For Dad

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Today has been an especially blue day. Lost a dear friend last yesterday and it brought back a lot of raw emotions of mom and dad leaving us a couple months ago.  This post is a copy of the eulogy I gave at my dad’s memorial service.  He led one of the most interesting lives I’ve ever known.  Not just because he was my dad, but because his early years were simply amazing in many ways. A few weeks before he passed (after mom had passed on) he told me that he had “a pretty rough life early on.” He said he wanted to sit down with me and my brother to tell us. I’m glad he didn’t. I miss you dad. I recently “found” a voicemail he had sent me on January 6, 2016. It was his usual 4 minute voicemail, full of encouragement to go after what God had called me to do. I’m trying dad. You and mom keep cheering us on in the effort. (Heb. 12:1-2)

Memorial Service

Dad

December 27, 2016

 Thank you everyone for sharing this difficult day with us. My dad would have loved this…because he loved people…loved being around people…loved talking to people (can I get an “amen”?) He never met a stranger, certainly never treated anyone like a stranger. He loved people…

My father loved life in just about every way. He lived his life with so much energy and passion. There are far too many great stories I could tell about my dad… we simply don’t have the time. I’m positive that besides scripture, my dad has been the most quoted person I’ve used in my messages for the past 25 years of ministry. You know the kind of quotes: horse Dad Picsense, common sense…living life with passion.

If there’s one thing I would want you all to know about my dad…is that he was a dreamer…and because of that gift of thinking big, seeing things big…reaching for things in a big way…He literally believed, “Nothing was impossible…” He did things…and accomplished things in his life because nothing was impossible. And when he and my mom gave their lives to Christ when I was about 3 years old…Dad understood that nothing was impossible with God. And He lived his life that way very literally.

Dad was raised in the hills of central Virginia…the baby of 11 children…in a family that had survived the Depression. Having nothing…was the norm in the Freeman house. And growing up in a tough environment was a very difficult reality for most of the Freeman kids. My grandfather was cut from a different cloth. When my dad was beginning his 8th grade year, he decided he wanted to play football for the first time. So instead of using the money grandpa had given him for schoolbook rental, he rented the football gear. My grandpa woke him up in the middle of the night, had his clothes packed and kicked him out…he was 15 years old. Dad walked 15 miles that night to his uncle’s house. He then hitchhiked to Richmond, found a boarding house a426413_10201017057209603_179352644_nnd began working in a factory. It’s what he had to do…nothing was impossible…he just did it.

A few months later my dad met a girl…no, not my mom, but thought he was in love. She was in Virginia seeing family, but lived in California. So, he just packed a bag, at the ripe old age of 16 and began hitchhiking to California to find this girl. He arrived in Lawrence, KS one morning, asleep in the car of the man who had picked up in Kansas City…the driver stole some oil cans and a new tire and sped off. They were caught and this 16-year-old Virginia boy spent 12 days in the Lawrence jail for vagrancy (having no money…). They called my grandpa and asked what to do with him…and he replied, “Well…is he okay? Is he sleeping at night? Are you feeding him? Then…I don’t see what the problem is.”

Dad was released and made his way down to Great Bend, KS at the beginning of June of 1958 and someone directed him to Dixon’s Pool Hall. Dixon’s is where all the farmers hung out and played dominoes. That’s where he met a man named Emmitt Fisher. Wheat harvest was starting up and Emmitt could use the extra help. My dad ended up living with Emmitt and Elizabeth Fisher for nearly a year. They took him in as their own…loved him…cared for him. When dad turned 17, he decided to return home to Virginia in order to get his parent’s permission to enlist in the Army before 18. He wanted to see the world…see what the military had to offer.

Dad was always proud of his service. He was trained as a sharpshooter. He became and expert on the Browning M1 rifle and was eventually offered a spot on the Armies elite competition team that traveled Europe competing against other units as well as other nation’s best. He used to tell me, “Son, when I was on that team, I could put a squirrel’s eye out at 100 yards with an open sight, and do it 3 times within a second.” (Pretty sure there was some exaggeration ther0945896d-4274-4c27-be5c-ab88713d5e37e…but he really was good.) Dad was stationed in West Berlin during the Cuban Missile crises. He watched as the Russian tanks lined up at the boarder track to track. He told me that it was probably the most scared he’d ever been in his life. He said all these tough soldiers were weeping like babies, writing letters home all night. His unit had been told their job would simply be to fight until the back-ups would get there…they would likely not make it if the Russians came through. Thankfully…the crisis was averted.

He eventually would return home to Virginia, begin working in a cigarette factory and then he met my mom. They met on a blind date and 3 months later were married. The Baptist pastor almost didn’t marry them because dad wasn’t sure if he really believed there was a God. He was only being honest…he had actually never stepped foot into a church before that day.

Mom and dad would eventually move to Joliet, Illinois where dad’s oldest brother (Karla’s father) had met the Lord. And Uncle Johnny would not let up on them. They went to the opening night of a revival service at an A/G church and my mother was horrified…they walked out thinking all of them were nuts…swearing they would never go back. But they did…and the next evening their lives changed forever.

