Thursday, December 20, 2012

He's Autistic!

             I have never written about my first born son’s life in his 16 years. For that matter I am not sure i have really written about any of my children as such. Today for some reason I am sharing about my 16 year old son.  Levi is autistic and I struggle with autism. It's been a long journey since we had that discovery some 12 years ago. Yet it’s my struggle with autism more than it’s his. If I wrote about the long details I might generate unwanted sympathy. Sympathy is neither my motive here nor is soliciting answers to a puzzling life situation, but rather it is just to give expression to the world from a parent of an autistic teenager. My son is happy and joyful 95% of his days. He is not socially or emotional in conformity of his peers age bracket. He is special, he is simple and he is happy. He probably comprehends far more than what he can express and I desire he could comprehend far more than what he appears to grasp.

Our life with our son creates many mixed emotions and it has been this way for so many years. As family and friends see our world many of them want to help fix our situation with ideas and suggestions. All well-meaning, but so few with realistic application. Unless you “live” with autism one will ever really know the full impact of what it is like. Our other 4 children have enjoyed a good childhood & teen years while being a sibling to a challenged autistic brother ( at least I believe that to be the case). I believe they are better people for the challenge and it will widen their compassion in a complex and hurting world. 

      Examples of simple challenges range from soccer to the beach.  When it’s time for soccer sometimes one of us might stay home with Levi or we go to the field with him. But often Levi gets bored and/or disengages soon. Then one of us parents needs to leave the field to wait in the van with him. When we go out to eat we might have to leave sooner than others cause when Levi is done he is ready done. eating means just that and skip the social aspect.  It’s our reality and we deal with it.  

Levi is a special young man and has made positive strides over all these years, but yet he is still autistic. Sometimes I get really frustrated and cry out to God, “if only you would heal him completely and take it all away”. Yes, I've prayed that for literally years each night. It's probably more about me now then it is about Levi. Actually I know it’s more about me then Levi. He does not know he is not normal. Matter of fact his worldview is normal for him.

He is very far behind socially, emotionally and mentally cpmpared to others, yet so very happy and joyful that he probably enjoys each day more than most his age and those my age. Sometimes he has seasons and cycles that are easy and sometimes he will not sleep or comply with our life and schedule. 

   We often juggle our life decisions based on Levi and what we know he can handle or believe he cannot handle. Sometimes we leave things early or may decide to not go at all. Sometimes it's a blessing and sometimes it's not. Sometimes we hit it and sometimes we don’t.
   We have lived near the beach now for 4 years and for several years he has loved the waves and the beach. This past year he went through some phase we could figure out and he could not express it either. It lasted about 9 months. We could not get him near the water. In this season he would not even go near the water or sand. So during that time we went to the beach less often or Levi sat in the van while we took turns staying near him while the others took time in the sun, surf and sand.  A few months ago we had a birthday party at a park at the beach. I decided to take Levi for a walk along the edge of the water hoping he might take to it again. After 30 minutes or so with his feet actually walking in the water I thought maybe he will swim again. So back to the van we went to change clothes and back to the water again. Wow, he loved it and I could not keep him out of the waves again. It was like a switch went off and now almost every week he still says “let’s go swimming”. It’s not the time of year to swim as such, but now he wants to go ALL the TIME.

   I cannot predict his future or ours, but can any of us predict the future? Years ago I taught him to say the Lord’s prayer and now he can say it anytime he wants. At one point in his younger years he would not even talk, now as a teenager we cannot shut him up at times. Progress has happened. What he once could not do; now he can and wants to do.

   Last week we went to a local church ministry that offered a program called “A walk through Bethlehem”. We waited over an hour just to take the walk through the journey back in time to relive the birth of Christ.  We really did not know if Levi would make it through or even like it. It was a risk to go with him. Sometimes we take the risk and other times we don’t want to risk it. I often wonder about other people in society that do not know him or us and how they will respond to an autistic teenager. Those social reactions are what I struggle with far more than what Levi struggles with. He thinks if someone’s face is interesting and looks fun to touch that he can just reach out and touch some stranger. But of course I know he should not and therefore I am always on the guard in public to protect all parties. Now back to Bethlehem: So as we finally walked through the journey we discovered that Levi loved it. Those men dressed in Roman soldier uniforms really cracked him up. I mean every time they walked up and tried to get the crowd to move along with a serious threat Levi would burst into laughter that the rest of the crowd did not see the humor in. Actually, I could not see it either, but I saw that Levi got tickled and could not contain his joy and laughed. Our Walk through Bethlehem became more about enjoying watching Levi then the walk itself. He became my focus of joy instead. We all became enamored with the joy of watching how Levi would keep reacting then what the journey was itself. When the Angel jumped out of a cloud with smoke Levi began from that point on looking all around in the sky for the next angel to jump out again. Huum! Maybe my expectation needs to be looking more too.

