Time alone with God

Last September I started a retreat series called “Longing for His Presence.”  The purpose of this series is to help a person build solid spiritual formation disciplines into their lives.  Each retreat is 2 1/2 days in length and focuses on a few key disciplines.  In the first retreat about 30% of the time is spent in silence and the remaining 70% is content.  The second retreat is about 60% silence and solitude and 40% content.   The third retreat is 90% silence and solitude and 10% content.

Today I completed the third retreat.  My time in silence and solitude before the Lord was very refreshing.  I found that my soul had grown somewhat parched and I needed a refreshing flood of the Lord’s presence.   The theme for this retreat was John 15 and for me the key thought was “Abide in My rest.”

Over the past 2 1/2 days the Lord has reminded me of His great love, His all sufficient grace and His constant presence.   He also helped me to see some things about myself more clearly.   The greatest illumination came in the area of my expectancy.   Over the past few years, the Lord has been preparing my heart for some exciting things.   With these preparations came a sense of expectancy; however, over time I have allowed that sense of expectancy in some ways to become an expectation of how God should be moving and at what speed.   This subtle shift creates an undesirable quality in my character…impatience.   I found myself today asking the Lord to give me a new found joy in times of waiting.

The Lord also showed me that I struggle with wanting to see stability and structure in my circumstances, because I often view myself as unworthy to fulfill the call on my life.   Humbling revelations about myself, yet they are very accurate.   A fellow brother helped me to see this reality more clearly…he chuckled, because I was already doing the things I felt unworthy to be doing.

Tomorrow it will be one week until I leave for Kenya and Uganda.   I still lack about $2,000 of covering my ground transportation, lodging and meals.   I know the Lord will provide, even though those provisions are not realized yet.  Living on the edge in faith and walking in complete trust are all apart of the journey He has me on.

Preparing for Kenya/Uganda

I’ve been watching the clock tick by quickly and was finding myself wrestling with doubts about my upcoming trip to Africa.  The Lord has spoken clearly on several occassions directing me to make this journey, but things didn’t seem to be coming together.

Today the Lord began to clear the path in front of me.  This afternoon I was handed an envelope that covered my airfare to and from Nairobi.  There was enough extra for me to get my anti-malaria pills and a yellow fever vaccination.

My wife and I both find ourselves eager to see how God provides the remaining resources for my in country travel.

I am also thrilled, because my partner pastor in Kenya asked if I had a spare laptop that he could use for the Bible college.  It just so happens I have one that simply needs to have the power button fixed.   I was so glad that I can meet that need for him.

Serve the Body

Several weeks ago I was seeking the Lord for greater clarity for these days that I find myself in.   Out of that time of searching came the words:  “Serve the Body.”   I understood this to mean that I needed to become a steadfast servant to the body of Christ.

Last night, I was having trouble getting to sleep, so I spent some time travelling down memory lane watching music performances from the 70’s and 80’s.   Around 11PM, my email went off and I received a note from a woman in Houston.   In this note, she told me about her father and two brothers who had started a church on the north side of Corpus Christi that, after four years, found itself struggling.   She then asked if I could assist her dad in any way.   

I responded back and asked her to have him call me.  Within the hour, she had emailed back telling me that she was so excited she had called her dad and awakened him with the news of my willingness to help.

This evening I joined this man and his church for their Tuesday night service.  It became clear to me that he is God’s chosen man for this work, but he feels inadequate and has continued to try to bring someone else in.   Needless to say this coming Monday, he and I will begin going door to door in the neighborhood offering to minister to all who will receive in the precious name of Jesus.

She Chose the Streets

After the ups and downs of spiritual and emotional battle with our house guest last night, I thought we had perhaps reached a turning point, but sadly I was wrong.   When Carol went to see what she wanted for lunch, she found that our guest had packed up and left.   

The hardest part of ministry has always been wanting more for people than they want for themselves.   In the long run, the streets are familiar, in-spite of their inherant dangers.   For our part, God let our family work together for the benefit of someone else.   All we can do is be obedient and love others, what they do with that love still remains their choice.

In a very small way I understand what God must go through when He pours His love out on people and they still choose to walk away from Him.

Living in a War Zone

We often forget that the lives we know are really in the middle of a battle zone for the soul.   Jesus has already won the victory, but not everyone knows that and so the enemy does his best to lure, deceive and taunt.   His lies are smooth, but they have destructive result.

Tonight was one of those nights in our home.  Our house guest just wanted to stay in bed this evening, even though we were supposed to be at Organic Group.   She became rebellious and defiant with Carol and would not speak to me.   It was time for Carol and I to gird ourselves up and stand in the gap.   The triggering mechanism was a lies of hopelessness and the need for comfort…”a cigarette sure would help, you can’t make it without them.”

For nearly an hour we spoke truth and prayed over our guest.  At one point she told me she wanted to return to the street, because she couldn’t handle it anymore.   After an exhausting exchange, love won out.   The Lord once again broke through the lies and darkness, allowing our guest to see the truth of the love around her.  She broke down in tears, having trouble understanding how people could love her enough to fight for her.

