Monday, December 29, 2014

Darkness in the Daylight (Josh's testimony)

I grew up in a believing home.  Both my dad and mom were solid Christians who loved the Lord with all they had, loved me and my brother unconditionally and raised us to follow Jesus.  I never rebelled against them (why would I? I loved them and they loved me).  I never smoked, never got drunk or did drugs, didn't party or get involved with the wrong crowd.

But I was lost.

I was a really nice guy, too--I didn't swear,  I didn't steal or get in fights; I even "believed" in Jesus, read the Bible and prayed.  Growing up in church and in Christian schools I "got saved" dozens of times (every time I saw the play Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames, for sure...).

But I was lost.

How do I know I was lost?  Because I know when I was found.

I remember it like it happened yesterday and think of it quite often.  It was the moment when all that I had been taught, all that I believed, all that I saw in my parents and other sincere believers became a living reality inside of me.  Jesus became more than a belief--He was with me and He was real.  I was no longer standing on the outside of the kingdom of God and looking in; I was in.  Sin lost it's power and I lost desire for its pleasure.  The Lord became my everything and all my passion was wrapped up in Him and in the doing of His will.

It's kind of funny: I was surrounded by the Light of the world; He was living in so many around me and I saw the evidence of His life at work in humanity.  But I myself had no light.  I was empty inside, tormented by fear and a slave to my own selfish desires.  The sun was shining all around me but I was enveloped in a thick cloud of sin and shame.  I'm so glad that the Wind of God's Spirit blew the cloud away and that the Day dawned in my heart!

Of course, this is just the very beginning of my testimony.  Day after day, month after month and year by year it grows--the goodness and mercy of God didn't stop when I was born-again.  Not by any means.  The longer I'm in, the more amazing and wonderful this becomes.  The longer I walk with Him, the more I realize: there's no place I'd rather be...

"One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life..."
Psalm 27:4

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Devil's Lullaby

9 May 2014
Recently Jennifer and I took our children to the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Midland, TX.  It's a wonderful place to take a step back in time and see what life was like during the WWII era and has loads of historical information from that time period.  Interestingly, it turns out that the day I'm writing this blog is VE Day: the day when Britain and the US celebrated victory in Europe.

If you know anything about WWII, you know that much of the tragedy and loss could have been avoided had certain nations upheld their agreements and enforced the treaties that were established at the conclusion of WWI.  It became clear in 1935 that Germany was openly violating some very significant terms of the Versailles Treaty.  Nobody did anything.  By 1938 Germany was invading Czechoslovakia (after even more severe violations of the treaty) and taking over Austria.  Italy, France and the United Kingdom chose to back out on previous agreements to defend Czechoslovakia and side with Germany in order to 'keep the peace.'  What's interesting to note is that the Czechoslovakian military was at that time superior to the German military and had the other nations not taken a policy of appeasement (in order to avoid having to get involved) it's very likely that the whole thing could have ended right there.  The lying and intimidation of a demonized man caused those who had the power to stop all the evil to embrace slumber and inaction instead.

So what's the point?  Take a look at this:
"But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. " 2 Peter 3:8-9

Notice that Peter says God is patient toward 'you.'  Peter was not writing to the world, to ungodly people; he was writing to "those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ..." (2 Peter 1:1)  It's the people of God that God is patient toward.  It's almost as if God is saying, 'Alright, let's win the world--I've sacrificed My Son to purchase redemption for you, He now has all authority in heaven and on earth, and the Holy Spirit is with you and in you: go for it!"  And now He's waiting for us to get the job done.

But so often we are stuck (seemingly) in a state of slumber and inaction.  We're busy with the affairs of this world.  We're distracted by the pleasure of comfort and entertainment.  Even for those of us 'in ministry' we can be duped into spending most of our energy and effort maintaining what already is: coddle the saints, feed the sheep and keep the peace.  Sure, occasionally we hear a story that moves us and we make a resolution to actually do something for the advance of the Kingdom--but too often it's short-lived and soon buried under the rubble of business-as-usual and lost in the basement of our hearts: a seed that never germinates, a song that's never sung, a story that's never written...

