Monday, July 25, 2011

To anyone considering moving to Billings, MT

This past weekend, Pastor Levi had announced to our church the plans to launch the 4th Fresh Life Campus. The new campus will be planted in Billings, Montana, about 7 or 8 hours away from Kalispell.

The news was very exciting to our church who clapped and cheered, but then all went silent when Levi threw out a challenge to the church. Levi had shared with the church that there would be a need for people to uproot their lives in Kalispell, and move to Billings to start this church.

When Levi said this I began to wonder who felt the call at that moment, and who was terrified and discouraged about responding to the call. That thought has bugged me so much for the past two days that I decided to write to these people by way of blog, and would trust that God would have them come across this letter if He willed. But first, I wanted to point out the reason why I am so passionate about encouraging people who are beginning to sense God calling them to Billings, but at the same time feel like they may not be called and are totally confused.

It was a little over a year ago when I was living in Long Beach, California that I began to sense that my wife and I would be moving out to a different state. Throughout a series of circumstances, God had clearly revealed to us that we were to move to Kalispell, MT. (You could read these stories here: Pt.1, here: Pt.2, and here: Pt.3).

Although we sensed God calling us to Kalispell, over the course of a few weeks we presented Him with so many reasons why we could not move to Kalispell. And I wonder if right now, those God is calling to move to Billings have the same things on their mind.

1. "We Do Not Know Anyone": I only knew one guy that added me on Facebook after I had posted something on Fresh Life's page that he liked. I had never met him in person before moving to Kalispell, in fact, he was the very first person Monica and I met in Montana. But the fact that we had never personally met anyone in Kalispell or at Fresh Life (including the Pastors who had no idea who we were), really discouraged us both about moving here.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: When I prayed and presented this concern to Jesus, He simply responded to me by saying, "You don't know them, but you know Me." In a nutshell, Jesus was saying that just as much as He was in the church I was involved in at the time, He was very much involved in the church in Kalispell, which meant that He was there. Jesus was saying that if we went to Kalispell, He would meet us there. Although we knew no one, we knew Him, and He had a lot of friends here, friends He introduced us to. He built solid relationships with the friends we ended up gaining here, and now, we know people because of Him. Are you worried about the fact that you know no one in Billings? Remember, you know Jesus, He knows people in Billings, and He'll meet you there.

2. "My Family Needs My Help": Both my mom and dad were unemployed when I sensed that God was calling Monica and I to move to Montana. They were collecting unemployment but I was so worried that their money would run out, they would struggle and eventually lose their house. I felt like I had to stay behind to help my parents with finances in order to keep a roof over their head. I felt like I had to take care of my aging mom and dad.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: When I presented this concern to Jesus, He led me to the story in the Scriptures where He was calling a man to follow Him. The man responded with the excuse of wanting to bury his father before following Jesus. Now, anyone who had studied this Scripture knows that this man's father was not dead. Many people believe that either a) He wanted to take care of his dad until the day that he passed away, or b) he wanted his dad's inheritance in order to be financially stable enough to afford to follow Jesus without concerns. In a nutshell, this guy was only making excuses to put off following what Jesus was calling him to do, he did not want to go. Jesus was showing me that I was only presenting excuses and should follow His call. He also put a peace in my heart, helping me understand that He will take care of my parents in my absence. Do you have things tying you down? A house to sell? A lease bounding you? An aging parent to take care of? If you sense the call, Go! No excuses.

3. "I Don't Have Any Money": To be honest, this was the major one that was holding me back. At this point, Monica and I had been engaged for 1 year and a half. We had made many plans to get married after becoming engaged but they always fell through because of our lack of Money. I told Jesus that we were broke and I could not afford to support the both of us, nor afford our wedding, nor afford our move. There was just no money at all.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: After serious burdens in our hearts and many signs pointing both Monica and I to Montana, we decided to, by faith, tell Jesus that we will move to Montana. When we again stated that we were poor, we told Jesus that we would trust that He would provide our funds. That very same weekend, we were given $7,000 by someone who had no idea what was brewing in our hearts or the plans we had. We were praising God and were so stinkin' excited. We tithed 10% of it, then divided the rest of it, planning how we would use it for the wedding, honeymoon, and the move. After tithing though, we ended up using all the money for the wedding and had none for our honeymoon or move, but we then continued to see God provide more and more as we would take steps of faith. We eventually had money for our wedding, our honeymoon, our drive up to Montana and our first month's rent. By the time we got to Montana, we had only Target gift cards from our wedding and a jar full of change, trusting that after seeing all that God had done, He would provide. And He has! We have never made a late payment on anything since moving here, we have never lacked food. So is the fact that you do not have money holding you back? Take the step of faith and see that He will provide, He totally will!

Anyway, I hope that if you sense the call to move to Billings, this would encourage you to jump right in and respond to the call. And I hope that this blog post would have you think about the various things concerning you and would also encourage you to present them to Jesus. I promise that if you are truly called to go, He will refute your concerns in love.

