Monday, July 1, 2024

7 Things I Learned in the Last 5 Years

God has every person who is honestly seeking Him, on the planet on a spiritual journey. He is teaching you something right now. And he’s taught us at this church so many things over the last 5 years. So we’re going to look at the top 7 things that I’ve seen God say to us over this period, and we’ll look at how it changed and transformed this body of believers for the better.

We start at the beginning.

I remember coming here in 2019 and being so afraid. I had never in my life experienced the kind of fear I had when I first came here. I was terrified. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know how to manage a staff or administrate or anything.

But God gave me courage, and taught me courage through that initial battle.

It reminds me of what God said to Jeremiah when he called him, “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” -Jeremiah 1:17

If I could give advice to any pastor or officer stepping into a new role, it would be this: Don't give up in those first few months. When you're afraid and it seems impossible, keep going. If you can push through that initial phase you'll be alright. It gets better. You'll feel faith and courage begin to replace fear and doubt.

I remember we started dinner church back in 2019 and suddenly we went from just a handful of people to about 30 people coming regularly. It was amazing. I was shocked. And we hadn’t really done that much. Sure we spread the work, talked to people during the week, handed out fliers, did posts on social media, but in the end God simply brought a family together.

If you don’t give up, you find your courage. God builds it in you as you refuse to stop. As you cling to His promises, as you keep showing up, the courage slowly forms.

I saw it in all our people, they slowly learned courage, from hiding their faith to speaking it boldly to the people around them. God taught us courage and it was amazing. We became a body of believers who wasn’t afraid to speak up for Jesus, and try different things, events, groups, and activities outside the box and the norm.

Second, God taught us the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7 ESV, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

There was this gift I found as a I studied the word, testimonies, near death experiences, the prophets, and as I studied about hell and what it is, I began to fear the Lord. And this changed my whole approach to everything I do in ministry.

I used to treat God’s commands as optional. Do it if you want to. Don’t commit adultery, nice suggestion. Don’t steal, nice suggestion. Isn’t that nice? And it shook me up, the fear of the Lord, to realize our God is a consuming fire, he’s not playing around, he is purifying us for heaven, because he loves us.

If you can accept it, embrace the fear of God, tremble at God, it helped me so much to find freedom.

It drew my wife to me, honestly, she knew many men who were “Christian” but it was all very casual, sort of something on the side, along with the porn and the selfish life, the gossip and the empty life. But Chelsey knew when she met me, that’s a guy who honestly fears and regards God and has a deep sense of, “I need to do what God wants me to do.” It’s not just some option near the bottom of a list, it’s the only thing.

What if you embraced that? What if you feared the God who can send you to hell for sin? How would that change your life?

I fear God. And that has been the greatest gift. Because when a temptation to sin comes into my mind, and they do for all of us, I fear God enough, to say no. Part of the love of God is the fear of God. It helps me stay on the right path when temptations attack. No, I fear the Lord, I know His power and that he’s not messing around.

Things that were going on in the background, in my heart, as a pastor, that didn’t belong there, things with lust, things to do with pride, things to do with showing off my own abilities, one by one they disappeared in the face of the fear of God.

Our church members began to take God’s commands seriously, they began to fear God and repent of sins in their lives. Gossip died down. Addictions faded away. God began delivering us from evils of the flesh. And it has been powerful.

If I could give everyone a gift in the room, it would be that.


1 Peter 5:6 ESV, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you”

God taught us humility. As we rallied to relaunch the Owosso salvation army I became very excited. I wanted to show how great I was. How much I could do. How valuable I was as an officer.

It was selfish ambition. It wasn’t really about God. And God knew that. And he got to work on humbling me.

It’s common in The Salvation Army, to try to show off how well we can do. That’s for any young pastor I think, show off how dynamic we are, how great a preacher we are, and how hard working we can be, and it can be toxic.

I became very sick for a good two years. Severe stomach problems. But in all this God humbled me.

I could no longer work in my own strength. My wife experienced something very similar to this, she and I both loved to work from our own strength, pushing and pushing in the flesh. Well, when you get so sick you can barely stand for weeks, for my wife, months, well, you can’t work in the flesh anymore. And I learned, I know she did as well, to work from the Spirit. To put God first, instead of second.

I used to drag God behind my efforts. I didn’t ask Him first. I didn’t work from His strength. Now he’s King and I’m not.

It’s not about me anymore. It’s about Him, and giving Him glory.

Now it’s easy to say that. But it’s amazing and perfect when it’s really true. And it’s really true in me. God did that. I didn’t.

I’ve seen the body of believers embrace humility. Serving each other. Treating the homeless with dignity and respect. Returning love after an insult or slander. That’s holy humility.

Fourthly, holiness.

In the combination of courageousness, which God had taught me, and the fear of God which taught me to hate my own sin, and humility which taught me to reverence God and honestly keep God first, out of this came something called holiness.

