Next Steps

solfWe sold our house!

OK, we have a contract on it. But barring unforeseen circumstances, end of May we don’t have a home. Er, a house. Home is where the heart is, right? House is where the stuff is. Of course, Our stuff might be in a storage unit. But we have family nearby if there isn’t a more permanent plan in place.

That’s the weird part of this. There isn’t a plan in place. We felt that we should put the house on the market. Then, within 6 days, it gets a contract. OK, great. We should not only get out of the house clean, but even walk away with a small amount of cash. Last year we would have had to bring cash to close.

Now what?

A few days ago, before the house sold and before the car situation was figured out, Mandy and I were talking about the 3 biggest obstacles for us: Car, house, job. Then one after another the dominos fell. Car was taken care of. The house sold. Now we are wondering about the job.

I am like many Americans, underemployed. Unlike many Americans, I had a say in getting to this place. In order to do what God has called me to do, I need to have a day job. I took my current position to supplement my freelance work. Then my freelance work dried up. So now we are looking for something else. Maybe something in Central Florida, maybe something somewhere else. So we have put out feelers. It’s weird because I explored a position a while back and ended up not feeling like we were led to follow it. I’ve written about my dream job before. But my day job doesn’t have to be my dream job. Just needs to have benefits and pay enough to live on. I have no idea where we will end up.

Today I was reading in Joshua.

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:2-6, 9

What’s the next step? I don’t know for sure, but wherever we go… God is with us.

Time to cross the river… Time to leave the wilderness.

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God Has a Plan, and Its Better Than Yours

Last week God showed me once again why my ideas and plans are nothing when compared to his.

I attended the ICVM conference of Christian Media Professionals. There were tons of film makers and actors and distributors represented. I had never been to the conference before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew a couple of things I wanted to accomplish. The conference, as I experienced it, was primarily about spiritual renewal and networking. there were some great moments of worship, prayer, and message. And there were some structured and unstructured times for networking with people who do what you do, or can work with you in what you do. It was a great week.

One thing God kept hitting me over the head with was that his plans are better than my plans.his plans work, my plans often do not.

One thing I was excited about was meeting potential distributors for the show. I had made contact with one such company several months ago, and had even set up a meeting. I went into the conference expecting that meeting would be the most important business result of the time I spent there.

I could not have been more wrong.

The meeting was fine. They were friendly, and seemed somewhat interested in my show, promised to watch it. But they didn’t have a lot of experience in internet (Netflix/Hulu/AmazonPrime) delivery. There is still the very real possibility of working with them in the future, but there are other distributors as well.

After the meeting I was mulling over what had happened, and what I had been expecting. Doing some self examination, if you will, when Jim West, who owns Legacy TV walked by. We spoke about a show I produce on a contract basis which airs on his network, we talked about the NRB a while, and then he asked what I was doing now.

By the end of the conversation he had agreed to air episodes of Peculiar on his network in the Fall. 46 million homes. 234 affiliates.

Now, I am still committed to delivering the show through the internet. I still want it on a streaming service like Netflix. But if someone wants to broadcast my show to 46 million homes, I will be happy to let them. Shows should start running mid October. (Assuming we can get everything done. We are still raising funds. You can be a part of it!)

If you had told me prior to the conference that by its end I would have had an agreement to broadcast the show, I would have laughed. I wasn’t going in to talk with networks. But here we are. This is a hard thing for me.

I plan things. I think strategically, I work out logistics. In many cases, these are good traits. But not when my plans get off track from God’s direction.

Toward the end of the week Bill Muir spoke out of John 15, and the importance of abiding in Him. When we as branches, move away from the vine, we wither. When we stay with the vine, we grow. Running ahead of God’s timing will result in mistakes and disappointment. Waiting for his timing is always better.

As I finished the week I write this down: Biggest thing I’ve learned here- God has a plan, and it’s better than yours, so deal with it.

Next

After over a decade in full time work on a church staff doing media ministry, I’m moving on to something else. God has been working in my life, and I am convinced that now is the time to move forward. I am quitting my job at the church to produce episodic Christian TV/web shows to reach people under 50 years old.

