The weekend in review

Yesterday several of us returned to South Bluff Park.  The need to return for more ministry in this park was laid heavily on the heart of one of our ladies.   She ended up being ill and unable to make it, but she lovingly prepared sandwiches for the hungry wanderers who frequent the area.   Others who participated provided chips, drinks and a desire to let Christ be seen in their lives.

Our time in the park was a time of contrast.   We met and prayed with folks like Adam, Will, Smiley and Jenny.   Each one with a unique story.   As we were praying and serving one group of people, 100 yards away another group actively utilized the men’s restroom for illicit activities that involved a steady stream of customers.   As we took note of the contrast, we asked the Lord to pierce the darkness with the light of His love.

Yesterday was also a day of provisions for my family.   A check was received that will allow us to pay one or two bills.  Money was also received that covered the cost of a month’s supply of my medications.   When we returned home an envelope was found in our mailbox with the following words:  “You have been on my mind lately and I felt that you might need this.”  Inside the envelope was a gift card to a local grocery store.     Last night we welcomed friends into our home to celebrate with us our ability to call a place home after 2 1/2 years.   The provisions for the meal came from friends and the fish caught on our wedding anniversary.  At the end of the night we were blessed with our latest need…toothpaste and an additional package of toilet paper.

Today during our Sunday worship gathering, we were treated to the gift of music as the Holy Spirit led us through songs about God’s faithfulness and the firm foundation of His presence.   He allowed us to sing a new song that a couple of teenagers had written after a church camp nearly 6 years ago.   The Lord’s presence was strongly felt throughout the morning.

This afternoon, I received a call from a man in Rockport.  He had seen our ad on Craigslist for the house church we are working to launch on Padre Island.   This man has worshiped in a house setting since 1971 and recently moved to Rockport.  He and I agreed to work together with Holy Spirit’s guidance to form a group in his home.

Through all of these things the Lord has continued to affirm the decisions made on Wednesday.  My efforts of laying a financial foundation had caused me to neglect the very call that they were meant to support.   The Lord is helping me to define a proper balance in my life.   The work of the Kingdom is much to0 important and the time is much too short.   This week I will be seeking to further clarify God’s balance for vocation and ministry.

The journey of faith is a crescendo as the house payment is due in two days and there are still bills in arrears and needing to be paid.   The lesson of this past week has been the power of God to maintain joy and peace even when circumstances are not in your favor.   I find that this critical place is refining me in ways that can only be described as tremendous.

My late friend Daniel Trickey made a sign for me nearly a decade ago that has hung in my office ever since.   The sign simply says “Tumultuous to Tremendous.”

God even cares about toilet paper

Ok, so God has us on an incredible faith walk at the moment.   Unpaid bills, half empty cupboard, no clear answers…just faith in daily doses.   The most powerful thing that has been visible thus far is the unshakeable joy and peace that Carol and I have.

Last night when Mike and Kim were over for Organic Group they both commented on the night and day contrast in us compared to our anxiety levels when our housing was up in the air in late January.   They said we were almost like different people from who were just 60 days or so ago.   This in itself was a huge answer to prayer.  I had asked God, to change me, even if you don’t change my circumstances.   I want to be “ok” no matter what my circumstances say.

For the past week or so, we have had less than $10 to our name.   Today we were down to $4 and out of toilet paper, kleenex and anything else that could be used on the daily necessities of the human digestive system.   We were also down to our last package of meat.

This morning as Carol and I prayed, I made a specific prayer for toilet paper along with the other needs in our life.  This morning we received a call from one of the ladies in our church who is moving next week.  She had a refrigerator full of food she needed to give away before she moves.   Later in the afternoon another friend called with a supply of groceries for us.   Not only did God provide basic staples in these provisions, but He even provided the kid’s favorite brand of macaroni and cheese.

Along with the groceries, my friend gave Carol $20.  This $20 was just enough to buy toilet paper, dishwashing soap, trash bags, paper plates and styrofoam cups.   This provision met the basic needs we have for the next 24 hours.

I still don’t know how God will choose to provide for those things that are currently past due, but I know if He cares about toilet paper, He also cares about our financial obligations.

