Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What's been going on in My World, Part Two

As I stood there on that Sunday morning on the first Sunday in November, I felt a sense of peace...with regard to the continuance of the vision God had given me. I felt a sense of relief...in believing this was the direction God was leading me. Admittedly, I felt a burden...knowing my heart was still strongly connected to the people who had been so supportive, along with persons there who had come to receive Christ while with me. There was a part of me that was apprehensive in knowing, as a 'Founding Pastor', there is a certain level of power and freedom that you experience in leadership that is very rare, and hard to obtain...in our cultural and religious contexts. It had it's advantages and disadvantages! I would always struggle with seeing Pastors who had great visions who had to place their dreams on the shelf because a committee or board voted against it. And, in a sense, I felt that if I were to continue on as a Pastor I 1) probably would never plant a church again and 2) I would be a part of a system that tried to run the preacher.

All of these dynamics were at work in those moments; and, even now, there are high highs and low lows. There are moments of confusion, disappointment, happiness, peace, tranquility and much sadness. All in all, I know that the first Sunday in November was a wise and prayerful decision. What happened afterwords, is what became most difficult.

After viewing a sense of confusion and misunderstanding, I decided to take the advice of a Pastoral acquaintance of mine - to have a church wide dialogue with our members in place of Sunday school. After morning communion, I announced that plan, to which some members attended. As timing would have it, two of our ministers were out. With a total of about 20 to 25 people present in the fellowship hall of the church, I told them my desire to hear them. I was not there to expound on what I had said, but wanted to know their thoughts and, if able, to answer their questions. Some asked for clarity, not understanding if they had actually heard me say that I was moving on. Some were insistent that I must be going somewhere else. Others asked what would happen next.

I expressed my plan to serve for the next month, and to make a transition for their search for a new pastor. I did express that I had someone in mind. What I thought would be met with excitement, turned to seeming disappointment with my choice. Looking back, I should have insisted that they meet with this young man, and seeing where he stood. However, I began to falter, not realizing in wisdom that they were in shock, and that if I had mentioned to them the Pope would be taking over, no matter how ideal...that was not the time to trust their instincts or judgments. Many of them cried. Some expressed their anger. In hindsight, I can still honestly say that my motives were pure and I was not running away. After all 40 or so people, active members, give or take, is still a good number. Giving wasn't it's best, but we weren't in any debt. I LITERALLY felt as I had expressed, I had taken them as far as I could. Period!

Then....I said, during that month, I would talk with my Pastor in Houston, and will continue in prayer. In hindsight, what this did was gave no sense of closure, on my part. It was not my first, but most impressionable, lesson in the reality that it is not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that can make the world of difference. As the Founder AND Pastor, while logic says I should have stayed forever, IF I was not...I should have TOLD them where they were going next and with whom, and they would make the decision to follow or not.

I decided that I would take a break from Pastoring, concentrate on Preaching, Teach at a Bible College in Houston a few nights a week, go back to my Houston church, finally begin a doctoral program, and enjoy making a living as a chaplain. I'd even explored entering the reserves! I had no doubt that if God wanted me to Pastor...I could and would Pastor.

As if things weren't complicated enough, something I didn't want to happen, and certainly didn't anticipate happening...happened! I had known of a church congregation, of which I'd preached several times as a teenager, who had been searching for a Pastor. This church, also a part of my Father's association of churches, I knew, was a great congregation, from what I could remember. This church, in Victoria (1 1/2 hours from Houston), seemed to be a good church for someone older in age, but yet good with youth, and could do a great job of rebuilding after a period of struggle and hardship. One day I was talking to a fellow-chaplain resident who was aggressively looking for and at churches searching for Pastors. For the time I had known him, he had been unable to secure anything. I don't know what it was, but Mt. Salem in Victoria came to mind! I told him what I knew about the church, which was very little. He asked if he could contact my father, etc. The next thing I knew, he had actually been asked to preach at the church in Victoria the last Sunday in October. The report was...they loved him! I was excited on several fronts...first, a good congregation was excited about this new chapter. Second, my colleague was about to finally fulfill the goal of pastoring in Texas (he had come from California) and third, my father and his association would now have someone to lead this congregation, which would benefit them. The congregation then asked him to come and be with them the first week in November. I was happy for my colleague and them.

