Friday, May 17, 2019

My Story - Verse 1

My Story. Verse 1

I’ve been contemplating the idea of writing down my story for a long time.  I’m more stirred toward that end since my parents both passed away in late 2016.  They had a story to tell. Their lives were an incredible journey of faith, love, endurance and accomplishment.  I’d like to think my life has been that as well so far.  Maybe that’s not for me to judge, but for others.  I do know that I want my boys to know more about their parent’s journey.  It’s certainly interesting, exciting, scary and fulfilling.  One’s story is all they really have.  Our stories of love, of faith, of perseverance, pain, suffering and recovery can help others.  Our stories are interconnected in such wonderful ways.  I’m an important part of somebody else’s story…and so many others are certainly part of mine.
I’m also keenly aware that for me, writing is therapeutic, healing and restorative.  There’s something about “getting it out” so it can be read, remembered, processed…and again, possibly help someone else along the way. It sure helps me to write it.  It’s certainly therapeutic.

There’s also a delicate tightrope to walk, in that we must know when it’s too soon to share parts of our story.  Will someone not receive it well?  Will it stir unwanted reminders of wounds not quite yet healed?  I’m asking God for guidance.

Six years ago, my story, our story, took an unexpected turn.  One of great loss, anger, regret, betrayal…but also one of great growth and insight.  We simply don’t get the good without the bad.  It’s all part of the recipe.

On May 5, 2013 I resigned my long-held position as Sr. Pastor of Believers Tabernacle in Wichita, KS.  At the time, it was the worst day of my life.  Humiliating, devastating…but I would later experience a couple of worse days at the passing of my mom, then my dad just seven weeks later.  It’s all perspective.

I didn’t want to resign. It wasn’t my idea. I was told I needed to by my superiors.  I understood. It’s what I signed up for. It took a while to get to that decision and with such decisions comes great emotion, confusion and of course, incredible loss.  With that one decision, hundreds and hundreds of relationships built over a 12 year period would be cut off immediately with no opportunity for explanation, context or clarification. No closure.  Just a tearful confession of my shortcomings as a leader, a heart-felt apology, and a quick “good-bye.”

I’ll address my “shortcomings” later, but for now I will simply say that I did fail. I have never had a problem admitting that part of the story.  Actually, I failed from the first day I became pastor of then Hillside Assembly in 2001.  Policies, procedures, practices were put in place from the very first board meeting, with full board support, but mistakes nonetheless. Intentional? No, never…by me or those precious board members.  Actually, some great, godly people trying to bless their young pastor who had taken a great risk and followed God’s voice to lead them after five candidates before turned them down. (That bit of information wasn’t revealed until a few months after we settled in.)

Arriving at Hillside Assembly of God in August of 2001 was quite a journey in itself.  I had spent eight wonderful years as the Music Pastor of Bethel Life Center in Wichita under the leadership of Kenneth Woods.  What a risk he took on me.  I was a 26 year old, newly married kid who had never directed a choir or waved a baton in front of an orchestra. I had led very little worship leading experience.  However, I knew what sounded good. I was born to do it. My training in opera, in theater and singing on national television with Oral Roberts University’s television ministry had given me great experience and confidence.  But I was green…really green.

Polly and I had relocated to Wichita after six months of marriage for her to work in the Wichita office of SRS (now DCF) as a social work case manager.  I was traveling in concert ministry sporadically and working as a siding installer during the week days for a godly man named LaVern Becker.

On Easter of 1992, we were looking for a home church.  My brother and his family had visited Bethel a few times and suggested we check it out. We met my parents there as well.  I’ll never forget walking up the stairs to the church and being greeted by Eldon McClemore.  He was the most congenial, sweet individual who grabbed our arms and led into the church’s gym/sanctuary and sat us in the few remaining seats left in the building (along the back wall underneath the coat rack.  Hangars kept hitting my head the entire service.)  I was actually quite disappointed to be handed a program telling us that today’s service was not actually a service, but the music ministry’s rendition of some Easter musical, with full orchestra, drama, choir, costumes…all of it.  Again, my slightly judgmental attitude was critical…as I thought to myself, “This is great. I don’t get to experience the worship, don’t get to hear the preacher preach.  And…let’s face it, every church in America thinks they know how to pull off an Easter cantata. This is about to get lame!” 

