Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression Meets Jesus

I won't pretend I was the greatest Robin Williams fan of all time, or that he revolutionized the way I see movies. Honestly, I may be in the minority, but I never enjoyed his appearances on Conan, or his standup routine. I thought he was too sporadic and unorganized in his comedy routine. I enjoyed the more subtle and straight forward comics.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed him as an actor. The movies he starred in are easily recalled as favorites and I think he was brilliant. I think Hook stands out as the one I remember the most. I also enjoyed his voice as the genie in Aladdin.

After the news of his passing, the outlets of social media flooded my feeds with sadness and shock. A phrase that was stated over and over again was something I struggle with when it comes to individuals with mental illness such as depression.

"If you are struggling, please get help"

This plea is almost always from individuals who are not themselves walking in a mental illness. This is it stated as a way to ask those who are struggling to see the conditions and circumstances, read between the lines and get better. The intentions are meant to be for the good of the individual suffering. However, individuals who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses don't see life so easily.

In light of this tragedy, my perspective is that we live life differently and hopefully, as a societal whole, we could alter the influence of mental illnesses such as depression. Instead of pleading with someone to get help, if you see or know someone battling, YOU step in and do something, say something, be involved. Break the unwritten ethical code and intrude on someone's life. Change the course of the normal and everyday routine, burst the individualistic bubble that people with depression live in. Stop waiting for someone to ASK for help! Be so involved yourself, that someone who suffers, or is plagued by chronic depression will not have room to entertain the thoughts that would lead them to hopelessness.

You may not have had access to Robin Williams' life and been able to communicate to him, or be his friend. That's not what this is about. This is about the thousands who suffer everyday around you, with thoughts of hopelessness in which it is NOT too late for them.

Self-help talk may last for a little bit, but it doesn't ultimately connect someone to the real issue and reason mental illness exists. In the book of Matthew Jesus summons His disciples, gives them authority to heal every kind of sickness and disease (10:1). Suicide eventually becomes a solution for many who suffer. A logical conclusion for many is to end the functioning of the entity creating the problem...the brain. There is a better solution. God has sent His Son, that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:12 says that no one has seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected. You, me, we are the visual of God for people to see. If you are abiding in Christ you will be the very picture of God for someone else. Healing, wholeness, restoration, reconciliation, these are ALL God's business and I want to be about God's business.

I personally could do better about reflecting this truth for those I interact with daily. Please don't resolve your level of helping people by making a statement of "get help...if you need it," instead, be so involved that
YOU see the warning signs,
YOU recognize the disease,
YOU become part of the solution for the healing needed in someone else.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

God's Presence

Who can stand in Your presence?
Only one who is blameless and true
It melts the walls of our heart
Like wax from a candle

The riches of Your lovingkindness
To know Your favor oh Lord
To sit in Your seat of love
And rejoice in only a moment of anger

Your presence calls us
Your presence allows us
Your presence sustains us
Your presence makes a way

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Leaders & Followers

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught"
Winston Churchill

I am getting excited. Why? Because it is getting close to the beginning of a new season. I have a 6 year old starting primary, a 4 year old going to 3rd maternelle, and a 2 year old who will join his big brothers in school, but not until next February.

The summer in Belgium is a very slow part of the year. If you are a minister who places a high value in momentum then Belgium would eat you alive. Seriously, everything from restaurants to churches will take a holiday break and go on vacation for a month or so. It certainly grinds my American-church-mentality gears. Nevertheless, I press on because flexibility is essential for ministry here as well.

As we enter into 4 years of being over here in Europe one of the things I have been realizing is the gap between passionate young people who are really wanting to grow in ministry and the reality of them being able to exercise that passion. Please be in prayer concerning these issues. The hardship of leaders releasing more and more to the next generation of leaders is somewhat alarming. Leaders face the challenge of trusting this upcoming passion. It is difficult to see a fruition of young potential leaders who are so easily given to temporary pleasure. It makes it incredibly difficult for leaders to give "control" and take a step back. Everyone is wanting the same thing but the waters become muddy when agendas are placed in the forefront. Dissension grows because the visions become blurry due to these agendas. If doors are shut too early potential leaders, troubled by obstacles, become defeated before they are even given a chance. They either will give up, or worse leave the calling all together, thus, confirming for established leadership that the passion is a divisive one or it is not capable of handling the burdens of spiritual matters.

