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Cross belong on shoulders, not steeples.

 

Assume the position for contraversy. The title alone does it. This blog by no means is meant to disrespect the church or the idea that steeples are in any way or reason wrong. This is based on a thought I had this week.

In and around 300 A.D. when Constantine established locations set aside for the church to exercise corporate worship, he took the church out of its intimate, organic, communal setting of homes and public places. Church was the people, bound together in a committed love relationship with one another and the Lord Jesus. Merriment with food and fellowship, preaching and worship, and serving the world around them was just life lived out of this love community. Natural. Eventually the church coagulated inside of brick and morter, scheduled to meet, and isolated from the community they once served as neighbors. No longer are they walking in their midst (on mission), “going about doing good” as said of Jesus Christ Himself. Now we have become weekly isolationists awaiting the hour long gathering. How can we conitinue to feed, heal, and visit the downtrodden? We need to invite them to us! We need a sign, a beacon, a recognizable symbol. Aha, a cross! And we shall hoist it high enough, over atop all other buildings. Then the lame and halt can hobble themselves to us!

Ladies and Gentlemen, how many friends are tearing the roofs off our churches to hoist their lame friends down inside for a miraculous healing?

Jesus “went about doing good”. He positioned himself in community, often times traveling out of His way to do an act of good. He sent His disciples out to travel to the town in order to be blessings, commanding them to pray blessing of peace upon the houses they entered. He sent them to the highways and hedges- to the lame, the halt, the blind, the demonic- the lost. Each one baring their own cross to die upon as they loved their neighbor as themselves. Ok, here’s the thing…we need more martyrs and less celebrities. As a pastor, I can tell you, we are pressured to preach for numbers, not neighbors. We’ve confused missiology for methodology. Programs. Money. Most young pastors today have a seminary education…yet don’t have any training in a “tent making” trade. They know, without their church salary, they can’t survive. Believe me, that pressure. Pressures to perform,perhaps even emulate the “hot shot preachers” with the mega churches, skinny jeans, and book deals.

It’s time we pull the crosses down from the steeples and place them on our shoulders. We cannot be the center of attraction, we must be the catalysts for missions. Deny yourself, your comforts. They will know you not for the size of the cross upon your steeple but the love you have one for another. By that, they will know you are His. And by THAT, He will be exalted and there will be no need to exalt a steeple. The crosses upon our shoulders are the crosses that feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and unshackle the bonds of the oppressed. They do it without church votes and church funds. They do it whithout others knowing or seeing. They do it in the spirit of the early missionaries to Asia and India, who carried all their earthly belongings inside their own caskets.  They do it because the cross is love for their neighbor.

Having the faith to walk upon the water.

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Peter was the only disciple willing to step out of the boat and do something no other human had ever done before. He walked on water. As the Lord Jesus bid him to come, in Peter’s mind, it must’ve seemed safer with Jesus on the waves than without Jesus in the boat. The other eleven disciples, huddled in fear and dismay, must’ve thought Peter was crazy to attemp such a thing. Isn’t it, however, what Jesus is bidding us all to do? The boat of “safety” is no place for a follower of Christ. He is calling each of us to live in such a way, that what seems safe, casual, or predictable is essentially more dangerous and degradating than the seemingly foolish actions of following him! I’m going to speak as one who has walked upon the water. I’m also going to speak as one who is currently standing on the water.

What do I mean by that? Nearly a decade ago, I followed God in a vision to plant a church. I’d never done it. Heck, I’d never seen it done! With a wife and two babies at home, I resigned from a healthy, lucrative church position to step out of my boat of familiarity and comfort to follow Jesus into waves deeper than I had imagined. I resigned on a Sunday. I was jobless and homeless on Monday. That following morning I drove around looking for work and a home. I can tell you that in the days and years to come, as I found myself hanging out ouside of my boat, walking upon the waves of shear faith and dependance, I saw God move in ways I could never have imagined. The remarkable stories of Moses, Daniel, Elijah, even the disciples all became more real because for the first time, miracles in my life had become normal and regular. I identified with the feats and acts of biblical proportions that, up until tha point, I had only read in Sunday School lessons. It was that season of walking upon the water that gave me taste for that type of living, causing anything less in my life to become dissatisfying, to say the least.

