THE STRUGGLE WITH OBEDIENCE Part​ 2. “Making Myself the Lord of my Life.”

I have attempted to control God and His leading and to be honest; I’m making a mess of everything.

What were the results of attempting to act as the lord of my life? I believed my plans were more significant than God’s design for my life. I struggled to fulfill my purpose instead of resting in the direction of a holy and sovereign God. I was unwilling to trust God’s purpose for my life, so I pursued my own course. When I placed myself as the lord of my life, I put myself in a position of authority over God. I decide what was best for myself and I determine what the best course of my life was. I sought my pleasure and will over God’s authority. The problem with making myself the lord of my life was I relied on my selfish desires to guide my choices. The choices I made were far-removed from what was actually best for my life.

When we make ourselves lord over our lives, we ultimately reject God’s authority.

It is essential at this point to stress that God has given us free will to choose how we live our lives. God has given us the ability to reason, to determine the courses for our lives and to make sound judgments. These are God-given qualities; He has placed within each of us.  However, when we choose to make ourselves lord over our lives, we misuse these God-given qualities to meet our selfish and self-centered desires. We use what God has given us to further our agendas and ambitions. We seek to fulfill our destiny and find the best course for our lives with little regard for God or for others. Our pursuits become all about me, all about what I can achieve and accomplish. We do not consider the effects our actions have on others. When we make ourselves lord over our lives, we ultimately reject God’s authority. We place God in a subordinate role and establish ourselves as the supreme authority of our lives. We resist God; we overrule God’s guiding principles and make our desire the guiding principles of our lives. We seek our pleasure over Godly principals; fulfilling our ambition becomes the sole purpose of our lives. This seeking leads to frustration, hopelessness, desperation and lonely existence that centers on pleasure, this is a direct result of having a low view of God.

A low view of God permits us to use God in a self-centered and self-promoting way. 

A low view of God is a view that God is just like us; he is our buddy, our friend, our companion, someone to hang out with and someone to go to when we are in need. A low view of God says “I can do this on my own, but just in case I can’t, I know you have my back.” A low view of God implies He is just another friend and not the one with complete authority over our lives. When we hold such a low opinion of God, we fail to see God in all of his Holiness. We fail to recognize the supreme power and authority of the creator God. A low view of God allows us to mold God into our image and to use Him as a means to our end. A low view of God is one that does not convict us of our sin. A low view of God allows us to live our life the way we want to live. A low view of God gives us the authority to bend God to our will and use Him to accomplish our desires.  A low view of God permits us to use God in a self-centered and self-promoting way. Instead of viewing God as our final authority over our lives, we see ourselves as God, and we follow our desire, using our power to guide ourselves. A low view of God gives us the freedom to live our lives the way we want to, without worrying about the consequences of sin. We neglect the Scriptures, we ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and we disregard God’s sovereignty over our lives.  A low view of God lets us take control of our lives by relegating God to the role of a cosmic genie. We see God as the one who gives us favors, who will grant us our wishes. God becomes for us the fairy godmother who shows up at just the right time to save us. A low view of God permits us to place Him on the sidelines of our lives. We leave Him in reserves until we need Him to solve a crisis and once our crisis is over, we place him on the sidelines to wait for the next crisis. These are the actions of a self-centered and egotistical low view of God. We value our experiences over God’s leading. We pursue our desires over God’s desire for our lives. We appreciate what we can accomplish on our own, over what God can achieve through an obedient and surrendered life. However, the picture of God and His Holiness in Scripture is vastly different than the low view many have of God today. God’s Holiness is profoundly higher than anything we can imagine or perceive.

To be Continued

THE STRUGGLE OF OBEDIENCE – PART 1

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Preaching Taji, Iraq 2007

A Career Soldier 

During my time on active duty, I was often asked how long I would stay in the Army.  Most people wanted to know if I was going to make the Army a career. My answer was always the same,  “I take one assignment at a time.” My answer always conveyed the thought “I would stay in the Army for as long as the Army allows.” However, there was a seconded part to my answer. I would state with all confidence when the time comes for me to leave the Army, God would make it known, and I would leave willingly. I would say “I am a minister, I will do ministry anywhere. If that means doing ministry in the Army or the civilian then I will be happy.” During those times I sounded pious and obedient to God’s leading and will. I presented myself as someone who has so surrender to God’s will that no matter the circumstance or the direction I would faithfully follow without question or complaint. It sounded great, made me feel spiritual, and allowed me to mask that I was only willing to follow God as long as He leads me in the direction I want to go. The truth behind my grand statements was “I am willing only if God opens a senior pastor position in a large church. “If God meets my demand then I will freely Directional Signleave the Army and follow His leading.” What I said outwardly was “I would follow the leading of God in my life,” but inwardly I meant “I would follow the leading of God as long as He led me down the path I wanted.” As often the case, God is not bound by my desires or the direction I want to take. He is sovereign, and he leads as He chooses. The only response God expects from me is to be obedient to his leading and to follow as He directs. I do not have a license to decide to follow God’s leading or choose not to follow. It is merely my responsibility to be faithful in my obedience to him.

