Gods In It…(Pt.3)

In some ways this is the most difficult part for me to write because it tells the story of how I went from being a regular three time a week church attendee to striking out and”accidentally” establishing a ministry of my own. It’s difficult because what I’ve got to say is critical of certain aspects of not just my church at the time but mainstream churches as a whole. Over time what I began to see and hear became very frustrating to me, the message I kept hearing was that we need to be a church outside the four walls but as far as I could see there wasn’t any real practical or specific plan as to exactly what that means other than to just “be a good person” or “invite someone to church”. Being able to confidently share your faith with others is a weak spot with most Christians. But from my perspective, after all of the ways I had witnessed the Lord’s provision in my life through all of the circumstances I’d been through it was very natural for me to tell others how good He was to me! Over time what I was hearing just ceased to minister to me.  I wondered if I was being spiritually prideful or if I was just tired of sitting in a pew week after week hearing the call to GO being given but not feeling as though it was something most took seriously. I tried to make suggestions for various outreach activities but they were all ignored or dismissed. There’s an old joke about a church that was seeking a new minister, they were particularly impressed by one man and asked him to return and speak to  their congregation again, he does but he gives the exact same sermon! The elders met together and asked the young preacher “don’t you know any other sermons?” he relied “Sure, and as soon as this congregation start’s practicing THIS one I’ll preach another!”

One Monday morning in October of 2009 I couldn’t get my car started and wasn’t able to figure out exactly what was wrong with it and fix it for 26 days.  During that time I was unable to attend church and when I finally did get my car fixed I just didn’t want to go back. What happened was kind of sad but in another way it was a blessing because it forced me to make a change that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have otherwise made.  The next twist was what I thought was a God ordained partnership with a new friend I had found. Instead it was another necessary nudge that also helped serve the purpose of moving me from being a pew sitter to a well, whatever it is I’ve become…An evangelist, a counselor, or perhaps just a Christian who’s wiling to trust in a God that has brought him through so many things, and in His promises of a plan He has for my life to establish me and not to harm me!

In the beginning of this three part series I used a card game as an illustration to expound upon the ways in which I believe God has shown Himself in my life. Playing cards requires that you pay attention to what’s in your hand and that when you have something to “lay down” it’s best to go ahead and just do it. To me that’s what my blogging has always been about, trying to tell or “lay it down” to others that it’s not about what we may go through in this life, it’s who you go through it with that gives it meaning or value! Every story I’ve told here is about how God showed up in the midst of my circumstances and kept me from hitting bottom. I’d also like to say that what I’ve written here is a very abridged version of many, many ways God interceded on my behalf, far too many for me to even mention!  Nobody in my family has ever been hungry or gone without any thing they really needed. Even during the worst of it, when I lost my home, He made sure I had enough money to rent a truck, that I had help moving, and most important a place to move to! God knows me so well, and He knows what I can take and what I can’t take.

The following verse in Isaiah really sums it all up for me.

Isaiah 54:17

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

Our enemy comes only to kill,steal,and destroy! If the trials and troubles that you have in your life can steal your joy or make you doubt Gods great love for you than his weapons have prospered! It’s only through the blood of Christ and the sustaining power of Gods Holy Spirit that we can have victory over life’s most difficult challenges. For what was meant for evil against us, only God can turn into good!

One of the most common questions I’m asked by people regarding what I’m doing in my ministry is “How are you funded?” and the answer is that I’m privately funded by Jesus!

Say What?

That’s right! He’s sustained me through all things and now and has moved me into the position I’m in and even though I only make about 13,000 a year I’ve been able to financially support my ministry! I live a wonderful life It seems like I always have plenty of money for life’s little extra’s, going out to eat occasionally or just buying something I need, it’s absolutely true that you can’t “out give” God!  He’s made a 17yr old car that I got as a gift with over 255,000 miles on it last for two years and just last week I was given another car that’s the exact same model and color except it’s 10yr’s newer and in immaculate condition!

He’s made sure that my daughter always has nice clothes to wear because He knows that there’s no way I would be able to do what I’m doing if I thought she was being made to suffer because of it or if it prevented me from taking care of her. I’m sure that there will be some people who read this and say “Your circumstances were the result of your own bad choices!” Sure I’ve made some bad choices, who hasn’t? But if I had gotten the choices I wanted I would’ve gone back to work driving a truck, remember? or “I think that there are quite a number of other more practical ways to explain everything that you’ve attributed to God“, and in response to that I say, “You’re right! But this is my story and I’m going to tell it how it make’s sense to me, I was there, I lived it, and from my perspective it definitely doesn’t make sense to me any other way so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree as to whether “Gods in it” or not!

