Tag Archives: Honor

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!

Wordless Worship


I am a wordsmith by birth and by calling.  As a child, I was a talker. My grandmother once remarked, as I burst through the door at a family reunion and unashamedly introduced myself, that I would one day become a preacher. Now as a pastor and a writer, words are my essential building blocks in the construction of concepts, ideas, stories, illustrations, and the unfolding of deep biblical truths that must be communicated.

But there are moments when I don’t have words, or for that matter need words. This happens most frequently for me during worship. Often I am speechless when I consider the wonder of God and his grace. No matter how skillful I might be in using descriptive adjectives or action verbs—I find no adequate words to describe his glory. In his presence I stand speechless—dumb and mute—unable to speak or convey the depth of my love for my God.

It is in those intimate moments of frustrated inability that my spirit must find some form of release that requires no words. Tears fill my eyes, chills clamor up my spine, my hands lift with palms upraised, or my feet begin to dance. Inability gives way to capabilities that are often hidden and closely guarded—yet available if I choose to release and use them.

My all-time favorite picture of worship and the one I often retreat into and emulate in my dreams is found in Luke 7:36-50. It is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and the precious ointment of an alabaster vial. There is a great deal going on in that story, but in my visits all I can see is “go-for-broke” worship, yet not one word is spoken.

There is emotion. This is a once broken woman who has been restored through the grace of Jesus Christ. She has received worth and value through his ministry and now has a future. She cannot hold back the tears, though it seems they pour out in silence from a heart overflowing with joy. She does not hold back the emotions, yet without words she worships. True worship is filled with genuine emotions.

There is boldness. Once she realizes her tears are falling on her Lord’s feet, she steps out of the shadows from against the wall and quietly kneels while unpinning her long hair and using it to wipe his feet. She is exposed now—she has stepped from the safety of the crowd and courageously released the love of her heart without regard for what other might think or say. She is unashamed in her devotion and confident in her pursuit. True worship is always bold in its expression and sometime brash in the eyes of those who witness it.

There is surrender. This woman prostrated herself on the floor and gave the intimate gift of a kiss to the feet of her Savior. Not just once—but over and over and over. Her gratitude poured out like an uncontainable stream driven out of its banks by an unstoppable rain storm. Her position and her actions are the immutable signs of submission. True worship is characterized by total surrender.

And ultimately there is a cost. Sincere worship always carries an expensive price tag. It is never cheap—or if it is it ceases to be worship and becomes an empty religious ritual. This woman shattered her nest egg. She cashed in her retirement account—her only means of financial security—when she broke the seal on her alabaster jar of perfume and dumped the precious contents on Jesus’ feet. Her most precious possession was poured out as an offering of worship and thanksgiving—a sacrifice of faith. True worship always comes with a cost most are unwilling to pay.

This is what wordless worship looks like, yet its voice speak loud and clear!

Escape from the Box Life (Part 8)

Perhaps you are hesitant in letting go or giving up. Perhaps you are fearful that God might judge you or give you what others may think you deserve. Perhaps you are frightened he might give you what you think you deserve. Take a deep breath for a moment. Clear your brain and then read this entry closely.

That box life you are holding onto is nothing more than a life measured by constraints and limitations rather than the limitless potential God has placed within you. God the Father sent God the Son to join us in our human box. We were not created originally in a box, but the disobedience of Adam locked all of us in a human box marred by sin. Jesus joined us, but his box was empty because he had no sin nature, nor did he sin in word, thought, or deed.

Jesus was human—he was flesh and blood just like you and me. He got tired, hungry, thirsty, angry, sad, bled when cut, and bruised when struck. He was the real deal. Yet, he was not limited in his humanity. Not because he was God (and he was—100%), but rather because he was a man wholly empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus understood what it takes to live the life God has called each of us to. He accomplished it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God has no desire to punish or embarrass you. His desire is to heal you and fill you with his presence and power—with his Holy Spirit. Jesus promised he would empower all his followers and he would do so through the filling or baptism (you choose the word you are most comfortable with—they are both biblical) of the Holy Spirit.

Most Christians live powerless lives chained to the bondage of the past. A powerless Christian is an oxymoron. The words powerless and Christian do not go together. It was unknown in the books of the New Testament. Jesus promised his followers he would baptize them in the Holy Spirit and fire. He was not talking about the indwelling of the Spirit that comes when a person is born again. He was talking about an empowerment to do what he has called us to do—an empowerment to live the Christian life to the fullest.

The fear you are feeling may be there because the power you need is lacking. I am not questioning whether you are a believer or not, so relax. The question is: are you empowered by the Holy Spirit? He is the only one who can destroy your box. If you are filled with the Spirit your box can’t hold you—it’s simply too small.

