It has been another incredible year for us here at InFocus ministries! I have been to 12 different states, shared the Gospel with thousands of teenagers, and seen a “bunch of teenagers get saved” in all 12 of those states! There is no doubt in our minds that this incredible year is a direct result of God leading us last year to make some changes in the way we handle the business side of this ministry. Beginning in mid summer of 2015 we made the commitment to go to any church of any size regardless of what they are able to pay. We have always been willing to work with people to make events happen but in the last year we have taken that to a whole ‘nother level! Our prayer has become simply: “God, fill my schedule and meet our needs!”
Ministry-wise it has been the best thing we have ever done. I have had more events and seen more teens saved and lives changed than ever before. God is on the move and it is amazing to watch Him work in this generation. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome it is to share this experience with you via Facebook. Each time I share about teens getting saved it’s so awesome celebrating with y’all via likes and comments.
Financially it has been a journey, as week to week we step out in faith not always knowing what each church will be able to pay. Over and over again God has been faithful to take care of us. Sometimes more kids sign up than ever before and the church is able to meet the goal. Other times the church is unable to meet the goal but we receive a donation that makes up the difference.
We are asking you to prayerfully consider being that difference.
If you feel led to join us in reaching teenagers for Christ, please consider us in your year-end giving or partnering with us as you feel led. Donations can be made online here or you can send a check to InFocus Ministries, 1006 Cactus Dr., Levelland, TX 79336. All donations are tax deductible.
We are so thankful for your prayers, your friendship, and your support.
Its been another great year for InFocus Ministries. I’ve done events in 9 states, spoken to more students in one year than ever before, 20,000+, seen God do absolutely amazing things in the lives of hurting teenagers, and was able to schedule around and see Nick play all 10 of his football games! God has been so good and we are so thankful for all that He is doing in and through this ministry. I can’t believe he lets me do it!
We are enjoying a short break and getting ready for things to crank back up in January. Subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minutes updates on what God is doing.
The song in the video – “Ask Me” by Amy Grant has served as an incredible sense of encouragement and hope to me in my recovery from childhood sexual abuse. I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to it, over and over again, celebrating the hope and freedom Jesus has brought to my life over the past few years. My favorite line in the song is towards the end where it says,
“He’s in the middle of her pain. He’s in the middle of her shame. He’s in the middle…….
Mercy in the middle.”
What it means to me is that our God of mercy brings comfort to us in the midst of our deepest, darkest moments (see II Corinthians 1:3-4). I’ve come to believe and know that God was with me, bringing mercy and comfort to me when I was locked in a closet as a 7 year old enduring the horrors of sexual abuse. He was with me through years I kept it a secret. He was even there with me when I chose to medicate my pain in so many unhealthy ways. He was with me in 2005 when I finally began the process of working through and overcoming the horrors of my past. Every step of the way God has been there with me bringing “mercy in the middle.” And God can do the same thing for you! No matter what you have faced in your past or face in your present, God is there with you bringing you “mercy in the middle.” No matter how painful or shameful your situation may be – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! God is there with you ready and able to lead you out of the darkness. It won’t be easy and it will take a lot of hard work but not near as much work as it takes to live with shame. Trust me, it is so worth it! Freedom is a beautiful thing and you too can live in the freedom God has for you. If you need professional help check out The Heart Matters counseling center. These are the people who led me out of the darkness! I’ll leave you with a prayer I pray daily:
“God send your mercy in the middle to the abused and addicted still suffering alone. Use me to lead them out of the darkness.”
We live in a society that tells us we need to be independent and self-sufficient, pull ourselves up by our boot-straps (whatever that means??), and do everything in our own strength. It sounds good on the surface but in reality it is so contrary to the way scripture says we are to live our lives.
II Corinthians 12:10 says, “When I am weak then I am strong.” So if we really want to be strong we have to learn to Live Weak. What a radical concept!! Living weak is a paradox that goes against everything the world teaches or believes. Everybody wants to believe that they can Live Strong and handle all their junk on their own but the fact is we can’t. We try and we fail because it can’t be done. In fact, none of us can do anything in our own strength. Compare John 15:5 with Philippians 4:13. John 15:5 says that without Christ we can’t do anything and Philippians 4:13 says with Christ we can do anything! That is the heart of what it means to Live Weak!!! On our own apart from Christ we are absolutely powerless to accomplish anything of any value but by walking daily in absolute dependence upon Jesus we can accomplish anything!! That doesn’t mean, however, that we just sit back, do nothing, and watch Jesus do everything for us. Living Weak means living in a partnership with Jesus where we strive to balance dependency with discipline. You have to have both or you won’t get very far. It’s like the wings on an airplane. Which one is more important? The right one or the left one? BOTH!!! If your plane just has one wing then your going to crash every time! The same thing is true with dependency and discipline. You have to do your part and God has to do His.
