Testimony From a Reader

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I have had people through the years share with me how much my story has meant to them but this testimony I received recently really struck a nerve with me. Maybe because it hit so close to home in my mind and reminded me of the depth of despair I was in when I was at my deepest darkest point.

As I have said many times, stories like the one below are not just about selling more books but about sharing what God has done with my simple story and how he can use what YOU have gone through for His glory too!

Here is the testimony I received from a reader. I pray it encourages you AND helps you know and recognize that you are not alone in the fight.

“I just finished your book. I can’t say just how much it touched my heart and soul. As soon as the new church I want to go to opens back up I am going to go. I am going to call the pastor tomorrow and ask him when I can start going.

I have been sick with a disease since I was 10 years old. I have been lost many times on the journey of life and am recovering now from being lost and making the wrong choice when it came to trying to take my life. I was in so much pain that all I wanted was for the pain to stop. All I remember is waking up in the ambulance and being so mad that my plan didn’t work. That was about 8 months ago and now I can say I am glad that I didn’t lose my life that lost moment.

Thank you for sharing your story and making me feel like I am not so alone in this world.”

As I pray for this new friend, I pray for you as well. That you would sense God in the middle of your darkest night and that Jesus’ great love would intersect you in a miraculous way.

There is just as great a chance of something wonderful happening in your life tonight as there is something terrible. How about you expect a MIRACLE and not just more crap in life? You can do it. I am cheering you on!

Prayer and Harry Potter Don’t Mix

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I hope you liked the pic of Harry Potter and the Bible. It helps me illustrate something very important when it comes to prayer in the life of a believer. Some people believe that if you pray the right “incantations” in scripture then you can get what you want as long it was the right length, said with the right tone and said by the right person. Others don’t understand why people even pray because they think that God knows everything anyways so why tell him things he already knows. And still some believe that if you only pray enough then life will go right for you and nothing bad will happen to you. I think all of these definitions are incorrect.

To me prayer is more about reminding us and God of his promises and that we are basing our life off of the truths found in scripture and speaking those things over our lives. Just because a prayer has the right tone to someone and words to make sure that it is fighting the demonic realm at that perfect moment to have the maximum impact is saying that the FORM we use in prayer does something in the Spiritual realm. First of all, that is not Biblical. The Bible teaches the power of prayer is not in US but in Christ who is in us. Our part is to be obedient in praying and trust the results to God. Even though we say believe it is about God’s power we still pray as though we are the ones doing the work and that can get us into real trouble causing unmet expectations in our relationship with God. When we see prayer as a reminder to us, God and even the authority we have over the devil, we use it in a different way.

I am a person that needs reminders for everything. I want to let you in on a secret. Some people who know me say that I have an uncanny knack for remembering names. Although I do think I am natural at remembering people’s names, this doesn’t come without help. In my notes on my phone, I have a note called “names” where I type people’s names I just meet with some interesting piece of information or something that will help me remember them the next time I see them. It has saved me so many times with remembering people’s names that it is not even funny. Prayer is the same way! When I pray I am reminding myself of all the promises that God made to me in scripture and setting my day in a way that says, “God, I want your mind today and let me remember that even though I am trying to become more like you every day, that I ALREADY have all the things I need to be successful today because I follow and trust you.” That takes prayer from a laundry list of “what I need” to “I can do these things” as a reminder of the power of Christ in me.

I am blessed and highly favored in life not because of what I do BUT what I do is a reflection of Christ’s perfection in me. And when that reflection is not as “shinny” as it should be it is probably a reflection of my prayer life and time not spent with God. When I chose to pray I set my mind, heart and gaze for the day on higher things and not just on my earthly situation. Prayers that are REMINDER focused help me put my faith in Christ and his ability to do what he needs to do in me and through me. It also sets precedence with the devil and reminds him of his place in my world and my life. This is also important in when I get in a situation that seems overwhelming I use prayer as a reminder as to how BIG my God is and how little my problem is.

The other important thing to remember with prayer is that we need to not only speak and be obedient but also take time to listen! Prayer needs to be a two way street with God and not us just doing all the talking in the relationship. I truly believe that when we are obedient and spend time in prayer that God will share things with us. For me, as an example, God will just put people on my heart/mind to say a prayer for them. Sometimes I will text them or put it on Facebook to let them know they are getting prayer but sometimes I just pray and don’t say anything. This comes from just taking the time to slow down my day and listen.

When we stop thinking of prayer as a magic incantation and more of an act of obedience that sets our minds on higher things we will be less concerned about the outcome of our prayers and more focused on God’s perfect will in our life. And when we think of prayer as a time to listen as much as we talk then we begin to REALLY build the relationship that God wants us to ultimately have with him.

The Shack; Helpful or Hurtful?

