We Need Each Other

We can succeed only by concert. It is not, ‘Can any of us imagine better,’ but, ‘Can we all do better?’ Abraham Lincoln

Last week, Americans across this country celebrated Independence Day (4th of July). It is a great time to remember the rugged individualism that helped us grow and thrive as a country through each era of our history. But one fact often overlooked is that it wasn’t an individual that paid for our freedom from the tyranny of King George. Instead, it was individuals standing together that overcame armies and a mighty nation arrayed against us. You see, we need each other to reach our goals, to attain to that liberty so dearly bought by patriots’ blood.

Celebrate Together

In Acts 2, we see the seed bed of the early church of the first, second, and third centuries. They had an amazing encounter with the power of the Holy Spirit that rocked a city and multiplied their numbers. We see a people committed to unity and the mutual meeting of community and individual needs (both spiritual and physical). We also see the beginnings of a bedrock foundation where believers meet in public celebration and intimate small groups—they meet daily in the temple and their homes (Acts 2:46).

The Lord says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. So where could you build a house for me, and where could my resting place be? Isaiah 66:1

God poses to all believers a question in Isaiah 66:1 that illuminates these key foundations of unity and meeting together. He asks where we can build a house for Him. The Master and Creator of the universe, who is crowned with galaxies, challenges mere humanity with an insurmountable question. Who are we to make His home?

You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

The ever gracious Father answers His own question for us. He has made us, imperfect humanity, to be His habitation! We were intended to carry His presence on us, in us, and all around us. We fit together as living stones to make a glorious temple for His presence.

We see later in Acts 5:42 that the early church continued to meet daily in public celebration and intimate small groups. They made these practices habitual and never wavered in their commitment to these principles. They knew the truth that it is key that we come together to disciple and encourage one another through worship, prayer, the study of God’s Word, and ministry in the Holy Spirit. We know that this is still key today!

Connecting with God and Others

In Natural Church Development, Christian Schwarz conducted a study of 1000 churches in 32 countries. He reports that the multiplication of small groups was an important key principle in thriving churches that develop disciples. Small groups provide a place for us to connect with God and others on an intimate level. This is where we can learn and grow as disciples of Jesus and be equipped and empowered to change the world around us!

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THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO REACH BEYOND THE EVERYDAY MUNDANE INTO THE EXPECTATION FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WONDROUS GRACE IN AMAZING AND LIFE CHANGING WAYS FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS!
Small groups help us walk out the Great Commission in Matthew 28 through relational evangelism. As a habitation for God’s presence, a temple of living stones, we carry Him into every chance encounter and developing relationship in our lives. We really can go and make disciples!

Small groups help us pursue God in intimate community. We were made to journey together, and we are transformed from glory to glory as we seek God and His Kingdom together. As we form close bonds and sink down deep roots, we grow stronger, faster, and better together.

Small groups are a safe place to give and receive ministry. It is in these safe relationships that we have the freedom to fail, the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to become more like Jesus. Proverbs 27:17 says that we sharpen each other. It is in this safe place that we develop character qualities like humility, service, forgiveness, and mercy. Even Abraham Lincoln recognized the truth that together we are better.

Acts 2:44 says that the believers were united. Small groups foster an environment of unity, affirmation, and encouragement. It is a more intimate setting where we can build close relationships, encourage one another, and be encouraged. Small groups provide opportunities for deeper relationship with God and others.

Small groups also open the doors for mentoring relationships. As we grow closer together in our pursuit of God, we can find others who have wisdom and experience to share with us and others we can share with. This is not the kind of “get ahead” mentoring that we find in most workplaces. It is a mentoring that challenges us, holds us accountable, and grows us into more Christ-likeness.

It is through small groups that we receive ministry to meet our physical needs and our “heart” needs. We minister to each other as we support and love like Jesus did. As we find healing for our bodies, minds, and spirits, we become empowered to “step out” in our calling and giftings. We learn to move with the Holy Spirit in concert with God!

As we meet in both public meetings and small groups, we grow toward the fullness for which God intended each of His children—princes and princesses, co-rulers with Jesus, world changers, and water walkers! Step out together on a journey into destiny!