I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful

No NO NO drag

Five years ago I left the Army on a medical retirement due to my severe PTSD. I did not go quietly; I was not leaving with an attitude of obedience to the clear leading of God. Even though I spent 16-years declaring when the time came, I would happily go and transition to civilian ministry. Nevertheless, I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful. I was not bitter towards the Army; I was not upset with the Army for medically retiring me. However, I was resentful towards God for taking away my career and “my” calling. I was resentful that His leading was not matching up with my expectations. He did not lead me out of the Army the way I was anticipating. No senior pastor positions were waiting for me the day I retired. There were no ministry opportunities available to walk into the following day. No phone calls were made asking me to travel to churches to preach and share my story. The day I walked out of the personnel center at Ft. Sam Houston, the only things I had ministry wise was my PTSD, my resentment towards God, and ultimately more hospital stays, treatment programs, and counseling. This direction was not how I expected God to lead. Instead of leaving the Army with excitement and a spirit of obedience, I left angry, feeling betrayed, and furious not towards the Army but toward God. How Could God takes away my career and ministry I loved? How could He lead me out of the Army when I only had 4-years before I reached my 20-year mark? How could God remove me from the Army and the Chaplain ministry and leave me with no pastoral or ministry position to take its place?

I’m making a mess of everything.

Just recently I have come to the realization I was not living in obedience to God’s leading; I was living in resentment and sin. I was not submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I was seeking my way, my direction, and my desires. I was trying to make my path with my own ministry opportunities. Yet, when the results were not what I expected, I responded with more resentment towards God. I came to the point of saying to others, and myself “I am finished with the ministry, I enjoyed it while it lasted, but now it’s over.” The reality is God has not withdrawn His calling on my life. I have, however, attempted to control God and His leading and to be honest; I’m making a mess of everything.

To be continued

 

ARE YOU LIVING OR SIMPLY EXISTING?

Sometimes life seems to come to a stand still, everyday is just like the day before and tomorrow does not offer any thing different.

not livingIt is easy to find oneself caught up in nothing, to find oneself just doing the same thing day after day and not really accomplishing anything. Just existing, breathing air, taking up space and trapped in a world that is going nowhere. It is a challenge when we find ourselves in these situations, especially if we are working through sickness, emotional difficulties, trauma, anxiety, abuse or the many myriads of challenges we find ourselves facing throughout our lifetime. With my struggle with PTSD, it is easy for me to check out of the present and just exist in my house while life passes me by. It is easy to put off everything until tomorrow because I have no pressure of meeting a deadline. Each day seems to drift into one other. It does not take very long before days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Then before I know it, I am looking back wondering what has happened to all those weeks and months. I was amazed a few weeks ago when I noticed I have not posted very often this year. I’m not sure what happened to my goal of posting once a week, but the stat page clearly reminds me I have allowed many weeks to go by without posting. However, this is not about posting weekly blogs, it is about living life. Over the last few months, I seemed to have stopped living and merely choose to exist.

Living allows us to focus on how to make the best of the challenges we face.

Existing is easy; there is not much stress in existing and not too many challenges. There are not a lot of demands in existing; in essence, existing is just being, nothing more and nothing less.  However, living is more difficult and challenging. Living ensures we face stress while we face the challenges of juggling daily demands, dealing with problems and moving forward. Living starts the day with expectations that something is going to happen, maybe not big and life-changing, but something will happen. At the end of the day, we will look back and say “I accomplished something today.” However, merely existing leaves us at the end of the day realizing we have accomplished nothing and faced with the possibility of another day of achieving nothing. wheel chair lifeWhile living offers us a chance to make the best of ourselves, it allows us to wake up each day and see the possibilities that are before us. Living will enable us to focus on how to make the best of the challenges we face; living allows us to enjoy what we have, where we are, and whom we are with. Living gives us purpose, gives us reason and gives us hope. Existing does just the opposite, it leaves us trapped in our challenges, stuck in not experiencing what is around us and stuck in having a life that is void of motivation, hope, and purpose.

Living is about engaging fully in the life we have around us.

