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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?

Ep. 22 Jason Price. Overcoming weight issues and finding spiritual victories

Becoming a better leader by trail running

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What trail runnning has taught me about leadership? Yeah that’s an odd sentiment, let alone a prfound starting point for a bolg. Sometimes my greatest profoundenty comes to me during the engagment of what otherwise may seem to be thoughtles endeavors. So i was trail running when this idea came to me.

As an entreprenueral leader, a church planter, and a creative self-starter, I’ve learned some practices that help keep my head afloat. The other day I was on a trainng run, prepapring for a 13 mile trail rce through Kentucky’s stunning Red River Gorge. I’ve been road running most of the year, but now it’s time to venture off the beaten path into some rugged terrain to prove my internal prowess still matches my exteanal fortitude. Trail running has tested both. But, even more importantly it has taught me life lessons. ergo…

  1. be adaptable

I bought my new pair of shoes. I threw on my running gear. I set my course. And it started raining. I hate running in the rain. So, I went to the Kentucky Coffee Tree instead…for a little while. After the rain stopped I ventured out and started my run. Only now, the trail was saturated with mud and slick spots.

Trail running, as with life comes with unexpected circumstances. It may be circumstances that cause you to re-think timing and/or course. It doesn’t mean you have to quit or relegate yourself to anything less. If you keep yourself adaptible you can switch it up and keep moving. The thing about adaptability is that it means you may need to change with the changes. I drive a 4×4, sport a pretty grizzly beard, and raise chickens. That wasn’t always me. But, I planted a church in a community that this fits in. I had to adapt to the culture in which I was sent to serve. Apatability has saved me more than once.

  1. be amiable

You don’t always have to change and adapt, yet you may have to be amiable. The difference? Adaptaion is a change, amiability is the ability to bend without changing. In trail running it’s important to know the course and the destination. If not you will soon find yourself lost and GPS’ing your way home. Know the destination, yet ALWAYS be ready with 3 steps to change your immediate course. I have bit the dust on occasions, albeit a rock or stump that went unseen in too little of time. This happens, But, in order to keep your pace, to keep your step and footing, be able to bend to the trail and terrain in order to dart and pivot as needed when these unexpected delimas show themselves. I have had my personality assessed on several occassions for certaon missions egncies that I’ve served with. The finding is alway the same. 50/50 intravert/extravert. What this means is, that given the occassion and the need, I am just as comfortable being the center of attention and life of the party as I am being the quiet loner, isolated from the crowd. I can lead in front or in back. I am able to do this becuase I am amiable. I can bend without changing.

  1. be applicable

I’ll be homnest, I’ll drop a few dimes in good shoes. If I’m train running, I want a very specific brand, heel strike, sole thickness, toe guard, etc. Very different than my road runing shoes. The way that I train is very different as well. How I train and how a dress is in accordance with what I’m training for. My shoes are relevant to the terrain. I see a lot of people skipping relevancy for “practicality”. Example. I visited a church plant over the weekend. The new church established themselves in the deep urban, spray painted jungle of inner-Cincinnati. During the week they do a great job of engaging the community and byilding relationships. And then, on Sunday monring they attempt to stir awake the community with a cookie cut, traditional service. No one attends to their surprise. They’re not being relevant. They’re wearing slip ons and trying to trail run. Finf what fits for what you’re doing. Find what fit’s for what or who you’re trying to reach. Be applicable to the area.

 

I could go on and on with parallels and metaphors to intersect my two great passions. That’s not the point. In the end, it’s about being a better leader, and being better at doing what you love to do. Sport and life, neither are unilateral. Take these few tips to help you circumvent your next venture and come out on top as a success instead of bitng the dust and dropping out.

Epissode 6. Experiencing and Overcoming Dry Seasons w/Danny O’Toole

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When it comes to experiencing spiritually dry seasons in life, it can be frustrating and downright discouraging. Listen to today’s podcast as Danny O’Toole and I delve into ways to prevent, overcome these seasons and get back into the swing of things!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fit-for-the-kingdom/id1195709802?mt=2

When you’re done, I’d love a 5 star rating and review. That way, more people can find and hear words of encouragment and education.

When demons in hiding show their ugly face: A confession of a once broken pastor.