Why be normal? To walk on water, you must risk. It’s better to be a wet water walker than a dry boat sitter. Dr. Bob Sawvelle

View this article as a Sunday message given at Passion Church here.

He Has Built a Monument

 

In some form or another I’ve been a part of the military for 40 years. I was born in a military hospital and raised in a military family on military bases all over the world. When I started my own family, I joined the military and served as a member of the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

I guess you could say, I’ve been around.

I had the unique privilege of traveling the world and experiencing many different cultures. I got to see amazing things—monuments and memorials from Europe to the Korean peninsula. There were statues in the squares of European cities, castles on the hills, great cathedrals and ruined abbeys. I also saw standing stones, monuments and temples in Far East. I even got to see the original Gutenberg printing press in a museum in Germany.A Gutenberg Press Continue reading

Eyes Wide Open

Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? – Bob Marley

Rarely have I ever gone into any situation fully aware of what to expect. As a matter of fact, I never have. Nope, not once. I’m also fairly sure that I’m not alone in this experience.

New situations are just that – new. They are often vague, unexpected, and unknown. Sometimes they can be daunting and uncomfortable. But they can also bring adventure.

My bride and I recently celebrated our 22nd anniversary. Little did I know what God had in store for us. As I knelt in that shallow pool at the base of the waterfall on the Glen Eyrie property in Colorado Springs to propose to Catherine, there was no way I could see what God had planned or where the future would take us. I only knew that she was made for me, and I was made for her.

He has blessed us with a vibrant, deep love for each other. We have three amazing, intelligent, creative children. We’ve experienced trials and victories. I never could have seen it all! But, I never would have chosen a different adventure.

Yes, the unknown and new things can bring adventure. It all depends on your perspective.

If you enter the new with fear and trepidation, you will live fearfully. If you let the uncertainty of the situation overwhelm you, then you will be uncertain and hesitant in the life you live. If you charge blindly ahead in desperation to reach the other side, you might just find an unexpected cliff.

Open your eyes. Encounter the new with adventure in your heart. See it as an opportunity, and embrace the thrill of the unknown. Live with an expectant attitude. It is this expectant hope that will carry you through the trials and into victory.

You see, when your hope is in the One who gives hope, you experience His peace eternal. When you trust the miracle maker and drink deeply of the depths of Him, you find the richness of life and see the miraculous in everything. When you fix your gaze on Him, you can walk on the waters.

What perspective will you take toward what this new year holds for you?

Love, Hope, and a Coming Victory

It was a training and proving ground. There was discouragement, setbacks, and challenges at every turn. But those are stories for another time, and they aren’t mine alone.

This is one such story of challenges and trials. It is also a story of love, hope, and a coming victory.

Over the years, we have faced health challenges that have seemed insurmountable. You see, from my precious bride’s youth, struggles with health issues began. It was actually one of the things God used to stir my heart toward her.

We had been in classes together at university. She thought I was obnoxious; I thought she was out of my league. Somehow, we began spending time together and getting to know each other. Then, one evening after going to a movie with some friends, God ignited something fierce inside of me.

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Just Engaged!

We were standing in the kitchen of her home, and she experienced an intense abdominal pain that doubled her over and brought her to her knees. She was so embarrassed, but it was one of God’s “suddenly” moments. I knew that I would do most anything to spend my life caring for her. I fell into something amazing—God’s compassion for her fired an intense compassion inside me as well. Over time and through other experiences, God brought us together as help-mates. It was exciting to find this treasure and know that adventures stretched before us!

Over the ensuing years, health challenges mounted for my bride. Doctor’s visits increased as we sought answers to symptoms, illnesses, and pain. General practitioners, every kind of specialist imaginable, nutritional health and naturopathy, and test after test; we’ve journeyed through it all with no real answers or permanent solutions.

During the course of this journey, doctors have diagnosed her with severe IBS, bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, uterine fibroids, bladder and uterine prolapse, colonic inertia (low-motive colon), redundant (or very twisty) colon, scoliosis, arthritis, spinal stenosis, 24/7 migraines, yeast in the blood with chronic infections, and hypotension. And there are still more results pending. It can all seem overwhelming, but the end result, the simple experience for my bride is pain.