It is essential to understand that living is not gaged by the number of things we have, the lack of problems we face or the number of Facebook friends we have. Living is not about the amount of money we have in the bank, the house we live in or the type of cars we drive. Living is not about “having it all.” Living is about engaging fully in the life we have around us. Many who have little, experience a richness of life, that many who “have it all” never experience. Money and material possessions do not bring fulfillment to one’s life, nor does it bring a person to experience what it means to live. Material possessions and money can certainly enrich a person’s experiences and makes living life more comfortable, nevertheless, they are not the means of experiencing life to its fullest. Experiencing life to its fullest means we are aware of what is around us, we engage with what is around us, we are active in what is around us, we are involved with those who are around us. It is easy for us who deal with anxiety, PTSD, trauma, abuse and other challenges to merely exist and not live. It is easy for us to avoid what is around us and not engage with anything or anyone. Merely existing is lonely and frustrating, it leaves us unfulfilled with no future, just day after day of nothingness.  Sometimes it is hard for me to live life, it is much easier to merely exist. But I hate just existing.  When I find myself merely existing I find a way to start living again no matter how hard it may be.

starting the day

Fear Not, For I Am With You

it is well Click Picture to Play Video

Sung by Michael Eldrige:  www.acapeldridge.com

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family – a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife, he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. AS he planned to take another ship.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with the mighty, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie, and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat, and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”

Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down. It was then Horatio pinned the words to the hymn “It is Well With My Soul”  http://staugustine.com

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

My dear friends, in the very depth of our heartache and in the midst of life’s most difficult moments we are assured that we are not alone. We can count on the truth that God is ours, and he will strengthen us and help us in all of our troubles. Therefore, we do not need to live in fear or be overtaken with dismay, for we have one who will lift us up with His righteous hand. We accept this as truth while all is going well. However, it becomes a significant hurdle when we are crushed in spirit, lost in our pain and facing the deepest darkness of our lives. But the truth of this verse does not change with our circumstances. What is true in the good times is true in difficult times. We all want to go through life without hardship or brokenness, but we all know that it is an impossible task. Part of life is learning to live, trust, have faith and walk in courage while facing the deepest darkest moments of our lives. My friends in your darkness, I encourage you to find rest in God and to seek His peace. Why live a life full of despair, hopelessness, and defeat when we have a God who will watch after us. Trusting in God does not mean we escape the hard aches of this world, it does mean, however, that we do not have to experience these heartaches alone.  We can find Peace for our souls so we too can say “It is well with my soul.”

If you are seeking Peace with God and you want to enter into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, please check out this site. Finding Peace With God

 

Christmas in Iraq 2006 & 2007

During my last deployment we spent the Christmas of 2006 and 2007 in Iraq. We were initially going to be in Iraq for Christmas of 2006 but due to the extension of our 12- month deployment to 15-months during the surge of 2007. We spent two Christmases in Iraq, below are some pictures of the two Christmases. 

Pictures of my Office and my Room 

 

Warrior Chapel Christmas 2007

 

 

Christmas Eve Service 2007

 

 

Dining Facility Christmas Celebration 2006

 

 

Have a Very Merry Christmas 2017 

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Lost in Loneliness

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with trauma and the effects of PTSD is the overwhelming sense of loneliness that one continually faces. The isolation that is brought on by the thought “I am the only one who feels this way.” A loneliness that is brought on by the thought “No one understands what I’m going through.” The loneliness that is brought on by the belief “I have to be strong, so I can’t ask for help.”

loneliness femaleA loneliness that is brought on by the feelings “I can’t trust anyone.” The loneliness that is brought on by the belief people will see me as a “monster or evil.” These feeling invade our very soul and the view of ourselves so much so that we find ourselves living a lonely, isolated and friendless life. Desperate for how things used to be, but never having the courage to break free from our loneliness. Thus, we never find a new acceptance for who we are now.

I found this poem on poemhunter.com written by Mohammad Skati, and I think it sums up what many of us feel as we deal with our loneliness.

                                                                 I Feel Alone

“There is nothing pretty like my loneliness Simply because I feel alone and lonely anytime, anywhere, and everywhere… There is no doubt that I am alone in every direction I turn to and I am lonely in the opposite direction… The more I look forward to encouraging myself, the more I find myself greatly alone and lonely… I can explain some parts of my loneliness, and I can’t explain some other parts fully… It’s not bad to be alone for a while, but It’s bad to stay alone forever and ever… I feel as if I am lonely in this world Simply because everyone looks for one’s benefits… To be alone and to be lonely Mean to suffer greatly Simply because one needs others to listen to any time… I feel alone… I feel alone… I feel alone” https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-feel-alone-10/

As I read this poem, I was reminded of Job’s cry over his frustration in not finding God.

