Category Archives: Christian Living

Encouraging Prayer

This post is mainly written to myself as a way of encouraging myself to engage in the joy and discipline of prayer.  My wife and I enjoyed some great conversation as we traveled to and from my grandpa’s 70th birthday party (4 hours in the car and a total of 7 hours out of the house away from the kids).  To be utterly transparent, I think I may have discovered the number one barrier to the vibrant prayer life that I desire:

P – R – I – D – E

What a truly ugly word!  I loathe the reality that it currently describes my prayer life.  I believe the reason that my prayer life has sputtered and become ineffective is because I have allowed myself to think more highly of myself that I ought to. For how can one be dependent on God, when he thinks that he has gotten things figured out!  Anyone else ever been there???

I believe that our prayer lives are direct reflections of our dependence on God (i.e. our faith).  What is faith but dependence on God and trusting in His promises.  It should be out of our sheer helplessness that we stretch forth hands of faith in prayer and dependence.  A heart aligned with God does not boast or think highly of what has been accomplished in his own life, but instead projects with gratitude the glory to God.  Prayer should not become some obligation nor duty, but an overflow of faith that cries out for God to move on our behalf.

I came upon this quote that I love from E.M. Bounds on Prayer – “True prayers are born of present trials and present needs.  Bread for today, is bread enough.  Bread given for today is the strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow… No amount of praying done today will suffice for tomorrow’s praying”

I pray that this will be my model.  That my children would see me as a man of prayer with present needs to bring before my Creator and Lord.  That I would encourage my wife and all that I come in contact by projecting my faith on God in utter dependence and humility.

Blessings,
Travis
_____________
Father God, thank you for your reminder of my need to cast aside my pride (to kill the sin), to align my heart with yours, and project my faith on it’s true object, Jesus.  Help me to never lose sight of my daily need for the cross of Jesus in my life.  Impress upon my heart the need for DAILY bread and communion with Jesus.  Strengthen my faith and dependence on you.  Thank you for my wife and family and for leading me in truth.  Thank you for changing me and not leaving me the same as I was yesterday!  In the precious, holy, cleansing name of Jesus.

My Testimony and 100th Post

Life certainly has a way of “getting busy”. Since, I started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t really know what it would amount to. Perhaps a way to organize my thoughts, express the Lord’s teaching in my life, or simply a mode of communication to express random thoughts. It’s hard to believe that this is my 100th post. In honor of the momentous occasion, I wanted to have a unique post.

I’ve been wanting to put together a written abridged testimony for some time now. Part of the problem is, it is hard for me to really pinpoint one specific moment in time and say “there it is, my life did a 180 degree turnaround”. Overall, it really boils down to a story about God’s grace working in my life.

I was born and raised on a farm outside a small town in Eastern Iowa.  My family attended the Alice United Methodist Church in rural Linn County where I was baptized as an infant.  The church was relatively small with beautiful stain glass windows and a cemetery adjacent.  We were pretty regular attenders of both church and Sunday school and always participated in Vacation Bible School and special church dinners.  Pastors, both young and old, male and female, came and went.  There were church sponsored summer camps, youth group ski trips, and the annual kids Christmas play.  I remember going through confirmation class in 8th grade with my mentor.  The truth is, I have a lot of good memories from growing up in the church.


Overall, I was a pretty good kid.  I had some issues with my temper growing up, but I strove to listen to and obey my parents and was a “rule follower”.  I was good in school, got good grades and enjoyed learning.  In fact,  “religion” was attractive to me.  This made me less resistant when a group of parents from my church talked about sending their boys to church retreat over Labor Day weekend my sophomore year of high school.

To provide some more backgorund, it’s probably useful to go back in time a couple months.  Our church had just received a new pastor (United Methodists seem to rotate their Pastors quite frequently).  He had a charismatic personality, and there was something different about him.  He gave sermons that didn’t seem as “polished and religious” and that were best characterized as “genuine,” and he gave them with a passion.  There seemed to be more to it than just religion…

In the meantime, my parents / pastor / friend’s parents (not sure exactly the combination), talked this group of teenage boys into attending a spiritual retreat called Chrysalis over Labor Day weekend the fall of 1999.  After playing our season opening football game on Friday night, we awoke early (and sore) to head to this retreat.  There were probably around 50 or so teenagers at the retreat with about a 2 to 1 girl to guy ratio (I think this is part of the selling point for guys).  The majority of our time was spent in a conference room full of guys listening to talks, singing songs, and having discussions at our table.  There were a lot of a passionate men who seemed to have more than just religion…

