Battles & Burdens

Growing up, I was always looking for ways to make money. My first job was as a paperboy. I delivered papers three times a week. But, I always had something going on the side as well. I also picked up soda bottles and redeemed them; five cents for the small bottles, and 10 cents for large bottles. I loved making and saving money.

 

When I became older, that drive or desire to make and save money didn’t change, just the ways I chose to make extra money. Instead of picking up bottles, I became interested in flipping houses and owning rental property. I invested a ton of time and money in real estate. And things went really well until 2008 when I learned for the first time in my life, what a downturn in the economy looked like. I had some investments that didn’t make it. It was painful watching something I had once loved become something I loathed.

 

Something else happened the winter of 2008. A group of people formed Haywood County’s first homeless shelter. I was elected to the board and served on that board for six years. Then the homeless shelter merged with two other organizations to form, The Haywood Pathways Center (a homeless shelter, half-way house, and soup kitchen). I have served on that board since its inception, and still do so today.

 

The Haywood Pathways Center houses up to 100 people who are working on turning their lives around. Currently it is an adults only center since we may need to serve those who have been past sexual offenders, and our two dormitories are an open floor plan. The next phase of our ministry is to focus on families in crisis, by providing off campus temporary housing for moms and their children. This may involve buying, flipping, and managing families in individual units.

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Funny isn’t it? I got into real estate to make money for my family. I learned a lot about the market, renters, contractors, bankers and their policies and procedures. And as I personally experienced the ups and downs of the real estate market, God began turning my heart towards those that have no place to live. God is now redeeming all of the time I invested in real estate, and I am now using every bit of it for the benefit of others.

 

Some of our greatest failures might be God given burdens misapplied! God has graced my investment as I have focused on helping others.

 

If God has given you a passion, but it doesn’t seem to be working for you, you might want to consider using it to serve someone else. You may find, like I did, that it was always His original intention. For more on this subject http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-gift-of-godly-leadership.html

 

Discovering the Mind of a Woman

When my wife and I had been married about seven years, we went through a very difficult time. We were both working hard to make ends meet and take care of two toddlers. Our marriage became very strained. Honestly, we were in trouble but didn’t even know it. Then a friend handed me a book on marriage. The title was “Discovering the Mind of a Woman” by Ken Nair. The author said, “you cannot understand all woman, but you should understand yours!”

 

I read the book so long ago I can’t fully recommend it, but I do remember two things. The first was that we should listen to our wives, they usually only want our best. Most women aren’t getting up in the morning thinking; how can I ruin my husband’s life, or how can I make him miserable today? Yes, there are some, but most don’t.shutterstock_16524841

 

What my wife wants is a husband she is proud of. She wants me to be the best in every area of my life because it increases the quality of her life and she loves me. But, who do you think I regularly don’t listen to when she has something to tell me? My wife! All too often I discount what she has to say, because I am overly familiar with her voice since I hear it every day. But time and time again, I have found she is my best counselor.

 

The second thing I remember from the book was that a woman wants to be pursued, discovered, and cherished. I remember asking my wife if she felt I was pursuing her or if she believed I cared about the matters of her heart. She bluntly told me, “no” and that she had lost all hope that I ever would. She had resigned herself to thinking we would end up roommates at best in our marriage. I promised her that day that I would change and not take her for granted. She said, “I will believe it when I see it.”

 

Twenty years later we are happily married. Those toddlers are grown and gone and we love each other more than ever. My wife is pursuing her dream of being an artist. She is blossoming into who she always knew she was, and I am chasing after her, trying to keep up with this new and beautiful version of her. I am grateful that God saved our marriage. I am grateful that today I still have so much more to discover…and to enjoy about the woman I chose to love. For more, click on http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/limiting-the-limitless-god.html

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Men

My wife and I have two sons. We made the decision early on to raise men, not boys. That can be difficult in a society that panders to children. I am continually amazed at the decisions and the adjustments parents make based on the whims of their child. There was a day, in our society fifty years ago, when a child wasn’t to speak until spoken to. That, in my opinion, swung too far to one end of the spectrum. Today, most children can interrupt any conversation, at any time. That, in my opinion, swings too far in the other direction.

 

Raising men means that we accept where our children are in their development but parent them towards who they will become. We treat them one developmental stage ahead of where they are. That can be hard, especially for a mother, to train a child to be independent, instead of enjoying their dependence upon her.Raising Men

 

My wife insisted our sons clean their own room at a very young age. The boys started cutting the grass when they were six. Both did their own laundry by middle school. We taught them how to treat women, by opening doors and treating them with respect. They could feed themselves for as long as I can remember.