A couple of years later, Grandma and Grandpa Fisher, the old farmer couple in Great Bend, found out through letters that Dad had gotten married and had a couple of young boys and they wanted to see all of us. They sent train tickets and we went to visit. While there…in the summer of 1969, Grandpa Fisher made my dad an offer he couldn’t refuse. Barton County Community College was about to open for their first semester that fall…and Grandpa Fisher said, “Seth, if you want to go to school there, move your family here and I’ll pay for it.” The 26-year-old father with a seventh grade education had been shown the grace and favor of the Lord. We moved…Dad spent the first year taking classes to complete his GED…then received a degree in electronics. (I used to tease dad, “You took 3 years to finish a 2 year school. He would say, “Well…you took for 4 years in high school to do what I did in one…who’s smarter??”)

Nothing was impossible. My dad opened up a TV repair shop while working at the Fuller Brush factory and managing an apartment complex. My parents worked tirelessly to provide….because nothing was impossible with God. He was a great, I mean great salesman. He was possibly most proud of the fact that he became a regional sales manager for Motorola. From such humble beginnings to success with one of the worlds largest companies.

When I was a freshman in high school, my dad bought a tower company from a friend who was retiring. He used to climb 300-foot towers like they were nothing, painting, re-lamping, inspecting them for the FAA. He got Randy and I up there…me more than Randy. We learned how to work hard, watching my dad. He made us work. There was always grass to mow, weeds to pull, an apartment to paint…I can’t remember getting paid much for that…you just did it because you were eating at his table and wearing the clothes he bought for you. (One time he woke me up on a Saturday morning to tell me to be sure to have the grass mowed before he got back home that day. I said, “Dad, what do I get if I get the grass mowed?” He said, “Think about what you’ll get if you don’t.”)

In 1972…JP McCamey rode into town to become the pastor of the church we were attending and quickly became my dad’s personal hero. Whatever McCamey preached that Sunday, dad could repeat. One day JP brought my dad a manual written by Tommy Barnett and Bill Wilson on how to build a bus ministry. My dad ran with it…eventually running numerous busses, even to Ellinwood and Hoisington, bringing tons and tons of kids to church on Sunday. So many families were changed for eternity by his efforts. And most Saturdays, dad was dragging us along to knock on doors and invite kids to church the next day.

Nothing was impossible with God. My dad really did love God…and he had a deep, deep faith. Nothing was impossible. Many don’t know that dad completed Rhema Bible College in Tulsa, OK in the early 80’s…doing it all through their correspondence program. He would devour the books on healing and faith…and believed it every day of his life.

Dad was generous to a fault. This was often a point of contention with mom. Mom would say, “We could retire one day if your dad wouldn’t give half of it away.” He got into real estate about 25 years ago. He started buying small houses and trailers at tax sales. He would rehab them a little, then sell them on contract…owner carry. So at the first of the month, he would drive around to these properties collecting the payments. I would call mom, “Hey, where dad?” “Oh…he’s up in Hutch, filled the back of his van with food to take to some of his renters…and you know, he’ll end up telling 2 or 3 just to skip this month’s payment because they are struggling right now.” (If you knew my mom…that would never fly…she’d be all over them.)   Dad was just a big softy…I think because he knew exactly what it meant to have nothing…and to have someone give him a break when he needed it the most.

Nothing was impossible in his mind.

The next deal was the big one…the next house was going to be a home run…the next multilevel just might make us a million. He was a dreamer…because nothing was impossible with God. God was just looking for someone who would dare to dream with Him.

His biggest dreams were for myself and Randy. He believed I would be the next Steve Green…and sometimes wondered about Randy. But he was always would tell me…”you watch out for Randy…he’s going to blow us all away one day.” Randy…you did it…you blew dad away…he was so very proud of you…and your big brother is proud of you as well.

He believed that nothing was impossible for his grandkids too. The bar was set high for all six of you…and your folks know you’re all going to exceed expectations. Because Seth Freeman was your grandpa…and nothing is impossible.

I’m proud and grateful to be Seth Freeman’s son. I’m proud to be his namesake. He was a good man…with a huge heart…and a passion for life. Today his passion is fulfilled. He’s walking hand-in-hand with mom…the one he was most passionate about. He went to be with her on their 53rd anniversary on his terms…in his way…because nothing is impossible with God. We love you dad!

Posted in Family, My Story, PsMartyFreeman

For Mom

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I’ve decided to add the eulogy I gave for my mom at her service November 10, 2016.  Mostly for my sake, to honor her.  But who knows…someone out there might want to read it and remember. To say that our family was (and is) close is an understatement.  It’s made the grief process easier in many ways…a testament to her strength, love and courage.  Sure miss you mom!  46 days later my father joined her in heaven. I’ll share his eulogy next time.

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For Mom

November 10, 2016

On behalf of my dad and my brother…and our families, I want to say thank you for all the love and support we’ve received the past several months.

I’ve never been on this side of the grief process. I’ve had the privilege of serving hundreds of people with their grief…but never had to deal with my own…it stinks…so thank you again for the prayers and love.

I also want to say thanks to my dad…for so faithfully loving mom for 53 years. Dad, I love you and am so proud of you. Dad lost his sweetheart, so please keep him in your prayers.

