Is it well with my soul?

I saw someone post on social media the other day that it was well with their soul. In context I believe they were referring to a thing going well in their life, and for that they wanted to thank God; absolutely and entirely appropriate. As a matter of fact, in the Joseph's Pictures 219“Law” we are instructed to bring sacrifices of thankfulness on the occasion that our hearts are so moved. God does a thing and we are excited, bring a sheep, bring some grain, bring some kind of sacrifice (that costs you something besides energy) to God to say, “Thank you God.”

When was the last time you stopped complaining and said, thank you to God? Seriously. In the midst of all the political pandering still going on, all the hate that is still being perpetrated in the guise of pretend offendedness, personal family drama, work place struggles, financial ruin, have you even stopped to look around and see what all you have to be thankful for?

When God does something wonderful in my life, I say thank you. The other day I was at home and I mowed my yard. As I mowed I thanked God for a yard to mow. I thanked God for our home, our dogs, food, a sunny day and a hot wife. (Or was that a hot day and a sunny wife I confuse them some times.) I stopped to thank God in the midst of a good day for all the good in my life.

What about when it isn’t fun?

As I sit here remembering that person’s “It is well with my soul” post, I wonder, shouldn’t I thank God when things don’t go my way? Don’t I believe he is always sovereign?

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Are you focused on coasting?

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. It isn’t always easy. I have also come to the understanding that just like church, there is never really a “coasting” time: a time when things are perfect and we could live like this all day. There is always, I say ALWAYS, something coming at us. What I see determining peoples “joy factor” is their focus. Are you focused on the “coasting life?” If you are, let me tell you, it will NEVER come, but you will live in a state of constant frustration, discontentment and grief as you strive for it.

Rejoice, rejoice and then rejoice

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and tells them,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is Paul; ship wrecked, left on the open sea, beaten and left for dead, persecuted over and over, jailed and beaten but singing through the night. He found it inside of his belief in God that he could learn and grow in the midst of suffering if he changed his focus. I cannot recall a single passage from Paul where he is in jail and says, “Pray for me to get out this is awful and unjust.” No, he says, pray that I might have boldness to proclaim the gospel in these chains.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National ParkAnyone can bring a thank offering when things are going their way. The question is, will you do it when you are floating in the ocean, hanging on to a piece of the boat that just broke up, and you see the sharks? Can you count it all joy then? Can you see God trying to teach you something eternal, or do you just scream at God because this isn’t fair?

Joy is found in a long range, eternal, “I’m here for a moment,” focus. Happiness is found in our circumstances. Happiness is a wave that crashes on the beach over and over, but it can drown you. Joy is a buoy that you can hang on to and it will keep you from drowning.

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Today is EIGHT

I woke up to a reminder from a friend today: today marks 8 years. Nine years ago I was struggling in a continuing conversation with God. Eight years ago today we launched the first Sunday morning service of the Vineyard Community Church Richmond.

I had moved to Kentucky from western Oklahoma and was here to help a friend and do a job. My calling is to be a light and to bring the light. My initial understanding was that we would spend 3 years bi-eight-isgreatvocationally building a church up; I was sent to assist and assist is what I did. I stayed on for six years and then began to understand that something had changed; I needed to get out of the way. The problem is I had fallen in love with central Kentucky, but I knew I was called to do more than be bi-vocational, but I didn’t know what God had in mind. I began to dream, think, and envision what a move out of state would look like. I questioned going back to Oklahoma, Ohio where I met Jesus, or some place new. God what do you want?

God said “COME FOLLOW ME”

What do you want Lord? I don’t hear too many Christians asking that question any more. “What do you want me to do Father?” “Where do you want me to live God?” “Whom do you want me to minister to Jesus?” I hear people dreaming about a call to ministry but itquestion dice usually begins with gathering together a financial guarantee, they aren’t willing to sell out, move out, and totally trust God because he said, “Go.” They want safety nets and promised salaries bigger than most staff members have in their present churches.

