Gene Ort's Blog

On my mind

Was Jesus a leader ? — Part 1

by on Nov.21, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

gene rowing boat

Leadership Training : Boat Rowing, Ludington MI, 1967. Thanks Grandpa.

I’ve heard it said that a sign of leadership is “you have followers” or something close to that. So in that regard,  Jesus is a leader but so is Miley Cryus and the late Osama Bin laden. So I guess there are a lot of leaders, maybe everyone is a leader in some way. Even children lead each other.

I have a lot of leadership books on my book shelves. I have attended many conferences that were in large part leadership oriented. There is a lot of good practical direction in most of them.  I have a goodly number of “catchy quotes” highlighted in the training materials associated with the books I purchased setting right beside each other on those shelves.

About 33 years ago or so I started a little business that with God’s blessing has kept our family fed. Somewhere in the middle of that I enjoyed a brief time of “successfulness”. People wanted to hear what I had to say. I built buildings.. hired people, fired people, flew around on jet airplanes …etc. It went straight to my head. In hindsight I’m not surprised. I was following the model of leadership presented to me my entire life. Which brings me to beginning point and reason for this little blog.

We are all leaders… we are all followers… so the real questions are ” who are you leading ?”   and  “who are you following ? ” and why…?

More to follow very soon..

 

 

 

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Clean House – Common Man Commentary

by on Nov.10, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

broom

 

“Clean House ” 1 Peter 2:1-3

When I was a child, my mother had a practice on Saturday mornings of opening up the house.. doors and windows and “air it out “.  This was a terrible way to wake up in January.  She was a cleaner. I awoke early to the sound of a vacuum cleaner banging into my bedroom door.  She would open my door and the flood of cold air would fill my room. I would retreat and hide under the covers.

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. (1 Peter 2:1-3 MSG)

At first glance, this looks a lot like a self help, motivational proclamation. I have shelves full of self help books I’ve collected over the years. Most of them do little more than help me put better language to describing my weakness’s.

This is different.

When I read this passage in “The Message bible ”  I paused and asked God ” so what does this really mean ?”  I believe He unpacked this for me a bit.

“So”    Here is what proceeded the “So “: Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said, The old life is a grass life, its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers; Grass dries up, flowers droop, God’s Word goes on and on forever. This is the Word that conceived the new life in you. (1 Peter 1:22-25 MSG)

Peter is talking to new Christ followers.  In relative terms.. I think thats all of us.

” So clean house ! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. ”

Malice – The desire or intention to do evil or ill will..

Pretense – An attempt to make something that is not the case appear true..

Envy – A resentful longing aroused by someones else’s property or qualities…

Hurtful talk – Causing distress to someones feelings and reputation with words…

My mental image of the clean house starts with opening the curtains, windows and doors allowing both light and air into the room… Now you can see what you are dealing with.. A much clearer picture of the “task at hand”. Move the furniture around and an even more detailed picture comes into view.   This is where things start to get ugly.  I think Peter is assisting his readers  by providing them ( and us ) with “the list “of what they are likely to find under the rug that hasn’t been moved in some time.

I remember a line from a Dan Fogelberg song in the 70’s: “When faced with the past, even the strongest man cries”.

“The list” is not how we want to see in ourselves… in the glaring sunlight we are exposed.. we want to do the exact same thing Adam and Eve did… run and hide!

Peter wisely doesn’t belabor the point. He quickly reminds them of a very important truth.. lest they lose heart in condemnation. And to coax them out from hiding.

“You’ve had a taste of God ! ”

Could there be a more reassuring word ?  When you have been forced to see yourself.. naked and vulnerable internally.. Peter is introducing the solution to their dilemma in the same breath.

Yes, your house is filthy.. but their is someone who will help you clean it. And not just a surface ” sponge bath ” but a complete renovation !  Peter is acknowledging that his readers have just begun. They’ve had  ” A taste “..  Just a sip..

