Thursday, March 20, 2014

FREEDOM IN THE NIGHT (Bible) Warning: Preaching In This Post

"FREEDOM IN THE NIGHT"  Acts 16:25-26

** Ever wanted to be free, ever needed to be free?

** Ever wondered how to get free from chains that hold you down?
** What prison do you feel you are in?

Maybe your prison & chains are not physical, maybe they are spiritual, sexual, mental, emotional, financial or relational.

Try the Paul & Silas solution. 

[ [ In your darkest hour, when the chains grip you tight, while you are alone, cold and frightened.......OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND PRAY AND PRAISE GOD.....LOUD AND STRONG....AND DON'T STOP UNTIL FREEDOM COMES ] ]
== Crying out to God in desperation, truly asking for His Help & truly giving Him Praise brings freedom

== Declaring God's Kingdom Rule over your prison and over your chains 
brings freedom
== Turning attention off of you & your problems and onto God alone 

brings freedom
== Doors will fly open, people will think you are crazy, but your faith will 

bring freedom


"A lifestyle of prayer & praise, complete surrender & adoration to the one true God, for His name's sake alone, leads to chain breaking freedom" BR


``` About now, some people are feeling encouraged and energized to move into prayer and praise. Others of you are done reading, thinking, sure preacher man, same old "preacher stuff". It sounds good, but in real life, this really doesn't work. ```                              IT DOESN'T WORK  --  BECAUSE YOU DON'T DO IT

1. Most of us spend more time learning to be comfortable with our bondage, chains & prisons. 

2. Most of us refuse to turn to God in desperation, complete, loud, desperate prayer. 

3. Most of us see the freedom of others and believe "that is easy for them, but not for me". 

4. Most of us would experience a measure of freedom beyond our expectation is we just started a life-style of desperate prayer and praise. Not one try, but persistent, never stop, don't give up style of prayer & praise. 

5. Most of the preachers, teachers, theologians and scholars will question the practical application of this scripture. They will rarely teach or preach it, they don't want to be "on the hook" when results don't come or they believe the context for Paul & Silas is not transferable to you and I.  I disagree...strongly.....

6. Most of those who disagree with this approach, disagree because they have not done it. They live with and in their chains and would rather keep dignity, opinion and/or personal belief, than see what God did in the story and believe it for themselves. This requires abandonment of SELF, most of us like SELF too much, even the self that is bound in chains. 

7. Most of our family and friends need freedom as well. Vs. 26 tells us "everybody's chains came loose."  Meaning, God's move to set men free carries over to everyone around us. When God moves in power, people see it, hear it, experience it along with us.....

8. Most of the preachers, teachers and professors I have heard would avoid this "practice of faith", partially because they believe the only reason God set Paul & Silas free is for vs. 31, so that he could tell more people about Jesus. I believe this was part of God's ultimate plan as well. However, I deeply believe there is a dynamic of faith in God, expressed in desperate prayer & praise, that carries over to all of Paul's life experiences and in turn, all of ours. 



~~ I like to say this: There is nothing more powerful than a changed life. ~~ 

I say this because people try to debate the Bible and the power of God. They question faith in God. At that point, I can love every person who questions while also saying that God's work in my heart, life, body, marriage, home, emotions, mind and soul are deeply personal, undeniable and life changing. No one can take that from me, no one can debate successfully about something they have not experienced. I am a living testimony. 

* Addiction

* Anger & Hate
* Disappointment & Regret
* Divorce
* Poverty
* Loneliness
* Sickness

All of these things had their grip on me. Early in my walk with Christ, I decided to accept the Word of God for what it was, a living testimony of God's Grace. And, I decided "religion" was not for me. I didn't want the Sunday Church experience. I wanted the chain breaking power experience. 

Many parts of my life have felt like "midnight in chains". In those moments I can turn to a menu of different solutions. Of, I can learn to accept my chains, which many of us do. HOWEVER, I decided to refuse, refuse the prison and chains put on me by those who try to stop what God is doing. I refuse to be denied and begin putting all of my desperate attention on my Father in Heaven, His Grace, His Power and His Love, through ACTUALLY PRAYING AND PRAISING without fear or embarrassment. 

When you have felt the cold weight of chains around your feet, hands and neck. Chains of addiction, anger, hate, sickness, poverty, divorce, loneliness or regret, you know what bondage feels like. 






Monday, March 17, 2014

6 WAYS TO TURN MOMENTS INTO MEMORIES (help for guys/couples)

My heart breaks for couples who are struggling, bored or who have lost the fight for love.