Out of Order

Tonight I had an awakening in my soul.  I have been wrestling with confusion about who I am supposed to be at this moment in time, knowing the greater call on my life, but trying to decipher it in light of my circumstances.   The Lord turned the lights on for me this evening while my wife and I were talking.

Several months ago the Lord began speaking to me about needing to have my foundation set.   I took that to mean my financial foundation, but I realize now that was only a small piece of that instruction.  My call in life is the planting of churches and raising up of church leaders, but I have neglected laying those foundations, because I have been consumed with trying to get a financial foundation built.

The Lord helped me see tonight that I had taken on the wrong role.  I am to walk alongside those who have been called to marketplace ministry, helping them to maximize the effectiveness of their businesses for the purposes of the Kingdom of God.   It is through these relationships and my “supporting role” that the Lord will support my ongoing work, which is not to run companies, but to plant churches and raise up church leaders.

Commerce is meant to be a tool of support for the ministers that I raise up, but not their primary focus.   The Lord has not delivered me from my circumstances, because my priorities were not squarely in line with His.   Additionally, the Lord has given me the release to shut down my financial advisory practice…a place of trust, a place of putting my focus in order.

Matthew 6:33

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…

Untangling the Mess

As those closest to me know, I love to be near the water with a fishing rod in hand.  To me there are few things more relaxing than being out on a sunny day, listening to the birds and catching a few fish.   One of the most important things I have for these times is my tackle box.   Within this box are lures, bobbers, leaders, sinkers and hooks of every size, shape and color imaginable.    

Unfortunately in the bottom of my tackle box is also a “rat’s nest” of rattling floats that have become hopelessly intertwined with each other.   A few weeks ago after nearly an hour’s worth of tracing one line with my finger I was finally able to free one of the 5 floats; however, the rest is still a tangled mess.

Today my thoughts are much like my tackle box.   There are some areas of my thoughts that are fairly organized, close to the top and easy to grab a hold.   On the other hand, I am also finding many areas that are tangled and difficult to follow today.   

As I mentioned in my last post, I am at a place right now, where I am backed against the wall and beyond my means of rectifying.   This time the situation has been different, as the financial deadlines have come and gone.  The provisions I have come to expect at just the right time, didn’t arrive this time.   I now find myself in a place of financial delinquency and uncertain of the answers.   

A few nights ago, the Lord had me wrestle with the question:  “Will you be content and at peace, even if the bills remain past due?”  “Will you be content and at peace, even if the collection calls begin to come?” “Will you be content and at peace, even if…?”   My immediate answer was NO!   This is my reputation, my credit, my character we’re talking about; however, the Lord reminded me that dead men are not troubled over such things.    Before it was all over I found myself saying these words:  “Lord if where you have me today is a place of delinquency and no provisions are to come…I’m ok, because it is the place you have called me to.  Change my view of the circumstances around me, so that I am truly content, no matter what state I am in.”  Those words are much easier said than lived out.   

I have also been trying to untangle my role these days.  My calling is a call to raise up those who will take the gospel around the world, teaching them the truth of God’s word and encouraging them in the faith.   Right now I also have the role of  “commercial minister” in the marketplace of America.   This role has come about through the need to care for my family, but I have yet to see fruit in these endevours (as is evidenced by my current state of affairs).   At the same time the Lord has been removing many of those who walk closest to me, during these difficult times.   This is truly a time of walking alone with the Lord.

As I have been praying and others have been praying with me, a couple of things have been said:

  1. To stand firm in faith
  2. To go to all kingdoms of earth and proclaim His word
  3. Release

So here’s were the tangled mess of thoughts all come into play.  Each of these could be applied and interperted many different ways in my life.   Here’s what I think I understand, but I’ve been known to be way off base before too:

  1. These are lean and lonely times…the kind of times when the enemy comes calling with his latest book 101 reasons why you should give up.   Standing firm in faith means pressing on, even when you don’t see where the road is leading, looking with eyes that are not your own and trusting nothing beyond what is revealed to you.
  2. My greatest influence is not in my own backyard, but on the other side of the world.  Pastors in India and Uganda have sought me ought for the past few years and the Lord uses me to inspire and strengthen them in powerful ways that are absolutely mind blowing.  I am scheduled to be in Kenya and Uganda in about 7-8 weeks.  A trip that I have thus far raised $100 towards, but yet know I need to be there.   
  3. Everything in my life has to be held with an open hand…nothing is allowed to be mine.  What I have been given I merely have stewardship of for the moment.  Included in these things are things like my monthly bills…they are now obligations of my Father, I need to learn how to hold them as His child.

