Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lessons from Rehab: reconnecting to the head

As I was in the rehab hospital I learned a lot. One of the things is that I learned is that after a spinal chord injury the nerves are disconnected. The brain is still sending signals but there is a break in the current. Also, the nerves to these areas still exist they just cant find each other. Let’s take moving your foot. If you keep thinking about moving your foot (sending the signal) while you also physically try to move your foot, sometimes using electric shock to move those muscles. You can in time reconnect some of those important nerves and use them again. This is the act of reconnecting to the head. This is the primary problem with a spinal cord injury. It also seems to be the biggest problem in the modern church today. We must reconnect to the Head of the body, we have to learn to obey him unconditionally. When we want to move our hand we just move it. The brain tells it to move, it moves. The hand does not ask why. It does not seek understanding. It does not make excuses. Why? Because the brain is king. It is the only body part with understanding.
The church has been commanded to go to the nations, yet we reason and spend years asking where, why when, etc. We have been commanded to love the poor and clothe and feed them, but we reason “they might take advantage of us if we do” , we have been told to be unified and not divisive, yet we just divide everytime we disagree about music, doctrine or practice. We must reconnect to the head and begin to obey. It is not our job to understand, it is our job to obey. True understanding usually comes only AFTER obedience!

The mouth:
Over the years while we have trained new missionaries, we often ask this simple question, “Who is in charge of the church?” We almost never receive a correct response! The answer always comes very confidently “the pastor!” This is coming from Americans, Indigenous peoples, Latin Americans, from varied educational backgrounds. The mouth has become the head of the church. Most pastors are great people, well-intentioned people of God. The problem is that they are inadequate for the task. They simply can not be all that the church expects of them.

It would be silly for me to just speak to my legs and hope they would start moving. The mouth is overrated. It manipulates sounds, that’s it. It is the brain that formulates the words. We have to stop putting our trust in body parts that are no more or less important than us. And reconnect to the head, he will teach us how to walk again. Then we can go and change our world.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joining Structure

Okay guys, I am about to put up a new post but I wanted to point you in the direction of some new stuff on this blog. First, I have some new/old friends on my list. I have been following these blogs for some time now, i think you might enjoy them. Also I have a poll up, it only has a couple more days before I put up a new one. Vote now or forever hold your peace. Finally, The posts I am about to begin uploading are a little more nuts and bolts, so no more broad stroke for us from here on out. That means new ideas and even some controversy. So let the fun begin.....go!

Joining Structure:

I began my ministry when I was about 16 years old. After I “surrendered to being a missionary,” the path presented itself in a pretty predictable manner. I started by giving little talks (they were not good enough to be called sermons), then I started preaching. I went to a Baptist University where I studied theology and was a supply preacher in small country churches for years.
After I finished at the University and went to the mission field as an ambitious little missionary, I began to see the foundations of many of my beliefs crumble. I learned about Chronological Bible Storying (CBS). I found the value in being the vessel of God’s word and not opining or endlessly sharing what I thought the scripture ‘meant.’ I found that many of the things I had taught or preached had been misguided and sometimes even wrong. I felt guilty for having led God’s people astray and betraying their trust. I realized how weak and limited vessel I was. It was through this process that I found solace in the CBS method. I was able to memorize and share larger portions of scripture with people. What I found was that the scripture is authority! My opinions were just a pitiful attempt to translate God’s words into something I thought people would understand. I found out quick that he did not need my help. His word is sufficient; it does not need my help or translation. What happens more often than not is that we water down God’s word and original meaning with our explanations. Therefore, my place as a ‘leader’ became less important. I was not the one who gave inspiring speeches but rather a vessel for His words. If I did it right I would be forgettable in the light of his word.

Then I began to see this dirty side of myself. I gloried to some degree in the attention I received. As you receive accolades and compliments and are treated like you are special something happens. You begin to believe your own hype. You begin to think more highly of yourself than you ought. And that even affects the way you speak. You begin to speak down to the people like you have some special authority and they need you to be enlightened to Gods word. There was a moment while I was in Peru when all of these dirty things in me began to rise to the top. And I realized that all that time I had been stealing His glory. All of those acolytes were his and I had accepted them as my own. The praises of men, belong to him alone. Those praises had puffed me up and caused me to take pride in my self, glory in my own abilities. It broke me to know I had stolen praises from Him. I vowed to do my best to never let that happen again. I would not raise myself above others. I would not let people believe I was better than I was.