Pray for leaders to trust that God's hand is on up-and-coming, passionate, young people.
Pray for leaders to believe that God's desire is to expand His influence and kingdom which means more pastors, evangelists, and churches will be needed.
Pray for leaders to trust God is not closing the door on them being used for his kingdom when they open the door for opportunity to a younger less skilled individual.
Pray for leaders to find a value in taking a risk, more than protecting their reputation, even when the idea is challenging to their very reputation.

Pray for potential leaders to recognize how to honor their leaders.
Pray for potential leaders to not give up when season after season the doors seem to stay shut on them.
Pray for potential leaders to boldly walk in when the door of opportunity proves to be open for them.
Pray for potential leaders to trust God is using godly men and women to give wisdom and maturity.
Pray for potential leaders to remain faithful and that they will continue to grow in their work ethic.

Pray for Belgium to change the reputation of being a graveyard for ministers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

Last night my wife had over a colleague from her work. He came over for dinner partly because we invited him but also because a guy staying with us for this month, Wian-David, is training to be a professional cyclist and Liz's colleague knows the biz.

When people come over for dinner my wife can't go half way. She must have top notch cooking and dessert every time. It really doesn't bother me, as I benefit from this wonderful spread of gourmet cuisine. All that to say, last night she made fajitas with home made salsa. It is difficult enough to narrow down a good Tex-Mex style of flavor in these here European parts (partly because there isn't any), but Liz seems to nail it EVERYTIME. 

This got me thinking...
Being a Texan I've tasted good salsa so many times and remember the greats. When I have traveled out of the great state of Texas, chips and salsa is more of an afterthought. They don't take the care that Texans do for some reason.

Because of this care and concern for good salsa, Liz has claimed her status as a Texan. Even though she was born in another state, and lived most of her life in Alaska, she has earned her right to Texan citizenship. 

There are 3 ways you can become a Texas citizen:

1. Be born in Texas (although I do think that this should be able to be revoked if upon further analysis you are found to suffer from "Esau-syndrome")

2. Marry a Texan (there should be further clarification of this, but for the sake of time, I won't go into detail here)

3. Make good salsa (it should be noted that good salsa is not, nor can it be, relative)

And there you go, that would be my list of criteria that would grant you status as a Texas citizen. As you can see my wife has accomplished 2 out of 3 but if we have learned anything from Meatloaf 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who's Keeping Count

In Denmark our first European ministry trip
Just this morning Liz and I had a conversation about her personality. I asked her if there was any particular part of her personality that she thought would be more appealing. We talked about different personalities and things she feels more drawn to in style. This came about because we had a parent teacher introduction into the 3rd maternelle (for Titus next year at school). When I woke up she was already ready to go and looking really, REALLY GOOD. She's got a style going on that is really hot.

Today happens to be our 10 year anniversary and after I picked my kids up from school (Wednesdays are a half day) I took them to eat lunch at a special kid friendly establishment. During our meal I texted Liz about our plans and estimated time of arrival back home.

It went like this:
Me: Everything good? (I left Finn home for his nap while Liz was working from home)

Liz: I'm married to you for a whole decade. All is well. ;)

Me: That's sweet. Are you looking for a Facebook declaration?

Liz: No, are you?

Me: It means more to my cheerleader (one of the many personalities we discussed earlier) wife. (I was certainly being sarcastic)

Liz: Don't you mean your slightly edgy, nerdish, tattooed, cute, big boobed wife? As long as you tell ME, I don't need you to tell the 200+ friends, acquaintances & friends of friends on FB. It means more to me to hear the words, not to read them on a wall.

Now I think, for the most part, Liz and I do a good job communicating to everyone we know that we are in a loving, committed, and long-lasting relationship.  She certainly is not one who looks for special attention even on memorable anniversaries (birthday, mothers day, valentines, etc). However, I as a husband, could always do better.

Despite my shortcomings in honoring her publicly on the socially accepted sites, I want everyone to know how much I love her. One day, when I have a perfect French accent, I am going to take her to Grand Place in Brussels, and shout it out at the top of my lungs in French.

So Liz, you better be ready for attention one cool and romantic evening whilst strolling through our residential capital, needing to do absolutely nothing but get lost between the moon and pita street.

I love this woman who has done more for me than I have for her. But who's keeping count...certainly not her.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What To Do

I love being a parent to 3 boys. They are so much fun to be around, especially when they get-a-long with each other. Some of the most amusing moments in life, right now, are hearing them talk about cars, sing songs to their favorite movies, and comment on how Jesus is the best bike rider. It is the greatest.

I have somewhat of a hard time deciding which is better for me in the mornings. When they don't get enough sleep they wake up with a disdain for life. Everything I ask of them is the equivalency of giving them the task of solving Schrodingers Equation of quantum physics. The glasses are passed out as the whine flows. "Want any cheese with that whine?"

