Archive for March, 2011

31
Mar
11

Learning to follow God no matter where the road leads

In no way do I pretend to be an expert on much of anything.  The only thing I do take pride in is that no matter what has come my way in this life, I have never given up.  Regardless of the pain, suffering, cruelty, injustice and rejection I have faced; through the grace of God, I have managed to hang in there.  In the Bible, this is called PATIENCE.

From the time God entered my life on that mountain in New Mexico in 1969 through the present, there have been innumerable peaks and valleys in my life and ministry.  I have stood on the mountains of good times when I thought I was in heaven, and I have slithered as a lizard through barren deserts wondering if I would live to see another day.  Through it all, God has never left me nor forsaken me.  No matter where I have been and regardless of my spiritual state, God has remained faithful to His Word that He would sustain and protect me.

I have lived in, ministered at and traveled to almost every state in the Union (all except Hawaii and Maine).  I could write lengthy books describing the incredible things God did for me in New Mexico, Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, New York, Texas, Tennessee, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Alabama, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana and Montana.  I have learned that in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.

In 1987, two guys and I sold everything we owned at a moving sale and ended up living in a small pop up camper for months until God opened the door to spend 8 months living in a nice cabin at a resort in Oklahoma in exchange for doing odd jobs around the place.  It was during this time that we would spend 8 hours each day sitting at a big table researching various things in the New Testament.

In 1994, at a time of intense financial pressure, God led me to HIS solution which ended up in us living ten years in a rundown old house in the middle of nowhere with no furnace or air conditioner.   The total “rent” paid during those ten years was less than $200.  Despite the hardship of having to cut and haul wood to stay warm, many of those ten years were the sweetest of my life.

In 1971, three of us were assigned to Marinette, Wisconsin to be ambassadors for Christ for a year.  Within a few weeks of getting there, we were having meetings with 65 people crammed into someone’s living room.  The next spring we were allowed to have meeting at the High School during lunch.  At one meeting we had over 125 kids show up to hear us sing and teach the Bible.

In 1979, working with one other person, God threw open doors which allowed us to minister the love of God to hundreds of students at a small college, but at homes of relatives scattered throughout rural northern Mississippi.

In 1984 a few of us turned the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania upside down as we fully committed ourselves to “witnessing” to as many people as we could in a month.  The doors God opened were incredible and resulted in many people being saved, healed and committing themselves to serving God.

In 2006, I was allowed by God to embark on a journey most people would be scared to death to go on.  I took off with only the van I was driving and my conviction that God would lead me to the right people in Mississippi who needed the love and things I had to offer.  The stories I have to share regarding God’s faithfulness to lead and open doors still to this day astound me.

In 2009, just a few months after nearly dying three times in three months, God allowed me to jump in my van and visit many members of this site.  I will forever cherish the times spent in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Tennessee and Ohio.

Over the years I have found myself in positions where either I believed God would take care of, direct and sustain me or I would die.  I thank God that He honored the faith in my heart to follow Him and in so doing lead me to one Promised Land after another.  I also thank God for what I learned during the times I did not follow Him and ended up in spiritual wastelands.

It is my prayer that in continuing to share from the wealth of experiences I have, it may help to inspire any of you craving to break free from the bondage of trusting yourself, your job or your resources. For those wanting to hear about walking out on faith and not by sight; I urge you to stay tuned for more in the days to come.

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30
Mar
11

The long road back

Let us be honest; there is a mold which supposedly good Christians are to fit into.  I call this cookie cutter Christianity.  For the most part this mold consists of going to church on Sunday and living a decent and upright life with no terrible vices.  Unfortunately this mold also involves the watering down of the Christian message as well as severe judgment on anyone who appears to be either too much of a fanatic or a hypocrite.

 
A very long time ago, it became obvious to me that I didn’t fit the standard Christian cookie cutter mold.  My beliefs, values and views on living the Christian life angered both the ultra liberal and conservative sides of Christianity.  I have been called a paradox, a lunatic, a renegade, a revolutionary and many other “interesting” names since becoming a Christian nearly 42 years ago.

 
I can count on my hands and feet the number of times someone has offered me genuine support over the years and complimented me on “breaking the mold”.  I cannot begin to count all the thousands of times I have been scorned, rebuked, rejected and renounced for things I have advocated or done, especially when trying to help someone through a tough stretch in their lives.

