God

Adventures in Faith

Why I'm Thanking God for My Sin

I sinned again recently, willingly even. 

As I processed how, yet again, I fell short of God's plan for my life, something strange happened, I started to thank God for my sin.

Why would I do that???

Because this time I am reminded how weak I am against sin.

And as I grieved the sin I became desperate for forgiveness. Pleaded to God even.

As I felt God's love again I was astonished that he forgave me so quickly.

My mind is blown as I consider that I am fully reconciled to God in all His holiness over and over again because of one man, Jesus. 

Going through this has made me more aware of my depravity. It reminds me that nobody is holy before God, nobody is good. Not your pastor, not your Mom, not your favorite Christian blogger.

I'm more inclined to look around at "sinful people," the sexual perverts, thieves and murderers, liars and cheats, and realize that I'm one of them.

As a beggar myself I'm less likely to try to tell them how to make something for themselves, and more likely to just point to the one who gives daily bread. 

As I stand in awe of the life of Jesus and the holiness of God, the fear that accepting my sin condition will make me calloused to sin is fading away. The pressure to perform to please God easing up.

I also have this growing sense that the more I stand in awe of God, worship, and fall in love, the less likely I am to sin as a secondary effect.

If it took sin to remind me of my condition, humble me, put me in my place before God, increase my reverence for Him, and out of that see greater obedience and shedding of sin in my life, well then, thank you Jesus for my sin.

Ryan

p.s. I've been having this image in my head the last couple days about the chasm between God and the rest of us, so much so I decided to draw it up for y'all. 

 

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Adventures in Faith

I'm Straight and Still Beg God to Reinvent My Sex Life

It started with Miss Piggy and her pretty pink curves at age three.

Then our baby sitter, then Debbie Gibson, a girl in my 4th grade class. I’ve got a list of crushes into the hundreds. From my earliest memories I was strongly attracted to many different women.

My first female obsession.

My first female obsession.

I was not born a "one woman man."

Maybe its genetic, I'm not sure, I just know my attractions, should I follow through on them, is not God's plan for me.

I was born in "original sin." 

In high school I wrote poems about women. In college, I took philosophy of art, beauty, and aesthetics courses and a figure drawing class where I'd sit for hours drawing naked women three years in a row. 

I waxed poetic about the lusts of my flesh as justified, natural, productive, a celebration of God's penultimate creation. 

Despite my parents stern warnings against sex before marriage, the allure of women was too much, my roots in the gospel too weak, and I not only succumbed to a life of sexual sin, I dove in proudly.

My world got ugly fast.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Deception in relationships, broken hearts, barely dodging pregnancy and disease, embarrassment and walks of shame, all as I slid into a pattern of companionship that left me ever lonelier. 

I often self medicated to enable myself to do what, in the depths of my heart, I knew was wrong. It was a raucous and wicked downward spiral. 

I had no idea that with each woman I slept with an imprint was being left on my soul that would not easily be washed away.

By society's standards I was a stud, playboy, lady killer, the character many men aspire to be. I fed on the attention.

My sin was about to be exposed.

Then I found a Godly woman.

The high of meeting a good woman, one who seemed to emanate light and goodness, was quickly followed by dread. As I learned of her strong faith and remembered what I knew about the tenants of my own, I felt like a stained rag. 

"What was I thinking?!?" I lamented. The gravity of it all hit me at once.

A long road of pulling myself out of the pit of  doing sex my own way instead of God's way was before me. 

Hard conversations. Shock by her at how calloused I had become. The effects of so many tangled relationships constantly popping up in photos, old social media posts, phone calls and texts I didn't want to get. 

It was a terribly painful process.

I had trouble not resorting to deception or half truths. It was hard to discern what to reveal and when. I subconsciously wondered how I could let the depths of my depravity be known.

We worked through it--this Godly woman and I--as she showed me unending grace. 

Marriage = doing sex God's way! (or so I thought)

Once I entered into the freedom of the marriage covenant with a woman I was wildly attracted to, I finally had sexual freedom! But the twisted tentacles of sexual sin began to pull at my new marriage in unexpected ways.  

As I drove home from work one day, knowing my wife would want to be intimate, I dreaded that I would not respond appropriately.

How could this happen? Never in a million years! This is a curse!

I gripped the steering wheel and pleaded to God, "Lord, please reinvent my sexuality!" Right away I heard God whisper, "Ryan, be selfless and make this about her, not you." 

I was learning how to love in a very different way, my very sexuality being reprogrammed from that of a predator on an unending hunt to someone willing to love unconditionally and sacrificially. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Paying for my past.

My old life reared its head with certain triggers, like staying in hotel rooms while traveling, staying up late drinking, seeing old flames around town or online.

They were all major challenges that I've had to attack in repentance, prayer, talking with Whitney and other men who hold me accountable. 