As this affected me over the years I had an evolution in my beliefs regarding leadership. I had learned how destructive and even unbiblical the traditional churches leadership structure was. It became so clear that the churches leadership structure was based on a worldly system, a business system. I longed for something more than that. I did not want to be part of that heirchy. I learned how there was no distinction between clergy and laity; we were all one, brothers and sisters all on the same level. (Matthew 23) I learned that Jesus taught and modeled a different leadership structure. But in a reaction to the top-heavy structure that I had always known I rejected any form of leadership in the church. I ignored clear examples in scripture that demonstrated a different type of leadership. I recognized Christ as the head, but I denied any other style of earthly leadership. This is precisely because I did not want to return to this hierchichal style of leadership and quite frankly, I knew of no other way to do it. I could not imagine there being any other way.

But as we began to meet in an organic way in simple churches several things came to light. One is that man desires a leader to go to God for him and even to go before the church for him. We are spiritually lazy by nature, and we are afraid to be confronted with our own filth. We want someone else to represent us because it allows us to maintain spiritual respectability while still wallowing in our fear and sin. The Israelites told Moses to go before God on their behalf because they were afraid, but afraid of what. It says they were afraid they would die. Die?! Why? Because they were filthy idolaters in their hearts. They knew it, but thought no one else did. But if someone goes for us and “they” speak to God and then tell us what he said. Well, then we have an option to obey or ignore what he said. We take it to heart think it and even agree with it but we generally never obey it. You see the thing is, you take away our leaders and if we want to have a relationship with God we have to go before him ourselves. We generally do not want that. Why? Simply put. To be in the presence of God IS to change. If you are in His presence, you are exposed, every thought, sin, doubt, everything. Being in his presence experiencing his perfection, his love, his compassion, his holiness his being. And then we see ourselves for who we really are, down inside, not what we present to the world. This encounter in itself changes you. Deep down in your core you are changed. You are either humbled and ready to serve and obey him or you knowingly disobey him and deny him. There are no longer grey areas. We fear this because as long as it is vague we are safe.

So I believed that we all need to go before God and seek him. And I still believe this to be true. But as time went on and we grew in our understanding in Him we saw a new form of leadership rise up. It was so unlike what I had always seen in the traditional church or even the world that it was hard to recognize as leadership. See my definition of leadership was defined by the world, not Christ. As we saw this new leadership arise, many of Christ’s teachings on leadership began to make sense. Remember how he basically taught that it was the opposite from what we see in the world. Least shall be the greatest, first will be last, etc See I learned that leadership was based on living not leading. I was introduced to an organic/biblical form of elders. When I speak of elders, I am not talking about a position or office in the church. What I am speaking about is much more simple. They are the more mature brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not determined by age, by the job you have or how you are respected in the community. This is determinate on how you obey Christ. When we teach our missionaries about this concept I get them to think about that one person who has been the most influential person in their Christian walk. Their spiritual father or mother, someone who taught them how to live in Him, someone they really respect in Christ.

I have many but I want to share the example of Finis Christenberry. He was one of the elders in the church where I grew up. See Finis was a dairy farmer. He ran a dairy for many years. But beyond that he was a sweet man of God who worked tirelessly for the kingdom. He was forever an example to me of how I should live. He loved God with his whole life, he served others continuously, he was generous, he loved his wife, he took time out to love on children, and he just seemed to me to be like what Jesus would be like if he were an old dairy farmer instead of a carpenter. Finis’ sweet wife Vivian died, and it seemed as though he leaned on Christ even more after his loss. I knew he was in pain but you could see and feel the comforter, as he was always present with Finis. He would visit my great-grandmother almost everyday and spend some time talking and praying with her. He always brought her a piece of candy. Sometimes he would show up and she would be asleep in her chair, he would leave the candy on the arm of the chair. As Finis got older his health faded. He got a very painful cancer and was advised to go into the hospital so that they could help him with the pain. Finis refused because his ministry of visiting people, praying with the saints, encouraging and visiting the sick was too important to him. So he continued serving. In his final days he was placed in the hospital, and though I wasn’t there I know he served and ministered to people from that hospital bed till his dying breath. Finis to me is the perfect example of an elder. I never sat under his teaching or discussed theology. I admired his walk with Christ and tried to emulate it. I learned from the example of his life. He was no head honcho in any church. He held no real position. He was a normal member of the body, but he was an elder in his actions. THIS IS BIBLICAL CHURCH LEADERSHIP!