This retreat sparked something inside of me to question, “Do I really just have ‘religion’?”  That weekend, on the outside, it probably seemed like nothing was really happening; but God was busy tearing apart my pre-conceived notion of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.  I realized that I really didn’t worship God like other Christians did.  I really didn’t love God like other Christians did. I really didn’t know God like some of the other Christians did.  I knew deep down that I was missing something…there was more to following Jesus than just religion…

During that 2 1/2 day retreat, God revealed to me by his grace what the perfect standard looks like (Jesus) and my utter sinfulness and my standing before him by my works.  The word of God brought forth fruit as He showed me the true freedom found in His grace and the freedom granted by the forgiveness and removal of sin.

While I believe that I had long considered myself to be a Christian since I grew up in the church and believed all the “right” things, I can honestly look back at that weekend and say, “yes,” that was the weekend that things began to change.  Albeit, my life was nowhere near perfect in the subsequent months.  I’m sure I hurt a lot of people and did a lot of “non-Christian” things.  But, deep down my “appetites” had changed, and there was an innate underlying desire to please God despite my short-comings and failures.  In fact, God gave me the power not to sin (just as he does every believer).  My heart ached at my disobedience, lack of self-control, and failure to submit to the authority of God.  I desperately wanted to be that “passionate” man who truly had more than just hype and excitement.

Bottom line – I was truly changed.  Overall, everything was just “different”.
___________

This past week marked what I commonly consider my Christian birthday (09/04/99 – 09/06/99).   For the past 11 years, I have been a born-again Christian.  Recently, I have done some quiet reflecting on those years.  A few quick thoughts have come to mind:

  • I am so thankful to God for his provision in my life and for providing the way of reconciliation by the blood of Jesus.
  • I am so thankful that my table at Chrysalis was filled with a bunch of godly men who gave of themselves and ministered to me and have continued to do so to this day.  My table leader,  Josh Miller (a younger pastor at a church in the Cedar Rapids area at the time), is now Lead Pastor at Harvest Vineyard Church in Ames, IA.  My youth table leader (high schooler at the time), Kyle Nelson, now is the campus director for the ministry organization Navigators at the University of Northern Iowa.  I also know of at least one other fellow table member who is also in full-time ministry.
  • I am so thankful for my family and friends who have had to bear with the “not so perfect” me for the past 11 + years (and if they read this, they’re thanking God that He’s not done with me).  

As Christians, we all have a story to tell of the goodness of God and the working of his grace in our lives.  I’m thankful that God is continuing to write mine, and I hope to continue to share that with you all through this blog!

Blessings,
Travis

Unmistakable Submission: Marriage

In my previous post, I mentioned the tugging on my heart to embrace unmistakable submission to the One who made me.  To some, the concept of submission, especially to authority, always sounds negative as if someone is robbing them of their freedom.  The best example is the “ole’ ball and chain” mentality our society holds towards marriage.  This concept is one that society has loved to make a mockery of, because our society is bent against God.  Our society has cheapened every aspect of Christian marriage, sexually, relationally, and spiritually.  Just think of popular sitcoms on television and the various prime time soap operas.  Can anyone truly name a television show that models what true Christian marriage looks like.  Of course not, our society is bent on making us all feel better about our marital “shortcomings” by holding out the extreme and causing us to laugh about them.  In reality, our lack of submission in an affront to a perfect holy God.  While I agree that it’s good to acknowledge that we will never have a “perfect” marriage, I think it would do us all a world of good to hold out the other extreme… the perfect relationship that Christ Jesus has with the church.  We should learn from the life and ministry of Jesus what true submission looks like.  Although he was given all authority, he limited his authority to be in submission to the will of His Father.

I praise God that my wife and I both embrace the mentality of Christian marriage and reject what our society has to say. With God’s help we will strive to fruitfully develop the qualities of biblical submission in our hearts that you desire.

Father God, I praise God for your wonderful institution of marriage and the beautiful model provided throughout scripture.  Transform my mind and will to be marked with unmistakable submission in my marriage.  Let your will and authority reign.  Make our marriage “different” not just better.  In Jesus’ precious, holy, saving name! ~ Travis

Calling Myself Out

“The current Christianity, which for the most part is based on self, has lost its ability to influence society, and be what God truly intended.  Instead of living simple, devout, quiet and godly lives, like salt and light permeating society, the Church has too often turned to worldly, fleshly and carnal means to effect change.”