God has been working on me for a couple of years now. It really started when I first got the demographics for the people who watch our church’s TV show. Based on what we can tell, we reach over 100,000 people every week with our 30-minute and 1-hour broadcasts. Over 75% of those are 50+. Most are well over 50 years old. And we are not the only TV ministry facing this.

I can go on and on about the looming crisis for Christian TV, but the bottom line is that those of us in religious broadcasting must do something now. That is what God has been calling me to do.

Many of you know that I am developing a Christian sitcom. We just released the pilot a few weeks ago. I’m not just doing that as a hobby. I will continue to produce Christian TV shows that reach younger viewers.

It will definitely be a change. Not only will I not have office hours, I won’t really have an office, unless you count a desk in my bedroom as an office. Even the subtitle of this blog “Thoughts from a media pastor” will need to change. Oddly the one thing that bothers me about the whole thing is that I’m pretty sure when SWBTS, the seminary I attended, surveys graduates they will clump me into the group who no longer serves in ministry, even though I’m still doing ministry. I just won’t be employed at a church or para-church organization.

My church has been incredibly supportive. In some places if you were to go to your boss and talk about a new direction God is calling you toward, they would say, “That is great. We’ll be praying for you. Now, let’s get some boxes for your office.” My experience has been the opposite of that. I will be transitioning out while they look for someone to replace me. So, while the capacity of my involvement will be immediately reduced, I will still be involved at First Orlando, working with them on broadcast content and weekend service execution. And the church is still committed to letting me use spaces for shoots, and use equipment when it’s available.

When I talk to people, they inevitably look at me like I’m crazy or courageous. I don’t feel that courageous. I do sometimes feel crazy. Yes, I understand that leaving a steady job that pays the bills to pursue what God has called me to do could be considered both crazy and brave.

So, how am I going to make a living?

I have almost five years worth of contacts in Central Florida. Even in a bad economy, I know several people who make a living doing freelance around here. The plan is to pick up freelance work while looking for support for the show. In many ways it’s like the tent making from Acts 18. In fact, my production company is called “Pup Tent Media” specifically because this kind of work will be a means to an end. I have a few ideas on how to use the whole range of skills I developed this past 10 years making “tents” so I can do what God has called me to do. I will put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

So if you need video production, social media, promotions, publicity, advertising, communications, event production help, let me know. If you know someone who would want to invest in or sponsor the show, send them my way.

In the mean time, I am moving forward. To be completely transparent, I had a pretty rough day last Sunday. It was time to tell a lot of people about this. Right in the middle of all of that, sharing my heart and passion, talking about the direction God was moving us, I had doubts. From out of nowhere this kind of thing would pop into my head: “Are you an idiot? You are not ready for this.”

If this was something my wife and I took lightly, that might have derailed us. But God has been clear. Scripture, prayer, circumstances and counsel have all been confirming what we know in our hearts we are called to do. I am called to create episodic Christian video content that appeals to viewers under age 50.

It’s not the first time I/we have made major changes because we knew God was telling us to. I quit my dream job to go into ministry. My wife and I moved across the country to attend seminary. We both left good jobs and our families to take a full time media ministry job in Louisiana. We have since moved twice to new ministries because we were led by God to.

Sometimes God asks people to do things that don’t make sense. That’s because he’s God, and we aren’t. Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 3:5-6 come to mind. If I had leaned on my own understanding, I’d still be working in Nashville, wouldn’t have met my wife, had these kids, or been doing things that are are eternally significant in ministry. So, now that we are taking another step, I trust.

Frankly, it’s scary at times. But, I know this is right for us.

So that’s it. Pray for us. Please.

How Not to Please God

The book of Judges, many times, reads like a cautionary tale about how not to please God. There are some stories where the people of the kingdom (actually the non-kingdom) of Israel did some very bad things. Like in chapter 19 verse 22 and following, where the men of Gibeah demand the master of the house throw out his guest so that they can rape him. So the guest throws his concubine out, and they rape her to death. Then the guest is so angry that he cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends them to each tribe.