Colossians 1:29 says, “I labor, struggling with all His energy, which works so powerfully in me.” What that means is that we labor – we strive to follow Jesus with our whole heart. We daily dig into the Word of God and rub up against Jesus all the while living in absolute dependence upon Jesus to give us the strength to do it.
Living Weak is a radical concept in our world but the fact is it works because when we are weak, then and only then are we strong!
This has been one of the most jacked up years ever! My ministry schedule was basically empty for most of the Spring and I only had 2 camps booked for this summer – down from a normal 6 or 7. For a long time I tried to blame this on “today’s wintry economic climate” because it was easier than admitting that God was trying to get my attention. Somewhere around March I quit being so ding dang hard headed and accepted the fact that I couldn’t continue to blame the economy for my empty schedule because if God’s hand was still on my ministry then the economy wouldn’t matter. So I started practicing what I preach and started digging into the Word – searching- seeking- praying- trying to wrap my head around what it was God was trying to teach me. Over time I begin to realize that at least part of what God was trying to teach me was humility. Which is not a fun lesson to learn especially the 2nd, 3rd, or 29th time! Anyway I got it in my head that if I just humbled myself and let people know that my schedule was empty then God would open the heavens, the phone would start ringing, and everything would get back to normal. So I made a video titled “Runks Summer 2k9 plan B”, emailed it to a bunch of Student Ministers, and waited to see what happened. Here’s the video I sent out……
As you can probably imagine, it generated a lot of response, just not the response I was looking for. I got lots of positive feedback, encouragement, and funny emails but no bookings. What really surprised me was how many of my friends called to see if I was OK. It caught me off guard because at the time I was honestly just trying to make a funny video, humble myself, and do what I thought God was leading me to do but when I look at it now I can see the reasons for their concern. I can hear the desperation in my voice and see the fear in my eyes. I have a tendency to be glass half-empty guy. I don’t like it. I’d pay money not to be that way but because of the abuse in my past when things get bad I tend to freak out and think the world is coming to an end. I know that’s crazy but sometimes that’s my reality and that’s exactly what was going on when I made that video. I still think the video is funny and have no doubt that I was being obedient to God when I sent it out but at the time I was literally freaking out. I was so worried that my days as an evangelist were over and that God was done with me. I know that’s pretty extreme but I’m just being honest.
The crazy thing is, that stupid video turned out to be the catalyst God used to turn things around. My plan B turned out to be a stepping stone to get me to God’s plan A. Out of nowhere, God dropped the opportunity of a lifetime in my lap. A friend of mine, that saw the video, called and asked me to pray about going on a two week mission trip to India in July! I told him I’d pray about it but I knew from the second he called that this was part of God’s plan for me. The day after that a former student of mine from my Youth Minister days who is an internet marketing Guru offered to help me come up with a new marketing strategy, redesign my website, and start this blog. I thought for a while that I was supposed to write a book this summer but I think this is taking the place of that for now. I can already tell that this blog is going to be good for me and hopefully offer some hope and help to others. Then through a series of crazy events, God made it clear that I needed to leave the agency that had done my booking for 5 years and go back to doing my own booking. Nothing against the agency, I just wanted to get back to a ministry based approached where we discuss, dream, and plan for ministry before money, contracts, and all that junk ever come up. This is where lesson number 2 came in: Re-learning to trust God for everything. Once again, God has reminded me that I cannot depend on my talent, my gifts, or a big shot booking agency to make this ministry a success. I’ve simply got to put my trust in Him and not in myself. I’ve learned this before but somewhere along the way I got wrapped up in ME and forgot about it.
And then I went to Super Summer Arkansas. An event that could have easily been an ego trip deluxe but I went there broken and humbled with a renewed trust in God as my provider and it proved to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Every compliment I received, every student that was saved, every life that was changed – rather than stroking my ego brought me to my knees. The entire time I was there I kept pinching myself because I just could not and cannot believe that God was letting me speak at such an awesome event. A young youth minister friend of mine that knows my situation bought every one of my meals at the time-honored tradition of late night dining after worship at youth camp. It was so humbling for him to do that for me but also an absolutely incredible blessing! And then on Wednesday afternoon of that week, I booked the first event I’ve booked myself in 5 years. We shared ideas, dreamed dreams and made a plan for what is going to be an awesome event. Afterwards, I went outside, called my wife, and wept like a baby. I kept saying over and over, “Its not over. Its not over. Its not over! God is not done with us. He’s got more for us to do.” That may seem silly to some but I can’t tell you how awesome it is to know and believe again that God is not finished with me – that He has more for me to do.
