ONE WORD. The “What If” I Didn’t Plan on Asking in 2016!

For those that know me well or follow me on this blog, you probably remember me proclaiming my word for the year at the beginning of 2016. “What if?” I know that’s technically 2 words, but when you hashtag it – it works. #whatif.

I’m a dreamer and a doer. I love to have my head in the clouds, but there are also times when I just put my head down and get stuff done. It’s a unique tension in my life that I’ve learned to embrace. There have been so many wonderful “What if…” moments this year that I could fill all of 2017 with blogs to inspire what if’s in your own life. However, this is NOT that kind of POST.

This post is not about all the “what ifs” that got me pumped up, it’s about the ONE “what if” that had me jacked up for almost 10 months of this year.

What if…my heart never recovers?

I almost wish I was speaking emotionally or metaphorically about lost love or dreams that were crushed because of circumstances (almost – because I do understand that this has happened for people who struggle with this question and I don’t want to minimize their experience nor would I wish that on anyone). No, I’m speaking about the very real, odd shaped, irreplaceable muscle that pumps the life-blood through our bodies. MY HEART!

cardiomyopathy

Here’s the backstory.

On Feb 12th, I was admitted to the hospital after a trip to the ER where I had some trouble breathing only to be diagnosed with a viral cardiomyopathy. They actually don’t know what causes this, but a very specific virus attacks the heart and weakens it by reducing the percentage of blood it pumps for you. It’s a slow and silent disease that most don’t notice until they visit the hospital for a different symptom and it’s discovered OR you have a cardiac arrest OUT OF THIN AIR no matter your age, health, or physical fitness lifestyle! Your “normal” percentage of blood pumping is 60% (which means every time your heart pumps, 60% is blood and the rest is oxygen and other necessities). I was functioning at 5-10%.

 

After 10 months that started off with wearing a defibrillator life vest and being pumped full of 4 different kinds of medicine, I can say that I’ve seen progress. I quickly rose back up to 35% within 8 weeks! However, the last 7 months have only produced a 10% change (up to 45%) and it seems to have plateaued in the last 3. This should be good news, but because my heart is not back to “normal” yet, I am forced to live on a cocktail of beta blockers, ace inhibitors, and a blood pressure medicine that GREATLY reduces my energy level, mood, and physical ability.

My ONE WORD for 2014 was FOCUS and it’s where I began focusing on my health. I lost 69 pounds in 12 months and with the help of a local doctor, was able to address my metabolism as well my insulin resistance (both of which caused me not to be able to gain muscle and was a fast track to diabetes). Huge thanks got Dr. Galvin, Mike & Katie Dixon (KadiFit), Nate Olsen (HopeFit), and Diamond Dallas Page for his YRG program – and of course all of my friends, family, and church family who supported me on this journey.

So, I spent 16 months getting to know my body better and seeing AMAZING improvements in my health and life… only to spend the last 10 with a governor on my heart that has kept me from experiencing any of the growth and health I had JUST gotten a taste for.

Back to my “What if” question that I never planned on asking this year. What if my heart never recovers?

This kind of question is filled with possible negative answers. There is almost no positive way to spin the direction of this contemplation without blanket phrases like “well at least I’m not dead…” or “ it’s not that bad, who needs to go hiking anyway?” I have close friends that live with chronic pain and illness and have pondered this on their behalf before, but this year it was much harder to move from the theoretical answers to the very real prospect that I might be looking at a NEW NORMAL for my life that I would never want for anyone.

However, one of my more recent messages had to do with the topic of “unanswered prayers.” The kind of prayers that pray for healing & deliverance, but from our perspective God said “NO” or “NOT YET” or anything in between, because nothing seemed to change and maybe only got worse.

One (of the many) scriptures I referenced and has stuck with me is from 2 Corinthians 12:7-8;

2 Corinthians 12:7 Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

Paul speaks of a “thorn.” Scholars and people smarter than me have tried to figure out what it was and all of them have different ideas. Some think it was emotional or spiritual oppression. Some think it might have been mental instability or illness (like bi-polar or depression). Many believe it to be physical on account of his history of being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and in-prisoned over his life.

Whatever it was, he seemed to have landed on an answer from God that brought him a certain amount of peace. I do appreciate that he never stopped praying and asking God to REMOVE the thorn. But the answer didn’t seem to change – I assume based on the fact that the “thorn” remained even after begging God to remove it.

