Category: Quest


Okay, I won’t make you suffer any longer. If you subscribe to my twitter (sempei13), you know that the bands this Labor Day Sunday (August 31st) will be…”Need to Breathe” known for songs like “Signature of the Divine” aka “Yahweh”, “Kutless” know for songs like “Strong Tower”, and Emmy and Dove award winner “Kirk Franklin” known for such songs as “Stomp”.

Pray for me. When we do Kirk Franklin songs at church I know what they are in advance, practice for hours and know who in our band is who. None of that will be true with Questapalooza. I’m not sure “take a shot of the girl with the earrings” is going to work. Oh well. It’s no mistake that I’m the one who gets to lead the live video for this event.

Paul

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Do You Wanna Know; Do You?

Every year since 2006 my church has put on a festival that we call “A Party for the City”. The first year we had Shaun Groves, Crystal Lewis and Tate. Last year it was Foolish Things, Starfield, and Toby Mac. This year it’s…

I guess you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know at about 1:30 eastern. If not, I’ll blog sometime tomorrow. Suffice it to say you’ll want to take your Labor Day weekend and travel to KY for Questapalooza. A bunch of you have wanted to come see Quest for a while. Well here’s your shot. I’ll be leading the live video, so I won’t be super available, but anyone that can make it will enjoy hearing… the bands I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

Paul

A Most Unusual Day

My schedule is pretty set. From week to week I know pretty much what I’m doing most of the time. What’s odd is that if something messes up a task I have scheduled for a particular time, I don’t get many windows to do it. That’s happened a lot with the podcast. It’s so common that I miss my window now, that I’m going to try and find another so that Tech, No Babel can make a return.

Back on topic, normally I serve at church every weekend. That means my Saturdays and Sundays are mostly taken. As such, the laundry and lawn are often neglected. I’m not complaining. It’s the cost of what I get to do. This weekend I was off. Others were doing what I get to do, so I found myself hitting church last night. This morning I took the time to sleep in and remembered too late that my wife had to get to church during the last service and so I didn’t go today. That’s odd. I did have a window (that I normally don’t have) to mow the lawn so that’s what I did.

Now I’m home with two sick kids doing laundry and thinking, “This may be normal for most people, but for me it’s a most unusual day.”

Paul

There aren’t a lot of odd things that my church hasn’t tried. Liveblogging is one thing, though.

In prep for when we blog on our site, this is an experiment in live blogging.

11:55–Worship starts. Sharon is welcoming us here.

11:56–The song is “Revolutionary Love.” It really reminds me of how I feel about Quest. “I never wanna leave this place; love, love, love, revolutionary love.” God’s love really is amazing.

11:59–There’s a drama called “A problem of perspective” on now. It’s a comedy about a married couple and a fight they have. They see a therapist and each tells him what happened. The wife is first.

12:02–From her perspective, she’s the perfect wife, almost a Cinderella/Martha Stewart type.

12:o5–She remembers him hating their kid and him being borderline abusive. Now it’s his turn.

12:07–He remembers being the perfect husband and father. In his mind, she’s pushy and demanding. She wants a daily report about how he failed during the day.

12:08–Now a video, “What’s the funniest story of miscommunication you’ve ever had?” The best ones are a wife who went on a date with the man who would later become her husband, but she couldn’t remember his name and a guy who told the story of his parents’ first date where the guy told the woman she smelled like a funeral home; he meant like flowers.

12: 10–Danielle and Chris are talking about their relationship as brother and sister. Chris used to be a “street pharmacist”. They fought about that in front of their grandparents. He saw her and her husband and “Jesus freaks X1000”. Then, she quit judging him and started loving him. That’s when something changed. They gave him a cd that changed his life. Christmas Eve 2006 he came to church and gave his life to Christ. He couldn’t believe that a guy like him could be forgiven. Now, they don’t just love each other (as family), but like each other as friends.

12:19–Now we’re doing the song, “Say What You Need to Say”. Midway through there are video stories of people saying hard things like “I forgive you” or “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” or “I love you & I really should say that more.” The most poignant is a friend who thanked her husband for taking care of her as she’s recovered from a stroke and cancer this year.

12:25–Now for the message.

12:26–“Welcome to our second week of Static: Crossed Signals. This is a week about families and miscommunication.”

