Friday, June 30, 2006

I hope I never meet a snake charmer

I turned around. I called myself a thousand kinds of stupid as I turned around, and I braced myself for embarrassment, but I turned the car around and I pulled up at a strangers house. I had driven by it moments before and saw a man watering his yard with some special bottle attached to the water hose and noticed that his yard was nice and green. I drove past as this voice in my head - or heart maybe - suddenly began screaming GO BACK. God didn't seem to be listening to my logical arguments about how I didn't know the guy and whoever he was probably didn't want company while he tried to work on his yard. God didn't listen. Just kept screaming at me GO BACK.
So, as I've already stated, I turned around and went back. I'm sure you can imagine he was surprised to have company, no more surprised than I was to be his company. I complimented him on his nice yard and we talked gardening for awhile. I don't know much about gardening, little to none, so I listened to him talk about it mostly. Asked questions about how I could make my yard look nicer, and heard about his grub worm infestation that was indeed making strange brown circles all over his yard.
I arrived home after talking with him for about 15 minutes and asked God what on earth that was about. When suddenly the concept came to me, that to the gardener, I was to become a gardener. I don't know when I'll go back. Maybe it won't be until September when I plant the Rye grass he suggested I mix with my Saint Augustine grass. But I will go back. I will begin witnessing to people in my city. I am now a missionary. Hold on city here I come.

Though I preach the gospel, I don't have anything to glory of, because the necessity of it is laid upon me, woe is unto me if I don't preach the gospel. If I preach the gospel willingly, I will have a reward, but if I do it against my will I'm simply completing my responsibility. What would my reward be then? When I preach the gospel, I make the gospel of Christ without charge, so I won't abuse my power. Though I'm not a slave, I have made myself a servant to everyone, that I might gain all the more. So unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; and to those that are under the law, I was as one under the law, that I might win those that are under the law. To those that are without law, I became as one without law (except for the law of God) that I might win those that are without law. To the weak I became as someone weak, that I might win the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do this for the gospels sake, that I might be a share the blessings with you. Don't you know that everyone runs in a race, but only one will receive the prize? RUN then, so you might win the prize. Every man that works to master something must be temperate in all things. Others do it to win a corruptible crown; but we do it for an incorruptible crown.
I run, with purpose, not uncertainly, and I fight, with my target in sight, not as one that beats at the air. And by God's help, I will keep my body under submission, so that God Forbid! when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My story

God wanted me to give up television.
I didn't have to never watch it again, but I'm a teetotaler and so if I was giving up tv, I was already thinking I'd give up my subscription to direct tv. God had put this nudge in my heart at least a year ago, and recently the nudging and pushing had become so strong I was literally being overwhelmed. Everywhere I turned someone was talking about giving up television. Nearly ever service at church mentioned giving something up, one time specifically mentioning T.V. and or just the need to give something up. Radio preachers preached on giving everything to God, and even my case manager at CASA mentioned she wanted to give up their tv habits but her husband didn't want to get rid of it.

I couldn't.
I told God several times that I would, I even lasted a full 24 hrs once, once. The few times I did turn the television off I found myself sitting in an empty and very quiet house thinking there had to be more to life than this. A few times I even got angry with God, TV isn't the evils that some of the strict Assemblies of God think it is, why did I have to give it up? In truth, I was terrified that He would stop telling me to give it up. There was nothing, nothing living or dead as horrific to me as the idea that God had given up on me.

He could.
Finally, I told God I couldn't do it. I informed God stoically that I had tried, and failed. It wasn't possible for me to do. I told Him I felt like it was a cop out for me to even ask, but if He wanted me to stop watching tv, He was going to have to change my heart. It seems like if He changes your heart so you can give something up to Him, then it's not much of a sacrifice, but that is what He did. But in truth, He didn't change my heart about television. I still like it and maybe pause for an hour or so of it a day. What He did do, was fill my life so full, that I don't have time for it. When I go home, my hours are filled with labors for my home, with the quiet stillness of reading a book, or with actually taking time to play with my cat for the first time in months.
Before, I use to look forward to going to work because the idea of staying home for a day seemed so boring to me. Now each hour at home is filled with purpose. Purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I wanted to share this, because I know some of you have something God wants you to give up. Whether it be something physical like tv, or something emotional like bitterness or anger, He wants to replace whatever it is with something so good that you would never understand even a small idea of it's value until you obtain it. God seems to be ok with the fact that I'm foolish and willful. He even seems to be ok with the idea that I couldn't sacrifice something as ridiculous as television without His work.

For me, I don't believe any change would have come if I hadn't finally broke down and informed Him that I needed Him to do the work in me. For me. Are you willing to do the same?

