Raised in church
I was born and raised in the Pentecostal Church….it is all I can remember from the earliest of times. I do not think that I was ever converted at a young age….though I did enjoy going to church. One of the main reasons was I got to sit on the front pew with my Great Grandpa who was one of the gentlest and most humble men I have ever known. I look back with fondness at the times I would climb into his lap and he would read GoldenBooks and the little Living Bible to me.
It came as a great shock, when I was about nine years old, that he died from complications from a relatively minor surgery. Being used to death, it was not that someone died that was the problem, it was that he died….someone so important to me. I blamed God and I blamed Him wholeheartedly. I threw myself into my bed, buried my head between the wall and mattress, crying that if that was the type of God in Heaven I hated Him and I wanted no part of Him ever. The worst part was that there was no comfort, no support, no Biblical counsel from anyone in my family. I did not know where to turn or what to do: so I left any pretense of following God and turned inward for the help I needed.
Me a sinner Converted
I soon after smoked my first cigarette, I got drunk for the first time at thirteen, and learned and mastered the fine art of profanity. Throughout my teen years I ran from God and rarely attended any type of church service….I just had no use for it. It was not as if I never had any guilt: for my conscience would sometimes arise but I would beat it into submission and revel in my sin. It was an honor to be the most coarse and crude one in our crowd and we all tried to out do one another.
The years passed and I was now 20 years old and living my life how I wanted to. I was not the worst sinner but even I knew that the life I was living was wrong…and yet God was still at work. I had friends from high school and summer baseball that went to the local Church of God and it just so happened that they had a gym. I would, about twice a year, show up on a Wednesday night and play basketball with them. It was June of 1995 and I was staying with my Grandparents as I usually did while commuting about 30 minutes to mow my parents lawn. On this particular Wednesday I was going over to mow and I said to myself…” why not go play some ball tonight? “ so I grabbed a change of clothes and headed off.
What was interesting is that God was seriously dealing with me…working on the conversion of a sinner…. as there was a weight that had settled upon my heart that I could not rightly explain. My usual pleasures were no longer satisfying and my usual hangouts had lost their luster. I was burdened, uneasy, and unsatisfied with everything in my life.
On this Wednesday night I arrived and the Youth Ministry Building ( the College and Career were part of it ), sat around, listened to the message, and while preparing to leave,Tim the youth minister, threw his arm around me and said, “ Ya know, we are going to Carowinds this Saturday and it just so happens we have an extra ticket. We have a charter bus so all you would need is a little food money….what do you say? “
I thought a moment and told him we would see all the while having no intention of showing up. I thought about it for awhile though and it only made sense…even having to spend the day with Christians…it was a free trip to an amusement park…so I decided to go. They were leaving around 7 Saturday morning so I prepared to go, steeling myself against the thoughts of spending the entire day with the goodie goodies.
We went and the day was mostly uneventful except for a few inadvertent profane words on my part and a couple sideways glances from the ones unfamiliar with the life I lived. I even thought I behaved myself rather well considering my overall attitude at the time and almost broke my arm patting myself on the back.
We arrived home around midnight and as I went to hit the hay I said a little offhand prayer as my head hit the pillow, “ God if you want me to go to church tomorrow wake me up “ Did I expect God to answer that prayer? Not in a million years as I was a heavy sleeper and I had no intention of setting the alarm. I knew sunday school started around 9:45 and deep inside I knew there was no way I would make it.
God had other plans. I woke up around 7, then 7:30, 8, 8:15 until finally I said fine I will go to Sunday school but you cannot make me go to the main service. So I drug my sorry carcass out of bed and went to Sunday school. I sat through it and as I was leaving I felt the heaviness worse than ever before and barely heard one of my friends say, “ hey why don’t you stay for service? “
“ eh….I don’t really want to…but maybe…who knows….”
Guess what? I went in, stood for the songs, bowed my head during prayer, and listened to the sermon all the while denying the Lord who had lead me there. When the invitation to pray was given at the end of the sermon we all stood and I gripped the back of the pew in front of me until my knuckles turned white…..I had no intention of yielding anything in my life to an unseen God who had no part in my life…..I would not…ever.
God had other ideas…..when people started to pray…I remember hearing something like this….” confess your sins, repent, and believe..”
During that time I prayed….a real simple prayer….Lord forgive me….and the most amazing thing happened…He did. The weight lifted, the burdens were gone, and this person who had walked in that morning entirely antagonistic to God now had tears streaming down his cheeks sobbing like a baby…and I didn’t care…not one wit.
Tim came over, placed his arm around my shoulders, and prayed quietly with me as the service wound down. Friends came over smiling and offered the hand of fellowship….and all I could do was smile and cry….cry and smile and thank the God of Heaven that He would have mercy on someone like me.