I thought of many adjectives to11182643_10206949365233596_2717714340208758972_o describe my mother…(caring, loving, compassionate…yes all those)…but the best word to describe Dottie Freeman is “strong.” There was a certain strength about my mother. She had an independent streak in her a mile wide. She never had a problem speaking her mind, telling it like it is…and if you didn’t agree…well…you’ll eventually come around to her way of thinking.

Mom was a tireless worker. Both her and my dad usually held down two or three jobs each while we were growing up. And I believe Randy and I inherited a strong work ethic from their example. I don’t think we actually had much growing up, but we never lacked for anything. Every sacrifice was made for her two boys.

Dottie Freeman did not suffer fools wells. She was one of the smartest people I knew, incredibly discerning. But please don’t get me wrong…her “toughness” and strength was always delivered with a soft compassion that endeared her to almost everyone she met.

This tough love was something she really developed as the director of Main Place Youth Teen Challenge Center. When mom and dad arrived at Main Place it was a level 4 state-run home for girls. After a few years mom and her board decided to privatize the home so she could have complete freedom to minister to the girls without state interference. I asked her a few weeks ago how many girls she thought had come through that home in her 24 years…she quickly replied, “607.” And she could remember just about every name and where they were from. She loved “her girls.” None of the girls ever wanted to be there, but through the anger, the acting out, the screaming and cussing…they would finally calm down and get in a room one-on-one with mom…and she would win their trust. She would eventually win their heart.

She loved just as much working with the parents of the girls at Main Place. She realized that a young girl didn’t just get in trouble for no reason…and her gentle coaching, counsel and encouragement toward the parents would often be the key to successfully reintegrating that girl back into their home.

Her compassion for those girls was tireless. She always said that behavioral change could be achieved…but real changed had to come from the heart. (My brother and I were always so grateful that her calling to work in a group home came after we were raised and gone…no point cards, loss of privs…it always looked so brutal.)

My mom was also a tireless shopper. If I had a dollar for every time I would call her and she was either heading to Sam’s Club or just leaving Sam’s Club…oh my. After she got sick…we literally received a phone call from Von Maur ladies’ department wanting to know where she had been and if she was okay…they hadn’t seen her in a while. (Absolutely not kidding…)

My mom was quick-witted…she had a great sense of humor. The morning before she passed, we were surprised she had made it through another night. I leaned down to kiss her on the cheek and said, “You’re a tough old bird aren’t you?” She opened her eyes and said, “I’ll slap you.” Of course, I told her to go ahead and get up out the bed and slap me…bring it on!

Most importantly…my mom loved Jesus. She’s the reason our family loves Jesus. She was a prayer warrior, an intercessor for so many. She had a committed walk with the Lord that I envied. She didn’t just talk about Jesus…she knew Him…and she shared Him and wanted all of us to know Him as well.

Since her passing…my biggest concern has been “Who am I going to call to talk to? Who am I going to call for advice…for some wisdom on a matter?” And I tried to recall past conversations with her when things were tough, when my back was up against a wall. And I can never remember her ever asking me, “Well…what are going to do? What’s your next step?” What I clearly remember is her usually saying, “You know what to do.” And by that…she always meant…”You go get it from God. He’s got the answer, so get it from Him. Then, you do what He tells you to do regardless of what anyone else thinks about it.”

You see…she’s the one who taught me to trust the voice of the Lord, to learn the voice of the Lord and follow the voice of the Lord. I can’t think of one major decision in my life where I didn’t get a word from God on it. And I got that gift from her. She could hear Him speak…and she taught me to hear Him. I could never thank you enough for that gift, mom!

My mom didn’t want to leave us. From the moment she knew she had cancer that was untreatable…she focused her faith on complete healing and asked others to agree with her. She would snap at me, “Are you still with me? Are you still agreeing with me for healing?” I would say, “Of course mom…I’m with you. God still has time and has the room to perform a miracle…so let’s go for that.”

Until…one evening, she saw Jesus…and she insisted I tell you this story today:

A week ago Tuesday, we thought she was at the end. We had brought our little one Ben over to see her one last time…to sing for her, dance the Hot Dog Dance for her…she loved to watch him sing and dance. I was going to spend the night with her…so Polly was saying her goodbyes while I took Ben out to the car. When I walked back into her room…the glory of God had filled the room. She was worshipping, praying in tongues…she was just flowing with worship and adoration toward Jesus. We had a Charles Martin CD playing…so I turned it up a bit and just joined in for about 30 minutes. We worshiped and prayed together…and then she settled. I leaned over to kiss her and tell her I love her and she grabbed my hand and said, “Marty, I saw Jesus! I saw Jesus!” Over and over again she proclaimed it. She began to describe Him, His face, His eyes…yet she would continue to say that He was too wonderful to describe. She said that she heard sounds like she had never heard before…incredible sounds, indescribable sounds…she said, “I saw heaven too…not all of it, but part of it and it’s so wonderful. I saw Jesus…His arms were outstretched to me, but then He told me that I needed to go back and share what I’ve seen…then, in a short time, He will come back and get me. Marty, I saw Jesus…I saw Jesus.”