Now Peter introduces the 12 step plan with guaranteed results for 6 payments of $29.95. Just kidding 🙂 Kinda.. This is often what people get told / sold .. it’s not true. ( another topic for another day )

What Peter tells them is the core of discipleship and relationship with God !!!

“Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.”

I am hard-pressed to find more intimate imagery in the bible. We are like infants nursing at our mothers breast. Infants are completely dependent and helpless. I think women get this image quicker than men do. Most men I know hate to appear weak in any way, much less to be as as vulnerable as an infant. They also find it difficult to receive God in such a clearly feminine depiction even though the bible clearly teaches that He created  ” man and woman ” in His image.  Male and female.

The life giving instruction continues… “drink deep “. This is surely said to contrast his earlier comment ” you’ve had a taste “. Peter is telling them.. there is more .. much more !

“Drink Deep of God’s pure kindness”.   This should bring pause to all of us…   This is the core.  Peter knew his readers lives were a mess just like he knows our lives are a mess in some way or another.  He also knows their is only one solution and it’s a person. God is a person. He proved it when He showed up in person form as Jesus. Babies nurse from their mother. We are meant to be nurtured in relationship.. which means continual communication with our Heavenly Father. In this context.. it’s one on one.. “as a baby at the breast “.. receiving from Him who is “pure kindness “. Peter wanted his readers to know something about this God he is calling them to be intimate with. He is safe and so much more !  His readers had grown up under oppressive religion ( we have our own version ) and it was important that they begin to have that false image of the angry God, eager for judgment dispelled.

And then, the promise:  “Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.”

Peter abandons the metaphor..  He tells his readers what they are longing to hear.. you will finally be healed of the diseases displayed in ”  the list  “. The ones that plague us all. The disease no program or course can ever conquer.  Only He who created us knows us well enough to recreate us. He recreates us at His breast.. and nowhere else.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

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Children of the King – Common Man Commentary – Matthew 17:24-27

by on Jan.05, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

shutterstock_90321388

“A Thought”  … on Matthew 17:24-27. This is the story of the Temple Tax where Jesus sends Peter off to fish for their taxes.  I most often think of this story and apply it to God’s incredible provision for us. He can make what ever we need appear when exactly we need it. This is certainly true but not the only message.

The story has two tax gathering men asking Peter if Jesus pays taxes.. they were there to collect the annual Temple Tax..  Peter says yes he does.. Inside the house, Jesus pulls Peter aside.. my guess is Peter is getting used to being “pulled aside”. Jesus asks Peter…who pays the kings taxes.. his subjects or his children ? Peter answers.. “his subjects”. Ding Ding Ding..  Peter gets it right. So Jesus establishes the point again.. “Then the children get off free.. right ?” But to be nice.. and cooperative..  we will pay the tax..

Now Jesus sends him fishing… for a coin.   That should either make you laugh or scratch your head. That last thought Jesus plants in Peter’s mind is.. “the children get off free “.. now, fast forward.. he is setting by the lake.. fishing… thinking..  my guess is pondering..  Peter was completely aware of his own culture and religion. The Jewish law was what he had been taught from childhood. A strong dose of religion. What Jesus was introducing to him was revolutionary. Peter knew exactly how to be a “subject  of the King”.. that was well known. Obey the laws ! or maybe better put.. pay the tax !.. What was new to him was the idea of being “A Child of the King”.

This may be the first time Peter has been faced with this truth. Jesus is forcing the hand.  Forcing Peter to recognize his position  as a child of God. This is a very powerful realization. The law makes subjects out of all of us. Love makes children… by birth or by adoption. Jesus is making this distinction.  It’s important.

Imagine Peter.. pondering this new thought… fishing by the lake.

As a child and young man I spent a lot of time fishing. I was born into a family of fishermen. I have sat in boats and dockside for hours on end. My favorite type was steelhead fishing.  I would wade out into the water about waist deep and feel the power of the current pressing against me. Then the thrill of a 20 lb Steelhead or Salmon strike. The adrenaline flows and your heart pumps. Even after decades have past, I can still remember some of those strikes just like it was yesterday.