Fast foward to today. My family has again sensed a very real calling into a vision of God’s plan for our lives. Only this time, He is calling us out further, and deeper than we’ve ever gone before. As our family prepares for a new season of church planting, we realize that we are headed for deeper, shark infested waters. No longer we will have the familiarity of being indigenous to our surroundings, with family and friends to help us. We are moving miles away into a location where we know no one. Not a soul. We’re going to a place that is entirely different than what we are ust to, into an area of incongruent values and lifestyles. And, to do this, we have had to shed every piece of possible flotation devise. Behold, how God has called us to walk upon the water this time.

We, in the recent months, have essentially paired down to the bare essentials. We started by selling our home, giving away the majority of our belongings, and moving into a 250 sq. ft. camper. Yes, this caused a circus type attention, whereby we became an oddity to our community. It got worse. We began to pair down more, and more, and more. Selling this…giving away that. And, so now, here we stand. Virtually nothing more than the clothes on our backs. We have commited to our church to go, having transitioned our leadership to function in a way as to send us as missionaries. It’s done. And also, having committed to our new location to come. I’ve broken my parents heart. The die has been cast. Our farm is sold. In a couple of days I will travel down and spend a week looking for a new home and a new job. As I am away, my wife and children will be packing our belongings, cleaning out the camper, and moving into a borrowed apartment owned by our church. By the time I return, we will be homeless. The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests…we will have no place to call our own where we may lay our heads. If the Lord doesn’t show up, we sink. 

THAT is the point. THAT is walking on water. THAT is what He has called us in to. We will either walk by faith or by sight. Faith saves. Sight sinks. Even as I write this, our decision has caused many friends to turn into distant skeptics. We are in a position of isolated abandonment. No longer do we have the friends, the family, the denominational support that we thrived in for so long. Many, or if not most, of them are still in the boat- looking at us with fear and dismay. Yet, we still hear our Savior bidding us to come.

So how does it feel to be walking on the water? You want to know the truth? A little stressful. To think it would be otherwise is sensational and idealistic. This was Jesus’ warning about following Him. It is NOT easy. It’s timultuous. At times, persecuting. All the while, challenging to stay focused and faithful. There are times I feel myself sinking. Everytime though, that sinking is met with a pulling up from my Savior’s hand. It’s definitely a feeling of adventure and it most certainly has a faith building component. You may ask, “you’re walking on water, how much more faith can you have?” Well, I believe there is a exorbant jump in faith even after the time spent walking on water as we are returned back to the boat. You see, after Jesus settles us into a new life, with our needs met and lives blessed, we will then take a deep breath and cry out with the same excitatory relief as the disciples to say “Surely You ARE the Son of God!” We will look in hindsight and say, “Did we really just do that!?” “Did you see what He did!” God, You REALLY are amazing!” That hypertrophic effect on our faith will initiate a spiritual growth as we’ve never seen before!

I am glad to be walking on water at the moment. It is the greatest sense of adventure I’ve ever lived. Total uncertain certainty! He’s got this! He’s going to protect, provide, and press us on to greater things. I know this, because my eyes are not on the waves. They remain fixed upon Him, the author and finisher of my faith. So, I’m asking you, to where…to what is He bidding you to, that you might be forced to step in to – that will require you to leave all that is safe, comfortable, or familiar? What safety nets are you holding on to? How can you know faith unless you step out of your boat, and tread water under your feet?

Why my family is givng away nearly everything we own; lunacy or liberty?

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I’m writing this blog in response to a spirit of bewilderment among my community and people who know me. I’ve been asked if I’ve lost my mind. Why? Because I’m giving away most of what I own. On the surface, that seems like lunacy. Even the thought of it makes me chuckle. Yet, with the proper backstory there may be some explanation, though, I can’t insure any more understanding.

My wife and I have been married for 15 years. For 15 years we’ve lived under the remorseful and shameful position of debt. Some of it was not our fault, most of it was. We pay our bills and survive and call that living. We have come to the conclusion that that is not living. We’re missing out on freedom. Freedom is living. We’re missing out on life experiences. Experiencing life is living. We’re missing out on the opportunity to bless others. Blessing others is living. And so, we took a huge leap of faith and decided to sell our home of about 1900 sq ft and down size into a 250 sq ft space. Even with this adjustment, we will still have running water, electricity, heat, air, fridge, stove, and satellite television! We’ll still be living better that 2/3 of the rest of the world. With this move we CANNOT take all our stuff. Stuff…that’s the point of this blog.

