Finally!! I've been pleading with God, asking Him for the past few weeks/months what this constant heaviness has been on my heart and why I couldn't jump to the next step in my relationship with Him. Don't get me wrong, the past few weeks have been incredible, and He's been showing me so many things, but I just felt like I was right on the bubble and couldn't figure out how to "pop" through to the next level. I just got back from the "Alpha Excursion", a men's retreat through Gateway Church where we attend. I, along with 270 other men from the church drove out to Tanglewood Resort on Lake Texoma Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for some insanely incredible worship, annointed preaching & teaching, and some much needed quiet time with my awesome God. God had been begging me to "be still" and spend actual quiet time with Him and that's exactly what I did this weekend.
I had been really stressed out lately and just not satisfied or happy with the way things were going. Not happy with my prayer life, the office, my roles here at the house, any of it. Harper wasn't sleeping good all week so I was exhausted, my poor wife was wiped out and frustrated and I just just genuinely wore out. It's amazing how God will take you to the breaking point to get you on your knees to really have you rely completely on Him to be able to receive the word He has for you. Brady Boyd, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. was there and preached 2 of the 4 sessions. The first night Brady talked about the fact that as christians we have to be alert (1 Peter 5:8) and be ready to deal with whatever comes our way. To be alert we have to know how to pray, and to continue to pray in all occasions (Ephesians 6:18). That verse in Ephesians talks about praying in the Spirit on all occasions, and until recently I really didn't know what that meant. I've been praying for God to teach me and to open my heart and mind to all He has for me, and I'm seeing new things He's designed for us to be able to experience Him in a more personal and deeper way.
In his second session, Pastor Brady talked about the Lord as our Shephard and what that means. He talked about all of us being on a path and the Lord being our shephard and guiding us down that path and that even when we venture off the path, He doesn't get angry with us, He's excited when He finds us and restores us unto Himself. He constantly looks and searches for the "one lost sheep". We dug into the 23rd Psalm and looked at the depth of what "The Lord is my Shephard" means. For alot of us, and especially me, our worst enemy is ourselves. Satan doesn't have to work very hard to knock us off course because we're so unfocused in the first place. Self-reliance is the hall-mark of our culture and our generation and it can be a good thing, but when it comes to our relationship with God it is what keeps us from total dependancy and trust in Him and His leading. We talked about how we're all on a path, and even though we think we've got it figured out and thing we know where we're going, God is who directs our steps and determines our course, no matter what we originally thought (Proverbs 16:9).
Pastor Tom Lane (Executive Pastor of Gateway Church) continued on Saturday night talking about emotions and how we should express them, and how we can express them in a healthy way. Then Sunday morning (after the most intense worship session I thing I've ever experienced), Pastor Bobby Bogard (pastor at Gateway Church) hit us hard with a message on condemnation and how as men we are the best at beating ourselves up. But God is not a God of condemnation, but of forgiveness and unconditional love (Romans 8:1-2). And it hit me!! God totally let the scales fall off of my eyes to see what He'd been seeing all along: Most of my life I've been so concerned with trying to prove myself to everyone around me with the accomplishments of my hands and the conquests I've had and have carried around so much guilt that I wasn't ever doing enough. I grew up always thinking that no matter what I did, no matter how many medals I won, or how many championships I won, or how many honors I received, that it was never good enough and that the bar was always a little higher than I could reach. Satan used the talents God gave me to imprison me into thinking that it mattered to God how much I did and it mattered to God how much I accomplished. But in that moment God reached down and cradled my face in that service and said, "Son, I'm proud of you and I love you no matter what you've ever done, or no matter what you ever do again. You could never do anything to make me not love you or to make me love you more. You are a trophy on my mantle and you are special to me." The dam built up in my heart broke and the rivers of His love rushed through me and flooded the borders of my soul. Freedom from guilt, and freedom from the bondage of accolades is one of the most fulfilling and joyful things I've ever felt. That morning I started the process of letting go of all the guilt and all the unforgiveness in my heart that I had stored up against other people and against myself for the past 20+ years. I know it will be a process, but I feel so free now that it will continue to get better.
God is a God of love, unconditional love.....open up your arms and open up your heart and receive it!