“But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:8-12
 

This cry is also echoed by David in Psalms 21:1-2.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

There is no crueler feeling than to feel we are abandon, that we suffer alone, and  feel secluded from all others.

lonliness maleThese thoughts are often the cry of our hearts. We face so much pain and suffering, we proclaim we suffered “more than our fair share.” We cry out because our hearts are lonely and we feel as though God has abandoned us. There is no crueler feeling than to feel abandoned, that we suffer alone, and feel secluded from all others. One of the things I learned from my inpatient treatments is no matter how I feel, I’m not alone. While my experience may be different from others and the circumstances of my trauma is unique to myself, the effects of trauma are the same for all of us. I struggled with wanting to know where God is, why God allows evil and suffering and why people die in war. My struggles are no different from the struggles Job, and David faced as they asked the same questions of God. What I find interesting is Job never receives an answer to his questions on why he was suffering and in the midst of David’s trials he had to wait patiently upon the Lord. I know what it is like to stand in the darkness of trauma, to be confronted with the questions of why, where and how and yet never seem to find the answers to these questions. I know the experience of the blackness that loneliness brings into our lives, the hopelessness that ensnares and robs us of even our desire to live. I also see the peace one can find in knowing God has not abounded us. Job says that while he is unable to find God, God still knew where Job was and the paths he takes. David finds peace knowing that in his anguish God still exists and He is enthroned as the Holy One.

Finding Peace with God

I wonder where you find yourself today? Are you lost in your struggles? Do you feel desperate? Are you living without hope? Is your loneliness so great that your only hope now resides in taking your own life? Is suicide your only remaining answer? My friends, I want you to know there is hope! You can find meaning and acceptance of who you are now. You can turn away from your suicidal thoughts and behaviors just as I turned away from my suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Where does this ability come from? It comes from many different places, individual and group therapy, it comes from family and friends, it may even come from medication. It certainty come from within when you make a commitment to seek healing for yourself. But ultimately, real and lasting healing only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here at Healing The Storm Ministry our belief is when all is said and done. It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that will deliver us from the life-controlling power of our trauma. The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” If you want to know how to cast your cares upon Christ and experience the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to check out Billy Graham’s website “Peace with God” https://peacewithgod.net

 

 

Accentuating The Positives

Many Thanks

I have notice I have a tendency to focus on the negative while ignoring the positives in my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who ignores the positive to focus on the negative. It seems many of us who live with trauma maintain our focus on negative beliefs and feelings. We tend to look at the “what’s not going right” instead of “what is going right” in our lives. We are quick to declare our treatment and recovery process too slow or not working at all. When in reality, many things are going right for us. So during Thanksgiving day week, I set out to post on Facebook, three times a day, to share what I am thankful for. It was an enjoyable experience to spend the last few days thinking of the positive things in my life. So here is a list of some of the things I am thankful for.

 Things I am thankful for:

  • I am grateful for Mr. Robinson a teacher who always told me “Kevin, I expect great things from you.” I’ve strived to not let him down
  • I am thankful for U.S. Army Chaplain Jim King, who was a great mentor and an outstanding pastor. He helped shape me as a Chaplain.
  • I am thankful for Therapist Dr. Carrin Harper who literally kept me alive and would not let me give into my suicidal ideations.
  • I am thankful for the LA Baptist Rescue Mission. I was able to preach every Saturday during my first year of Bible college in 1986.
  • I am thankful for all the Godly men and women who invested their lives into our lives so we could spend our life in Christian ministry.
  • I am thankful for those who developed Cognitive Processing Therapy and for those who took me through the painful process.
  • I am thankful for Candice, Samantha, and Jacob, our young adult children who still want to spend time with us.
  • I am thankful for the Pastor and the congregation of Oswego Baptist Church for sponsoring my ordination in 1986.
  • I am thankful for “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior” for providing training and certification of my service dog Delrin.
  • I am thankful for my beautiful bride Elizabeth who has stood by my side in the darkest moments of my life. Love you, Honey!
  • I am thankful that I had the honor of serving in the United States Army for 21-years.
  • I am thankful for LTG Funk for giving me the freedom to minister to his Troopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
  • I am thankful for my Cardiologist in Danville, NJ for discovering my heart anomaly and for the surgeon in Morristown, NJ who corrected the problem with open heart surgery in 2010.
  • I am thankful for the Wounded Warrior Program and the leaders of the Male Odyssey retreat who helped me realize I am not “unfit” to live my life.
  • I am thankful for Paster Jared at  First Baptist Church New Braunfels for letting me lead a small group Bible study.
  • I am thankful for the great memories we have as a family while we enjoyed family vacations together.

This is by no means even close to a complete list, but it is a good start. Why not start your own list? You can start by sharing in the comments below what you are thankful for.