So the devil sings his lullaby and lulls to sleep the only force on earth that has the power to smash down his gates, plunder his kingdom and release his captives.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Filling in the Blanks

"Someday you will live and raise your children in Ireland."

If you read the first installment in this blog, you will know that those were the words the Lord spoke to me (Josh) while at work on February 22, 2001.  I got home that day to tell Jennifer what the Lord had said, but He had already given her a hint--a very strong impression that He would take us out of the country soon.


That's an interesting word.  I have discovered that my 'soon' and the Lord's 'soon' do not mean the same thing.  Of course, I am finite and He is infinite and that might explain the discrepancy.  Be that as it may, much happened between February 22, 2001 and July 13, 2013 (and we're still not there...!), and we have seen the hand of the Lord orchestrating our lives and our circumstances; faithfully leading us and giving us the strength and courage to follow.  Today I thought I would fill in some of the blanks i.e. the time between the initial promise and the beginning of it's fulfillment.

Jennifer and I stepped out of any official ministry from about mid-2001 until about mid-2004.  There were many reasons for that, I think mostly to do with God shaping our character and attitude.  Our family grew: we had no children and were not expecting when the Lord had spoken, but by the time the Lord put us back in ministry we had 3.  He began to stir up my heart sometime in 2004 and I began to make an effort to obey.  After a few clumsy months the Lord surprised us and put us in a position we never thought we would be in: serving as full-time pastors in a church.  Monahans, Texas became home for a while and friendships were made that we still deeply treasure.  We saw the Lord work in amazing ways and we learned so much about seeking and finding His presence during that time.  Ireland seemed to move to the back-burner, but we still thought and prayed for the nation. 

Then I became restless...We moved to Colorado in late 2006.  I led worship at a church for about the first 9 months there.  The burden for Ireland returned with intensity.  Jennifer and I began to pray about going.  The Lord amazingly connected us with a pastor in Corrigan, Texas (Pastor Phillip Corbett, First Assembly of God who was going to Ireland for ministry on a regular basis.  I had a vision that he confirmed without knowing.  It seemed everywhere we turned the Lord was giving us nudges and whispers of confirmation.  We decided it must be time so we made plans to begin to raise support and go!  

Then one day, shortly after breakfast, Jennifer said to me-'I think we need more experience pastoring here in the States before we try to go overseas.'  If you know me at all you can imagine my initial response--'God is able to all things and He can sustain us and equip us for anything, anywhere, anytime, anyhow...'  True enough and the spiritual answer to be sure, but those words never left my mouth because before I had a chance to get them out I heard the voice of the Lord, 'I'm speaking to you through your wife.'  So, plans were changed and instead of getting on a plane and flying across the ocean we got in our car and drove to Nebraska to serve the Lincoln Foursquare Church.  Again, we learned much while pastoring, saw God do some amazing things, made mistakes, made friends.  When we left that church it was not from restlessness, but rather to help care for my mom who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  That season ended in grief as she went to be with the Lord in late 2010.

So it was back to West Texas desert and oil country where I could find work.  The next year after my mom's graduation we had to fight just to hold our heads above the water; all of the disappointment and grief...all of the seemingly unanswered prayers and unfulfilled promises...would we still trust?  Would we still follow even if He lead us in a direction which seemed wrong to us?  Well, thanks to His faithfulness and the supply of His strength, the answer to those questions was and is a big, fat and forever 'yes!'  So here's the point of all this rambling:  He is faithful.  His timing is perfect.  He can be trusted.  His ways are past finding out.  He is good.  He can make up for your lack if you just give your frail best.  He will get you where you need to be even if it's not where you think you need to be (or where you want to be).  He knows, He cares, He sees, He hears and He loves.  He will fill in the blanks in His time and the story will be far better than if you had it your way!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Ireland?

In case you're wondering, 'Why Ireland?'   

Before I answer the question let me remind (or inform) you that there are 2 separate countries on the island.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and the culture and conditions there are very different. We are speaking of the Republic of Ireland here.

I've already dealt with the specific answer as to why we are going to Ireland in the first blog entry, A Little History.  For us the question was answered 12 years ago by the word of the Lord.  That's all we needed then and all we will ever need.  But as to the specifics on the current need in Ireland I offer this simple attempt to describe what things are like in the Emerald Isle.