A thousand times I've asked God to wipe clean my memory, to delete the images that are stored in the depths where I no longer want them. Over time, he seems to be hearing my plea. 

I've also found myself incredibly sad for the woman I was with. Many probably have deep wounds I can never fix. Even as I know I'm forgiven, it grieves me to know what I did to these young women who are made in God's image. 

Further, I've come to realize that in my sin my whole way of thinking about sex had become warped, self-centered, and in need of a complete overhaul. 

An awful nightmare woke me up.

The good news is that, as I battle to do sex God's way, the trajectory of my sex life has moved closer and closer to His plan. There was one instance, however, that resulted in a giant leap forward.

I had dabbled in sin, I can't remember what it was, probably looking at porn online.

One night I had an awful dream. I was being seduced by a woman and as I eagerly pursued her I was also aware of my wife calling out in search of me nearby.

I awoke terrified at what I was doing and in that moment God exposed my patterns of deceit, bitterness when I don't get what I want, bartering and manipulation for sex, game playing, all the effects of separation of sex from God's plan. 

I had a wave of fear hit me--fear of the coming wrath of God. So much so that confessing to my wife seemed like the easy thing to do!

The next day, while at work I texted my wife that we needed to talk so I couldn’t chicken out later.

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

I repented and asked for her forgiveness, and it led to a several week long conversation that was uncomfortable, and yet freeing.

Something changed in our marriage, I couldn't put my finger on it, something spiritual and good and necessary. This ugly sin that was confronted and lifted before God had somehow drawn us closer. 

It's a lesson I haven't forgotten. 

Stopping sexual sin in my family.

I take this sin seriously now, especially since as a society we openly invite sexual sin into our eyes and hearts, and we drift further from God's plan for sex and marriage. 

King David, a man after God's own heart, saw his sexual sin wreak havoc in his family. So I pray over my boys weekly, "Lord, please don't let my sins in this area affect them, please protect them."

I'm much more open about this issue now than ever before (this blog as a case in point). I talk regularly to other guys about this, a community that has bolstered my defenses.

My wife and I actively work to guard my heart, for example, we don't watch racy movies, and she thumbs through magazine's I get and tears out the soft porn that now comes in health, technology, even cooking publications. 

Regular immersion in God's word and in prayer is a hedge of protection. I also avoid the circumstances where I know I am weak and tempted, such as drinking too much, exhaustion, or mindless web surfing late at night.

Victory is possible.

I wish I could tell you God wiped away my whole past, but He hasn't. The pictures in my mind and perversions in my thinking have regularly eaten away at our intimacy.

I have a daily battle to take captive every thought and hold it up against God's plan for my life. Often after months of victory the ugly sin of lust will rear up from out of the darkness to try to devour me. I've had to learn to be vigilant and ready to do battle at any moment.

And yet, I feel increasingly that I'm no longer a slave to my physical urges. I've become mostly rewired to recognize that sex, even in marriage, is not about me, but is as is described in 1 Corinthians 7, where we learn that our bodies are not our own, but are given to each other. 

I yearn for the day when I have complete victory, when the thought of sex outside of God's plan repulses me, and when I see women not as objects for my own pleasure but as wonderfully made daughters worthy of love and respect. 

Even the fact that I can write that last sentence as a goal for myself, and not be so blind to the err of my ways, is a testament to what God has done in my life, and what he can do in yours too. 

And wildly, as God is apt to do, he's taken this weakness of mine and redeemed it as men now seek me out for counsel for sexual sin. Sadly there are so many who are lost. 


A quick guide + a sermon packed with truth.

After talking to lots of men about this very issue I created this short guide on what's worked for me to overcome sexual sin. 

If you want a biblically sound eloquent dive into this topic, watch this sermon by my pastor, Paul Anderson, of Grace Valley Fellowship, framed by his conversations with a gay Texas millionaire.

In closing.

When I first started to get serious about my faith, I remember hearing that some of the guys at church didn’t even masturbate, and I remember thinking, “I don’t think that’s even healthy!”

I never imagined that one day I would earnestly seek to save all sexual energy for my wife alone. And if someone had told me I needed to do that to be a Christian, I might have turned and run.

The point is, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Start by reading the Bible, and pray and ask God to reshape your thinking. Ask him to put people in your life you can talk to about this, someone with a Godly perspective. He answers when we knock.

Over time, through Christ alone, victory over sexual sin is possible.

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6

Other posts on sex...

Adventures in Faith

When Scripture Repeats Itself Over and Over

Last night I had dinner with two guys, one visiting from out of town, my first time meeting him in person. As we got comfortable with each other, and sharing more intimate details of our faith, the stories started to come out. Wild stories about how God is doing real, practical things in our lives. I love these stories. 

Stories like being ready to quit a project, only to be confronted by a homeless drunk stranger who speaks directly to that project. 

