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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Merrell’

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Granite Mountain Hotshots

I had the blessing of knowing Ron Merrell as a Pastor, mentor and a friend.  He is a hero of mine. He has since moved on to California and now recently God has him back in Arizona in Prescott at Heights Church. My first reaction to hearing about this was – why Prescott? I have nothing against Prescott. It’s a beautiful little city about an hour north of Phoenix and it definitely has that small town feel to it. But that’s my sin nature saying that God can’t do something amazing in a small town like Prescott. God is always working. 

On June 28, 2013, lightning ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire. Yarnell is small community next to Prescott. Prescott Fire Department’s interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were there to respond and the fire overran and killed 19 of the firefighters (only one survived) two days later. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the greatest loss of life for firefighters in a wildfire since 1933, the deadliest wildfire of any kind since 1991, and the greatest loss of firefighters in the United States since the September 11 attacks (Wikipedia). This was a horrible tragedy and the nation grieved with this community over our fallen heroes.

As horrible as this was, it opened the opportunity for the church to be the church. Led by efforts of Ron and the staff, Heights church was able to provide comfort and love to the families of the victims. They helped organize the memorial services and community gatherings to honor the firefighters. And my good friend Ron was able to lead the opening prayer for the nationally broadcasted memorial service in which Vice president Joe Biden attended.

I love how God works and I love His timing in situations. I love how He gives us (the church) opportunities to partake in Kingdom opportunities that point people to Christ. A lot of things in this broken world don’t always make sense, but knowing God is in control puts situations like this into perspective and gives us a sense of hope. I’m sure even Ron wondered why God called him to Prescott. Six months later, He used him and the church to bring glory to Him in the face of tragedy.

Pastor Ron Merrell leads a prayer during a memorial service for Yarnell firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Arizona

Pastor Ron leads the memorial service in prayer

Ron’s message on the Yarnell tragedy and a promo video for some of opportunities he has had to speak at other churches

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I was chatting with my friends Mat and Lisa Weddle from my Missional Community and we were reminiscing on how exactly six years ago today (New Years Eve) we were boarding a plane with thirty other young adults to be a part of Passion in Atlanta. For them, it was where they first met and they are now married today. My friends Brian Wurzell and Promise and Steve Adame and Liz met on that trip and they too are married and doing amazing stuff for the Lord. For people like myself, Shauna and Amaris, it was the trip that God called us into cross-cultural missions. They both ended up serving on the field for some time. It was a pivotal trip for many of us from that amazing community that were led by Pastor Ron Merrell. I heard God speak through Francis Chan for the first time that year. Chris Tomlin’s version of “Fire Fall Down” reminded me of my broken life and how God was putting me back to together to do years of ministry following that trip. Ben Stuart’s message on singleness was the best message I have ever heard on how God can use us as single people. I used that message to start a group for newly divorced people and how God can use them at this time to do amazing things for Him. But the impactful part of that trip was Louie Giglio’s message on how heaven will be a party for the nations. That message blew me away and opened the door for me to engage with God’s heartbeat for the world.

Passion '07

Passion ’07

I had an amazing conversation today with my friend Amber at 8th Day Coffee and Culture. We were talking about our creative gifts and how God uses them for His purposes. She has been getting a lot of pressure to sign with a major record label. Her heart is just to share her music with the world and how God healed her from a difficult time. For me, I hope never to have to make money off of anything creative I do. I am blessed to have a job that provides more than enough for me to do life. I personally want to use my creative talents for the Kingdom and to share with others. We were talking about how easy it is to make our gifts about ourselves and not about the Lord.

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It’s New Years Eve and I am so thankful for where I am at in life. It’s been an incredible year for me and I feel focused for the first time in a few years. My friend and mentor described my year like this: He said I’m like a plant and God put me into a pot to grow and heal me for a little while because there were some things He needed to work on. The soil represents the healing power of God working in my life. But now he sees God taking me out of that pot and putting me back into world to allow me to continue to serve Him. I do feel that. I feel God is ready for me to begin to go back to work and be a light for Him. And honestly, I don’t know what that is and I love that. This is where my faith and trust in God comes in and allows me to stay on His path.

IMG_1462I do know that God is about to reveal some of His plan for me. Through teaching from amazing influential people and reading His word, God is syncing my heart to His heart for injustice and mercy. I’ve gone about this all wrong for some time. I saw trafficking firsthand in Cambodia for the first time in 2008 and God opened the door for me to learn more about it. Failed opportunities to go to Fiji and other chances to engage were due to me following my own wants and desires and making life about me. I’m done needing approval from other people for my sense of self-worth and being a one-man show trying to save the world so I can feel better about myself. Now God has put me back into a position to be a part of His plan for justice and I want to be attentive to just following His will. It’s about the gospel and the message of God redeeming a fallen world. God is aligning me to Him and I look forward to learning more about topics like slavery so I can be an effective tool for Him.