She asked for her grandkids immediately. So Michael and Noah came right over…she shared what she had seen with them…then began to prophesy over them, and over Benjamin…then she prophesied over Todd, Amber, Troy…she prophesied over our church…over things to come…over Polly…over Denita…and I believe Troy came the next day and she Skyped with Amber and Todd. But she was telling everyone of her experience in heaven and how real it was. She told me…”I need to tell my grandkids…they’ll believe grandma!”

She told several others that came to visit over the next few days.

Until she saw Jesus…she wasn’t ready to go. She was fighting…she was hanging on for her grandkids…for her family…for her church.

But folks…when you’ve tasted and seen…nothing her can compare. After seeing Jesus in all of His glory…how disappointing to come back here. She told us many times in the next few days, especially on the day she passed…”I want to see Jesus again…I want to see Jesus again.” Her hunger had changed. Her direction had changed. She was now heavenward.

So to all who will listen today…My MOM SAW JESUS! He’s real…and heaven is real. Heaven is no consolation prize!

So thanks mom! We believe you…and we’ll see you soon!

And for my family…mom says today what she has always said to me: “You know what to do…so get it from God and go do it!”

 

Posted in Family, Miscellany, My Story, PsMartyFreeman

Deceptive Discernment

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“Suspicion is not discernment.” – Bill Johnson

“Pastor, I need to talk to you about Jim. He’s new to the church and I need to let you know that I have a ‘red flag’ about him.”

“You do? Why is that?”

“I don’t know, I just have a red flag, you need to be careful.”

“Well, I appreciate your concern, but I’ve known this man for more than 15 years. We’ve walked through a lot of ‘life’ together and he really is a great guy.”

“I understand, but I have a red flag.”

“I understand too…I don’t.”

This is a real conversation I once had with a trusted elder who was genuinely concerned that a new member of our church, and a long-time personal friend of mine, was some sort of wolf in sheep clothing. (Name was changed to protect the innocent.) He was wrong in his discernment. It happens. And the gentleman of concern ended up becoming a friend to this spiritual leader.

There are several lessons to learn from this interaction that are very common in many spirit-filled churches today:

  1. Don’t mistake discernment for suspicion.

A suspicious heart is usually a critical heart. It often looks through the lens of past hurts and usually takes either an overly aggressive stance or a debilitating defensive one. Oft times those in spiritual leadership will mislabel their own paranoia, past hurts or disappointments as “spiritual discernment.”   When not properly handled, this spiritual mislabeling becomes a finger-pointing tool meadiscernment-stuart-milies-fdp-etprnt to isolate and damage others in the Body of Christ. We don’t agree or don’t like someone else’s method or ministry and we “discern” they are a false prophet. Just do a quick Google search of Joel Osteen…you’ll be amazed at how horrible a person he apparently is. (sarcasm intended)

  1. Understand that the different ministry gifts are different for a reason.

 Are you ready for this? The five primary ministry gifts denoted in Ephesians 4 are different. They certainly can work together, but they are very different in their primary motivations.

Pastors are not prophets. Prophets are not pastors. Apostles are not teachers. Evangelists are not pastors. Teachers are not pastors. I did not say that a pastor cannot function prophetically, or that a prophet cannot “do the work of an evangelist.” But understand…these gifts are very different. Pastors (poimen) are shepherds. They are care-givers, lovers of sheep; nurturers and exhorters. Pastors love to lead and feed. Prophets tend to be…well…prophets. At least the real ones do. A sharper word, sometimes of warning of correction. The Old Testament prophets typically had one message: “Repent or die!” My experience is that true prophets tend to be loners, not typically people-oriented. They are message-oriented. Apostles are pioneers, breaking up fallow ground and plowing new fields.

My first youth pastor was a powerful young man of God. When he preached, the anointing was palpable. He was passionate about “going into the highways and byways” and ministering to the most helpless. I loved being around him. But he had little patience for the church. He felt most church people were self-absorbed and not as passionate about reaching the lost as he. He wasn’t necessarily wrong…but he also wasn’t a good pastor. I was cleaning up a lot of messes. I told him one day, “Dude, you are John the Baptist. You’re out in the wilderness crying, “Repent!” wearing funny clothes and eating strange things. We need those prophetic/evangelists in the Body. But we also need the church to take care of those new converts when the come to Christ.

I could go on pointing out the differences. My point is that we need to recognize the differences and appreciate them. Prophets usually make terrible pastors. They can clear out a church quicker than anyone. Apostles are usually so forward-focused that tending existing sheep is very difficult for them.

I remember telling a very prophet-gifted church member: “There is no way I can pastor these people the way you see them.” He chuckled. He understood.

The Father spoke to me one day: “Don’t ever pastor my people paranoid.” I knew exactly what He meant. Never look at new people who walk in the door as potential problems with huge amounts of baggage. Look at their potential and what they are about to become. See the gift inside each of them. Yes, they may be wounded or broken, but Jesus came to heal them. The God who saves and heals them is the same God who deposits precious gifts within each. The very people that others have labeled as “trouble” will become the greatest blessings of your ministry.

Pastors, drop the paranoia. You’ll never get anywhere with it. It will alienate you from some incredible gifts from God. Being a perpetual victim is not an appealing character trait.

However, don’t let the pendulum swing too far the other way and throw the mantle of “pastor” onto everyone who walks in the door. The ability to Google search a Greek word does not constitute a degree in Theology.