However, when they get there sleep they are wide awake and ready to build a house in the morning. They run circles around me and it is a chore to keep them sitting still. There is no whine but there is certainly more noises in general. You know those kid noises that are loud and "jungle-istic" when you are just barely waking up? I am not a loud kind of person at home in the mornings.

Either way someone will be sacrificing their own desires...may the most humble win.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Desperate Actions

It happens often enough. Your favorite team misses the coveted playoffs and you know exactly what needs to be done to ensure that this doesn't happen again. It is an action out of desperation.

We see crisis we react but so often we react in such a way as to potentially cause more harm than good. When we are desperate we tend to think irrationally. Out of desperation, thoughtless actions are formed and retained which can become destructive habits. Ironically, it is because of desperation we remain in a helpless state even when trying to produce the exact opposite state of being. But being desperate is not entirely a bad thing.

What really brings about this overwhelming sense of desperation in the first place? Certainly when the clock is ticking too close to a deadline there is a sense of panic. When we encounter crisis we tend to take on a feeling of independence. We feel like we are in a place of having to handle things on our own.

It is in this moment that the enemy loves to confuse us and our greater purpose. Our adversary wants us handling every event, circumstance, crisis, or situation with a mindset of independence. God, however, counts on inter-dependence.

1 John 5:4-5
To depend on God is to operate in faith. The trials and testings that occur, whether self inflicted or not, will always bring us to this crucial point of trusting God on a deeper level.

Trust God, He is so worth it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Impact of Worship

Morocco was such a thrill. I love teaching and training musicians in worship and ministering to people through fellowship. I give and I receive so much at the same time. This year's trip was not as long as the previous time I had been. Nevertheless the images and scenery will always remain with me.

It amazes me how much building is going on in and around Casablanca. Housing developments, malls, theme parks, restaurants, hotels, resorts, and more housing, and yet, the average monthly income for someone who works in these malls is around $300. Who is paying for all this development? These malls are full of the high end merchandise. Some of these retail associates never leave from behind the counter because NO ONE goes in the one can afford that stuff.

Not having enough can seriously influence how we live our lives. There is so much to have. David, in Psalm 4:6-7 says:

Why is everyone hungry for more? "More, more," they say. "More, more." I have God's more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day...

This really is how many of us feel but certainly do not actually live. I want you to watch what happens when people worship; what kind of an impact it has on people's lives. These people are among the many who don't have much but they do know who they belong to, and that gets them excited.

Just a quick note, there was a young Moroccan woman who had a curiosity to see how Christians worship. She is not allowed to go to church so to get around the issue of attending on a Sunday morning, she attended this "Night of Worship," with a friend. She was truly touched.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ripples Conference

Europe is known for movements. Some of the worlds sizable shifts, within the church, happened and began on the stage that Europe has set. Today Europe still holds the memories and is still producing a lasting fruit of what God did even centuries ago.

Masters Commission Europe celebrated their ten year anniversary this past week. It was revered within the annual conference, held in Brussels Belgium, the heart of the European Union. Testimony after testimony could be heard as it echoed the theme of this years gathering, Ripples. So many lives have been transformed by the endeavors and intentional pursuit of God’s calling. It is apparent that God still uses small encounters, like we read in the scriptures, for a global impact. Most of us don’t even see or feel the magnitude of the impact.

Masters Commission Europe has seen 700 students go through 22 programs in 17 different nations. That is what this gathering was about...recognizing the profound impact that one life can make by taking the chance to be different.

It is truly an honor for me to direct The Summons in the midst of this network. I believe what separates these programs from many other training schools is the focus and attention that is paid for the long-term impact by living life together in community; facing “life” as a group of people committed to one another. This is astounding, this is transforming, this is the church that the Holy Spirit intended to see release God’s Kingdom on the earth.

Please watch this video.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

they don't love you like i love you

the first place we read jesus discussing love is concerning loving those who are your enemies in matthew 5:43-48.

love your enemies
pray for those who persecute you

i find it interesting that jesus reminds us of the fact that god sees the unrighteous and

still CHOOSES to cause the sun to rise for them.
still CHOOSES to cause the rain to fall for them.

god does not choose to express his love ONLY those who love him back; god does not only reach out to greet those who are wanting to be in the family. god does reach for those who are not in his family. god clearly illustrates that he CHOOSES to love, even those who don’t choose to love him. you will never find in scripture an exception to this idea. god is always loving those, even if they choose not to love him (we can argue about what is just with love in another post).