To begin answering I will first ask another question: what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Ireland and/or the Irish?  Beer?  Leprechauns, fairies, shamrocks and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?  The common answers from most here in America are 'Guinness', 'St.Patrick's Day', 'they like to drink', 'the fighting Irish' or something along those lines, with an occasional 'aren't they all Catholics over there?' thrown in for good measure.  The first thought for most is not 'vibrant Christianity', 'a center of revival', 'missionary fervor' or that type of idea.  And, sadly, the reason for that is that the latter things do not reflect Ireland right now.  It's been called 'the land of saints and scholars', but that is no longer an accurate depiction of the current situation.

Here is the reality.
  • Ireland is the least evangelized English speaking country on earth.
  • It is estimated that less than 1% (0.04%) of the Irish are truly born-again (with a population of about 4 million that works out to be about 3,600,000 lost people).
  • There are approximately 50 towns in Ireland with a population of 7,500 and above with no Gospel witness at all.  Of this 50, there are 17 towns of over 15,000 people with no Gospel witness (that's over half a million people).  Note: Keep in mind that just because a town does have a Gospel witness doesn't mean that it is a powerful or fruitful witness.
The point is: Ireland is not saturated with the Gospel; it is starving for the Gospel.  There may be a Catholic church and a Church of Ireland church in the prominent places in most towns, but neither are preaching the Gospel in the power of the Spirit or even preaching the Gospel at all.  Both of those prominent organizations have more to do with tradition and politics than Jesus and His blood.

That's the facts, those are the statistics, but now from our hearts.  We believe with all our hearts that Ireland is poised for a mighty move of God, a revival that will sweep millions into the light.  We believe that the fire of the Holy One is going to burn in the hearts of multitudes now stone-cold. We believe that God is longing to re-dig the ancient wells of revival and evangelistic zeal that once were blessings not only Ireland and the British Isles, but continental Europe, as well.  We believe that God has a plan that involves many Irish men and women not only coming to Christ and being transformed into vibrant, mature believers full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom, but also leaving their homes, as Jennifer and I and our children are leaving ours, to reach throughout the rest of Europe fearlessly and passionately shining the light of Jesus; chasing out the darkness and leaving the anthem of redemption in their wake.  God has His eye on Ireland, God's heart beats with deep love for the Irish--and so do our hearts.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

From There to Here (Jennifer's Testimony)

I started seeking the Lord at the age of 19 but did not fully surrender my life to Him until I was 22.  He always had His hand on my life, and if He hadn't, I don't know where I would be today.  Would I be a single mom?  Would I be strung out on drugs?  Would I even be alive?  I sometimes wonder this....  I am truly thankful that He has not only given me a life filled with so many blessings, but also set me free and cleansed me from all my sin--and the memories and shame from living in sin.

I always wanted to please people and felt the need to be accepted by everyone.  But thank You Jesus the only One I want to please now is Him!  He truly set me free.  Because I was a people-pleaser and needed to be accepted by others, peer pressure always got the best of me.  I always had to have a boyfriend or I didn't feel wanted; I always followed what others were doing so I didn't feel like an outcast.

The unhealthy desires I had led me into a life of immorality and drugs, and I would do anything I could to be the center of attention.  One memory I have that the Lord will still take me back to sometimes is how at one point I was hanging out at a crack house.  The men that lived there were cocaine dealers and my best friend at the time was dating one of them.  A couple years after that time the man my friend had been dating murdered one of the other dealers.  I think of many situations like this one and it makes me so thankful for God's mercy on my life.  Around this time I also would cut myself because of how lost I felt and the Lord reminds me that I was the one lost sheep out of the ninety-nine that He came searching for.

When I fully surrendered my life to Him I knew right away deep down that it was not just for me but for others, and not just for here in the U.S. but other nations.  I did not know where at that point, but since that day my heart's cry has always been: 'Lord, I will go, send me!'

