twitter

Warm blessings.

 

 

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Only When God Becomes All That We Want…Do We Truly See That He Is All We Need

It is impossible to please God without some measure of faith. But the prospect of living life entirely by it, is viewed as impractical, unnecessary, and foolish by many. After several years of learning to be a bit more foolish, I remain unconvinced as to which is more difficult: being willing to do anything for the Lord or willing to believe He would do anything for me.

Willingness to be foolish

Sunday morning at ten fifteen the words “Stand up and sing” formed in the air and lingered there like those of an unforgettable friend. And ten minutes before the sermon would end I heard them again and again.  “Stand up and sing…sing Jesus loves me!” I looked around at a thousand quiet souls and wondered who it might have been. Some craning toward the pulpit to catch every corporate word, others with arms outstretched and nodding agreeably at what they’d already heard. But not one, including the speaker, had requested a song or singer to interrupt what is decent with something completely absurd…like “Stand up Kevin and sing Jesus loves me”.

I looked at my watch then down at my feet until clarity wrapped around my dignity and began to sink its teeth. Either God has a plan and had taken time to speak or I was about to be crowned church idiot and king of all freaks. If God indeed has a plan then He surely has a voice but sometimes He just hauls off and forces us to make a choice…knowing full well that a quick fork in the eye is always better than a lifetime of staring at one in the road.

Faith comes by the hearing of God’s word but only with rigorous testing will its measure increase. To that end, any David willing to dance before God with all his might must first count the cost of being despised by others in exchange for his Father’s delight. If you consider yourself a sheep in the fold of Jesus, one that hears His voice and follows, then I have a question: What would you do if He asked you to raise your hands and worship Him on the front porch or in the supermarket?  Or maybe while in the mall or jogging with your iPod? The question is not whether we think it’s unnecessary or even senseless but instead whether we know the sound of His voice and are consumed by obedience to it.

So my moment of truth came down to this: Avoid the entire charade and risk offending God’s Spirit or move forward obediently and risk offending the minds of men. With legs a prickling and every ounce of blood attempting escape through my face, I two handed the back of the chair in front of me and began pulling myself into place – a standing position.  And inching into my periphery was the nauseating blur of faces who were about to be embarrassed…for me.

Willingness to believe foolishly

By late summer we’d been awarded a substantial work contract which held the promise of meeting our financial needs for another year. But as the project began with great hope, so it began with a series of hopelessly unexpected interruptions. Three months and twice as many postponements later our summer of great expectation had given way to another November of desperation. After all, without the benefit of this income we’d literally lose every inch of ground that was gained the entire previous year, and more.

Yet throughout this journey the Lord without fail has sustained our every need by His abundant provision. And all the more generous at times, He has grown our faith by withholding that provision until all seemed lost. So with Christmas only weeks away, a delinquent mortgage and every resource exhausted, we waited patiently for the good news to come, until finally…with no time to spare…it came. We rejoiced that the project delays were over – halleluiah! On the other hand, the project was also over, cut from the budget at the eleventh hour without warning.

I’m not a pastor, theologian or teacher. I don’t have a church, a fan club or a flock. I’m just a regular guy with a testimony who would rather tear away empty pockets than fill them with empty promises. Before any of us can stand on the banks of the Red Sea and believe that it will open, we’ve got to learn the sound of God’s voice, like Moses at the burning bush. And then be consumed by obedience to it in spite of the doubting opinions of others, like Israel, who would rather remain safely in bondage.

Finally, we must become unshakable before the Godless kingdoms of this world, like Egypt, who will stop at nothing to keep us enslaved. Or mammon, the spirit that makes us cringe when we ask if the Good Samaritan would help the same man twice, three times, as long as needed, or stop when it begins to reduce his own storehouse.

It was no accident that every time Moses stepped out in faith God turned up the heat. From the unwinnable assignment, to Pharaoh’s hardened heart, to making bricks without straw, to being ridiculed by his own people, Moses was well prepared to face the impossible when it arrived.  And right on time, after years of preparation, our very own Red Sea moment has arrived to daunt the natural eyes and remind us that God, not man, is our deliverer and God, not mammon, is our place of rest.

Willing to stand up and sing…or not.

By now, halfheartedly standing in church, like the lone awkward applauder at a social event or the guy who tried and failed to start the wave in a stadium, I would become the gladiatorial fool who disrupted the entire service to stand up and sing Jesus loves me…loudly.  With a brief glance at the auditorium door to weigh my last options for avoiding embarrassment, having easily stood to make a simple dash for the bathroom, the other half of my heart with great unction joined rank against my flesh and laid itself on the altar.

Just as the hymn whispered up from my spirit, these words…“do not offend the speaker” settled on my shoulders like the insisting hands of a remarkably strong grandfather. My posture recognized the escape long before my understanding and slumped without hesitation into a deep sigh of thanksgiving – praise the Lord! Then…with only a minute left, the speaker led the congregation in prayer before making a strange request:

“You know what folks? This is going to seem cheesy but before we dismiss…let’s all stand up and sing Jesus loves me”

And without hesitation I knew…I knew that the Lord had just restored what the thief of my struggle had stolen. Jesus loves me…He really, really does. Three days later I shared my experience with the pastor. After a momentary pause, he looked at me with conviction and said:

“Wow Kevin… it wasn’t until the closing prayer that God gave me that song for the congregation. It wasn’t planned or even thought of until I prayed.” 

We both smiled and pondered the love of a God who reminds us He’s there by testing the limits of our willingness. And I knew for sure that a God who would captivate me audibly and confirm it, is a God who would never allow the needs of my family to go unmet…ever.

Willing to believe in the foolish things

In an upside down kingdom it’s the foolish things, not the practical, that glorify the King. When the fool has a need…he meets the needs of another. When his hands are empty…he offers his hands instead. When his storehouse overflows he remembers that life is a vapor and counts giving a much greater privilege than making his future a little safer. When he is maligned he is kind and when he is about to faint from depression, he offers high praise to the Lord and for others he makes petition. When he’s counted by men as foolish in faith, lazy when things look tough and lucky when things seem great, he rejoices, gives thanks and reflects on these onetime foolish things:

God made a way for Noah to escape, Sarah to conceive, Isaac to leave the altar and Abraham to father nations, Jacob to prosper over Laban, Joseph to feed the nations, Moses to deliver a nation, Joshua to win the promised land, Gideon’s three hundred over more than a hundred thousand. And God gave David the favor for an everlasting throne, Elijah the speed to outrun a chariot and power to feed a widow for months from a single meal, Jeremiah the zeal to stand alone, Daniel the conviction to pray out loud and face death, Esther the favor at just the right hour, Nehemiah the vision to rebuild, and ultimately He made a way for the birth, sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord, Savior and King of everything to exchange Himself for a bride.

If the prospect of living entirely by faith (in the One crucified entirely for us) is academically risky, impractical and even foolish…then our fork in the road is clear:

To one side, these bold men and women of scripture are like wonderful cartoon characters that we quote on occasion for practical wisdom. To the other, they are real people with blood & gut testimonies that have become the victories of our inheritance. To one side, we see a savior pointing to our bootstraps who is willing to help if we’re willing to grab them first. To the other, we see that only momentary affliction is able to burn away such a Christian centered veneer. To one side, we see that practical wisdom aims to make life safe by storing up treasure for later and avoiding risky mistakes. To the other, we see that wise decisions are not even possible when made by the spirit of fear. To one side, we see the more sensible answers from the minds of men. To the other, we see the truth as it rings sincere through the veil of Christian ease:

Only when God becomes all that we want do we truly see that He is all we need.