   I love my son Levi. I often feel I have failed him far more than any of my other children. Parenting an autistic child does not come with a manual. I often get tired and feel trapped by the unpredictability of what my autistic son might do or say next. When my frustrations rise and I get selfish and want things to just be “normal’ my precious wife reminds me with two simple words that I need to hear even though I know them well.  Those words are: He’s Autistic! 

        To those who have an autistic child or two may God bless and encourage you. You are not alone and never will be. God knows your child by name as do you. Autistic people are different and the spectrum varies so much. To most they MAY NOT BE NORMAL as we refer to as normal. You may even feel trapped by circumstances that do not fit the world around you, but their reality is free in so many more ways than ours will ever be.  Enjoy them for who they are and do not get frustrated for who you want them to be. God is still teaching me this long lesson and recently I think i heard that voice again. It's the voice of God saying trust me in all things. Thank God in all things through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is Your Life Focus?

  As I reflect back on my own journey I have had plenty of focuses over the past 50 years.  When I was a boy I focused on playing after school, fishing and baseball. When I became a teenager I focused on girls, partying and driving my own car.  In those early years the focus could change based on friends and influence, but the focus was always ME.  But the ME I kept the focus on was falling apart even at a young age. I began to let sin direct my paths every day. I listened to the sinful nature direct my paths to get what I wanted when I wanted it. By the time I had graduated from high school I was a mess! Granted I graduated, had a job and a car and even my own “place” by the age of 18, but I was miserable.

  When I was introduced to Jesus I decided that His ways offered hope to my life and circumstances, but yet it was still focused around "ME". Within a few short months I realized I needed to shift the focus from ME to the focus on God.  In Church language we would call that being consecrated to the will of God and then by faith being Sanctified entirely by His grace.  It was within 2 months of surrendering the "ME" of ME to the Will of Him that I discovered I could still have focuses in life that I enjoyed and still be “Him focused” without being “ME focused”. I could enjoy the things and subjects of life as He created me to enjoy them.
In my year book before I was even saved and very much lost in sin I had written that one of my ambitions in life was to travel. To this day I still enjoy traveling. Yet the travel desire before I was saved was turned into a God focused travel.  Since becoming set free from sin I have been blessed to travel to a number of countries and places for the purpose of His kingdom that has given me far greater joy on multiple levels then had I just travel for ME.

Today I am a pastor and my life focus and calling is to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But in the midst of His calling and “His focus” for my life I can still focus on many things I have always enjoyed without being detracted from the “Main Focus”.  Baseball, exploring the world, fishing , motorcycles and so many other focuses can still be enjoyed, yet with a God focus first and foremost.  Regardless that I was called into ministry or not God wants all believers “main focus” to be His focus.  You can be a doctor or lawyer, salesman, factory worker or real estate broker with a “God Main Focus”. Regardless of what you do, God wants each heart to have a God Focus in life!   Just today  I was reading an email of a God focused real estate guy asking if anyone had a heart to use a couple of his properties for God’s glory. I know this man and even though he buys and sells real estate his “Main Focus” is a “God Focus”

 If every born again believer would keep the focus of their everyday life on what God wanted and when he wanted it we would have an every expanding Kingdom of God in our midst. I still love fishing, motorcycles, traveling, beaches and hiking in the woods.  I can enjoy those sports, places and activities with God and for God’s Glory if I keep the “Main FOCUS” on Him instead of ME.

When we have a “Me Focus” , life will eventually disintegrate and usually it will make others’ lives around us miserable in the midst of it as well.  Living for Christ is to be a surrendered holy life that is sin free and set free to follow the Lord while keeping the ‘Main Focus’ our “Life Focus.” 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are You Awake or Asleep in the Light?

         Have you ever been traveling on business or on a tight schedule? As a pastor at times I have found myself at conferences and when the day is over I go back to my hotel room and call the front desk to ask for a wakeup call. Most adults have done that at one time or another just to make sure we do not over sleep so we ready for the demanding schedule of the next morning. Some people are night owls, others are early birds, but we all have had those longs days when we are just wiped out from the activity of day and we look forward to a good sleep. But because we have to be ready early we need that wake up call from someone else so we make sure we are up in time to be ready for the next day. Just last week I had planned to be up to attend a 6:30 a.m. prayer meeting. It was about a 15 minute drive away. I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and even a second follow up wake up call for 5:30. That morning when I finally realized what time it was I had had sleep through 1 of my wakeup alarms and then had to decide if I would push it and still make it in time or just forget it? I decided to go for it and rushed through the bathroom, dressed and out the door. When I arrived it was 6:30 exactly. I was close to being late, but I wasn’t. I must admit there have been others times and more then I really want to admit when I was not early or on time, but late. Sometimes it’s just not right to enter certain things late and almost better to just skip. The point is a wakeup call is to help prepare us to be READY and up in time from any deep sleep we might find ourselves in.