Much water has went under the bridge since then…I have been a member of the Family since that June in the year of Lord 1995 and through the ups and downs God has been forever faithful to me. Remember the early years and the Bible stories read to me? The moments in church even when I was not paying attention? The Word was sown by faithful men and women of God and the seeds that were planted then….even though lying dormant for years….God brought them to life and gave the increase. So never lose heart when witnessing to loved ones. Never get discouraged though the years of prayer seem to fall upon deaf ears and the Heavens seem as bronze…God is still God and He can and will save whomever He wills. No one is beyond His reach.
The rest of my story…from then til now…will have to wait as that is a story for another day.
While legislation is often needed we need to realize that it is only through the spread of the Gospel and the changing of hearts and minds that there will be any lasting change
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill safeguarding the religious liberty of individuals and organizations who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings or gender identity transitions.
Is your house dirty?
As I was pondering the mysteries of life this week ( not!! ) I felt it would be prudent to interrupt my regularly scheduled day of leisure for something that has been weighing on me. It really is a simple matter but with consequences for everyone involved. I do not know how I have lived this long without dealing with this issue more thoroughly. How clean is my house? I mean really. Or better yet, how dirty is it? When was the last time the furniture was moved, the baseboards scrubbed, the ceiling fan spotless ( don’t ask ), and all the beds made?
If you have kids like we do you know that they are little dirt magnets ( 3 boys ) and self-contained demolition crews. They can enter a room and in 2.5 seconds have everything overturned and dismantled. They are truly little whirlwinds that blow in, blow up, and blow out leaving destruction and mayhem behind them ( well not quite that bad ). Between them and myself my poor beleaguered wife ( the fabulous Mindy Kay ) can barely keep up.
When someone calls and says they plan on stopping over do the sirens blare and the vacuum rev in an effort to minimize the embarrassment of an untidy house? Do you, like many of us, attempt to ward off the unexpected visitor with all manner of guile until ample time has been given to straighten, clean, and polish? Do things get shoved into closets, under beds, or ( gasp! ) actually cleaned to give the appearance of order and decorum: After all, cleanliness is next to Godliness isn’t it? ( 1 Martha Stewart 2:12 )
Are our temporal houses microcosms of what is occurring in our spiritual lives? Do we put on airs while among the saints but retain clutter and filth ( unconfessed sin ) in our souls? Do we fake it around particular people in certain places to appear righteous despite the sins that are swept into the back rooms so no one can see them? Hypocrisy is a blight and worthy of the harshest condemnation as evidenced by our Lord’s dealings with the Pharisees. Outwardly their cups were clean but inside they were full of lies, hate, and corruption and were castigated for their pretense.
We, as believers, need to do better. Hiding sin neither honors our Lord nor provides a firm foundation for lasting friendships. If the foundation is rotten the whole structure is also unsound and will come crashing down around us. Be sure your sin will find you out because dirt under the rug is not removed only hidden and will only migrate to other more noticeable parts. Confession, daily repentance, prayer, and study are among the things that will reveal our true nature to us and lead to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ.
Do you have unconfessed sin? Are you a believer in God through Jesus Christ and the redemption found at the Cross? If not then today is the day of salvation for the Lord commands all sinners everywhere to repent and turn towards Him. Think about it.
Post Tenebras Lux
Traveling the Romans Road
The closest I have even been to Italy is visiting Olive Garden or munching on my wife’s delicious homemade lasagna, but from what I can gather both of those pale in comparison to the real thing. Ya know, the history, the food, Italian sports cars, and the warm Mediterranean breeze blowing across my shaved head. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? There is, however, another Rome that we all should visit but the majority of the first part of that road is rather bumpy. The book of Romans, an epistle written by the Apostle Paul to the church found in the city it was named after, is an amazing piece of inspiration that should resonate with us today.
The not so peaceful path
Romans starts of with Paul’s greeting to the church and includes the heart warming message that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile. Good news? You betchya, but from there he quickly paints a bleak picture of the dire straits humanity has found itself mired in that makes salvation necessary. Here are some excerpts:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. – Romans 1:21
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, – Romans 1:24
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. – Romans 1:28-31
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. – Romans 2:12
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. – Romans 3:9-11
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:20
Not a pretty picture is it? It doesn’t have the makings of a heart-warming Hallmark card does it? Not much room for hope and it registers like a negative bazillion on the encouragement scale. We suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, we turn His truth into a lie, we are all unrighteous and we don’t even seek after God. We cannot even work to please Him. What miserable wretches we are through and through….what hope do we have?
Road Signs Ahead
Here is one thing I am thankful for, the epistle does not stop there. We are not left without hope in our misery.
