The Surprisingly Simple Remedy for My Lukewarm Christian Life

Here’s an example of a podcaster using what is available in social media to reignite his passion for the Lord.  The tale of a project called Miracles & Atheists.  The surprisingly simple remedy for my lukewarm Christian life.

What do you mean, “when was I born again?”

I grew up in a church, I’ve always believed…it’s awesome that you found Jesus right before you were about to take your life, that God spoke to you as you opened the door to cheat on your wife, that you were delivered from your 10-year addiction, but I don’t have a story.

The Dilemma

I prayed for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior when I was a kid I guess, but I don’t remember being saved. What I do remember is praying that same prayer several times throughout my childhood, on 5 or 10 occasions maybe. I suppose I just wanted to make sure I was saved, but nothing happened.

The point is, I don’t have a story so don’t ask me about it, I get uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

The truth is, not having a dramatic story makes me wonder whether I truly am saved. I believe, sure. At least I think I do.

But what does it really mean to believe anyway? I’m supposed to know that I know that I know I’m saved, right? That’s what the pastor says. Ok then, but how do I know for sure?

Faith is being convinced about things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that; but am I convinced? The whole concept sort of stresses me out. Jesus tells us those who believe will cast out demons in His name, they will speak in tongues…wait tongues? What’s that all about anyway? I grew up United Methodist man, I don’t know what all this means.

Those who believe will pick up snakes with their hands and drink deadly poison without getting hurt. They’ll place hands on the sick and the sick will be healed…seriously? (Ref: Mark 16:17-18)

I certainly haven’t experienced any of that. Maybe I don’t believe then. But why not? What am I doing wrong? If I’m not saved, why am I wasting my time with church?

These are the things I struggled with during the first 38 years of my life as a lukewarm Christian.

People always used to tell me about the freedom they found in Jesus, but all I felt was condemnation. Paul says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) so I felt confused all the time. What’s the point of it all?

My lukewarm Christian friends used to tell me not to worry about it…that I was bearing fruit, I was fine. Even so, I had a potty mouth, an adulterous heart and an empty feeling inside….continuously searching for fulfillment, for something more.

Far from freedom, I know.
The truth is I was doing something wrong. I was going through the motions: seeking after the Lord with one hand but holding onto the world with the other. I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way.

About 18 months ago I started an unexpected journey in search of making sense out of it all. It was a Sunday afternoon, where despite having three energetic kids running around the house, I found myself scrolling through a mind-numbing playlist of movies on Netflix, most of which were full of sex, violence, and self-centered living. I’d been watching too many of those lately and I needed something kid-friendly, but not a kid’s movie, I couldn’t stomach anymore of those.

I selected a documentary called “The Finger of God.” I thought to myself, “hey that’s different.” The premise of the film was to investigate why some churches were on fire for the Lord, while others were well, lukewarm, perhaps? The film’s producer, Darren Wilson, sought after churches that were seeing real-life miracles, with the goal of capturing them on film.

Before watching this movie I knew absolutely nothing about miracles. I never even thought about signs and wonders before, or that any of the miraculous things Jesus talked about still happen in the 21st century. The Holy Spirit was basically an afterthought to me.

I figured miracles were a conceptual thing, not literally something us humans here on this planet could actually partake in. But I tell you, this documentary got the wheels turning for me. I was fascinated by some of the things I was seeing: deaf people’s ears opening up, knees being healed on the spot, manna showing up in people’s Bibles. It was weird…was this the same Jesus I thought I knew?

The idea of seeing miracles stayed in the back of my mind for the next six months. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t do anything about it.

Doing something would make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being uncomfortable.

It’s funny though, the Lord doesn’t seem to be concerned about my comfort. It’s like He has other plans for me or something…

So I figured the best thing would be to start getting into the Bible; to see what God’s Word says about miracles. Didn’t they go away? The problem was I found the Bible boring and confusing. I was going through the motions when I read the Bible and felt guilty about it. It shouldn’t be that way, having guilt didn’t feel right.