So, to be honest, I’m in a very similar place as I start 2017.

I’m not sure what my ONE WORD will be, nor do I know for certain what the next year holds for me. I do know that as I look back over 2016 (even with my heart condition) God has been incredibly faithful and has done amazing things in and through me, regardless of my health. The stories of life change, through those at my church and those around the world that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of, continue to happen and God continues to use me in ways that ALWAYS surprise me.

I won’t stop asking for prayer over my heart, nor will I stop asking God to completely heal this issue and get me off these medications that govern my daily activity. I don’t think that is dishonoring to God, or at least not until I get a peace that I shouldn’t ask for that anymore.

No, I plan to press forward into a NEW YEAR of incredible WHAT IF’s and the vision God has for me and those around me. I will wake up every day and know that regardless of my seemingly chronic ailment that God’s grace is all that I need and that He always SHOWS UP and SHOWS OFF when I humbly rely on HIM to accomplish more than I could ask or imagine and not my own strength or ability to make things happen.

What if my heart never recovers?

So be it! God will continue to use me and I will continue to live my life for Him! 

Holy Spirit… Who?

By Don Gentry


Do you want to learn how to hear God speak to you? Then you must understand the role of the Holy Spirit. You want to know why you don’t know the Holy Spirit very well, then keep reading. I will warn you that this is longer than most of my posts. This is just a brief snippet of understanding the Holy Spirit; there is nothing fast about understanding His role in our lives. We even live a culture that has influenced us to almost eradicate our understanding of how to communicate with God. I encourage you to read on.

We are told that we have five senses- sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. I would like you to add a sixth sense. Your spiritual sense. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the philosophy of pragmatism hit the scene and attempted to help people resolve some conflict or discrepancies between science, reason, and religion/spiritual thought. You can trace this early philosophical struggle back to the age of enlightenment as well. Before I bore you with the history of Philosophy and how it affects your daily life without you even knowing it, let me just say that these movements have all but erased our ability to engage in a truly meaningful spiritual relationship with our creator.

God has given us the Holy Spirit that we humans might engage in a relationship with Him. The church has taught that we invite Jesus into our hearts, but in reality we put our faith in the work of the fully human fully God incarnation through Jesus Christ. At the point of salvation, we actually invite the Holy Spirit to come live inside of us.

Look at what Jesus says.

John 14:23-26 (NIV2011)
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jesus uses the word “we”, (Dad and I) are sending you our spirit. The advocate, the Holy Spirit is now with us.

Paul gives us a great look at this when he gives the Ephesians instruction on the role of the Holy Spirit as well. We are sealed and given the Holy Spirit at the point of belief in the work of Christ our savior. At that point we have personal access to our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV2011)

The Holy Spirit is the one that resides in our hearts, not Jesus.

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV2011)

Because of all of this, it is the Holy Spirit’s role in the Godhead to keep us in right relationship. That is why the scriptures say:

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)

It is because of these truths and the fact that at the point of creation (yes, we have to believe that God created man) God “breathed” life into man so that we can walk in relationship with the Holy Spirit. God only gave breath to man, not animals or any other living organism. That word “breathed” signified the giving of his Spirit. He has intended on living in us since the beginning. At the point of birth man(kind) then begins their journey of either searching for God or rejecting him. If we choose His path of redemption, He then gives us the power and the access to live in right relationship with himself as if we were walking with God in the garden of Eden. The Holy Spirit is given to us that we might live in relationship with God.

My dear friends, if you have stuck with me thus far, and if you do not know how to communicate with the Holy Spirit, you do not know how to communicate with God.

I could go on and on about what the Holy Spirit has come to do in your life but I fear you haven’t even read this far! I long for the day when God’s children actually yearn to walk closely with their creator!

Let me close with one last warning because we are talking about learning to hear God speak. Jesus goes on to say that the Holy Spirit is the advocate of truth.

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. John 15:26 (NIV2011)

If the spirit is the truth, then we must know that there is also a spirit of deception. There is another power at work in this world other than God, and it is the power of evil and deception. He doesn’t come clothed in red or with a pitchfork in hand. Satan was around at the beginning of creation too. He knows how desperately he screwed up and he wants to take as many people with him as possible. The scriptures warn us that we must learn to test the spirits that exist in this world.

