Monday, March 03, 2014

Not in the Brochure Part II

Caesars Head Bench Mark

Get Away

My original plan for us was to go to certain locations and allow God to speak to us through the words in Psalm 61. We were going to settle this account with God, TODAY. Suzanne was tired of ministry. She had said told me a few times in the past months that she was “done” with ministry. In my mind I was so frustrated with the attempts to develop relationships with churches and people to get involved with as well as operate our ministry that I didn’t want anything to do with people from church any more. We were running on empty.
As we sit down to breakfast I give Suzanne a hint into my plans for the day. For me and her to get  alone with God. After breakfast we drive toward Greenville, South Carolina, remember I was formulating a new plan. We drive a familiar road toward Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Then it came to me. I turned toward a location called “The Pretty Place” located in the foothills of South Carolina and the base of the Western Mountains of North Carolina, a wilderness area of South Carolina with spectacular views and a quiet place for Suzanne and me to get alone with God.
As we drive up the steep, windy road toward my destination I am excited to reveal my plan to my bride and partner in ministry. As we get to the summit we come to the Caesars Head State Park, a 3,200 foot overlook that stands north of Greenville, South Carolina with views as far as the eye can see. We park the car and walk out to the ledge of Caesars’ Head, no one else is there, its 8:30 in the morning. The mist glides over the valley below us and the sky is filled with wisps of clouds.
The first thing Suzanne notices is the wind blowing through the trees in the valley to our right. Across the valley is Table Rock, a sheer cliff face monument 6 miles across the Mountain Bridge Wilderness . It’s an amazing view. This is exactly how I want to start our journey as we repent and listen to Gods voice.
 As we are standing on the massive rock formation I take Suzanne’s hand and begin to explain my purpose for this trip. “We have come along way together” I tell her, tears fill my eyes and hers. “Since we’ve come to Asheville it’s as if we have a target on us and many people who we thought were our friends, including Christians, has taken aim as if we are somehow the enemy.” I explain to her my plan for our day together. “This is a line in the sand for you and me. Today we are going to give everything we are and everything we do to God, in service for Christ, right here and now or we need to quit our ministry and just find a church, settle in and quietly attend each week.”
This is not an ultimatum to God, rather a time of rededication and renewal of our minds and attitudes toward the God we serve and the path Christ has called us to. I read the Outline of my notes from Psalms 61 to her. It is difficult for me to get the words out without my emotions welling up but I read her the words I wrote, “Hear me God, listen to me!”

The Rock is my strength

As we stood on the geological Bench Mark at Creasers Head I read to her my version of Psalms 61. The rock we stood on overlooking that valley, 3,200 feet in the air, I explained that Christ is our rock and foundation, immovable and uncompromising in His love for us. We need to recommit our lives right here, right now in serving our Lord Jesus Christ. Lay out all of our hurts, frustrations, bad feelings, anger and our disobedience on this place. Just as the wind blows in the valley below us, it comes from the East and blows through the trees towards the West and it’s gone. So are our cares if we will let them go and place them in at the foot of the cross and give them to Christ. Now!
From this lonely place, I call to you God, I’m tired of trying to do it my way. Suzanne and I agreed that it was time to stop striving and time to let God take control and lead us forward.
Psalms 46:2-3 says; “Therefore we will fear not, though the earth do change. Verse 3 goes on to say, … Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.”
I translate that to say, God is faithful in a crumbling world. Suzanne and I have seen our world crumble. Our finances and even our many of our relationships have crumbled all while doing Gods will here in Western North Carolina.
As we continue our conversation we walk through a narrow crevice that leads to a trail. The stone rises above us on both sides and is only wide enough for us to pass through sideways. Again, I take the opportunity to share this example of being hemmed in by stone walls on both sides as an example of how we try to do ministry under our own power. It’s a narrow path and limited to our understanding, however, when we release our plans and let Christ have control the plan is now in His hands and we just need to make ourselves available to be used for His purpose.