After the 2nd Sunday, I get a call from the Pastor who was working with the congregation in Victoria...who asked how I was doing; how the ministry was going (I did not tell him of my 1st Sunday incident), etc. He then told me that the church would not be considering my colleague. He then asked, if I would be willing to Be a candidate. I immediately and unreservedly said 'No Sir!' He, of course, asked why not. Not mentioning my new plans of being back in the Dallas Fort Worth area, after my residency in September 2011, i simply expressed, first, I don't think it is right to go and be a candidate at a church I recommended someone to inquire about and, second, I didn't hear Victoria in my vision. Logic told me - don't ruin a possible lifelong friendship with someone to be a candidate in a place you don't have any plans of going. But then....after he said a few other things, the Pastor said, 'Can you come and preach?'. Now...I grew up in a setting where, unless you are dead or incapacitated, you PREACH. I didn't hesitate for a moment! I gave him one stipulation, however - I can only come the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That's it. And I could not schedule anything beyond that. But then he said something to me...'just when you come a preach, pray. And then see what God says'. That was a set up!

On the 3rd Sunday of November, I traveled to Victoria. I was so intent on going there, preaching a message of encouragement to them, not being a candidate...that I didn't even take my family. I preached out of Philippians 1:12-16 and entitled the message 'Knocked Down but Not Knocked Out'. To be honest, there was nothing exceptional about the message, other than Jesus Christ, of course. I did sing, which is VERY rare for me, but nothing out of the ordinary. When I got back to Houston, I followed up with that Pastor with simply a courtesy call, thanking him for the opportunity to preach. He called me back to inform me that he heard nothing but positive feedback about my being with them.

He then asked me 'What'd you think?' and 'Did you pray?'

Next time I'll have to explain what I saw, my prayer and how I responded, initially....

Friday, July 01, 2011

Positive Power of Words

I came across an interesting yet true story about the author of one of my favorite novels, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Nathaniel Hawthorne came home heartbroken. He’d just been fired from his job in the custom house. His wife, rather than responding with anxiety, surprised him with joy. “Now you can write your book!”

He wasn’t so positive. “And what shall we live on while I’m writing it?”

To his amazement she opened a drawer and revealed a wad of money she’d saved out of her housekeeping budget. “I always knew you were a man of genius,” she told him. “I always knew you’d write a masterpiece.”

She believed in her husband. And because she did, he wrote. And because he wrote, every library in America has a copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Hidden and prevailing lesson I carry away from Hawthorne's biography is that we have the power to change someone’s life simply by the words we speak and write. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We often misinterpret these words, typically employing them for our own selfish promotions and proclivities. But behind these words of Solomon are a simple, yet profound truth and reality...there is power in words. All of my life I have loved and enjoyed paper, words, writings and books. My love for books is something that comes naturally: My father, my paternal grandfather, and my great-grandmother...just to name a few, are and/or were lovers of words and books. I look on with such nostalgia and internal joy as I see my sons cultivating a love for books and reading. I hope and pray this continues. Many of my teachers, professors and peers have encouraged me, through the years, to think about one day writing. My current chaplain supervisor has stressed his desire to see me 'move toward the possibility of publication'. I would almost agree were it not for my own tendency to be overly critical of myself, coupled with my tendency to procrastinate when I'm uncertain of the ambiguous. Many moons ago, one of my seminary professors encouraged me to become a 'blogger'. Little did I know the underlying challenges and discipline that are connected to a blog. I'm definitely sporadic, but love it when I make time to record and chronicle my thoughts. I hope to do better!

My hope and prayer, during this stage of my life, is to have FAITH to know that my WORDS are meaningful and significant; and have the power to change lives.