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 1 John 4:1-6 (NIV2011)

The Holy Spirit is more powerful than the spirits that wander in the world, but we must learn to walk in relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins to teach us his voice by speaking to us through the Scriptures. He is the one who wrote the scriptures through men. THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL NEVER GO AGAINST THE WORD OF GOD, THE BIBLE. HE WROTE IT! You will never be able to differentiate the Holy Spirit’s voice in this world if you don’t read the Bible. He does use other sources at times, but He will never neglect what He wrote to us in the first place.

Think about it. Satan tempted Jesus not by misquoting scripture, but by misapplying it. What if Jesus wouldn’t have been able to correct Satan with a proper understanding of the Scriptures?

I am a firm believer that if you don’t know how to hear God, then you are infantile in your belief in Christ that you still argue with God about what sin is, let alone knowing how to discern God’s word.

Living in relationship with God is learning to communicate with the Holy Spirit. When you do that, you will stop asking the question, “how do I learn how to hear God.” If you read this far you are on your way to actually caring enough to hear God speak to you!

It is the absence of our dependence upon the Holy Spirit that causes us to live impotent Christ like lives. Learn to seek Him daily!

How To Talk With Your Students About Love

By Ryan Weber

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

When I was growing up, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Dad was head over heels in love with my Mom.  And it had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of times he told her that he loved her. Although I heard him say it over and over and over, every time he left the house, every time he hung up the phone, whenever he had opportunity, he told her that he loved her.  But those were just the words, there was a deeper reason why I knew my Dad loved her so much.

It was all the things he did.  The little kisses, the overt flirting, the hand holding, the arm around the shoulder when we were at public places, the gifts he’d buy, the trips he planned, the way he just looked at her.

Granted, when I was growing up, these things repulsed me and I threw up in my mouth a little every time I saw it happen.  But everyone knew that he was crazy about her, and it continues to this day.  I’m incredibly lucky to have a set of parents who have stuck together through thick and thin and are now looking forward to their 35th wedding anniversary this year.

My dad still does all those mushy, gooey things.

Now that I am married, I have a brand new appreciation for the way he demonstrated love for his wife. I saw my dad demonstrate love before I even knew what true love was.  And that’s so important when it comes to the life of your student because I want to get this cat out of the bag:

Your student does not want to talk to you about love.  They would rather talk to the mailman, the dentist, Siri, anyone else other than you about love, dating, sex, etc.  This is an area of their lives that they want to explore and keep private. And that’s ok.  It’s our job to guide our children into adulthood, not dictate their every move.  They will not want to open up and share their feelings with you.

But you are a parent and you should share your feelings with them.  It is your job to talk to your students and make sure they go down a path that will honor themselves, their God, you as their parents and their future spouse.  So you need to engage in a healthy and meaningful conversation with your teens.

The Path is starting a series on Valentine’s Day called, “I Kissed Dating Hello,” and The Garage is beginning a series on February 7th called “The Talk.” Both are going to provide wonderful windows of opportunity for you to engage your child in this conversation.  It will allow you to open up to discuss all of the important elements that your kids are probably already aware of, but it can help you frame their minds to a godly and biblical perspective.

What is the purpose of dating? What kind of person should I look for?  What kind of person am I? How do I ask someone out? How do I fight? How do I break up? Why should I wait until I’m married to have sex? What in the world is sex anyway? Is sex bad or good?

Do you know all the Scriptures that relate to love, dating and marriage?  Do you have a child in your home?  It’s time to start memorizing those verses, and pray through their meaning so you can share a biblical perspective.

How are you going to explain to your daughter that her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and she is fearfully and wonderfully made; and no one should take advantage of her (1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalm 139:14)?  How are you going to explain to your son that he needs to make a covenant with his eyes to not look with lust upon a young woman (Job 31:1)?

I would imagine having these conversations with your teens is a lot like bungee jumping.  You stand there for as long as you want to buck up the courage, but eventually you just have to do it. You have to jump and allow the chips to fall where they may. I am praying that the resources that will be provided to you during our Path and Garage series will help you along this journey.

But do not forget, if you’re going to have this conversation with your student (and I pray you have the courage to make that jump), you better be prepared to practice what you preach and love your spouse, kids, coworkers, friends, etc. in the way that Jesus tells us to. That will be infinitely more effective than any awkward conversation you’ll have.

When it comes to talking to your kids about love, demonstration is your best conversation.

Love well, your kids will take notice and listen intently.