 The new trend today is to just skip marriage. Why get the family involved, spend money on a ceremony, when we really don't believe we will be together for the rest of our life. Many people believe they will split up eventually, either by honest choice or by relationship failure, either way, why create extra paperwork by getting married?  

Others of us act traditional, or some version of it. We talk to the parents, we date and try not to have sex. The man pops the question, we make a plan and walk the isle to The Wedding March or Hear Comes the Bride or whatever that song is. (Shanna and I were a little non-traditional, we exited the platform, after our wonderful kiss, to none other than, the Hallelujah Chorus, sung by contemporary artist with a pretty kickin-beat.)  After the traditional wedding we honeymoon, get a little place together, share a bed for the first time and begin making babies. We figure we made a covenant together and that kids "should" be in the picture, so we just move forward. Some of our failures in relationships come from the lack of connection and important moments shared in love and joy. No matter how we begin, there is a huge need to continue making moments together. Shanna and I began with a unique moment, our recessional, as mentioned above, was sooo loud and surprising to the guests at our wedding that people laughed aloud when they figured out what was going on, you just had to be there. It was a great MOMENT that set us apart and turned a MOMENT into a MEMORY.

MOMENTS MATTER: The word for this generation has been "whatever". I understand the sentiment, I really do. But, when it comes to any romantic relationship, "whatever" just won't cut it. You get into trouble really fast with a whatever attitude toward your girlfriend or fiance', even more trouble with your spouse. Why??  I believe it is because we have limited time and moments matter. We only have our experiences, our memories. These act like connectors in a body. The MOMENTS connect yesterday to today, success to failure, sunrise to sunset, and the home run to the strike out. MOMENTS pass, but they connect elements of time along the way. They matter because, truly, they are all we have. 

Ancient Scripture tells us in James 4:14 do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."      

When we think of it that way, it changes how important each moment might be to us. Imagine your spouse for a minute. Imagine how she feels when moments pass each day, each week, each month even, and nothing significant has happened to connect you to her, yesterday to tomorrow, or one hard working day to the next. Imagine how tiring and boring it is to just wade through the grey matter of life, normal, ordinary moments, nothing special, nothing rewarding, nothing shared with joy between two people claiming to love each other. This is the life of many couples, unfortunately, and we must learn....moments matter

MOMENTS THAT MATTER: If we are just a little more purposeful, as men, we can create new moments that matter for our spouse. Let me explain. Today, my wife was done with working her morning shift at Creative Music Concepts, the business we own together. She was getting ready to head to the Gym, where she hits the treadmill for a few miles. I saw this unfolding and decided to ditch work for a few to join her. I actually have 20 things on my TTD list for today. They will now carry over to the rest of the week. I grabbed my ear buds, keys and running shoes and joined the party. For our first few years of marriage, going to the Gym was not something we did together. Shanna has lost 95lbs in the past year and acquired a strong appetite for exercise. She did a 5k and plans to run the famous Manitou Springs Incline this year. 
I am a recovering BBall addict with bad knees, but I love going to the Gym. Therefore, a few minutes later we were side by side on treadmills, me reading a book and walking at 4.0 with a 3.0 inline, her a 3.0 with an 8.0 incline. She asked about how steep "The Manitou Incline" might be, so I Googled it as we walked together. "It is a 3.7 mile loop, up the incline then down the trail, with a 2,000 foot elevation increase, from 6.6k feet above sea level to 8.6k" I told her. She estimated how long it would take her at her present pace, then put her head down and kept pushing it. I love that....I love that woman.....We had A MOMENT THAT MATTERS. 

Another example was last year, when date night was on me. I wanted to do something that she would like. So, I made an appointment for us to have a one hour paint lesson together. She loves art and loves to draw and paint. They offered us a glass of wine, put us near other couples who had no idea what they were doing and put a bunch of colors in front of us. We came out with what seemed like a great piece of art to me. Shanna, though she enjoyed the MOMENT, she won't let those paintings come out of the closet. I'm not sure why, it looks like a cool bridge with a city in the background and stars in the sky. Or, like a really messed up pair of glasses. Anyway, we enjoyed the MOMENT together, and created a MEMORY that still holds it's own. The memories are what holds us together when hard days come, where there is nothing fun about the present. We remember that we are fun people, when we can pull away from the fight of everyday life. We remember that we like each other and that we may even love each other. The MOMENTS and MEMORIES help keep us remain connected.