Stories about vivid dreams that one can't shake for years, and which provides direction in one's work.

Stories about praying and hearing answers, and then sharing those answers only to get eery feedback that the answers are precisely accurate.

A number of these stories involve actual Scripture. And one story that I shared was about the early days of my time at Geneva Global, when a pastor friend called me to say he was praying for me, and kept getting the verse Proverbs 13:22 in his mind for me. That verse went on to launch me down a new way of thinking about my work.

Anyway, just this morning, I got an email from one of the guys at dinner, the subject line was simply "Wow!"

Turns out he woke up this morning, and the devotional that he gets delivered into his inbox each morning, well, this morning, it was about Proverbs 13:20.

Needless to say, his eyes were open, he read that devotion with perhaps extra care. As did I, because when this kind of repetition happens with a specific verse, it is often God using that to speak to us.

Someone can go calculate the chances of this happening, we can all agree that it's incredibly slim. And yet, I'm here to tell you this: when you believe in God, when you're in His Word, listening in prayer for His direction, this happens a whole lot more than you could imagine. Monthly if not weekly.

Adventures in Faith

Speaking to Students at Alma Heights Christian School

A teacher at Alma Heights Christian School in Pacifica, CA, reached out to me to talk to the high schoolers. I was super blessed by her invitation, and felt God prompt me to accept it followed by His preparing me to deliver a message. This is what I shared:

Pretty new to talking to students about my faith. Some were clearly engaged, while others were just as clearly sleeping. I trust God for any impact. Sowing seeds, letting someone else water, knowing God Himself is responsible for growth.

I was super encouraged that one student came up to me after the talk, after the room had cleared, to say he felt like I was speaking directly to him. He said he was nervous to come talk to me, but he just had to since he felt so clearly that I was speaking directly to him. He told me why he felt that way, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit had moved in that room. We exchanged info and I encouraged him and instructed him as best I could.

After I left, I got a message on Twitter then text messages from students--this is what they said: 

can I ask for your opinion on homosexuality? do you think its wrong? last year i accepted who i was and i knew i was attracted to boys since i was little... i believe i was born like this and it wasn't my choice.

Your whole message resonated with me. i'm going through a rough patch with someone i've been dating. i feel like God has placed you in my life because i don't know what to do. How do you listen to God and hear his voice?

Suddenly my offer to be a brother in Christ to these students became very real. Amazingly, I felt very equipped to respond to the inquires I got, not because of my own wisdom, but because I was literally sitting with brothers in Christ when I got the questions, and was able to talk through them to confirm what I was thinking. 

One improvement I will make when I talk to groups in the future is I will provide a handout or visual that includes my contact info, as well as a few trusted local resources if I know of any. 

When you're walking with the King of Kings, you never know when a life is going to be changed in an instant.

Adventures in Faith

Healed A Man at Penn Station in NYC?

This guy comes up to me at Penn Station NYC, wanting help, not knowing I'm sensing in my spirit the extent. I'm hungry, he says. Okay, I will feed you. Grab $ from pocket. Tell me your name... Tell me your story. How did you get here? Kidney failure. Two strokes. Heart attack. How old are you? 50; I stroked in my truck at UPS. I do dialysis 4 days per week for 4 hours. Wow man, that's tough. Look at my veins. Okay. Touch it right here, there's a machine in there. I feel it. But!! I get a new kidney in two days. Praise God I react. Then I say, where is your family? Another country, but they are coming for the surgery. Okay brother, I will give you 2 things: 1. The rest of my $, 2. A prayer to God for you--is that okay? Oh yes, I believe in God... Always have... Let's go over here he asks... We go... Jesus, oh Jesus, my hand on his arm, oh Jesus, your name, wash over this all now, heal him, accept the kidney please, strengthen, renew, give him a vision of the purpose of this long trial. He looks at me: yes, yes, there's a reason.... I look him in the eyes--there's a plan for you--before I walk away knowing he will be healed I give him a big old hug, then on my train...

 — at Amtrak - Penn Station, NY.

Adventures in Faith

I Want to Die

Every week I get to a place where I'm desperate for the Word of God. Sometimes I don't get my fill and the desperation grows. I know that the longer I stay away, the more I'm doing things in my own power, in ways that make sense to me, and the risk of being outside of God's will scares me.

Eventually I succumb and collapse at the feet of God. He's so gracious He's always there to pick me up, invite me to sit on His lap, and gently instruct and guide me. 

The point is that there are so many forces pulling me away from God. Yet, I'm already tuned into His Word, I've had a taste, I've submitted my life to Jesus, and there is no turning back. But staying there, well, its a daily battle.

The further I go into my faith, the more I see the miraculous unfolding in and around me, the more intense the battle rages. I get emails now from people who say my words or prayers or something I did brought them healing, it stirred up their interest in Jesus. I know this is God, just my making myself available to Him in some small way.

