Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Discover Life: Wrapping Up August 2015: Don't Feed The Horses!

Discover Life: Wrapping Up August 2015: Don't Feed The Horses!:

Well folks, it's been a year since we left Louisiana and arrived here in upstate NY.  We left on August 13th and arrived August 16th ... and it has been an adventure with twists and turns since our boots hit the ground. Allow my to provide a simple bullet - form recap.

August 2014:
  • We designed the discipleship ministry of Discover Life to meet specific discipleship needs without competing with ministries who are in the region already at work based on the vision of Roger and Yvonne Shafer (founders of Huntersfield Christian Training Center), Charlie Gockel (Executive Director of HCTC), and the members of the HCTC board.
  • We saw the need and founded both the Discover Life School of Ministry Preparation (for prospective ministers who desire to be thoroughly equipped for a life of ministry) and the Discover Life School of Discipleship (for people who desire to fully understand what it means to follow Christ and be equipped to do so.)  
  • We began the development of curriculum, goals, and assessments as well as a detailed intake process and student handbook.
  • We welcomed our first students.
September - November 2014:
  • We saw the addition of several students and further detailed the intake process.  
  • We introduced the students to a rigid daily schedule including physical training, proper nutrition and hygiene, a class schedule, job site instruction and applications, community involvement, service schedules, and morning and evening devotions.  
  • We attended off-site ministry events.  
  • We saw lives being transformed by the miraculous grace of Jesus Christ.
  • We began the planning of and training for a mid-week regional mountain top discipleship ministry service.
  • We moved the men into the Hope House.
  • We prepared the men, cattle, equipment, and facilities for winter.
  • The students of Discover Life took the opportunity to serve HCTC by helping during retreats where their service is needed and appropriate.
December 2014:
  • We saw our first student successfully transition forward into life.  
  • We continued receiving more men and adjusting our ministry policies and procedures to best accommodate their discipleship needs.
  • We had several opportunities to minister to our community due to the freezes and the water damages that can surface during them (specifically pipes busting).
  • The students of Discover Life completed the last house repair from the storm (Hurricane Irene).
  • The students continued in serving the retreat center in both cleaning and maintenance.
  • The students assisted in the renovation of the Huntersfield Lodge.
January 2015:
  • We opened our website (www.discoverlifeministry.com) in order to provide a better service for the ministries who may need what discipleship services we can provide and for individuals who desire to be discipled in Christ.
  • We began the mid-week regional mountaintop discipleship ministry service.
  • We took the opportunity to open up our weekly classes to individuals who do not reside on the mountain but can benefit from the discipleship.
  • We continued receiving inductees into Discover Life.
  • We began the Discover Life Newsletter.
  • The students served the regional ministers who attended HCTC's yearly Minister's Retreat and were ministered to themselves in the process.
  • Were blessed to see the students continue to grow in their transformation.
  • We formalized our first projected budget based on the financial needs and actions from August - December 2014.
February 2015
  • We continued in the ministry of discipling the students and inductees of Discover Life.
  • We met several emergency cold weather needs.
  • We continued in serving the retreat center and the ministries using it.
  • We thrived in ministry during the extreme cold.
  • We maneuvered through the mechanical failure of several of our vehicles due to the extreme cold.
  • We began the journey of (our son) Dayson's decline in health and watched him suffering through horrible pain and the loss of his ability to walk.  The Lord was very close to us during the next few months.  People were very kind to help where they could.  Dayson was under absolute attack and God was very close to him, us, and the team up here. (A testimony I will share in full soon).
March 2015
  • March was a month for strong growth in our mountaintop service.  When people here of words like "recovery" and "freedom" they think of addiction.  Few consider that recovery is the process of being fully healed and restored from a wound, sickness, disease, injury, etc.  Many people will first respond with "I don't have an addiction" ... but all people deal with hurts, habits, and hang-ups .. and truthfully many people will testify that they hurts, habits, and hang-ups really deal with them.  
  • We were able to begin collaborating with local ministries.
  • We released a needs list for people who desire to invest in God's kingdom!
April 2015
  • We continued receiving inductees from various locations around the US.
  • We continued to witness the transformation of the students who are truthfully seeking discipleship in Jesus Christ.
  • We continued to tighten our induction process and intake requirements.
  • We hosted and participated in our first combined Discover Life retreat with the Discover Life ministry of Washingtonville and Newburgh, NY.
  • The men were ministered to individually by Drew Crowell, a bible teacher who taught on both the Exodus and the Beatitudes in two separate back-to-back retreats.
May 2015
  • We welcomed the warmth of spring - meaning the weather was just warm enough for the snow to begin melting!
  • We finalized the development of plans for students who begin the higher approaches here at Discover Life and began implementing them.
  • We continued in the design of the school of ministry preparation here.
  • We welcomed the teaching ministry of Larry Poston, professor at Nyack College.
June 2015
  • We transitioned Taylor in his discipleship off The Hill during the day by having and helping him find employment.  We desire for the students to leave here thoroughly equipped for every good work.  There are lessons that only time and experience can teach us about others, and ourselves.
  • We positioned Nick to run the daily operations of the Saw Mill for the same reasons.
  • We baptized our first students!
  • We continued to witness the transformation of the students who are seeking Jesus in truth.
  • We began the process of renovating the Farm House in order to be able to bring in more students.
  • The students worked on their character issues by serving to meet the needs of the Saw Mill, cattle farm, hay, etc.
July 2015
  • We welcomed in a new student, Ken.
  • We designed a term/semester class system for students of ministry preparation.
  • The students continued in their efforts to prepare enough wood, hay, etc for winter.
  • The students worked on fence for more grazing for the cows.
  • The ministries of Discover Life continued to grow and the results of the growth began to show itself more clear as time as begun to offer up reliable results.
  • The students of Discover Life continued in their growth and determination to be self-disciplined witnessing the results of those who have fallen away from the task.
August 2015
  • We're here and growing!  We brought in two new inductees, Miguel (3 weeks ago) and Billy (over the weekend).  Please pray for them as we minister to them and disciple them in Jesus Christ.  Miguel is already showing his desire for Christ.  He has repented of his life of sin and has asked to be baptized!  Praise God for His faithfulness!  Please pray that God will continue to lead and draw Miguel and that Billy's mind would be settled to serve Jesus as His disciple fully submitting to this ministry of discipleship!
  • We have finally been set up for online giving for people who desire to invest into good work that is truly building the kingdom of God!
  • We continued in collaborating with regional ministries and ministers to make our services available to the church!
  • We have also begun recording our Q&A sessions (Wednesday AM) and will soon be releasing them through www.askthehaz.com 
Lesson From the Saw Mill: "Don't Feed the Horses!"
We have two horses, Whiskey and Lilly, that make their residence on our farm with our cows. Whiskey is a very healthy mixed breed horse that needs no supplement in his diet.  Lilly is a thoroughbred mare who is recovering from a terrible allergic reaction.  We weren't sure she was going to pull through.  We have here on a protein-rich feed that is a nutritional supplement to her normal diet to help her recover and build up.  If Whiskey eats this, he will just get fat.  So we have to feed Lilly from a bucket to keep her from letting Whiskey take it, which he will if allowed.

