Until next time…

Now that the moment’s upon us, I’m not quite sure what to say, or how to say it.

For six months now, Dana and I have awaited this hour, the time when we’d return to Ecuador to breathe new life into a very different future.

In 24 hours we’ll drive 70 miles to Memphis International Airport, take a quick flight to Steve and DanaAtlanta, then on 5,000 miles south to Quito, then Manta, grab a rental car there, and drive an hour further south to Puerto Cayo where our new home is finished and where we’ll set up shop for a new family of marketing-related businesses. Latitude 1 South. We’ve been laying the groundwork there for almost a year.

And quite a year it’s been.

My 71-year-old dad died in January, and for me it created a profound moment, when for the first time, I’d truly assess life’s “vaporish” quality. I began writing my first series of books focusing on redemption. Three months after dad’s passing we made an exploratory trip to Ecuador, purchased a 1/3 acre lot by the beach and began building second home. We joined a new church that helped us better understand our roles as “every-day missionaries,” and just more than 60 days ago the human resource director at the company where I worked called me into his office to say “the owners have decided to go in a different direction, (and you’re not going along for the ride).”

In six months, we've gone from this...

In six months, we’ve gone from this…

Enter Plan B.

Fortunately, the wheels in my head had been turning just enough to assess the possibilities for one last entrepreneurial adventure, this time in a “foreign” land. The moment we first laid eyes on Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, I told Dana it was soon to be something very special and you could see opportunities everywhere. So there’s a be-careful-what-you-wish-for lesson in there somewhere.

Now, we’re headed for a 99-day follow-up trip to see where it might further lead.

A read of Bob Buford‘s Halftime earlier in the year reshaped a part of the way I now think.

... to this...

… to this…

His book’s subtitle is, “Moving from Success to Significance.” What we’re about to do, Buford would say, is  a “seismic test,” a low-to-moderate risk to assess the bigger possibilities for the greater good. And so, our seismic test now begins.

It all means several things for Dana and me, including but not limited to:

  • A willingness to “unlearn” many of the cultural biases that are almost instinctive. We must leave behind the notions that the way we do most things is the correct manner in which to do them. That’s not necessarily true in a very big world.
  • We must exercise patience, and listen a lot more than we talk.
  • That even if this venture fails by our standards, it’s not the end of the world because you never, never, never quit, and God has a plan even when you don’t.
  • A greater understanding that life is a balancing act, and your best is all you can do.
  • Finding new ways to help others understand that redemption, in whatever form it may present itself, is a wonderful and powerful thing.
...to a view like this.

…to a view like this.

My wife saves everything. She’s not a hoarder, but somehow uses her skills to organize our chaotic life. Last night she showed me a few “fortunes” she’d saved from the cookies we’d broken over the last year during visits to some of our favorite Asian restaurants. Yes, she saved the fortune cookie fortunes. A few fortunes read:

  • “You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.”
  • “Ideas you believe are absurd, ultimately lead to success.”
  • “Others take notice of your radiance. Share your happiness.”
  • “Every production of genius, must first be the product of enthusiasm.”
  • “God looks after you, especially.”

Amazing…

We’ve said our goodbyes to family and friends. And now we go.

To all the readers for whom I’m so very thankful, my next post, and all those that follow for the succeeding 99 days, will be from a new base in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. We’ll share stories of our new adventure, grab photos of this beautiful land and invite you to enjoy it all with us.

Until then, thanks for coming along. If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.

Vaya con Dios for now.

-30-

Mistaken Light

You are a natural seeker of Light. So am I.

Just one part of  God‘s great Design is that we are seekers of light. Our soul needs it; our skin needs it, our bones and eyes need Light.

And it’s a great paradox that sometimes, even though we already have the Light in us (see 2 Corinthians 4:6) that we go out and look for it, oftentimes in the wrong places.

In our daily walk, we seek out the Light. It’s our innate desire for understanding, acceptance, truth and self-identification.

Because of Old Testament prophecy, the people of the early first century were overly zealous in their pursuit of the Light. So hungry were they in their pursuit that they were easily mistaken, especially in the great case of John the Baptist.

Consider some of the most awesome scipture that ever was from the Book of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …In Him was life, and the Life was the Light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from god, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through Him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was true Light, which coming into the world enlightens EVERY man.” John 1:1-9

Even though the Light is in us, sometimes we have a need for supplemental light, and that’s ok.

Babies born prematurely need the warmth and comfort that incubation light provides for their proper development. Many doctors use phototherapy for the treatment of serious wounds, acne and other skin irritations. I often supplement my Bible reading with the works of great authors such as Barna, Viola, Buford, Idleman and others. They provide supplement to my daily walk.  All this is ok.

Then sometimes, especially as adults, we go looking for supplemental light in all the wrong places. In the search for life’s answers we find ourselves caught up in addictions, wrong relationships, schemes and other things that we believe will “make us happy.” That’s not ok.

You see, the darkness has a trick up it’s sleeve to make you think you can find the light in some bad places.

And as much as I prefer not to talk or write about these things, they are true. There is an enemy out there who wishes you harm and he will do everything he can to see you drawn to mistaken light.