!2:27–“We live in a culture where communication can be difficult. Think about texting. There’s LOL–laugh out loud, BRB–be right back, TTFN–ta ta for now, L8R–later, and the newest one HRR–Helen Really Rocks!” our transformation pastor’s name is Helen.

12:29–“What relationship do you have that really matters to you that’s marked by static? Most of us would say it’s in our families. Last week on the web, all but one person said it was.”

12:30–“Can I actually become a more effective communicator when relating to my family and those that are closest to me? Why is it so challenging with those closest to us?”

12:32–“That great philosopher and theologian Richard Pryor said, ‘Family is a mixed bag. You’re glad you have one, but it’s sort of like getting a life sentence for a crime you didn’t commit.”

12:34–“Family is our starting point. We’re affected by our genetics, but our family is really the greenhouse where we grow. Why is family so challenging if it’s so foundational?”

12:36–“Why do we think that the territory of familiarity is a license to not be our best? The things that irritate us most about others are the things that irritate us about ourselves. Family sure can push our buttons.” She’s telling a story about the punctuality that marked her family growing up. When she got married, she expected her husband to be the same way. She’d call her husband at the end of the day. He’d say, “I’m leaving right now” which means I’m wrapping up, finding my keys and I’ll be home in 45-60 minutes.

12:40–She’s using the metaphor of communication being like an old-fashioned switchboard in college. If the operator isn’t careful someone can get a message they were never meant to receive. “In our homes we often receive messages we weren’t meant to receive. For example, ‘you’re so emotional’ is heard as you better isolate. ‘I’ll show you what tough is; I’ll give you something to cry about’ is heard as you better self-protect. ‘You’re the problem’ is heard as I’m worthless. ‘You got a “b”‘ is heard as your value comes from performance. ‘Your father isn’t hung over; he has the flu’ is heard as you better be secret and wear a mask.”

12:45–“God can uncross those wires. Disconnect from the emotion of the moment and suspend judgement. Remember that Jesus said we’re not supposed to judge. Judgement cuts off communication and stifles intimacy. Judgement is all about self. Where sin and self are, static isn’t far behind.”

12:48–“Chris had his breakthough when Danielle suspended judgement and poured on love and compassion. That created a space for change. See Ephesians 4:2, 23-24, 29-32.”

12:50–“Change frequencies and forgive. 1) You have to acknowledge that you’ve been hurt, even seriously hurt. 2) Surrender your right to get even. Getting even won’t make you alright. It’s not how we’re wired for revenge to work. 3) Begin to see the one who hurt you in a new light. You’ve only seen the other person as the one who wronged you. They are a person. Something happened that helped this happen. Abusive people are often the result of abuse themselves. 4) Begin to see yourself differently–free, not under the curse of that injustice, the hook gone. That can be a reality.”

12:58–“Plug into the source. Jesus wants to heal you. He came to set the captive free. Don’t try to do this without him. If you think having your spouse treat you fairly or your mother love you unconditionally will complete you, you’re wrong. Only Jesus will treat you fairly (or better than that) and love you unconditionally. People will always let you down. See Eph 3:20 and Eph 1:19-20”

1:02–“God longs to connect with you and love you.” She’s praying to close the service.

Annoucements are next and I’m going to help with a live feed from our construction site. Go to QuestCommunity.com each week for the service live. This is just a taste (an imperfect one at best).

Paul

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Biblical Miracles. At the time, I only knew of what the leaders at my church had committed to give. Now, I know much more.

Let me tell you the story about a widow. Her husband had just died in an accident leaving her enough to bury him and live for a few months. She felt God calling her to give to His work. As other people gave out of their excess, she gave all she had. You might recognize this story as Mark 12:42-44. I grew up knowing this story as “The Widow’s Mite”. I never knew that I’d go to church with her. I never knew that she had four kids. Her name is Sarah.

I could tell you of the guy who gave the gold chain that marked his identity or the woman who gave up not an arm, but a leg–literally. She gave the money to buy a replacement prosthetic leg. That’s when her story took a twist as she met a man who makes them for a living at our church.

So, there are about 900 families at our church. 922 committed to give. For the first offering, we needed $1 million to order the supplies to start building. Up to this point, the largest offering we’d ever received was just over $500,000. We received $1,022,000 in less than 24 hours. Now for the big number. We had a goal of $8,625,000, but found out that the building was actually going to cost $10,625,000 to build. That’s a major blow except that, over three years, we’ve pledged as a church to give just over $12 million. That includes $1500 from the kids, just over $10,000 from the middle schoolers and $15,000 from the high schoolers.