The tangles come in with the roles of my life and the principles that are so deeply engrained within me.  For example:  I work hard to try and support my family, because they are my primary ministry.  Yet the work of my hands does not prosper and in the long run I end up letting the “Kingdom” things go.   My reputation amongst men taints the way they see my Heavenly Father, if I am not living up to my obligations…   These are the things tying up my mind at the moment.

Tonight I fnd myself asking the Lord for wisdom in multiples and an illumination of my understanding.

Desolate Places

About 6 weeks ago, the Lord began to speak to me through several people of lonely times ahead.   The main thrust of the message was along these lines:  “Even if it is just you, keep pressing on and don’t give up.”   I am so thankful that the Lord was preparing me for such a time as this.

In these last 6 weeks I have seen people move on from our ministry, I have had others act as though they never even knew me and my greatest well of strength was capped off and sealed.   Financial deadlines have come and gone with no answers revealed and everything I have set my hand to could best be described as barren and lacking in fruitfulness.

Sounds pretty dismal doesn’t it?  It certainly is not much fun, but it would have been much worse without the warning.

A few days ago, I was really struggling as I watched a financial deadline come and go without deliverance for the need.  I often discuss that in my life God tends to operate on the 11:59:59 principle…arriving at the last second, but right on time.   This time however, there was no deliverance…the deadline came and went.   So I retreated to a quiet place and poured my heart out to the Lord.   His instruction to me…go to the beach.

As I followed the Lord’s prompting, I drove to the Padre Island National Seashore.  I parked my truck, kicked off my shoes and began walking along the water line.   After nearly 45 minutes of walking  began to see a figure in the distance that I at first thought was a radio antenna.  As I drew closer I found that what I had been seeing was not a radio antenna, but a barren tree.   Actually it wasn’t even a barren tree, but instead was a 12 foot tree limb that had been planted in the sand.

Under normal circumstances, this tree limb would not even be noticed.  In fact, it would be dismissed because it was barren and distressed; however, on the seashore this tree limb is magnetic.   It is the only thing standing for miles of shoreline, and because of that distinction you are drawn to it.  You find yourself wondering what it is, and on closer inspection you find that it has been planted in the sand.

As I looked at this scene the Lord began to speak to me about my circumstances.  He pointed out that my life is much like that branch.   He has planted me in a place of isolation and loneliness where my life becomes magnified to all who see it.  The sight of a man standing under such difficult circumstances draws them closer.   As they come closer they see the establishing work of God taking place in my life.  If I had been planted in a lush, fertile environment, God’s work in my life might be overlooked; however, it is through my unique presence in such a barren place that His work become prominent.

I must admit, I didn’t at first find much peace in those words…in fact, they were somewhat difficult to hear.   Then the Lord showed me something else.   He had me turn around and look out at the waves as they came ashore.   He had me take note of the pelicans flying over the water and the crabs in the sand.   He reminded me that this sad looking tree had something no other tree had…a front row seat to the beauty of the Gulf and all that comes with it.

This morning, Mike led us through the transfiguration.   The Lord again spoke to me some deep truths during this time.  The two men who appeared with Jesus were Moses and Elijah…two men who knew what it meant to go it alone.  We speculated as to what the conversation might have been, and I felt impressed that some of it was a reminder that the path of glory often includes extended visits to desolate places.

The Latest Buzz

I really feel as though I’m dropping the ball on blogging.   My business pursuits have taken the majority of my time and they still don’t really provide for our family, but if I have learned anything over these last few months it has been the necessity of casting the nets again and again, even if you don’t see the catch.   The Lord has taught me that sometimes the provisions come through the sweat of my brow and many times they come from the unseen riches of heaven.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we are going through roster changes right now in the ministry.  Baby Micah was born a few weeks ago, some who started with us have moved on, two more will be moving out of state in the coming weeks and Carol and I are now in a different geographic and cultural setting.

We were hoping to launch a Wednesday night Organic Group at the first of March, but the enemy began to rear his ugly head in the lives of those who were to host it.   That group is currently on hold and we are praying for a deliverance to take place in this family’s life.