In borrowing a popular Max Lucado favorite of mine, an example of this form of faith was found on the wall of a concentration camp. On it a prisoner had carved the words:
I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine.
I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown.
I believe in God, even when he doesn’t speak.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sermon from 06/26/2011 @ Mt. Salem BC

Title: Possessing God's Promises
Series: Conquering Conquests
Joshua 1:1-9

Recently I came across an article that described the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of passage from boyhood to manhood? In this seemingly cruel and dogmatic ritual the father leaves his son alone in a forest blindfolded. He is told to sit on a tree stump the whole night and to not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun come shining through. He is forbidden to cower, cry out or seek help from anyone. In the ritual it is said that once he survives the night, he is a man. Because each boy must come into manhood on his own, he cannot tell the other boys of this experience. The boy is naturally terrified. Can you imagine the anxiety, tension and fear that lurks from without and within. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blows the grass and shakes the trees, but the boy is to sit stoically, never removing the blindfold. Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appears and the boy removes his blindfold. But much to his surprise and delight he discovers his father sitting on the stump next to him. Interestingly, the proud father has been there the entire night, watching over and protecting his son from harm.

When I first read that story I thought about the fact that there is a thin divine line between spiritual infancy and spiritual maturity. So often we will become fearful and frightened by the hounding winds of helplessness and the haunting howls of hopelessness, despair and discouragement. But God, Who is our sovereign, resourceful, omniscient, all-wise heavenly Father sees us and knows where we are. Even when He cannot be viewed by us, we are still in His view and foresight. The problems we face in time are eternally in His view. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

This is the message that God rings clear to young Joshua. The opening words of the book of Joshua describe a period of transition. It marks not only a change in leadership but a change in purpose. The people would change from Moses to Joshua and also from wanderers to warriors. This change would not only be difficult for the fledging nation, but also for Joshua. Verse 1 informs us that Moses is dead. The death of Moses was a heavy blow to the Israelites. He was the one who had led them out of the oppressive Egyptian bondage.
When the people were discouraged and wanted to go back to Egypt, God uses Moses to calm and rally the people to ‘Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord’.

When the Israelites were thirsty, God used Moses to cause water to flow from a stone. When the Israelites were hungry, God answered Moses' prayers and sent quail and bread from heaven. For almost 40 years, Moses had served as the Israelite's leader and legislator. He alone spoke face-to-face with God on their behalf. But now he was dead! 
Here Israel is still encamped on the plains of Moab, directly east of the Jordan River, at the very edge of the Land of Promise. For 30 days they mourned Moses, their beloved leader, but now it was time to inherit the land God had promised to Abraham and their forefathers hundreds of years earlier. Joshua, God’s newly anointed and appointed leader of the Israelites, according to Numbers 27:22 and 23, had been commissioned by Moses before his death, and he was now being ordained by God. So let’s walk through these opening verses of the call of Joshua and consider the practical implications of possessing God’s promises.

I. We are Called to Follow God’s Plan

Question: Can you follow God’s goal and plan for your life even when your faith is shaken, the facts are precarious and your feelings aren’t on board?

What are the plans for Joshua and, moreover, the believer? This account of Joshua on the edge of possessing God’s promise in following God’s plan is threefold:

a. It Is a Plan for Freedom (Verse 2a)
He says ‘arise’ from this place and go ‘over the Jordan’ to the place ‘I am giving to them’. There are two pivotal moments for the people of Israel, between the Book of Exodus and Joshua. One of them had already taken place through the leadership of Moses; that is to get them out of Egypt. The other was to take place under the leadership of Joshua; and that is to get Egypt out of them! The picture of the people of Israel to the land of Pharaoh in Egypt is symbolic of you and I, the believer’s, encounter with the world in which we live. Those of us, you and I, who have been saved have been set free from the enemy (Pharaoh, Satan) and from the land of Egypt, the world, but the other end of the fight is to get the world out of you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, all things are made new.’
Romans 8:9 says, ‘…you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.’