 
Christians are some of the most judgmental people I know.  They pass judgment based upon what they have been taught and thus believe.  Anyone who does not fit their mold is automatically assumed to be a sinner or a wolf intent on deceiving the precious hearts of those who passively sit back and accept everything they hear as truth without ever searching the scriptures to see if it is.

 
Many years ago I allowed my independent streak to destroy my ministry.  I succumbed to the mistaken belief that I was someone special.  When I lost sight of the truth that my life is hid in Christ and only through the grace of God do I have anything good within me, I failed and I failed badly.  I spun out of control, crashed and burned a quarter of a century ago.

 
I spent years of my life crawling out from the hole I dug myself into.  I spent years condemning the day I was born and the day I was born again because I so condemned myself for not being perfect.  While others who committed worse atrocities than I went about their merry way pretending they never were wrong, I did what I felt was right and that was to vanish until God said it was time to return.

 
It took the better part of TWENTY years before God once again opened the door to actively minister His love and mercy to others.  It took nearly TWENTY years, many of them wandering through the dark night of the soul, to get to the point where I honestly believed God still loved me, had forgiven me and wanted me to once again reach out and act as His minister.

 
Christians waste so much time judging and condemning other Christians for backsliding and/or sinning. If more time were spent gently helping those who lost their way find the way back home; the results would be astounding.  Let me tell you a secret.  In the TWENTY years it took for a once strong and independent man (me), whose spiritual backbone was broken, to come back; not one single person ever offered their help or even their prayers to me.

 
When God let me know it was time to once again actively serve Him, the incredible joy was tempered by the fact that contrary to my service in the past, this time there would be no glory and no fame.  This time there would be no special benefits, no Rev. in front of my name or people fighting each other to get into my good graces.

 
I have learned that a servant of the Lord must labor in obscurity and seek to minister to people, one heart at a time.  I have learned this service has nothing to do with ME but rather everything to do with God and helping others know Him, see His amazing grace and get a glimpse of His awesome love.  Because I learned these things, God has allowed me to resume being a voice crying in the wilderness and someone willing to speak the truth in love.  Only this time, I could care less if anyone even knows who I am.

 
God did indeed throw open the doors 5 years ago and I will forever thank Him for allowing me the opportunity to give, share and represent Him as His humble servant once again.  That is growth, my friends and that is most definitely breaking the mold in a million pieces.

 

29
Mar
11

The incredible journey of faith–an introduction

Between August of 1978 and August of 1980 I served as a minister in Mississippi.  Spending two years in one of the poorest states in the Country after spending two years in California was quite an experience.

During my time in Mississippi I learned to respect and love the simple lifestyle of the poor.  I learned that one does not need a lot of money or things to have a deep personal relationship with God.  In fact, I learned that the people who loved God the most are many times those who have the least.

As difficult as those two years were for me, the lessons I learned have stuck with me for more than 30 years.  To this day, my heart is drawn to those who the world considers “losers” and especially to those who must deal with personal tragedies or calamities.

My dad passed away in 1998 and by 2001 I was more or less my 82 year old mom’s caregiver, even though I lived 6 hours away.  Gradually I became her official caregiver and was so until she died in April of 2006.  My heart ached for her state, not just because she was my mom, but because she spent nearly every waking moment held captive by the relentless pain that buffeted her body.  I am deeply moved by anyone in pain, whether physical, mental or spiritual.

When Hurricane Katrina tore into Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 every part of me wanted to immediately drive down there and help.  I knew how devastating that storm would be to the poor people who get no publicity and who live off the beaten path.  As much as I wanted to go, I could not leave my mom due to her needs.  All I could was pray and that is what I did.

My mom was not a generous person.  The fear of running out of money in her old age drove her to be frugal and miserly.  She would give a small offering at church once in awhile, but the farthest thing from her mind was the idea of giving any of HER money to some poor person.  She grew up dirt poor and no one ever gave her a penny, so in her mind there was no reason to ever give to someone else who was in need.

In the final days before her death, my mom came to realize how wrong it was to have hoarded all her money awaiting a day that never came.  Near the end of my mom’s life, she made me promise that I would use some of that money to go help those poor people in Mississippi I always talked about.  I gladly agreed to honor her wishes.

For the next year I went to more places, met more people and did more interesting things than I had done the previous 20 years combined.   In many respects, I believe that God gave me that year as a personal reward for the many years of taking care of my mom.

I have always felt I needed to share some of what I saw and learned in the year God allowed me to live in service to others.  As time allows, I am going to break my silence and actually talk about what it means to literally walk with God with no safety net, no network of prayer partners and by faith and not sight.