Carol and I have begun to make some new acquaintances here on the Island and have decided to launch a new Organic Group starting this Thursday.   We are excited about returning this home to the Lord for His use and glory.   We have already had opportunity to bless the kids in our neighborhood by having them over to swim.

The Lord has been speaking to me about my call to the nations for the past few years.   In May, I will return to that call as I spend May 6-19th in Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda.  I will be teaching pastors and church leaders during my visit, plus I have been invited to speak in a large prison in Kenya.   The highlight of the journey will be the oversight of the graduation ceremonies for Redeemer Bible College, which Simplicity became the sponsoring ministry for last year.   The 28 students graduating will be the first Bible College graduates in the Bukwo District of Uganda.  This is such a big event that several high ranking government officials will be in attendance.   The Lord has been building my contacts in Uganda for the past 3-4 years, so I am excited to begin meeting these men of God face to face.

In October, I will once again return to India to work alongside my dear brother Paul in Tamilnadu.  In addition I will be working with another dear co-laborer, Santhosh, in Andra Pradesh.   My trip to Andra Pradesh has been in the works for a number of years as well, so the opportunity to bless these workers in the Lord’s fields is a great honor.

This past week also allowed one of the core values of Simplicity was seen working as it is intended.   We learned of a dear brother and sister in Christ who had a pressing need that required financial provision.   We were able to make a large donation in conjunction with other believers to meet this need.   Our part was made possible, because we don’t pay salaries, cell phone bills and other staffing costs.   Working in this bi-vocational capacity is tough, uncertain and at times down right hair raising, but this week the value of the sacrifice was played out and Jesus was seen in His body.

Right now, I find myself waiting upon the Lord’s revelation in a few key areas.

  1. Allowing the Lord to show me the true nature of my call at this point in the journey
  2. Allowing the Lord to provide the financial provisions for the work that He has called me to
  3. Allowing the Lord to show me His ongoing source of provision for our family

Getting Used to My Skin

The Lord has been speaking to me about the call on my life for the past few years.   It is a big picture I can see, but I have trouble at times discerning the finer details and especially connecting the dots that move me fully into that role.  I

I was sharing with a friend today, that I have trouble seeing where the role of struggling entrepreneur on March 10, 2009 fits into the picture at the moment, but I know perseverence is the key.   There are times you wished that God’s vision came with Mapquest type instructions, but ultimately faith would never be built if it did.

The Lord has shown me the importance of tent making in my call, I just wish I was more adept at it.

Won’t You be….My Customer?

One of the things that keeps me busy these days is the business model I developed to run along side of my church planting ministry.   One of the values of Simplicity Church Network and the Simplicity Churches is that none of our staff members are paid.  We believe each of our ministers should be bi-vocational or self-supporting.

The idea behind Simplicity Solutions is creating a vehicle for commerce that works 24/7/365 to fuel the funding needs of the ministry and the financial provisions for the ministers who serve.   The profits from Simplicity Solutions will be redirected back into the church planting ministry and missions of Simplicity Church Network.  Pretty simple really!

So I’m asking you…imploring you….begging you….please, please, please stop by Simplicity Solutions Store on a regular basis.  Put a link to it in your emails, on your Facebook and Myspace pages.   Talk about it in your blog and link to it there.   Tell others…the tools are in place I just need good loyal customers like yourselves.


P.S.  Don’t forget these other Simplicity Solutions sites as well:

So Easy…An 11 Year Old Can Do It

While I was away on business a few weeks ago, my 11 year old led the Organic Group that meets on Tuesday nights.  Last night he asked me if he could lead the discussions again and I happily said yes.   It was so amazing to watch the Holy Spirit work through him.  He was asked a question early on in the discussion of Mark 8 that was very deep.   The answer that came out of him was even deeper, well beyond the wisdom of an 11 year old boy.  It was truly the voice of the Lord speaking through him, with depth and clarity.

This is just another incredible example of life in the body of Christ.  God can use any willing vessel to do His marvelous work among us.   Last night it just so happened it was my 11 year old son.

Tonight we will be launching a new Organic Group with the couple who have become key to our Thursday night Organic Group.  She just started a new job and Thursdays were not going to work for them, so we decided it was time to start another group.