Sidearm & Sword, Trumpet & Harp

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I stood in my barracks utterly spent, and war-torn by the day’s goings-on. Slowly I dismantled myself next to my wanting bed, unfitting myself of my well-used armor. Virtue by virtue, I took myself to pieces until I stood plain and normal…shield in the corner, sword in scabbard. I was just a man. It’s all I’ve ever been.

Vulnerability set in. The kind that beckons me to my knees. The kind that wells up like a child behind my eyes. My heart was pricked, just then, by a sweet, simple song that came over the airwaves. It was a heartsong. It was a plucky Irish neo-hymn…and it caught me off-guard. You know, in the best of ways.

And I needed to be caught off-guard, mostly because I’ve been at this post a good while, a long while. And while my hair is not yet gray and there is vigor left in these bones to make war, I have been on-guard long enough to see many my age fall or weary or crumple at the trials and difficulty and seek, how do you say, easier routes and nicer stations. But, there I was, breast plate and belt unloosed, boots and helmet off, ammo and grenades locked away, with a song playing directly to the inner man I swear I once was.

I used to make sweet melodies and sing myself hoarse.
I used to play so hard my fingers bled,
a sweet psalmist of the northern realm.
The fire in me used to be red hot with revival….
…used to.

Bottom line: this warrior wants to bleed again. I want to remember what it feels like not only to grip sidearm and sword, but trumpet and harp. I want to scream those fight songs and dust off the “battle hymnal.” Those unabashed Irish boys made my pulse quicken like rusty cogs on a motor that hasn’t been started in a good while. Oh Father, remind me to be reminded…that this is a love affair as much as its a battle for lost souls…that we are not only an army, but a choir. And would You make me one of the crazies that goes before the soldiers with none but harp in-hand, praising the LORD for the beauty of His holiness.

Remind me.
Refresh me.
Kick start this thing.
I want to let loose…
Sing…dance…shout unto The Lord.

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Posted in Calvary Chapel Iron River Teachings, Communalism/Acts Model, Flame, I AM RESISTANCE!, ministry, Poet-Prophet, Revival, Tribe of Judah General, Tribe of Judah School | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Good Wife I Have Found

THE GOOD WIFE I HAVE FOUND

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She with long velvet locks, pouring like glory upon the head.
She with befreckled face like a starry setting for two tiger-green luminaries.
She with slender frame and tender voice, this is the wife I have found….
And she is a good thing.

She rises early; she seeks her Father is dark hours.
To the extent of great blessing is the faith she possesses,
Like the hot core of any planet, her family is warmed and kept by her tireless reliance on the words of the King—unwavering.
She is not afraid of multiple tasks.
She goes out of her way to help others.
Snow and sleeplessness and cold and difficulty, she cooks up and eats for dinner. And her cooking, well, that’s another poem!
All around her glean handfuls left on the corners of the ripe-harvest fields cultivated for her Jesus.
She has hands that cause things to grow.

Her children rise up, also early, and call her blessed.
They honor her as Queen and cling to her as hope.
The standard she raises is of ancient victory and will not easily topple.
The encouraging words she speaks to them are like golden apples falling from trees of silver—priceless.
Her way is firm, her arms embrace at any hour with kindness,
Her nest is safe, and her children will always know of heavenly love.

As for her husband, he raises his voice in the city gates,
He cannot help but dote on her audibly to all that know her, and some who don’t.
He can often be found complimenting her and attributing his success much to her and her compass faith.
She is his beauty, which grows most every day in his eyes.
She captures his thoughts like a net of abundance, quite often.
He cannot help as to feel that he is far more greatly blessed of men,
To have incarcerated such a fine catch.
He responds often, “It must have been the Lord.”
To her he drops to one knee in honor.
To her are these words penned, and no other.
For she is his love-poem; she is his snow-song.

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Questions. (When I Fear Backsliding)

Questions. (When I fear backsliding)

Am I gonna be comfortable or burdened?

Do I care more about America than Americans?

Am I more concerned with how people perceive me or how people perceive Jesus in me?

Which is better, the size of my church or the quality of its members?

Will I strive for honesty and unity to the point of brokenness and vulnerability?

Will I pray, when brothers are falling away?