John chapter 11:1-11 records the story of Lazarus, the relative of Mary and Martha. Scripture records Christ receiving the report that says Lazarus has died. Christ calls for him to come forth. Lazarus did come forth in a miracle of resurrected life. But yet, while the resurrection was, in fact, effective, the work was yet incomplete. Lazarus still had on the grave clothes. And Jesus tells His disciples to loose him and let him go! In a real sense, Jesus was showing, now that you are out of the grave, my work is not complete until I get the grave off of you. God wanted the Israelite people free. He wanted them to be free of Pharaoh and of Egypt, but He wanted them to also be free of an Egyptian mindset and wilderness mentality. In the same way, the Christian life for the believer can be a difficult life unless you are liberated from legalism, laziness and lethargy. You must be filled with God's Spirit and know that there is more to being a Christian than just being saved.

b. It is a Plan for Fullness (Verse 2b) ‘I am giving; inheritance’.
When we read the word "am," which in Hebrew is `asah and means "accomplish, bestow, perform, or fulfill," we see what God is doing. This verb describes something that is happening in the present tense and the active voice. The promise for this land was given to Abraham hundreds of years before, and now Israel are at the actual moment of possessing the land which God promised to them. They are standing on the banks of the Jordan River and can look across at the Promised Land.

c. It is a plan that requires faith (Verse 6a, 7a, 9b)

Consider Joshua was like some of us, for a moment. Joshua must have been anxious and fearful because of Israel’s past failure to enter the Promised Land and because of the death of Moses. In verse 6a, God’s message to Joshua is “be strong and courageous.” The message was so important that God repeats it three times.

II. We are Commanded to Treasure God’s Precepts (Verses 7 and 8)
Some years ago a passenger train was rushing into New York as another train was emerging. There was a head-on collision. And some fifty lives were lost. An engineer was pinned under his engine, frightfully injured, and tears were running down his cheeks. In his dying agony he held a piece of yellow paper crushed in his hand, and said: “Take this. This will show you that someone gave me the wrong orders.”

Verses 8 and 9 give in detail the special relationship Joshua was to have for the written law of Moses. According to the very first paragraphs of the book of Joshua, Joshua—this new leader—has the law of Moses. Moreover, the law of Moses already had the exalted status of a revelation from God. Important as it was to possess the Word of God in written form, as we also possess it, that was not enough to assure Joshua’s success as Israel’s new commander. He was not only to possess the Bible in a technical or theoretical sense; God says to Joshua, in verse 7 and 8 that it must be personal. This is the heart of his instruction by God.

There are four parts to Joshua’s instruction to treasuring God’s precepts.

a. God’s Word must be Known.

Psalm 119:11 says, ‘Thy Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.’

Psalm 37:31 says, ‘The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.’

b. God’s Precepts must be Spoken.
The text says, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth” (Josh. 1:8). Joshua was to talk about the Bible in his normal day-by-day contacts with family, soldiers, friends, and others who were part of the nation. Tragically, most of us would rather talk to God about people then to talk to people about God’s Word.

c. God’s Precepts must be Digested.

d. God’s Precepts must be Lived.
The last element in this list of requirements is the most important. Not only was Joshua to know, speak about, and meditate on the law of Moses, he was also and chiefly to obey it. God said, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left.… Be careful to do everything written in it” (Josh. 1:7–8).

Someone has said that, ‘Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.

III. We are Commissioned to Trust the Promise of God’s Provision

The Lord commanded Joshua to prepare himself and the people to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land. He makes three promises to His new leader: (1) A promise of land, "'Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you'" (Joshua 1:3, NLT); (2) A promise of victory, "No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live" (from 1:5, NLT); and (3) A promise of presence, "For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you" (1:5b, NLT).

a. God will Equip us
Here is a promise of land: "'Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you'" (Joshua 1:3, NLT). Joshua was going to experience the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham and repeated to his sons Isaac and Jacob. He would lead the people into the land that had been promised to Moses. The Israelites would occupy the land from the great river to the great sea. The area described is roughly the same area God promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-20).

b. God will Encourage us
Here is a promise of victory: "No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live" (1:5a, NLT). God promised Joshua victory over anybody and everybody who came against him. This promise was not limited to the taking of the Promised Land, but was extended for as long as Joshua lived. However, this promise came with a warning. The people who lived in the land were protected by powerful armies and fortified cities. The battles would be hard fought. As it was in Canaan, the Christian life is a life of conflict with enemies who must be confronted and overcome. Although the outcome of our battle is assured, we must be prepared for conflict if we are to claim the kingdom's earthly promise of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17, NLT).