 

Besides giving them responsibility, we let our kids make some adult decisions for their own life (not for our family, see the first paragraph). This allowed us to use their real life successes and failures as coaching opportunities while they were still in our house. This limited the negative impact when they made a poor decision and allowed us to truly dissect the learning opportunity when their decision was a good one.

 

Now let me clearly say that my wife and I are not perfect parents. Rarely do I give parenting advice because I made a ton of mistakes along the way. But, those mistakes don’t discount the truths we did discover while raising our sons. Here are two truths we discovered about raising men:

 

  1. If you treat a boy like a boy, he may grow up to be a boy. I know some 30 year olds boys and no one thinks their boyish behavior is cute anymore, especially their wives. Boys desire to know (especially from their father) that they have what it takes to be a man. So, whenever you can, let them make manly decisions for their life and applaud their successes.

 

  1. Understand the difference between authority and influence in your children’s lives. When they are young, you have authority over them. You tell them when to go to bed and decide what they will eat. But, as they mature into teenagers, the “season” of authority begins to wane and the “season” of influence begins. Many parents miss this change and continue to operate from authority. If we miss this change, many times they move out of our house and reject any influence we have over their lives.

 

Today, my adult sons will call me and say, “Dad, I am making this decision, but I want to get your advice before I make it.” That means the world to me. They own their decisions but somehow, through all the mistakes I did make; I still have some influence in their lives.

 

Parenting is hard; the most difficult thing I have ever done. I do not envy todays parents and the hard decisions they have to make everyday. But as a father who has been down that road, I implore you to consciously raise men, not boys. You will not regret it. For more on this subject go to

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

 

The Gospel of Good Success

Paul and Silas were in jail, and they were innocent. The longer I live, the more I have come to realize that there are indeed innocent people in jail, and guilty people roaming the streets. This is a result of a fallen world, impoverished by sin. Paul and Silas are singing at midnight when a miraculous earthquake throws open all the jail cell doors. But, Paul and Silas don’t leave. How can they? There are other people in jail who need help. This is God’s assignment for them. The goal in their circumstances was not to get out of wrongful imprisonment, but to use the opportunity to serve other people in the prison!

 

One of my heroes of faith is a minister named Kirbyjon Caldwell. He wrote a book called, “The Gospel of Good Success”. Since 1982, he has served as Senior Pastor at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Now a congregation of 16,000-members, when Kirbyjon became pastor of the church, there were less than a dozen people attending. The church was located in a “not so pleasant” part of town. As the church grew, he was offered promotions and assignments to bigger and more glamorous churches. He turned them all down. His assignment was to make the community he pastored INTO ONE OF THOSE MORE GLAMOROUS COMMUNITIES. kingdom_builders_featured

 

He started by partnering with business folks to develop a piece of land into affordable single-family homes, which they sold below market value so that those in his community who never owned a home, could do so. After developing a neighborhood of over 100 of these beautiful brick homes, he went to the City of Houston and offered to donate church land to the City if they would build a brand new elementary school for the kids of that neighborhood. A new school was built. He then did the same thing with the Y.M.C.A, which built a new facility next to the new elementary school. He bought a strip mall and brought in successful entrepreneurs to teach his people how to start businesses using godly principles, and then allowed them to set up shop in the strip mall to get their businesses started. There are other creative endeavors that he has led, but I hope that is enough to make the point.

 

Kirbyjon has prospered; his church has grown, he has authored books, and developed business partnerships. But, he chose to stay with his church, and in his community. The result is that the church has prospered as well, and the community has become a beacon of transformation for the world to see.

 

We all walk through difficult circumstances, and many of us are tempted to make it our goal to escape whatever present challenge we are in. Yet our assignment might very well be to the very people around us going through the same thing! For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

I Killed the Horse

Recently, I received a book in the mail. As a pastor, this happens a lot. Many people moved by something they have read; want to share it with others. What better way than through the weekly mouthpiece known as the pastor?

 

This time though was different. I knew this person only as the mother of a friend. Apparently, as she was reading during her devotion time, she suddenly thought of me. Instead of moving on through the moment, she stopped, ordered a book for me and then dog-eared the section she had been reading when she started thinking of me, and sent it on to me with a nice card. I found it very moving that someone would care enough to do this, hoping it would encourage me.

 

After reading the card, I immediately turned in the book to the dog-eared section her note had directed me to. To my GREAT surprise it was on rest and balance. Imagine that!

 

The marked section I turned to mentioned Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a famous Scottish pastor. One of the most powerful ministers of his time, he died at age 29, weakened through chronic fatigue and busyness. Before he died, he said these words, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver. Alas, I have killed the horse and cannot deliver the message.”

