Revival and Eternal Impact

In light of my most recent blog post on Hezekiah and Revival, I have been attempting to cultivate a heart of responsivness in my life through godly disciplines.  Over the past fews days, I’ve had some blessed time of communion with my Savior and he has been faithful in teaching me and growing me.

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how quickly “life can pass you by.”  This year has marked my 11th as a Christian, 8 years since high school graduation, celebrating my 5th anniversary with my wife, and 4 years since receiving my finance degree and moving to the Des Moines area.  The concept that “time flies” has become an all too real cliche’ and it causes me to ponder my responsiveness of God in the wake of a busy life.  The last thing I want is to wake up a year from now and say, “wow, I really didn’t make much impact for eternity’s sake during the past 12 months.”

We learn from King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles that he certainly did what was pleasing, right, and true before the Lord his God (2 Chron. 21:20).   He made an impact for eternity.  While his name might not always be the first one you think of regarding God’s people (i.e. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, etc.), for the people who lived during his reign, you bet he made an impact.

[albeit the nation fell into sin and idol worship again – see Manasseh in 2 Chron. 33]

Have you considered how you may be able to make an impact for eternity?  Or do you just leave that up the so-called spiritual giants?  I think for too long, I’ve allowed myself to give lip service to that statement while sitting in the wings waiting for others to take the lead in making an impact.  While I may never have the opportunity to impact people as a leader such as Hezekiah did in his reign as king, I do have the same opportunity to choose this day, if I will be responsive to the Lord.  My impact may not reach to the ends of the earth, my circle of influence may remain relatively small, but if I do what is right and true, it will rise up before the eyes of the Lord my God. 

Blessings,
Travis

Revival and a Man Named Hezekiah

Lately the topic of spiritual revival and awakening has been on mind.  A blog that I read regularly recently broached the topic as well.  Has there ever been times in your life when God continues to show you things until you are prompted to action by conviction and encouragement?  I feel like now is one of those times, but I’m not sure what to do with it…

Earlier this evening, I was reading in the book of 2nd Chronicles and the story of Hezekiah when he becomes King of Judah (2 Chronicles 29-31).  Hezekiah is about my age when he takes over as King.  [Astonishing to think that someone my age could be leading God’s chosen people!]  While I typically don’t look for a theme of alliterations when coming up with lessons fro the scriptures, I couldn’t help but notice the words that I had underlined while studying this passage.  In the first few verses alone you see he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:2), repaired the house of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:3), began reforming the house of the Lord through consecration (2 Chr. 29:5), restored temple worship, and as a result you see the people rejoicing (2 Chr. 29:36).  In chapter 30, you see his action to reinstitute the passover feast, people returning to the Lord, and prayers rising to heaven, the holy dwelling place (2 Chr. 30:27).  In chapter 31, you see continuation of reforms and the destruction of idols, the Lord providing for the tithe in abudance, and the people repsonding faithfully! What an absolutely riveting three chapters in the Old Testament (hence, one of the reasons that 2nd Chronicles is one of my favorite books)! The section culminates in 2 Chr. 31:20-21 with the following, “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all of Judah; and he did was good, right and true before the Lord  his God.  Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” WOW!

[deep pause to take all of that in]

So…what do I take away from all of this?  What was it about Hezekiah that led to revival in the hearts of the the people of Judah? 

The over-arching theme that I see in the life of Hezekiah is responsiveness. He was responsive to the desires of his heavenly father.  He followed the examples of great men of faith before him.  It is evident that he sought the heart of God (2 Chr. 29:10).

So… what does this have to do with revival today?

Can the responsiveness of one man change the course of an entire nation of people?  [don’t dismiss this too quickly – see Hezekiah’s example of Ahaz, his father in 2 Chr. 28)] .  Can the responsiveness of one father bring revival to his household?  What about one mother and the spiritual lives of her children?  One Pastor and his church?  One church and the nation?

Although I don’t believe there is a “secret formula” to revival, I do feel that we are given examples and testimonies in God’s word of which we are to draw wisdom.  Based on the life of Hezekiah, I wonder if it may simply start with a heart of responsiveness…

Blessings,
Travis

Faith that Goes Deeper

A good friend of mine, Travis Stevick (check out his blogs here and here) , posed this question on his facebook profile:

“If you were to ever speak of “going deeper” in your faith, what would you mean?”

I quickly clicked reply and was ready to spout out an answer, but found myself pondering the question and unwilling to just give a quick answer (hence the blog post).  My thoughts have swirled around this topic for the night as I began to write this post. I was reminded that Christians, as a whole, are often guilty of speaking “Christianese” or adopting coined phrases from popular sermons and preachers.  Sometimes I wonder if we hide behind phrases such as “get real with God” or “going deeper”.  We put up false fronts of what the Christian should say, instead of what we truly think or believe (I think we’ve all been there before).