My prayer is that my testimony will bless you and draw you closer to our Father's heart and that what you long for will be what He longs for, too.  I pray our lives will be like the life of Jesus--He only did what He saw His Father doing, and only spoke what He heard His Father saying: may the same be true for us all.

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."  Charles Thomas Studd (missionary to China, India and Africa).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gates Don't Attack

'...and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.'  Matthew 16:18b

One day I had a thought about this verse that changed my perception on our position as the church.  I had a picture in my mind of a vast army advancing, carrying the gates from their fortress in front of them.  It is, of course, a ridiculous idea and that is the point.  The purpose of a gate is to keep something or someone out (militarily speaking).  In the past, the gates were the entry point or points into the town or city, and this would still be the case for a large estate, or a fortress or castle.  Gates don't advance and gates don't attack.  

'The gates of Hades.'  The meaning seems obvious.  The conclusion of my simple mind is this: Jesus meant that we were to be on the offensive.  We are the attacking army.  We are the advancing force to be feared.  Hades has established itself on earth and now it's time for some reclamation.  Banners are unfurled, the charge begins--hooves thunder, swords are unsheathed, the battle cry erupts from flaming hearts and war is unleashed against the evil stronghold...

However, somehow we are duped into thinking it's the other way around, and we take on the role of those who are guarding the truth, trying to hang on until the end.  "Ah yes, the end; the end will be different.  The King will come and rescue us out of the impossibly depressing (I mean, look at our country!  We're going downhill fast...) situation we have been cornered into.  The big, bad devil and his scary demons are ruling the world and their power is taking over!  Fortify the gates of the church, another attack is imminent!"  If we're not careful, we begin to think this way and then we look to frail human effort and tactics to make some attempt at changing things, all the while not really believing anything really will.

The problem is that if we believe we are under attack and on the defensive, then we will act in a manner not consistent with reality and a lesser life will be our experience even though it is not our identity.  The truth is that God has raised us up to sit in heavenly places (the place of authority), made us to be a kingdom of priests who are His ambassadors sent to bring the news of His salvation to those now enslaved by sin and trapped in darkness, and empowered by His Spirit to destroy the chains that hold them in captivity.  'Shall not overpower' means that we overcome and prevail against

'But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.' Romans 8:37

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Revival We Need

March 30, 2013
Any of you who know me know that 'revival' is a common word that comes out of my mouth and a common subject of discussion and prayer.  However, it's a word that can mean so many different things and has been associated with many different movements, etc., and since it is something I will not stop referencing--here are some of my thoughts about revival. 

Let's start with what I don't mean by revival.  I don't mean a three or four day or even a week of special meetings with a fiery evangelist.  Those are fine and good, but not what I'm talking about.  Neither do I mean large crowds of people gathering night after night, signs and wonders and miracles, shouting and laughing, dancing and singing.  That's fine and I'll be there shouting too, if it's real.  Revival might include all of these, and I am not in any way against any of these things at all. In fact, Jennifer and I are in hot pursuit of the release of God's power and joy and kindness in our area of the world.  But we can't stop with the good that God brings, we must press on.

Revival is not something worked up, does not originate on earth or come through any human means, cannot be explained, goes deeper than emotion, deeper than experience, deeper than laughter, deeper than manifestation, and certainly cannot be contained within a week of meetings.  Simply stated, revival happens when God, by His Spirit, restores the church to the place where it was always intended to be.  The word itself means to bring life back into something or someone.

There are some characteristics that have marked every significant move of God that has brought life back to His people, and there are also some things that have always preceded these times of powerful blessing. We know that revival can't come without repentance and a return to holiness and humility, it can't come without tears and brokenness, without the awe of God returning and remaining, without a burning passion and hunger for the word of God and to do the will of God.  Revival always brings repentance from and freedom from sin.  Revival always brings love for the word of God.  Revival always brings deep and meaningful prayer and intercession and love for the unsaved.  Revival always leads to reformation and, eventually, to awakening and the rapid extension of the kingdom of God through the transformation of masses of precious people who are currently trapped in sin.  This is the revival we need. This is the revival I dedicated my life to pursuing long age, and the revival I invite you to join with me and my family in seeking with all of our hearts--for this is the revival that our gracious Lord longs to bring to His people.