Intense pain. Never-ending pain. Regularly debilitating pain.

She’s had procedures to “fix” some issues. She’s tried every medication imaginable. We’ve changed diet drastically and even “purged” the evil toxins of gluten and sugar for years! All of this has brought little to no relief at all.

Seven years ago, God began speaking in a very intimate and direct way to her. He spoke of a culmination and climax in all of these issues. He emphasized that no matter the apparent severity or any coming complications, He is her healer.

She began to pursue God more passionately for answers that doctors couldn’t find and that their practices couldn’t solve. I would come home from work only to find she had been shut in her closet for hours in praise and worship before the throne of God. She radiated with His presence. It was palpable, and it transformed how we thought and behaved.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Through this transformation, she was healed of bipolar disorder. It is completely gone. With the counsel and assistance of her psychiatrist, she stopped all treatment for the disorder. She has never gone back. I have never seen my bride so positive and confident since she has been set free from this mental oppression and saturated with His presence.

This past year, though, has been the most difficult by far. The pain has intensified—really intensified. She is almost completely bed-ridden. She has a hard time keeping weight on due to nausea and poor digestion. We use a wheelchair when we must go out because she experiences severe dizziness and balance issues. She’s begun slurring her words and forgetting things regularly.

Yes, it seems bleak, but despite all this, we have not lost hope. Our hope is in Him. He is where our help comes from.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Although my beloved has been diagnosed with a host of issues, they neither define nor explain who she is. They only show what she is journeying through. My bride’s story is unfinished, and yet to be gloriously completed by God.

Our hope is in the Maker of heaven and earth; Jehovah Rapha—the Great Physician and her healer. He is our miracle maker.


The Start of a New Adventure

Well, here I am, beginning a new journey in the life for which I was purposefully created.

After a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, I have embarked on the life I was called to at a young age. I retired from service to my country in April of 2015 and started a journey of service to the King of Kings at the very same time.

The story, however, is a little more complicated than that… isn’t it always?

I heard Jesus calling me to be a minister and to take care of His flock (John 21). I was 17 when it happened. I was purposed for Kingdom work! I was called. I was marked.

I was lost.

I had no mentors and didn’t yet know how to still myself to hear from God clearly. So, I made a lot of life decisions on my own. I sought council but didn’t really get good input from many I asked. I did get some good advice from my grandfather about a college to attend. I caught a glimpse of the first stepping stone; Grand Canyon University with a Christian Studies major!

That lasted as long as my first class in Church History. It was dry. It was dull. It was about a bunch of dead guys, and it was boring. I was lucky to finish with a D.

I was a bomb. What was I doing? I certainly didn’t belong there. I made a huge mistake!

So, I changed my major to Drama. Oh yeah, definitely a good choice. A perfect fit for a quirky personality. Who needs advice? Not me! It was definitely a leap with both feet.

But you see, God doesn’t make mistakes. He has a purpose for me. Regardless of where I turned or what I do, He never leaves me. He is always working out His plan for my life.

And that was when I met her. It was like I had known her my whole life. She was kind and full of compassion. She was passionate and dramatic. She was made for me and I for her. She was, and still is, amazing! Of course, that meant I needed a job to support my beautiful bride and new family. College was just going to have to wait for a little.

02. Military 1995So, I enlisted in the Air Force. The military had always been good to my family. I was third-generation. It was kind of a family tradition. They had good benefits with some pay. And it was only temporary, right? Until I could get settled and move into my purpose in ministry.

The years came and went. Our family grew by three more. But God didn’t release us from military service. It was a training and proving ground. There was discouragement, setbacks, and challenges at every turn. But those are stories for another time, and they aren’t mine alone.

After 20 years, and a revitalization of the call to ministry and our faith, God allowed us to quit our service to the kingdoms of this world. He has called us onward into a renewed purpose in His kingdom. And we are stepping out, boldly, into that for which He has purposed us.

This is the beginning of our new path. This is the start of a new adventure.