it is hard to choose to love those who do not love back. one thing christians can do, when found in a place of fighting or resisting the choice to love, is search the heart for any areas of unforgiveness. at one point, in all our lives, we have been offended at something someone has said or done to us. christ references this in matthew 24:12. lawlessness will increase, wrongs will be committed, and in turn most people’s love will grow cold. a significant barrier to the ability to choose love is a heart that has grown cold and hard due to lawlessness or injustice committed.

before you can choose to love you must choose to forgive

ultimately what gives love its wonderfully divine power is not mutual at all, but rather, unconditional, as our heavenly father has displayed many times over. jesus described this kind of love wondering what good is it, only loving someone who loves you back?!?!

you life will be changed by choosing to love even your enemies and those who wish you harm.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

a delusional alternative

this is the crisis we are in: god-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing god. everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates god-light, won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. but anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes god-light so the work can be seen for the god work it is.
john 3:19-21

due to an overwhelming fear men and women avoid the cleansing nature of the light of god. a practitioner of evil is addicted to denial and illusion; a fantasy world, recreation, a perversion of an order god had originally intended.

the darkness has an appeal for all of us in our nature, and especially those of us who desire to practice denial and illusion. even in the darkness there can be a pretend nature that portrays a way out that doesn't involve the light of the world, jesus christ. a sort of delusional alternative to what god's word says. scripture says, however, those who embrace a life through jesus, intentionally trusting and accepting him will come to not only know the god-light but love it, appreciate it and the exposure it produces.

a practitioner of evil hates the light because it exposes them for who they are. forging then, a different path becomes more acceptable and seemingly far easier than living in truth and reality so that god can receive the glory of the exposure. darkness is deceptive because we are fooled in believing we can do what we want when we want to. those who avoid and distrust the son remain in the dark and will not see life. their experiences of the true nature of god will be shrouded with darkness, unable to see god's goodness, unless intentionally denounced. this darkness will make one angry and bitter.

welcoming and embracing jesus and all that he did for us on that cross will relieve us of a performance we are not going to be able to handle our whole life.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

the porn crusader

"guys watch too much porn...those girls don't exist. they are not real girls." -miley cyrus 
(describing her break up with ex-boyfriend liam hemsworth) 

porn is a fantasy, an illusion of that which is desirable in the flesh. here me, it truly is a captivating picture and it powerfully paints a perception of a particular desire. the aim and hope for those that are trapped in its grip is that it can and will be a reality. the only problem is this perception that is painted will never attain to reality. very similar to the concept of the bad guy being victorious. it will never be a popular notion to praise the bad guy over the good guy; that will never be popular. this is because there is something sacred about good guys vs bad guys. the fantasy which is depicted in pornography is the fractured illusion and the fallen path that is hoped to lead towards a door of connection and intimacy. this is a dangerous ground to walk.

when a man/woman engage their heart/mind inside this fantastical illusion they undermine the form and reality of what the encounter is truly meant to be. the effects are not limited to non-christians alone, believers too share in the distorted download of intimacy with a partner. since porn is fantasy it will never be able to transfer into reality, no matter how many elements you bring into the bedroom for "fun." it will never be normal, it will always be fantastical.

when we indoctrinate our minds with enough fantasy, we soon will not be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. therefore, like a drug, we desire a high, a fix, and no previous hit can gratify; so the dosage has to be intensified. our minds and body do not find the relief from the same amount of dosage. this is one way you can see how fantasy has taken over need a higher dosage to satisfy the urge/craving. 

we do great harm to true intimacy by placing our partner in a role they were not made to act or participate in. will ferrill would make a terrible james bond, no? that is the what we do when we fill our minds with pornography. you then are unable to make a clear decision on what reality (intimacy) really is. who can really play batman...clooney, kilmer, bale, or keaton? which one really is the caped crusader. sadly, as we witness across the scope of humanity, there WILL be a replacement. deeper and deeper we go our partner will be replaced by fantasy and then, likely, physically replaced in our fanatical reality.

do not rob reality by feeding fantasy. my wife would not fail to meet my expectations if i wouldn't place fantastical expectations on her to begin with. no matter how prevalent the porn industry becomes or how normal it appears, it will NEVER be reality and therefore always fail to meet my deepest need of intimacy. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

meetings are the best

i am not going to lie, i have an appreciation for meetings. i want to try and explain this secret love i have for meetings the best i can. i have a few friends who have been very vocal in sharing their disdain for meetings and this is not any kind of attack on them, or to try and persuade them to re-think meetings.