Sit in Gods space

What is so unique about this time on Caesars head is that we are completely alone. A family comes by with their children for just a few minutes but they continue on the trail. There are no distractions, for the next thirty minutes we are alone at the summit. We stand there and pray, recommitting our lives to Christ.
*Just so you know- The parking lot is about 100 feet away and it is full of people getting ready for hikes and visiting the State Park. However, we are alone; no one comes to the Lookout where we are.
Again I reveal to Suzanne my plan for the day is to get alone with God, as we go about this journey.

We head down to the gift shop and talk to the Ranger for a few minutes and then we depart for our next destination. As we drive towards Greenville Suzanne sees a sign for “Boiled Peanuts”. She doesn’t have many vices but boiled peanuts are one. We stop at a road side store circa, 1975 to find out if this is what she is looking for. The owner gets Suzanne a sample of his recipe and she is in heaven. We continue down the road and she eats boiled peanuts for the next 15 minutes as we travel through Travelers rest, SC.

Lunch is next on the agenda. Find something we haven’t done in a while. I get lost in Greenville for a few minutes but we are back on the road and at our next destination in short order. We end up at Red Robin.

Make Me a Leader By Example

I open my outline again and we begin to talk about our family. Because of the situations we have been in, our ministry is in full view of our children; they have always gone with us. Rodeos, horse shows, concerts and even our church plants, our two children, Devin and Clay, have seen us at work in this ministry. They have also seen how people treat us, the good and the bad. Welcome and betrayed. As Suzanne and I sit there in this noisy burger joint we talk about our attitudes around our children. Many times my anger has got the best of me when friends have let me down or my plans didn’t turnout the way I wanted. Even Suzanne admitted that she is ready to stop any kind of ministry service and just take care of our family.

This is the most troubling of all the topics I had planned for today; being a leader for my family, by my example. Too many times my temper has not been the example of a good and patient Father or a Christ filled man in service for God.

We make a decision to allow Christ to lead us, not to push our way through His will, which is easy to do when you are as tenacious and driven as we are. One thing I’ve learned is planning is good, counting the cost is wise but you can’t out work God. You can keep on going like the Energizer Bunny; God will just stop and wait for you to trip over yourself as you spin out of control. Then you get the message and you gather yourself up and get back to the plan, His plan, not mine.

Remember the conference with Jonathan Falwell? On the last day he discussed a few points about how “Victory” is accomplished in our lives as we go about living out Gods will. They are taken from the example of Ephesians 6:13

·         We Stand on Truth (lots of lies around us)

·         Embrace Righteousness (Protection)

·         Embrace the Gospel of Peace (Christ living in us)

·         The Shield of Faith (deflect doubt)

·         Helmet of Salvation (protect My mind)

·         Word of God (our Playbook)

Live It

Got the picture? This isn’t just another speaker at a conference. I don’t want to take notes; I don’t have to take notes. I don’t need the Outline! The guy next to me is typing emails to his wife and he isn’t listening to the message, why should I? My job is to come in make the sound, video and lighting work; give the guest at the Cove a top shelf experience for their personal spiritual lives, not mine. This is not my life, I’m ok. I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  WRONG.

My pen is moving and putting words on the outline pages. Gods in my head, he’s in my heart, that’s why he’s in my head.

So, how do we accomplish this victory from a battle of posturing in the church, or friendships gone wrong, or failure in ministry? Realize it’s not mine to control. The plan is clear.

1.       Confession – a powerful tool. Keep short accounts with God.

2.       Submission – I choose to submit to Gods plan for my life. Submitting to Gods way for me.

3.       Action – Never fear what Satan can do to me when I am in the will of God. I have to do it, Gods will for my life is my plan.

4.       Live It!

Stop Trying To Control

This is the plan I shared with Suzanne as we sat and ate our burgers. After we ate we visited some shops and continued to talk about how we move forward. We prayed at the table, amid all the noise of a busy restaurant, yet the time with God was without distraction including a renewed purpose and spirit in the two of us.

We finished our day with walking and talking through some of our favorite shops, Costco and Publix. And with that we turned and headed for home. One last stop to make.

As we drove back up the mountain, toward home, in front of us was the North Carolina State Line sign, I pulled off to the side of the road and stopped in front of the sign.