If you were to visit a simple church you often will not recognize the elders at first sight. They are not necessarily the ones speaking or making decisions. The do not dress differently nor do they pray with old English. They are just simple believer like you or me who have been walking with the Lord a little longer than the rest of us. God has blessed them with wisdom and grace. When there are decisions that need to be made they are expected to give wise counsel and the body simply weighs the decision in light of their wisdom. Then they decide as a body what to do.

Many use the 2 lists for Requirements for elders to say that they were meant to be offices or a lower form of clergy. Well I have two objections to that. First, we must remember that Paul was writing to/about a people who were worshiping in churches that were multicultural and most of these new gentile believers were coming from several various pagan cultures they did not have a judeo/Christian moral code. These were new concepts for them. They needed to be explained and named just so that they would know what was appropriate. And secondly, if it were to be naming special characteristics for a clergyman, wouldn’t we expect that their requirements would be higher than the normal/average believer. But if you look at them you see that these are the things we all desire to be and the standard is not extremely high. See this is an explanation of what a mature believer/elder looks like. Paul says, if you want to be a mature believer, that is great! This is what it looks like or rather, this is how you should live/what your life should look like.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
• Be above reproach
• Husband of one wife
• Temperate
• Self controlled
• Respectable
• Hospitable
• Able to teach
• Not a drunk
• Not violent but gentle
• Not quarrelsome
• Not money hungry
• Must manage his own family well (children obey him with respect)
• Not a recent convert
• Good reputation with outsiders

Titus 1:5-9
• Be blameless
• Husband of one wife
• His children believe and are not wild and disobedient
• Not overbearing
• Not quick tempered
• Not given to drunkenness
• Not violent
• Not pursuing dishonest gain
• Hospitable
• Loves what is good
• Self controlled
• Upright
• Holy
• Disciplined
• Holds firm to the word

See these are not extremely high goals. They are what we are all striving for as a minimum. When they speak of the work of the Lord do not misconstrue that to mean a vocation or position. That would be reading our experiences into the word. These were normal people with jobs who were serving in their local body and to the world outside. Just because you are doing God’s work does not mean you have to have a position; remember the least will be the greatest. See, I have learned more from men like Finis and others than any preacher or positioned person in the church. Because that is the way the church was created to function. Remember Jesus words “pagans lord over...not so with you…the least will be greatest” Consider: Matt 20:20-28; Matt 23:8-12; Luke 22:24-27

The job of elders is primarily living out there function/purpose in the church and discipling others. Especially discipling those who share his similar function.
So, if you are a Teacher and you are mature in the Lord, lead and serve in that capacity and disciple others in how to live, when you have the opportunity to disciple someone who seems to have the same function, teach them how to be a better teacher.
If you are an apostle, take a young apostle on a church planting trip with you. Teach him/her how to live out your purpose in that context. Now, this is not confined to just your function, often through discipleship you can introduce a brother to a new function that they adopt and grow in. (We will discuss these functions in more detail later)

Everyone is at a different level in their spiritual maturity. Do not look down on others.
I believe that if we began to follow this simple biblical example it would completely revolutionize the Christian world. If there were elders in each church leading by example and discipling then there would be a never-ending fountain of future elders. The body would be growing at an unprecedented rate and the training would be more obedience and life based than theory and theological debate. This would cause every church to be a “bible college” and every body to be a “seminary” tasked with training the new generations and sending His ambassadors into the world. The current Seminary system is flawed to its core. It is financially burdensome; it provides discipleship to those who can afford it. It only serves to sustain a system that is crumbling by simply trying to keep pastors in a church. This is like sending reinforcements into a sinking ship. We need to learn to train our folks to be relevant and live their faith out in a way that is organic and life changing. Think of the disciples, Jesus mentored 12 men who became the elders who were training elders to train elders. This is all discipleship. It is dirty gritty work but it is the biblical model we should follow if we know what is good for us.