Find the balance. Seek the gifts in others. Be life-giving. Watch God do incredible things!

Posted in Uncategorized

Making Up Stories

Pastor Marty Freeman

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s how we are made. We make up stories. Everyday we make up stories. Why? Because we are creatures of reason. We can’t help it. Things need to make sense to us. We need to “fill in the gaps” so the picture will look right. We don’t mean to be this way, but all of us make up stories. You do it. I do it. All the time. And it can be very dangerous.
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An older lady caught me in the hallway after church. She was on the verge of tears so I asked her to step into my office. Much to my surprise, she was very upset…with me. Go figure! She recounted an incident four weeks previous where I was heading down the hall at break-neck speed toward the gym and “walked right by her and didn’t even say hello.” My heart sank, because anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world is to stop and talk to people…especially at church. I apologized and explained that my intent was not to ignore her, but that an usher had rushed into the sanctuary to tell me that my son had fallen in the gym and “there was some blood.” I was focused on getting to my son…so much so, that I never saw this lady in the hallway.

Something amazing happened right before my eyes. This wonderful ladies’ countenance completely changed. As I gave her proper context and perspective to that particular incident, she realized that her “made-up story” in her mind was completely off base. The sad part was that she had held a wound in her heart based on a made-up story in her mind for an entire month. She was actually considering leaving the church, even though I had taken time to greet her and chat several times since this incident.

What happened? She made up a story. She filled in some blanks as to my motivation and actions. She had believed something that simply was not true. Not intentionally…but her assumptions were leading her to a train wreck.

I can recount more than a few such stories where truth is supplanted by the need for us to fill in blanks and draw conclusions. Counseling departments are packed because of this very issue. It’s our nature. We want the picture to make sense. We need the picture to make sense.

Gervase R. Bushe in his book, “Clear Leadership” calls this natural phenomenon “interpersonal mush.” He points out the harsh reality of human nature when he writes, “It is an unfortunate truth that the stories we make up, and the stories that get made up about us, tend to be more unfavorable than the reality. In a vacuum of information, people tend to assume the worse….Interpersonal mush drives out our ability to see the basic humanity in each other – the loving, caring people who are just trying to do their best to do what they feel is rightfully expected of them by others.”

The good news is that Jesus directly addressed this most urgent of interpersonal needs. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says,  “If your brother or sister[b] sins (against God or against you),[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

Therein lies the simple answer! Clear communication. It’s vitally important to not allow unanswered questions, unclear perspective or non-communicated context to rob you of your peace and drive a wedge between your relationships. If you care about the relationship, it’s not just Jesus’ suggestion, it is His command that you “go” to your brother to clear the air.

How many friendships and yes, family relationships, have been put on hold for years, even decades? Sisters and brothers finally communicating, clearing up the interpersonal mush finally get relief with comments like, “I didn’t know you felt that way…” and “I didn’t know that part of the story…”

“I didn’t know.” Three words that are relationship assassins.

Why is this so important? Matthew 18 is one of the most ignored directives of Christ in the entire bible. Yet, when we overcome our own fears and misgivings, great healing can be achieved by following His command.

Last fall, a friend who once worked for me contacted me. The lifelong friendship had fallen on hard times due to feelings of betrayal, rejection and made-up stories. His intention was to reconcile. We met. I shared my heart. He shared his. He “owned his stuff” as I already had done years previous. Honestly, it was very difficult and painful to rehash the past. However, the following months after our meeting proved to be like healing oil flowing down Aaron’s beard. (Ps 133:2)

What happened? Proper context. False stories were replaced with truth…raw, honest, brutal truth. Understand this: true friends can handle the brutal truth…they actually crave it. My brother says, “People are smart. They usually sniff out the truth in the end.” Exactly. It’s our deepest human instinct to want to believe the best in somebody else. It’s impossible to “get there” on our own.

How do we keep the enemy from destroying relationships? By not allowing our made-up stories to masquerade as truth.

1. Knowing the truth will set you free.

It’s your own heart that ultimately is at risk. Your heart will grow harder if a made-up story is reigning as truth. You deserve to be at peace in all your relationships. Tell the truth. Ask for the truth.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov 4:23) Jesus promised in John 8:32, “Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Place that promise in the context of friendships gone bad, relationships lost. When you’re brave enough to ask the right questions, seek the proper perspective, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, truth will flood in like a mighty river, cleansing you of hurt feelings and recovering your broken soul for a greater Kingdom purpose.

2. Knowing the truth will set others free.

When you open the doors to the prison of “made-up stories,” the liberty obtained in your own heart is only surpassed by the power of freedom you offer to the other party. They deserve peace as much as you do. If you have received grace and forgiveness from your own Heavenly Father, how much more should we offer it to others? However, such grace is difficult to come by if you’re living with made-up stories.

3. Knowing the truth will save your relationships.

You deserve to know the truth…or to share the truth…because you deserve your friends back. You need them in your life. They are part of who you are. You need your sister back, your brother back, your mom or dad with whom you haven’t spoken in years. You are important to them. They are important to you. Be reconciled!