Recently, we had a new inductee decide to take it upon himself to feed the horses.  He was asked not to but decided for himself that it was necessary.  When it was brought to my attention, I questioned the inductee and his response was that the horses need to be fed, that he will soon be asked to feed them, and that it was his obligation to feed the horses implying that the people who own the horse are not able to best determine what the horses need ... that he has a superior knowledge and because of that is mandated to act on behalf of the horses against what he has agreed to do ... well then ...

I really try to shape our induction process to filter out the people who are merely trying to come here to escape their current reality and attempt some crash rehab while camping out in some imagined cowboy life where they are here to live out their camping fantasies.  While that may seem extreme to some, it is very dangerous to us.  Our tractors are real ... the danger is serious.  Our cattle and horses are real ... and catastrophic danger is imminent.  I'm not too worried about the animals attacking ... though it's a possible, but extremely unlikely scenario.  It's the danger inexperienced people can be to the animals (and our facilities and equipment) that I feel is the real and immediate problem.  

God has entrusted all of this to us and I take that very seriously.  I also take seriously our dependence on the cattle for meat to sell and the finances that brings in to meet the extreme financial needs of ministering to the students and inductees of Discover Life.  People who come up here to be their own imagined hero hiding under the guise of accepting discipleship usually last about 3 days.  The saws are real.  The muck is real.  The splinters are real.  The consequences are real.  The leadership is consistent.  The procedures and policies are expected to be kept without compromise or apology. The living quarters are tight. The scheduling is demanding.  

All of this can lead to volatile conflict involving people who come here for the wrong reason and this ministry was not designed for that.  Therefore we try to weed that out in our intake procedure and are mostly successful in that.  The inductees who arrive here are thoroughly interviewed and prepared for what life will look like up here.  Usually people looking for an escape don't come or don't impress me that this is where they need to be, and either withdraw their application or are denied.  But even for the students who come here for the right reason, there is the opportunity for curiosity-based errors of judgment and action that ultimately result in damage, destruction, danger, disease, or possibly death. We have been very careful to make our rules, policies, and procedures simple, detailed, and clear. We have an in-depth orientation for each new inductee.  Yet every student will eventually come to a place where either his curiosity gets the best of him or he feels he knows something that "forces" him to make the decision to act against or outside of what he has agreed to do.  