As the orchestra tuned and the lights came up…I was actually blown away at how good the choir sounded, the orchestra was rich and the drama held my attention thoroughly.  At the end of the service, I purposefully sought out the Music Minister to congratulate him and tell him how impressed I was with the program (not that he needed it from some stranger like me). 

It was this particular day that my dad really showed his true colors as salesman, pitch man, etc.  Without my knowledge, he had brought into the service two of my CD’s and two promotional packets that I used to solicit ministry opportunities with pastors and ministry leaders.  He handed one to the Music Minister and handed one to Pastor Kenneth Woods.  He put on his best pitch…making them aware of my experiences, talents and desire to come and hold a service at Bethel at some point.  Wow…was I embarrassed and put off!  While God had certainly blessed me with some uncommon opportunities to that point, I was always terrible at promoting myself. It was simply never in my DNA.  Not out of false humility…but out of awkwardness and the feeling that so many others were better than me in this arena.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that six weeks later at 8 AM on a Saturday morning, Kenneth Woods would ring my phone and wake me up asking me to meet him at McDonalds for breakfast.  We sat there for 3 hours.  He was interviewing me and I didn’t know it.  I thought I might get a ministry date from the meeting…but the ministry opportunity would later come in an offer to become his full-time Music Pastor.  It turned out to be an incredible eight year run, growing, learning and sharpening a new-found calling that God was stirring in my heart.  I was called to be a pastor.

More later…

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Attacks on the Frontlines

I pray for pastors.  I am one.  I know how hard it can be.  My wife forwarded the article below to me this morning.  We have been in and out of seasons like the author describes.  It is so necessary, no, mandatory, that we pray for spiritual leaders.  They have extra large targets on their backs.  It can be tempting to do something else...maybe attempt less for the Kingdom in order to not be spotted by the enemy.  But God calls certain men and women to great exploits and to lead others along in the ground taken.  Keep walking by faith.

The original date of this article in Charisma is very significant to me personally.  It was dated July of 2015.  I wish I had seen it then.  Little did I know that the next 5 months was going to be one of the most difficult and frustrating times in ministry I had ever experienced.  However, as usual...the storm was strong, but the victory was greater!  That season of pressure and difficulty was the incubator for the planting of our current church The Altar.  God would actually use the pressure to steer us into the greatest victories of our lives.

Read the article and take heart if you are under attack.