I stumbled upon the above quote, while reading “Touching Godliness through Submission” by K.P. Yohannan (founder of Gospel for Asia).  This quote has made me ponder a couple of things, 1) how does the church avoid fleshly means of effecting change, and 2) what does the simple, devout life look like?

I can’t help but at times become disenchanted with the way the church today attempts to provide the “wow” factor.  There’s always some new fangled method of witnessing or worshiping.  A “new” way to respond to God.  I realize that not all churches fit this mold, but I fear that most churches use more “worldly, fleshly and carnal means to effect change” than they would ever care to realize or admit.  Perhaps the need to provide a “wow” factor is a function of our microwave cooking society, maybe we’re just missing “it”.  Like missing the forest for the trees.  I thank God that my inner soul seeks to resist this type of Christianity.

I truly desire to live a simple, devout, quiet and godly life.  I want my life to be described like that, and I want my worship to be portrayed like that.  I want simple devotion to reign in my life.  I don’t need to know or have all the theological answers, I just need to know God.  My arguments don’t have to be perfect, my rationale without dent, or my logic without flaw.  My soul just needs simple submission.

Perhaps this is all too “pie in the sky” ish…too theoretical…too disgruntled….too simplistic…too ______ (you fill in the blank).

Or perhaps, this is God calling me out.  Calling me to a lifestyle of unmistakable submission to the one who made me, the one who gave me new life.

Obedience (Period)

Obedience.

Q: What is obedience?
A: For my kids, it means following though on the instructions which my wife and I give them (Ephesians 6:1).  Why is it that “obey” (when spoken by parents), carries with it a fear of repercussion for “not obeying” (disobedience)?  For me, it means submitting to authorities, paying taxes, following the laws of this great country, etc.  Again, obedience carries with it a fear of repercussion or losing reward.  It seems that we are conditioned in this life to associate obedience and disobedience in the context of reward and punishment.

Q: So what is obedience to Christ?
A: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28).  It is doing God’s will; it is keeping his commandments.

So, we define obedience to man in one manner that seems different that the way we define obedience to Christ.  It is no wonder that when the topic of obedience some up we put up the defensive shields.  But…what if we truly grasped the concept of obedience from an eternal perspective?  What if we applied the “eternal outlook” test?  What if we saw obedience as a blessing?

We would teach our children to obey out of love, we would submit to our authorities because it is God who appointed them to that position.  We would pay our taxes no matter how unfair or wasteful the uses of them seem.  We would uproot all bitterness and obey with gladness of heart, not because we necessarily “like it”, but because we grasp what biblical obedience means.  Our obedience to Christ shows that we belong to Christ.  Our refusal to complain about authorities (in my case Obama, Culver, Democrats), proves that we (I) understand our rightful place under God’s ultimate authority (by no means am I trying to promote passivism in regards to government – just expound on the concept of obedience).  Our complaints should turn to prayer and our prayers should beseech the Man who sits at the right hand of our Father.

So, how many of the commandments must be obeyed to constitute obedience?  The spirit which prompts a man to break one commandment is the same spirit which may move him to break them all. The spirit of disobedience is a dangerous thing to play with.

That’s what we must be restful in the Lord and submit to obedience.  Easier said than done… obedience (period).

Addressing Worship

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” ~ John 4:23-24

I feel that we must be knowledgeable of the motive behind our hearts when we worship.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus quotes this warning given by the prophet Isaiah:
“This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart if far away from Me, but in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” ~ Mark 7:6b-7

I believe that this warning holds true for us today as well.  We must never entertain “worship” with a heart that is far from God, otherwise our worship will prove to be in vain.  It doesn’t matter what our mouths and lips speak, it matters where our heart stands before a holy God.  God is not concerned as much about the external man as he is the inner nature of His children.  God always looks pasts our answers to questions, and our words of worship, to look into the deep recesses of our hearts (pretty scary I know).

Are we answering and worshiping to please man, or is our heart focused on the right thing during our worship time?

Another Dose of Grace

The best Christians can never in themselves merit salvation through their personal holiness.  For scripture states in Isaiah 64:6 “and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”.  Even our best works are stained and polluted with sin.  So what then do we do with a passage like Hebrews 12:14 that states, “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord”?

It is readily apparent for believers that scripture refers to the obedience of Christ on our behalf.

  • “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” ~ Romans 5:19
  • “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” ~ 1 Peter 3:18
  • “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” ~ Hebrews 10:10
While Scripture does speak of a holiness we have in Christ before God, it also speaks of a holiness which we are to strive after.  Our salvation is a salvation to holiness.  “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” ~ 1 Thess. 4:7.  So we see that through Christ we are both made holy in our standing before God and called to be holy in our daily lives.