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You'd think that with these kinds of things happening that I would be ever so committed. And in some ways I am, but in other ways I feel the opposing forces growing ever greater. I'm like the Stretch Armstrong doll being pulled to the limit, until I finally get the wisdom and courage to shout to the enemy "let go, out of here, in the name of Jesus!" Then I go springing toward the prevailing force, that of my savior. 

Is this all about shaking my hand free from the enemy that's trying to pull me away? I think that, rather, its about choosing the hand that is outstretched to me so fully that I no longer have an open hand to the enemy. 

This isn't easy. I mean, on one hand (excuse the pun) it IS EASY. But then again, no, it's not. This is a struggle because I am at war with my flesh. I am at war with the world. I become interested in the pleasures of the world. The comforts of it. Even the comforts of the church and what I see and hear preached.

Lord, help me, save me, show me YOUR WISDOM. Not the wisdom of men.

I saw this sermon by Francis Chan. This brother, well, just listen to what he says about the church in China. That desperation, that abandon of self, I crave that. I crave to give up my life for Jesus.

I was thinking this last night. Then I cracked open my Bible to pick up with my reading this morning, and the verse that I read is John Chapter 10. You should read it, anyway here's a verse that jumped out at me:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
— Jesus speaking in Matthew Chapter 10, verse 17-18

So, here I am, sitting before my computer, and before God, and before you, and I'm asking, "What does it mean for me to die to myself?" I have a couple ideas, here they are:

  1. Die to wasting time with mindless activity, and replace it with studying God's word.
  2. Die to over indulgence and comfort that robs early morning hours in prayer.
  3. Die to the sense that I can manufacture success, and bathe every effort in prayer.
  4. Die to the obsession with my self and own image, and seek instead of build up others.
  5. Die to free spending on things I don't need, and give more money away.
  6. Die to my instinct to criticize, and instead practice holding my tongue.
  7. Die to shortness with my wife, and practice assuming the best and active loving her.
  8. Die to the apathy I have that God is moving and drawing people all around me.
  9. Die to my lack of focus on learning songs of praise and memorizing Scripture.
  10. Die to judging those who wrong me, and instead pray for and seek to bless them.
  11. Die to the lust of the flesh and focus heartily on my wife, purity, cleansing in the Word.
  12. Die to avoiding service to the church and rather build it up right where I am.
  13. Die to favoring quick and dirty responses to the issues of the day versus being rooted in the bigger picture and more sustained faithful efforts.

I've had a taste of most of these things at times, and it is gut wrenching. I have a sense about the direction God wants me to go, the direction he's pulling me toward. I've gone down these paths, sometimes only to turn around the other direction. Or I go but look back. Or I go and lament going for a time, I grumble. Or I go, and sometimes, I embrace the great escape, the freedom, the power of overcoming the world, overcoming my own self, overcoming death for life, and in doing so, the Gospel and my faith comes alive.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
— Jesus in John Chapter 10, verse 10

Adventures in Faith

Rich Kids See God Too

A couple months back I attended a pretty swanky affair at the United Nations. Most of the attendees were either very wealthy, accomplished, popular, or all three! Seriously, George Soros' son was walking around, so to Meryl Davis, and many others. It's not clear why they let me in...

Nonetheless, in a room with smart, rich, young people, I had a notion that I'd be hard pressed to find anyone wanting to talk about faith in God. After all, if you read the reports, those are precisely the factors with a high propensity for disinterest in religion. Boy was I wrong.

I wasn't there a full day when I started to hear conversations about God. In fact, that first night on my walk back from dinner, I ended up having an hour long conversation with a mildly practicing Jewish woman about Jesus. It was remarkable and had me literally choked up to tears. 

Night two, I spoke with the leader of a major movement in Mexico--this guy literally has a million people following him on social media and in other places. I asked him what drives him and was floored when he replied that it's when he's ministering to people, that's where he meet's Jesus. Again. Ryan. Choked. Up.

A Saturday evening soiree I stopped by was called "Shabbat Unplugged." I had no idea what it meant, but as soon as I entered I was greeted with a blessing by a woman who seemed to be the host. In the hour or so event, the hosts of the event, a husband and wife duo, stood on a couch and the husband prayed over the wife. We all raised our hands to pray with them. They broke bread and then passed it around the room to the 100 in attendance. A guy jumped up and recited an amazing poem. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought I was in a lively church fellowship and worship session right there in Trump Plaza!

There was a special breakout session specifically to explore religion and how the world religions could get along. I thought I'd be one of a few to show up, again, wrong, it was standing room only. At lunch I sat with a table with a Hindu, Atheist, Universalist, and some other kind of -ist. To start the discussion, we prayed in four different traditions. 