This is just a thought—you can take it or leave it, but please consider it a bit before you make a decision one way or another. If Jesus needed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to complete the work he had been sent to do—if Jesus needed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the temptations and tricks of the devil—if Jesus needed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to stand firm against the threats and questions of the religious elite—don’t you think you do as well?

If Jesus needed to be baptized with the Spirit or filled with the Spirit (both of which took place in his life according to Luke), don’t you think you do as well? Forget about the boxes for a moment—this is really a question of what you truly believe.

Are you experiencing the life-changing presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your life right now? If not, why not? Perhaps that’s the real issue. Do you remember the limitless potential I mention back in the first paragraph? If you belong to Jesus Christ, that limitless potential is the Holy Spirit.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 15)

So your list is complete? If you are not sure—make sure! This is the place where you deal with it, or you keep running. You have made it this far, so why not ask the Holy Spirit one more time if he has anything (anything at all, no matter how insignificant it seems) he wants you to add to the list.

You may be tempted to file the list and do it when you have more time. Don’t! You may also be surprised out how long your list is. The time has come to face it. Remember—God is with you and he’s your partner in this. He will not abandon you, and he will walk with you no matter how long this takes—as long as you are willing and obedient. Obedience, not speed, is the issue now.

Ask the Holy Spirit where he wants you to start. He will often start with an offense that is relatively insignificant or simple. In fact, it will probably be one that makes you wonder why you haven’t already forgiven it. Our greatest fear is that God will take us to that one wound—you know which one I’m talking about—the one that paralyzes us with fear and pain. The voice telling you that this is what God will do and paralyzing you with fear is not God—it’s the enemy. Ignore him, or better yet, command him to leave because he is no longer welcome because this freedom party is about to get into full swing.

God usually starts with the insignificant and works toward the significant. He does this to build your faith in him.  God’s desire is not to hurt you, embarrass you, expose you, or destroy you. He knows exactly how much you can emotionally deal with at any moment. He will not push you past the place you cannot emotionally go. He understands the pain in your heart and soul, and the way you are made. Just trust him!  Go ahead and ask, “God—where do I start?”

You will hear his voice. He has a specific plan for deconstructing the list you hold in your hand. “Go to #____ and start there—now!” Start wherever he tells you.

Now comes the moment when you must verbalize what you have written down and make the choice to forgive. What follows must come from your heart. These are not just words you say, but rather it is the verbalization—the speaking into life the choice you are making.

“God, I choose to forgive (name the person) for (name the offense, the hurt, or the wound) in Jesus name. I release and forgive this person for what he/she did. Please forgive me for my sin of unforgiveness in Jesus name!”

Once you’ve done this, date it, and mark it off the list with your pen. Ask the Holy Spirit which one you are to go to next. Then do the same thing again. This may take some time—several days, weeks, or even months depending on the length of your list and the depth of your wounds. Don’t give up and don’t listen to the accusations and condemnations of the enemy. Tune him out and turn him off. The reason he is screaming so loud right now is that he is losing control in your life and his power and influence are being evicted.

If you reach an offense you find impossible to forgive, ask the Lord to give you his strength. Cry out for his grace. Ask for him for the power you need! Invite him to show you where he was when the trauma happened. Then trust him and act! Take only as long as he desires in empowering you to respond.

When every item on the list is dated and marked through, toss it in the garbage can or strike a match and watch it go up in flames. It is done! You have made the choice and acted on it. God is now free to complete the healing of your heart, mind, and emotions. He can now heal your soul. This is the first step.

In the next blog, I want you to understand what you don’t have to do before we proceed. 

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 14)

Over and over, throughout this blog series, I have reminded you that forgiveness is a process empowered by God. The first step is usually the hardest step. The first step is often the most misunderstood and misrepresented. If a person can get passed the first step correctly the process usually goes smoothly. This is especially true with forgiveness. We have all been told and taught things about forgiveness that is totally unbiblical and completely wrong. And—all that unbiblical stuff hinders us from doing what God demands.

The first step is the hardest—or so the song goes. Forgiveness begins with a simple, but profound act of the will. You must choose to forgive (to pardon, remit, or overlook the mistake, fault, offense, hurt, or injury of the offender without demanding penalty, punishment, or retribution) the person who has hurt you. You willingly turn this person over to God. That means accepting what has occurred, absorbing both the cost and the pain, while at the same time giving up your desire to get even or reap your revenge. Just remember—most people who hurt other people either don’t know what they’ve done or they don’t care.

When something is painful, we tend to want to bundle it all up in a sack and deal with it in a wholesale manner. Forgiveness doesn’t work that way. You can’t say, “I forgive ______ for everything he or she has ever done to me.” What was done to you was usually not done in a wholesale manner, but rather one act at a time. And—each act hurt and caused very specific wounds. Therefore if it wasn’t done in a wholesale manner, it cannot be forgiven in a wholesale manner. Each incident must be confronted, verbalized, and forgiveness specifically applied.