Well, I’ve laid all of my cards out on on the table, and slid my entire pile of chips into the pot. And all I want out of the sum of my life’s experience is to be able to say that when it came to my faith, “I wasn’t just shuckin’! To be able to say that my belief in God not only sustained me but moved me into action, and that I chose to step out in faith and answer what I feel is the call on my life which ALL Christian people have. To live, despite the circumstances of my life in such a way that others just have to say…

Gods In It!

Matthew 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

It’s About Time!

I can hear it already,

“It’s about time? yeah it is…

You haven’t written a blog for three weeks and this is all you’ve got!

I’m sorry but that’s just weak”!

WOW! Give me a chance! Would it kill ya to have a little faith or to be a little more patient? Maybe YOU should do like I’ve been doing and embark upon a study of the life of Noah…

I feel as though I’ve seen a lot of things change during my short lifetime. We’ve become a “microwave society” who’s tongue in cheek prayer is “Lord give me patience, but hurry!” We’re used to having the “instant gratification” of our desires. We spend our lives watching thirty second commercials on television and then wonder why attention deficit disorder is so common!  We’ve become a people that seek constant reassurance of our being on the “right track”, it’s a herd mentality and the message is “don’t stop and eat the flowers”!  We’re not sure exactly where it is we’re in such a hurry to go but hey, everybody seems to be going there and even if it is wrong  it seemed like the right thing to do at the time…

Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

The story of Noah has always been one of the most fascinating in the Bible to me. As I read through one of the more well known parts of it I paused for a moment and reflected.. 

“How did God talk to Noah and tell him to build an ark?”

I know what it says in Genesis 6:13, God spoke to Noah, but at the risk of being allegorical I’m simply wondering…was it in an audible voice, or did God somehow just place the idea in his thoughts? Perhaps it was Noah’s “inspired” conclusion based on his knowledge of Gods character and his observation of the pervasive moral depravity of his time that convinced him that God surely wouldn’t let this go on indefinitely. Building the ark was based on the faith Noah had that God would do exactly what He said!

Maybe God had to speak directly to Noah because Noah didn’t have a bible to read!

I read Gods word quite regularly and I continually try to understand the meaning of it and apply it to my life. Of course I’m a long way from reaching either goal, but so far what I’ve gotten from it is that it tells us to love, to go, do, and be, to the ends of the earth!  Maybe just to the end of your block, or the edge of your town, wherever you find yourself if you’re a child of God you’re there on His time!

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

In 1 Peter it says that Noah preached to the people of his “time” for over one hundred years and yet the only people he took with him into the ark were the eight members of his immediate family! Can you imagine the ridicule he endured from the people who heard his warnings of coming destruction, saw the giant boat he was building on dry land and thought he was a fool? And from the perspective of the world he was a fool, right up to the time when the waters began to flood the earth!

Studying the life and ministry of Noah has really helped me to be more patient with what I feel is my calling. It’s helped me to give everything over to Him, to have a stronger faith and to know that He’s the one in control of the circumstances of my life. To be peaceful and not be anxious when things work out differently than I might of expected or wanted them to.  We all have the same two choices when that happens, we can respond emotionally, and become frustrated or discouraged at the “No” we seem to be experiencing or we can instead keep pressing forward looking for the better “Yes” that God has waiting for us!

Maybe it is about time, more than anything else in this country our most common ailment is “hurried sickness”. There’s not enough time for people to be able to “unpack” emotionally toward each other and really let them know how they feel.  We hardly even understand the need for it but we certainly understand the unavoidable consequences of not doing it! Isn’t it about time that we as the church, the “body of Christ”, reached out with our arms, legs and anointed hands and showed this world Gods heart that’s broken over the gulf of sin that separates them. We’re living in a culture very similar to the times of Noah and I believe that one day soon God will once again shut the door behind those He will deliver from the coming deluge and the time of the Gentiles will come to a close…

It’s about time!

Who Cares?