What really blew me away though, was a series of questions they asked the crowd. First, raise your hand if you identify with only one religion. Only about 25% of the hands went up. Then, they asked, raise your hand if you have had some experience with "the other" that you cannot explain, but which is central to your faith. Almost every hand went up!

People are being touched by God, that much is clear. They just don't know what to make of it, that sense that there is something bigger doesn't easily line up with what they see as the available options of religion around them.

Now I was soaring high, really sensing God move in and through this crowd. Why wouldn't He, for Scripture says in Proverbs 21 that God controls the kings of this world. 

It kept growing, the reality that God and faith and Jesus were all around New York City and among this group. One night, on a yacht sailing around the Harbor, I got to talking with a wealth adviser from California. I don't remember how faith came up, but when it did she revealed to me that she was beginning to get inquiries from her clients about how faith should be factored into their finances. She was uncertain about how to respond, especially since some of them feared an "end of the world" scenario, and so I offered to be of counsel to her anytime.

Another guy I met raved about his start-up, and how it enables people to find each other to do service projects much easier. Curious, I asked him what drove his vision for the whole thing. He leaned in and he told me that, secretly, it was a vision from God, and that he'd love to tell me more if we could set up a call for a week later. 

This was all a great encouragement to me, and also, with it there was a real weightiness. The realization that in this world there is not a battle against flesh and blood but against principalities of evil. Realizing that where there is good, there is an enemy that seeks to destroy and to devour around every corner. How will people come to know these truths?

In the days after the event, I got a flurry of emails from folks I had met who intended to keep in touch. One such email included a hint about the faith that sustained the sender, a young man. I checked his LinkedIn profile for clues, and then when I replied that I was a believer, and was praying for God to use me for the good of this group, I was quickly introduced to a handful of others who had found each other and were already praying and planning seeking to serve the community with grace and truth. 

In closing, I'll tell you about a documentary film maker I met at the event. A super personable guy, we hit it off and he beamed about how he had shot 19 videos, that we set to air on a major network about this movement. His job was to capture it and tell the story. I replied to him that there was an unseen current beneath this movement that he has to capture, and that is the faith of these people, and the very hand of God. Just then someone got up in front of the room to pray.

Adventures in Faith

The Greatest Commandment is Not the Golden Rule

I had an interesting conversation over the weekend among family. As we bantered around the issues of the day, the Golden Rule was brought up as a lens through which we should examine them. 

And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.
— Spoken by Jesus in Matthew 22

One hears this verse more these days, I thought; so to make sure it wasn't just me I did a Google news search and found that, yes, it's a hot topic. From maxims on how to run a business to the handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Golden Rule is getting a lot of air these days.

What strikes me most is that this "Golden Rule verse" is the tail end of Jesus' response to the the lawyers gathered around to trap him. Here's what Jesus said just before the Golden Rule:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.
— Jesus in Matthew 22:37-38

Why does this so frequently get left out? This is in the Bible's "red writing" meaning Jesus himself spoke it. Not to mention that He says point blank that this first part is "the greatest commandment." 

Why am I emphasizing this point? Here's why, because my life experience is that I cannot love myself, let alone my neighbor, apart from loving God. 

If you knew how I treated myself before I submitted to God, before I decided to seek Him out fully, you would shudder. It was a path that by the world's standards was upstanding, I volunteered, held down a great job with increasing responsibility, took care of myself, didn't harm anyone too much, so far as anyone could tell. The deeper truth is much different!

I know for a fact I would be a lousy husband without God's commands because when I abandon them at times to "go it my own way" it goes south quickly. Left to my own devices I would not love Whitney well, I would be short with her, I wouldn't consider her fully, I wouldn't cherish her the way she deserves. I would miss out on the greatest expressions of love I have ever shown her, which are always born out of my time in prayer and in Scripture with God.

As a father, I would just be hanging on. I'd lack the energy to really engage, and I wouldn't spot the characteristics God has given my children for their own unique calling for this short stint on Earth. Even more, I wouldn't even have a sense about their calling because I only got that through my time with God. I'd punish them and squash their spirit instead of acting out of an abundance of love and grace mixed with discipline. 

Not to mention the rest of the world, I would hardly care about them! Sure, I'd volunteer now and again, but would I LOVE others? Hardly! Love is such a strong word, especially when defined according to Biblical terms. I cared about other people in a shallow way before, but it was after I went after God and actually prayed that He would open up my heart to others that He began to love them. Now God puts people, my family, friends, neighbors, even strangers to mind for prayer and for me to minister in a way that brings me to tears.  There is no comparison to the love I have for my neighbors compared to before I sought God.

Jesus, as He often did, is answering with a profoundly meaningful response missed by the casual reader of Scripture. The "greatest commandment" covers the first five of the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, the so-called spiritual commands. The "golden rule" covers the last five commandments, or the civil commands. Jesus is bringing the Old Testament Ten Commandments to life in a new way here.