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Cambodia ’08 – my first exposure to human trafficking

I also was convicted by a passage in Luke 5 this week in which Simon Peter falls to knees in worship when Christ invites him to drop what he is doing and follow Him. When was the last time I dropped to my knees in worship to the Lord? I honestly don’t have an answer to that. I want to be in worship everyday with my Lord and Savior. I want Him to be my first priority in all I do. God has done so much for and hasn’t given up on me. I want my life to reflect on His grace and for others to see Jesus when they meet me.

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Josh Riebock

Life is a field. You aren’t alone.

I won’t forget tonight. Not only was it Election night, it was PhoenixONE and they had a special treat for us. Josh Riebock is a writer. He wrote a book called Heroes and Monsters and I had the chance to read it over the summer. The book tore me up. It’s a story about Josh’s relationship with his dad who was his hero. Despite the fact that his dad was his hero, he had a dark side to him. His dad was an alcoholic and Josh writes a book on how he couldn’t comprehend knowing who this guy was when he started drinking. His dad was his hero and yet he was a monster to him. It’s a great book on how the events of our lives and how they shape us. It’s about how we can be loving people and then switch and be the ugliest people in the world. It’s about the struggle inside us and how we can find hope in Christ through our trials and pain.

Josh talked about how God wants to take us to the depths of pain so we can learn and heal from it. We like to hide and stuff our junk and God wants to release us from it. He wants to give us freedom from the things we are scared of. I’m so thankful Josh came tonight and thankful to my former Pastor Ron for recommending his book to me. I had been corresponding with Josh before he came and he gave me a big hug when I introduced myself to him afterwards. I loved that I felt like an buddy of his and how welcoming he was. I’m a huge fan of transparent real guys and Josh’s story has been a blessing to me as I have experienced the same father pains as he has.

Andy Cherry led worship and I was able to bring a bunch of my friends with me. We were all impacted by Josh’s talk. But most of all, tonight was special because I got to bring my son. And for him him to hear a talk about father/son relationship while sitting with me was special. He got to hang out with me and my friends afterwards and I even let him stay up a little late even though he had school the next day. I am so thankful to the Lord for this special night for getting a chance to meet Josh and hang out with my son.

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With my bros and my son

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Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

This passage of scripture is amazing because it describes the coming of Christ in Jerusalem hundreds of years before the event happens. We can read about this event in John 12 and Luke 19. It portrays this chaotic, loud environment where people lay palm branches on the ground proclaiming the name of Christ. Jesus is called the “King of Kings” in Revelation 19:11-16. But the people of this time were expecting a different type of King – they wanted a King that would free them. They worshipped Jesus for the miracles he performed and the wonderful stories they have heard. Their hearts weren’t in the right place and you see this as they would crucify him the following week. Before we judge, we are must look at ourselves and see we do the same thing with our worship.

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught

Isaiah 29:13

God wants us to worship Him freely and truly. It’s all about the posture of our hearts and our outward posture reflects this heart posture (Psalms 28:2). We sometimes make worship all about us. We worship things that are not worthwhile. But worship is about reflecting the value and worth of God, not us. Romans 12:1 talks about presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. If we go into this with distractions, we will miss out on the fullness of God.

A huge part of worship is gaining more of Christ (Philippians 1:20-21). There are several ways we can go about gaining more of Him. We need to come with hands empty to receive instead of full to give. Our worship needs to be radically God-centered. And worships should not be a means to an end. Our worship is a natural output of the value of our God.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ  

Ephesians 5:17-20

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Amaris is in town and I had an opportunity to catch up with her at lunch. I love that I keep running into old friends that I have served in ministry with. Amaris is without a doubt one of my top 10 favorite people in the world. She has this amazing genuine pure heart for the Lord that I have never seen in a woman before. Just an incredible servant for God with a passion for younger women and missions. Her and I served on the mission board together at Cornerstone years ago. We were also part of this core group of leaders that served on the Camber staff under Ron Merrell back in ’06-’07. I love this picture of Julie, Alex and Amaris because we were all part of that group. I’ll never forget going to College Briefing at Forest Home and Passion in Atlanta with these amazing ladies and 20 other Camber leaders back in 2006. Those trips were my starting point of getting into ministry and missions. It was such a unique group and we were all living our lives for the Lord in community together. I love that I have found that all over again with the group of friends that I just went down to Mexico recently with. There is something about a loving caring body of Christ followers that are living in community together that forms a bond that can’t be broken. When I see these girls and others from those days, I always think back to the days of doing life together at Camber and how God brought us all together to fellowship with one another.