I can’t believe I get to be a part of it. I know how the disciples must have felt as they looked at 12 baskets of leftovers after Jesus fed the 5000. I can’t believe I get to do this!

Anyone care to move to Lexington?

Paul

More about Quest

I stumbled across this wikipedia page which talks about my church. Take a look.

Paul

Biblical Miracles

Have you ever lived in a place where things in the Bible paralleled your life? I joke that I was living in such a place in college where, after a lot of studying, I discovered Act 26:24, “While Paul was making his defense, Festus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are insane. Too much studying has driven you crazy.'” Sure, that’s a funny example, but I’m at a place now that the Bible makes more sense to me now than ever before. It makes sense in an experiential, not just theoretical way.

I never understood Acts where it said that whole families were coming to know Jesus at the same time until I saw it with my own eyes. I never thought I’d be at a church where the Acts 2 passage didn’t seem like hyperbole, but if anything a pared down description of the facts. I never believed that I could see “the Lord add[ing] to [our] number daily those who were being saved. I never thought it was possible that God could make evangelism something that I thought I was capable of doing. Now, that’s all true for me.

Still, I hadn’t seen everything. There were miracles that seemed almost outside the realm of possibility. The feeding of the 5000 was one such miracle. Sure, I believed that God can do anything, but changing the way math works with the raw materials of fish sticks and wonderbread, that’s just outside of what I’d ever seen.

Fast forward to last night. We’re in the middle of a campaign at church–Imagine 2: The Power of Everybody. As part of that spiritual journey, Pete, our pastor, called together the leaders, 100 families, to go first. This makes sense. Leaders lead. Normally it’s done by going first. So Friday night we all filed into a small room to thank God for what He’s done and, in faith, commit to what we’ll give.

Our modest goal for this whole campaign was $8,625,000 over three years. The experts tell us that for a church our size, that’s impossible. We should be trying to raise something more like $5,000,000. It’s not a small difference. When Pete told the consultant that number, the consultant paused and tried to talk him out of it.

Yet here we are one week before all of the rest of the church commits to what they’re going to give. So 5% or so of our church has submitted their number already. I get to be part of one of those families, probably a tad below average in our income, but fairly close. I did the math and realized that it’s just not possible. Bill Gates doesn’t go to our church. Nobody can write a $5,000,000 check to make it possible. Sure we’ve got some that can give more, but most can’t.

With all this in the background, Pete announced the number that our church leaders are going to give. It’s an impossible number. $2,000,000? $4,000,000? No, the leaders of our church (including the staff and you know how little church staff make) are going to give $6,923,000 leaving $1,702,000 for the remaining 95% of the church.

I know these people. The math just doesn’t work. Many of us are twenty-somethings just out of college. Quite a few are unemployed. Some have money, but most don’t. I guess I know a little how the disciples felt after the feeding of the 5000. I’ve just seen the impossible and you can’t unsee what you’ve seen.

Paul

Sandra’s Story

I couldn’t resist republishing Sandra’s story once I read it. I hope her story gives you hope for knowing who Jesus is and how He really feels about us.

Paul

sandra.jpgLife is splendid. I have been seeing Jesus change hearts. And there is nothing like seeing a person transform before your eyes. See light in a mostly dark world. Experience life the way He designed it to be.

So, I guess in order for you to understand what is happening now, you will need to know what has happened before. Gosh, some of you don’t even know how I ended up moving to Mexico, then back to the United States, so I guess I will start further back.

As some of you already know, I was kind of a loner in my early years. I grew up feeling alone and isolated. I spent a large amount of time by myself and at the age of 10 found some magazines that sparked an addiction that began to rule my life even at that early age. I thought “Hey, that is what a woman is supposed to be” Because of the large amount of time alone I spent most of my hours creating a fantasy world in my head to help with the loneliness I felt. I was going to church, but because of a rumor that was started when I was 12 I was asked to leave. So I decided to be done with God. By high school, to mask the loneliness I felt, I got into a string of relationships and grew an unhealthy addiction. My sense of loneliness expanded, and I turned to alcohol. At 18, I felt I needed to escape. I traipsed off to college with full blown addictions in hand and created wreckage around me.