This one statement also brings together all of the commandments that all of the prophets of the Old Testament taught. Basically, Jesus is saying, if you love God you will keep the spiritual laws and in so doing you will keep the civil laws. He literally covered all of law from beginning to end in this one statement. It's such a crazy response to this bunch of lawyers that after this dismantling they decided not to ask him any more questions. Scripture literally says, "no one could say a word in reply."

So there it is--a love of God first in the fullest sense, with heart, soul, and mind--that is the lens through which we should look at the world.

Adventures in Faith

God Spoke to Me On the Korean Prayer Mountain

Back in 2013 I started retreating to a mountain to pray in a way where I mainly tried to listen. I say tried because it didn't come easily at first, hard to stop the mind. But I often needed something I knew couldn't come from my own mind, I needed to hear from God. Well, now with a new baby, new job, living in a new city, and a growing sense God that had moved me into a new position of responsibility in His Kingdom for which I was ill prepared, I was desperate to get away again.

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 A trip back to Silicon Valley provided the perfect opportunity. I had heard of a mountain, the Fasting Prayer Mountain of the World to be exact, where people pray just about around the clock, where they have little huts one can sit in and pray all night or any length of time. Sign me up.

As the day approached, my heart quickened for this date away from everything with my creator. The day came and I texted a dozen or so men to join me in prayer; as they responded that they were doing just that I began to feel a surge in my spirit. I drove up with a dear brother who was all too eager to join me, and after a brief walk around we settled into the chapel at about 9p.

I read Revelation Chapter 4 to see again how John describes Gods throne in Heaven. I prayed a brief and completely vulnerable prayer, then said, "God, I'll be there listening all night, oh Lord, if you want to talk to me, I'm here."

And I just lay there on the floor of that chapel, content to be at the feet of the Master, content to submit to him, so simple really, and in that place I found great rest. Once in awhile I read from Scripture, but mainly I lay there and listened. 

There were moments when I had a full vision before me, a great insight I believe. In the early morning I began to intercede on behalf of people who had asked for prayer. It became a sort of blur of laying on my face and stomach, praying, listening, reading, resting. 

At 5:30a a woman came into the chapel, followed by a few others from around the camp, altogether we prayed in Korean I think. We sang in another language. It blew my mind that it was morning already, it felt like I had just arrived. 

I walked out and left the prayer mountain passionate for Jesus. In awe really. As I pulled away I thought that it would be amazing to stay for a week, or a month, or more. 

The internal rest from that time began to sink in deeper as I got further away. In fact, when I boarded the plane, I went right back to praying, listening, reading Scripture the whole trip cross country, maybe another seven hours. I had promised almost two dozen people I'd pray for them, and I intended to usher each of them into the presence of the Revelation 4 God with me.

As I did, God gave me a sense about each person and I wrote it down, 15 pages in total. I've learned that when God gives me a sense about a person in prayer, it's often best to pass that on, if possible, even at the risk of looking like a crazy religious fool. 

As my plane landed back in Philadelphia, I wrote the following words about my experience on the prayer mountain, rather it flowed out of me in one current taking literally just a couple of minutes to write. I'm so humbled and so thankful that God is so available to me (and you too), a second before him makes a lifetime away pale in comparison (there is no comparison). I sincerely hope and pray you are drawn away on a mountain before the King of Kings. 

Can feel restless, tired, even defeated but uncertain as to the cause. Desperate for clarity, or at least trust that simply laying at the feet of God will suffice, as promised. A tingle in the soul to walk upon your grounds. To hear the drum beat worship of those who love you ignorant of the hour. Settle into a posture on the floor lowering myself to be awash in you. Not fully aware that even in that moment you are present and usher me into a dreamlike state. I will never know that which you have done...at times full to the brim with understanding more than I can contain. Settled into your arms in a peaceful rest with nothing but comfort all around me. Oh, how I have yearned to just be here with you. Nothing more, my Lord. Then a drawing into your Word any truth will become more than I anticipated. And like that you rise me with the sun, a sfumato garden in my view dashed with greens and pinks. A yearning to pass thru to my wife, a delightful garden herself. Then a chorus in another language that I understand even though I don't. You look me in the eyes unmistakably and it reminds me of how Holy and worthy of my attention you are. Then you squat beside me, God of the Universe, let it be known that never is there a rush or worry or departure from my side. As I pull away in awe of you reminded again that I need not. Praise you Lord, Creator on High who lives and reigns then and now and forevermore. 

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Real Relationships

God Gives Good Friends

After an amazing outpouring of love and encouragement via every means imagineable over the past week, I reflected on the stark difference in my relationships before and after I prayed to God to give me friends and mentors.