God knew I would get frustrated and blow off my Bible reading, and I did. So He put someone in my path who was well-versed in miracles, signs and wonders. I met Cale Nelson at a conference for podcasters in early 2017. We had only talked for five minutes or so, but I could see this guy was on fire for Jesus. I admired that, all the while wondering why I wasn’t on fire like he was…what was I missing, seriously?

At this point my finances were a mess and my marriage was about to fail. I was full of pride and selfish intentions. Yet, I put up a really good front. By God’s grace Cale and I kept in touch online, and after a few weeks I asked him whether he’d be interested in talking about Jesus with me more regularly.

Through Cale’s example, I learned how truly different real followers of Jesus were from the rest of the world. That scared me.
I was comfortable in my lukewarm world; I wanted to blend in.

Even so, I recognized in my search for fulfillment that I needed to make some sort of change. We all know the definition of insanity. So one of the first things I did was pray the Lord give me a hunger for His Word. If His Word truly brings life, I want to understand how.

Miracles and Atheist project

It took a few months, but the hunger I prayed for did eventually come, gradually. I made a commitment that the first thing I would do after waking up is get into the Word of God before I did anything else, even if just for five minutes. To my surprise, I actually started enjoying my time reading! For understanding, I started devouring any Christian media I could get my hands on related to miracles: audiobooks, YouTube videos, podcasts, and more documentaries.

It opened up a whole new world for me! I couldn’t believe I’d been missing out on such life in the here and now. For my whole life I’d just been concerned about not going to hell, but for the first time I realized Christ is actually inside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, I just needed to learn how to access Him.

I was sitting in church alone one Sunday morning and the pastor gave a sermon about taking risks for the Lord. He said faith had to involve some sort of risk, that without risk, it wouldn’t be faith. The message resonated with me.

I realized I had developed a fear of man. If I were to talk about my faith, to move outside my comfortable, lukewarm world it would be awkward. Talking to Cale every week was fine, but getting out into the world and being that weird Christian well, that was different.

Yet Jesus said “so everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

Acknowledging Jesus would mean I’d have to take a risk, probably more than one, and I didn’t like that very much. On the other hand, I didn’t like going through the motions anymore either.

It was time.

A lot of Christians love to learn, but far fewer take action on what they learn. I wanted to take action.

The Lord gave me a vision of bringing atheists and believers together to talk about miracles, signs and wonders. The problem was that atheists intimidated me. They thought Christians were stupid, they talked with big vocabulary and I didn’t want them to challenge me on my beliefs. My theology wasn’t all that strong and I didn’t want to jeopardize my faith, so I stayed clear of any religious talk when I found myself in a conversation with an atheist. Nevertheless, I respected them. They weren’t like me, in that they made a decision. They didn’t question their beliefs, they just didn’t believe and moved on.

There’s something to be said for being decisive, yet I couldn’t understand why they would be willing to jeopardize their salvation. It was a fascinating worldview, and I realized I had a heart for the atheist.

So I took my first risk, I took action.
I needed to find atheists and Christians willing to have a conversation. So I put out a polarizing post on Facebook about the folly of the aggressive, Bible-thumping, “you’re gonna burn” Christian. I mentioned that I would be working on a project to address the issue. I put out the post at around midnight on an early Wednesday morning and within 24-hours, I had nearly 300 comments and 20 private messages asking me what I was doing.

My post took people by surprise, it was out of character. And it also struck a chord. The next day I found myself filled with what could be none other than the Holy Spirit. I felt like I was high! Nothing else mattered, not my finances, not my frail marriage, not the kids, nothing…just God.

It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I can remember; that day I was baptized of the Holy Spirit. I took my first risk for the Lord, and I got my first taste of real faith. Shortly thereafter I found myself laying hands on the sick, rebuking illnesses and starting to see people healed. It’s been nothing short of amazing (and a little crazy).

One week later I launched a four-hour livestream on Facebook – I call it Miracles & Atheists. The premise of the show is to facilitate a healthy dialog between atheists and believers about the supernatural. It hasn’t been easy, but incredibly fulfilling.
Piece by piece, brick by brick my faith strengthened.