Final Note: 

My wife and I began learning to trust the Lord for our every need about four years ago. Within that time He has met them all abundantly and in His generosity, increased our lives exponentially – teaching us the sound of His voice, freedom from fear, and how to step into our identity.  He has set our children are on fire, unified our marriage, and prepared our hearts with zeal for service. But none of our growth came without testing – testing that teaches us to rest in the Father’s arms like happy children, no matter how ugly the circumstance or radically foolish His instructions appear before men. In short, God has used the struggle set before our eyes in 2008 to remove a thousand from within our hearts along the way.

Today, having our last resource stripped away at the eleventh hour, when all is lost without it, the most difficult test we’ve faced since the journey began has arrived. And honestly… we are worn out, having no taste or patience for the superficial. Never the less, we do well to remember that living by faith is the only way to know who we really are – any of us. The more we are willing to courageously trust Him with our life, the more willing He is to trust us with His plan.

Through the continued encouragement of publishers and others, I’ve been working diligently on my writing project and remain excited. Good things are just around the corner. Until then, please pray that we might endure gracefully. And please take courage in your own testing that you are not alone in the fight of faith – affliction is momentary, rewards are overwhelming.

Lord, today, when all seems lost, as we face our own Red Sea moment, we boast in your mighty works and offer thanks for your good plans. We lift up our praise and declare that the same God who delivered Moses from Egypt and delivered us these past four years will deliver us again for the sake of His glory. Vindicate us before all men that our testimony would prove us weak and helpless and that You alone are our salvation.  

For all who are tired of relying, even a little, on something other than God, today you can rest in His arms like a happy child. But if you need living proof then come along and see what He does next.

 For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net  Or connect on facebook and Google+

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What Can A Generous God Do With An Extravagant Fool?

Lord…that our desire would be to make every act an act of worship, give us a broken heart, but give us one that refuses to be impressed by impossible circumstances.

Last fall arrived as an empty handed messenger… “The income we’d hoped to see remains the income we hope to see eventually. Until then, we’ve stopped paying our mortgage in order to cover essentials. Better to face foreclosure in the next few months than to face the next few weeks without food and utilities.” -October 2011

And so we did… but the weeks evaporated like inch deep water in the heat of our circumstance, leaving us nothing but tears – tears I buried in the pillows of my couch. There I sat with my beautiful wife beside me like an angry passenger. She’d been watching faithfully for months – watching me do nothing with my days but pray and attempt to write – write when our children are decking the halls of a home they’re bound to lose – write when the lawsuits are ushered to our door by an armed official, and write when there is little food left in the pantry and no way to buy more. “Kevin, I can’t live like this – we can’t live like this – it’s insane!”

That empty handed messenger had us both by the seat of the pants but we were moving in opposite directions. “Write for me and I will provide for your family.”  The words God planted in my heart were not a secret but they were no match for the voice of reason. I looked at her as she looked at the empty pantry and choked on their utter foolishness. Still, they hung in my gut like poison “I can’t explain it Holly – I just know that I have to do this.” She was in tears, not because we were suffering but because she was carrying a much bigger burden – the burden of having to trust that a man like me had truly heard from God – easier said than done when her children are asking why that pantry is so empty. It’s the moment of truth when spouses grab their children and run for safety. I deserved nothing less.

The hours passed slowly. My words and prayers stuck to the floor like penny gum with little memory of God’s sweetness. There was nothing I could do – nothing but wait and wonder aloud if God is still generous and wonder silently what a generous God might do with such an extravagant fool. And like any fool on the worst day of his life, I gave up. But like any faithful wife with a fool for a husband, she did not. She didn’t leave because by faith she had the courage to make a different choice – to lift my head and boldly voice:  “Kevin I’m terrified… but I am always with you – I’m with you no matter what.”

Within an hour, barely long enough for our tears to dry, I received a note from a new friend “I have a surprise for you. My editor is interested in your story and I’d like to introduce the two of you – can we talk?” Forty eight hours later a door swung open without a single knock or push from my hand. Behind it were carefully placed words – words filled with kindness and backed by authority. But the words that stood on the shoulders of all the others were these “Kevin, write me a book”.

That same afternoon I received yet another call, this one from a client who needed help with a large project – a project held hostage for months by budget constraints. Not only had it been approved but it came with an offer to pay a portion of my fee in advance. That’s right…two big doors opened by two big empty hands in a single day – Halleluiah! The work took several months to complete and left no time for writing. But by Spring, God had provided enough income for me to pursue the other opportunity – to write my story.

I suppose that when God’s hands appear to be empty it is because they aren’t meant to carry a thing. But instead meant to open the doors of opportunity and then applaud the infant steps of faith that carried us to them. Funny, I never considered myself a writer until God removed all the worldly obstacles. Now it’s the only thing I can imagine – though it is still very tough to do well.  Creativity and consistency have little attraction for one another. Someone recently asked my daughter what kind of work her dad does. After giving it some thought she said “Well…He types words on his computer… and then deletes them.”  

In all that typing and deleting other things have suffered. My yard is a mess, my house is a mess and most days my life is a mess. There are moments that pass before us where things are less than a mess but most of the time we pass from one mess to another. So it has occurred to me of late that life is not a mess but a series of things designed to teach us that we are less than we thought – less than our one time accomplishments, less than our brave steps of faith and even less than the wisdom we think we’ve gained. But God is more than we hope, more than we believe and always more than we can see.

As we reach the fourth anniversary of losing our livelihood and begin the journey of cleaning it all up, we are now able to see what we’ve always missed, we are indeed a mess but at least we are God’s mess.

Final note:

While the income has sustained us for a time, we still feel the tremendous weight of our debts. And while today is full of peaceful but unpaid labor the voice of tomorrow is never silent about the bondage that unpaid labor can bring. Some call it foolishness. We call it faith – a life of learning to live by the sound of God’s voice, the only true provider. Please continue to pray for us.

With the encouragement of a world class publisher and a top notch agent, I’ve been learning the skill of writing – a difficult but worthy endeavor. With that in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate the remainder of this year to sharing how it all unfolds – the next phase of my faith journey.

Will you come along and see what happens?

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net   Or connect on facebook and Google+

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Just Enough Sand To Draw A Fish…is not enough

“A woman with a child is one I’ll never marry”… so I said… until I did.  I met my son to be when he was two and married his mom when he was three. Sometimes saying “never” is a good investment. Nevertheless, an instant family is unwillingly tethered to a bit of instant stress. And like any good investment there is risk of some regret…in spite of our promises.