I went to college as a theatre major and there I tried to fill this void I felt with excessive partying, and it didn’t work. I was at every party, every weekend, and getting into numerous situations I shouldn’t have, but was lonelier than ever. I met, married and then divorced my first husband, pursued a relationship with someone else that in turn caused damage in his marriage, and had started drinking heavily, so after my sophomore year I dropped out of school and went to North Carolina. I met my second husband and at the age of 20 entered the world of adult entertainment. It paid my bills and fueled my addictions. I sought out approval from everyone around me, tried to be the prettiest, smartest, funniest, but I was empty. I used people in whatever way I could. Through my life I have always ran when the circumstances had gotten bad and I thought a change of location could change me and I was wrong.

I moved to Mexico and did a divorce process through the mail. When I entered Mexico I let my addictions run rampant. I continued working in the Adult Entertainment industry, and hit the bottom of my alcoholism and cocaine addiction, lost everything I owned, and started staying with people I knew because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I tried to lock myself in a hotel room for a week to kick my habits, but I really couldn’t do it on my own. One day a woman at work named Alejandra called a 12 step program that spoke English for me. That next day I was picked up at a hotel by my future sponsor and I got on the road to sobriety. That was July 15th 1996.

I got sober, started making new friends, and decided I didn’t want to be without money anymore so I started booking entertainers into Mexico while I was dancing. When I was in the middle of it I didn’t fully see the darkness around me. There was this top layer of glamour, beauty, excessiveness and attention that I was craving, but inside I was really dead and asking how my life could have turned out how it had. I talked myself into the idea that I was fine, that I was just taking care of myself, that I had a life everyone wanted, people sought after me, that I had tons of friends so I must be happy. I kept trying to talk myself into being happy. Everything seemed in order. I had done my checklist. But for some reason that I couldn’t put my finger on, I was sad. I still felt lonely. I felt something missing. I remember one day crying out of hopelessness that if this was all there was to life I didn’t understand why I was here. Why did it feel so wrong to me that we would go through life and then just die and that’s it? Why did I feel so alone? Why was I constantly feeling the need to do stuff to try and fill my life with things? When I was alone, or before I would go to sleep at night, I was filled with emptiness. A void, nothingness.

Each time I really started to process that, or look at the possibility that there could be more for me, I would stuff the feeling back down. During this time I went back and forth believing that God existed. On one hand I didn’t believe he existed, and on the other hand, if He did exist, then surely I had messed up so bad that there was no hope for me. In 2002 I thought some time away would do me some good. I went to England for the summer with my friend Greg. We ended up in South Beach after coming back to the states and I met a friend of mine there. I was at the Porn convention and looked around me and was so tired of how my life had ended up. I remember being outside the hotel and a guy was standing on the side of the street with a sign in his hand that said John 3:16. I remember making fun of him to the people I was with. I was a lead sinner. I was dying on the inside.

I went back to Mexico and after a few weeks flew to KY. After a couple of weeks I got a clear sense to stay. I wasn’t sure why, but knew it was what I was supposed to do. I ended the relationship that I had in Mexico poorly and moved here. A friend of mine asked me to go to his church a few times and I didn’t want to, I really didn’t want to meet many people or deal with any of my issues. He finally talked me into going because they were teaching a movie series and that week was on “Lord of the Rings” looking at the biblical principles in the movie. I thought, “I want to see how they do this”, and I was surprised at the church. I was used to this idea of hell fire and brimstone, hymns and condemnation, and that if I started going to church I would have to stop wearing makeup and wear dresses with little flower print on it all the time. I had bought into this lie that I would have to give up all the things I thought was fun, when really those things always led my heart to emptier places anyway. Instead I saw people around me that loved each other and cared about getting to know me. I looked around at the people here and they all had something I didn’t. They all had a peace and a joy that I had never known.

In the next couple of months I started feeling the love of God for me and not the pointing finger I thought I was going to get. I really thought God was tired of the mistakes I kept making. At this point I was walking around with internal shame and regret in my life from the things I had done, the people I had hurt. On the outside I looked great. On the inside I wasn’t. I didn’t think I could truly be loved by anyone. I had been here a few months and began to believe in God. I decided I wanted to follow Him. I loved getting to know about Jesus and His character and what He had done for me by dying on the cross. Then April 27th, 2003 came around.