MOMENTS and MEMORIES: I have to admit, everything about making memorable moments is a challenge for me. I am a driven personality much of the time and I assume we are in love, we are committed, we work hard to raise our kids, run a good business and ministry, so what else is there. Well.......apparently, more than I understand. Through my struggles to be somewhat engaged with Shanna, I have learned a few things about creating MOMENTS that turn into MEMORIES. It is important to understand that all MOMENTS are not, or should not be MEMORIES. Like the time I was helping Shanna and the kids carve pumpkins. She likes me better when I do things with the kids, so I wanted it to be a great moment, where dad did something awesome. So, I went to the garage to get my drywall drill. It worked great on pumpkins, but not so good on Shanna's wrist. Yes, I stabbed her wrist and almost killed her. (that's her story anyway)  So, sure, we made a memory, but not one that makes her feel connected. Ask her about it and she will show you the scar....(I can't even see it anymore)....but......whatever!!  

Before I run, let me give you a list of hints I try to use in creating MOMENTS that are worthy of good MEMORIES. (not in order of importance, I'm not that good yet)

1. Listen to what she is saying: If you listen, she will mention things she loves, things that will create memorable moments. Going to a football game or movie may NOT be it. It may be a live play at the performing arts center, a walk in the park, a girl movie, a romantic restaurant, something beautiful or quiet. Just listen, she will mention something helpful......

2. Keep a list: Use your phone, computer or something handy to capture ideas she mentions. You will forget, so write them down. I keep a list on my smart phone that literally says, "things Shanna likes" and another one that says, "things Shanna does not like". 

3. Spy her Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Magazines or Books: Shanna loves to travel, loves pretty things, loves ideas that are a little Southern in nature. She does not like loud, cold, time consuming or potentially embarrassing things. She shows me things on her Pinterest account sometimes and I have to go back to #2, write them down, so I can get back to it later. 

4. Know her love-language: This is huge. If her love language is giving gifts, then she hears "I Love You" when you give her things. When you forget valentines day or birthday, and you get her flowers from Wal-Mart with a wrinkled card, she hears...." I don't love you". Shanna's number one love-language is quality time, so when I do something to hurt her feelings or to interrupt an evening we plan to be together, she hears me say, I don't value your quality time, I don't love you. But, when I make even an effort to love her with uninterrupted quality time, she usually hears it loud and clear, I Love You. 

5. Be there and do something: Memories cannot be made from moments if the moments never happen. The one thing to remember is, just be there. Be engaged, do something. Even if what you do is not building a memory for her, it is a learning process and she will tell you. If she does not consider going to a guy movie, like 300, a quality moment, she will tell you. Go back to #1 at that point and listen. Don't be defensive, just let her tell you. Shanna will tell me "You have not let me pick the movie the past 10 times".  She is saying...I like spending time with you, but not when we only see what you pick. So, she is giving me the insight I need to transform my effort into a moment that she will remember. Now, I know she likes the Art Walk in Old Colorado City, hiking in the sunshine, laying down in green grass, two nights away instead of one, short drives in the car instead of long, and she really likes Ringling Brothers Circus. Most of that I found out by being there, and doing the wrong thing. 

6. Adjust your emotions, you are not at work: This is very hard for me. My intensity level is high on many days when we have something planned to do together. I have to ratchet my intensity down, be relaxed, talk less, listen more, be confident but not pushy and just be with her. This is a hard one for me so within minutes of our departure from the house I can usually tell that I am getting on her nerves. She has learned to say, "you are D ing me to death", which means I am being a Driver. I try to smack that guy in the head and to let the charming side operate in that moment instead. I'm not always successful, which is why I have so many lessons-learned to share with you!!!

I'm actually not very good at any of this. I have a hard time listening, I hate lists, I rarely look at what she looks at on the computer and I still have a hard time not getting my love language before hers and my emotions are almost always intense. However, I think I know these tactics work, and have tested them enough over the years to know, If I can just figure out how to move beyond my selfish desires, beyond my insecurity, beyond my lazy, passive nature, I can love her in a way she remembers, by creating MOMENTS and MEMORIES.

P.S. When a good moment happens, take a picture, nothing wrong with a little evidence to remind her you did it right that one time......