Wedding day vow to my son -“I love you son and always will but God will always love you more. I promise to do my best as a father and friend but even when I fail I will be truthful with you. I promise above all to point you to the Lord Jesus as your Redeemer, King and Truest Friend and to lead our family in His ways all the days of my life. I will always pray that by His strength your life will be lived for His glory”

Loving my new son was easy but I found that loving him from a distance was easier than standing in line behind him. So I chased my wife’s heart directly while she chased after his well being and we chased our tail in circles without ever blending a thing – certainly not a family. She’d been a prize fighter on his behalf but to my surprise she’d never left the ring. And there was no single expectation, commitment or concern, tougher than being in her corner when I knew her back was turned. But it wasn’t ringside applause she wanted or scriptural support from the corner. She wanted a husband who would jump in that ring and love her son like a father.

Sometimes when our burden seems most heavy God adds a bag of sand. Not for tearing our heart at the seams but to get our knees to bend. When I learned to bend down and love her son, my wife learned to stand up and love her husband.  Truth is…we need more than just enough sand to draw a fish. We need enough to tip the scales – something God only does for a humbled heart.

Yes, God’s plan IS for spouses to hold one another above every other including our own children. But His plans are built by patient hands for bruised and broken hearts. Rome wasn’t built at the speed of an instant family but any family built by God will not fall apart like Rome. Sometimes God’s plan is a set of plans that take time to unfold gradually. And only gradually can we become each others first priority by learning to begin as each others last.

Fifteen years watching the ground – 2010

Few pleasures intoxicate the soul of a parent as deeply as the sweetness of a child’s heart. Like our heavenly Father, we find a more thrilling satisfaction in loving our children when they appreciate us. Decades are spent gladly sowing their good soil for a chance to witness that single harvest known as adulthood. So it’s a nauseating discovery at harvest time to find that the source of our once sweet intoxication is now the rotting sweetness of a character fermenting in the field.

My son, at eighteen, was in deep trouble, not with the laws of man but with the seduction of man’s opinion. He had learned to live life so dishonestly that hurting people seemed a reasonable price for gaining favor with fools. And as his parents, dishonor was our bitter inheritance. Included were the lies to us and about us, the assumptions he allowed others to believe, and the harsh judgments of the misinformed that resulted. But most distressing of all was the impossibility of knowing the true depth of Godly soil left in his character – after all the years of planting and waiting for something good to grow.

When confronted he made no apology, responding only by summing his indifference into one, well timed, remorseless stare. It was a direct blow to his one-time single mom and champion for not coming to his rescue – not this time. And he began to leave without considering that it was also a direct blow to my wife. It was the moment that my anger grew legs and followed him abruptly through the front door and into the street.

With only an inch between the fog of my angry words and his hollow eyes, I made a final announcement. “If you want to hate us then hate us, but you will never again treat my wife this way. If this is how you choose to live you’ll have to do it elsewhere”. And with no phone, money, car or clothes, nothing but icy ground beneath his feet, he turned away as the temporary courage of teen bravado carried each reluctant foot step forward.  We hoped only that he’d spend a few hours becoming closer friends with regret but he was gone for nearly a year.

My wife looked at the door, fell to the ground, and gave the son she painfully delivered eighteen years earlier, to another subfreezing January night. “Lord, this is my son, do with him what you must”. It’s along the seams of a mother’s heart that we find the strength of her devotion. Not because the seam won’t tear but because it’s where she’s most willing to bend. She let go bravely as her own bag of sand began to tip the scales to our favor.

This went on in the midst of our financial meltdown and was part and parcel the continued stripping away of our self reliance. We’d lost everything and now everything included our son. He found refuge with people who considered us abusive and wouldn’t speak to us. They took him in without a word and by default fostered his staying away. The details we’ll leave with God but the lesson He leaves for us and all who will listen.

God knows the pain of betrayal very well but has never once been surprised by it. We on the other hand are nearly always surprised by it. In the end it makes the soul sick if we, like the alcoholic, continue to hold the nose, cover the eyes and drink the lie. We have to take the risk that will keep our children focused on God – even if we are hated for it. After all… what earthly risk outweighs the benefit of following the One who cannot be surprised?

Nine months later the phone rang and we knew there were tears on the other side. Sometimes God wrestles the heavy sacrifice from our arms in order to get them in the air. Other times He adds more weight to get us on the ground. Our son had been carrying his own bag of sand for all these months until finally, God gave him another one.  “Mom, dad…” his voice did not tremble but surrounded us with a gentle integrity.  ”I’m so sorry for what I’ve done, for the pain I’ve caused you. I was wrong. Do you think you will ever be able to forgive me?” With tears all around We love you son and we forgive you. Don’t worry anymore – it’s all in the past.”

Just enough sand to draw a fish is not enough to grow a fisher of men. If it feels like God is adding weight when His burden is supposed to be light, remember that he’s adding to your depth by giving you more sand – one bag at time until you learn to bend. The extra weight will tip the scales and the extra depth will bring your precious seed to harvest. Our son, now twenty, is preparing for work in ministry. He’s a devoted student of God’s word who loves to encourage others for Jesus. He honors us so much more than we could have ever imagined.  Glory to our God for He is faithful.

To my son who just turned twenty

For most it takes many birthdays to begin looking back across them all with gratitude. But occasionally… there’s a rare exception when a young man begins to listen for God’s voice, looks back briefly to see what He’s done and is thankful. You are one of those rare people who’ve chosen to see what God has done, and in turn, sees the trajectory of what He’s doing. As I look back across my own years I see that I’m thankful as well – thankful for being allowed to witness a miracle as my only son becomes my brother.

Dad’s back pocket proverbs

  1. Be surrendered instead of committed
  2. Get intimate with God – His voice is there
  3. Focus on how much God loves you. Your love for Him will grow from that
  4. Live by Matt 6:33 as your mandate
  5. Remember that God is the provider and you are His conduit
  6. Make sure others see the “Christ” instead of the “Christian”
  7. Love your mom & never forget how much she loves you (me too)

“Father we lift up our son that you would anoint him daily as the righteousness of God in Christ, transformed by the Hope of Glory living inside him. Let every day of his life be an honor to you and a blessing to those you lead across his path. Remind him of your unfailing love as you refine his character and let your Spirit burn faithfully in his heart as you assign purpose to each of his days. We surrender him and commit his life to you now as a young man of God, a city on a hill through which your light will forever pass. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.”

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net   Or connect on facebook and Google+

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#20 Unimpressed By The Impossible

The impossible setting:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick but hope without faith pulls the plug and watches the heart die. Lord…that our desire would be to make every act an act of worship, give us a broken heart, but give us one that refuses to be impressed by impossible circumstances.

The fall season has now arrived as an empty handed messenger. The income we’d hoped to see remains the income we hope to see eventually. Until then, we’ve stopped paying our mortgage in order to cover essentials. Better to face foreclosure in the next few months than to face the next few weeks without food and utilities. On the hands of another messenger, a five fingered version of our own Goliath, came a six figure lawsuit that was filed against me and set in motion last month. It’s a long story about rights, the rights of a bank to pay an attorney to convince a judge that a man with nothing can pay back everything from that nothing.

This wilderness continues to break my heart by barely failing to kill it. So dimly lit were the days of the last few weeks that hope deferred became hope unplugged. Yet those same days were joyfully dark enough to expose the timid faith resting on my lampstand – faith like a bulb so loose in its socket that it flickers with every distant roar from a toothless lion. Saintly upon the floor or sinfully beneath it, my days were spent with hands cupped, a faithless smile, and a memory that lasts like penny gum – asking if He’s still generous – generous enough to drop another coin in the gum machine.  But instead of a coin He deposited a word in my heart.