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God has been doing this cool thing of restoring and redeeming a lot in my life that has been lost this past year. I love this passage from Joel 2:25 of God’s promise to restore those things that are lost in our trials when we are obedient to Him during those tough times. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. You see this in the life of Job as well when God restores him 10 fold for remaining in obedience while he is being tested. God has given me some amazing new friends to walk with, opportunities in ministry and blessings with my finances. He has also blessed me with a new church and a new community that is stronger than I have ever had before and I am thankful to be there. Yet at the same time, he has restored my old church to me that I left on no-so-good terms with last summer. It’s been awesome to return there and reconnect with old friends and serve from time to time. Plus my kids have really got connected in their respected youth groups there and I want them to keep going. Today, my old mentor and hero Ron Merrell spoke as a guest speaker there.  Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible and above is the video of his message. It was a great message on spiritual disciplines and how they keep us in tune with God.

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I just got this new book Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock. It was recommended to me by my former Pastor, Ron Merrell. I really enjoyed reading it – the author is very deep and writes about the struggle within our souls.

– Heroes and Monsters is an unforgettable memoir of passion and redemption, a ragged look into a world at once wildly twisted and profoundly beautiful, an exposé of both the hero and the monster within all of us.

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With my hero - Ron Merrell

I met Ron Merrell when a friend of mine ask me to attend Camber (Cornerstone’s young adult ministry) in early 2006. I was months from receiving divorce papers and was looking for something to plug into to make good Christian friends to start my journey with. I stayed after to meet Ron after hearing his sermon and he immediately asked me to lunch the next day. I was blown away by this. We met at Red Robin and we both got the whiskey BBQ burger (which is an amazing burger!). I shared my story and he just listened and showed me love and compassion. He immediately saw my heart to be a better man. What began was an amazing friendship in which Ron helped mentor and disciple me to use my pain and trails to become a Godly man for Christ. Ron became my hero and someone who I have modeled my life after.

I served many years in Camber under Ron mentoring young adult men. Despite the many hardships and difficulties I endured, Ron stuck with me and continued to encourage me. In 2008, Ron was called to ministry in California and I felt that was God telling that it was time to take what I learned from him and move forward in my walk with the Lord. I was on staff and doing ministry and God was using me. Then last Fall, I was removed from staff and was going through a difficult period of restoration. A few weeks later, God provided Ron Merrell as a guest speaker one Sunday morning. Seeing him was like a reminder from God that things will be ok. Just his hug alone brought me to tears and was all I needed from him for encouragement. He didn’t even have to ask to see that I was hurting. God provided my old mentor, my hero for comfort that day.

I am at a point now in my life where some loved ones have stopped believing in me. They have looked at circumstances and forgotten about my heart. Yet I can’t say much because I have found myself guilty of this too. God has worked in me so much lately and I’ve really grown up a lot in my walk and learned a lot about myself. But today was a day I was really needing someone to see my heart and believe in me. I was invited to attend Mission community church this morning by some wonderful friends who wanted to give back to me because of what I have done for them in the past. To my surprise Ron Merrell was the guest speaker today. I was already in tears walking through the door because I knew God was providing for me in my weakness before even hearing the message.

I enjoyed the worship and was pretty emotional throughout it.  Then Ron gave a message from 1 Timothy 4 on discipleship. I’ve discipled many people in the past, but I’m at a place where I am being refined and needing to be discipled to get back to where God wants me. The first part of Timothy talks about how many will fall from their faith after professing their faith in Christ. I know I have slipped in my faith recently and I have to include myself in this. But God wants to be tangible to us and he does that through relationships (v. 6).  Satan wants us to operate independently of God.  Discipleship is about walking together and the doctrines of grace are about bringing us in relation with each other. We need to train ourselves everyday for godliness like an athlete does for a sport (v.7-10). Salvation is both an event and a process. We are then to disciple others and not give up on then (I love Paul’s encouraging words to Timothy in verses 11-16)

I got my bear hug that I needed from Ron and my “It’s going to be alright” from him. I really needed that shoulder to cry on and let go of some of my pain. It was as if Christ just put his arms around me and said “Travis – I know who you are and if you trust me and put in the work, you will be just fine.” I’m thankful for the relationships around me and the outpouring of love I have received during this difficult time. God is working in me and he is giving me exactly what I need to continue moving forward. I’m thankful for good Godly men like Ron who just read hearts and encourages people to be who they are in Christ. And I take this Godly man’s words to heart – my hero, as he told me “Hang in there and keep going. Don’t give up!”