I began to pray. I was very aware that I had not heard from God at all, so I leaned into Elizabeth Elliot’s teaching, “when God isn’t telling you something new, then do whole heartedly that last thing he told you to do.” (something like that) Whole heartedly has always been the way I get involved, I don’t think God created me to watch life go by, I want to live it and I want to live it fully, whole heartedly, enthusiastically, and squeeze every drop of blessing and experience and relationship that I can out of it. I want to live it as more than a conqueror: hupernikeao, Roamns 8:28, I want to live life and live it to it’s fullest; a vehemently abundant life; perissos John 10:10

Art, falconry, Scuba diving, motorcycling, traveling, guitar, poetry, coffee, friends, preaching, leadership, loving, ministering, I find myself whole heartedly diving right in. The Vineyard Community Church of Richmond Kentucky has been no different. From the 20130806_113643.jpgmoment that the Pastor of the Lexington Vineyard contacted me we have been ALLIN. We knew that we were planting a church; it was exciting to meet with people willing to roll the dice and follow the vision.

With 16 years of ministry experience, 5 children, two sons in law, and one grand child, we leveraged everything we could: savings, 401k, what ever we had, to see this thing born.

With one vision

It was exciting, it was fresh, it was loud, it was in the community and God had given us a vision that we would not be deterred from. Admittedly I certainly did not do everything right, I’m just not that smart. It is also clear from conversations that there were a significant number of people that had a lot of differing ideas, or agenda as to what was going to happen; what they personally wanted to happen; I don’t think that is unusual.

Sometimes I haven’t done it right

There have been bumps, valleys, struggles and pain from the get go. There has been joy, salvations, baptisms, healings, and celebrations carrying us along in the Spirit. We have seen God move in wonderful ways and we have cried together because it’s not all Rose_Thorns_2759sunshine and roses. We have seen persons come and we have seen persons go, we pray God continue to be near to them.

I haven’t always done it right no doubt, I have had to ask forgiveness and apologize at times, but then, that’s why Jesus died, so I could get back up and press on. I will always strive to say what needs to be said, corporately or personally, because I’m not smart enough to be scared, nor am I savvy enough to be quiet. I will refuse to compromise anything that might harm these sheep. I will refuse to be a hired shepherd: I have been called as a brother and joint heir with the great shepherd. I will not be perfect but I know that I will be held accountable to caring for the sheep of this fold. It is a very serious matter in my soul. So I live ferocious to attacks.

Stick to the plan

As a church we will continue to press into the vision. When God calls me home or away, the vision can change, until then we stick to the plan:

Chase God with a reckless abandonment,
Love everyone that walks through the door
and try to stay out of God’s way.

DSC_0115Today we are eight years old. WE are eight years old. A lot of people have placed their signature and DNA into this ekklesia to make it what it is today. Whether it was my boss that gave me a job knowing that someone more focused could do it better, the pastor I left that blessed us, or the people that came and went, this church, this gathering of sheep, is marked forever by them all. We are who we are because people cared, loved, served, gave, believed, followed, sacrificed and grew in their own relationships to God. God bless you all.

All the faces, all the people, all the circumstances

So today I reminisce on all the faces, all the people, all the circumstances (good and bad) and thank God that all of these have brought us to where we are today. Still loving, still serving, still caring, still outreaching, stillPulse 2 reaching out, still growing, still chasing Jesus and still seeing lives changed as hurting people seek an audience and an opportunity with a living God.

Happy Birthday to you VCCR, you are growing up into such a beautiful mature Church, God bless and be with you. Until the trumpet sounds and we all are caught up together, or until we all meet together in Heaven to remember, I pray that we will always be found seeking the heart of God, loving this community and more besides, and that our impact will always be bigger than our number.

Keep running

 

SERIOUSLY? 4:30am?