“The sweet testimony of My extravagance is alive in you but it lives in your heart like an orphan.”

With an income that appears to be lost on the horizon, I cannot defend, I cannot replace and I cannot out swim a tidal wave born from the aftershock of my failure. All I have in this moment is that word to cover my needs. What does a generous God do with my sloppy faith?

Tour the prison:

I’ve never been bold like John the Baptist but I take great comfort in knowing that he was once afraid like me. Depression is a spirit that flings false testimony upon the mind like hot tar in the heat of discomfort. From Herod’s prison that spirit asked John if Jesus was really the one. And from the prison of my need it asks instead if that same one has left me for dead. The hand of depression holds circumstance like a chisel. Its skill is not in denying the truth but in chipping away at its context until the truth is no longer welcome. Like little bites of rotten food that eventually wrench the gut and gain our full attention, so the enemy uses false context to painfully remind us of our truthful circumstances.

If we listen, as I listened, then every missed mortgage payment, collection call and deputy at my door becomes a reminder of what God is NOT doing. The circumstances are accurate but no longer reside in the context of truth (what God IS doing). As a result, my outward faith toward God shifts inward toward me and eventually in the opposite direction toward the enemy (“Oh no…God isn’t meeting my needs, what shall I do? Who will help?”) The enemy builds prisons from the bricks of agreement. If he can gain our attention, he’ll start asking questions that are tough to ignore.  For example, here’s one that I’ve heard recently:

“You’ll remain faithful even if God doesn’t rescue your family. But if He doesn’t…will it not prove that faith actually makes little difference in your circumstance?”  

 Don’t answer! We’ve been had…  

The temptation to answer that is strongly linked with our desire to defend God as if we were David and the enemy was Goliath. The grit of an honest answer is our way of facing that villain but it’s only a trap loaded with inspiring bait. This villain is not a giant, he’s a pickpocket who steals everything while looking us in the eye and gently listening to our passionate response. The enemy was never really Goliath or the Philistines but rather the unbelieving heart of Saul and his army who feared them. So let’s be very clear, in the context of depression as a tactic… engaging in conversation with the enemy IS agreeing with the enemy. Goliath represents the opportunity we have to trust God for the impossible – a battle designed to break our heart and build our faith. Whereas the real enemy “unbelief” is simply designed to kill the heart until it is dead.

It was my willingness to engage the enemy that made the difference, not how I answered his question. Once the door was opened for conversation his questions became my own, turning my heart inward and launching a retreat that rendered me kingdom-useless for weeks. (“What have I done? What will people say who’ve seen God move, but now question my sanity? If foreclosure occurs where will we spend Christmas? How will we homeschool our kids?” etc…) He used my integrity to draw me into a battery of questions that surely led to unbelief. I literally felt sick for weeks.

Remember this…God isn’t leading us into conversations with the enemy. Those questions are not puzzles for us to solve, they are faith-grenades that we must avoid. It’s not a question of rebuke or casting anything out, it’s a question of knowing that he’s been rebuked, cast out and put behind Jesus. God is saying consider the source not the content. The questions are irrelevant – keep moving forward because answering irrelevant questions will always and only blow us off course.

Eyes ahead please…

If we consider the declaration “get behind me Satan” to mean “you’ll never again receive my focus” we begin to understand why our only option according Proverbs 4:25 is to look directly ahead. But it’s not a point-n-shoot trajectory. Knowing where “ahead” begins comes only from knowing where you’ve been. This is why remembering what God has done (our testimony) provides direction for knowing where He wants to go (the spirit of prophecy). The testimony of Jesus (who lives in us) is the spirit of prophecy. Rev19:10  But we need an unwavering belief in that knowledge (our faith) to generate forward progress – the substance that propelled David toward Goliath while everyone around him fainted.

Without being commanded, David stepped willingly into what God presented, an impossible circumstance that by faith he stewarded to victory. He was able to do this by prophesying victory over Goliath based on testimony “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Sam 17:37  God is a good provider, so we wait diligently on our break-through. But while waiting we must steward what He’s already given us, the fertile environment for break-through to occur (the setting).  We co-labor in the order of responsibility, our assignment is to fight the battle and God’s responsibility is to win the battle. We declare the victory by faith and He establishes our faith by the victory (for His glory). But it never happens if we forget the testimony that lives in our heart… because it lives there like an orphan.

Note from the King (as spoken to my heart):

You’ve been searching the skies for a cloudburst while standing in a pool of water – you don’t have to talk me into providing for you. Instead, embrace the depth of this struggle and steward it well. My water is gathered and stored here in your lowest place. Stop asking for rain and plant the seeds that I’ve already given you. And from the rich wet soil beneath your feet will spring trees of living sacrifices among the weeds. With a renewed mind I have given you this wilderness to civilize – With the light of men I have given you this darkness to illuminate – With my leaven I’ve given you this fire to make everything you touch rise with you. And having been crushed into salt, it’s with my hand that I will scatter you and make savory the culture that surrounds you.

Personal note:

A broken heart is good but it does not relieve us from the responsibility to live by faith. Only by a broken heart that’s full of faith are we able to face the impossible moment set before us, and steward it well. Thanks dear friends for your continued prayers. Blessings…

If you need encouragement or prayers please email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net  Or connect with me on facebook, twitter and google+

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#19 Okay, Life’s Unfair… So Where Do We Go From Here?

You slice the cake and I’ll decide which piece

If you’ve ever blurted the heartfelt statement “that’s unfair!” you’ve likely heard in response “well… life is unfair.” Believers know and agree that the rain falls on everyone. Yet we all long to be – hope to be, and even expect to be, treated with fairness. Even from a distance our heart aches at the sight of unfair behavior. But where does that expectation come from? Before you answer, take note: this subject is an iceberg chocked full of caverns and caveats – something to be carefully explored over time. The story below is a first step.

Loving my neighbor (with Jesus’s bullwhip)

A breathtaking miscalculation by a young neighbor severed the natural gas line beneath our living room. Within minutes our home was so flammable that answering the phone could have killed us. But because of a deadline our gas line was easier to break than my concentration. My wife stopped explaining and pulled me by the shirt sleeve away from my desk and through the front door. Our A/C unit had been wrestled to the ground by a black SUV and hogtied with the other end of that gas line. I dashed back inside to turn off the breaker and open windows but it was too late. My game face – the one that looks like Jesus, was dead on the floor from asphyxiation. Seconds later I was back outside; this time glaring at the wreckage as if it were a prison break with every guard asleep.

If sixteen years in the passenger seat is considered “driver training” then the SUV sitting atop our air unit wasn’t there by accident. Our neighbor’s son (the untrained driver) blew out his 16th candle, garnered a license and nearly blew up our home. His maiden voyage to the soccer field gave way to a circus maneuver that went no further than the side of our house. The fire department arrived in full hazmat regalia, unleashing a parade of arm-chair crisis managers into the street. Neighbors love this sort of thing.

