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What Christian Happenings Would You Like to See More of in the River Region?









 
Friday, 10 March 2017 11:58

Lt. Col. Travis Zimmer, USAF 908 Air Wing Chief of Safety

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RRJ:  You grew up around a family and church that celebrated and explained the Good News of Jesus, yet when you left home and headed to West Point, you drifted from following Christ.  What was the cause?

 

Travis:  I believe the parable of the sower told by Jesus in Mark 4:18-29 describes my situation at the time.  I chose the cares and pleasures of “The World”.  Starting in high school, I chose to follow what I considered the “in-crowd”.  I became increasingly concerned with being popular, especially with women.  I was influenced not only by popular culture, but also by the friends I chose to hang out with. 

 The message I was receiving from these sources oftentimes conflicted with the message being poured into me at home, by my pastors, my Sunday School teacher, close family friends, and in youth groups.  I understood Christian values, but I started giving into the instant gratification I experienced with alcohol, women, and pride of life.  I also bought into the “American Dream” and became materialistic and focused on personal achievement.  I bought into the lies that God may not be real, that I am here by chance, and that success is defined by my accomplishments, wealth, a beautiful family, and my ability to support my own desires. I felt it was culturally normal (even other “Christians” were living this way), and I felt entitled and justified to take care of my desires, no matter what that meant.  I was living a self-centered life.

 

 

RRJ:  It’s been said that “coming to Christ” is coming to the end of yourself. Is that what happened to you?

 

Travis:  My story of salvation happened at Fort Campbell, KY in 1999.  I had just ended a long term relationship with a girlfriend who had lived with me over the previous six months.  It ended terribly, but during that year, I was constantly living with an ever-growing void in my heart and an anxiety that I couldn’t understand.  I had also been rejected in an assessment (job interview) for an elite Army Unit I had determined was my “life-goal”.  (Notice I said my life goal and not just a professional goal).  My identity was in my profession and in being admired and respected.  My desire for women and their affection had grown into a habit of one-night stands, unfaithful and unholy dating relationships, and an addiction to pornography.  I simply could not fill the void in my heart. I was being led by my fleshly desires, and my Spirit had withered and was almost dead.  When my relationship ended, and I was not selected for my dream job, my identity at the time took a massive hit.  I was lonely, depressed, defeated, and I felt like a slave to my lustful desires.  I hit my knees in desperation and I cried out to God for help.  I was led by the Holy Spirit to a Bible in the night stand.  I started reading the New Testament.  As tears rolled down my cheeks, I felt the warm embrace of our Abba Father.  That afternoon, I knew that God loved me and I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ.  I believe the following quote sums up nicely what I experienced that day:

 

“Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it? Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?”

Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

 

So, in view of God’s unfathomable love and mercy, my paradigm was shattered.  My false identity was broken off, and I completely embraced Jesus Christ.  My “fire-insurance religion” was replaced with a true relationship with The Almighty Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

 

 

RRJ:  In hearing your story, God clearly used your uncles-in-law Kevin and David as instruments to help rescue your wandering soul.  As you’ve thought back over those years, how do you now try to emulate Kevin or David when ministering to others?

 

Travis:  Kevin and David were bold in their faith!  I also saw an authenticity in them that seemed to be a rare commodity and was the best counterpoint to the hypocrisy I saw elsewhere.  They weren’t afraid to suffer or sacrifice some of “The American Dream” as they lived out their faith.  Furthermore, I saw that they were humble and had compassion for the unborn, the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the hurting, the addict, the handicapped, the outcast, the defenseless...the “least of these”.  They didn’t hesitate to clothe, feed, minister to, or even house strangers.  They also never stopped reaching out to me and professing the Gospel of Jesus.  They reminded me that I was created by God in His Image, loved unconditionally, adopted into Sonship through Jesus Christ, created to fulfill His purpose, and called to make an eternal difference for His Kingdom. 