I love how God, in His Word, always keep ever before us that we don't have what it tales to accomplish the task or reach the goal; but He always seems to point out...but you got it in you! * seems like a contradiction in terms

c. God will Enable us

Hear this: where God guides, He provides..

What is there in your life you need to conquer?

He will enable you!

Isaiah 40:29-31:
He giveth power to the faint
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who bwait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's Been Going on in my World, Part One

It goes without saying that I've been in a period of transition. In November of 2010, I stood in the pulpit and shared with the congregation I founded in 2005, that I felt I had taken our church as far as I could. Our congregation, like many churches, had weathered through many challenges and tests. Some, through the years, were added, while others went on to other places as seasons would change, as they do. But I sensed, for some time, that this was not my church. Yes...I know it is not mine by ownership; but a release from it perhaps no longer being mine by stewardship. This was a total shock for me, and a blow to everything, little or much, I had spent more than 6 years...invested in. I saw the vision. I felt the vision. I had a fire emblazoned within for that vision. Nothing and no one could or would deter me....until, I saw my reality completely disconnected from the vision God had given me. Quite natually, this process seems normal. We all have seasons where we don't see what we envisioned. And I did, for years, liken the many red flags to "spiritual warfare". Several years ago, for the 2nd time in my ministry life, and first as a pastor, I entertained the prospect of going to pastor a nearby congregation, who had been searching for a pastor. I was a little hesitant, knowing that congregation had voted out their pastor. While being a more prominent church in Houston, it didn't help that the church was less than 15 miles from where our congregation worshipped. I was one of two candidates presented to this church for consideration of the pastorate. My internal plan was to possibly merge my congregation there, which would have worked well when considering music and ministry styles, etc. All seemed well, interview went GREAT, the committee seemed to love me, and I was more confident than usual, though prayerful, not overly confident. But something happened that, I believe, bruised me personally and also made me somewhat resentful to myself more than others. As I walked out into the sanctuary...I saw many people present from the congregation I pastored. Apparently, someone close to me had spread to others in our church where I would be preaching, and why. That, with also the visibility of this church, naturally drew my curious parishioners. As I saw that, in that very moment....my spirit sank. It was as if i had no further drive to pursue this vineyard, especially staring into the faces of some of the people i had pastored for, at that time, 4 years, including the person i knew shared where i would be. I should've just preached my heart out. While I did preach the Word, I look now at that DVD, and am certain it was not even close to my best. I'm still realizing the scars that experience left me with. But what I do know, in hindsight, is that was where my credibility was called into question. Things, for me, were never the same again. Until this day, I still don't understand the logic of the person who even shared that trusted information. But that, along with many experiences, taught me many invaluable lessons regarding life, people, and our people. After that, the other congregations voted to call the other candidate. That was September 2008. Things were not the same for myself or the congregation, after that. I made a decision, at that point, I would remain faithful where God had planted me; not pursue anything that God did not tell me to and, third, to go home and give my very best.