The young man’s father turned to me as I approached and with a humorous expectation crossed his arms and chuckled… “Well neighbor, it’s time to get yourself a new unit.” But humor is an unfamiliar idiot when your house is about to explode (and you’re broke). My wife and I were equally frustrated but she was more overwhelmed by the opportunity to “be Jesus” to our neighbor. I just wanted to stripe the poor fellow with Jesus’s bullwhip, you know, the one from the temple? And I made it quite clear. But throwing stones sent ripples through my own countenance until its face bore the likeness of an unmade bed – scarcely covering my flesh. My wife took aim with insisting eyes, but her warning shots bounced away from that bed and fell (every one) to the ground.

To my neighbor’s defense rushed another neighbor from another street, making her way to my yard in hopes of inspiring the villagers (still other neighbors) to grab their torches and pitchforks – me being the monster. There were loud chants of “oh grow up” and “come on it was just an accident”. But after the kid destroyed our air unit, wiped out the utilities and nearly killed us, ridicule for not laughing it off in the first two minutes was a marked improvement on the hour.

The neighbor’s insurance adjustor was expected the next business day. Seven days and seven estimates later he knocked on our door with camera in hand. While shaking my hand he was shaking his head in disbelief over the condition of our unit. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Scrolling through the images he continued shaking his head “I can’t wait to show these to the other adjustors.” I humored him hoping the bottom line wouldn’t take as long to reach as his arrival. With a nod of agreement he stopped abruptly and blurted… “You’ll need to call your homeowners insurance”. Our mouths fell open but nothing worth repeating fell out. “Call OUR homeowners insurance?” (If you’re reading between the lines look for a large deductible and a rate increase in that proposition.) “Sorry sir, it’s just our policy.”

My wife, the woman who’d been ready to be Jesus to our neighbor, was now ready to drive out this thief with that bullwhip – the one I’d stolen from Jesus. I think he escaped unharmed, but with an eight thousand dollar replacement cost, we had no choice but to agree to the hefty deductible and to live with higher rates. By this time our sense of fair expectation was road kill (left for dead) on the pity highway – a highway with toll booths on every exit – the further you travel the more expensive it gets. Stay with me…

Our adjustor arrived three days later with an expert, a partnering A/C company to help validate the process. We already had seven experts assess the damage and agree on the solution but certainly didn’t mind one more. By now we knew that federal law prohibited partially updating an obsolete system. Our safety and legal compliance required a full replacement. Hearing that for the eighth time made little difference to us – we thought.

To our surprise this final expert hinted that all seven of our estimates were fraudulent, suggesting that rebuilding was actually a better option because it would reduce the claim cost by half. And even though our system was ten years obsolete, matching parts could be located in junkyards. Wow! This is where unfair begins to feel downright criminal and we both break out the bullwhips. By the way, not one of the seven companies we contacted would touch the liability of trying to rebuild an obsolete system.

Now with a deep breath… (let’s recap)

My wife and children are in homeschool and I’m working in my office. Our neighbor who’s not quite ready to drive demolishes our gas line and A/C units. We narrowly escape our gas filled house without blowing it up. A few people are condemning me for lacking a sense of humor. The damages amount to eight thousand dollars. We have no A/C, heat or hot water for weeks. The neighbor’s insurance refuses to pay for it. Our own homeowners insurance has a one thousand dollar deductible. Our monthly rates increase by fifteen percent. Our Insurance preemptively offers enough to rebuild it with junkyard parts. And the kid next door who injured only his pride was now zipping past the mess he created with more confidence, in his new car!

Okay life is unfair… So where do we go from here?

There are generally two directions we can take: Attempt to “make -fair” the unfair circumstance or Leave it as-is and try to draw meaning from it. Either way, the origin is the same dark and hollow place. Until we move in one direction or the other, we’ll neither ease the pain nor gain understanding – so we have to move. But it’s how we make that decision that is most critical. In order to shed some light, we have to start by asking the right questions from the right perspective (as vineyard workers not holocaust victims) and applying brutal honesty to the answers. To that end, we must sincerely ask where the idea of fairness comes from. And only absolute honesty will provide enough clarity in that tunnel to distinguish between daylight and a speeding train. So, here it is… the truth: Jesus never taught us to be fair, or to expect it. That said, we can agree, disagree or simply say “I already knew that”. But before we can discuss it frankly, we have to take a look at our behavior. Behavior reflects what we truly believe more accurately than our words – even in trivial things.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 7:12 NASB.

Jesus clearly delivers to us His standard for loving others. I’m not suggesting that we’ve misunderstood that. I am suggesting that if we’re not careful, our flesh will gravitate subconsciously toward the best “me” outcome – viewing everything through a set of “how it affects me” lenses. Speaking for myself, when I read this passage I too know exactly what Jesus is saying. But without careful meditation, what my flesh latches onto is something slightly different – twisting the emphasis so that later, under pressure, I’m relying on a false expectation: “People will also treat me the way they would like to be treated.” And if I’m not careful, I’ll behave according to something slightly off parallel, that eventually shuttles my thinking in the opposite direction – possibly toward an oncoming train.

Here’s a quick allegory, using physical maturity, to illustrate the difference in how we reconcile what we say, with what we truly believe (spiritual maturity). Suppose you’re running at top speed and suddenly shoved to the ground, how do you react? If you are five you cry, if you are fifteen you seek revenge, if you are twenty five you seek answers, and if you are forty you see that God kept you from being run over by a city bus. Based on my initial behavior with my neighbor (with no time to apply my game face) my spiritual maturity was like that of the fifteen year old, while my wife’s behavior was like that of the forty year old. When my neighbor didn’t immediately meet my expectation, I reacted on what I really believe – no matter how many times I’ve agreed that life is not fair.

In that respect, how did you feel when you read what happened to us? What was your initial response? Without fail every person we’ve shared this story with has some version of the same response and remedy: “The neighbor should pay or help pay our deductible.” I certainly agree that it’s the only right and fair thing to do. But if I ask myself why, every honest answer leads me to the same perplexing place – and it’s not Jesus.

Bottom line:

Jesus doesn’t teach us to be fair, He teaches us to love even our enemy – to be more than fair to everyone, expecting nothing from men in return. And to be clear… fairness is not inconsistent with scripture, but holding it as a preeminent inalienable right, is. Perhaps our neighbor should pay or at least help with the deductible. Or perhaps he should say “well, you’re getting a new system for a thousand bucks, I did you a favor.” And I could see his point if he said that. But why does it matter who pays if I trust God completely? Think about this… If I believe the words of Matthew 6:33, why should I struggle or strive over the injustice or lack of fairness in our situation? I’m convinced that the longing we feel to be treated fairly is actually a longing for God’s love but until we know His love, we search for anything that will satisfy it quickly, including adding a twist on the scriptures.

Personal Note:

We prayed and God clearly gave us instructions – instructions that included nothing about compensation. In following His lead we sat down with the young man and his parents and told him it was okay – that we’d both made much worse mistakes as teens – all was forgiven. And I asked His parents to forgive me for my anger. We left without saying a word about compensation but trusting God to be our provider in yet another impossible situation. One week later the neighbor brought us a check that covered our deductible. The rest is HIS-story.