Is there at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God?  If not, why not?  I know that might “rub” people the wrong way, but I believe that this should be true of every believer.  I believe that true salvation brings with it a desire to be made holy, for we know what the grace of God does according to Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Perhaps, the grace of God doing this very thing, is the “another dose of grace ” that we need in our daily lives.

Blessings!

Travis

Day #1

I believe that today represented Day #1 of retraining myself of what it means to “serve my wife”.  My wife has been recently put on “modified bed rest” at 29 weeks for her pregnancy with our twins .  While this week was extremely stressful for me (I’m thankful no one was trying to take my blood pressure), I have felt God’s surpassing peace in a real way.  I have also come to a few very real conclusions:

1) My wife is a “super-mom” and “super-wife” (I knew this before now – just reiterated).  In other words, she makes things pretty easy for me.  While I work outside of the home, she works in the home preparing meals, doing laundry, keeping the house clean, taking care of the kids, paying bills, running errands, etc.  This enables us to have great family time every evening without worrying about taking care of the daily tasks that she is able to tackle.  Now that her “super-mom” and “super-wife” role looks different (i.e. bed rest caring for our newborn babies)…

2) I need to “fill” those shoes (as an act of love – Ephesians 5:25)

2) “I” cannot “fill” those shoes (not enough hours in the day).  However, I am confidently claiming the word of God as authority on this situation, “I can do all things through Him, who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).  The house may not be as clean and spotless, or the bills always paid on time, but I know that God will sustain us during this time.

4) I need the Lord to continue to teach me what it means to be a servant. I am thankful for God’s great shepherding in bringing about this area of sanctification in my life.  I know that I need to serve more joyfully and the Lord has given me many opportunities, starting with the wife that I married 46 months ago and our two kids!

5) I am thankful for the body of Christ.  Our families, Lighthouse group, and church family has been awesome and encouraging.  Thanks!

Blessings!
Travis

Surpassing Peace

It’s been a whirlwind of a week for my wife and me.  My wife is almost 29 weeks pregnant with twins and has been experiencing some signs of preterm labor.  That is only part of the story, as we returned to the hospital the next day to be monitored again and to spend the night in the hospital.  As I sit here, blogging from the hospital awaiting our second, and hopefully final, night of staying in the hospital this trip, the Lord is currently seeing us through this trial.

It’s easy to say that the Lord is seeing us through the trial now (after test after test has confirmed that my wife is not currently in active labor and the babies are doing fine), however, our Tuesday evening drive to the hospital was not the most pleasant experience.  It seemed that anxiety had gripped me since being in the hospital for testing on Monday afternoon.  I remember praying to the Lord, “Lord, I just don’t know how to pray in this situation, let me experience your peace concerning this trial.”  I wouldn’t necessarily say that this was answered immediately, but I did believe the promise of God.  For in Philippians 4:6-7 it says “Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  I found myself wanting the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension, but I realized that I desperately needed to be in communion with God to make known my prayers and supplications before Him. So I poured out my prayers, meek as they were, before Him.  I sent out an e-mail to some friends and family and Lighthouse group at First Family Church.  I knew that those prayers were going to rise up to the very throne room of a Holy God who cares for his children.  At this moment, I find myself resting in the peace of God, in the midst of this trial, knowing that the peace of God is guarding my heart as I trust in Christ Jesus.  Praise God for answered prayer and seeing us through this trial!

Lessons from Jonah

Since the beginning of the year, we have been going through the book of Jonah at First Family Church .  It has been a very good series, and sadly to say, I realize that there is more “Jonah” in me, than I care to admit (i.e. selfish, stubborn, “un-compassionate”, etc.).  On the positive side, one thing that has really stood out to me the past couple of week is God’s amazing ability to shepherd his people.  For He is the Great Shepherd, who knows His sheep and the needs of His sheep.  God is so patient with Jonah in chapter 4, prodding him and teaching him what it means to obey with his heart and have “God-like” compassion on the souls of lost people.  He didn’t strike him dead for his disobedience or pronounce destruction on his life, but God faithfully shepherded the heart of Jonah.   He appointed a plant, a worm, a scorching east wind all because he wanted Jonah to see the wickedness of his heart before a holy God.

It makes me take a step back and wonder, what circumstance in my life is God “working in” to bring about my sanctification?  More importantly, as one of His sheep, how have I strayed from the Good Shepherd, and what wickedness do I need to purge my heart from?  Perhaps, I need some more time to ponder these questions…