It’s easy for me to see myself fishing like Peter. In solitude. Waiting. Thinking. “I am a child of the king”..?   He doesn’t feel like the child of the king … His identity is … ?  ________________ ( fill in the blank )

I hear and read discussions all the time about identity. Where you find it… how you lose it… your real one.. your fake one.. Every season of life has an impact on your identity. The question of  identity, who am I,  is central to how we live our life. Jesus knew that was true then just as it’s true now.

I have struggled with identity issues most of my life. Ranging from crippling insecurity and poor self image to over achieving, self important approval addict. I brought all of my identity issues with me when I entered the Christian community. They did not just fall off the day I accepted Christ.  And just like Peter, Jesus is pointing me toward a new realization: “I am a Child of The King”.

And there Peter sets.. fishing… my guess is he had a good long time to think about this before the moment… the strike!  Even if you been fishing your whole life, its still exciting.. I know many grown men who spend countless amounts of time and money to get that little thrill.  It’s a rush.. an adrenaline rush.. bam!  Fish on !

Jesus knows a fact or two about of us humans. We tend to remember things better when the adrenaline is flowing. This is not a fishing trip that Peter will ever forget.  With heart pumping, he remembers Jesus instructions for the first fish he catches ” Open it’s mouth and you will find a coin, take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us.”

As Peter handed the coing to the tax men, he had to be moved by the power of this emerging message. It changes everything. He was beginning to see himself as a child of the king. The contrast being the “subjects” he was giving the coin too.

Jesus knew it would take more than a mere proclamation, “we are children of the king” to “print” this seed of truth in Peter’s heart. We are no different. The obstacles that shield this truth and the power that comes from embracing it are many. I don’t think coming to the full realization of this truth is doable on our own steam. We need the same kind of personal miracle, a word from God that Peter had. That’s the picture of Jesus pulling Peter aside. We are dependent on Jesus for this. You cannot muster this up on your own. The picture is you and Jesus, together. Alone. You asking the question: Jesus, who am I ?  And listening for His answer. He will tell you. You are a Child of the King ! Loved in a perfect way. When you hear it for yourself, in your heart, you will never forget it. You will never be the same.

My prayer at the end of this was: Abba, Father.. Let my heart forever settle in the love you have for me and my status as Your Child. A Child of the King !

 

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Seeing is Believing

by on Nov.24, 2012, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!” He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: “There’s never been anything like this in Israel!” The Pharisees were left sputtering, “Hocus-pocus. It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil.” (Matthew 9:27-34 MSG)

If ever there was a “bigger picture”  view of the Kingdom of God, this passage is it.  The blind men came “crying out ” .. they knew who He was.  Son of David !.. The coming one.. They had heard the stories.. miracles. People were talking.  They hear the crowd, they follow along.. stumbling along is probably more accurate… crying out for mercy. They have  heard He can heal blindness.. but will He heal them?  Why cry for mercy ? Mercy is what you ask for when you don’t want what you deserve.  Why not “heal me!” Maybe they knew instinctively that mercy is what they really needed. Something more than eyesight.   In other stories like this, Jesus would stop in the street, right where they were and heal the inflicted person. But not these men. He leads them to his home, invites them in. I don’t think thats an accident.

Blindness is a terrible disease. Blindness from birth carries a certain  unique characteristic.  Explain light and color to one who has never experienced either.  True blindness like this does not know its blind until someone tells them.  To have seen and then become blind is a torture all its own. But you do  have memory of the places and faces which either bless you with joy or curse you with regret. To those unfortunate souls born blind, they are left with others trying to describe a dimension of their senses that they are lacking.  I think it’s entirely feasible for the born blind to resist this knowledge, depending on who is doing the informing.  When your eyesight is fine and you are accused of being blind, it takes on a completely new dimension.