Yesterday at the Ministry Center I met a woman who was kind enough to share with me some of her ideas of how to generate more community interest in what we’re doing. She told me that despite all of my efforts to publicize what we’re doing here that word of mouth is still by far the best method, and that the key was to get people in the door with free food/stuff in order to have the opportunity to talk to them for a few moments. I understand that what she’s saying is correct, but at the same time it made me wonder if given the scope of the problem in the community, wouldn’t  a certain percentage of them be motivated to seek out any help available to them in ending their addiction?

I thought about my own circumstances for a moment, I am overweight but I don’t feel as though it’s primarily because what I eat is so wrong,instead I chalk it up mostly to my sedentary lifestyle.  I believe that what I need is someone who’s passion is health and fitness to assist me in engaging in an effective program to slowly guide me back towards a more healthful body weight, perhaps improve my joint flexibility,and improve my overall physical wellbeing. If someone were to open up a “center” where people made themselves available to others  free of charge I would love it! I think that I’d be there at least a couple of times a week and that I’d also have no problem financially supporting such an enterprise by my freely given donations.

The more I thought about it the more similarities I began to see between this scenario and what I’m trying to do. In order to be succesful with physical re-conditioning one of the most important things to be mindful of is that especially at first you’ve got to make it a pleasurable experience for people. If you try to push people or expect to much from them too quickly, or come on too strong you’ll probably end up hurting them, and that’s what makes people want to quit! By enabling them to experience as many of the benifits of working their physique and as little of the pain as possible you stand a lot better chance of being sucessful in the long term with them. Of course there’s going to have to be discomfort involved at some point, but to really be a help to people who are in the process of change we need to do what we can to help manage “the pain” with them. Slow them down when they want to move too fast or when they set their expectations too high, be patient with them during times of slow or no progress,our unconditional support is critical to them when they’re facing obstacles we may not fully understand. And yes, even give them the tough love treatment when it’s called for.

No doubt about it, someday I want to have a ministry like this at the Outreach Center, I’d be the first in line!

Which brings me to my next “revelation”…What is a ministry? I think that  “ministry” is a word we use to describe our response to Gods love for us “back to” God and to others. It’s something we do because it brings us a sense of  fulfillment which only comes from being a part of that flow that happens when we correctly use the gifts God has given us. It’s something we share with others because it’s our passion, it’s the axis or hub that our spinning world is centered on. It provides us with a perspective or a point of reference by which all other things can be prioritized under or compared to.

It’s our answer!

In the end, it’s really not a matter of “who cares”, everybody cares when it’s their own fat that’s in the fire or their pretty baby that’s in trouble; perhaps instead it’s more a question of  “who dares” to have the audacity to believe that love truly is the answer…

I recently discovered this quote which is credited to the renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow,

“When all you have is a hammer,everything begins to look like a nail”

Maybe that’s true, after all Jesus fixed everything with three nails, and a whole lotta love!

Stitches In Time…

Hello! My name is Jeff Brown and I’m with the Vineyard Ministry fellowship and Outreach Center in Doniphan,Mo. We’ve rented the old Ben Franklin building on Washington St. and we’re in the process of establishing an ongoing ministry there centered around supporting people with drug and alcohol addictions in their efforts to find deliverance by establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ. As God allows we’d also like to expand into other areas including couples counseling and helping people dealing with depression. I’d like to tell you why I feel as though this is a vitally important undertaking, and why I feel as though it’s something that all of us should be concerned with.

Most of us are familiar with the expression “A stitch in time saves nine” It simply means that to deal with things now can prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem later. A stitch in time can save nine, it may even save 900,or even 9000, depending on it’s location the impact of that one stitch can be huge!   My parents were divorced when I was nine, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that my mother confided in me that the problems they had in their marriage were in fact actually very minor. I’m left to wonder what kind of a difference “a stitch in time” might of made to everyone in my family.

Some people have misconceptions about counseling or psychology and when they hear either term concerns arise as to their real value or even if they’re something the church should be involved with at all. This is a valid concern because some of what secular psychology has to offer is in contradiction to basic Christian beliefs.  It’s important that we  understand where the two part ways and stick to what Gods word teaches.