     In Noah’s Day before the flood the scriptures tell us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness and preached God’s wakeup call of judgment right up until the ‘Day’ that they entered the Ark. 2 Peter 2:5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others. We see that before every judgment in history God gives a wakeup call so people can prepare for what is next.

  Amos 3:7 Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

   When the disciples were with Jesus they asked him how they would know when He was returning. He gave them tons of clues. In Matthew 24 he covered basically the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. right up until the last of souls are judged and are condemned to Hell at the end of history as we know it. After all those details he told a story about the Church by comparing the church as a bride with him as a groom. In that story in Matthew chapter 25 he mentions 5 virgins who woke up in plenty of time to be prepared and 5 virgins who missed the wake up call and over slept and hurried up but actually missed the arrival of the groom.

    So let me ask you something personal. Are you really focused, ready and looking forward to the day when He appears? Are you even looking for the signs of His coming that he shared with a sense of anticipation? Or are you sleepy, goofing off and not really too concerned about eternal matters or what true condition your soul is in because life is just busy and things must go on.

Before the Flood there was righteous Noah a preacher preparing himself & preaching to people a message. There is no question people knew about the flood mentioned by the mere fact that he was building a huge vessel that expecting to float. The people of that time were warned and given opportunity to change.  When God decided to finally judge Sodom and Gomorrah he let Abram know about it first and he finally went to warn the people there but could only seem to convince Lot and his family to flee the calamity coming there.
   Are we living in a time and season that God is speaking to the church? What are our warnings today? Are we acting like the earth is our home or heaven is our home? Are we truly awake yet? Are God’s people and spiritual matters our top priorities? Or are we self-consumed and with no time to read, pray and connect in worship and fellowship with His people and what his prophets are saying today? Are we talking and witnessing to those we know and love with a message of urgency?

 Will you and I be alert before He comes back? Are we truly ready and waiting for when He returns? Or will we be asleep in the light not even aware of the signs of the times and just doing our own thing? Will we be among those who knew He was coming back, but got distracted by the cares of life and our oil lamps ran out of oil? To be honest I would like to assume we who claim Christ were among the 5 virgins ready and waiting, but Jesus told that story to the disciples so they and we would realize that some who could be awake in time were not ready. It is a warning to the church to be awake in time.  

        In just my lifetime alone I can see the gradual slumbering of the church over issues of the day. I have listened to people who claim to be Christian people who actual have fallen asleep over changing doctrines and morals of the day. Good people who should say gay marriage is wrong are saying it’s not my business and it’s ok with me if they want to live that way. Or it’s ok if someone wants to get drunk. Or it’s ok to be entertained by the latest movies like Harry Potter and similar from Hollywood. Or its ok to believe in evolution since most of the world does now.  The list of things that good people have accepted in this day were never tolerated even just a few decades or two ago. People in our country and in the world are slumbering off into ease. People who at one time felt that a Christian needed to be with other Christians in worship, prayer and study several times a week are fine if they just get together once or twice a month. After all, people are just busier today than they used to be. The list could go on and on with how we as a people are far more asleep over spiritual matters, moral issues then we once were. If we are closer to the return of Christ shouldn't we be wide awake and DOING THE WORKS OF OUR FATHER?

    I want you to know that I include myself in this article. I must ask myself how asleep I have allowed myself to become. Am I the most alert preacher proclaiming the most soul stirring messages regardless of the favor of man or not? Am I more interested in preaching the truth of the times and God’s Word or finding acceptance among men?

 How do we prepare for what God is doing in our day?

 What kind of mindset should we have?

 What kind of preparations should we put into motion now?

 What should our lives look like if the return Christ were tomorrow?

 Is it about having enough food and supplies like people felt on the eve of Y2K or is it something else?

When 9/11 happened was it a wakeup call for America and the world to get ready?

 Did we get ready or did we fall back asleep?

 Had we gotten ready a decade ago would we be in the mess our country, culture and world finds itself today?

Are you more prepared to stay on earth then to leave for glory?

Keith Green is a deceased Christian artist from the 80’s who sang a song to describe what I believe is the condition in large part of the present state of church of our time.

“Do you see, do you see, all the people sinking down,

Don't you care, don't you care, are you gonna let them drown,

How can you be so numb, not to care if they come,

You close your eyes and pretend the job's done.

Oh Bless me Lord, bless me Lord, you know it's all I ever hear,

No one aches, no one hurts, no one even sheds one tear,

But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds, and He cares for your needs,

And you just lay back and keep soaking it in, oh, can't you see it's such sin?

Cause He brings people to your door,

And you turn them away, as you smile and say,

God bless you, be at peace, and all Heaven just weeps,

Cause Jesus came to your door, you've left Him out on the streets.