Will I pray, when the world drives me mad?

Will I pray, when media and society pull at my bents and frustrations, seeking to siphon some pre-decided stance or emotion from my flesh?

Will I rise above slander and polarization when it seeks to divide and crumble any healthy, biblical position?

Will I take the “high road” when I am slandered and slammed, rumored about and mocked…knowing that most do not even know what they are doing?

Can I keep—through the quagmire of modernity—a central focus on a Lamb, on a Lion?

Would I seek His face when everything in me is screaming to stop and acquiesce and cool and dull the message of the Cross to be more appealing or better received?

Would I be filled with an all-wise, perfectly-paced, and spot-on Spirit who will guide all situations, conversations, and dispositions?

Will I remain wholly devoted, unswervingly steadfast in the TRUTH above all “truths” that I find in Your seamless, peerless, priceless Word?

When the chips are down, when flesh is at max-capacity-threshold, will I love?

When the enemy “presses in like a flood,” will I let the battle belong to the Lord? God, I hope so….

All these questions…let them be answered by the “Yea…and the Amen.”

Come quickly to my fragile state, oh my Lord…and my God.

So be it.

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Interrupted by Simplicity: Listening to God

Interrupted by Simplicity: Listening to God

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Something we hear often is, “How do you know what God wants you to do?” How do you discern the voice of God? Good question. Obviously, God isn’t trying to make it difficult on us, yet many times it feels as though the phone lines are down or we just aren’t “getting it.”

The lesson for our ministry lately has been one of waiting, seeking the Scriptures, praying, and relying on the abundance or absence of the abiding peace of God. Which direction? Where’s the money coming from? What do we do with so and so? The more we move forward, the more questions there are to answer…the more we need to know the voice of the Almighty.

In today’s My Utmost for His Highest entry, Oswald Chambers nails down our attitude in seeking the Lord, “Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it, therefore you can rest in perfect confidence in Him. Prayer is not only asking, but an a attitude of mind which produces the atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural.” So, it’s simple. We trust that God is sovereign, in control. Then, we seek Him regularly, constant in prayer…sometimes quietly, sometimes running or driving or shopping. We then look for confirmation in the Word He wrote. And, not to be overlooked by any means, we become aware of His peace in the situation or decision…or lack of it. If peace IS NOT THERE, stop and ask God why.

The peace of God should always accompany His will. Like a heavenly compass, we can steer by it.

We then come, through practice and obedience, acutely aware that we have begun to understand how He speaks to us, very personally. I know that if I am exhausted, spread thin, trying too hard to find the answer, and His peace goes out the window…He may be closing a door I thought was open. Being all-the-more sensitive to that all-surpassing peace the Prince brings, it is actually a lot “easier” or at least “simpler” to be guided through decision after decision in a given day. It also helps to be filled with the Spirit and know the Bible. Remember, the Spirit will never take you in a direction that defies the Word He inspired.

So yeah, simple. God is speaking. We trust that He is in control. We pray, read…then act if the peace of Yahweh resides. Practice makes perfect. Failure is not condemnable by death.

What are you waiting for? Ask…seek…knock…and a door will open for you.

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Psalm 51: Lessons in Brokenness or Preaching to Yourself

PSALM 51: Lessons in Brokenness or Preaching to Yourself

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I gotta say, it seems to be happening more and more often that, before teaching a message to our congregation at Calvary Chapel Iron River, that I have to first “live it.” After a difficult teaching on sin in Psalms 49-50, we then were ready for the biggie—Psalm 51.

You know, David’s biggest blunders: Lazy. Sits out on the battle. Peeping Tom, ‘er Dave. She looks good. Adultery. Baby on the way. Tries to manipulate the husband to quickly go sleep with his wife, even tries getting him drunk. Dude is loyal, upstanding. Doesn’t work. Plot. Scheme. Murder. David then is outed by Nathan the prophet. God calls him on the carpet on all accounts. In a word, fallen.

But the Psalm was written about his broken heart and longing to be right with his God again after trouncing the office of “devout king.” This is a hard psalm to deal with if you aren’t looking at getting convicted, especially if you think it’s for those other people…you know, the ones screwing up.