All that being said, we have found a new type of leadership to fill that hole that existed for so long after doing away with the worldly, hiercical system that we were accustomed to. The new system is so different from anything we see in the world that it helps remind us that His ways are not ours. We know who the mature believers are among us and we respect the wisdom and direction the Lord has given them. We also recognize that the Lord continually provides more elders as we disciple, obey and be the church.

Friday, April 23, 2010

we, we, we all the way home.

Throughout this blog you will hear me say, We, Us, Our etc. a lot. This is not meant to confuse. It just demonstrates a change in my thought patterns. Previously, when I was in the legacy model, my Christian life was very individual and private, between God and me. I learned from him, and tried to apply it to my life.
While walking this new path I have learned that we as the church should live in community; which necessarily means that we also learn in community. It is uncanny how often the Lord is teaching us the same thing at the same time. We end up getting a one-dimensional teaching when we fail to share and learn form others in our body.
So many of these things that I share in the blog are not things I learned because of my deep spiritual walk with the Lord. Rather, they are things that God revealed to his body, through many different sources and circumstances.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

trust me

The Lord had called Susan and I to be a part of an exciting and cutting edge team of missionaries. We were starting something new and the excitement was in the air. The first step of this team had begun we were training a group of new missionaries. It was going to be a very practical and biblical training. We were gonna break the mold and do things different. And we did. But the first few days were VERY different, for me.

Day 1: My only responsibility that day was to teach a class on suffering. I had spent two years living and ministering to the Asheninka people on the Apurucayali river. During that time I had learned to lean on the Lord almost completely. It is funny how that happens when you realize you are inadequate for a task. I went to him everyday. I didn’t worry because he had shown himself faithful. But there was mild suffering involved. I had suffered weeks of the “green-apple quick step.” I had contracted Dengue fever. I had gone days without eating. I had worked until I could barely stand. Suffered hypothermia, yes, in the jungle. But, If you read the NT, this is normal disciple/missionary stuff. This is the life we live. The first time I saw someone come to Christ, all the suffering took on a different meaning. It all became worth it, I understood. Well, anyway, this is basically what I was teaching that day. Little did I know, I would be taking that road again, soon. But to an even greater degree. But I was thankful for the Lord calling me to teach that topic on that day. Because I would need to be reminded of those old lessons very soon. And when IT happened, those thoughts of his faithfulness were fresh on my mind. He is so good.

Day two: We had a new climbing wall that we were getting ready for the training. We were putting the finishing touches on it by trying it out. Five people climbed the wall before me, including 2 people in their sixties and my precious wife. When they were done we realized some of the hand/footholds were a little loose. So I went up to tighten them. When I got to the top and was finished I kicked out to repel down. The knot came loose, I fell 30+ feet and landed on my back. Pain exploded throughout my body. In an instant my plan was destroyed. But God’s plan began.

My wife and friends gathered around. Praying, examining, talking me through it. Susan asked what hurt. I told her my arms. She said, “okay, your arms are broken. What else?” I had this pain in my back, like when you lay on the bed with your legs hanging off and you feel pressure on your lower back. But all you have to do is bend your knees and take the pressure off your back and it relieves the pressure. Well, I had that x100. But I couldn’t move my legs. I told Susan, “I can’t feel/move my legs.”

I was speaking to the Lord at this instant, I said, “What is going on! You told me to come down here! I obeyed?! What are you doing? This can’t be right.” In that moment, I remember a peace falling on me, like his very presence fell and he said, “J, trust me.” Well, as I previously mentioned, I have seen God do incredible things, things we humans can not understand. So, I surrendered to trust Him. I said, “You have proven yourself faithful! Not only in my life, but throughout history. I WILL trust you, but I’m gonna need some help with this.”

I didn’t mention that all of this happened in a third world country. Services are not nearly as sofistocated, but the Lord provided in miracoulous ways. An ambulance arrived at the training camp (this is a miracle in itself), they had a stretcher specifically made for people with back injuries, they got me loaded up, took me to a clinic where they gave me a shot of steroids to stop the swelling. Then we started on the way to the capital, Lima (about an hour drive).