 

The book literally arrived at my office while I was on vacation. And, while on vacation I had been reading in the Book of Numbers where a man willingly broke the Sabbath by picking up sticks, and had to be stoned to death. Wow. I was once again convicted of my need and the importance for a Sabbath.

 

Gratefully, I am now rested, and am in the habit of exercising and eating right. But, I am also grateful that this kind woman didn’t just breeze through that moment. She took the time to go out of her way to make me feel noticed by God and important. I challenge you; if you are reading this, the next time someone flitters through your mind, do something. Maybe you could go see them, stop and pray for them, or send them a card. Do something that tells them that God had them on his mind and sent you to make sure they know He loves them. For more on this subject visit

Photo to convey idea of resting

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

Building Material or Scaffolding?

Have you ever taken the time to consider all the different people that have influenced your life? If you are like me, many people from all walks of life have impacted and helped shape who you are today.

 

I am blessed to have many stable people in my life, people that have been with me for the long haul. And, I have experienced some people who were only in my life briefly, but left an indelible mark.

 

My pastor once told me; “Some people are like building material and some are more like scaffolding”. He encouraged me to understand the difference. He said, “Some people you can build your life around. They will be with you throughout your life journey. They are building material to your life. Others are scaffolding, a temporary structure that helps you for ashutterstock_55365469 season and then is removed”. He went on to say, “Be grateful when God allows someone to be building material in your life. They are rare and precious people. Also, be careful to not be overly disappointed when you discover that someone was only meant to be temporary scaffolding. It is normal to have both”.

 

That being said, I want to give a shout out to a man that was “scaffolding” for a season of my life. His name was Dave Robison, my boss at a previous job. He saw the potential for leadership in me. He promoted me, then promoted me again, and promoted me yet again. I soon found myself sitting at his table, part of his inner circle. Honestly, I thought I was in way over my head. But, he saw something in me that I did not see in myself, and he gave me a chance to succeed.

 

At one of my performance evaluations, he gave me some of the best advice I ever received. He said, “Nick, you are amazing in a crisis. You rush right in and do whatever is necessary. But, what we need from you is…A LITTLE MORE CLARK KENT AND A LITTLE LESS SUPERMAN!” Hah! He had amazing clarity, and that advice was profound. Several times throughout my life I have caught myself unconsciously putting on the cape!

 

Dave passed away about two years ago. While he was only my boss a few years, he continues to impact my life today. Who says scaffolding can’t make a permanent impact on our lives?

 

For more info, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

 

A Love that Makes You Leave

Recently, during a ministry trip to Europe, my good friends Lukas & Dita took my wife and me on a day trip to Hernhutt, Germany. It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, since Hernhutt isn’t near anything else I would be visiting. For those of you who don’t know anything about Hernhutt, it is the birthplace of the Moravians.

 

The Moravians were a group of persecuted Protestants that came to Hernhutt in 1722 and asked a land baron named Nicholas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf if they could stay on his land in order to practice their religious freedom. He agreed. And guess what happened next? More people arrived wanting to join this new religious colony. This continued for about 5 years. During these five years, there were many people with different religious views living in community with one another. And, there were many problems. As well as their differing religious views, the people also had different views on communal living. There was unrest in the camp.

 

Then, one Sunday, while holding a communion service, the Holy Spirit was felt by everyone. From that point forward, there were no doctrinal disputes or need for handling communal squabbles. The Moravians would later say they experienced the Holy Spirit much like the church did in the Book of Acts.

 

This move of the Spirit drove the people to a deep desire to pray. They set up 24 hour Prayer picprayer watches and did not stop praying around the clock for over 100 years!

 

 

What was the result of their selfless living and intense prayer life? People felt called to missionary service. As a result, many sold themselves into slavery as indentured servants, for the opportunity to take the Gospel where they were otherwise unwelcome! They sailed to these foreign fields with nothing but travel fare, a bible and a wooden coffin. This sounds like true religion to me. A move of God that stopped arguments over doctrine, caused godly men and women to pray, and inspired them to give their life away! That is the kind of religion I want to experience.

 

The Moravians have left a deep mark on the world that has continued to touch and inspire myself and many others. I will leave you with this Moravian motto:

 

“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity (love).”

 

Let us pursue God until we get along with our neighbor, draw nearer to God, and find a reason to give our lives away! For more, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

Gym Friends

I grew up without any steady healthy relationships, and spent most of my life “relationally challenged”. But, over the years, with the help of healing, counseling, books and some long-suffering friends, my relational I.Q. has improved. That has made me much more aware of relational issues that the average person may miss.