Pete (our pastor) was talking about grace and after 6 months of questioning and not believing it could all be for me too, then going to believing and wanting to follow, I finally understood God’s grace for me and that I needed to receive Jesus into my heart and ask Him to lead my life. That I was just His kid that He loved no matter what. That the whole time I had been trying to lead my own life and making a MESS of it, Jesus just wanted to lead it. That I just needed to let Him. That He wasn’t pointing a finger, He was opening His arms. That it was a gift. That nothing I could do would make Him love me less, that nothing I could do would make Him love me more. It was a gift and I needed to receive it. It’s like if you get this amazing gift at Christmas from someone who loves you more than anyone else, you can open the gift and receive it, or set it on your coffee table, look at it all year and never know what it was. I finally got that Jesus was God’s son and that He was the only person on the earth EVER that didn’t sin, and that we all sin, but He loved us all enough to take all of our sins on Himself, He died for us, and then God made Him alive again and if we accept His gift, God’s sacrifice that already happened, our sins would be wiped clean in God’s eyes, past present and future! The gap between God and I could be bridged by Jesus!

So in my heart I walked up to the cross and said, “Jesus, this is all my stuff, my sin, my gross stuff, my good stuff, I don’t want it. I know you are God’s son, that He sent you and you died on the cross for me; I receive your gift of forgiveness, please come into my heart and lead my life. I love you, thank you.” With a humble prayer, led by a great friend of mine named Sharon, the hole I had been trying to fill with everything else, (like alcohol, money, relationships) was forever filled by Christ. I felt peace for the first time in my life. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I know now that my past doesn’t define me, but Christ defines who I am.

But the deal is it wasn’t just for me. It is a gift for everyone. It’s your choice, you can just pick it. These days, my life looks really different. I still make a ton of mistakes (I’m not perfect), and there are still storms I go through, but there is an underlying love that I feel from Him that doesn’t go away and now I am able to love people and love myself too. I really get to live in seeing myself the way He sees me. I used to cry all the time out of hopelessness, but now I get to cry out of joy knowing I am His and He loves me.

He also showed me through all this how my sexual and relational patterns had led to so much of the wreckage in my life. At that moment I knew other women didn’t have to go down the same paths I did, and that we needed to set up a program here at church for women that also had sexual and relational addictions called No Stones. We started the first group at the beginning of 2006 and so far we have had 6 groups with almost 100 women who have found freedom. We also began a group for women whose husbands struggle with sexual addiction. We have a ministry here at the church on Friday nights called The Mat. There are other groups there like: substance abuse, co-dependency, a 12 step study, and Men’s and Women’s integrity groups. I never dreamt that my past could be redeemed in such a way that helps other women, but He did. It amazes me.

He is doing the restoration in my life.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me. I would love to hear from you all.
~ I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ~ Luke 7:47-50

Sandra’s Story

I couldn’t resist republishing Sandra’s story once I read it. I hope her story gives you hope for knowing who Jesus is and how He really feels about us.

Paul

sandra.jpgLife is splendid. I have been seeing Jesus change hearts. And there is nothing like seeing a person transform before your eyes. See light in a mostly dark world. Experience life the way He designed it to be.

So, I guess in order for you to understand what is happening now, you will need to know what has happened before. Gosh, some of you don’t even know how I ended up moving to Mexico, then back to the United States, so I guess I will start further back.

As some of you already know, I was kind of a loner in my early years. I grew up feeling alone and isolated. I spent a large amount of time by myself and at the age of 10 found some magazines that sparked an addiction that began to rule my life even at that early age. I thought “Hey, that is what a woman is supposed to be” Because of the large amount of time alone I spent most of my hours creating a fantasy world in my head to help with the loneliness I felt. I was going to church, but because of a rumor that was started when I was 12 I was asked to leave. So I decided to be done with God. By high school, to mask the loneliness I felt, I got into a string of relationships and grew an unhealthy addiction. My sense of loneliness expanded, and I turned to alcohol. At 18, I felt I needed to escape. I traipsed off to college with full blown addictions in hand and created wreckage around me.