“This is our line in the sand”, I said to Suzanne. “Here is where we leave the past, all the hurts and regrets. We leave it at the foot of the Cross and start all over. This time with God in full control.”

My paradigm here at the NC State Line was a corny illustration but appropriate. We got out of the car took our picture at the state line like two tourist seeing the mountains for the first time. It wasn’t the first time rather a restart of what Christ has been preparing us for since we started in 1999. A whirlwind of ministry in all those years. Now we stand before God broken, used up but not finished. We are both fighters. Here is where we commit to serving God under His will and control. Just like our day started with one set of objectives and ended up totally the opposite of what I had planned. A great example of Gods will and our ability to let Him guide me to where He wants me to be. At the NC State Line.

Now it’s a line in the sand, a fresh start. God makes all things new through Christ.

It’s your turn. Are you tired of seeing things fall apart when your best efforts a met with trouble and defeat. It’s time to allow Christ to take control for your life and give everything you do to the plans He has made for you. They are plans to prosper you and to make you into the kind of person Jesus wants you to be. That’s how we were made. Right now ask God for forgiveness, let him know you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins. Let Jesus know that you want Him to take control of your life right now, today. Now let your life be an example of Christ in your relationships with your family and you friends. It’s not complicated.

Pray every day; talk to God as if you are talking to a friend. Read the Bible, it Gods word to you and it’s a powerful message in a world that is always changing, yet Gods word doesn’t change, build a foundation on His plan. Get involved with other Christians that can build you up and help you grow in your faith.

I hope you enjoyed our journey. It was a day that changed our lives and our perspective about how we view our relationship with God. We had let it get out of hand. If you would like to talk about how Christ can make a difference in your life send us a note or email me and we would be happy to share what we can on your journey with Christ.

Not In The Brochure Part I

View from Caesars Head

This journey all started at The Cove at the Billy Graham Training Center during a conference I was working with guest speaker Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

As an audio and video engineer at the Cove I am responsible for various elements of the program for the duration of the event. For this particular conference I was the graphics technician for a three day seminar. After you’ve done these for as long as I have you learn to disconnect yourself from certain aspects of the conference. During the praise and worship, which is amazing at The Cove, it’s important to be on your game and focus on every word because I am responsible for putting the words on the video screen as everyone sings during the praise and worship portion as well as all the visual aspects during the event. It takes focus and concentration because there are a lot of distractions. On the other hand when the speaker is up and begins his presentation I can usually sit back and listen to the message or not. It’s a big difference between hearing a speaker go through his program or actually listening and engaging in the topic.

As with many events at the Cove, I had done a couple of events with Jonathan and enjoyed his messages but the last time he was here I was not listening even though I heard every word he said. It’s my job to hear him.

On Tuesday, February 24, I sat down at my desk, programmed all the graphics, announcements and songs and I was ready for a three day conference. As Jonathan began speaking my mind engaged the words he was saying right away. Usually I have to make an intentional effort to focus and concentrate on any speaker but as he spoke those words my mind was already actively listening. I had his outline in front of me so I began to take notes and follow his lesson. His topic for this conference; Pursuing Holiness.

The first topic on the outline; What Does God Want From Me? Immediately Jonathans word hit me right between the eyes and the listening mechanism in my brain was in RECORD mode. I don’t usually take notes while working an event.  I may listen or follow the speakers outline if he is using a Power Point and grab a few nuggets for my Christian life but it’s kind of like walking around Costco and getting food samples while you shop, you have a list of things to buy and the samples are little bonuses as you shop.

One thing in particular got my attention. It was in Session Two, Wednesday morning’s topic. It begins with “The Battle”. As a Christian I have seen the battle and have some scars to prove it. The key verse in this outline was from Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good …To love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

What does a battle have to do with humility? A battle is usually an aggressive or defensive strategy. You’re either winning or your defending you position, either way it’s not a time to show weakness.

Next Jonathan does something very interesting he takes a little detour from the battle plan and has what resembles a safety meeting for the troops. Picture this, you are handed your equipment for battle then the next thing you do is, go out and start fighting? No. You have to learn your equipment and how to use it. That makes sense. We can read the Bible, go to church and even participate in a ministry or two just by attending church but if we don’t understand what Gods plan is for our lives then we are simply going through the motions.