Of course the enemy wasn’t quite done yet.  Our Organic Group host and her brother are both smokers.  Bless his heart, he has a learning disability and in his charming, simple way he offered our guest a cigarette.   She stood firm…battle #1 over and done.   She then went to the kitchen to get more coffee and there on the counter was a pack of cigarettes.   She began to tailspin once again.  So we gathered around her, prayed and got beyond it.   On the way home, she began to realize that she had been under the influence of a spirit that was not hers and she also recognized that she had been victorious.

Our guest doesn’t know much about God or Jesus, but He is showing her great things about His love for her.   After our guest went to bed, I had to remind my wife that she too was victorious.  We are both being stretched.  This is not the ministry assignment we originally signed up for, but it is the one God has given us and for that we are grateful.

I Really Want to Know More About Jesus

All I can say is that God is awesome!  His power is incredible!   How I got to have a front row seat, is beyond me…I’m just glad to be here!  Let me give you the highlight reel:

  • Our house guest today was floored, astounded (insert any other appropriate word here), because she realized late this afternoon that she had not had a cigarette in over 30 hours, and she had not even had the craving for one.
  • Today she was watching a video series of the Gospel of John that we have.  She was holding up the box saying:  “I really want to know more about Jesus.”   I told her that He wanted her to know more about Him also.   Startled, she looked at us and said:  “Did I say that out loud?”   The overflow of a heart touched by the love of Jesus is a beautiful thing.
  • Tonight she asked Carol to read scripture to her as she went to sleep

We also felt her pain as she talked to loved ones and learned that her daughter had recently spent time in jail.   The enemy tried to overwhelm her with hopelessness, but the Lord brought comfort through her tears.  I challenged her to be the demonstration to her children of how God can turn a person’s life around.

Tomorrow I will be meeting with two fellow ministers from the area to discuss how our ministry neighborhood can be set free by Jesus, and how He wants to use us in that process.

Weekend Update

Yesterday Mike and I met up at the church with my friend William, who leads a local intercessory prayer ministry here in Corpus Christi.  William and his wife had been at our house warming last week and heard some of the spiritual warfare things Mike and I were encountering.   He had asked us to meet with him, so that he could encourage us and provide some basic principles for us to utilize in this area of our faith walk.

Within a matter of hours I found it necessary to deploy some of these suggestions, especially those dealing with expanding my prayer covering.   Before the day was over, we would see Christopher encounter a serious blowout on a Houston freeway with a car full of Navy cadets, our daughter would crash her bicycle into our pool and the ignition switch went out on our van.

Christopher's car after the blowout

Christopher's car after the blowout

After the Loop 610 incident

After the Loop 610 incident

Yet through it all, God showed Himself faithful.  Christopher and the other cadets were not hurt.   Caitlyn was scared, but also unhurt (although her CD player didn’t survive 4ft of water) and a tap from a rubber handle on a socket wrench got the key to turn in the van.

During the afternoon we called on those that God impressed upon us to surround us in a covering of prayer.   By 4PM, the spirit of peace within me was overwhelming…those prayers could be felt within and without.  We did however call my friend William and asked him to bring a group of intercessors to our home to pray over us and the home.

This morning, I woke up with a heaviness looming over me that seemed very unshakeable.  Even as I prayed before service this morning, I just couldn’t seem to shake it.  Even Mike’s wife, Kim, could see it on my face.   When I got done praying, I opened the door of the church and sat back down.   I watched out the window as a woman walked past and then made a button hook into the door.

She declared that she was tired of living on the streets and asked if we could help.  At first it was the normal request:  “A few dollars for bus fare to Flour Bluff and something to eat at Whataburger.”   I asked her if we could pray for her, but she didn’t answer me.   She went on to elaborate that she had not slept, that she needed to wash her clothes and that she wanted to get off the streets.

I told her that we did not give out money, but that I would make sure she was fed and we would give her a ride to Flour Bluff if needed.   I also offered to let her do laundry and share lunch with our family and Mike’s family.   She balked and said she just needed money.  I asked her how a few dollars was going to get her off the street?

After a few moments of silence, she asked if she could just have some coffee and said she was going to leave.  I reminded her that she had not answered my question about praying for her.   She told me I could pray for her, but she saw my bottle of annointing oil and told me that I could not annoint her with oil.   I told her that was fair.

I prayed for her deliverance from the streets and the bondage that kept her there.  She sat for several minutes, got some coffee and sat down.   I started into the service and she kept staring at me.   Then all of the sudden, shen leaned over and asked me if we would really help her out as I had indicated before.   I reiterated what I had said and then the Lord gave me a word of deliverance that went straight to her heart.  Immediately the tears began to flow and we bathed her in prayer.

The Lord had already been impressing upon my wife and I that part of the reason He moved us to Padre Island was to create a safe haven for people He was delivering from the streets.  Out here there is no city bus, no red light district, no street culture…a place of safety.   Carol and I both felt compelled without speaking that she was to be the first to find the healing and deliverance of God’s kingdom in our home.