I will commit to praying for the Billings team, as I am so stinkin' excited about it. Keep your eyes on Jesus, ignore the waves and keep walking on water. If Called, ANSWER! Take the step of faith! You will never go wrong with His plan for your life!

Monday, May 30, 2011

How I Came to Christ

**I actually wrote this back in Sept. 2009 but figured it would be appropriate to post how I came to Christ on my blog**

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

It all started 6 years ago.. I was working a job at Baskin Robbins and I remember the day like it was yesterday. Reason being is that from that day forward my life would never be the same. I still remember the drink I took a few sips of that day, a Cappuccino Blast, and also that I was going to see my favorite band at the time at a show somewhere in Riverside.

About half way through my shift I started feeling very dizzy, and decided to cool off on my own in the Restroom. I practically collapsed as my heart started racing while my stomach knotted up and I gagged as the temperature of my body rose. I went home early that day only to be too sick to go to the show that night. Not knowing what was wrong with me, this continued, so much to a point where I dropped out of school and had lost my job.

Not knowing what was wrong, I began to visit different Dr.’s in the U.S. None of these doctors could diagnose me and were unable to treat me. I ended going to Mexico to get checked out there (affordable treatments: p) but they were also unable to figure out what was wrong with me.

I came back, and a few weeks later I had an episode so strong that I literally thought that I was going to die. I was out of it, not knowing what was going on. My mom had told me that she placed her hand on me and I had actually burned her because my body was so hot.

It was this night that the Lord came to me and reached out to me.. I responded and that night I felt an overwhelming peace from Him and He had instantly took away my fears and had healed me. He had actually also let me know exactly what was wrong with me and I had to actually tell the doctors myself that it was God who told me what was wrong. I’m sure they were amazed that God diagnosed me, since they couldn’t figure it out!

Although my Spirit was strong after this because of Him and what He had done , my body still had its reactions, and I was unable to leave my home for 3 months. For the first few years it was really hard trying to get back to normal, and to be honest physically I haven’t been anywhere near normal since before all this began.
Just two days ago I had another one of these episodes, right before I was getting ready to speak somewhere and all I could think about is how bad the timing was, I was really hurting. I found myself praying for God to take it away and yet nothing was happening. I was very desperate and I began to feel as if He wasn’t hearing my cries. He began to remind me that people were praying for me for the night, whether or not they knew something like this would happen. It had been so long since I had an episode, and again I couldn’t help but think of the bad timing.

I praise God that I was able to get through the message without anyone noticing what I was feeling, but my body has been going through it still for the past two days. What God keeps bringing back to memory as I ask Him to take this all away is the situation that Paul faced. Paul pleaded with God to take his thorn in the flesh away.. and what did God respond with? “My grace is sufficient for you..” and so like Paul, I’m faced with the challenge of sucking up my feelings and relying on God’s grace.

But why would God even allow His children to keep the thorn in the flesh? Why doesn’t He just take it away? Well.. According to the Scripture I provided above, we need to go through this for a reason. I think about the many people who face the same problem that I do, and how much comfort they would feel knowing that God had helped me through the problem when I felt hopeless, and that God can do the same for them as well. I guess this is part of what it would mean to be a living sacrifice.. willing to give up yourself in order to be of good use to our Maker.

A lot of what God will allow us to go through is not easy, but it is necessary, especially if we want Him to have His will done, on earth as it is in heaven. The hardest thing is to be that living sacrifice for the Lord. But if it means ministering to so many lost and hurting souls by giving them hope in Jesus Christ by sharing what He has done for us, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Here's an audio of me sharing my testimony while sharing a message:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Men.. listen to your wives!

A couple of months ago, Monica and I were looking at a potential place to move into.
I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was two stories, had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I loved that it also had an office and the highlight for me was the creek in the backyard. I thought this place was perfect.

Monica on the other hand had some issues with the place. For one, she didn't like how the office was located at the very entrance of the home. Something about that layout made it weird for her. Another concern for her was the fact that the house was covered in carpet. I had asked her what the big deal was about carpet, she said she was worried that our cat would stain it if he threw up on it.

After meeting with the landlord, we had told her that we would discuss it and get back to her. I was pretty adamant about getting this place and Monica was pretty adamant about not getting it. Naturally, we argued about it (because that's what sinners do and that's exactly what we are, sinners!).

In the midst of all the arguing we both resorted to making this decision the way we would usually make big decisions: Pray about it, then if we agree to go forward we will do it, if not then we won't.

And so we prayed, discussed it the next day and we were still not on the same page. I was pretty upset. My thought was the fact that I was the leader of the home and that I should have the final say, but Monica really stated concerns. She kept pointing out the fact that our cat would throw up on the carpet! I argued that we shouldn't worry about that and that our cat would be fine. We came to the conclusion that maybe it was not of the Lord, because we were not in agreement about it.

A part of me felt as if Monica was in the wrong, because I felt that she was not submitting, so I was upset about it.