For the next two years, that is exactly what I did. I gave my all, implemented a few changes, and began to evaluate where we were in moving forward, including a better facility, with classroom space and technologically savvy, along with more freedom for facility use. Personally, I accelerated my educational pursuits, obtaining my MDiv from Southwestern in May of 2009. I felt if I had to start all over again, I would be bi-vocational, which led me to Chaplain Residency, which began in September 2009. Little did I know, or anticipate, the toll this would take, nor the growth and maturity this would require of my already fledgling congregation. I began to see that, as I moved over, many were not stepping up. Those that were stepping up, the ones who weren't stepping up resented those that were. Immediately, I began to hone in on my gift of Christian Education to try and grow our people to all were as teams, and to all work in the area of evangelism and outreach. I expected some to step up more, but they didn't, and I was busy trying to jeep up at the hospital. Eventually, a few left as a result of my growing commitment to the hospital. It would be impossible for any member I pastor to call and I not be there. That was guaranteed. But....I think they may have sensed my busy-ness, ESPECiALLY the young adults. That is, in fact, the only demographic I've discovered, who must have that connection with their pastor. Don't know if this is because I'm a young adult and they see more in me; but from my readings and research, I gather it has much to do with a generational things my generation needs to have with their leader. All in all....I sometimes winder if I should have just 'sucked it up' after a long day, and met a different person, each day, at Starbucks. But if I did that I'd drive myself crazy. I would later discover that I'm actually a very good pastor who loves people. Something I suppose I knew all along. After all, I've only been under great pastors, so I got something by osmosis!

At every stage and phase, I saw a different dynamic at work. I have gone through my own changes, and so had the congregation. Somewhere along, I sensed a change taking place between us.

Back to November 2010....I preached the first Sunday of that month entitled 'When God says No', referring to God's informing to David that he would not build the temple. I simply said, without saying I heard an audible voice from God (I'm afraid to do that), I had taken the church as far as I could. I had it all figured out...even had in mind who would succeed me. Little did I know....my life and ministry would become more difficult than ever.

In just one Sunday....
I was viewed (not by all people, don't get me wrong)
....as a quitter
....as opportunistic
....as discouraged by the numbers
.....as disappointed in our people

I felt that I had searched and personally settled all of these issues, deducting them as not me...even before mounting the pulpit that Sunday morning. What happened next, is when things probably became a little more complicated.

Stay tuned for part two of 'Whats been going on in my world"...

Monday, June 20, 2011

God is Faithful

I am currently in the process of reading Ray Pritchard's 'The God you can Trust.' In it Pritchard seeks to unmask the theological query many of us tend to grapple with as it relates to the reliance and providence of the very things that devastate our heart and leave us looking for answers - what can we trust? More specifically, we are lead to explore Whom we trust!? When an expectant mother rushes to the ER and gives birth unexpectedly to a stillborn; when a healthy Christian seeking to devote her life to missions goes for her annual checkup only to be informed that cancer is riveting her physical anatomy and she can expect to live, at most, the next three months alive. Or...when a devoted husband of two is delivered divorce papers, and later told by his wife of 20 years that she has fallen in love with his best friend. Inevitably...we are called to examine the extreme elements of our trust.

Of course, Pritchard's theme and thesis points to conclude the inevitable reality that the answer to life's queries are in God and God alone. I am convinced that God, in and through His Word, is teaching me the importance of ministering efficiently and effectively to beleivers who are struggling to 'hold on to their faith in the midst of confusing circumstances, unexplainable tragedy, and their own foolish mistakes'. Charles Haddon Spurgeon is noted to have said in his lecture series to his students that our preaching should strive to minister to those that are hurting. He says that if they minister to them that hurt they will always have captive audience.

Obviously the same is true today! People are hurting. People are struggling. And unfortunately, many false leaders have gone to the extreme and have begun to incorrectly minister to the struggling masses by feeding them placebo (candy) and spiritual lolipops that will only appease them temporarily and superficially. This concerns me; but it also strengthens my faith, in knowing that God's Word is faithful and true. We are seeing a true manifestation of a generation that 'will not endure sound doctrine' and those who have 'itching ears'.

My prayer for those who are my comrades in faith and ministry is that they (you), whether leading 50 or 5000, will remain faithful to the One Who remains so faithful to us. I concur with Pritchard, He is a God we can verily and surely trust!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Another Year, Another Blog

As I look through the blogging landscape of my blogging peers, I see and note that many have steeped back from the blogging community. For me, I have been going through a season of testing and ministry challenge for several months. With that said, I also realize that God is doing some unusual things in my life and ministry - many of those things entail things I never thought would be included as a part of His plan for me. My saying to God on July 4, 2010 'I'll go where You want me to go and do what You want me to do' is now being tested and tried. I look with anticipation toward what God will do in this new era.