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We might choose sin now but if we really know what hell is like would we still choose sin? Everything does have consequences both now and in the future.

Ron Merrell is a hero of mine. He has inspired me so much in so many ways. Cornerstone occasionally brings him back to speak on main stage. Here is an amazing message he gave today on our choice to sin.

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I had a bittersweet moment the other night at Camber. I have been attending Camber since March of 2006. But now there is a group called Rhythm that is starting in a couple of weeks that is running opposite Camber on Thursday nights. It’s more geered to my age group now that Camber is officially a place for college age people. But I can’t forgot what Camber has been to me these past couple of years. I’ve made many friends and I have so many memories. It’s where I started out my single life. It’s where I’ve grown so much in my faith at.
I attended Camber this past Thursday knowing it was going to be my last night there. Yet.. I couldn’t sit through it. I just felt this sense of knowing that I don’t belong there anymore and that is was time to move on. I didn’t like that feeling because of what Camber had meant to me. But at the same time I anxious to see what James Patterson has in store with Rhythm. I’ve already made some new friends there. He has got such a great vision for that group. I think it’s going to be huge.
So I thought I conjure up a list of my top 10 favorite Camber moments. There are so many, but here it goes..
10. Art night. Camber is so blessed with so much talent. Music, art, photography, dance, poetry, etc. We did two of these nights where members of Camber were able to display and express their art, pictures and music talents. God gave us the freedom to put on display his glory through music and paintings. I was blown away. We also gave those that just showed up a chance to express their feelings with a blank banner and some paint brushes. I really enjoyed this.
9. Acts series. Ron did a series that spanned the whole book of Acts. It may have seemed long and drawn out, but I really enjoyed it. I love reading about the early church and the early days of the disciples. Acts is one of my favorite books of the Bible and I would love to do a study again on it.
8. Camber Christmas concert. Last year was absolutely amazing. Ryan and company did a great job of putting this together. It was very well put together and really got the crowd in the Christmas spirit. I don’t know how they are going to top last year, but I’m already looking forward to it.
7. Baptism night at the Liston’s. Incredible night! Ron invited anyone to head over to the Liston’s house to be baptized in their pool after Camber one night. I believe over 20 people were baptized that night. The cool thing is that 100+ people from Camber showed to support those that were being baptized. We must of been there till 1am.
6. Serving on the Camber staff. Ron assembled about 30 of us one day at Dave Sweet’s business to talk about serving on the Camber staff. We went through all the service opportunities and put together an amazing team to run Camber. I felt very blessed to be a part of this.
5. We will not talk series. The summer series that just blew the roof off of Camber. We discussed various topics that many churches refuse to talk about. Homosexuality, eating disorders, cutting, drugs, porn, etc. On top of that we had members of Camber that have struggled with these issues share their testimonies. It was an amazing summer.
4. College Briefing at Forest Home. A huge group of us traveled to California to to spend Labor Day weekend with several other college groups at Forest Home. Our very own Brayline provided the worship for the weekend. We played volleyball, had milkshakes and hung out. Ron got our group together and we had an incredible time of sharing one night. This particular weekend was when I really started to make amazing friendships at Camber.
3. Worship. What can I say.. Cornerstone is blessed with incredible music talent. Ryan, Jason and the band just bring it every Thursday night. Not a Thursday goes by that I feel God’s presence through the incredible music that is being played.
2. The speaking. Ron Merrill was the heart and soul of Camber. He brought a huge vision to that group. Yet God spoke through him with love and compassion toward the people of Camber. The topics and series were amazing. The guest speakers were incredible. It brought my faith and knowledge of the Bible to a whole new level.
1. Passion Atlanta. Can’t say enough about this trip. It changed my life. About 40 of us from Camber traveled to Atlanta on New Years Eve to this 4 day conference. 20,000+ gathered to hear Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, John Piper and Beth Moore speak about living your life radically for God. Chris Tomlin and David Crowder provided the music. This was the trip that turned me on to missions. Going through the Do Something Now booths and talking to missionaries just opened awareness to me. And then being able to hang out and fellowship with other Christians from around the world was so moving. The week was capped off with all 20,000 of us surrounding the Georgia dome and singing “Amazing Grace” while holding candles. One of the highlights of my Christian walk that I will never forget.
There are several more stories I could write about.. Point South Mountain, Sunday BBQs, Camber beach trip, etc.. but these are my favorites. I won’t forget what being a part of Camber did for me. I could write a long list of people that have touched my life during this time as well. I will miss Ron, Ryan, Chris and the gang. But at the same time I will be next door plugging into Rhythm. I’m excited to see what God has in store for this next phase of my life.

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