Before Jesus heals them.. He asked them ” Do you believe I can do this ?” .  He did not ask everybody He healed this question.  Why them.. was it a trick question, baiting them to doubt or encouraging them to believe? In a very real way I think Jesus asks us this same question everyday.

What a picture of life.. we stumble along.. following the crowds.. only slightly aware of our blind state..spiritually blind… and then we hear the testimony of others saying ” Jesus heals blind people”.  In our culture today as it was in theirs, people who don’t think they are sick, aren’t looking for a cure.

Paul said ” Now, we see through a glass, darkly. But then we will see face to face “. It’s this impaired vision that has my attention. I say,  as many others who are Christ followers also say ” I was blind, but now I see ” and I think we do see to a degree. I now see enough to know that my vision is severely impaired. I don’t even know what I don’t know. Another verse says ” when the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness “. When you think you’re right ( when you’re not ) you’re confidence in your own ” rightness”  becomes your hindrance to seeing the truth !

When the healed blind guys leave ( which is crazy in itself ) a “dumb” guy shows up. It’s possible he has never spoken a word. Every now and then I say something that makes everyone think I’m stupid. With a little luck I can repair the damage and resume my position as “averagely intelligent “. But this man was assumed “stupid” everyday of his life. Not an easy burden to bear. Trapped in his own prison of speechless thought and endless judgement. Jesus wastes no time with “small talk”, He throws out the evil spirit and the healed man starts talking up a storm.  He hears his own voice for the very first time.  The Kingdom comes: Grace, Mercy, Healing & Forgiveness. Where death was reigning, Life begins again.  Jesus gets a standing ovation ! The crowd proclaims  “never before has anything like this happened in Israel ! ” He also leaves Jesus.. and against instruction tells everyone what has happened to Him.  Of course he does. If he went back to his home and his people and didn’t say a word that would truly be outside the realm of human understanding. When we are truly healed, we proclaim it.

Its strikes me in this whole story that the greatest detour-ant to being healed of blindness and dumbness in our culture and times is a complete lack of awareness to our own disease. I think how in my own life as a “Christian ”   I lived for decades in a self deceived state of ” I am not perfect, but I am ok “. The inner fruitlessness of my life in so many ways should have been the clue to me that something was wrong.  I couldn’t see it. Blind and dumb.  Here is what I think is happening all the time.  We hear or over hear that there is ” something ” going on. Something great is happening. People are being healed !! But most of us don’t think we are sick, so we blow it off. Most of this is going on at the sub-conscience level. We classify ourselves and others.  We do so to our own peril. It’s this unrecognized impaired vision that I want healed. But it’s a costly procedure. The first part of the treatment requires earnestly asking God to show you who you really are. A scary and painful request.   A deep look in the mirror and choosing not to look away. Without fail, you will see your disease. But at the same time you will see your Healer…. Jesus. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. The heartbreaking reality of seeing your disease is the first step into the light. Its the staying in and walking in that light that brings you to the healer….Jesus. Yes, you will see yourself as you really are and that will indeed be painful.. but with this “eye opening awareness” of your true current state you will see the beauty of His forgiveness and Love for you. This kind of forgiveness is pictured in the living example of Mary Magdalene ( the once demon possessed prostitute )   clinging to Jesus after He was resurrected. Her sin exposed, her demons removed, relationship to God restored, her heart and mind healed and the resulting expression of true adoration.  Mary M. kneeling at Jesus feet is the picture of 20/20 vision in a world blind to it’s own disease. This kind of living visual representation of healing and clinging seems to be missing in our modern western church. It exists,  but its hidden from view. But the truth remains the same. I believe Jesus is still healing blind and dumb people everyday, everywhere. He is healing me.  Anyone who hears the crowd and follows.. stumbling along and into the home of Jesus saying “Jesus, I am blind, will You heal me ?”  will hear Him respond:  Yes !