4:30 am comes really early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Actually, it comes too early. This week it was raining “like for real” on Wednesday so we got to skip. Why do I get up on MWF that early? To run. I know that on these days my friend Bruce is coming over. I know that I need to beat him to my driveway or he will leave without me and I will have to run alone. It is a choice. Every day that he is coming I have a choice to make. Roll over or get up and start stretching.

running-shoes-02Bruce and I spend about 45 minutes running 3.4 miles on these days. When my alarm goes off I hate Bruce. Not really, but man I wish he could just run those miles by himself and I would get the benefit from them.

It is probably good that my alarm clock was made by Apple and is also my phone. I set my 6S to a “descending harp” to try to not wake my wife. If all of this was not so, I would have destroyed the alarm a long time ago. But since it is not a $20 alarm clock from Walmart, I am very careful. It is bad enough to buy running shoes and insoles for running shoes; I don’t need to buy a new phone because of this running thing.

Why do you do this?

Someone asked me today why I do it. Well, 4:30 is because I want to run with Bruce. Bruce is good for my soul. Bruce is both a metaphor for Barnabas, “the son of encouragement,” and the Holy Spirit. As we run, (not sprint, more than jog) we talk. Bruce is deep and human at the same time. He cares enough to say the truth and he loves enough to lift me up. I hope I do the same for him. As a pastor this is so important to my soul. He allows me to rant and rave and run. He lets me laugh and cry and wonder. He reminds me of truth and pulls me back when my heart is assuming something wrongly.

Just keep running!

As we run we have a 1.1+ miles course around our housing community. It has hills and flats and is really a nice loop. We run it two to three times depending upon the morning. The first loop is the hardest, then it gets a little easier. As we pass my house for the second time there is no going back so it’s three!

my-houseI can see my house from the other side of the community since it’s a bit of a draw down in to the housing development. As I get to a certain spot, I see the lights, four white dots and the front porch light way across the way. Each time I get to that spot, I think, “I’m almost there, I can do this.” As we run, Bruce will say, “We just need to run to that light up there.” Or, “Just to the white mailbox” Or, “We can run to the truck or the white sign what ever you want.” But we keep moving forward. Then we get to the spot where I see my house. It’s actually a little less than half way to the house from there.

I’m reminded of heaven this morning as I was running. I’m 56 years old this year and I am doing this for my health. I don’t always like it. As a matter of fact, I‘m actually an addict. Yes, I am a pillow addict. If I weren’t this would not be so hard. I want to stay on my pillow! I don’t like doing things that are good for me. I would rather take advantage of my body; feed it donuts, sit on the couch, ride my motorcycle, go to dinner. I would rather do anything than suffer the pain of making my body smaller. But I see the lights.

I made a decision in 1977 to surrender my life to Jesus. Not “accept” him, but “surrender” to him. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect, or “holier than thou,” no, what I am saying is I am part of the family of the King of the Universe and he loves me enough to die for me. Because of that decision on his part, and my decision on my part, I keep running in step with him. And when I do fall, I get back up; I don’t want to end up on the proverbial couch again.

As I am going through this life I look across time and I see the lights of my home: heaven. Those lights say to me, “Keep running you are almost there.” The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, “Keep running, it is all worth it, just run until tonight.” Then tomorrow he says, “Just run until tonight again.” And because of that, we run together and each day gets me one step closer to home. Each day the running gets easier.

My house is a home

my-living-roomWhen I get home from running with Bruce, I walk into a home. I ran to a house, but I walk into a home. The house is the structure; the home is what my wife has made it. The house draws me; the home welcomes me. Honestly when I think of Jesus preparing a place for me, I don’t think house or mansion like so many do, I think “HOME.” He made me a home; a place to come in and crash, a welcoming place that is safe, and protects me, and is where I belong.

Paul wrote to the Hebrews,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”                    Hebrews 12:1

Keep running friend, just to the lights.