As I think about those two heroes of mine, a few scriptures come to mind - (Matthew 25:34-40, James 2:14-19 NIV, Philippians 1:21 NIV).  I need to come humbly to my fellow man, irrespective of race or religion, from a point of empathy and grace.  I am then able to speak the truth of God’s Word boldly into their reality.  I don’t need to worry about having the “right words to say”.  If people can see Christ’s love in me, then the Holy Spirit will move in and through me.

 

 

RRJ:  Serving as a pilot in the Air Force has it challenges and rewards. How does your faith show up in that calling?

 

Travis:  I am a work in progress.  I would like to echo what Paul said to the Philippians:

 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)

 

As I reflect back on my Air Force and Army career over the past 23 years, I hope that my faith has shown up in the routine “day-to-day” operations as well as the most complex, high risk missions I have participated in.  Some of the more spiritually challenging circumstances I’ve faced over the years of my career have been what I imagine many people face:  office politics, conflicts, a difficult boss, career disappointment, etc.  I’ve had to respond to all of these and acknowledge that each presents opportunity for sanctification and to live out the Gospel.  Can I be humble and accept correction?  Can I forgive others as Christ has forgiven me?  Can I boldly stand up for what is right and pray for the wisdom, strength, and stamina to make and implement good decisions? 

I have also lost friends, and I have had many opportunities to be a friend or a mentor to people who have been marginalized or who struggle with depression or PTSD.  One example that comes to mind was a man who was constantly ridiculed, his wife left him, his job performance was marginal and he was on the brink of suicide.  He suffered with PTSD and depression.  I was moved in my Spirit and believe I truly saw him the way our Abba Father sees every person.  After that, I met with him often (sometimes just popping in to say hello), but each time I listened to his hurt and his hopes with compassion and empathy.  This man not only decided not to commit suicide, but he ended up finding a local church family and found Christ! 

 

 

RRJ:  You have a heart for your fellow soldiers and for your community.  Ten years ago when you moved to Montgomery, you sensed God calling you here to “restore community”.  Why do you think that matters to God and how has He worked that out through you and your family?

 

Travis:  I believe two key verses (among many others) speak to God’s heart for restoring our communities:

 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

(Isaiah 61:1-4 NIV)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

(Isaiah 58:6-12, NIV)

 

When Amy and I moved to Cottage Hill more than 10 years ago from Destin, FL, we were warned by well-meaning acquaintances to avoid Downtown Montgomery.  However, we felt a calling.  A close friend and builder came from Destin to inspect our house and spoke a Word from God over us:  “You will be a part of a community restoration.  I don’t know if you will restore old homes,” he said, “but you will be a part of restoring people’s lives to wholeness in Jesus Christ.  And, when people are restored, a community is restored.”

This was not an easy step for me, but I felt a conviction from the Holy Spirit.  As my faith grew, God was revealing to me (and us) His will and our purpose.  Now we were in a spiritual position to make a difference for God’s kingdom.  Part of my trepidation was that I thought I knew myself, and I knew that I had limitations and sin.  But God saw something else:

 

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV)  

 

God saw me (and us) as holy, set apart, a participant in His divine nature, created with a specific purpose to do His will.  His will for our family was to be a part of His restoration of downtown and the near West Side of Montgomery.  We began to embrace these truths:  God sets sinners free and uses them to lead others to freedom (Psalm 51); and “(His) grace is sufficient for (me), and (His) power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

God is sovereign and the job he gave me in the Air Force Reserves has afforded us a unique opportunity to serve our country and our community.  Because we have lived in this neighborhood for so long, we have been able to establish roots and grow authentic relationships that are the foundation of restoration.  We have been a part of building the “Beloved Community”. 

 

 

RRJ:  No Christian can do God’s will apart from faith and the Holy Spirit’s power.  After that what are three specific things that equip and strengthen your faith to confidently proclaim God’s glory in the world?

 

Travis:  Prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word.  I dedicate the first part of my day, and the first part of my year, to spending intentional time with God.  Can I add one more?  Accountability! Life change happens in the context of authentic relationships.

 

Travis and his wife, Amy, have two children and attend Church of the Highlands.

 

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 10 March 2017 12:07
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