 

If you wish to comment.. please do so via facebook..  thanks,

Gene

 

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Lost, and God Knows it.

by on Sep.27, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

The distance we have fallen away from God and away from who were created to be is far greater than we think. We want to believe we are “just a little messed up.. but not too bad.  sure we make mistakes but fundamentally we’re ok”.
I have changed my opinion..  I think we were and are truly lost. And God knows it. I have been being led toward this thinking more and more as I move toward God. My own sin awareness increases as I approach Him. He is Holy, something we are not. I used to spend tons of time hiding my sin from Him ( and others ) but now I want to give them all too Him. I crave Holiness. I crave Him. This is where my words fail me. I want to describe how I am drawn toward His beauty, His purity and Holiness., but I can’t really. But I can say it’s different than before.. my heart is tender before Him.. His love for me is real and getting realer.
But I know His love never changes, it’s me that has changed, He has changed me.
What did I do in all this?  I died. I surrendered. If I need to die more, please Jesus, help me die more. If I need to surrender more or again.. please Jesus, help me surrender more.
There is a battle… but how strange.. my victory is actually total surrender !
The delusion that says “I am fine, just a little messed up but really ok” wants to return to me. It’s a lie from the father of lies. I need Jesus every moment. It’s why He says it plainly, I am the vine, you are the branches. Stay connected to Me. I am your life, without me you can do nothing! Without the living connection, we are separated from our Savior, our life.
The distance we fell is greater than I thought. I am more messed up than I thought.
But His love is bigger than I thought. Way bigger. I may be lost on a distant and forbidding planet, but I have been bought and rescued. He has now promised to “lead” me. Why not just get me out of here ?
Why has He left me here ? I am purchased..I am rescued.. why not take me out of this mess ?
There can be only one reason. To tell our other lost brothers and sisters that they can be rescued too.
Another truth that remains. Yes, I am rescued but not completely restored to what I was created to be. We are blind children in need of direction. Jesus is the light that will keep us on the path and keep us sensing the Love He has for us. He will keep us “on task”, we are to stay connected. Are very lives depend on it.
It sounds overly dramatic when you say it out loud but thats exactly the truth.
This is one dependancy we are not to get over.
There is only one way, Jesus is it.. there is only one truth, Jesus is it.. and only one life.

Isaiah 42:16 But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them— sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”

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Late Summer Rain

by on Sep.22, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Poetry

Late Summer Rain

Like tears of the Father from heaven falling

on an unknowing earth for His children.. the strong summer rain.

Through tears and rain new life is found and nourished.

Then the thunder rolls..

His justice is coming.

Swift and powerful, driven by invisible winds.

A rainbow to follow..

Beauty in light..

a foreshadow of splendor unimagined,

in time unmeasurable,

in Love perfected.

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Time Cut Short

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Cambodia, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

I took this picture while visiting a Cambodian village. This young woman is married. Her husband is off in the city trying to get a job. She is living with her dad. She had just lost a child.

Trouble is relative.. I guess.

Sometimes God wants to do something new….

This is something new for me.. poetry. I have never given poetry much thought. This just happened. I have learned to expect the unexpected when I give myself time to be with God.

Time Cut Short

Father, do not cut short the time.

my days I would shorten, to be with you

and lessen the pain..

but I remember… I am not alone.

The not so distant and distant cries arrive in my ears

at the same time…

They, we are all your children.. you hear everyone.

Tempted to camp in my incompleteness..

It seems departure the better choice

Disappointment to self, to others

to much to bare.

But there they are..

stretched out in both directions

time past and time future

but to you all the same

and I agree with You again..

not one lost who would be saved..

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Created in His image…

by on Jul.13, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

A mountain man in India. This man has only heard the name of Jesus in his village for the first time just recently.

This word is for him and for me, for we were all created in His image…

Luke 10:27 “Love the lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”

Heart: From the deepest place of truth expressed in the inner part of man.. resulting in care of the richest kind with the purest emotion.