So, almost a whole week earlier, I was in a knock-down, drag-out conversation/argument with a very close friend and co-laborer. It got ugly. Said stupid stuff I didn’t mean. Held a position I didn’t believe. Protected my flesh by tearing at his. The whole bit. Anyway, not good…but it ended up being a great lesson. And we were both broken and the relationship deepened. Glory to God!

Evidently, I needed to learn a lot about brokenness and so did my friend and God was looking at knocking the stupid out of us so He can grow the church without our flesh stinking up the place. Long story short, lesson learned (or still being learned) and here are some of the things God showed me about the wonders brokenness can work in a believer who simply allows themselves to be worked on. I threw in a couple quotes for flavor. (You can find these by going verse by verse, point by point through Psalm 51).

“The amount of time it takes a person to repent and deal with sin is directly proportional to the amount of “brokenness” a person possesses.”—Damien Kyle

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Brokenness gives us the ability to have the humility to call sin sin. You don’t rename sin. You are honest with yourself and others. With God….

Brokenness brings into account God’s reputation. Did I give the heathen reason to blaspheme? Did I hurt the church, one of His children. Before brokenness, we don’t much care for anyone beyond ourselves.

Brokenness causes us to take responsibility. We don’t blame God. We don’t blame our parents or some disease or ancestry. I have sinned against Thee and Thee only.

Brokenness makes the Word of God alive again. Where before we avoided its convicting, holy gaze.

Brokenness brings a return to joy and gladness.

Brokenness produces healthy shame. Humility. Leveling of the flesh.

Brokenness brings a fresh appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit. I need Your Holy Spirit. Need help that only comes form heaven. I am powerless without His Power.

It brings new intimacy with God. I am now moldable in His hands. Nothing separates us. Nothing hinders communion or prayer.

It also brings a fresh appreciation of the service of God, the privilege. Serving and working for The Lord, ministry. My eyes are now on Him instead of MY problems, MY pain, MY issues. I actually have time for the two greatest commandments.

Brokenness revives evangelism and happy-hearted testimony. You can’t help but speak the things you have seen and heard, what He has done for you.

And the joy of our salvation. Helps you think on the lost. You are just stupid happy to be saved and you want everybody else to be too.

Brokenness brings refreshing in praise & worship. Becomes real again. It is from your heart, not just your lips. Songs mean more, the more broken we are.

Prayer, also, is ignited by brokenness, to stay close to The Lord in intimacy and to intercede for others.

“Only in the kingdom of God is a broken vessel worth something.”—Joe Focht.

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Refresher

Refresher

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I’ve been reminded, yet again, how easy it is to leave my first love…the young, happy love of my espousal unto the Lord. That early, crazy, nutty love that had you telling EVERYBODY what just happened. I’m forgiven! I’m clean…all my sins are washed away! What joy has filled my heart! Zeal, oh zeal, how it flooded me completely. And, honestly, I have been through many seasons in my walk where the joy of salvation and the glory of God filled me. But then again, I’ve been in full time ministry lately.

“Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy FIRST LOVE.”—Revelation 2:4

I’m a pastor, a husband, a father, a leader…oh man. So easy to be busy-busy-busy and leave, even ever-so-slightly, my first love. And this is what must grip me powerfully: I have to notice when my eyes are set more on the horizontal than on the vertical-divine. The work and not the Workman Who works in me. The service instead of the Savior. Oh my Jesus, help me.

“Repent ye, and do the first works…”

Turn I must; turn I will. “Return to Me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Thank you. The promise is there. The preconception for my knowing front-sliding. Work is good. Work for Jesus is better. Exhausting, toil at the plow blesses heaven. Yet, if we take our eyes off of the great Plowman in front of us, the work begins to drag and tear us up, resulting in a stoppage or even looking back. A Christian walk motivated by a “have-to” or some religious trip or sheer guilt ends in bondage, where ministry or walking with Christ in love and by LOVE, is a great adventure.

Oh Yahweh, let us be reminded today to reconsider and reconfigure around Your Throne…in Your Presence. We need to repent, return and do the first works in this mighty love affair. Bring us back to center; let everything we do echo from intimate conversation.

Refresh us. Bring us home. All for love.