July 2015, Lana Vawser
There is a great assault and attack against many front-line leaders and forerunners right now. The enemy is working hard to 'shut down' these ones and hinder them from moving forward and stepping into what the Lord is about to do in and through them.
I had a vision where I first heard the Lord say, "Front-line leaders and forerunners, batten down the hatches."
I then saw many front-line leaders and forerunners all together and bent down on their knees with their shields held up in front of them, sitting behind their shield of faith, and there was a barrage of arrows being thrown at them. Every time they have thought the "assault" had ended they stood up and the arrows would begin again. Many front-line leaders and forerunners have felt like they are in a moment of complete 'assault' from many directions. I saw many front-line leaders and forerunners weary from the battle. 
In this vision, I was in front of these front-line leaders and forerunners and I could see the enemy and his demons which were shooting arrow after arrow at them attempting to wound them. In the 'weariness' many of these front-line leaders and forerunners were facing at times they put their shield down out of discouragement and weariness from holding it up, and were "hit" and "wounded" by these arrows that had come against them. So they were then holding their shield of faith up again but finding it harder than before because of the "wounds" they had received.
I then saw Jesus walk up behind many of these front-line leaders and forerunners, and I saw Him place His hand on their backs one by one and He was praying for them, interceding for them. As I watched, I saw Him moving His hand all across their backs in different spots. I walked over to have a look and saw other wounds these front-line leaders and forerunners had received were on their back. But the enemy was in front of them, so I was perplexed by these wounds on their back.
Suddenly, this "knowing" came over many. Not only were many of these front-line leaders and forerunners being hit from the front and the enemy coming on strong with his assault, there has been an assault against many of these ones from the 'back.' Being "stabbed in the back" by people they trusted, even other believers, judgments, curses and jealous words that had been spoken against them. 
I could see Jesus was healing these wounds and praying for their strength in the midst of their battle. As He prayed His Words of truth and love were bringing such deep healing. A deep strengthening was happening in these front-line ones.
"And the God of Israel will be your rear guard." (Isaiah 52:12, MEV).
The Lord then spoke, "A refreshing heavenly oasis (a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.) is opening up before you. An invitation into deeper intimacy in the midst of this battle. Many of you have felt you are in the desert; the battle has been so intense that weariness has left you in a place of feeling dry and exhausted. Before you I am opening up a fertile spot, a place of life and heavenly waters of refreshing in Me."
Places of incredible encounters with Him are opening up for front-line leaders and forerunners right now. 
Suddenly, I saw pools of water forming around these front-line leaders and forerunners in the midst of the battle. Nothing had changed from the "arrows" coming against them, but there was a new level of intimacy being opened up for them as they remain steadfast in faith. Encounters with His heart like they have never had before while in the chaos of the battle. A deep refreshing was coming to these ones. An increase of visions, prophetic dreams and encounters that was seeing them begin to stand up in the midst of this battle and walk forward in boldness.
As these ones began to walk forward in boldness I saw Jesus walking with them. I could see Him behind them, beside them and before them all at the same time. They were holding their shield of faith in their hands and a determination in their heart and eyes to see the enemy and his demons overcome by the authority that was theirs. 
As they moved forward, the enemy began to retreat, farther and farther back. I then noticed that as they were moving forward in boldness and a deep refreshment that had taken place in these encounters, I saw the body of Christ as a whole and in the middle I saw a clock. It looked like a normal clock face with numbers and clock hands, but then also on the clock face were various quadrants which represented seasons the body of Christ was moving into.
I saw the hour hand was seconds away from midnight, but still in the "contending season" quadrant. As these ones moved forward they began to speak out declarations and heavenly revelations the Lord had given them in these encounters and suddenly the clock began to shake. It was like an earthquake was happening in the middle of the clock and suddenly I saw the clock hand move to midnight and then again suddenly forward into "harvest revival increase time."
The "knowing" then came over me that many of these forefront leaders and forerunners have been under such assault because the Lord is releasing through them the revelations and kingdom keys to shift the body of Christ into "harvest revival increase time," but at an accelerated pace. Moving the people of God into a time of great revival within the body of Christ and releasing revival to the world. 
What they were "fighting for" behind their shields was not only for their personal breakthrough but also fighting on behalf of the body of Christ to see one of the greatest shifts the church has ever seen before. Paving the way, breaking ground for the body of Christ to move into the greatest time of harvest, revival and increase they have ever experienced. 
Suddenly as this clock hand moved past midnight into the "harvest revival increase time" I saw physical ailments, unexplained sickness and diseases, heavy financial burdens and word curses suddenly disappear off these front-line leaders and forerunners. Much of what these ones had endured through this season was sent from the enemy to stop them from moving forward and shifting the body of Christ into her new season. There was sudden restoration.
I saw Jesus approach these leaders and forerunners who had stood firm and moved forward, and hand them a huge kingdom key.  As He placed it in their hands they spoke, "Thank you Lord, I receive and believe." I saw this key labeled "double recompense." As their declaration and thankfulness met with His provision, suddenly "double doors" were unlocked around them and that released "double recompense" upon them for all that had been taken and broken in the 'assault.' 
Forefront leaders, and forerunners, there has been great assault against many of you, and the enemy has been screaming, "give up." Do not give up, for you are not only fighting for your personal breakthrough but the shifting of the body of Christ into the greatest season we have seen thus far. You are but steps away from breakthrough. The Lord is with you. He is bringing healing to you.
Some of the greatest encounters with Him are upon you in the midst of the battle. He is opening up a heavenly oasis of refreshing before you in the midst of the battle. You will receive GREAT wisdom and revelation in these encounters and great strengthening that will not only set you on your feet again, but give you the keys to shift the body of Christ into this new season.
The Lord is walking with you, behind you and before you. It may seem that things have been lost and broken in this season, and it may feel like you have been under a constant barrage of arrows, but you are moving forward in greater strength, courage, fearlessness and revelation. Not only will you see tremendous breakthrough in your life, and receive double recompense but a huge corporate breakthrough and shifting across the body of Christ.
"I honor you for fighting. Jesus honors you for fighting and standing. I am proud of you front-line leaders and forerunners. Jesus is proud of you front-line leaders and forerunners. Thank you for standing! Jesus thanks you for standing. Your faith, obedience and sacrifice has not gone unnoticed. Great is your reward." 
Jesus stands before you welcoming you into your "harvest revival increase time" with the body of Christ following after you. 

My Story - Verse 1

My Story. Verse 1 I’ve been contemplating the idea of writing down my story for a long time.   I’m more stirred tow...