4. Clear communication will become a lifestyle.

As Bushe stated, we tend to make up more negative stories than positive. However, when you become a mature follower of Christ, who seeks the truth in your relationships, this lifestyle will become habit-forming. Why? Your basic belief in the goodness of God’s kids will become predominant in your thinking. You won’t so quickly assume the worst when you hear the rumor. You will understand that there is ALWAYS a back-story that will offer more clarity and context. You will seek that truth rather than settle for the one-sided perspective you first received. You will start to transform your mind (Romans 12:2) to that of Christ’s…seeing the best in people, desiring to be a true peacemaker and vessel of healing.

If you’re disappointed with someone…ask yourself this question: Do I know the whole story? If not, then go get it…from the “horse’s mouth” not the rumor-monger next door.

If you remember that someone is disappointed with you: don’t ponder the question much longer.

Jesus urgently stated in Matthew 5:23, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

AskMeAnother_logoDo not delay. Clear the air. Seek the truth. Make every effort to live in peace with all men (and women).

If you have questions for me…ASK ME. (I’m such an open book it will blow your mind!) If you have questions for a former friend, disappointed co-worker, disgruntled spouse…ASK THEM. Stop living a life of “made-up” stories when the truth is so much more liberating.

Do it quickly. Your worship depends on it. Your heart depends on it.

 

Posted in Christianity, Church, Family, My Story, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Embracing Change

ChangePix

2016 has been, and will continue to be, a year of shifting, transition and change. Change is never easy. Transitions can wobble the knees. But I cannot recount one great promotion or advancement the Lord has provided for me or my family without first experiencing the pain of change.

ChangePixIn August 2001, my wife and I sat in front of the pulpit committee of Hillside Assembly of God. I remember looking at the pages of meticulously handwritten financials (thanks Dewey Smith, draftsman extraordinaire) and commenting, “You guys know you’re bankrupt, right?” One member replied quickly, “Yes sir, and the question is, do we stay here, ‘lest we die?’” I then urgently told them, “Please do not submit me for consideration as your next pastor without understanding the ‘pain of change.’ Please understand, I’m not going to change one thing…everything will have to change…and it will all change very quickly.” Not one of the members of that pulpit committee even blinked. They smiled and said, “That’s what we need…let’s get to it!”

Not every transition can happen that smoothly and with that much favor, but the necessity of change is at the very core of growth. Embracing transition is also a powerful expression of trust. Do you trust the new leader, the new employer, the new set of circumstances? The question really boils down to, “Do you trust God?”

Abraham had to trust God’s instructions to leave the land of his childhood and go into a new land. Moses trusted God’s command to lead His people out of bondage. The children of Israel did not trust God and an entire generation missed out on seeing the Promised Land. If you don’t embrace the shift, then you’ll be relegated to sitting on the wrong side of the Jordan watching others enter the land without you.

Some transitions are welcomed: A new baby, an exciting promotion at work, a new relationship. Other shifts are less desirable: the loss of a loved one, a lay-off from your job, a friendship betrayed. But never forget God’s promise: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

It’s a matter of trust. What new ministry opportunity is God willing to open up for you if you are willing to let go of the old apprenticeship? What business opportunity is waiting for you if you’re willing to follow God away from the security of your current position? What new friendship awaits if you’ll just let go of the toxic influences of the past?

Big decisions. Don’t underestimate how much faith you will need to navigate such change. Doubts will rise. Winds will blow. But what awaits on the other side? Maybe it’s your healing. Maybe it’s your deliverance. Maybe it’s a crazy person who will be set free and lead an entire region to Christ (Mark 5:1-20).

On another note. Don’t wait too long to decided to embrace the change. God will move on to offer the opportunity to someone else if you delay. Rivers won’t be crossed quite yet. Someone else may get the promotion. It’s okay, your day will come…but what if it’s today? What if it’s now? Embrace the shift! God’s got you.

 

Posted in Christianity, Family, Miscellany, My Story, PsMartyFreeman

Unoffendableness

11i-forgive-you-image

Unoffendableness

I didn’t make up the word “unoffendableness.” I first read the word in a staff meeting at Bethel Life Center many years ago. Our youth pastor asked if he could lead a team-building exercise. Each one of us were handed a 3×5 notecard and were asked to write our name on the top. Then, we passed the cards to the person on our left. With each card, we were to write a positive word, statement or phrase that, in your opinion, best described that person. When the circle was complete, each received their card back with a list of people’s best thoughts about you. It really was a great exercise. I still have that card.

My friend Mark (the youth pastor) wrote on my card. “I appreciate your ‘unoffendableness.’” He chuckled as I slowly tried to pronounce the syllables out loud.

I asked him why he thought that I was unoffendable? He went on to explain that as a music minister, he had watched me deal with cranky musicians, difficult sound guys, take open criticism for song choices (even having received a few racial slurs about some of my choices), staged large Easter and Christmas productions, worked long hours…and nothing seemed to phase me. He stated, “You get along with everybody and you never get rattled.”

