Monthly Archives: June 2015

Requiem for a Warrior…Russ Calvin

photo_20150609_AL0068019_0_russcalvin_20150609A requiem is a lament—the wailing of a heart broken—a song of sadness that emanates from deep within the soul. Throughout human history these songs have accompanied the death of a warrior. Russ Calvin was such a warrior—a man who battled and wrestled in spiritual realms so that we might enjoy God’s blessings in the physical one. He was my friend, Worship Pastor, and brother-in-the-faith. And today I choose to put my sadness in words to encourage others on their own journey. Perhaps it will push you farther, higher, or deeper in your own excursion through life.

Russ was a gentle giant, whose passionate pursuit of God leaves deep footprints to follow for those of us still chasing after God. Russ finally caught the Savior whom he had run after throughout his short lifetime. Thirty-seven years seems so young—so brief, yet Russ accomplished more in that limited span than most of us will in a long lifetime. He made time count, knowing that none of us is promised tomorrow.

Russ was soft-spoken, not loud and boisterous. But when he spoke, the volume, tenor, and depth of what he said often rang like a clap of thunder. When he spoke of Jesus, it was not the platitudes of a preacher or the clichés of a theologian, but rather the experience of a lover who had experienced the heart-to-heart connection of genuine intimacy with God. Russ knew God, not facts and figures about God. They were on a first name basis—a beloved Father and his treasured son. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake what it’s like to have been in the intimate presence of God. Russ knew—he’d spent long spans of precious time in that secret place.

Russ was also a man who knew and understood God’s Word. His grasp of God’s promises was not a shallow one. No, he staked his life, his marriage, and his ministry on the fact that God cannot lie. In the midst of the suffering he endured as he battled heart and kidney issues, Russ refused to let go of or give up on any of the promises God had whispered into his spirit. He tenaciously hung onto those promises like a bulldog. He stood faithful when many who were treating him gave him no hope. Russ believed God, and he acted on that faith. He spoke it. He prayed it. He shared it with doctors, nurses, technicians, strangers, and friends. He obeyed the words God had given him—he acted on the revelation whispered to him by the Holy Spirit. Obedience is the outward sign of an inward belief. Russ heard the Word—then he acted by obeying the Word—the promises given to him by the God who cannot lie!

Russ was a spiritual warrior. He understood the battlefield and his ancient foe. His calling was a simple, yet profound one. He had been commissioned to enforce the victory of Calvary, to destroy the works of the devil, and to be a vessel God could use to set the captives free. Spiritual warfare was not a theory to discuss for Russ. No! It was a daily life and death wrestling match to engage in. He knew what it took to snatch souls from the jaws of the hounds of hell and he was willing to engage those demonic mongrels if it meant freedom for another person. He was feared by hell and empowered by heaven.

Russ did what he could do with what he had to work with. His complaints were few—just a wish that he could do more, serve more, share more, or worship more. He was limited by the weakness of his heart—but not anymore! He fought through debilitating pain, weakness, discouragement, and frustration—but not anymore! He was limited, constrained, and unable to do many of the things he longed to do—but not anymore! Russ is now free—free to worship without restraint or limit. He is free to dance. He is free to lift his hands like an eagle spreading its wings to heaven. He is free to run, to jump, and to spin in utter unbounded joy. And best of all, Russ is free to sing with an unrestrained voice that cannot be silenced by disease, death, or even the devil.

I could sing a sad lament, a wretched requiem, but if I did it would have to be about someone other than Russ. Yes, we are separated from Russ for a time, but Russ is not dead. No he is more alive than he has ever been. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living according to Jesus. You see—God cannot lie! Russ is alive and he is enjoying the literal presence of the One whom he chased after so hard.

In the meantime, all of us need to get after it while we still can. Pursue God with all your strength. Russ did! Love people with all your heart. Russ did! Don’t worry about those things you can’t do—do the things you can. Russ did!  Worship the Lord with total abandonment. Russ did! Trust God’s promises, walk them out, and enjoy every one of them. Russ is!

Burn Your Boats!

Burn Your BoatsTotal commitment is rare in our culture. Most people would rather duck out of it when the going gets rough or tough. Commitment is a promise to be loyal to someone or something…to give oneself totally. It means “you can count on me no matter what!”

Many would rather sit back and wait to see what happens. If something is successful then they are willing to hop on the train. And…if not, then they will hit the eject button and they are out of there. Sadly this permeates our culture. And yes, it is especially true in the church.

Yet commitment is the foundation of success in whatever one chooses to do. In 1519, Hernan Cortez sailed from Spain to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with the purpose of conquering the Aztec Empire. He landed on the sandy shore with 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 or so horses (by most standards not a very impressive military force to conquer a an empire which had withstood every invasion for over 600 years).

Once on shore, Cortez began building the courage of his force, while at the same time fueling their dreams of glory with stories of the fantastic treasures that awaited them. For several days he held seminars in which he described the richs of the Aztecs. At night he had pep rallies to encourage and pump up his soldiers. As they trained on the beach and sharpened this military skills and maneuvers, Cortez spoke eloquently of the the glory and the riches that would belong to each man once their conquest was completed. These soldiers were eager, excited, and energized!

Once the day dawned for Spanish conquistadors to march inland, Cortez gave a simple three word command…”Burn the boats!” He then repeated the command, “Burn the boats! If we are going home we will go in their boats.” As they watch from shore, 11 ships, their only way home, went up in flames.

There was now no turning back. Cortez and his little army were now fully committed. History records that this little army conquered one of the mightiest empires in the Americas.

How? They were fully commited. They had no back up plan and no other option except death.

Jesus is still looking for men and women who are willing to give him that level of commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. You are either all in or you are on the outside looking in. Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:62: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn your boats! If you plan to get home you will have to go in Jesus’ boat.