1. challenge
typically, in the meetings i attend, there are many things discussed and if all goes well at the end of the meeting there are things that are assigned for me to do. this presents a great challenge to be proactive (even if i am not excited about doing the particular assignment). i love the feeling of a good challenge, especially if it is attainable.

2. accountability
i love the book of proverbs. in the many years i have spent reading it over and over i have grown to appreciate the message of discipline and submission. meetings present for me the arena of growth and opportunity for measuring my attitude. in meetings i gain a sense of accountability and i think this is necessary for anything to function, people holding each other accountable to those things that need to get done. no one wants to be the one lagging behind, am i right?

3. unity
meetings bring unity to the big picture of the organization/business/operation. everyone gets an opportunity to hear and listen to what the other is doing or not doing. this provides a sense of achievement and accomplishment (or if you are not getting things done the healthy kind of guilt). moving forward, getting things done, progress, isn't that a good idea for the world?

4. communication
i don't need to expound on this much. this word alone goes along way. don't confuse communication with talking a lot. i thinking talking a lot is what people HATE about meetings. however, much is accomplished and clarity is guaranteed with communication. even bad-news communicated is better than no communication at all. if no one communicates everyone will be left to assume, and you know what assuming leads to, right?...assumptions. or as it is put another way, it makes an ass out of u and me.

i am sure there are plenty of other smaller points to be made, but i wanted to throw out reasons why i like meetings, in general.

have a good day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

smaller focus for the bigger picture

my time here in belgium has been short but simply fantastic. i do, however, think about my life in texas, all my friends, of course my family, and i can quickly get homesick. they mean the world to me. i would not trade any of them for anything.

liz and i moved here to belgium for ministry purposes. we had desires to be world changers and saviors of dying movements. we longed to influence the region with a sight to transform the continent of europe. i wouldn't say we strategized to duplicate the stateside success that we had grown to appreciate in its entirety. i will say that we would've been foolish to start from scratch and attempt to re-invent the wheel.

our vision upon our launch here included a team. many of you may know them. team ministry is always preferred to lone-ranger effort. that is, i prefer team ministry. i am aware of many leaders who have pioneered on their own and have followed the lord's desires and as a result found great success for the kingdom of god. i have always felt that as my calling, to work with a team. since liz and i moved here we naturally found and built relationships with those already laboring in the land and those who have emerged since our work began.

since our launch we have experienced a shift in focus. part of this is due to the team we moved here with are now back in the states continuing on into what god is calling them for the next season. for my family this has required we shift a focus and aim our sights in a different direction, but with the same idea of declaring the kingdom of the lord.

honestly, we didn't realize the impact of the shift until the last few months. since then, we have been working towards making an impact on the local church level. with the team we were able to do many, many things. some of the things we did well and some we should've done better, but over all we were traveling with a different mindset. we did camps, church prayer nights, led worship around europe, preached, prophesied, and a number of other not so extravagant things. but it HAD to change for me and my family.

one of the biggest lessons i have learned concerns expectations. i had them moving here to belgium, i had them when i ministered with the team, i had them as the team began transitioning out, and i have them still. god has taught me to have expectations, and even more specifically for this year, to constantly engage myself in the battle of not doing things just because they have always been done that way. rigid traditions have a hard time moving most of the time, i have learned that they usually break because of their stiffness and end up irreparable.

it is very common to meet someone who has an opinion of the church (that's not really news). this opinion is shaped by the expectations, the expectations are shaped by perception. i have learned while living in belgium, when my expectations fail, or are not attained, it is imperative to look first at my perception. i evaluate my perception, to see if it is in the right place? most of the time if my expectation is crushed it isn't because of an outside influence as much as it is a perspective that was wrong to begin with. this is the hard thing to do when you want to change the world, because everyone else is the problem, not you. but when expectations go south train yourself to first evaluate your perception of the problem; look at the implications of what you are expecting. i can't tell you how many times my evaluation has led me to a life-changing shift in how god truly sees me. i want so badly to perform for him and meet his approval of my plan to change europe for him, that is not what he is asking me to do. a faulty perception, especially in ministry will skew your expectation EVERY time. things aren't changing fast enough, i am not able to raise enough money right now, the church sings songs from 20 years ago, they all use computers from 1995, no one is listening to me, everyone is too complacent, everyone is too old, the young people don't want to do anything, and the list goes on and on. god is using these experiences to shift my focus for HIS bigger picture.

when your expectations aren't met, shift your focus to yourself, evaluate your perception. as a result, might find that whatever you are doing right then and are so content to just be used by god that the results (especially after failed expectations) would not discourage your determination.