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net   Or connect on facebook and Google+

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#18 Wake Up My Post – I Think It’s Still Breathing

If you’re alive, you have breath. If that breath has ever been taken away, even for a moment, you have a testimony. Our lives are filled with moments of pain or decisions that wipe clean everything but the shell of who we think we are. Like many who’ve been breathing a while, I’ve also been crushed under the weight of God’s course correcting presence. Though it continues to steal my breath, it saves my life and reminds me who He is – the only thing of value that truly exists. And the only thing of value that my life can produce is to share this truth with those who are unsure. Faith comes by the word but the hope made available through it is often seen first in the pain of those who are willing to trust God through it. In that respect, here is a brief window into my personal ongoing refinement.

Thrown in the well – (The rest of the story)

In the fall of 2008, after a decade of hard work, I had a successful business, high income, great investments and no bad debt. By January 09, within 100 days, I’d lost it all, was in overwhelming debt, and my entire financial structure had collapsed squarely on top me and my family. It’s a common story these days, but still uniquely and personally devastating. Ten years of effort left me with nothing it seemed but guilt, fear, and shame. As a way of reminding myself to hope, I began to express in writing what has sustained me, kept me from suicide, and still encourages me to press on with confidence. Last year I began my blog with little expectation that anyone else would read it. But people are reading it and sharing it with others who are hurting. And through it, God is revealing His will for me to write, even at the expense of leaving my livelihood dead on the floor. This may sound foolish but from the bottom of a well you see more clearly that everything including your livelihood comes from above. So my journey continues to unfold, but despair is by now blue-in-the-face from loitering about and being ignored. Thrown in the well and grateful I am.

Balancing On The Head of a Pin – (August -April)

When this trial began, I’d been a believer for 24 years. But not until it happened did I learn the value of suffering or understand that even Jesus had to learn obedience through it. It’s the process for all who are being prepared for the work of the Lord. And it differs for everyone depending on that work. For us, there have been days with no groceries and no way to buy them, days of not knowing where we would live, days of marriage struggles and depression, and even days of seeing extended family place material wealth above our need. And some of the longest days were spent watching our prodigal son reject us, and all that we embody. For nine months the son I baptized and the son my wife carried allowed people in his life to believe we were the enemy. But in these days I learned something astonishing, something that will forever keep me passionately defending and praising our God to all who will listen. I learned that He loves me and made me priceless. I learned that His word is the bread of life that most believers never truly feast on, and I learned that He wants to talk to me every day about my life through that word. So I began to study fervently and write from what I learned.

And Now I Know: The most important thing for a believer is to seek intimacy with God so the heart can detect His whispering voice. It is a closeness that only develops through the word by His spirit. And it is the means by which He leads us through our suffering into the work of the Lord. I’ve seen His mighty hand feed us and clothe us when we could not. He stabilized our finances when we had nothing. He brought our son home from nearly year of rejecting us. Over and over I saw His hand moving at precise moments. But it took steadfastly staying in His word to open my eyes and understand what He was doing and why. God never wanted to crush me, but it was the only way to get the wine flowing from me that He intended for others. So my pain has become my passion and my former idols of fear and pride have become a condemned enemy.

Trading Wealth For Faith

I never realized how useless my life was as a man striving in my own effort to sustain a false identity.  Now, through His word, I hear His voice just as the sheep who know the sound of it. After months of living in moments, at my lowest place, God clearly revealed to me that I would be free to live for Him and His purpose while resting in our impossible situation. And while standing in worship one Sunday He said “I will lift you up now” and He did – it would take pages and pages to express the depth and detail of His blessing in this way, so I’ll just summarize it for you. He told me to let go of business, to write and minister instead. He told me He would sustain my family and take care of our needs and He has. He told me He would restore my marriage and clean our hearts from the pain of childhood and He has. He told me that He would speak through me to encourage people when their lives are shaken, and He is doing it as we speak!

The Turning Point – (may require a dose of unfairness)

Suffering removes the hooks of the world so the mind can be renewed and the heart transformed. It’s a process that ultimately proves the will of God and reveals who we are in relation to it. And there is a turning point in our suffering when we stop asking God to change our circumstances and trust that He will perfectly provide for us “in” them. It is the moment we realize the true freedom we have in Christ and it is the moment when our identity in Him is free to move forward without distraction.  However, we must be soberly aware of the enemy’s intense desire to corrupt that process. By paying close attention we may find that in our own suffering we are nurturing a secret pride, a teardrop of pretentious dignity at having suffered and come closer to God.

With hidden pride, a dose of “unfairness” is always required to course correct it. But it’s when that unfairness seems criminal that our willingness to rest in it becomes a true act of worship. And it’s in a state of constant worship that our newly found identity can finally begin to move. In this case, God makes us wait when it makes no sense. But it’s a necessary time when He stretches our faith past the pride of that identity to keep us from being distracted by it. We see this process throughout scripture as God prepares His people for the work ahead. Because of its subtlety, one of my favorite examples is when Joseph is left in prison by the Egyptian Cupbearer.

Gen 40:14-15 “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” But the cupbearer forgot him and two more years passed before he was remembered.

After all the years being refined in prison Joseph believed the time was right – he was ready in his mind. But if you read those verses carefully you can detect the subtle lingering pride he carried. He already knew his identity (dream interpreter). As far as he was concerned there was nothing else to learn from being in prison, and no need for him to continue suffering – it would be criminally unfair. But God left him there two more years to defeat the tiny seed of pride that remained in his heart. The truth is Joseph only knew his identity in part, and certainly, with even an ounce of pride, leading the nation of Egypt for God would have been impossible.

So, perhaps… if this blog has been fruitful in some way between the months of August and April, it has chronicled the brief testimony, still unfinished, that suffering uncovers our identity and from the heels of that suffering the wings of faith take flight. Faith reveals the finger prints of God – Waiting prepares our character for leaving them on the world.

Final Note:

My last post (3 months ago) focused on our long struggle with an angry man who at the end of our relationship allowed me to share with him the good news of Jesus.  Not until those final weeks did I know his body was riddled with cancer. He was very unfair to us for nearly a year. And all we could do is rest in the Lord as to why. For those who read that story and were never sure how it ended, he died on April 24th three days after the post.  As a result of that post I received tremendously kind feedback in various forms – something all writers enjoy. But that enjoyment sat squarely on the shoulders of a suffering man – who I looked in the face – whose final year with his family was defined by bitterness. It hollowed my desire to write. Over the last three months I’ve been praying for God to give me direction – listening instead of writing for the wrong reason. He has answered my prayer and filled up that deep well with water… In the meantime I’m still learning how to swim. Next post due shortly…

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email: wakeupmyfaith@att.net   Or connect on facebook 

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#17 The Homeless Landlord: How Do You Value One Lost Soul?

What would you surrender…
If it would bring salvation to one lost person – a week’s pay, your house, maybe even your livelihood? Don’t answer yet…

From rainy day investor to homeless landlord,
I was steering the ship from a life preserver with no way back on board.
I cut adrift my family’s dwelling and sentenced them to the street,
but anchored a mansion for my tenant who offered us nothing but grief.
He never took a second look nor would he ever agree,
that through my empty pockets the ground is all that you see.