I went to college as a theatre major and there I tried to fill this void I felt with excessive partying, and it didn’t work. I was at every party, every weekend, and getting into numerous situations I shouldn’t have, but was lonelier than ever. I met, married and then divorced my first husband, pursued a relationship with someone else that in turn caused damage in his marriage, and had started drinking heavily, so after my sophomore year I dropped out of school and went to North Carolina. I met my second husband and at the age of 20 entered the world of adult entertainment. It paid my bills and fueled my addictions. I sought out approval from everyone around me, tried to be the prettiest, smartest, funniest, but I was empty. I used people in whatever way I could. Through my life I have always ran when the circumstances had gotten bad and I thought a change of location could change me and I was wrong.

I moved to Mexico and did a divorce process through the mail. When I entered Mexico I let my addictions run rampant. I continued working in the Adult Entertainment industry, and hit the bottom of my alcoholism and cocaine addiction, lost everything I owned, and started staying with people I knew because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I tried to lock myself in a hotel room for a week to kick my habits, but I really couldn’t do it on my own. One day a woman at work named Alejandra called a 12 step program that spoke English for me. That next day I was picked up at a hotel by my future sponsor and I got on the road to sobriety. That was July 15th 1996.

I got sober, started making new friends, and decided I didn’t want to be without money anymore so I started booking entertainers into Mexico while I was dancing. When I was in the middle of it I didn’t fully see the darkness around me. There was this top layer of glamour, beauty, excessiveness and attention that I was craving, but inside I was really dead and asking how my life could have turned out how it had. I talked myself into the idea that I was fine, that I was just taking care of myself, that I had a life everyone wanted, people sought after me, that I had tons of friends so I must be happy. I kept trying to talk myself into being happy. Everything seemed in order. I had done my checklist. But for some reason that I couldn’t put my finger on, I was sad. I still felt lonely. I felt something missing. I remember one day crying out of hopelessness that if this was all there was to life I didn’t understand why I was here. Why did it feel so wrong to me that we would go through life and then just die and that’s it? Why did I feel so alone? Why was I constantly feeling the need to do stuff to try and fill my life with things? When I was alone, or before I would go to sleep at night, I was filled with emptiness. A void, nothingness.

Each time I really started to process that, or look at the possibility that there could be more for me, I would stuff the feeling back down. During this time I went back and forth believing that God existed. On one hand I didn’t believe he existed, and on the other hand, if He did exist, then surely I had messed up so bad that there was no hope for me. In 2002 I thought some time away would do me some good. I went to England for the summer with my friend Greg. We ended up in South Beach after coming back to the states and I met a friend of mine there. I was at the Porn convention and looked around me and was so tired of how my life had ended up. I remember being outside the hotel and a guy was standing on the side of the street with a sign in his hand that said John 3:16. I remember making fun of him to the people I was with. I was a lead sinner. I was dying on the inside.

I went back to Mexico and after a few weeks flew to KY. After a couple of weeks I got a clear sense to stay. I wasn’t sure why, but knew it was what I was supposed to do. I ended the relationship that I had in Mexico poorly and moved here. A friend of mine asked me to go to his church a few times and I didn’t want to, I really didn’t want to meet many people or deal with any of my issues. He finally talked me into going because they were teaching a movie series and that week was on “Lord of the Rings” looking at the biblical principles in the movie. I thought, “I want to see how they do this”, and I was surprised at the church. I was used to this idea of hell fire and brimstone, hymns and condemnation, and that if I started going to church I would have to stop wearing makeup and wear dresses with little flower print on it all the time. I had bought into this lie that I would have to give up all the things I thought was fun, when really those things always led my heart to emptier places anyway. Instead I saw people around me that loved each other and cared about getting to know me. I looked around at the people here and they all had something I didn’t. They all had a peace and a joy that I had never known.

In the next couple of months I started feeling the love of God for me and not the pointing finger I thought I was going to get. I really thought God was tired of the mistakes I kept making. At this point I was walking around with internal shame and regret in my life from the things I had done, the people I had hurt. On the outside I looked great. On the inside I wasn’t. I didn’t think I could truly be loved by anyone. I had been here a few months and began to believe in God. I decided I wanted to follow Him. I loved getting to know about Jesus and His character and what He had done for me by dying on the cross. Then April 27th, 2003 came around.