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The Shack. Probably one of the most polarizing Christian movies to come out in a long time. I have read many blogs and opinion pieces based on the movie and wanted to check it out for myself to see what the hubbub was about. The primary reason was because of opinions from people I respect and admire on both sides of the issue. I had to find out who was “right” and who was “wrong”…right? Haha (By the way, there are a lot of spoilers in here so you if you have not read the book or seen the movie, just skip to the last “summary”paragraph of the blog).

All kidding aside, I truly enjoyed the movie but could see how people who are against the movie could interpret what they wanted with it. This blog, and my opinion for that matter, is only from my worldview, what I have experienced in life and how the movie affected me in my journey with God.

I have never read the book so I had no point of reference for what I was going to see only the opinion of my wife, who had read it a long time ago, and a gentleman who lived in our town home complex who had suggested I read it. He came from a very poor understanding of God’s love and forgiveness and had been abused in the church by a priest and was very far and distant from God. When he had read the book he said that it helped him reconcile with God and even work towards forgiving the man who abused him. I thought that was amazing since my interaction with him was when I was going through my eye situation and he was someone that God had laid on my heart many times. When I saw the movie was coming out I instantly thought of him and his journey with God and all the ups and downs.

I want to say something VERY important before I get into a couple of points about the book and my opinion on what I saw. If you are a follower of Christ and have people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet around you (if you don’t, then go find some) and think that ANY single movie is going to cause people to turn to Jesus then you are wrong. When Christian’s think of movies like this as a DESTINATION and not a part of the JOURNEY with God then they will get into error. What I mean is that you cannot build theology on a movie like this and neither can you throw out all the wonderful references to God and his redemptive, patient and overwhelming love for his creation. We cannot be LAZY in our discipleship of people who don’t know Jesus yet or who are just starting a walk with him. Movies like this can be an amazing PART of helping people walk through pain in life. To help them forgive themselves from their past, forgive others who have hurt them and help people see that bad things will happen all through life with no respecter of person.

Of course, everyone needs to evaluate the movie for himself or herself and I respect people on both sides. I will say this though, for those of you who do not support the movie, I pray you are finding ways to talk to people about forgiveness of themselves or hurt from the church or from God and recovering from devastating life events. This movie is not the only vehicle for that kind of thing but we should always be looking for ways to bridge the gap to where people exist in their pain. The main vehicle for me is also my book and why I titled it “Holy Crap” and not “Eye of the Storm” for example. It was intentional and probably cost me a lot of money from publishers that loved the book but not the title. It was more important for me to be edgy with the title than to be known as a famous published author.

There are a lot of points I could bring up but I wanted to address a couple of the big ones that people have brought up.

God as a woman
There is a very important line in the movie where God basically says to Mac, “From what you have been through, I didn’t think that you needed to have a man/father in your life right now.” Mac had poisoned his abusive father when he was a child and had a VERY twisted thought of men in authority. For me, I did not take that as a dig at removing the “man” or “father” aspect of God as much as it was God meeting Mac where he was. I remember when I was in my darkest days and wanting to end it all because I didn’t see value in life. God met me where I was whether it was through people interacting with me, praying for me or just doing what they could to love on me. That is the God I saw exhibited in this movie. The other proof that it was not a feminizing of God was that after Mac sees his dead father in the movie and gets some healing/closure, God shows up as a man. Disputing the idea that the movie was only trying to remove the masculinity from God and a greater emphasis put on God meeting us at the point of our need.

Mac and God talking about God’s wrath and God’s comment about sin being its own punishment
When I heard this in the movie I had to think about what it meant to me. Some have said that it was only telling “half the story” of God and his relationship to man but I want to bring up something else to think about. God’s righteous anger at man is not based on his hate for us but for the things we would do in life to not accept his love. That is different than saying that God punishes because we are “being bad” in life. God’s anger is based on disappointment not on hate. I know this sounds like I am splitting hairs here, but I think it is important that people who don’t know Jesus yet in life understand that God doesn’t come from a place of “do this or else because I inherently hate you” but from a place of “do this because it will be good for you, I love you and it will keep you from hell.” Those are very different aspects of judgment and it is not the place for a movie to educate people on things like that but OUR responsibility to share with people we are or SHOULD BE discipling. There is also a line in the movie when God appears to Mac as a man and asks him to forgive the man who murdered his daughter. He essentially says that every evil action has a consequence. That doesn’t sound like a God that says, “It’s ok to just live how you want and I will forgive you and you are guaranteed to make it to heaven.” Again, my opinion, but I think it was an appropriate balance to the former comment about sin being it’s own punishment.

There were three other important elements in the move that were great and need to be highlighted.