Nowadays, I see my wife and kids growing in their faith. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been and God’s handling our finances. My six-year-old is even laying hands and praying for the sick! It’s been an amazing roller coaster of a ride.

I don’t care about being the weird Christian anymore, I just want to help the lost and heal the sick.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

I had read that verse for years, but I never knew how to truly apply it in the fray of life, until I took my first risk for the Lord. Seeking God’s kingdom first means to truly die to yourself, every day. It’s means listening to the Lord when He calls you to do something, whether you know for sure that it’s Him or not. If it’s aligned with the Word of God, you go for it.

For me, I’d already lived the first 38 years of life for myself, so I’ll go ahead and live the rest out for Jesus.

If you’re like me, you may be afraid of going all in for Jesus. You probably don’t like being uncomfortable – believe me, I don’t either! Just know that your fear isn’t from God, it’s from the enemy. Push through and take that risk! When the dust settles, don’t be surprised when that mountain moves.

I Love Gun People

None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church… Ephesians 5:29

When I got started in the gun community I was shocked to learn that I had as much prejudice and bias as anyone else. I had to check myself. The path from firearms instructor to minister of the Gospel, to Black Man With A Gun was not a straight line. My journey was unintentional. God often makes a straight line with a crooked stick. I love the people in the gun community, I didn’t know that when I started though. Let me share some of what happened along the way…

I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left.

I began as the evening, sexton of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, DC. At the time it was a prolific and big name church in the African American community. I didn’t know any of that. I liked it because the Spirit spoke to me there. I had recently bankrupted my family, strained my marriage and changed jobs trying to become an entrepreneur. I was a burgeoning public speaker that had successfully lobbied and testified for concealed carry reform in four states. I was a gun activist. I was trying to become a paid lobbyist. I was trying to build a firearms training business that would stop accidents in the homes and make people in my community safer with the guns they owned. I was certified to qualify police, security and federal officers for armed duty.  My community wasn’t buying what I was selling.  Before concealed carry was an option in thirty-five states, I was trying to educate people.  So I put it all on hold and went to work for a church.

Every evening I opened the church, checked the place for leaks, spills, toilet cleanliness and then waited for the women of the shelter to get off work and unlock the house door for them. The church owned homes that it allowed homeless women to rent super cheap. They had to work of course and couldn’t lay around all day so the house was locked all day. I learned a lot. The choir members would come in and I would patrol the place to make sure they old ladies and the teens in the building were safe. After things got settled I sat in a little room near the door and worked on my first book, “Black Man With A Gun; People Fear What They Don’t Understand.” The title was changed by the editor.

The  church ladies loved me being there. They loved the attention I gave them. They giggled at the fact that I rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was in church. I was the good bad boy of the building. When asked what I was writing they thought my premise was sound. Help stop the violence. I was shocked when the book was published and a few of the deacons recoiled in horror about my book. I was the same guy. Fortunately, the old ladies still bought the book and supported me. It was there after hours that I got the chance to talk to God one on one. In the sanctuary, I would sit on the first pew and look at the cross in the few minutes before I closed the building down and lock it up and leave. It was there that I would ask the Lord what He wanted for me in my life. It was there that I praised Him for saving me, sustaining me, and protecting me from all the things I had willfully done.

My day job in the government had just changed and I was wondering if I was going to make it to retirement. I was a misfit among misfits. As an entrepreneur I was dabbling as a writer, a speaker, a private firearms instructor, a professional bodyguard and a private investigator. At work, I was a supervisor of armed police officers, a senior instructor of police tactics and facilitator of new hires. I was struggling. I got the opportunity to fly all over the country with the NRA, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America but it didn’t satisfy the longing in my soul.