I don’t relay this encounter to toot my own horn or for any reason except to say, Mark was right. I cannot remember the last time I was offended. I attribute some of that to my dad’s influence. You could spit in my dad’s face and he’d take you for coffee to talk about it 5 minutes later. Maybe some of it came from childhood pastor, J.P. McCamey. Talk about a man smooth under pressure. He is always smiling, alw11i-forgive-you-imageays believing the best in everybody, no matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been. I’m also quite sure I learned much under Ken Woods. If he was every upset or irritated about something, you could never tell. Again, smooth leadership, even when it was tough.

I honestly cannot think of one person on this planet that I would not go up to and hug and wish them God’s best if I saw them on the street today, regardless of what our past may look like. Why? I’m not offended. I’m not ashamed. I’m free.

I’ve always been the type of person that would rather apologize to save the relationship, even if I had nothing to apologize for. (And I’ve had plenty of missteps for which I needed to apologize…and have done so.) I’ve stood in the pulpit on many occasions teaching on forgiveness and proclaimed, “I cannot be offended.” That statement always brings a chuckle from the crowd…and some have taken that statement as a personal challenge to prove me wrong. They lost every time.

Here’s why. The Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

We fall short of the grace of God in our own lives when we refuse to offer the same grace to others. But the second part of this verse is the most disturbing to me: “…no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

 Who are the “many” who would be defiled?

  1. You. If we choose not to participate in the grace of God toward others, then we undermine the grace of God in our own lives. We cannot fully understand what an incredible gift His grace is until we actually pass that gift on to others in need of it.
  1. The one trying to offend you. Wounded people…wound people. Yes, offense is always available, but remember, you may be the one true representation of Christ this wounded person may see. Would Jesus react with anger, bitterness or offense? No. Then why should you? He may be setting you up to be the healing agent in their lives. It doesn’t get any better than that!
  1. Your family. Please never forget that your family is watching. Your spouse will thrive and stay well-guarded if you maintain your innocence. If you choose the path of offense, a root of bitterness will eventually creep into the ones you love the most. Be very careful of “borrowed offenses.”

Rick Renner posted this morning: “You can’t be offended without your own consent.” Remember, offense is your choice. Every offense that you hold onto from the past is like a weight. With each new offense, more weight is added until it becomes very difficult for you to move forward with joy in any area of life. The cycle has to stop and with God’s help, you’re the only one who can decide you’ve had enough. Offense is a prison sentence. Offense produces a sick heart and leads to poor physical health. Heed Jesus’ warnings to forgive so that you can be forgiven.

Allow me to clarify one thing. I have never said that I haven’t been disappointed or let down by others from time to time. That’s part of life. However, each of us own the choice to hold on to those disappointments until they fester into a cancer on the soul.

Not long ago I was pointing out a very “disappointing” comment made to me in a meeting. One defender of the comment said, “Well, you obviously took offense to that.” I stopped him quickly and said, “No, I wasn’t offended and I’m still not. However, the statement was wrong, ill-advised and I want you to know that I won’t stand for it.”

Was I offended? Absolutely not. Did I forgive that person, even though an apology was never offered? Absolutely, almost immediately. Was I providing a necessary boundary around someone else’s choices so they clearly knew where I stood? Yes…and that’s a very healthy, empowering thing to do.

Wounded people tend to rehearse the offenses of the past and live only to survive. Thriving has almost become impossible because all they see is how they’ve been hurt in the past. We should empathize and pray for them, but never dwell there with them, borrowing their offenses and making them our own.

You’re not called to be a doormat…you’re called to overcome. Overcome the enemy by never allowing offense to produce a bitter root that will choke out God’s peace and separate you from others. (It’s also very fun to win with people, even if they don’t want to be won.)

Thanks for that card, Mark. It was a game-changer.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Family, Miscellany, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Be Strong in the Lord Pt. 1

Posted in Podcast

Me and King David

I am a student of King David. Of course, I am a student of God’s, but King David seemed to have had God’s heart, so emulating the relationship David had with the Father has always been a desire of mine.

Some of the similarities are obvious. David was red-headed, energetic and likable. David was a musician, the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel.” His songs are brutally honest, filled with life’s best treasures while wrought with such aching pain. We continue to put our own melodies to his poetic lyric. I, too, am a musician, a psalmist. It is my primary gift and my deepest desire: to passionately pursue the presence of God and to help as many people as possible get there too. It is my greatest joy and my highest call.DavidPic

David was a shepherd boy. However, one must admit, being a songwriter/worshiper is not the same as being a king. Being a worship leader is the not the same as being a pastor either. David is probably the most recognizable “shepherd” in all of scripture. He was born into the role. He was good at it. He was faithful to his earthly father’s flock and would grow into the role of a faithful shepherd over His Heavenly Father’s flock. He would break the mold and all others who followed would be compared to him.

Nearly 20 years ago a colleague dropped a book on my desk entitled, “A Tale of Three Kings” by Gene Edwards. It’s not a long read, but it has proven to be possibly the most valuable of my life and ministry, other than scripture. I have recommended it to many, especially those in leadership. I have revisited it many times. Three years ago, facing one of the darkest times of my life, Edward’s text once again proved to be an anchor of stability and a guidepost on how to proceed through great difficulty.

“A Tale of Three Kings” is an allegorical rendering of the story of King David’s relationships with two other kings: King Saul in his early life, and his own son, Absalom toward the end of his life. Before you get excited and rush out to purchase the book, allow me to warn you…the subtitle of the books reads: “A study in brokenness.” Please proceed with caution.