Thank you for having read this far in my testimony. I know it was long and took some time. So thanks for reading what God has done. Just know, He can do the same for you.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Justified mediocrity

I sit here now wondering how many other lies I tell myself every day. I've spent approximately 10 days now living an almost entirely different life. I eat different, I feel different, I'm talking somewhat different, I'm thinking differently, I'm seeing differently, and I spend my free time differently.
I'm happy.
And it's not a surface happiness of 'I had a really enjoyable hamburger for lunch', or 'I saw a great movie'... nothing like that. It's deep down, quiet contentment. 11 days ago I would have sworn that I had this, but I can see now in hindsight that I had no clue what contentment was. There is patience with contentment, and a hopefulness the likes of which I've never seen. It is good.
Yet, looking back, I remember all the reasons I never did the things I'm doing now. Foolishly enough, I felt I deserved my "easy" superficial mediocrity. Of course, I wasn't calling it that, a blind man rarely declares red to be red, or orange to be orange. I work hard, and I told myself I didn't have time to cook, or clean, to spend working at my house, or often to take my niece and nephew somewhere that didn't involve a television or theatre screen. I didn't have time for that, so I deserved to pick up yet another fast food meal and sit in front of my television waiting until bedtime would arrive so that time could pass. Dear God! What a fool I've been.

I took my niece and nephew to the library last night, then looked up and old friend and her daughter and we all went to the park and watched the kids play. I did that after eating the leftovers from dinner the night before and meeting with a mother on a CASA case I'm working on. When I dropped the kids back off I ended up having a long conversation with my sis-in-law about virtually nothing, but it nurtures our relationship and was worth every minute of it. When I arrived home, there was a message from the old friend I had spent the evening with, thanking me for being a friend to her.
I am blessed beyond measure that God, in His infinite mercy, ever so abruptly, poured His grace over my heart and gave me power, strength, and desire, to be what He wanted me to be.
I've got a long long road ahead of me and some of the path I'm sure I don't even realize is ahead. I'm looking forward to telling you about it though. I'll explain why tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How does God change my heart?

I must admit that though I've always understood God has absolute all power, and is the only thing that can change a persons heart, I've never understood the HOW aspect of it. I say this, because in continuation of the gift God has given me I cooked supper last night. I cooked it, and while I waited for it to cook, I sat in my living room, with the tv off and I read my book. After finishing supper and the dishes, I went outside and mowed my yard. While mowing my yard, I felt impressed to start another project to help my poor yard out. I was ok with the original change in habits, but it was looking at my house and yard with the new eyes that surprised me the most. I know most of the things that need to be spruced up around the property, but rarely consider doing them with any form of hopefulness. And that is exactly what I felt. Hopeful.
I've spent so much of my time lately, angry and frustrated with myself and others that it is hard to see God's goodness in them or myself. I realize that so many are much like myself, and they see things that need to be done, but lack the motivation or the heart to actually do them. While I understand in a sense, seeing it in others around me, and myself, still frustrates me.
In the book I'm reading, this lady blasts someone verbally for a sin he is committing, and it turns out her blasting him opened his eyes and changed his life. Technically her blasting him seemed 'good' since the results were good. But after she had done it someone turned to her and questioned why she could see the sin in others lives so clearly, and not her own. Her character is a clear reflection of myself. And while I don't want to be oblivious to sin so that I am unable to call it if it is necessary. I do want God to continue working in my heart so that I see others sin through the compassionate eyes of God.
God knew that I would never take the steps I've taken this week and last without Him changing my heart. But while He may have been willing to change my heart, He required something of me first.
Today, and something most profound to me, I regret that He left me .59 cents.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The strangest gift

Recently I had the specific push from God to give in the offering nearly every penny in my bank account. As it turned out God left me .59 cents. I spent the week scrounging for gas money and being extremely careful. In the absence of real food items (I'm single, so I am well acquainted with every restaurant in town) I ended up eating Eggo's for supper one night even. It was an odd week, and in it, I was driven back to my roots. I re-learned to exist without the extras. When I first gave the money, I sat back expecting God to do something for me, especially as I ate the last slices of bread. I waited for Ed Mcmahon to show up on my door. And sadly, he didn't arrive. It is only this week that I've realized what a gift it was that God gave me. My house is clean, my fridge is clean, I'm drinking water and limiting the unhealthy soda, I've spent more time doing things, rather than sitting around. Saturday I actually got around and did all the chores I'm suppose to do and don't always get done. You could say that the two things aren't related, you could say my blessing should have come back to me in finances and you could say I did some of this on my own. But I would tell you, that if I keep this up, I'll save more money than even I realize because eating out and buying some of those extras has cost me dearly for the past several years.
You can tell me it isn't God. You can tell me I've done this on my own. You can tell me it's pure coincidence.
But I won't believe you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A night at my church

We had a terrific service Wednesday night, as Pastor preached about not leaving the temple the same way you came in (text from Ezekiel 46 vs 9). It was especially appropriate as God has been dealing with me about changing and it seems every time I'm at church the pastor mentions a need for us to change and consecrate ourselves. It didn't fail to happen this time as he mentioned that when they were going to the temple in that verse, it was for a solemn assembly, which he said is usually followed by a time of consecration. He then pointed out how that is a time of changing, and turning over the things we need to give up.