One night a family of four came to the church looking to see if it had food to give them. They were living on street, in an old station wagon. I had never met anyone like that before. I thought it unbelievable in this day in age, in America, in the Nation’s Capital, there were hungry families. I heard the church had a pantry so I asked someone and they told me it was upstairs in the church attic. I didn’t even know there was a church attic. I got the key, found the attic and saw that there was plenty of food there. I went shopping. I filled four bags of canned and boxed food and brought it down. I was met at the door and challenged by a church trustee that admonished me for giving food to drug addicts. It was in ear shot of the couple. The look on their faces was authentic. The hope they had vanished. I felt as if someone had gut punched me. The trustee took a bag from me and handed it to the woman. She took a couple of cans and threw it at the stairs in anger. The husband was angry but he bent down and picked up the food. I looked at trustee and his arrogance and felt repugnance like I have never felt in my life. Another church officer walked by and gave a nod of approval to his actions. I felt anger for the first but not last time in a church. I wanted nothing to do with these people if this was acceptable. I apologized to the couple and gave the rest of the food I had bagged and walked back into the church.

When the pastor came in that night, I told him what happened and that I was resigning. I asked him how he could work around such people. I told him I didn’t want his job. He smiled and said he accepted my resignation. I was surprised. He didn’t try to change my mind or anything. The next week was quiet for me. The trustee saw me at Bible Study and apologized. A few nights later, the Lord spoke to me again in a dream. It wasn’t the first time but I remembered all the times He had in the past and recognize the feeling of peace that comes from being in His presence. I don’t remember the conversation but I woke refreshed and with a Scripture on my lips as I opened my eyes from Isaiah 6:8.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

After church on Sunday, I waited for the opportunity to talk to the pastor privately. Having been on staff, it was easy to navigate the building, and bypass the personalities. I was expected to be cleaning up or opening a room. When I approached the pastor in his study, he saw a look of concern on my face and asked if everything was OK with my family. I assured him everything was great actually and we were now doing better than ever.

“So what can I do for young man,” he asked. Pastor I think I have a calling on my life to minister, I said. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “Yes, you do, everyone in this church knew that except for you.”

Stunned I just stood there. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes. Now what do I do, I asked, I am not like the other ministers here, I said. I am Harley riding, gun toting, former US Marine, that works as the CIA.

He smiled and said, the Lord called you, He knows.

That was during the time of the Y2K fears. I gave my trial and initial sermon ten days before 9-11. It was the year of change for more than just me. The Black Man with A Gun persona was created and firearms training, radio interviews happened. These was before Google, Facebook and other social media.

The Washington Times interviewed me and to push the article they wanted an eye popping picture. We took one with me holding my Kimber 1911 and a leather bound King James Bible. The deacons of the church voted to kick me out of the church and resend my license to preach but it was defeated. I didn’t learn about the secret ballot until much later.

I wondered from church to church, serving where I could. I created In The Wilderness Ministries, the Forgiven Christian Riders Motorcycle Club and ministered where I could. I did this until I was called to pastor an autocratic church in Washington, DC. It was a tough place. When I resigned from the pastorate I felt the anger, frustration and sadness many who no longer attend church feel.

I now know that the Lord allows everything to either move, teach or prepare you. I know 999 things that don’t work. I know who I am. I walk with God. He has never left me nor allowed me to screw up too bad that I couldn’t get back to the safety of His side.
I refused to conform to this world. I refused to conform to the politics of the church as we play it. I am not popular in religious circles around the city. I don’t get invitations to preach revivals, and special days. I can be called uneducated. I don’t have a doctorate of divinity. I have failed at many things but not my God. I refuse to accept defeat in serving a victorious God.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

He called me and asked Who shall I send, I said again, Send me!

This is a new beginning. Please join me. Don’t worry if you like hunting, riding motorcycles, shooting high powered rifles, pistols and shotguns. I do too.  Don’t give up your faith. Don’t give up on having a real relationship with the Creator of the universe despite what has happened to you in this life. Don’t surrender to the voices you hear and the naysayers that are abundant in your life. Roll with me, follow Jesus, let’s do this thing together. I understand your situation. I have been on your street. I am not above you. I am just walking with the One that saved me and I want you to be with me.

To God be the glory!