The prologue is a brief conversation between God and the archangel Gabriel. God instructs Gabriel to distribute two portions of Himself, two destinies awaiting. One portion is outer power, which will eventually reveal true character. The second is described as an “inheritance.” The angel says, “A gift is worn on the outer person; an inheritance is planted deep inside—like a seed.” He goes on to explain, “It must be mixed, lavishly with pain, sorrow, and crushing.”

Sorry…I warned you. If you’re going to take this journey with me, you must be willing to receive the gift along with the crushing. No fun…but necessary.

You see, I wasn’t fully aware of what that meant until a few years ago. Sure, I had been through seasons of trial and testing, but God had always miraculously brought me through. He was an escape, a true Deliverer who had proven Himself over and over strong for every task. He still is…but this time it would be much different, much deeper. This time, the darkness, the fear, the rejection and the hopelessness would be almost more than I could handle. Several themes ran through my psyche: Give up. I quit. Fight back. Defend yourself. Give up…(yes, this one was a biggie!). Slap somebody. Slap yourself. Give up…(there it is again.) Does anyone recognize any of these?

The Lord has released me to start writing about my journey. It’s a story of recovery. It’s a story of healing (still in process). It’s a story of frustration and desperation and heavy-duty wrestling with God. It’s a story of comebacks…a story of hope and gratitude. Most of all…it’s my story…and it’s HIS story. On this side of the valley, I can admit that I’m privileged He allowed me to be part of it. As Garth Brooks sings, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d a had to miss the dance.”

Oh yea…it’s “a study in brokenness.” Yippee!

Stay tuned…more to come…much more…I hope it helps many.

Posted in Christianity, My Story, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Don’t Push Send

Pushing Send

“Too much talk leads to sin.

Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Exodus 14:14 (NKJV)

 

I watched with great humor as Coach Herm Edwards was offering advice to a group of rookies coming into training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. He warned them that in the age of social media, it is incredibly tempting to post things on social media or by text or email that may seem right in the moment, but later will prove difficult to defend.

Let’s be honest. This is true for everyone. Social media is riddled with people working out their personal issues in a public forum, attempting to garner sympathy, right an injustice or simply tear someone else apart. We watch as people make bold statements in the heat of an emotional political season. We witness embarrassing barrages of anger and rage from a jilted ex-husband toward his ex-wife. We attempt to decipher coded verbiage of a wounded spirit trying to accuse someone else without actually coming right out and saying what they really want to say.

Social media, text messaging, email all offer cover from direct confrontation. Suddenly, the meek become bold, the bold become bolder and the angry go over the top. Words are often communicated that most would never have the guts enough to say directly to the recipient’s face.  Too often, thoughts are communicated that the sender regrets later.Pushing Send

Admit it. Haven’t you pushed “send” and wished you could retrieve the message the second it left your finger? In the immortal words of Rush Limbaugh: “Words mean things.” In the incorruptible words of holy scripture, words can build up and words can tear down. Proverbs 18:21 says, Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” (Msg)  

Today’s exhortation is simply, “Don’t push send!” If you must write the long, rambling email in response to an insult, then write it. You might feel better. It is wonderful therapy. But don’t push send. The proverbial “grapevine” has delivered to you a hurtful accusation based in half-truths and innuendo. Don’t respond even when every fiber of your flesh is crying out to cut loose. Remember, when you step into the flesh, you leave the realm of grace.

I’m a pastor. Early in my ministry as a worship pastor, I was given the gift of being able to “not respond.” I’m not sure why…but I’ve always been able to hold my tongue, listen intently, then…let it go. (One MUST learn this skill to deal with musicians.) Much of the time I did not respond to an accusation because I knew it would harm someone else and could harm the church.

You see…Silence is powerful. Silence doesn’t tell stories. Silence doesn’t spread gossip. Silence doesn’t speak ill-will. Silence protects. Silence conceals. Silence covers “backsides.” The ability for a pastor to hold such confidence is absolutely vital to his or her success. The ability for any follower of Christ to do so reaps untold rewards. (And…if the truth be made known…it really bothers the accuser when they don’t get a response. So…that’s a bonus!)

However,  I believe there is more to it. I believe it’s what God wants from us. Certainly there are proper moments to confront, to clarify and to “speak the truth in love.” But I have learned that silence goes a long way to victory and is often times the only path to personal peace in Christ.

Concerning those who have been falsely accused, lied about or diminished, I recently read: “Let your character speak! The fruit of your life will always outlive a lie. Godly character is the greatest defense.” I don’t suggest that you bottle it up and not “vent” when you need to. But be sure it’s with your spouse, a trusted friend or a pastor who can understand that they are simply helping you process the frustration and pain. But please…please…don’t retaliate. Don’t say something you will regret. Don’t carry someone else’s ignorance to others and allow it to place you in the unenviable position of becoming a gossip or talebearer.

Trust God…let it go. And whatever you do… DON’T PUSH SEND!

Posted in Christianity, Church, Family, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

NO FEAR Pt. 1

Jan 3, 2016

 

 

Weekly message from Pastor Marty Freeman

Posted in Uncategorized