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I Have Felt the Tremors: Part 2

I Have Felt the Tremors: Part 2

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At about 4:15 on a Saturday morning in May, seven men—pastors and ministry leaders—loaded up into our 2005 Mercedes Sprinter to drive roughly 24 hours to Philadelphia, PA. The drive was filled with camaraderie, joking, and chatting about great Christian books, ministry and philosophy. I won’t tell you about the ridiculousness and stinkyness that may or may not have happened.

Long hours passed. Sleep deprivation sat in somewhere in middle Pennsylvania. A fun road trip became a bit of a “journey.” Expensive tolls. Trying to rest. Counting down the miles. Sleeping in a gravel parking lot next to the van behind a daycare center. Got up four hours later and drove some more….

And then we arrived…at possibly the biggest church I have ever been to.

The first thing we noticed was that it was almost impossible to get a parking spot for one of the three morning services. We jokingly mused, “Why is Pastor Joe so good at what he does??!!”

Upon entering the church, we saw—most strikingly—that most people looked like they WANTED to be there! This was a beehive of activity filled with information about getting involved and home fellowships. Their bookstore was stocked with some of the best literature on revival and the Holy Spirit, not to mention their study and commentary section was chalk full and brimming with written wisdom. They even put old books back into print from time to time!

So we find a seat in the in the “auditorium” or whatever and people are happy to greet us because we are the “obviously out-of-town” guys. Super welcoming. Super engaging. Then the worship started. It was focused on the Lord, not too showy, not their for entertainment—authentic. That was a big one for us. The message was solid and challenging, but with a lot of love and we finished by talking to some people and being invited to a free, catered lunch. Um, that was REAL good. Plus, we hung out with a ton of local pastors and other leaders in Calvary in town for the conference we were heading to in Maryland.

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After Philly cheese-steaks late the night before, we jumped over to Maryland to experience even more of what the Holy Spirit was doing on the East Coast as we joined nearly 1,000 men to wait on the Lord, worship, and hear what God wanted to tell us. Immediately, the expectancy was intoxicating. Not only did men want to see God move in their own lives, but they were there because they KNEW He was going to! Really cool.

Even more so, than our Calvary Philly experience, was the worship focused and intense, yet strikingly simple. No entertainment, band extravaganza, just honoring music to the King. And as speaker after speaker came up to share what the Spirit had spoken to them through waiting on Him, many things started to come together and make sense. This was a non-themed conference, ever heard of one of those, just bring what The Lord is showing you to the table. Convicting. Utterly powerful. A tad Pentecostal. The Spirit & Christ were given center stage, not the movement, problems, the work, church, ministry—none of that. Jesus. Just Jesus. Very pinpointed. And it made me feel very small, in the best of ways….

You see, I have been a pastor for a whole 1.5 years and I thought I was starting to figure this thing out a bit. But God put men I have respected for a while, who have 100’s of collective years in ministry under their belts in front of me, and they seemed more humble and simple and “small” than ever before. It seemed I too would need to shrink at this place and let God be God, and all of us liars and thieves when it came to His Glory. I had nothing to offer. No talents or gifts. No super-cool ministry to taut, or success to speak of. I was standing in the throne room and my garments were dirty and my lips needed cleansed.

And I think that is what happened.

The Lord happened. I mean, very literally, you just set back and let the Lord “happen” to you. Way too simple. Very few books written on the subject. No webinar on this. No program. Just Him…engaging, enveloping, enrapturing. So refreshing.

We rounded out the trip with one last stop at CC Philly. Damien Kyle brought a heart-stopping message about the peerless, spotlessness of Christ as Passover Lamb. And then I got to sit down with Pastor Joe and tell him what was going down with us in the U.P. and he made himself available—genuine—and handed me an awesome stack of books. Pretty dang exciting, if I can say so myself!

As for my report on revival, I will quote Joe Focht (as I most often do) as he came to say goodbye to us crazy Michiganders after the conference as he shrugged his arms outward with that east-coast, what’s-a-matta-fa-you posture, “If that wasn’t the start of revival, I don’t know what is!” Sure thing man. What else can I say, a thousand men sitting before Jesus, praying, receiving the Word, and crying out for Revival—yeah, that’s about right!

I have indeed felt the early tremors of a last days, American Revival.

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