1st Peter 1:14-16, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I became set apart. Really all in for God. A utensil made for special use. A friend of God.

Old sins passed away. I gave them over to Him. I surrendered things to Him that I’d never surrendered. And that’s an ongoing process, it’s not done right now.

In Fact all these areas are on going.

I’ve seen that happen with so many of our people who attend the church, Randy, Shannon, Danny, Brett, Amber, Destinee, myself, Chelsey, we honestly confess our sins to God, express sorrow at whatever the issue is, and we repent before Him, and turn away from it, and God does a miracle, he takes it away. And then it’s gone. Our part is simply to keep it in check, guard against it. Wear that armor of God each day.

Fifthly, real love.

Out of these things, building on each other, from holiness, came a sincere love for God and my people.

I began to learn to honestly love you. To really care about my people. To love more and more deeply.

1 John 3:18 ESV, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine…”

This comes very naturally to my wife she honestly and genuinely loves people. And it’s very beautiful, when you feel loved, it changes everything.

God has slowly given me a genuine love for my people. I loved to teach, to speak truth, but here I learned to love people deeply.

That’s rare. I challenge you today, love people genuinely. That is a feeling but it’s matched with action.

When we’ve been hurt deeply it’s harder to give love and receive love. But if we ask God he can heal our broken hearts, so we can learn to give love and receive it.

Churches learn to honestly love each other by doing things like talking on the phone with each other during the week, meeting up for lunch, praying with each other, serving and volunteering together, and visiting each other in the hospital. Our people here do that, and it’s beautiful to see.

Sixth, the presence of God.

Psalm 16:11 ESV You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Exodus 33:14 ESV And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

All of it builds on itself, and more and more this love drew me toward God. I wanted more of God. More and more of God. I grew in my relationship with Him. Grew and grew. And I began to learn to practice the presence of God, really sense God near me, and enjoy God, and know God really is right here with me, in power. The presence of God began to be very clearly with me.

We at The Salvation Army began to pray over our buildings, pray over our homes, pray over each other. We prayed together weekly during kettle seasons. And we began to sense God’s presence with us.

One of my favorite memories over the last five years was hosting the national day of prayer event at Fayette square and at that event we dedicated the city of Owosso to God almighty.

And we felt it ever since, whenever we drove by that God had done something big there.

We had many people come into the facility and simply say, “I felt the Holy Spirit here whenever we came.”

You can experience the presence of God. You can honestly feel God near you. God’s presence isn’t a myth, it’s throughout the whole Bible.

God can be sensed, God can be experienced, God can be felt.

We’ve become so rigid and doctrinal in the body of Christ, we forget the most amazing parts of being a Christian, spiritual gifts, deep prayer, sensing God’s presence, dreams and visions, our faith is supernatural!

It’s as simple as continuously turning our attention toward God in the room with us, over and over, and eventually it becomes a constant throughout the day.

Seventh, in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

And in all these things building on each other I began to learn to walk in step with the Holy Spirit.

I knew God was with me. I sensed his presence. And I began to realize, I really can hear the voice of God. I can quiet myself, shut up my own inner voice, and learn to hear from God. And that began small, as hearing from God in prayer or through the word.

But more and more it manifested into a lifestyle, where God will nudge me to do something, to talk to someone, to minister to someone, to go pray, to watch a movie, to take a nap, and slowly but surely, I’ve been learning to practically live my life by the leading of God. And yes that’s real, its true, and it’s actual. It’s testing and discerning God’s will (romans 12:1-2), it’s walking in step with the Spirit, and it’s being led by the Spirit, and it’s following the will of God for your life on a daily basis. It’s amazing!

In the church we began to change how we thought. Instead of thinking, “I’d like to start this ministry, or we should do it this way.” We started to ask, “What ministry is God calling us to start?” “How would God want it done?” It feels like such a slight adjustment, but when we let God lead, he will guide us in the right direction.

I got tired of bumping my head up against failure. Let’s let God set the agenda and see what He wants us to do. And that has yielded fruit.

In conclusion, God has done great things at The Salvation Army and he will continue to do great things in the future.

Review of Main Points:
1. Courage
2. The Fear of the Lord
3. Humility
4. Holiness
5. Sincere Love for my people
6. Practicing the Presence of God
7. Being led by the Spirit

We celebrate what God has done.

We give Him all the glory.

We are excited for what God is going to do in the future.

We pray for the leaders who are coming to take over.

We pray for myself and Chelsey as we move to our next appointment.

We love you all. And we know that the seeds God has planted, will continue to grow and flourish, as you continue to seek the Lord. I charge you to continue to walk purely before Him, refusing to allow any open doors to sin in your life. I charge you to continue to spread the word in this community that Jesus is alive, and all may find salvation in Him.

God bless you, and may God bless The Salvation Army in Shiawassee county.