I refer to this as choosing the "noble right and responsibility" against policy which has been understood and agreed. This "noble right and responsibility" causes them to elevate themselves above and outside of policies and rules because they have found something we were not prepared for or have flawed information about.  This always ends up bad for them.  Fellowship is always first destroyed because rarely is it first asked about and then usually always attaches itself with deceitful actions.  That should make sense because a person has to first lie to him or herself in order to just accept the idea that "though I agreed with you to do A, I now have the noble right and responsibility to do B ... without clearing it with you because you don't understand what I know."

In every circumstance of this, it ends in failure.  These failures can range from simple obvious failed assignments to damaged or destroyed equipment.  Regardless of the outcome, it always involves a break and breech of fellowship.  

What's the Point??  Well look at the pendulum swing Peter experiences with Jesus in Matthew 16:13-23 (yes, the same reference from last month ... bear with me).

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

So one minute, Jesus is telling Peter "well done" and the next he refers to him as Satan himself! That's got to be a "wait, what?" minute for everybody.  I mean, what could Peter have done so wrong that Jesus would respond like that?

1 John talks about walking in fellowship ... the pre-requisite to that is walking in light in obedience ... in truth!  Peter decided for himself to rebuke Jesus ... as His disciple.  It was a "wait I know more than you on this one" moment for Peter and he did what we all do: he ascended his throne above Jesus and gave Him rebuke and instruction.  Sounds very familiar to another situation in the Bible where someone Jesus allowed to be very close to Him decided he would ascend his throne (Isaiah 14:12-14 - read the whole chapter though...).  Yes, that's the very thing Lucifer did and when we decide to "feed the horses" we take on that mindset.  

Read Adam's defense for his actions in Genesis 3:9-12. "The woman You gave me to be with ..." He is saying "I had to do this Lord, it was the noble and responsible thing to do.  After all, You gave her to me and we are supposed to be together and in unity." He also threw a very clear "this is Your fault" in there too.  This is what we do!  This is what we have always done!  The pride of life will always lead us to validate doing what we know is wrong and justifying it with some twisted higher calling ... and God is never fooled.  It will always darken our heart and lead to broken fellowship. 

We will go as far as to despise the people we convince ourselves we are trying to "save" through our rebellious action(s).  And God always responds the same ... "get behind me Satan."  Let's look at a simple short-list of things we are given specifically instruction about:
  • Submit to authority (1 Peter 2:13-15)
  • Submit to each other (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Don't be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  • Do not fellowship with believers who are openly sinning (1 Corinthians 5:11)
  • Honor your parents in their older years (Matthew 15:3-9)
  • Flee lust (2 Timothy 2:22)
  • Confess our failures to each other (James 5:16)
  • Pray for each other (James 5:16)
  • Make disciples (Matthew 28:19)
  • Love your neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)
  • Meet needs (Matthew 25:31-46)
  • Be honest in all you do (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)
There, of course, is much more instruction but ... how do we measure up with the short list.  How many things to we read but immediate follow it with "but ..." and then the excuse.  In other words, "I know I'm not supposed to feed the horses and I agreed to do what was asked of me, but I have found a noble and responsible reason to decide I know better and more so I am now obligated to feed the horses" and we attempt to ascend our throne.  Thank God for grace.

So what do we do then?  Well I think the  hymn "Trust and Obey" fits well.  I often ask my students the question "why do we sin?"  The inexperienced student (who hasn't yet heard the answer) will bring out different reasons based from their own personal lives but the answer is simple and is true for all of us: we sin because we don't trust God.  That's it.  We feel we have found a place where He is not prepped for and we must help Him ... or we feel there is some temptation that He in us is not sufficient in itself, so we indulge.  We don't trust Him.  Well, I implore you (and myself) to "get a bigger God."  Realize that the image you have created of who God is and His ability to keep you ... is extremely limited and let Him explode.  You want to see miracles?  Trust Him!  And for goodness sake, don't feed the horses!

That's my take anyways! Thanks for reading!

Trust and Obey John H. Sammis, Daniel B Towner 1887, Public Domain

Verse 1
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way; while we do His good will,

He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Verse 2

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,

But His smile quickly drives it away;

Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,

Can abide while we trust and obey.

Verse 3

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,

But our toil He doth richly repay;

Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,

But is blest if we trust and obey.

Verse 4

But we never can prove the delights of His love,

Until all on the altar we lay;

For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows,

Are for them who will trust and obey.

Verse 5

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,

Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;

What He says we will do; where He sends, we will go,

Never fear, only trust and obey.


Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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