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I lay across my brother’s body, begging him not to leave me. In just a matter of minutes he was gone and his body lay lifeless. I was too young and not ready to take on the responsibility that he had left me with. How am I suppose to be strong for my parents and my newly wedded wife? The solution seemed to come in the form of sneaking into the living room in the middle of the night to burying my face in the sofa pillow while I unleash screams and sobs; a hidden sorrow. That wasn’t the only thing I buried. I buried my emotions and my weakness. I buried my vulnerability and in the end, ability to heal. Like a dormant malignant tumor, eventually it was sure to rear it’s ugly head. Ten years later to be exact. It came as unsuspected as an ice bath and in a most inappropriate time.  I was busy with life, successfully planting and leading an amazing church. I was innovative and full of energy. “The next high impact missional pastor”. None of that stopped me from hitting the wall and burning myself out, all the while secretly dealing with resurrected, unfinished grief.

In a matter of a few short months grief, laden with stress, sent my life reeling in a direction I never thought possible. I had become virtually non-functioning. Depression was full on. Not only was my body in excruciating pain form having twisted and kinked my spine into scoliosis from internalizing the stress, but my heart was black and suffering. I think of the words to Metallica’s “One”…

“Darkness imprisoning me. All that I see

images-1.jpgAbsolute horror, I cannot live.

I cannot die.

Trapped in myself, body my holding cell.”

I remember lying in a tub of water, sliding down to allow the water level to envelope my face thinking, “one deep lung full, and all this could be over”, or driving down the road thinking, “one whip of the wheel and ‘it’s finished.” Yeah, that dark.

I wonder if you’ve ever felt this kind of pain. I will spare much of the detail for now only to say that miracles ensued, healing eventually took its effect, and this experience left me with a life purpose to return the healing to those others who may feel as trapped or burdened by life. I’ll touch on those details later on. My ministry now is to enact triage to the bleeding, recovery to the lost, and optimization and prevention to the high performer. Those that know me today, who knew before then, know a completely different person and can attest to a holistic, identifiable change. I want to share the two greatest concepts that I came to terms with as a way to encourage you and point you in a direction of hope.

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1. ‘Who’ I am is not ‘What’ I do. 

I mistook my identity in what I did. I was a “church planter”. With that identity I believed more lies, like ‘how I perform’ or ‘how well my church functioned’, was a reflection on who I was and how pleased God was with me. Every day I awoke with a pressure to perform. I had to be reminded that ‘who’ I am is a child of God. That He just loves me. Period. He’s my Father that loves me without me having to perform at a certain level. He wanted to be close to me, and care for me, and shepherd my heart regardless of my weaknesses and depravity. I realized I was loved.

2. I didn’t need what I thought I needed.

I was seeking and needing acceptance from critics and enemies. I was needing affluence and applause from friends. I was needing a successful church. I was needing everything that I didn’t need. As a matter of fact this revelation of what I actually needed came by a book that I’ve never read. The cover was enough to bring a life changing epiphany. The book is called “Jesus+ nothing =everything.” I thought I needed Jesus + lots of other things. I realized,though,  He was enough. His acceptance, His applause, His strength in me was enough. His love was enough. His fellowship was enough. His grace was enough. And I already had all those things!

My delayed grief from my brother’s death was enough to trigger a severe power outage in my life for some time. We may never know or be prepared for what knocks us off our game. However, I have no doubt now what or WHO has the power to reconnect the power source and give life back; not just to live, but live with abundant life. If you’re struggling, don’t give up. Give in to the One that desires to sustain you, and heal you. He is Faithful and He is hope. And so, this is the primary role of Trent Holbert Fitness, to be a help to you to discover the healing you need, both physically AND physically.

Blessings

Secret Hurt. When pain is masked by strength.

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Much of what I do with Fit For The Kingdon is coaching people out of seasons of hurt. Primarily, that lot falls to pastors, church planters, and church staff as I can offer a greater level of empathy, seeing as how that’s what I am and I understand from experience. It ceratinly doesn’t stop there. I coach athletes, businessmen, lawyers, etc. People from all walks of life. The interesting thing that I have found is where or better yet, who these people are. On the surface,many of the ones that I coach go unnoticed becuae of their facade of strength. They’re leaders, elite performers. Just this past weekend I was surpirsed to find this to be true with a professional elite athlete that I had an interview with. Why did this surprise me? In the words of U2, “Everybody hurts”. I was able to minister to him and create a spiritually connected relationship that has hopes of repairing the damage of stress and pain.