Even when life seems like a mess, it still has beauty and a grand design
There is a point where Mac is ready to walk away from the Shack and the Holy Spirit connects with him and asks for his help in the garden. As he is walking into the garden he says, “this looks like a mess” because there are plants, flowers, vines and leaves all over the place. The Holy Spirit asks Mac to help remove an area of the garden that eventually will be the place that he finally has closure with his dead daughter. The Holy Spirit tells Mac, “The ground needs to be dug up so that other things can grow.” The illustration is that the garden represents Mac’s life. As the camera pulls away from the garden, which looked like a mess from the ground, it has perfect symmetry and intentional beauty from God’s perspective. How many times in life do we not see the perfect work that God is doing in us when our lives just look and feel like a mess. God is always creating beauty from EVERYTHING we go through whether it is digging up weeds or planting new greenery.

Discipleship is important and so is church
The character played by Tim McGraw plays a simple yet important role in the life of Mac in the movie. He is a friend from church who lives across the street and is invested in his life. He mentions that he has history with Mac’s family and he does a good job, as an example, of giving Mac space and being there when Mac is ready to respond. This is probably one of the best examples I have seen in a movie like this with people going through a painful season of life, and someone wanting to help but not overwhelming people with lots of “religious talk” when all they need is for someone to be there to walk with them. I thought this was powerful and reminded me of many times people who I know and love were there at just the right time to lend just the right amount of support, Spiritual or otherwise.

I also liked how the movie depicted church as not just a place where everyone is a hypocrite but just people dealing with all kinds of things under the surface and human. I was reminded again of the fact that without the church and the support of other believers that were praying for me through my pain I would not be on this earth to help people. There was a scene where Mac is an older man in church with his family and was not able to worship or sing any songs and was distracted by the turmoil inside. Then at the end of the movie you see him in church again worshipping with his family and enjoying his mental and emotional freedom he found. I loved the illustration that the church was as much a part of his healing as it was a place he felt fear because of his father.

That pain from the past leaves a mark in people’s life when it is not dealt with
This is probably the most important lesson of the movie for me that unresolved pain in life will always catch up with you no matter how well you try to hide it. In the movie, you see Mac being able to cover the pain of the his past with his family and the guilt of poisoning his abusive dad fairly well until tragedy strikes and his daughter is kidnapped and killed. It is so much like life and the things that people deal with; it takes everything for people to cover up the pain from past scars but when they reach a tipping point it all comes out and no one is left untouched by the hurt. If there is a lesson to learn from the movie it is that God WANTS to take that pain of past hurts away but we need to be willing to GIVE those things to him. There is a line in the movie where Jesus says that he doesn’t want robots but people willing to follow him. Such a great reminder for us all that our free will is a powerful gift that we give to those we follow.

So what did I think about the movie? I thought it was very entertaining and an important reminder of the love of God and how deep and wide it goes in EVERYONE’S life. When we think of the love of God it is not just restricted to followers of Christ but EVERYONE. For God so loved THE WORLD that he gave Jesus. It helped me think about forgiveness issues in my own life and making sure that I am not harboring bitterness at God or others. Also that God is operating from a place of wanting me to win and not waiting to punish me for my failures. He is still sad that my choices bring consequences but is cheering me on to greatness.

Did the movie make me want to read my Bible more? Yes. Did it help reinforce my feelings that God saved me from wanting to kill myself because of his love for me? Absolutely. Is the movie a good building block for your theology? No, and I don’t think ANY movie is for that matter. I really believe that this movie is going to help a lot of people through some very difficult issues and it is going to start some GREAT conversations about who God is in people’s lives. So believers need to be ready to minister to people who watch the movie and want more information. What those people need is not for someone to try and help them understand hell. Those people are already on their way there if they don’t know Jesus so why not use an opportunity like this movie to help steer someone towards God?

All just my opinion, but I am always thinking of how to go get the obscure lost person who doesn’t know up from slant about God and will probably go see a movie like this with or without my approval. I really believe that even the people who are boycotting the film love Jesus and want the best for those who don’t know God and want them to operate and not be led astray. I also think it is important that we realize movies like this can be great opportunities for people to talk about who God is in their life and maybe make necessary changes that will determine their destiny with Christ. I can tell you that no one will be asking me about who God is to them if they go see Deadpool 2 when it comes out. But just maybe The Shack will give me an opportunity to be a part of a changed destiny.

 

Don’t Be “Nearsighted” or “Farsighted” In Pain

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Below is a quick paragraph from my book, Holy Crap; Finding God’s Presence In Your Pain. You can click here for more information about how to pick up your own copy.

From Chapter 3: The Definition of C.R.A.P.
“We allow the devil victory in our lives when we let him keep us farsighted on the PAIN in life (making us think painful crap will never end) and nearsighted on the PLAN that God has for our lives (making us think God doesn’t have a plan to teach us something greater than the things we know at present).”