As an example, a few years later when I was twelve I was caught selling drugs at my Jr. High school. One of the results of that was my being referred to a psychologist for counseling, I met a wonderful man who I know cared a great deal about me and who I’m sure would’ve done anything to help me. I’m not saying he didn’t help me at all, perhaps he may of kept me from careening off of some precipice but despite seeing him continuously for several years I continued to us drugs. He simply didn’t know how to reach me, and despite all of his endeavors to rebuild my shattered self esteem I believe they failed because I simply wasn’t buying the idea of my being worth loving. His therapy fell short because it’s success hinged on my acceptance of something my worldly perceptions showed me to be false. Would it have made a difference if he had shown me in Gods word that it was because of His great love for me that God had sent His son to die for all of the things I hated so much about myself ? I can only speculate as to the different effect it might of had if he would’ve told me that God had a wonderful plan for my life and that He  wanted to have a personal relationship with me.  If, instead of trying to convince me to love myself despite the mess I was, he would’ve helped me to see how much I was already loved, and encouraged me to allow Jesus into my heart what a difference it might’ve made!

When I’m counseling a young couple with marital problems I think about my own parents and what I wish someone might have told them about the far reaching ramifications of what they’re contemplating.

When I talk to a young man struggling with his identity who has chosen to hide who he really is behind drugs I can tell him about where that took me and help him to understand that there’s a much better choice available to him.

All of my years of people watching have taught me something important and that is, “Where people are concerned, things are seldom what they seem”. Peoples outward behaviors seldom reflect their true feeling’s or tell the real story of what’s happening on the inside. And while that may sound complicated it’s really as simple as understanding that every one of us is just trying to be loved! And because we may never have experienced what that truly means I think that I can say without any qualification that it is without a doubt the most confusing aspect of life and that it’s the primary cause of all of mans problems. Following a trail of lies left by our enemy we’re drawn into a myriad of dead end streets strewn with broken glass and other garbage that we’re willing to ignore if we believe that in doing so it might bring us this elusive prize. We seek it out in substances like drugs and alcohol, dysfunctional human relationships, of course material possessions, all of which have the habit of leaving us empty and unfulfilled, some of which leave us dead.

I want people to know that God loves them!

As I see it, there are only two kinds of people. Those who have been greatly blessed by the presence of mentoring relationships in their lives and those who have greatly suffered as a result of not having them. If you’re in the first category, It honors the memory of that person who helped you to “pay it forward”and be that person in another s life.  If you’re the latter, it’s a sacred thing to reach out to people in an effort to keep someone else from making the same bad choices you did and perhaps from suffering the same consequences.

What has God done for you? What barriers did He have to patiently wait for your consent to remove from your life even while it caused Him so much pain to watch as you needlessly suffered?

The story of God and man is a story of love and of redemption; it’s a story of a creator and His rebellious creation and the extraordinary lengths that He’s willing to go to reach them.  In Gods word He goes into detail as to the lengths He’s willing to go to in showing us His love.

John 3:16-17

16For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

I purposely included the 17th verse, because it breaks down any excuses I could possibly have to not be doing something to reach out to a world in bondage to ignorance, pain, and evil, with the love, redemption, and deliverance of Christ! When we choose to see ourselves and others as God see’s us, with compassion, it’s then that we can begin to understand the life changing power of Gods love and it’s there that we can be “convinced” as the reality of what Paul stated in his epistle to the Romans.

Romans 8:38-39

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I’ve said all of this in an attempt to explain to you why I’m doing what I’m doing but most importantly, I’m saying it out of my own personal gratitude for what’s been done for me! Many people considered me a lost cause; they saw me as a no good drug addict and told me I’d never amount to much. But praise God it was a loving savior who spoke truth into my life and made me see the lies of the enemy and all of the weapons which were formed against me, It was Jesus who reached out a hand to me and showed me my own self as He saw me, Who lifted me up out of the broken glass and garbage I was in and gave me hope and faith that because of His love for me those weapons would not continue to prosper against me, that I was somebody very special in Christ, because of His love for me!

What, if anything, could I ever do in return to show my gratitude or to show how much I love the Lord?

Matthew 25:35-40

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

If we as the church are to have the impact on this world that God has called us to we’re going to have to make some stitches where people are injured and bind up some wounds to heal the brokenhearted. We must do it now while we still have the opportunity,  in time for it to make a difference. I’m asking you to join us in this undertaking, that it might become an overtaking victory for the sake of Gods kingdom and in the name of Jesus The Christ!

Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised

Matthew 16:19

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Ezekiel 34:16

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

The Exciting Work of Ministry!

Catchy title don’t you think? okay, maybe not so much but I am starting to get really excited thinking about where all of this hard work is leading! For all of us that are involved in this venture it’s the culmination of the dreams, prayers and purpose’s in each of our lives. I believe that we’ve all been uniquely prepared to fulfill this aspect of the Lord’s plan, and that it’s not only for us but for many others as well!