Each incident is a like an arrow in stuck in your soul. If you are not specific, the devil will continue to grab that arrow and twist it to cause as much pain as he can. As long as the offense is embedded there, the pain will never go away and the wound will always be just as raw as the moment it happened.

Offering forgiveness for each specific offense allows you to remove those arrows one by one and hold them in your hand, which gives you authority over them. They no longer control you—you now exercise control over them. Those arrows are not who you are, but rather they are what someone did to you. Once you have removed an arrow of offense, confessed and verbalized the pain out-loud, and forgiven it, God takes the arrow from your hand and beings the healing process in your heart and soul. As long as the arrow of offense is sticking in your heart and soul, healing won’t come no matter the length of time that passes. Time does not heal all wounds; it is what you do with the time and forgiveness is your only option.

How do I do this? By simply naming the person (if you know their name) and the offense, sin, or hurt that was perpetrated against you. Find a place that’s quiet where you can be alone. Take a pad and a pen. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anyone or anything hidden in your heart or soul that you need to forgive. When he starts speaking—you start writing. Don’t argue! Don’t rationalize! Write it down! Write the offense down—put it into words. Express how it made you feel. Write the person’s name down if you know it or write as much of a description of that person as you can if you don’t. Number them in the order the Spirit of God reveals them. List them by name and offense as long as the Holy Spirit keeps talking. When he stops, ask him if there is anything else. Be still for a few moments and listen.

This may take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks, depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated in that room at the end of the hall in your soul. Allow the Holy Spirit access so he can thoroughly clean it out. Don’t give him limited access and whatever you do—don’t be selective in what you write down. Write everything down!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 13)

Is there a fifty gallon drum of unforgiveness deteriorating inside the little shed on the back-side of your soul? If so, the rest of these blogs will help you deal with it God’s way. The result will be revolutionary and result in a life-changing experience.

Jesus said something in Matthew 6:14-15 that we tend to gloss over, explain away, or other-wise ignore completely. He said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions (underlined for emphasis). That verse is fairly self-explanatory. You don’t need a degree in biblical Greek to catch the gist of what Jesus way saying. If you forgive others—God forgives yours. If you don’t—God won’t!

When you or I refuse to forgive, we insert ourselves in God’s place as the judge, jury, and executioner, and that’s a place none of us have the authority to usurp. Do you truly believe God is a God of righteousness and justice? Are you afraid God will allow even the tiniest smidgen of wickedness to slide by undetected? Do you really think he needs your help? Abraham summed it up this way in Genesis 18:25: “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what it right?”

In other words, God does not treat the wicked like the righteous. Wickedness (disobedience) brings justice. Justice is a part of God’s character—He will do what is right. He will bring justice to bear where there is injustice. Make no mistake about it—that which a person sows, he or she will indeed reap. You can take that to the bank with you! So, isn’t it about time you trusted God?

True forgiveness is an act of the will—a choice you must make. Will you allow God to be the judge, the jury, and the executioner, or do not trust him after all? Unforgiveness does not empower you, but forgiveness does. In forgiving, you take a step back and allow God to do what God intends to do. This willing act allows you to accept the hurt or wound, without demanding that the offender pay you back. No longer is getting even or taking revenge an option. But—this kind of forgiveness must be given freely without any strings attached, or it is not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is truly a process that requires a partnership with God. We are simply unable to grant another person biblical forgiveness apart from God’s power and love being exercised through us. We need help to do what we are supposed to do.

Let me say this again—loud and clear. Total forgiveness is a process and you will need God’s help to complete this process.

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 16)

One never leaves the presence of God in the same way he or she entered. This is especially true when we pursue his intimate presence on purpose. Each time we encounter God, we are changed and we never leave his presence empty-handed.

In Exodus 24, Moses spent an extended period of time with God alone on Mt. Sinai. While there, he experienced the manifest presence of God. He saw God’s glory pass by as God hid his servant in a crack in the rock and shielded Moses with his hand. Moses saw the glory of God’s back as he passed by. As Moses descended the mountain and returned to camp, the people were astonished and filled with fear. His face glowed with the radiance of God’s glory. The surface of his face reflected God’s glory because his skin had absorbed the glory of the One in whose presence he had spent time. No one had to ask Moses where he had been. It was evident!

When we spend time in God’s presence we always receive far more than we give. God will often enhance our covering, authority, anointing, power, or the intimacy of our relationship with him. Intimate time spent in his presence assures us of more of whatever we need at that instant in our lives.

In those moments, we are changed. And—when we pursue the intimate presence of God and experience him on a regular basis—no one will have to ask you where you’ve been or whom you’ve been with. They will know when they see the glow on your face and hear the flow of your words as they spill from your mouth. We always reflect who or what we spend the most time with.

One moment in the presence of the King changes everything!