Our stuff has never brought us happiness. We’ve accumulated it, piled it up, shoved it in storage, tripped over it, and regretted it. Our treasure is just not in our stuff. Now, I’m not against having stuff. That’s just not where our sense of happiness is derived. So we made the decision to give it away. And this decision has caused so many to question us and even criticize us.

Our reasons

1. We don’t need it. What need do we have for 3 bedroom suites in a camper? Why would we hang on to things that we would only have to pay someone to store for us? THAT, to us, is lunacy.

2. Others have a need for it. Aaron is a young man. He’s a recovering heroin addict with a wife and a baby on the way. He is working hard at his recovery and finding his little family a house. The baby is due any day now. Aaron and his family had a need for our stuff. As he drove off with a pickup truck and tailer full of our stuff, he was teary eyed at the way God had generously provided for him.

3. I am raising world changers. My sons are 12 and 10. What they see in their mother and I are considered Gospel truth in their eyes. At this moment in their lives, we are making indelible marks that will shape their character and life choices forever. It’s important to us that they learn charity, love, grace, mercy and hospitality now, and to see that in us (the way that I saw it in my parents). We want them to see that we live by faith not by sight.

4. We our now investors- not spenders. Jesus warned against laying up treasure on earth where rust and moth corrupt or thieves steal, but to ‘store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven.’ We wake up every day considering how we might make eternal investments. As Emperor Titus would exclaim at the end of the day, “I have wasted today!”, if he felt he’d not blessed someone that day…we count our days, and lives a loss if we’ve ended it still full of out “stuff” and have not blessed someone else. Our treasure is on Heaven.

5. We are followers of Jesus. We read the red letters in our Bible and take Him at His Word. We follow Him, not American consumerism and aquire-ism.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38

… freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Where is the confusion and how can that be misinterpreted to mean only things of little value? So, it’s ok to give little, but things of value? Lots of things of value? Big things? Well, yes, all of it.

I’m not monastic. I don’t believe any holiness or righteousness is accredited to me for living modestly or giving things away.

Why not sell you stuff? (I’m asked this a lot.)

For what? To buy more stuff? 

Well you’re going to have needs of your own.

My God has met every need I’ve ever had, He continues to do so daily. Why would He stop? My debt is from the moments that I failed to trust Him and got ahead of Him.

I think what people don’t understand is that THIS makes my family happy and fulfilled. Hard to believe for some, but actually we find immense joy in being able to meet needs of others, knowing that God has blessed with the ability to do so. Do we WANT to live in a camper while we slay the debt dragon? Well, no. But we’ve prayed long and hard for God to relieve our sin and debt and we don’t expect Him to send black birds with $10 bills paper clipped to their beaks (though He could) to pay off our debt…we believe we have a responsibility to the Lord in putting forth some effort. ‘If we pray for rain, we need to plow the field.’

Don’t worry, if it was up to me we’d live in a yurt, tucked away in the Cascades where we’d hunt and fish, smoke my pipe by a fire, play my banjo, and count the stars every night. What we’re doing isn’t THAT hard for homesteading hippies who love Jesus and others. 🙂

Our devotion to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings has created in us very personal convictions. These convictions lead us to do very odd things as far as Western Civilization is concerned, which sort of out of congruency with what Scripture actually teaches.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. James 2:14-18

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. Proverbs 3:27

9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Perhaps I’ve lost my mind. I feel like I’ve gained my heart…and freedom. 

How to bio-hack your way out of stress

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Do you struggle with moments of stress and anxiety? Let me rephrase that. Are a human being? Of course you deal with stress and anxiety. Granted, some of us have better coping skills, genetics, and emotional hygene that naturally help us to alleviate the damaging effects of stress. There are just some people who are cucumbers; just cool. They go with the flow, survive by adaptation, and quickly rise above the stress modalities. Admittedly, I am not one of those. This comment is not science backed, but I often wonder if part of my struggle is hereditary. I have excess worriers in my family. Added to that is lifestyle and career that is chock full of stress. I am a pastor and church planter. I have my personal struggles that I deal with plus the struggles of a congregation. I admit to you that I’ve always had a proclivity to gravitate toward anxiety. It’s something I have to keep in serious check. In 2011, I hit the wall. I burned the candle at both ends. I fried my hard drive. Use whatever metaphore is available…I was a wreck. Stress and anxiety nearly took my ministry, my family, and my life. I’ve spent years since then developing better, personal techniques for dealing with these tenencies.