 

I started back to the gym. I go at the same time every day, four or five times a week. I take the same class (which varies the workout every other week) with the same people. I am only at the gym for one hour and most of the time I am sweating, and trying to breathe, not start up conversations. But, since we are all relational creatures, inevitably small talk happens and you learn a little bit about each other. I now have “Gym Friends”. The difference with gym friends is that intimacy doesn’t come from talking, it comes from sharing.

 

My wife and I have been married for 26 years. My friends are her friends and her friends are my friends…except for my gym friends. She doesn’t know one of them. That is a new dynamic in our relationship. You might say, “Yeah, but you only see them an hour a couple times a week”. Yes, that is true. But, there is a level of intimacy you develop at the gym.

 

  • mighty-miteWe see each other stripped down to the basics/ no frills.
  • We high five and hug each other while pouring the sweat.
  • We observe one another about to puke after a particularly grueling workout.
  • We witness each other’s body parts bouncing, jiggling and stretching in a way that none had ever hoped to see.
  • We share the bathroom, locker room, and showers.
  • We see each other’s weaknesses (overweight, flawed, and unable to do a chin up) and cheer for each other.

 

I would say there is a great deal of intimacy that happens at the gym. Working out with my gym friends has become a favorite part of my day/week. Yes, I am more vulnerable at the gym than at other times, but I also don’t have any unrealistic demands put on me by my friends there. So here’s a shout out to my gym friends. I wish everyone had some.

Just Eat the Frog

I was having one of those conversations with my wife and son. We were talking about something that someone did that would precipitate a difficult conversation. Granted, I wasn’t excited about having this conversation with someone I love, but some actions left unresolved can begin to destroy a relationship. The actions themselves may not destroy the relationship, but not resolving the issues creates a slippery slope that could.

 

So, in the midst of this conversation, my son blurts out, “Dad, you just have to eat the frog”! I said, “What in the world does that mean”? He went on to disclose to me that his boss, a long time good friend of mine, had recently shared this relational golden nugget with him.

 

Here it is.

 

If someone handed you a live frog and informed you that you had to eat it, how would you begin? Would you lick it to death? Or maybe you would start with the head or its legs? Would you dose it first with salt? How would you eat the frog?

 

My friend said; when you have to have a difficult conversation, don’t delay. Eat the frog. Just plop it in your mouth and get it over with. His perspective is that the more he thinks about the eventual conversation, the more anxious, or worked up he is going to get going into the meeting. One of two things happens at this point. We either experience paralysis by analysis (we over think it and decide to do nothing), or, we envision several possible painful outcomes. When this happens we go into the conversation EXPECTING one of those painful outcomes and at the first sign that one is developing, we jump to the final conclusion and PREDETERMINE the outcome of the discussion.

 

My friends advice; just eat the frog. Pull the person aside as soon as possible, and ask the hard question. It will save you days of anxious inner talk that will predispose you to possible failure.

 

Don’t delay. Eat the frog.frog6

Relational Advice from Moses

I have a friend who wants to know God more, not about God more; but to know Him. Intimate relationships take time and lots of heartfelt communication. But, she doesn’t seem to have an awareness of His presence or be able to recognize His voice among the thousands that seem to occupy all of our brains. Recently, she said to me that not everyone hears God like I seem to. She said I must be some kind of Moses or something.

 

Well, no. I am not Moses and I do not have special powers that no one else has. I do have a trained ear that is getting better and better at hearing His voice (not audibly, though that is biblical). The more intimate you are with someone the more trained your ear is to hear what they are saying. And the Bible tells us that sometimes God speaks in a still small voice.

 

So, this morning I spent about five hours studying for a sermon that involved Moses and I noticed several things about his relationship with God. Moses had a unique experience that I don’t think another human being has ever had. Moses got to a place where his face would shine with God’s glory after he spent time with God. Moses began to look like God, or at least reflect His glory.

 

relationship development

 

There is an old saying; folks who have been married a long time, start looking like one another.

 

The shine didn’t happen the first time they met. It happened after repeated conversations and after a 40-day period of prayer and fasting on the mountain. He comes down and his face is shining and everyone is uncomfortable and he has to cover his face when he talks to Israel. Nowhere in scripture does it ever say that the shine went away.

 

What can we learn about developing intimacy with God (and other people) from Moses?

 

Talk regularly even when the mountain is on fire and your afraid. Long-term sacrifices (40 days of fasting) do produce relational rewards. Moses pitched a tent outside the camp and he called it the “Tent of Meeting”. Anytime Moses wanted to talk to God, he would go out there and God would show up. Have a special place where you and God meet. My wife and I have special places that mean something to us. I also have a few places where God likes to meet me. So; talk a bunch, make appropriate sacrifices, and find a special spot. It works for people and God. For more info go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/tablets-of-testimony.html

 

 

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