Mind: The place of intellect, wisdom and understanding. The place that hungers to learn more about who God is and what He has done and what He has planned. Where we ponder His mighty deeds, the creation and wonder at His beauty, innocence and holiness.

Soul: The sum of your eternal self. The part of you thats hardest to understand because it’s not your flesh, but the image of God in you. The part of you that knows you were made for more than this world has shown you. The part that lies awake in the middle of the night and prays to the Father for all of life to be restored to what it was meant to be in the garden. The part that longs to walk with Him in the cool of the day.

Strength: The hands of action and movement. Putting love into motion.. for the things that God loves, His children. To love Him with all your strength is to let His love move you. It’s to lift the burdens.. and move the obstacles out of way for you and others.

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Took The Midnight Train from Beijing

by on Apr.16, 2010, under Gene, On my mind

After some pretty intense travel getting to Biejing.. we were greeted by four nameless men. We were whisked off pretty quickly and before we new it, we were walking down winding dark streets and long dirt roads. We arrived to find a building that you would never expect was a “gathering”.  Think abandoned industrial 1930’s NYC.

Every time I go on one of these trips I am humbled by the sacrifice these warriors of God endure.  Like a blast of reality, we are forced to walk into their world. They smile wide and share what they have. They celebrate God with abandon. They are generous with their love. They look to us for help.. I look to them for inspiration.

It’s forbidden to do what they do. Nothing can stop them!

It’s 4:15 am here where I am. We all just spent most of the night on a “night train”  out of Beijing. It was a 10 hour ride in one of those sleeper cars.  I am going to bed real soon..  but before I do..

It’s almost dinner time back in Niles where I live. Mary emailed me and she is cooking chicken..  I love what she does with a chicken..

Imagine cooking dinner on this every night..  If you have food…

IMG_4115 kitchen

I have a prayer on my lips already.. “Father God, don’t let me look away from their need.”

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Behind The Scenes – Cambodian Documentary

by on Feb.15, 2010, under Cambodia, On my mind

Video by Dustin Holliday. Dustin is the Director of Outreach at Christian Fellowship Church in the Washington DC area and close friend of Jack. He also leads a missional outreach to Nicaragua.  He joined Jack and I in Cambodia to get a first hand look at the One Prayer Church planting efforts. While we were traveling and shooting video, Dustin was using his mad video skills and a flip camera to capture these behind the scenes shots. It’s a rare look for me because I am always behind the camera.

We had a great time.. lots of fun in the midst of some pretty intense work in very high heat and humidity. Dustin was incredibly helpful. Several times I took him up on his offer to carry the gear. A 50 plus lb. back pack full of lens, mics, batteries etc.

Dustin is a warrior. He and Jack are cut from the same fabric. Leather I think. Camo black leather with kevlar coating and built in GPS tracking and radiation detection and spider venom antidote. Yes… they eat spiders. No, I did not. You can insert whatever sissy descriptive term you like right here.. but I did not eat the giant jungle spider.. and I have no plans too.

Warrior: ” A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare”.

I spent 5 days with Jack and Dustin together. Wow… I would tell you what they talked about but I want to live a little longer  ( if you get my meaning). What I did witness and can share is these guys are intense.  Both these guys are highly trained in self defense. They can hurt you so fast and in so many different ways that you would need a slow motion camera and instant replay to figure out which way to fall down.

But these warriors have chosen to use their tougher than nails skills for the Kingdom of God. I have witnessed them using their “get it done” mentality to impact a village for Christ and bring lasting change that will save lives now and for eternity. They may have hands of steel with attitudes to match but inside of them both beat hearts of gold.

It was an honor to serve God along side these warriors and a surprise when Dustin called me “the warrior videographer”.  I kinda like that..   Shootin pictures.. takin names.. For God’s Kingdom… now and forever..

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