You might also be interested in this guide I put together last year outlining the practical steps I took to go from few friends to more than I ever imagined.

Click for the free guide.

Click for the free guide.

 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Named Our Son (Again)

For those of you who know Whitney and I well, you've likely already heard the wild story about how God named our first son, Boden. The story is documented here.

Well, back in November, while flying home from a family vacation in Mexico, I was praying on a flight and decided to ask God for a name for the second son, and He did not disappoint.

I think once you hear the details you'll find that what I heard and how it immediately was confirmed once we landed on the ground and looked up the meaning is extraordinary.

We're just super thankful that God gave us another name, and we're encouraging others to consider asking God for a name for your next little one in addition to the baby name books--He might have something to say!

A few days after I produced this video, the story continued...

You'll notice in the video that I talk about how even though what I heard from God in my time of prayer was the name Luke, my "response" back to God was Lukas. When I later told my wife what I'd heard, she also said she liked the name Lukas.

But, do we really want to deviate from the exact name God had given? All I had to go on to make the decision is that when I "responded" back to God in my thoughts, I didn't hear or feel any objection.

Well, I received a prayer letter via email from a guy named Jim Yost that answered the question! Jim lives and works in Indonesia. Everyone I know who knows Jim loves him and says what a Godly man he is and how God works through him mightily. I've been blessed by his email updates about the work he is doing caring for children, even adopting many into his home, as well as helping to respond to disasters and build the community where he lives.

This latest letter, though, was especially impactful because he starts with a Bible verse from the Book of Luke, only he has spelled it "Lukas."

This gave me a warming confirmation that perhaps Luke and Lukas are interchangeable after all. Praise God for that, because I want to listen to and obey him even in the details, and I'm grateful that God is interested even in the details of my life, after all, he knows every hair on my head (Lukas 12:7). 

2nd birthday update

At the two year mark we are really starting to see Lukas' personality, and it's uncanny how it aligns with his name and the vision God gave me of him. For example:

  • Lukas is unafraid of lots of things like climbing high places, picking up spiders, things like that. 
  • He runs toward trouble. We play this game sometimes where I hide and jump out, and where other kids turn and run, Lukas instinctively runs toward me eyes wide open on high alert. With the fight or flight response, Lukas is a fighter.
  • He picks people up, it's an interesting combo but one that aligns with the vision I got of him picking people up. When his brother gets hurt lately, Lukas runs over to give him a kiss or even help him get up.
  • He's a light. In our family, Lukas has a certain lightness about him. His smile is infectious, even strangers comment on this. He lately laughs out loud on purpose.
  • He follows his own path. At the playground Luke does his own thing, he is definitely not a follower, he is not easily persuaded. We anticipate that being a defender of the Kingdom of God is not going to make him popular, and God has designed him to be okay with that, he doesn't need the affirmation of others. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Comes Through During Unexpected Pay Cut

This is one of my favorite stories of all, even though it's still evolving.

Get this.... I found out on Wednesday October 29th that effective November 1st as part of a larger restructure my job was being change and a 30% pay cut was necessary. A 1/3rd lopping off in my salary as the sole breadwinner in the most expensive area of the country with a toddler at home and another one on the way, well, it presents a gloomy outlook.

Or does it? 

Since Whitney and I are getting used to the "wild ride" that is a living and active Christian faith, we quickly realized that maybe God was up to something here, and that we shouldn't grumble too much. I'm not going to tell you we weren't pissed off for a couple days, but we prayed hard, and I felt like we just had to find a way to be grateful for what we have each day.

Right away, we began to experience unexpected provision.

First, we had planned to take a trip to Mexico to spend time with the Derfler grandparents. Planned months in advance, we were now forced to cancel--spending any extra money on a vacation was not wise now that our salary wouldn't cover our monthly expenses. 

Yet, when we informed the grandparents about this, they quickly came back and insisted that we allow them to pay for the trip. And that's what ended up happening, we were blessed us with a fully paid vacation that we never expected, and cannot thank them enough for.

That was just the beginning.

Whitney had friends flying into town planning to do a "girls day out" at the spa and for dinner to celebrate a birthday. She woke up and on top of not having the cash to go out she wasn't feeling pretty (a common sensation among new moms, especially pregnant ones!). As I left for work, I knew there was nothing I could do to fix it, so I simply prayed over her, "Lord, shine down on your daughter today, who I know you love so much, she is the apple of your eye, would you show her that today as a reminder?" Then I left for a breakfast meeting a block away.

A colleague and I were meeting with a guy who had lost his wife of 40 years somewhat suddenly and he had come to mind so I asked him to meet with me. I specifically felt like we were supposed to pray together. After catching up a bit, and talking mostly about his wife and his Christmas without her, the three of us prayed and then got up to go. As we did, he reached for his wallet, and my colleague said we wanted to treat him to breakfast. He then replied that he wasn't going to pay, but that while we prayed God had told him to give all the money in his wallet to me for my wife. 