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, – Romans 3:22-24
Jesus Christ, through faith in Him and the redemption that He has purchased with His perfect sacrifice, has revealed the righteous of God to us. Not our righteousness, not something we have worked for, or deserve. It is not something that comes from within us because we are good enough, smart enough, or because we know the right people.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. – Romans 3:27-28
The signs point to Christ; the only hope for both Jew and gentile.
The Father of the Faithful
” Father Abraham, had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord. ”
There is much truth in that little verse children often sing. Now, as far as I know I have zero Jewish ancestry, but I am by faith his son. Abraham, was justified by faith before he was circumcised, so that he could be the father of both the circumcised and uncircumcised.
10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. – Romans 4:10-12
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring-not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, – Romans 4:16
By grace through faith we are saved. By grace through faith we are sons of Abraham. By grace through faith we receive the promises of God. By grace through faith we are justified and reckoned righteous. Four little words that change everything. By grace through faith.
We who were at enmity with God, who suppressed His truth, who ran from Him, and were quite literally guilty as sin, after being justified by faith have peace with God through Jesus Christ
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1
The peace of Romans rests on the finished work of Christ, the work that takes sinful wretches and turns them into the offspring of Abraham and inheritors of God’s promises.
Have you found peace with God? Let us know about your experience.
The alarm goes off, we drink our coffee, eat our breakfast of curds and whey, and go about the days business living with a carefree exuberance all the while having great expectations of what the future holds. We laugh, we joke, we have not a worry in the world as we live day by day watching the bluebirds flit to and fro amongst the cherry blossoms.
Yeah, I didn’t think so. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, night follows day, and day follows night. The alarm goes off, we drink our coffee, protein shake, eat our granola bars with a side of porridge that is never just right….it is always to hot or to cold. We go to work, go to school, clean the house, do the laundry, run the kids to practice, recitals, help with homework, feed the dogs; cats; or gerbils, fix supper, mow the yard, mend the fence, pay the bills……it goes on and on and on. The never ending litany of the things that compose the American Dream, or the Australian dream, or the Canadian dream though to be honest I have no first hand experience as to what others dream about.
However, we all have fears, dreams, hopes, and expectations that swirl around inside our head as we go about life living day by day. How often has a good mood on a bright sunshiny day been ruined by bad news? Or an ill timed word that didn’t just set right. How long did you ponder that last conversation, that slight at work, the bad grade on that all important test, or the burned toast left on the counter this morning? How high are our highs and how low are our lows? How often we dwell on the past, fear the future, and in the meantime forgetting some important truths.
Live day by day
We so often think our situation is unique though there is nothing new under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 1:9 ). We should never minimize the hurt of others, love them through their grief, help calm their fears, and support them through their trials ( after all it will someday be you or I who needs help) while reminding ourselves and them of some important truths.
We all need the gospel and to share what we all need we must know what it is. The Gospel, at its very core is the good news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for the forgiveness of sins and all who believe in Him will never perish but have everlasting life ( 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 john 3:16 ). For unbelievers confronted with this truth it entails a command to repent and believe for the forgiveness of sins ( acts 2:38 john 1:12 1 Peter 2:6 ) and for those who already confess Christ it serves as a reminder in whom they have believed ( 2 Timothy 1:12 Ephesians 1:19 john 1).
We must remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our lord, that through grace by faith we are saved, that we are sons of Abraham by faith, that our sins are forgiven, that we are members of His household adopted as sons and daughters, that we are being conformed to His image, that He is preparing a place for us, and that He will return to receive us unto Himself.
Now will this make your coffee taste better or your porridge the right temp? Nope sure won’t as you probably will have to enroll in some culinary classes to remedy that, but the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. – Romans 14:17.
Will this knowledge make all your troubles vanish? Most likely not, but
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
As we do live day by day we should give thanks in all things, cast our cares upon Him for He cares for us, and make our requests to Him through prayer. It is hard…..trust me I know. I am writing this as much for myself as for the two or three of you out there that may read this. Trusting in the Lord with all your heart is not always the easiest thing our weak flesh wants to do as we want to fix it ourselves, but that is exactly what we must do. We must pray that His will be done, that He will provide our daily bread, and that we can come before Him to receive mercy in times of need.
My prayer today is, ” Lord, I believe, help my unbelief ” and most likely will be my prayer tomorrow also. I am going to try and pray a little more, read His word a little more, love my neighbor a little more, love my wife as Christ loved the church a little more, and try to live daily before His face a little more. Not that this will make me any more saved or that He will love me any more because of it, but because I want to avail myself of the means He has provided for my benefit and in loving Him I want to keep His commandments.
So yeah, my coffee will still be bad, my toast will probably be burned, bills will still be on the counter, and tomorrow still holds the unknown but I can remind myself Who holds me in His hands and that He will never let me go regardless of what tomorrow brings. I pray you will do the same.