I remember that there were several people in the ambulance. Myself, Susan, Chris (my boss and mentor) and several Peruvian EMT’s. At the clinc, they gave me 2 advil for pain. I might as well have taken two apple jacks. The pain was excruciating. I told Chris, “Man, I need something to take my mind off the pain. Tell me the stories.” So Chris began at Creation, and told the story of how much He loves us. I was in and out so I don’t remember it all. But the story of Joseph was incredibly alive to me. The Lord opened my mind to this story. It became my anchor for the next few months. One thing I heard was at the end, when he was with his brothers. He said “What you intended for evil God meant for good…” I knew that part from Sunday school. But it was the next phrase that helped me to retain my trust in him. “…and the salvation of many.” When I heard that, the Lord said “j. just watch what I do, you will love it” that is the last thing I remember from the ambulance.

But I was told later, that they had been running with the siren on. As Chris told the story, the EMT’s were so interested in the story, they demanded the driver turn the siren off so they could hear the story better. He was already fulfilling his word to me.

When I arrived at the hospital in Lima, they told me my back and arms were indeed broken. I would need surgery. So we sent for med-evac.∗ Then we waited, they were still giving me advil for pain. I pulled Chris aside and begged him to get me some real medicine. I don’t know what he got or where he got it, but it worked. I had one and a hlf days to wait for the medevac to arrive.

I found throughout this ordeal, that our enemy is a cruel snake. He comes when you are weakest, at your lowest point and he begins his destructive work. He desires so much to kill us, steal our joy and faith, destroy our lives. He came to me in the night throughout this ordeal. Through most of this, I was alone in the room at nighttime. And I knew he was coming every night.*Luke 22:53* He came with accusations, doubts, discouragements, lies. The first night was no different.

The first night in the Lima hospital, I had a Peruvian roommate. He was a very old man. He was in a lot of pain and seemed to be on deaths door. I was exhausted from the whole ordeal, I just wanted to rest. But my roommate was loud. He cried out all night begging for the famous Peruvian soft drink, Inca Cola. “Señorita! Inca Cola! Por favor… Señorita…” all night. I must admit, I had lost all grace at this point. I was annoyed and I was just wanting some sleep. But it went on for hours. Finally, as I was selfishly begging the Lord to make it stop. He told me to pray for him. I felt so stupid. This man is in pain and all I care about is my sleep. I prayed for him, then the Lord settled me into a deep sleep. I awoke in the middle of the night to find, what I thought at the time was an angel, praying at my bedside. I felt such comfort from the Lord, I was not forgotten. I found out the next day, it had been a nurse, one of the saints coming to my aid in time of need. This special woman had also shared with the family of Inca Cola man a little about his roommate (me). The family came to me that morning. They told me that after hearing his roommate was a missionary, Inca Cola man wanted to speak with me. They rolled our beds side by side. This frail old man wept as he told me about his life and how he had failed miserably, how he was broken and wicked. He said he wished it had been different. I shared with him about my savior, about the thief on the cross and some others stories. I saw hope enter his eyes. He followed Jesus that day.

As they rolled his bed back over to his side and they pulled the curtain, I wept quietly. I talked with the Lord “I understand… and I still trust you. If all of this was just so my new friend and brother could know you, it was worth it. These are eternal things, Lord. Help me to be able to do this…please”

The Med-evac plane came. I went to the states in a cloud of real drugs, finally. Upon arriving, I went into emergency trauma surgery. First my back, then both my arms. I woke up a day or two later in a hospital bed. Soon thereafter they moved me next door to the rehab hospital. They told my parents, to prepare themselves. I would more than likely be in a wheelchair the rest of my life. No one told me. It didn’t matter. I had stopped trying to understand what the Lord was doing or how. I just had enough energy to obey the little things he told me to do. I had no energy to waste on figuring out his reasoning, or questioning his love. Just obey, I kept telling myself.

The enemy continued his nightly visits. He beat the hell out of me night after night. The darkness was so oppressive those nights. The Lord fought for me those nights. Johnny Cash’s American IV was the soundtrack. They were hard fought battles. It was visably obvious how beat up I was on the outside. I think I was even worse on the inside. I continued to trust, He continued to fight for me. The Lord had something to show me but I had to walk through this first, and I did. Step by painful step.

The Lord used to use the prophets in a personal way. He would cause them to marry an adulterous wife. So that they could deeply understand the heart of their masters message. Because to a somewhat lesser degree they had experienced the betrayal and pain of their Lord. He often used their bodies and lives as object lessons. So that his prophets and then His people could see God’s word for the situation. This was almost always uncomfortable, painful, humiliating and sometimes just plain weird. I know it was all of those things when it happened to me.