I still struggle, though now I am able to more quickly identify, assess, and impliment healthy bio-hacks that have helped me navigate and stay healthy. Now, before I get into these techniques, understand that I am a Christian. I follow the teaching of the Bible and am grounded in them for daily practice, diciplines, and faith. As a part of my faith, I regard as truth “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) There is nothing more saving than my meditation and relationship with God through Jesus Christ and this has proven itself over and over. Some of what I’m gong to mention may seem a bit unorthodox, yet I believe God has given us an array of faculties to use as a way to operate in optimal health. Though I do not use pharmacueticals for stress relief, I do not demonize their use.

  1. I listen to my body. When stress arizes, it triggers physiological signals. Sometimes I don’t even know I am stressed if not for these physical signals. I’ve become in-tune with these signals enough to be able to stop any detrimental effects before they get started. My breathing will become short and shallow. I can feel my body tempurature spike rather quickly and my cortizol levels rise. Adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinepgrine begin surging through my blood stream. My blood vessels constrict and my skin tingles around my neck, face and ears.
  2.  My immediate step begins with a change in breathing. I stop what I’m doing and begin some deep diaphragmatic breathing or some box breathing; doing nothing but concentrting on each breath in and each breath out. I do this for several minutes.
  3. I have a mantra that i repeat to myself. No, not the eastern philisphical type of mantra. The Bible says “the truth will set you free.” As I begin to relax my body, my mind relaxes on this thought, “All in my world is good.” How can this be true? Just within the past couple weeks, much has happened that has deeply stressed me out. Because, this world is not MY world. I belong to a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. That is where my true citizenship lies. In THAT world, God’s will reigns supreme and for that fact alone, all is good. Even everything that happens that stresses me out, though it may be damaging to this temporal world or MY fleshly will, it is working perfectly in God’s planning and providence.
  4. I get get out of breath. A little run or some exercise does more than the body good. It will flush those stress hormones, utilizing them, instead of allowing them to continue to circulate. Also, exercise increases dopamine and seratonin in the brain. We runners call that the “runners high.” these are the opposite of stress hormones.
  5. I tap into herbal alternatives and nootropics. Theres an array of natural stress reducers on the market and much reearch and education in this area is deserving. Ashwaganda is a fantastic adrenal builder. Gabba is a neurotransmitter with a soothing, calming effects. So is L-theanine,  and 5-HTP.
  6. This one is a really weird one but studies have shown the benefits, but I use what’s called “frequency therapy” to promote calming brain activity. It’s called binural beats and is really cool. We know that our cognition works differently with sets or measures of different brain waves. Our excititory nervous response to different stimuli have an effect on our learning, creativity, restfulness, or calming. Ideally, when it comes to reducing our brain’s stress signals we would opt for the “Theta” brain wave..as opposed to somethimg like “alpha” which could result in higher stress or impulsive decision making which is bad during times of high hightend stress. So, I use my ear buds and a free app called “brain waves” and it emits 2 seperate whole tone frequencies into each ear, resulting in my brain harmonizing with the resulting “binural” frequency, in this case the “theta” frequency. Think of a piano being harmonized to a tuning fork. This puts my brain into de-stress mode rather quickly. 

Stress and axiety are common place and vastly responsible for a myriad of diseases and life threatening health issues. I’ve stressed my body to the point of depleting my adrenal glands and twisting my lumbar spine into acute scoliosis. Even worse was the depression and suicidal thoughts. Stress and anxiety are nothing to ignore and hide. Perhaps one of the greatest practices for stress relief is talking it out with a friend. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” (Proverbs 27:17)  Listen to your body and let someone else listen to you. Above all, I hope you know that God’s ear is always attentive and his presence always comforting. Consider some of these practices the next time you feel a stressful situation effecting you negatively. It actually may be your answer for turning it around into something positve and efficatious to your life.

 

 

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