So then, what is faith?  We know from Hebrews 11:1 that “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  Faith in what?  For a Christian faith is different, it is not a “power or belief” or “positive thinking”.  As a Christian there is an object to my faith, that object being the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Without defining faith, we are lost without an object.  There is no deep well from which to draw, simply the surface of emotions that we battle with on a daily basis.

So, what do I mean, when I say I want to go deeper in my faith?  Simply put, I want to seek God more authentically (Jeremiah 29:13).  I want to grow in that blessed hope and his soon second-coming and trust in the true promises and sovereignty of God (Matthew 24:29-21; Psalm 119:160; 2 Peter 3:9).  I want to know Jesus deeply, from the wellspring of my heart (Provers 4:23 NIV).  I want to go deeper than just the surface level!

So… what does “going deeper” in your faith mean to you?

Link: What to Read When You’re Tired

3 Chapters… 1 Chapter… 12 verses… zzzzzzzzzz

Perhaps you never struggle with this…but I am not ashamed to admit that I do.  Working as the head of the household, managing expectations, taking care of my wife and 4 chilren 4 and under, and finding some spare time to relax, can certainly leave one exhausted.  Don’t view that as a complaint, because I love where God has me in my life.  But simply put, there are a lot of things demanding of my time. 

Check out the following link for some words of wisdom regarding What to Read When You’re Tired

Encouragement 101

Have you ever felt like you just need a good dose of encouragement?  The older I get, the more that I realize that “life” seems to send its trials your way.  I’ll be the first to admit that my life is not characterized by perfect submission and heartfelt praise to God in the midst of my trials (James 1:2).  There are times when I (and probably you) simply don’t feel like being joyful during a trial or testing of your faith.  The apostle Paul was obviously cognizant of this fact, for he consistently is encouraging the believers in the early church to press on toward the prize (1 Corin. 9:24) and pursue heavenly rewards.  Let me offer the following encouragement to you (and myself) from the book of Romans.

Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world ,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

While it is relatively easy to quote a verse on encouragment (thanks Google), it is much harder to live a life according to Romans 12:1-2 as a means of encouragement.  Sacrifice and submission to spiritual service are not easy tasks.  Breaking out from conformity with the world is even harder.  Staring the down the barrel of real transformation, just might be too much to bear!  Perhaps, our (my) ability to persevere in joy in the midst of trials is directly related to my daily intake of the mercies of God.  For to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis, despite the promise that they are new every morning (see Lam. 3:22-23), requires just that…to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis!  Our self-reliance and culture of achievement may be the largest stumbling block to real spiritual breakthrough and maturity, as least I believe I have found one of mine.  Our daily bread from the Lord truly must be daily, just as it was for the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was to be no regular storing up of bread, because it would become moldy (just as our spiritual lives).

Join me this week in meeting the Lord at the fountain, instead of relying on moldy spiritual bread to sustain!

Blessings,
Travis

Whom have I….?

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And beside You, I desire nothing on earth.” ~ Psalm 73:25

You’re my last hope and yet my first
You’re my brokenness and my strength
You’re my death and my life
The earth holds nothing to be desired but your presence
Nothing to be sought after but eternal riches in heaven
Nothing to be gained but my loss

(words penned in my college journal 8 years ago)

Submission Quiz – Did I scare you away?

I’ve been slowly working through the book, “Touching Godliness through Submission” by K.P. Yohannan (founder of Gospel for Asia).  Side Note – Please consider supporting Gospel for Asia, they are doing some great things for the Kingdom!   The following is a little snippet from the book that has caused me to do some pondering… join me if you will…

Why is it our flesh hates submission and resists learning about it?

It’s because submission requires brokenness – humblings ourselves…

There was no rebellion in Christ, he was the embodiment of submission and surrender, even though at the same time He was God. 

Rebellion is the seed of Satan because it was through rebellion against authority that he became Satan…. Thus, the seed of sin is rebellion.  Through the sin of Adam, our lives all begin with the spirit of rebellion.  In Christ we are called out of rebellion into obedience by submitting to the authority of God. 

May we allow the Lord to change us more and more into the likeness of Christ until there is nothing left in us from the ruler of this world. 

I praise God that my life no longer has to be marked by the spirit of rebellion.  I just wish it contained more obedience, more submitting to the authority of God, more denying my fleshly desires, more likeness of Christ in me… my look in the mirror reveals too much leftovers from the spirit of rebellion from the ruler of this world.

Will you look in the mirror too?  Will you compare the embodiment of submission and surrender in the Lord Savior Jesus against the evil seed of sin in the liar Satan?  If no, why not?  If yes, you are not alone…

Blessings in joining you,
Travis

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

One Man's Journey Serving the King of Kings