Now I’m not naive enought to believe I’m important enough for the enemy to pursue me on a daily basis. He’s got much bigger fish to fry than me, but reading Frank Peritti’s book “This Present Darkness” a few years ago changed my view forever regarding how the enemy uses his legion of demonic spirits to bring me down. Again, forgive the demonic talk. I don’t like it and don’t go there often, but it is a reality, and here’s the support from God’s own Word:

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of Light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

This is an amazing scripture – pure evidence of God’s magnificent design.

With all the negative influence the enemy can have on a fallen world, when all else fails, he’ll steal God’s method and disguise himself as “Light.”

All the more reason for us to stay in the Word which gives us wisdom, discernment and the power and authority to be the Light ourselves. False light can never penetrate pure light and we are the Light of the Word because Christ lives in us.

It’s going to be a beautiful spring-like day here in Arkansas today. I’m going out to catch some light. Make no mistake about it.

The “Spirit-Filled” … “Church”?

We Are Not Alone

My first experience with God’s Holy Spirit came at an age as early as I can remember, sitting as a young observer in our tiny little community Methodist Church as we’d go through the ritual of reciting The Apostle’s Creed. It wasn’t church if you didn’t say the creed in unision- even a 4-year-old could understand that well enough.

Reciting the “creed” located in the section of the hymnal labeled “Aids for the Ordering of Worship,” and “The Rituals,” was an uncomfortable thing for a youngster. Some of the phrases – “conveived by a Ghost,” “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” “descended into hell” and “judging the quick and the dead” weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy. Didn’t they teach me in Sunday School that God was all about love? Scary stuff for a kid.

Fast forward 35 years later.

My first experience with a “spirit-filled” church came at a paradoxical moment in my life. There had been a divorce, my business had crashed, friends had abandoned me, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t “see” the future. The depression was DEEP. There was no vision and “without a vision the people perish.” I was perishing, that was for sure.

And so after years of “membership” in such upright denominations as the Methodist and Baptist churches, I joined a non-denominational church that prided itself on being “spirit-filled.” It was the lifelong church of my fiancee. I didn’t know what spirit filled meant exactly, but I didn’t really care either. All I knew was that at certain times in certain worship services, the environment seemed to be a little more dynamic than at others.

There were predictable moments, by which you could set your watch, when at the conclusion of the “praise and worship” (or music and singing) that the pastor would step forth to the elevated pulpit and stand with closed eyes in silence as if waiting to see if the Holy Spirit would descend upon the place we had gathered.

Sometimes individuals would break out in song, others would speak in tongues, others would stand with closed eyes and raised hands.

Other times, there would be NOTHING.

It was hard to understand what this was all about. But I went along for the ride – wondering.

It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I re-committed myself to the study of God’s Word and determined I would find the best way to read and comprehend the Word. Before, I had tried reading the Bible from beginning to end, I had tried flipping to random passages, I had tried focusing on the New Testament, Proverbs, Psalms, but it never really sunk in. Finally, I found a way that was best for me, but that’s another post down the line.

The method I found worked and I began to understand with crystal clear revelation what God had to say in His Word. It was profound and I am thankful beyond measure.  As I began to wrap my mind around scripture and learned lessons about “the church,” and what it means to “be the church” and that “I AM the Church,” I began to supplement my Bible study with the writings of such men as George Barna, Frank Viola, Kyle Idleman and Bob Buford.

The writings of these truly wise men enhanced the beginning of my spiritual journey, helping me to understand that “being different” wasn’t such a bad thing.

After all, Jesus was sort of a different dude.

Now, before going any further, I want to make this clear.

Can the Holy Spirit of God choose to descend upon a body of gathered believers in a church building at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning?

You bet.

The Mighty Creator of all things can descend on a body of believers just as easily as He can choose to rain down fire from hell.

Actually, I have see it.

Once.

Once, 10 minutes into a Southern Baptist church service (a group not exactly into “spirit-filled” notions and speaking in tongues,) I saw the church service come to a halt when one person chose to go to the altar and pray in the midst of the praise and worship. Another boy followed, then five more followed, then 15 more followed and for the next hour the service stopped and the Holy Spirit of God enfused the vast space of the “worship center.”

So, personally, I’ve seen it once. Why doesn’t that happen more often?

Let’s see what God’s living Word has to say about this:

  • “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot ennter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.'” John 3:5-6.
  • “For all who are beingled by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14
  • “Do you not know that YOU (emphasis mine) that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in YOU (emphasis mine again). 1st Corinthians 3:16.
  • “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you wee called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6.
  • “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with YOUR HEART (emphasis mine) to the Lord…” Ephesians 5: 18-19.
  • “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” 1st John 6-8.

Is there a pattern to what God says about  the spirit-filled nature of OURSELVES?

I didn’t see a word in that scripture about a church building or a gathering time or carpet or choir robes.

My friends, the spirit-filled nature of God is in YOUR heart and it goes where you go, sees what you see, hears what you hear and says what you say.

If you are a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit permeates every cell of your body.

And if we are the Body of Christ, and Christ lives in us, then, my friends, WE are the church. You and me. And it doesn’t matter where we are on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. as long as you are in a growing relationship with the Christ.

Follow Jesus.

Serve.

Give.

Act with humility.

Pour out Grace.

Forgive, and accept forgiveness.

I’m not perfect with these things, but I’m trying.

If the Holy Spirit doesn’t “show up” in church on Sunday morning, it’s simply because we’re not taking him with us.

He’s there. In your heart.

Take Him along for the ride.

Because He wants to go.