The next day though, our cat, who I was so sure would not get sick started getting the runs and vomiting everywhere. This lasted for two days and it was quite a mess to clean up! Also, most recently I've found that the place I wanted so badly ended up in an area where it has been flooding since the start of Spring.

I am seeing now that God did not want us there and that He had something easy, better, and more affordable in mind for us.

It brings me to the conclusion that we should really listen to our wives.

In fact, the Lord had also showed me that listening to your wife (even in the biggest of decisions) is Biblical. God told Abraham to listen to his wife in the way they would handle Ishmael. Abraham's wife Sarah asked Abraham to get rid of Ishmael, and so he did (as hard as that was!) Also, Samuel's mom Hannah decided that when Samuel was born she was going to drop him off at the temple and give him to the Lord. As hard as this might have been on her husband, he listened to his wife, trusted her and agreed to give him to the Lord. Because of these men listening to their wives, God was able to do amazing things.

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying that God has not called men to lead, He has, but the truth is that God will give vision to a man's wife and may save the couple from heading into disaster (Just look at Esther and Xerces!)

So as men, we ought to stop with the power trips and be flexible to how the Lord might want to speak to us through our awesome wives.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A huge lesson to learn from Paul

In a city full of plenty of money people could go out and earn if they'd like to, in a city full of legal and encouraged prostitution for the sake of worshiping the goddess of the Ephesians Diana: God landed in about 50 AD to totally rock the city.

Monica and I have been studying the book of Ephesians lately and it has been blowing our minds. It is crazy to think that God would consider reaching out to a city that seemed hopeless, a city that you would probably believe would not receive the words of God yet God proved to be a major threat to the Ephesians.

In a time where the town was completely comfortable in worshipping their goddess and earning a living, Paul had visited the city on his way to Jerusalem. He found a synagogue there and like he always does, he tried to reason with the jews in persuading them that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for.

Paul only had a short time to spare in the city of Ephesus (he was dying to get to a feast in Jerusalem), and as he was getting ready to leave the city, the small group of guys he was talking to tried to get him to stay. Paul instead left behind an awesome husband and wife team named Pricilla and Aquilla to disciple the group. Apollos would soon join the group after Pricilla and Aquilla pulled him aside when hearing him preach, updating him on the things that have gone on since the events surrounding the time of John the Baptist (telling him about Jesus, His death and resurrection).

A little while later, Paul returned to Ephesus in 50AD to 52AD finding a total of 12 Christians in a city that had a population of 250,000 people during the time that Jesus was born. Upon Paul's arrival, he spoke to the small church regarding the Holy Spirit, asking them if they had received Him. The church said no, and so Paul prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, the rest is history.

This church boomed, it grew fast. Many were coming to know Jesus in this heathen town, many were exposed to and experienced miracles. Many lives were changed by the hearing of God's word, so much to the point where church growth became a threat to the employees of those who worshipped the goddess diana.

Eventually, one employee spoke up against Paul and his teaching, persuading many co-workers and many non believers in the city to give Paul the boot, suggesting that he was the reason why their business has been failing. Eventually, Paul made the decision to leave the city, with many of the non believers probably believing that business will boom for them again since who they thought was their problem was now leaving.

Well, 10 years later, Paul writes the Ephesian church a letter. In the letter, one of the first things he wrote was: 'To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus" Ephesians 1:1b.

Paul writes about the fact that the Ephesian church was FAITHFUL, even after he had left the church. So this guy working for the goddess Diana failed to see what was causing his problem, all along he thought it was Paul but really it was Jesus. And so his problem probably continued to effect his business because although Paul was gone, Jesus remained.

There's a lot we can learn from this, but I'll try to make it brief since I've gone on for too long! The main thing we have to asks ourselves is: Why?. Why did the Ephesian church remain faithful to Jesus even after their Pastor had left the church? Why did they not stop when the man that had led their church left?

Reason being: Paul was a very good leader, because in being a leader, he led people to Jesus. He pointed to Jesus, he taught about Jesus, he taught that Jesus was the one who died for their sins, he taught that Jesus was their shepherd and not Paul.

If you want a believer's faith to last, you've got to point people to Jesus and not point people to yourself. You have to glorify Jesus and not yourself, you have to pray to give them understanding that Jesus is the one who will solve all their problems and not you. Sure you're there to help, but you have to wean them off of yourself eventually and let them walk with Jesus. You should not always be the mediator between Jesus and man, you have to have them understand that they can come BOLDLY to the throne of Grace whenever they please. That makes a good leader, and Paul was a great leader in leading a church so young in the Lord to the Lord.

As a result, this generation of the church in Ephesus was faithful to Jesus, and as a result of that many churches were planted around the Asia Minor.

What God did in Ephesus through Paul and through this church during the first generation of it inspires me and excites me.. I pray that I can take on Paul's example and thank God that I have had many leaders in my life, like Paul, who through being my leaders have led me to Jesus.