As we drove to Mike and Kim’s for lunch, the tears continued to flow…but they were tears of joy and laughter that burst forth from within.  She also indicated that she has smoked her last cigarette, so I prayed over her cravings, yearnings and desires.  Our new house guest said she had not laughed in years.   While lunch was being prepared, our guest showered and was given a new change of clothes.  The woman who shared a meal with our families was not the same woman who had entered our door a few hours before.

As the afternoon wore on, the pain of years on the street was released in tears as Carol held tightly to her.  I found myself weeping in the adjacent room as I listened to God releasing the pain from within.   Several times she exclaimed..”I can’t believe I’m not craving a cigarette.”

This evening the days of hard living had ended in an early bedtime.  Carol has already had to comfort her once, because of the nightmares she was having.   Our guest’s greatest fear is that we were going to dump her back on the streets.  The mess the enemy makes out of people’s lives….truly the earth groans for the touch of Jesus.

Also this evening the intercessory team spent time in our home.   The Lord spoke to the group collectively about the testing that Carol and I have been under, saying:  “They passed.”   Of course that word was proceeded with the word “patience.”

My friend spoke a valuable word to me as well.  My role in the kingdom is parental in nature…when the time is right the “fatherly” blessing I give as those restored spread their wings and fly will become monumental.

Saying Goodbye

Tonight I was helping to load a moving truck and for once it was not my own.   This time, I was helping a lady who has been apart of our ministry since we arrived in Corpus Christi.   She had the opportunity to retire and move closer to family in Louisiana and so today we loaded her home into a 26′ U-Haul and savored a few final moments of Christian fellowship with one another.

The Lord again showed Himself faithful today, as I had a small commission check arrive from my financial advisory business, enough to pay two bills.    This evening a friend and his family we hadn’t seen in a number of months showed up where we were helping load the moving truck and handed my wife and I a gift that had been impressed on his heart.   The Lord is showing us daily that if we will “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” that all of our needs will be met.

In the Presence of Witnesses

Today, I found myself wrestling with the question of mycall and my role in it.  The Lord has been calling me to focus more attention on the call, but I have been fearful that because of our current difficult circumstances, I was being neglectful in my role as a father and husband.  

This morning I was ministered to by a council of Godly co-laborers.   One dear brother, as he was leaving looked at me and said:  “1 Peter 5:10.”   One of the other men asked, “Why did he say that to you?”  I responded, “We’re about to find out…”

1 Peter 5:10 (NASB)

10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

We then began to talk about our yoking to Jesus and how our burdens are lessened as we work in tandem with Him.   Another man then shared a story of a friend who followed the Lord’s direction, but continued to miss what he thought he was looking for.  It was pointed out that faithfulness and obedience was what the Lord was seeking…not the completion of a task.   Many times the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in are not due to bad choices, sin or any other heinous action.   The real reason we find ourselves in that place is because we have simply followed Jesus there.

Over the course of the afternoon, I found my resolve being wishy-washy.   Carol began to speak to me about the refinement process and its preparation of my life for the things ahead, but she emphasized my calling and my work were already clearly defined.   During our Organic Group tonight, I asked “Where do you most need to experience the powerful presence of God in your life tonight?”   Carol’s answer once again returned to the refinement process and call of our previous conversation.   Carol asked the Lord to empower me with a committed Spirit that would not waver under an adversity to the work He has already laid before me.

As we spent a few moments in silence, I was reminded of Elisha:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (NASB)

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.

20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.

It was very clear to me as the old hymn says:  “I have decided to follow Jesus.  No turning back, no turning back.”  With this prompting from the Lord I made a public commitment to throw myself wholeheartedly into the task He has given me and to discontinue asking about other “work.”  The Lord impressed upon me that I needed to have the group annoint my head with oil and pray over me in affirmation of this commitment.
By the way, today’s miraculous provision was the bed of my pickup full of groceries while I was praying with the council of Godly men.

At Least the Rent is Paid

Today was another day of seeing God’s amazing provisions at work.  We woke up this morning unsure of whether or not we would be able to pay the rent and God provided.   There are still needs that are before Him in prayer, but hey at least we can continue to enjoy the provision of a home.

Over the past few days the Lord has been giving me a vision for South Bluff Park and the neighborhood in which Simplicity is located.   I had the opportunity to share these thoughts with a like minded acquaintance and his eyes lit up as we talked.   

The principles of the vision are pretty “simple”…imagine that.   First and foremost is the need to live out authentic Christian community in front of the neighborhood.  My thoughts are gravitating towards weekly worship in the park, led by a variety of churches.   Each week would conclude with a meal and then care and maintenance of the park.

The second part of this vision is revitalization of the area through volunteerism.   My thoughts here are to join with the city to form an enterprise zone.  Any business that is willing to located in this part of town would be offered tax incentives and volunteer help for cleaning, painting, sheet rock, etc… by local church volunteers.

These thoughts are very much in their infancy, but the Lord gave me an example to pattern after when I was in Pittsburgh, through the ministry of John Stanley and the Uncommon Grounds Cafe.