There were MANY times I thought that my pain, trouble and sickness would never end during the four years I was sick. Usually, the lowest times for me was when the doctor would have me try a new medication to pair with the prednisone I would be on and it would fail and I would have to be on up 120 mg doses of prednisone again. Those low points were coupled with a fact I had constructed in my mind that what I was going through could NOT be something beneficial for my development as a person and follower of Christ. These two firm impressions in life sent me on a downward spiral that affected my attitude, my focus in what I was going through and almost had me end my life.

I don’t say these things to make people feel bad for me or that what I dealt with was anything worse than anyone else but to bring up a very important point when dealing with any kind of pain; the determinations in your mind will direct your life.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 

A couple of things to point out that can help us and give us direction about dealing with the devil in painful situations. The very first sentence references a “sober mind” and then a definition of what the devil is always trying to relentlessly do; devour. Notice that it does not say, “Don’t worry about the devil because he knows he is defeated and won’t mess with you and try to take you out when you follow Christ. It is actually the opposite with a warning about the state of mind we need to be in at all times.

A sober mind leads to the last verse mentioning the importance of knowing that you are not the only one dealing with pain! Pain is very selfish and can make us think that no one else can even begin to understand what is happening which links itself to thinking that even God doesn’t understand or care for us. Just the opposite is true in God’s love and plan for us.

There will always be pain in life but how we handle it will be primarily based on our trust and belief in God’s greater plan for us. I cannot say why pain and sickness happen in life, but I can say that what you learn from those situations will either make you a better person or break you down. When you have a relationship with Jesus, you have the advantage of leaning on Him in those times of struggle and walking through the valleys of life.

God wants us to have perfect emotional and Spiritual “vision” as we go through life and focus that is not contingent on our circumstances but firmly rooted in his purposes and plan for our lives.

Praying for you tonight and have a great rest of the week!

My Near Death Experience from Chapter 1 in “Holy Crap; Finding God’s Presence In Your Pain”

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Excerpt from Chapter 1: Holy Crap! This Book Is For Everyone! 
“When I was kid, I would ride with my grandpa occasionally to a favorite lake to go ice fishing. I can remember one trip where I thought it would be fun to jump up and down on the cracking ice around the edge of the lake. I liked the sound the ice would make when I would jump up and down on it, not realizing how dangerous it was for me to be at the lake’s shore on ice that was not completely frozen. I was right next to the shore and jumped way up in the air and came down on a piece of ice that gave way under my feet. I fell into the ice-cold water a good distance away from where my grandpa was sitting. The ice under my feet was like a slide under the water, and I couldn’t keep my feet under me and started to slip under the ice. I tried climbing out of the lake but would just slip further into the icy water. I reasoned that all I could do was turn back out towards the middle of the lake and break the ice further away from shore until I could get out to thicker ice and climb out. I can remember thinking that I was going to die. Well, needless to say, I ended up pulling myself out and getting back to the safety of my grandpa. I learned a valuable lesson that day about icy conditions on a lake and did not try anything like that again.
 
I share this to help you understand something: when you are in the middle of crap, your primary thinking is to just survive. I understand the feeling of despair and the instinct of survival in an adverse situation.”

Click here to order your author signed copy of Holy Crap today!

What Others Are Saying About “Holy Crap”

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I have had some great feedback about the book and how God is using it to help people work through issues in their lives and wanted to share a quick testimony I received today.

If you have not picked up your copy of Holy Crap, I encourage you to do so. It can be an amazing resource as you walk through a difficult situation or to help someone else you know who may need your love and support. I want what I went through to make a difference in the lives of people experiencing pain. It is testimonies like the one below that make all the things I went through, worth while.

“I have been thru what is unquestionably the most challenging 8 months of my life. My son
was killed in a car accident in April. A close friend of the family has been in the hospital, in another state, since July. My wife has been away taking care of him most of that time. And my father just passed away in November after a 9 year battle with Parkinson’s.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Holy Crap just came out. Not that Brian wrote it just for me, but I have found that God has a way of arranging things that go way beyond ‘coincidence’. This book has been awesome. Not that it has made what I’m going thru all that much easier. But it has been a real blessing to know other people walk thru serious challenges and come out on the other side, better for the experience. I may never understand God’s methods, but I can see the difference He makes for those of us who choose to believe.

No matter your current life situation, you should look into what Brian shares in Holy Crap. There is a lot of wisdom shared in a very ‘down-to-earth’, easy to read style that I think can benefit anyone.”

Much Love – Lou

“Holy Crap” Book Signing in Florida!!

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Join me for a book signing in Florida at WCLF Christian Television Network in the parking lot! (Yes, it cracks me up that I am selling a book called Holy Crap in a Christian TV parking lot).
Join us at 9am (because the afternoon still gets too hot this time of year 🙂 I am looking forward to seeing all my Florida friends and family! If you are in the Florida area, I would appreciate a share of this post on your Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks everyone and see you in a couple of weeks!