Let me set the stage for you. I was in the hospital bed in Dallas, TX. I was broken and beaten, inside and out. I had lost 40 lbs in 2 weeks as my muscles atrophied. I was unable to walk, or even move my legs. I had external capacitors and pins on both arms, so I couldn’t use them for much either. I had to be turned regularly to avoid bed sores. My wife shaved me, fed me and most everything else. I had no control of my bodily functions and wore a diaper. I was basically a blob of physical and emotional pain unable to do anything because my body would not cooperate. I had gone from being one of the most physically capable people on the field to being helpless in an instant. The only time there was an illusion of normalcy was when I was talking with someone. They would say, “Oh, it’s the same old j.” or “he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.” But as I looked at myself in that bed helpless, the Lord spoke. “You are my church.” He said. And then I was flooded with understanding.

It is no wonder, we have become almost incapable of changing our world on a New Testament scale. Some of us have become disconnected from the head, like my legs. We are no longer receiving our orders, vision or life plans from Christ directly. We are getting them from other sources and we have turned into ourselves to figure it out. We hear sermons from a human mediator, then decide if it applies to us. As my legs got cut off from the brain, they became incapable of taking me to the places I wanted to go. Just as the church lies here in our spiritual hospital bed in the US. Incapable of going where Christ sends us. Because we have turned into ourselves to figure it out instead of obeying the command of the head, otherwise known as the Great Commision. The largest percentage of Christians live in the US. The world is being deceived and abused by our enemy and we have settled into our little lives.

The arms and hands of the church, like my own are so beaten and bruised that they can not heal their communities and bring the kingdom to bear on the US. Letting them see his love mercy and grace. The emotional/spiritual wounds in the church is staggering, but it is hidden under a thin veil. It needs to be healed, so that we can get about his work. That healing will come from above, but it must also come from the other hand. As I healed, I had to learn to clean my wounds, just as the church should learn to care for its own wounded.

The only thing that seemed to work correctly was my mouth. No surprise to most. The church is no different. The pastors (mouths) are some of the hardest working saints in the kingdom. I would argue that they often do more than they should due to the poor condition of the rest of the body. But my wife often told me when I would say something weird or crazy due to the drugs I was on. See, even my mouth seemed to be somewhat disconnected from the brain. The same is true in the church, many pastors are drunk off the power and authority of their “position.” They can grow prideful, they hide their struggles and sins and let them fester. Even the most healthy of the body was noticeable sick.

I cried out, “Oh Lord, what hope is there for your church then? How do we recover from this mess?” The Lord was silent…

A couple of days later, my therapist came to visit. She said “we are going to stand up today.” Though I showed a strong exterior, I was afraid. I didn’t want to fall again. I was not sure I could do it. But she brought in a special walker and I stood/leaned for like 5 minutes. It was so difficult that I soaked my shirt through with sweat, just standing. The next day, I took a 4 inch step. Possibly the ugliest, floppy step you ever saw. But it was a step. The next day, 4 tiny steps every day I was exhausted because my body was not accustomed to doing these things. The body forgets so quickly how to obey the head. The church is no different. I had to learn all over again, against all odds. I worked harder than I thought possible, and it was then that the Lord’s answer came. “There is always hope, this is how she will recover.”

I realized what a rough and painful road it would be. But it must be done. The church has to learn to walk again. She has to learn to care for herself and others. She has to remember how to hear the voice of the father and obey without question. I had no idea what it would look like. I just knew it would be different. I trusted that he would show me and I would show others as I learned.

It was through this experience, that the Lord Illuminated 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 to me and gave them very personal significance as it relates to His church. I encourage you to read these passages and see what I mean.

Now, after I was released from the hospital. Through an interesting set of circumstances the Lord placed us into a small group of believers. We met weekly. I don’t think any of us know why we were there. But the Lord used them to give me the first step of this new journey. We had intimate fellowship with these other believers. Honestly, they helped put Susan and I back together emotionally. We talked about our Lord and his goodness. We discipled one another. We didn’t have to call it a house church or a bible study or any other name. It was just his body learning to function. I had always been the minister/leader since I was in high school. It felt so good to be the one who was ministered to. It was awesome to see the Lord lead us to this new revelation. As we returned to Peru, six months after the accident, Susan and I determined in our hearts we would follow wherever the Lord led on this road. This book is a compilation of where we have been on that road, what he has taught us. I hope it can help some of you to join us in this rehabilitation of his Body, in preparing His bride for that big day.