It took this level of outrage to cause Israel to react. So, in the next chapter they congregate and ask the man why he has done this with his concubine. So he relates the whole story, and the people of Israel get angry at Gibeah (which is from the tribe of Benjamin) that they immediately went to punish the men responsible. But the people of the tribe of Benjamin would not comply, and there was a civil war for three days. Israel kept asking God if they should keep fighting the tribe of Benjamin, and God kept saying yes. When it was over most of the tribe of Benjamin was dead.

Then look at Judges 21:1:

Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.”

Notice that the text does not say “God said…” Here is Israel, who has fallen to such a state that Gibeah is beginning to resemble Sodom and Gommorrah. This horrible thing has happened. They have sought God and followed his will in handing out punishment to the men of Gibeah, as well as those in the tribe of Benjamin that stood with them. After all of this, Israel goes a step further and swears to cut off the rest of the tribe of Benjamin. Now they have a problem.

They have sworn before God not to give their women as wives. But they don’t want the tribe to die off. So what is their big plan?

They go to a city that did not join in the fight against Benjamin, kill the adults and take the young virgin girls and gave them to Benjamin. God did not command this, they decided this was a good idea. But even that is not enough. Then they tell the people of Benjamin to go kidnap young women from those taking part on the yearly feast of the Lord at Shiloh. Men of Benjamin hide in the vineyards and take girls who come and dance there.

And that’s the resolution of the story. Everyone goes home like this was all great and grand. OK, not really, this was one huge mess. The book ends with this statement:

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25b”

It’s pretty easy for us modern, western civilization types to sit back and look with disgust at this whole situation. Throughout the whole story human life is worth very little. Women and children are worth even less than men. We wouldn’t find ourselves in that situation.

But we might be able to see facets of this in our own lives if we are not careful.

When we take what God has directed us to do, and go beyond that, we are in danger of doing what Israel did here. We may not actually kill anyone, but we will destroy relationships and hurt people if we are not careful. God may have set a task before you, but did he tell you to roll over people on the way to accomplishing it?

Nothing Israel did regarding wives for Benjamin pleased God. He never asked them to make a foolish promise. He definitely never asked them to kill a village and kidnap 400 virgins. And he never told them to kidnap more young girls. It was unjust, and contrary to who God is. I’ll be the first to admit that God took extraordinary measures to protect Israel and the line of David until Jesus was born. He was serious about purity of the faith. But this isn’t who he is.

In your zeal to do what God has asked you to do, be sure your behavior reflects the God whose will you are trying to follow.

Hard Roads

Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” Joshua 17:14-18

The tribe of Joseph was not happy. Joshua was dividing up the land, and handing out the allotments to the different tribes. The people of Joseph couldn’t understand why they had been given such a small portion. In reality, they had plenty, but what they had required some hard work to be useful. They had to clear some land, and they needed to finish driving out the Canaanites.

Joshua’s response was classic. You have enough people and power to accomplish the task. Basically, stop whining and get on with it. God isn’t changing the allotment and the work still needs to be done before you can get settled.

That is a frustrating answer. I mean, this is God. He could change it if he wanted to. Why wouldn’t he make it easy? Why is the road ahead a hard one when God has the power to make it easy?

Even if it is a hard road, at least God has given you a road. You may have to clear a forest or drive out some Canaanites, but at least you know what your allotment is.

Sometimes I think we look at what is coming and want God to show us a way around the difficult things, but God wants us to go though them. That’s not what anyone wants to hear. But the people of the tribe of Joseph never woke up and said, “I sure hope we get the land that has to be cleared and still has a lot of people living in it.” They fought alongside everyone else, they wanted just as good and easy a portion of land as the rest.

Looking around at what God has directed others to do is a sure fire way to get upset and frustrated. There will always be something you see that looks better than what you have been asked to do, at least from the outside. (they may be looking at you thinking the same thing) instead focus on what you are supposed to be doing.

What is it that God has told you to do? Did he say wait? Did he say go forward? Did he say quit? Did he say stay where you are? Stop whining and do what God has called you to do!