Open up, open up, and give yourself away,

You've seen the need, you hear the cry, so how can you delay,

God's calling and you're the one, but like Jonah you run,

He's told you to speak, but you keep holding it in,

Oh, can't you see it's such sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark,

That the church can't fight, cause it's asleep in the light,

How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed,

Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can't even get out of bed,

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead, come on, get out of your bed.

How can you be so numb, not to care if they come,

You close your eyes and pretend the job's done,

You close your eyes and pretend the job's done,

Don't close your eyes, don't pretend the job's done.

Come away, come away, come away with Me, My love,

Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, My love.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What’s in a Sermon Title?

         Years ago when I first started out in ministry a sermon title revealed what was coming.  When I look over the past decades of my own sermons I can see where I went from very biblical titles of messages to seek friendly titles that were tied even  into the latest movies & trends of the day so as be make the Word of God and the preaching thereof  more relevant.  Well I guess I have come full circle again because I do not see how being relevant to the latest trends in the movies ,  celebrities and politics is going to win the lost and sanctify the hungry at heart.  A few years ago I did the funeral for a veteran holiness pastor who died in his mid 90’s.  He had pastored over 50 years of his life preaching holiness.  I had the rare opportunity to look through his decades of sermon notes before then went off to his family. I took the time to just jot down some of the titles and scripture texts of dozens of his messages.  I thought I would share a few of those titles here today as a point of reference on how staying relevant to the Word is much more in line with true biblical holiness then staying relevant with culture.  The culture needs a fresh biblical Word to provoke them to seek after God, more then they need a slick sermon title that sounds like the filthy movie they just watched the week before.  Just saying…… 

  1. Burglar Proof Religion
  2. Fair Warning
  3. I stand at the door and knock
  4. White Robes
  5. The Crucial approach to holiness
  6. God hath given eternal life
  7. Jesus Saves from all sin
  8. Acceptable to God
  9. 5 Things God does not know
  10. Who then shall be Saved?
  11. Our glorious heritage and our holy responsibilities
  12. The uses of trial
  13. The Changeless Christ
  14. The way of holiness
  15. A perfect man
  16. The disowned
  17. The World’s Danger
  18. The Christians Body & the life of holiness
  19. The Believers Wisdom, Righteousness, sanctification and redemption
  20. Do you need a new God?
  21. Living to the point
  22. Forgiveness of sins
  23. Christ in relation to the religious feeling of mankind
  24. Watch
  25. The attraction of Holiness
How many mega churches or want to be mega churches pastors have sermon titles like those above?   So many sermon titles today have shock em type words like sex and non bible related bible terms in them. I have even seen where the pastor of a church on TV sat on a bed instead of preaching from a pulpit to make the point about sexual purity more real. It just seems like we need to look to those Godly men of the past  decades again and rid ourselves of the filth of this world and let God be Holy proclaimed again in our pulpits. Just saying………

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gleaning for Missions & More!

Bail er and bails being prepared from donations
About a year ago or a little longer I was the first church in my community to take a risk with a Christian businessman to place a collection box on our property for used clothing and shoes. It started off by responding to a flyer for a different place to give used clothing too. At first, I was hesitant about being the first and if what he was proposing would really work, but God has honored it. His concept was to collect and retail much like any used clothing retailer in the local community, but the idea to  give back a percentage to the supporting ministries. We meet over lunch several times sorting out the concept and idea. I love visionaries and this guy has been and remains creative in his endeavors for God. Knowing that Goodwill type stores and such similar local entities had never sent our ministries back a check or even proposed to do such I felt it was a pretty reasonable idea and risk. Well, over the course of a year and many clothing donations given to his non-profit ministry it has turned into a great friendship as well. Our little collection box has helped people have a closer place to give used clothes, shoes etc. and we in return have received many checks coming back into the ministry. A few weeks ago he shared with me another idea and I agreed to share it with others as well.

Now he is collecting and selling used clothes, shoes, linen's etc. for International sales. He thought why not give back to ministries anywhere in the country who would collect clothes and donate them on a larger scale. Since my heart is drawn to missions and how to help our missionaries who have had to deal with so many cut backs, I shared this is idea with one of our missionaries who serves in Africa. He loved the idea and is sharing it with his supporting network of churches on how they might consider donating used clothes to a different place and through a different system, which in return will place money in their hands a half world away.

The gentleman who owns and operated this non-profit is willing to pick up and bring truckloads back to Florida to prepare for International shipment from anywhere in the continental USA . To qualify the quantity needs to be around 20,000 lbs  for return delivery. If this story being played out as the writing of this post strikes a heart string of possibilities for your ministry endeavors give me a call or write back. There is far more to this story then what I shared, but this is the nutshell of what we are working on in a hard economy and how God is doing unique things in our day with used resources I would have never imagined.