One final note, The enemy doesn’t come to me at night anymore. That battle was won. But Susan still has flashbacks of the accident. They come at night, I hear her weeping. I know that cruel snake is there, hurting her. I hate him for that. But I know what a mighty warrior my Jesus is. I know he is fighting for her. I pray and tell her not to believe those lies.

Preparation of the bride

i'm still working on this and filling it out. but let me know what you guys think.

Preparation of the Bride

The wedding day: I was nervous don’t get me wrong. But everything leading up to the actual wedding was actually pretty easy. I woke up, Chad and I went to breakfast, and then we went to pick up my car from being detailed. I showered. I shaved, in both directions! I threw on some cologne. Put my tux in the car, drove to the garden where we were married, then I just hung out. Let’s face it there isn’t a whole lot more a man can do. So I hung out with my groomsmen and welcomed guests and family. I had no idea what was happening just a few yards away.

Susan had been preparing for days, weeks, even months. She had planned out her dress, flowers, hair, shoes, etc. She had received pedicures, manicures, skin treatments and other things I didn’t really understand well enough to explain here. On the day of the wedding she had arrived in the morning with her bridesmaids and some close friends. They had taken her to buy new make-up and they proceeded to put just the right mixture of colors on her face to accent the beauty that God had given her. Then they literally spent hours fixing her hair with these little curly things that has miniature roses dispersed throughout. They encouraged her, helped her not to cry, and made her feel special. All the while, she was thinking of what I would think. Will he like this? Will he love me and care for me?

Meanwhile…I was shaking hands.

When the time came I was extremely nervous. But there was that unforgettable moment. The bride music played and I waited for her to come. Since we were in a garden, I wasn’t really sure where I would catch that first glimpse of her. I knew she was coming. You could feel it. You could feel the power of the people standing, praising her. They turned their heads to see how beautiful she was. When I finally saw her father bringing her to me, I was stunned. She was the epitome of beauty. I swelled with pride. That is MY wife! Be jealous! She is mine! For those of you who do not know her, Susan has the most incredible smile in the world. When she saw me, she smiled and I have never felt such pride. I had no idea it would be like this.

The wedding was short. The party was fun, but my face was hurting from smiling. Soon thereafter, we became one flesh, one spirit, complete in Him.

Years later, the Lord brought all of these memories flooding back and as I thought of that pivotal moment in my life the Lord began to teach me. It changed my ministry. I want to give you a glimpse of what I learned.

As we know there will one day be a great wedding when the bride (His church) will be finally joined with the bridegroom (Jesus the Christ, who gave himself up for us). I began to see my wedding through that future groom’s eyes.

See, when Susan walked through that garden to join with me, I swelled with pride because she had worked so hard to prepare herself for this moment. She had cleansed every blemish. She had accentuated every bit of the beauty that God gave her. Her friends had doted on her to prepare her for me and as you have already heard, I was stunned. However, if she had strolled through that garden at the last minute wearing sweats, with her hair in a ponytail and no make-up, I would still love her. I would love her no less. And quite frankly she would have still been beautiful. My pride in that moment was not about her beauty, but about her love. She loved me so much that she toiled preparing herself for me. It was all about preparing the bride for her groom.

I was saddened when the Lord revealed to me the state of the church today. I cried as I saw His bride stroll through His garden wearing the same clothes she slept in. Bed head and smeared mascara. But he smiled, because he loved this redeemed woman of the world. And he looked forward to washing her and putting her in new garments. But He had already provided a way for her to prepare for this day. She just did not take advantage of it. Her friends didn’t come to help. She didn’t plan this moment. The wedding went on, they were joined as one, but it could have been so much better.

It became clear to me then that that was one of the purposes that the Lord had given me. I was the friend of the bride who helps prepare her for that day. I will point out those blemishes, so we can cleanse them. I will help her to choose the dress; I will give her the wakeup call and even go to the gym with her. I will spend myself in this purpose, because I want His wedding to be as good as the one he gave me. I want for the angels and heavenly hosts to turn their heads and gasp at her beauty when the Church is presented to Christ. Holy, Blameless, Beautiful, Perfect, Redeemed.