It’s been a very long journey for me, wandering through the desert for the last forty years. If you’ve ever been lost you know what I mean, you think your heading in the right direction but with very little confirmation it’s cause for anxiety.  When you see a sign that tells you how much further it is or you recognize something that you were told to watch out for a sense of peace replaces the panic. Ironically, in my current circumstances most of the things I’ve been told to watch out for are not good but I’m happy to see them because it means I must be on track!

More exciting ministry work!

Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Speaking of being “on track”, in the last week we’ve got a phone, designed and printed some brochures and cards, done some clean up work, and Lord willing we’ll have electricity later this week! Tonight my partner Gerald told me that they’re delivering some carpeting and a little bit of furniture which includes a desk, next I’m looking for about twenty or thirty chairs, enough to have meetings with. We’re currently working on a newsletter, and I’m looking into various signage options for our front glass so yeah, it is busy but it’s fun and exciting!

Based on what I’ve just described I can already tell that this ministry is going to stretch my boundaries and allow me to wear many different hats, some that I’ve kind of worn before, like in the area of public relations. Others, like being involved with drug and alcohol cessation meetings and one on one counseling are more familiar to me.

Earlier I mentioned being lost in the desert for forty years which you may of taken as a metaphor but it’s truer than you could know. I was saved at age nine and I’m forty nine now. To me it’s an interesting similarity, so now am I ready to cross the Jordan into the promised land? I’ve stepped out in faith, and based on what the Lord’s done for me in the last forty years I know that all of His promises to me are real and that He’ll continue to abide in me as I abide in Him now even more than ever! He continues to give me a vision of what He wants to accomplish through this work and of how to go about it. For me thats as good as it gets, it really is exciting to be a part of !

It’s all about Jesus!

After a few weeks of holding my breath, yesterday I was handed the key to our building! (exhales) Now, I’ve got to get insurance,utilities of various types,and of course nearly everything else that will be needed. I’ve put up an add on Craigslist of Southeast Missouri soliciting donations of office furniture,partitions,and used carpeting. My partner and I are planning to talk with some of the local ministers to let them know what we’re trying to get going,we definitely could use some help! Our mission is to bless as many people as possible with the services we plan to offer, but I think that it’s going to be just as much of a blessing to those who decide to help us. I’ve inquired around at a few of the local help agencies and apparently there isn’t any sort of open drug or alcohol abuse support group meetings currently being held anywhere. It occurred to me what a great opportunity it would be for us to pursue, and also for many people in the church to act as mentors! The one “saying” that’s been going through my mind is…

All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stand idly by and do nothing”

In the last fifty years or so the church has lost so much precious ground! I don’t feel like there’s anyone who doesn’t know that! I also know that church’s do lots of great work in this country and all over the world but unfortunately here in the United States they’re perceived by many as hypocritical and judgmental.  So much of the work done by church’s happens outside the country while the spiritual needs of our own go unmet.  Sure, we have sanctuaries everywhere but I’m afraid we’re following in the footsteps of Europe where the majority of the church’s are empty, empty because they had a “high on the mountaintop” attitude,because they tried to keep Jesus all to themselves and away from the masses,because in the end, despite the gilded rituals and dry dogma they really didn’t have much left to offer anyway.

The Dead Sea

It reminds me of the Jordan river, it flows from the sea of Galilee which is full of life into the Dead sea that isn’t,because it’s incredibly salty and there’s no outlet. The Spirit of The Lord is like electricity, it won’t flow through a connection that’s not connected, or through a people who won’t reach out for those whom The Father loves and wants so desperately to reach.

Like many of you I’ve felt overwhelmed by the size of the powers and principalities that we’re at war against. Of all the weapons that have been formed against me personally in my life, I feel that the one’s that have done the most damage are hopelessness and discouragement. I found these verses in 2 Kings that have given me hope and encouragement, and emboldened me to walk even more so in faith…

15And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

16And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Elisha wasn’t alone or outnumbered,and neither are we! When we come together as the body of Christ it’s no contest!

And that’s definitely what it’s all about, reaching people for Christ! Introducing the people of a fallen world to a risen Savior! Through the compassion and understanding we can express through this ministry we know the victory has already been won, that hearts can be touched and strongholds of the enemy can be brought down.