At this, I was immediately choked up, and I told him I couldn't accept it. He insisted, telling me again that God had told him to do this. As I took the money, I held back tears and told him how much it meant. I left the restaurant, walked home and into my home to find my wife. I shared with her what had happened and she was just astonished, and we both cried.  

A couple of weeks later, my wife was opening the mail when she found a letter stating she had unclaimed property. Of course, these are all assumed to be scams, but something looked different about this one. She asked me to look at it, and when I did I agreed that it looked legit. She called the next day to find out that an early employer of hers from over a decade ago had socked away $5,000 for her in a retirement account. This was literally a day after we had been discussing that with our pay cut we were now saving nothing for retirement.

Another tension was how to buy some extra supplies for baby #2. Fortunately, he was a boy so he had all of the hand-me-downs, but there were a few things to pick-up. Whitney entered a contest for one of the items and sure enough, she soon found out that out of hundreds of applicants, she had won! And, she didn't win just one contest, she soon won another contest too. An amazing windfall!

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

 

When I filed our taxes, I expected a return similar to what we had the year before, about $2,300. When I filed our taxes, I discovered that due to a change in our student loan interest payments we were to receive more than double the refund, $5,300. Praise God, we were on a roll now, making up for the lost income.

Still, we continued to dip out of our savings account with each month. Very simply, I needed to make more money. Instead of scrambling around in a panic over what to do, I prayed often and felt like God was telling me to keep doing what I was doing. I remembered the prophetic word I'd received a month earlier. Then, I received a call from a busy consultant in Silicon Valley who wanted to hire me to help him on a job and he was going to pay me a generous amount, nearly $8,000 over the course of a couple of months. This particular consultant works in an industry outside of my niche and, frankly, from the outside looking in it could be said he didn't need me. Alas, he had prayed and God put it on his heart several times to bring me into the job. 

All of these things are hard to imagine happening in single, in total, we just continue to realize how much God is providing for us during this time. We do not have an abundance, we're not able to move or add too many things or eat out. We've embraced a new frugality, shopping at discount stores and cutting corners where we can. And yet, we know that God is doing something here, He's leading us, giving us hope, showing us that He provides and often through amazing ways. 

Tools That Work, Most Read

An Old Pal Meets Jesus On Facebook

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People talk about how Facebook is evil, and I'm like "yeah right, i'm making disciples up in there!" 

Seriously, I've connected with a bunch of people that has led to us going deeper in the things of God. And what's crazy is I never go looking for it, in many cases people will write me with questions, for advice, or in response to something I've posted. 

I have one pal from high school who reached out to me just to check in and I dropped a quick note that God was good and it has evolved into a journey of exchanges (chats, texts, phone calls) for over a year.

He sends me questions and answering them teaches me. He sends me updates on what God is showing him and it encourages me greatly. 

Here's how it started and progressed thus far:

I think there are a few tips buried here that might help you make disciples on Facebook (or any social media platform).

1. Don't be shy about how God is present in your life.

2. Don't be a religious drone, simply spouting or reposting what other people say. Have your own material. Talk about the personal ways God is speaking to YOU. If you are on social media then invest the prayer and time to do it for the glory of God.

3. Avoid the crazy issues that get everyone inflamed UNLESS you commit to A. learn about the issue from various viewpoints and B. pray a ton about it and get direction from God about what to say.

4. If someone writes you a note to say whats up, drop a little spiritual bait maybe, a note about how God has blessed you or offer to pray if it applies (then actually pray for them).

5. Once people reach out to you, you gotta respond. Don't get nervous about it, their eternity doesn't rest in your hands alone. The Bible says God is drawing them, and that the Holy Spirit teaches them. So proceed in a lighthearted yet intentional way.

6. Don't bombard people with all your favorite books, songs, a free copy of the Bible, and more. I used to do that, it didn't work. Someone else's faith is going to be different from yours, which God will reveal to them in their own time. Not saying don't send ideas now and again, just don't deluge.

7. Let people respond, and a bunch never will after that first interaction. But some definitely will, and its glorious not only for them but for you. 

Consider that your Facebook page (along with everything else in your life) is useful to God for drawing people to himself. Are you tuned in to allow him to do it? Go for it.

Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.
— Jesus in Matthew 4:19

People Getting It Done, Tools That Work, Legends

The Guys at The Bible Project

At the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend Retreat in October '14 I saw this video played during a general session.

As the video played I started searching for the creators, and stumbled upon The Bible Project. I saw that they have a RAD plan to continue to create insightful, generally awesome videos that illustrate key concepts of the Bible. 

So, I'm a fan, am glad to promote what these guys are doing, encourage support of their work, and will be sure to keep an eye on what they're up to.