But then, towards the end of the service he made a quick decision to read us one more passage(Ezekiel chapter 47 vs 1 - 6). I won't restate the passage for you, because I want you to go read it. After reading us the passage, he began talking about how God can take us in where the water -Gods Spirit- is so deep we'd have to swim, but then He'll take us back to the bank, and we have to decide to go out that deep. Once again stating that we may have to let go of something to get that far out into the water (it is hard to swim while holding stuff). I really enjoyed the sermon.

He also earned a drop more respect from me (he's got a huge amount already) when he announced at the beginning of the service that we would be having service on Thursday because that was the only time this guy getting out of the hospital could make it to church. The man isn't saved, and he said he wanted to stand before the church and make a public profession. For some reason, when the pastor saw the man, the man kept saying that he'd see the Pastor Thursday, so the pastor just made the decision he would see the pastor at church on Thursday.A lot of people say they would like to win the lost, but they don't DO anything out of the ordinary to win them. My pastor isn't like that, and he's teaching me to do the same.
God has blessed us with a good pastor.

Friday, June 16, 2006

An interesting quote

If he was alive today, Paul would say to the indie rockers, “I did indie rock!” To the hip-hoppers, “I did hip-hop!” To the tech guys, “I had a blog!” For the families, I talked about marriage, and kids, and parenting. For the business guys, I did financial seminars and connected it back to God. For the environmental-rights activists, I told them who the creator was since they enjoy his work so much. Paul is saying, “I tried to figure out how to articulate Jesus in as many ways as I possibly could, to as many people as I possibly can, to win as many people as are possible.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How did I get here?

I want to show you something I have done, so you'll realize how easy it is to start a good walk, and find yourself walking through trash and rubbish.
I have spent the last several months struggling with myself. Struggling with the burden I feel I place on others, the troubles that seem to naturally rise to the surface when I come on the scene, and much more. This past week I was reaching a point where I could hardly stand it, or myself. Having tried to convince myself that some of the things I believed were lies of the devil, I still found myself looking at the fact that they weren't true as a lie as well. I'm getting closer correcting some of my steps hoping to find the right path again and here is what I have found out.

I've allowed someone to stand as a leader in my life, that should not be my leader. They should have influence and input in my life, but not lead me in my decisions.

I've allowed the lies I believe to hold me back from ministering to others.

I've held myself back from getting a greater grasp and taste of the awesomeness of God, by refusing to give up something He has directed me repeatedly to give up.

By believing lies and failing to minister to others I have missed out on a closer relationship with my church family.

I've been holding on to unforgiveness and bitterness concerning a man in my church.

And I am still currently holding on to guilt and shame concerning a man in my church.

My question is, how did I get here? I was walking in absolute joy and peace and comfort in my salvation and walk with God, fully intent on embracing my new church family only to find myself months later holding them back with both arms while I cower in shame and self-recrimination. And worst yet, all this happened while I looked at these horrible things and believed them to be horribly wrong, yet found myself guilty of each charge, and became oblivious to the consequences of believing them.
My thought life, as I know it, must change. If my beliefs don't come from the source of a loving Father, even if I believe them, I must not act on them.

I don't know about you, maybe you all have families and a full life, but I need my church family. I need people in my life that love me and pray for me. I need people. Yet my most natural inclination is to stay away from people.
I will change. But not because I've decided to and so I did. But because I understand that I came this far away from where I should be in my own power and wisdom so obviously, the solution isn't going to come from my genius (sarcasm intended).
So, whoever you are reading this, know that however happy you are, however peaceful and content, you can fall. You can fall flat on your nose and wonder how on earth you could have not seen that huge tree you fell over. Be careful, pray, read God's word, and pray. PRAY. Censor your mental conversations through the filter that is God's word and God's words to you.
Here I am, but there but by the grace of God will go you as well.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A merciful moment

I don't completely understand why my mind goes to the places it does. My mind wages an enormous battle daily concerning what I believe to be true, and what I know in my heart isn't true. That battle is by far one of the most exhausting ones I could face, and also one of the most selfish.
You see, the beliefs that I'm struggling with all day long, all concern myself. And "I" shouldn't be my focus day in and day out. So if God wanted to strike at me somehow to get me out of my selfish rut, while I wouldn't enjoy it, I would certainly understand that I would only be receiving what my childish behavior has earned me.
But God, in His infinite mercy, granted me mercy last night. He had a humble man stand before me to speak directly to me.
I'm reading the bible through in a year, and we're in Job right now. We're reading tragedy after tragedy that struck Job, followed by health problems that I wouldn't even begin to understand the torment of them. And he's facing all these things because he trusted in God so much that God put him as an example for Satan.
It's like the Commander of an army sending his best man to show the enemy just how strong his troops are.
If that's what He does for his most faithful, how far short I must fall if I measure my success in God's Kingdom by how cushy my life is.
Something has got to give.