Hidden hurt amongst strength. 

I’m a high performer. I never stop gong, I keep plates spinning, and I soin them well. Most people would never be able to identify me going through a difficult season. Unfortunaelt, as a high performer, I often refuse to let that darkness break through the cracks of my facade. As a matter of fact, as a matter of fact, as I write this blog, I do so from a convention of the gathering of pastors from all over the Commonwealth. The last time it was held here, I spent two day here walking around in pain so severe thav I could barely function, and no one noticed – A darkness that I will never forget. Today I’m recovered, yet I’m reminded to look clossley at those who walk past me or shake my hand with a smile. Many of them are secretly hurting. As, a matter of fact, within an hour of arriving yesterday at this convention, a fellow pastor took me aside to plead for help as he is severely afflicted. He is an exception to the rule, as most will fake it till they make it.

It’s hard to identify hidden pain wrapped in strength. I believe the reason it’s so hard, however, is that we aren’t looking. We don’t consider high performers, or “strong” people who are able to fake it till they make it. I would just say, stop and re-consider what it takes to be such a high performer. Re-consider the stresses that must go into keeping all those plates spinning. Re-consider that as a high performer, they don’t possess the emotional lingual skills to even know how to ask for help. (Meaning) they know how to be strong emotionally, yet they don’t know how to be weak and vulerable enough to let it out.

The next time you encounter someone who is ‘gettin it done’, would you keep in mind that that apparent strength and perfomance may be that person’s greatest weakness, blockading a hidden world of secret pain? Maybe it’s you. If you are going throu such a season, I implore you to allow someone the right to know, and the right to speak and minister to you. If you feel so lonely and isolated that you feel there is no one, let me assure you there is. His name is Jesus. And He invites anyone who is burdened or heavy laden to come to Him that they may find rest for their souls. He is a friend that sticks closer than even a brother. I hope that you might call out to Him and allow hime to be your strength during your time of weakness.

 

blessings

When honor is lacking; being ‘unfit’ for the Kingdom

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I was raised by a very stolid, demanding father. He worked hard with two calloused hands that supported his family and fed his children. He missed out on a lot of celebration and youthful activities with his two boys, yet what he lived by was a code of honor that he believed in. Hard work and honesty. It is what he instilled into us. My life lessons at the end of my adolescence  could be summarized into two very uncompromising categories; do not lie and be committed to your word. This became our ‘stand’. A stand is something that defines you, that you are not willing to compromise on. Regardless, if it gets tough or tempting, you maintain that value…and THAT is called honor.

Being ‘fit for the Kingdom’ is in reference to Jesus Christ’s teaching and remark to His disciples that ‘anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. This is about commitment to your ‘stand’. His disciples’ stand was to follow Him and his teachings. Unfortunately, many make that stand, only to let go of the plow when they encounter a stump or some other metaphorical obstacle . Perhaps not even an obstacle but something more tempting and pleasurable than ‘plowing ground’.

We live in a time and society that seems to be more unfit for the Kingdom that ever. A man’s word no longer has meaning. Handshakes are cordial, yet empty gestures. Just this week, I’ve suffered very detrimental blows to my hope and joy at the hands of men who I had given some reliance to their word, because they chose to be dis-honoring to their word and commitment.

What do we do when such collateral damage has ill effects in our lives? It would be easy to eschew society as a lost cause and become bitter. Believe me, today I am very hurt and fighting my own bitterness. Jesus, however was speaking of a Kingdom not of this earth.  Perhaps our answer lies not in man at all. When I think of the most honorable acts given by men, my mind drifts to those who sacrificed their lives for their country. Or, even to the smaller scale of a man who would dive on a live hand grenade to save the lives of his company, his friends.  The Bible even speaks to such honor as an act of love saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” Though a man would perhaps more easily give his life to those he loves, would he be so honorable to give his life to those who hate him? Jesus did. He willingly laid down his life FOR the people who took it. When I am wounded by a dishonorable human being, I look to the One who gave me His Word, and keeps His Word at ALL times.

Choose today to be a man (or woman) of honor. Stop and consider your ‘stand’. What are those character values that you are unwilling to compromise? When you decide that then you are ready to exercise honor. And THAT is called character. Being fit for the Kingdom is a mindset that forges more than physical fitness, but personal…hard working, commitment keeping fitness.

Semper Fidelis

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