December 2013: A Wilderness?

“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45).

I have been teaching through The Story (the Bible in novel form) in Refuge (a ministry of FBS to homeless people) on Sunday mornings and cannot help but parallel the journeys of Biblical characters with my own. (Isn’t that the point?) Moses seems to have had three stages in his life: Age 0-40—Salvation and preparation; Age 40-80—Sojourning in the wilderness; and Age 80-120—Fulfilling God’s redemptive purpose. I, too, have experienced similar stages:

Stage 1: Salvation and Preparation
I received Christ at age 3 and answered God’s call to ministry at age 14. He has proven Himself faithful every step of the way through Bible College, seminary, marriage and full-time ministry.

Around age 30, I began discovering that ministry was far more about who I am than what I do. This revelation led me out of traditional, vocational church work into a new ministry leading people to experience and express Jesus in the NOW through conferences (speaking), counsel (discipling) and curricula (writing discipleship materials). INYOU MINISTRIES was born in 1998 with a clear destination: “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed INYOU” (Gal. 4:19). Life is Christ and Christ is life! “Abide in Me and I INYOU“ (John 15:4).

Naturally, with this step of faith came the continued responsibility to provide for my family, but now without a church salary. Kelli shouldered that burden for 2 years working full-time as a Children’s Minister while I stayed home with the boys, founded INYOU MINISTRIES, traveled to speak and counsel, wrote curriculum, built relationships with local ministers, raised support, etc. After “The Firm Foundation: Jesus Christ” curriculum was completed, Kelli enrolled at Converse College to complete her degree and I began painting houses to support the family. I often wonder if this is where I may have entered into “the wilderness. “

Stage 2: Sojourning in the Wilderness
I tell my friends I’m a “successful goat herder” like Moses, sojourning in the wilderness of sorts, always wondering: “Am I missing out on the ‘promised land’ because I’m painting houses instead of raising support? Am I living in disobedience and fear—hiding behind a paintbrush—or am I living like Paul: “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”? (Interestingly, in 12 years of painting, I have never advertised or used a business card, yet God has provided for me, my boys, some of their friends, several homeless men and other men needing temporary employment. Crazy God-thing!)

Stage 3: Fulfilling God’s Redemptive Purpose
Now I have not seen any burning bushes lately, but I have experienced an ever-increasing, burning desire to spend more of my time sharing the message of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) and less time painting houses. Just as He did with Israel, God has increased my hunger to enter in to His promises through this wilderness experience!

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son” (Deut. 8:3-5).

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“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

This is a very real tension! In the moment I cannot have it both ways; it’s money or ministry. When I make that early Monday morning commute to prison to disciple inmates or get up early on Fridays to disciple a small group men; or when I spend time preparing a PowerPoint presentation for Refuge or any other Bible study, devotion or sermon; or when a phone call comes in and someone requests a counseling appointment or another homeless person asks for a ride or a job or more of my “spare time” (Who really has any of that?!); or when my family has a very real emergency; I either obey and experience the blessing of the Holy Spirit orchestrating His divine work in and through me (and wish I never had to pick up another paint brush) or I grumble and complain about being “inconveniently interrupted” and pour myself into my labor (and wish people would leave me alone and let me finish my job).
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God is a genius! He makes His way clear through the contrast. In the moment, I must trust God or play “god.” When I feel the power of my next choice rising in my chest, it’s like I’m standing on the edge of the river Jordan wondering “What if?” I can enter into the promise land or wander around in the wilderness a few more years, but I cannot serve two masters. Which master will I choose to serve today?

“He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

The most precious and magnificent promises of God are not those given that we might possess a personal “promised land” or our daily provisions or a non-profit 501c(3) ministry, but that we might possess Him. Jesus is the fulfillment of every good promise. God wants us to partake of His very life—Christ living His life in and through you and me. That’s the message of INYOU MINISTRIES and I am asking you to prayerfully consider joining me on my journey by giving a one-time, tax-deductible gift or becoming a regular INYOU INVESTOR. Simply send a check to INYOU MINISTRIES using the envelope provided or you can sign up for regular online giving via a credit or debit card through www.inyou.org. Whatever you decide, please…

Pray for INYOU MINISTRIES needs:
• 268 more INYOU INVESTORS.
• Complete the book “Jesus in the NOW (The moment-by-moment significance of the cross)” It’s been brewing since 2001!
• Complete the website (with new ways to stay in touch, donate, pray, be encouraged, be informed, promote, sell curricula, etc.)
• Serve and train pastors of local churches and support those on the front lines.
• Organize and conduct fundraisers like the annual INYOU Indoor Trichotomous Triathlons coming up Jan. 25, 2014 and Feb., 15, 2014.
• Re-design “The FIRM Foundation: Jesus Christ” and use it to disciple people in drug rehab ministries, homeless shelters, Juvenile Detention centers, prisons, etc. in the Spartanburg area. (I have requests for all of these ministries now, but no time to pursue them and support my family.)
• Start selling the many curricula I have written these past 15 years through a new online store.

Family Update:
Scott is teaching Refuge Bible study every Sunday morning. The homeless of Spartanburg are invited to shower at FBS at 7:30 am, attend Bible study at 8:30 and eat a hot breakfast provided by Life Groups at 9:30 am. He also teaches “The Firm Foundation: Jesus Christ” at Tyger River prison every Monday and Friday, counsels individuals, leads a men’s discipleship group every Friday morning and paints houses (among other projects and house repairs).

Kelli is in her 10th year teaching fourth graders at Roebuck Elementary and still loves singing in the choir and praise team at FBS. She lost her dear sister Donna VanHoy this year.

Chase is a senior at Wofford College. He will be graduating with two degrees in Chemistry and Chinese. He loves ultimate Frisbee and teaching hip-hop dance at the Chapman Cultural Center and Houston Elementary. He’s also still working as a youth minister at Reidville Rd. United Methodist Church and in the foreign language lab at Wofford. One word: BUSY! Pray for his life decisions after college.

Carson is a sophomore at USC and has changed his major to Hotel & Restaurant Management. He enjoys his roommates and newly renovated house in Columbia and now has chickens, rabbits and a garden (and a sweet girlfriend)!

Cooper is a junior at Dorman, enjoys the challenge of the STEM academic program, works with Scott painting, takes piano lessons and helps lead FCA and worship at Crossfire (Weds. Youth Worship at FBS).

We got four hens this year and enjoy fresh eggs. We all joined the YMCA. (Lord, help us stay healthy.) Keep in touch with us more personally and see our pics by friending us on Facebook.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S. THANK YOU to all those who already support us through prayer and contributions. Like “InYou Ministries” and “Jesus in the Now” pages on Facebook.