Its been a crazy year and an even crazier summer but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wouldn’t want to go through it again but I wouldn’t trade for what God has done in my life. My schedule is still a little thin but God is meeting our needs and I’m not worried about it anymore. I’m just going to stay focused on being broken, humble, and faithful and do whatever I can to meet the needs of every hurting teenager God places in front of me.
I’ll leave with you with the words of a rap from Will Smith which oddly enough seems to fit here:
“I got my X-ray vision through all in my way. No Plan B, it distracts from Plan A.”
No more plan B for me. I’ll stick to God’s Plan A. Its safer there and a lot more fun.
I had the opportunity to be in Colorado the weekend after the Columbine High School massacre. I did a retreat about 2 hours from Denver. Those students were really freaked out by the shooting so all we really did was talk about the tragedy and the fact that God is STILL IN CONTROL! And that this should be a wake up call for them to begin to really reach out to the lost and the outcasts at their school. It was special weekend and God really ministered to those hurting & confused students.
I also had the opportunity to speak at First Baptist Church in Meadow, Texas the weekend after the Green Lawn Church of Christ, Lubbock, bus accident. One of the girls killed in that accident was a student at Meadow High School which is a 1-A school. They, also, were pretty freaked out by the loss of one of their own. I was able to share with them what God has taught me about His sovereignty and goodness through my Dad’s cancer and death. It, also, was a special time and God really ministered to those hurting students. There is no doubt in my mind that God had me in both of those places because what they needed to hear was exactly what God has been teaching me throughout the most difficult time in my life. Once again God has proven to me that He knows exactly what He is doing even when what we are going through down here doesn’t always make sense.
Let’s see. It has been way too long since my last entry. Tons of things have happened in the last two months. We are remodeling our house and Joanna and I are doing most of the work!! I’m not doing this again until I can afford to pay someone else to do it for me!! In the midst of all of this I have been attempting to write some new sermons in preparation for the upcoming summer. The last one I wrote was basically a testimony of what God has taught me throughout my Father’s cancer and death. It was very difficult to write but I deeply wanted to share what I have learned about the goodness of God in the midst of our hard times (see past entries). I have been able to share this message at several of my recent events and it has been awesome to see God take what I have been through and use it to minister to others who are going through difficult times. I have never experienced God so intimately as I have during the last few months. He continues to remind that no matter what we are facing down here, He is still in control and cares deeply about what we are going through.
This has been a tough fall for me. My Dad’s cancer progressed horribly and on Saturday, November 21, 1998 he left this life and went on to be with Jesus. It was so difficult to watch someone that I loved so much suffer like that and it was almost a relief when he finally died. He has been gone for a week now and reality is beginning to set in. He’s really gone and he’s not coming back. I miss him so bad! In the beginning of this I was bitter and angry but over time I realized that I could stay that way and go absolutely crazy or let go and hang on to Jesus. When I finally did that, I began to grow spiritually in an incredible way. I began to experience Jesus in a way that I never had before. So many times I had griped to God that this was so UNFAIR. Then the Lord showed me John 16:33 where Jesus says, “In this world you will have hard times but hang on to me because I have overcome the world!” It was then that I realized that God never promised us that life would be fair but he did promise to be there when life wasn’t fair. And He was there every step of the way. I cannot imagine how anyone could handle something like this without having a friend like Jesus to help them through it. Jesus has helped my family through the most horrible experience that I can ever imagine anyone going through. Romans 8:28 used to just be a verse that I quoted for people when they were going through a tough time but now it is a reality for me. God did not give my Dad cancer but He chose to use it to bring about so many amazing things. He has carried my family through this awful situation, my sister came to Christ, and I am finding that I can now relate to students who are hurting in a way that I never could before. I have seen countless students come to know Jesus simply because I was able to share with them how much hope Jesus has brought to me in the midst of a hopeless situation. If I could offer any advice to anyone going through a similiar situation, I would say this, “Dont’ run from Jesus, don’t get mad at him and push Him away but place all of your trust in Him and no matter how bad things get hang on to Him with everything you’ve got!” I know that sounds simple but if you trust Him, I promise you that Jesus will minister to you in a way that you could never imagine. Everyday since Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he and Mom sang a little chorus that clearly states the attitude every Christian needs to have no matter what their circumstances might be. I will leave you with the words to that simple chorus.
This is the day that the Lord has Made I will rejoice and be glad in it.