Pete (our pastor) was talking about grace and after 6 months of questioning and not believing it could all be for me too, then going to believing and wanting to follow, I finally understood God’s grace for me and that I needed to receive Jesus into my heart and ask Him to lead my life. That I was just His kid that He loved no matter what. That the whole time I had been trying to lead my own life and making a MESS of it, Jesus just wanted to lead it. That I just needed to let Him. That He wasn’t pointing a finger, He was opening His arms. That it was a gift. That nothing I could do would make Him love me less, that nothing I could do would make Him love me more. It was a gift and I needed to receive it. It’s like if you get this amazing gift at Christmas from someone who loves you more than anyone else, you can open the gift and receive it, or set it on your coffee table, look at it all year and never know what it was. I finally got that Jesus was God’s son and that He was the only person on the earth EVER that didn’t sin, and that we all sin, but He loved us all enough to take all of our sins on Himself, He died for us, and then God made Him alive again and if we accept His gift, God’s sacrifice that already happened, our sins would be wiped clean in God’s eyes, past present and future! The gap between God and I could be bridged by Jesus!

So in my heart I walked up to the cross and said, “Jesus, this is all my stuff, my sin, my gross stuff, my good stuff, I don’t want it. I know you are God’s son, that He sent you and you died on the cross for me; I receive your gift of forgiveness, please come into my heart and lead my life. I love you, thank you.” With a humble prayer, led by a great friend of mine named Sharon, the hole I had been trying to fill with everything else, (like alcohol, money, relationships) was forever filled by Christ. I felt peace for the first time in my life. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I know now that my past doesn’t define me, but Christ defines who I am.

But the deal is it wasn’t just for me. It is a gift for everyone. It’s your choice, you can just pick it. These days, my life looks really different. I still make a ton of mistakes (I’m not perfect), and there are still storms I go through, but there is an underlying love that I feel from Him that doesn’t go away and now I am able to love people and love myself too. I really get to live in seeing myself the way He sees me. I used to cry all the time out of hopelessness, but now I get to cry out of joy knowing I am His and He loves me.

He also showed me through all this how my sexual and relational patterns had led to so much of the wreckage in my life. At that moment I knew other women didn’t have to go down the same paths I did, and that we needed to set up a program here at church for women that also had sexual and relational addictions called No Stones. We started the first group at the beginning of 2006 and so far we have had 6 groups with almost 100 women who have found freedom. We also began a group for women whose husbands struggle with sexual addiction. We have a ministry here at the church on Friday nights called The Mat. There are other groups there like: substance abuse, co-dependency, a 12 step study, and Men’s and Women’s integrity groups. I never dreamt that my past could be redeemed in such a way that helps other women, but He did. It amazes me.

He is doing the restoration in my life.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me. I would love to hear from you all.
~ I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ~ Luke 7:47-50

Family Retreat

What’s the best getaway you’ve ever been on? What would make it about as nearly perfect as anything you could imagine?

I just got back from mine. My church has a rather large staff. There are about 22 or so. Some are ministry staff: senior pastor, worship and arts pastor, youth pastor, etc. Some are directors: tech director, video arts director, etc. Some are office staff: receptionist, ministry assistant, etc. Some are campus staff: preschool staff director, etc. That’s my wife.

So, we went on a two day retreat. Staff, spouses, and kids all went to Gatlinburg, TN to spend time connecting with God and each other. It was AWESOME. First, you have to imagine the logistical challenges of getting 63 people ranging in age from almost 1 to 55 years old from place to place, giving them a bed to sleep in and food to eat.

I was amazed to find when we arrived that each couple had their own room with king sized bed and private bath. In each of the two cabins, we also had common areas on each floor and double bed bunks for the kids. My eldest, a 6 year old, thought it was the greatest thing ever to stay with her friends giggling about little girl stuff until the late, late hour of 10 pm. The boys had a similar time.

Sure, I raced go carts and bungee jumped, but that wasn’t the highlight for me. For me it was spending time with some of my favorite people in the world, eating together, watching movies together, playing games, listening to our pastor’s thought, singing worship songs and watching the kids as they sang along to TobyMac from our iPods.

I imagine heaven to be like that–cabins in the mountains with people you love. You don’t lock anything. You wake up (if indeed you sleep at all) and find Jesus making breakfast, just because He loves you.

I loved that weekend. I can’t imagine much that’s better, but I’m only so creative.

Paul