For a moment we were stuck without a home and our tenant was stuck with out a heart. While considering how to parcel out my family to live with friends and neighbors, we surrendered our home with no assets, income or method of retreat. Yet by some “house-of-card” irony, we were still shackled to a waterlogged investment, a rental home with negative equity and Yosemite Sam for a tenant. With all the sad folks sleeping in alleys and underneath bridges, how many possibly owned a rental home – would I be the first? Could I live in a box while my tenant summoned me to fix the plumbing?

With a cup of coffee and a worried look I shared the news with my tenant. Without a word he shook my hand and headed for the exit. But seconds before he shut the door he said with a stubborn stare “I will sue you mister if you sell my house – just making you aware”. Before any rational response made its way to my lips, Johnny Cash was reaching for the extra-long door of his white Jaguar. The same one I supposed that he’d be driving up to my mattress to pay rent. The news was simple really. I had to sell, so I offered him the house for less than we owed. But I reassured him that if he chose not to buy, his lease was still intact with anyone that did. And other than showing the property with plenty of notice, this wouldn’t affect him at all. The only measure of protection for either of us would come on the hands of a new landlord – not a homeless one. But he didn’t want to buy and he didn’t want me to sell.

Surrender Is One Step Past Commitment

When a rainy day investor begins to chase a storm, occasionally that storm reverses course and begins to chase him. It certainly wasn’t the odd rationale of my tenant that caused our circumstance, but now it sat like a heavy object directly on top of our escape hatch. His rational was a mystery to me like a thousand piece puzzle with no picture or box. I didn’t know where to begin or where it might end. But it didn’t end there. Yosemite’s belligerent bag of tricks included legal letters, bitterly critical emails, intimidating potential buyers, and late, partial, or unpaid rent – which by that time wouldn’t cover our cost. This was the climate of our relationship for the next several months.

There are differences between considering how it feels to be homeless and thinking through how to live without a home. There’s the immediate confrontation of the “how to” and the urgency of your answer. But the big difference is realizing there is no retreat. It’s not about selling wedding rings or living with friends for a moment, but looking out ahead of you and seeing nothing on the other side. It’s the nightmare that looks simple through a keyhole but entirely different through the holes of empty pockets. Every hopeless glance at the bed of a tired friend looks more like the back seat of your car… and eventually… the alley where it was parked. Not saying I’ve been there, but we HAD to go there in our mind. You can only watch it through the keyhole until the bank changes the lock – and they were on the way.

The Miracle Between Surrender And Captivity

It seems that miracles most often occur in that blink between surrender and captivity. So we had to be homeless in our mind before appreciating the home God had in mind. And from the smallest most unassuming place, He opened the window of humility and blessed our willingness to climb through it. My wife had previously checked on a few small rentals. Amazingly, in spite of our having no credit or income, we got a call from the motherly landlord of the smallest one. She said God had spoken to her about us and the place was ours for the next year. She broke all the rules and took us in based on her faith and our word. So the new landlord we’d been praying about was meant for us, not my tenant. We moved in without the slightest idea of how to pay the rent. But within a week God provided a small project that covered our living expenses for the next few months. At last we’d have a place to hunker down and untangle the mess.

Through this blessing our tenant had no further influence on our living arrangement. But that declining influence brought more frequent and desperately sharper criticism from him. So we praised God for giving us a place to breathe but we praised Him even more for the revelation we received as a result. Our battle wasn’t defending against the barrage of criticism from our tenant, but in learning to forgive him for every ugly word. Continued forgiveness is unwillingly attached to ongoing persecution – but it’s attached for good reason. As we approached the home stretch of our tenant’s lease (final month) things got very quiet– no more nasty emails or threatening letters, just silence. With a month to go and curious concern, I emailed to remind him about vacating. A few days later the response email arrived from his address:

“My husband was diagnosed with liver cancer this year and it has now spread throughout his body – advancing to stage four. He’s lost 50 pounds in the last two months and is no longer able to walk. His business has suffered, and because of pre-existing conditions, our medical insurance is not covering the costs. There’s not much more we can do”.

My overwhelming impression was concern. I wasn’t shocked or feeling shame for having been frustrated – just concerned. Somehow it was terrifyingly beautiful to recognize that a dizzy man was about to fall, yet God had His hand in the small of his back for an instant. It’s that moment when He leaves the ninety nine for the one – the one who’d already lost his balance by the edge of a cliff.

“I want to tell you that Jesus loves you my friend, so much more than you will ever understand. He made you to be loved and you are the jewel in His crown. He gave you his heart by dying for you as you are. He is our only hope, the only one who can lift the weight of our sin and remove it forever. If you haven’t given Him your heart the time has come.”
“-Praying for you “

He sent me a brief response just saying thank you, and how much those words meant to him. Weeks later the place was emptied with many personal things left behind. We don’t know for sure but believe that something happened. It appeared that his family had moved their things for them. I may never know if he accepted the Lord but at least I know he had the chance. And maybe now we both had a heart, and hopefully… an eternal home.

Reflection:

What would you surrender if it would bring salvation to one lost person – a week’s pay, your house, maybe even your livelihood? Maybe it’s easier to dismiss the question than attempt an honest answer. We may never have to answer that question, but maybe we should live like we already have. Jesus is the one who saves but we are the ones who point the way – unless we let other things get in the way.

When I look back on the frustration and hurt this man caused, I have to remember that it must be only a fraction of what he was feeling himself. If we hadn’t suffered the loss of our home, or forgiven his anger, we might never have known his pain, or taken the time to share the good news. If the One who inhabits us considers one lost soul as priceless – shouldn’t we? I love this powerful verse because it reminds me just how much value God assigns to the lost, and the joy He finds in their rescue. Paul clearly understood this and meant exactly what he said. Even though God would never require this, it shows the heart of Christ for the lost, through the one He inhabits. Nothing on earth is more valuable to God and nothing should be to us.

“I am a follower of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a witness to my conscience. So I tell the truth and I am not lying when I say my heart is broken and I am in great sorrow. I would gladly be placed under God’s curse and be separated from Christ for the good of my own people”. (Rom 9:1-3) CEV

Meditation: Luke 15

Note to self – Poetic style:

Good news falls with greater purpose on the spot where God takes aim,
But evaporates on that empty surface if we’re chasing bigger drops of rain.
Yet even an ocean of stolen drops won’t drown that still small voice,
As it calls for all the drowning lambs to at least be given a choice.
And every martyr bleeds for what each brick in every church demands,
That we stop dragging the wealth of Egypt across the desert sand.
Making every provision a tool for harvest distinctly where we stand,
And watch the good news honor God for the sake of one lost man.

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email or connect on facebook wakeupmyfaith@att.net

Posted in Faith Encouragement | 109 Comments

#16 Greatest Mistake In History – A Man Fails To Lead His Wife.

I once thought greatness was measured in a husband by his ability to provide and willingness to please his wife. By the fruit of that notion I moved my family four times in four years – bigger and better at the speed of home equity. But the fruit of any vain labor will eventually ferment and intoxicate the one sustained by it. My efforts continued blindly until the day the phone rang “we no longer have the budget for your services” one call after another, fifty in a row. I’d been sucker-punched by the truth, just in time to watch the enemy run off with my income, and the value of our home. The emperor who had no clothes was now out of “hush” money.