He goes to Psalms 61 but first he reads Psalm 46. Verse 10 says; Be still, and know I am God... Now that’s more like it, there’s Gods power. Now we move over to Psalms 61, not very battle like. It’s more of a safety plan than a battle plan. In my notes I write, “Security In God”.  I open the Blue Letter Bible on my computer and begin to read along.

The Psalmist begins by saying, “Hear my prayer, O God! Pay attention to me!” Yep, that’s exactly how I feel right now. God will you pay attention to me?

My soul is weary from trying to do your work Lord, I thought to myself.  For the next few minutes I listened to Jonathan speak the words from Psalms 61 but then I disconnected from Jonathans talk and heard God talking to me from those words in the Bible on the computer screen in front of me. It was those words that seemed to just lay there like a blanket in a grassy field on a spring day. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic but that’s exactly how those words from Psalms 61 were revealed to me. Here’s what my outline looked like as we read through Psalms 61.

v  Hear me God, listen to me! I call to you from this lonely place.

v  Lead me to a foundation that is beyond my strength. I’ve come to you many times, yet people still attack me.

v  I want to come over to your house and stay. Living under your protection.

v  God, I’ve committed to serving you. I have a family and a history of character because we fear you.

v  Give this leader a long life and influence the generations of my family.

v  We should sit in your presence as a good friend.

v  Put love as a faithful companion, let truth guard me.

v  I sing all the days of my life your spirit dwelling in me.

v  I will be sold out for you each day.

v  Nothing will stop me.


Then on the left margin of my outline I wrote an action plan for each one.

ü  Get away

ü  The Rock, Christ, is my strength

ü  Sit in Gods space

ü  Make me a leader by example

ü  Speak to God

ü  Live it

ü  Stop trying to control (Gods will for my life)

The next two days were the most revealing I had experienced in a long time. It was God speaking to me in a way that made sense in our ministry. I knew what I had to do. Suzanne and I had been becoming more and more jaded in our faith and ministry life. We were as useful in our ministry as a rotten bale of hay we throw in the fire because they are falling apart and full of black mold, not fit for anything. That was how I felt. Yet I kept trying to go forward in our ministry. It was like we were parked on the side of the road with no place to go.

A plan began to formulate in my mind. Suzanne and I need to get away. The conference ended Thursday and then I had some work at the local High School on Friday. I thought, Suzanne and me should go away for the weekend. Then on Friday the school called and said they needed a bus driver to take a group of students to Furman University on Saturday, it would be all day, leave around 5:00 AM and back home at 4:00 PM that afternoon. I called Suzanne and asked her if she would go with me, she could ride the bus with me then we could hang out at the college, pick the students up and be home that afternoon. We could have some time together.  She said yes. Ok, plans made.

I began to formulate a conversation for the two of us, about our ministry and Gods plan for our lives using my notes from Jonathan’s conference. We were going to get back on track with God and stop this bad attitude that had begun to take over our lives and ministry, right now!

 In my own life I was so disgusted with some of the people I had come in contact with during our ministry and cowboy church planting as well as our ministry efforts, I was beat down and out. It was time for a change and it needed to start with me.

We would have to leave the house by 4:15 AM to get to the High School and get the bus ready. Suzanne was up by 3:00 AM Saturday morning. I was excited about our adventure together. We would have time to ourselves once we dropped the students off.

I get to the school and go to get the keys from the drivers room but my code doesn’t work on the door, I try it again and still it doesn’t work. It’s 4:30 in the morning and I am going to have to wake someone up to help me get in the school and get the bus keys, yikes! A few text with one of the vice principals later still no keys and the school is locked up. One of the adults with the group I’m supposed to drive shows up and he doesn’t have the bus keys and can’t get access into the school to get them… we are stuck. The group makes the decision to take their own cars to Furman. Now Suzanne and I have the entire day to ourselves. This was not part of my plan. We decide to go get breakfast and make a day of it.

It’s 5:30 AM and we are on the road. In my head I reformulate my plan for a day of renewal for us and our relationship with God. We hit the road.