The bank sold our home for half the amount we paid. My wife, already humbled by the experience, had her sites on a particular rental. But God stepped in and offered more than just a refuge for my large family. We settled instead into a tiny rental with a moldy campground bathroom and perpetually broken air unit. It was perfect for us and we hated it. She referred to it as an “ugly plaid shirt, two sizes two small”, that God insisted she wear. I call it throwing a fit, but I didn’t blame her-it was my fault. He made it clear that we were to move in for a time to adjust our thinking and renew our minds. We stayed. She made it a home.

Several months later in the deep summer, about midday, I fell asleep on the couch and God spoke. It was a long morning of old coffee and reheated resumes – one after another – ninety degrees outside and ninety five in the house. Caffeine is no match for the snake-charm of monotony but I didn’t care. Falling asleep was my way of feeding the pigeons from the park bench instead of working. Or maybe God had His hand on my forehead, waiting for me to stop punching the air and collapse from exhaustion. I don’t remember the dream, only the stress of it. But I awoke with God saying “Remember Adam and Abraham”

The treasure of Godly impression is that He says what he means. Each word is a map telling us where to dig. I spent the next couple days dusting off Adam and Abraham, only to uncover a seated portrait of myself. Both of these men sat down at precisely the moment they needed to stand on God’s word. In their desire to avoid conflict, they bowed the knee and relinquished their God given authority to their wives. Both men gave in because they wanted to please their wives more than God. This failure to stand up and give the enemy a black eye resulted in the most extraordinary suffering the earth will ever know.

Failure to lead

Eve was tempted by knowledge but Adam was tempted more by her appraisal of him. The world has reduced this event to a cartoon of sneaky teens being backhanded for outsmarting God. But even believers miss Adam’s failure to lead by focusing on the at-large temptation (to be like God). It’s obvious though… Adam should have said “No”. He’s responsible, the rest is history. Likewise, Abraham should have said “No” to Sarah when she pushed him to dismiss the promise of Isaac; ultimately making Hagar the mother of Isaac’s disdain throughout history. Both decisions to submit to these influences, instead of standing up to them, brought consequences beyond description.

Let’s Consider Just Two Of The Consequences Of Adam’s Failure:

Gen 3:16b (NLT) 16b “Then he said to the woman… And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” (Other versions refer to it as “desire for your husband” but a deeper study of the structure reveals this to be a desire for his authority -not sexual).

After fifteen years I can say with absolute assurance that nothing (on earth) can move me like the encouragement of my wife. And nothing can injure me like her shame. By design, she has great influence in my life. If she is close to God that influence becomes an extension of His hand. If she is operating from pain or some other contingency, that influence can become a weapon of the enemy.

Gen 3:19 (NLT) “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.”

This verse reveals why men assign god-like value to their unique ability as providers (not gifts). It’s actually a curse, but men wear it in their flesh like a badge. When it’s ripped away they suffer unless Jesus becomes their ointment. He reassigns our value according to what He paid for us, not the sweat of our brow or career status. Someone said to me in response to this “Yes, but a man who won’t provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever.” He was attempting to quote 1 Tim 5:8 as a way to say that my argument gives license for men to do nothing. I understand… but that is a heart issue. It doesn’t require a license from ME. I’m not referring to a willingness to provide but rather our bent to replace God with our own strength. Besides, the context of that verse is completely focused on grown children caring for widowed parents “family that has” helping “family that has not”– expressly those in our immediate family. It’s a complete perversion to use it any other way, especially to condemn a man who seeks God with all his heart for direction. Regardless, men must stop placing their value on anything except the finished work of Jesus!

These Strongholds Are Deeply Rooted In Our Misunderstanding Of Love

The scriptures above reflect two curses that inhabit Christian marriages unnecessarily; one through men and one through women. Each are the result of Adam’s failure to stand up. And below are four intertwined aspects of these curses that perpetuate themselves, until the marriage eventually fails.

The wife falls into the trap of relying more on the husband than God
The husband relies on his ability to provide rather than on the provider Himself (God)
The wife undermines the husband’s authority by manipulating his desire for her approval
The husband receives affirmation by satisfying his wife’s desire instead of God’s will

Jesus broke this curse for all who accept it, but many of us who believe it are living as if we didn’t. In this regard, anyone who is married or hopes to be, should answer a few sobering questions. Can a man properly lead his wife without being led by God? Or can he truly love his wife if he is unwilling to love God’s word? A quick “yes” answer brings the next question: Has our standard “As Christ loved the Church” been adjusted by emotion or reason?

God desires that a man should give himself up for his wife. This means guarding her physical AND spiritual welfare to the point of jeopardizing, if necessary, his own physical welfare. We are meant to care for her physically and spiritually just as Jesus has done for us. Husbands the world over are fairly clear about the physical half of this responsibility. But that is not enough (even though our emotions tell us it is). In fact, in the long term it is the least important of the two. Leadership is the willingness to fully understand and apply this truth to marriage and family. Therefore, a husband must lead his wife by getting close to God, getting in His word, and learning to hear His voice. How can he guard her spiritual welfare if his own is built on something less than God’s word? Christian men will agree to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. But, ironically, they fail to lead their wives by pursuing God’s word to understand what loving them truly means. I thought I knew, but I was wrong.

Convincing ourselves that we understand JUST because we’re Christians, is like Jewish leaders thinking they understood God just becuase they were Pharisees. Being Christian or growing up that way is nothing more than a great place to start. The word is not a dictionary that offers the husband a walk-away definition. It is the bread of life that he needs for daily survival. Without it, God’s ways get choked by the world and leadership reduced to a set of logical or emotional responses. It’s exactly where I’ve come from.

We’ve Been Lifted Off The Ground To Be Welcome Signs Instead Of Doormats

Husbands and wives listen up: The old adage “If mama’s not happy…” is the echo of Eve and a poison fix that keeps women miserable and men numb to confrontation – afraid of their God given authority to lead. Saved men should not see themselves as “the provider” but rather as the conduit through which God provides. The difference carries with it the enormous responsibility of glorifying God and teaching the family who He is. The other only glorifies the man and tempts the wife to subdue it for herself. Let’s adapt a new catchphrase: “if Papa’s not happy, (our God)… ain’t nobody happy!”

On A Personal Note:

Learning to lead properly is a slow and deep process. God is transforming us both inch by inch and we rejoice in that. My wife is already a strong partner whom I trust and cherish. Moving into that rental was my first test of leadership after being knocked flat. We both knew it was right but it needed a firm stand to see it through. I never realized any of this until He brought it to my attention through His word. We also rejoice in that!

Prayer For Leadership

Lord, teach us to love our spouse in the way that you’ve designed and to make it an act of unconditional worship for you. Strengthen your sons to stand firm in your word while guarding the hearts of their wives. Bend and soften the hearts of your daughter’s to follow and honor their husbands out of love for you. In Jesus name let reader agree – Amen.

If you believe that this post would edify someone in need, please pass it on, not for my sake, but for the sake of whom God intended it – Thanks and God bless you!

For prayer or encouragement please contact me by email or connect on facebook
wakeupmyfaith@att.net

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