Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hiding in plain sight of God

Genesis 3:7-13 ESV

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

We have to make a daily choice to follow after God every day, we are not robots once we have the Spirit living in us. We have the same flesh that we had before we were saved that will be selfish and worldly. But we have the capacity to do good which we did not before our conversion. At times we all fail and allow the flesh to control us and what is our response to church or wise council from others? We hide or blame someone else for our problems just like our great-great-....grandparents did. Most of the time when we are in a weak spiritual state we don't run to God we hide at home or if we drag ourselves to church, we are not tuned in. I've been there and done that.

What we need is that prompting of a song, a Sunday school lesson or Scripture to help us get our mind back on the things of God instead of wallowing in the slop of our bad decisions. Just like our earthly relationships, step one in getting back on the right path with God is saying I'm sorry and He will be faithful, just like He always is, and forgive our selfishness. He loves us and really wants what is really best for us, not what seems right to our flesh. I have learned over the past few years that the fruit of the Spirit is really anti-flesh. Our natural reaction to a situation ends up hurting us in the long run, but the spiritual response dissipates bad situations and restores relationships that are strained.

We need to own our mistakes and not blame others like Adam and Eve did and that will draw others to God and not repulse them from our hypocrisy. That is the spiritual walk.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

God is ALWAYS faithful!

This was originally posted a couple of years ago as my Christian Testimony. The past few months have been spiritually challenging  and I just reread this and it really encouraged me, so I thought that I might share it again, slightly edited.

Growing up near Parkersburg, West Virginia, I lived with my paternal grandparents until their passing when I was 10 and 12 respectively, then it was just my father and older brother. My father and mother were divorced when I was 2 or 3 and my mother did not play a role in my upbringing. We did not attend church unless someone died or got married, but my grandmother began going to church when I was 8 or so and I attended occasionally. After her passing, I do not recall being in a church except a couple of times with friends as a teenager. I didn't have a very high opinion of "church" since most of the kids I knew that went to church regularly acted worse than I did. They were religious on Sunday and knew the rules to follow, but that didn't affect them the rest of the week. I can think of a few acquaintances, though, that seemed to actually live their faith the other 6 days and respected them for that even then. I would probably have had to classify myself as agnostic; I believed that what we were taught in science class was true, that we came about through evolution over a long period of time. God didn't fit within those parameters. I needed to see it to believe it or so I thought.

I attended college and began my career in Indiana. Ultimately through relationships from work I met some real, 24-7 Christians and attended a Baptist church a several times with these new friends. Their lives were a testament to Christ’s love, they loved me despite the considerable gap in maturity and spirituality. During this time I came to know my future wife, Sheena, who had a church background and was a very positive influence on me along with her family. Once again, when exposed to true Christians, I was drawn to God. The Lord worked through our lives over the next few years and drew us together and back to North Carolina.

We attended church at Sheena's home church, and the Spirit began to call me by revealing the inconsistencies in what I thought I believed. The Bible and a book by Josh McDowell were powerful instruments in the Spirits control and I went down a road of understanding who God really is, what He expected of me and how far short I had fallen. Most of my friends, family and teachers would tell you that I was a good person, I met their standards. The Spirit taught me that God’s standards are much higher and no one is good enough other than Jesus, who was the only hope that I had to spend eternity with God instead of in Hell. Jesus lived a perfect life as God’s son and was killed for the sins of the world and rose again defeating sin once and for all. It is one thing to know facts, but it took a little longer for me to believe those facts were true. On April 2, 2000 I repented and was saved which was about a week before my 25th birthday. I don’t remember the song that was playing or what the sermon was about, but that morning the Spirit and my flesh waged a war for my eternity. Logic cannot win a war of faith, it can only muddy up the waters.

Not long after, my father went in the hospital in very serious condition and was not expected to survive. At that time, I did not know anything about his spiritual condition and it became a major test of my faith. I prayed as earnestly as I knew how for my dad to survive so I could talk to him about Jesus. It took a long time, but eventually he did get out of the hospital. All of this occurred during a time when Sheena and I were planning for our wedding . Dad was supposed to be my best man, but he was still in the hospital on our wedding day. God blessed me with more time with my Dad when I was finally able to have that important conversation concerning his salvation. He had been saved a few years prior, but had not been baptized. He eventually asked a chaplain in the hospital to baptize him there in his room. I believe Dad living was, at least partially, God teaching me to trust Him; He was there and loved me. This was a huge spiritual milestone in my life.

Sheena and I were married in June of 2000 and marked a beginning of the real learning of my Christian walk. I was still very rough. I could play church, but how to walk the walk was a learning experience. God had miraculously cleaned my once salty speech when I was saved. Those filthy words no longer came to mind where they once flowed as smoothly as any ordinary word. Over the next few years God worked through many of my new brothers and sisters to show me how to do a better job being the 24-7 Christian that I saw so little of when I was young.

One of the first groups that we became a part of was the church choir. It was enjoyable getting to know the people in the Choir, the men especially. They were full of life and wisdom and although not a good singer, I was greatly blessed by being a part of this group. We began being involved in other ministries in the church and were committed to being at Sunday school. It was not always smooth, but being a part of a group of believers was what I needed to keep on track.

Over the last 14 years, I have tried and sometimes failed in many different areas of ministry within the church. But as I take time to reflect on how I have served my Lord, there have been many peaks and many valleys. I have served with my own strength and with the strength of the Lord. I have been faithful and faithless. I have answered His call and ran from it. But, through great times and sorrowful ones…“God is ALWAYS faithful” . These aren’t the words of a pastor, they were constantly flowing out of the mouth of a man at church that I grew to highly respect, he had experienced many of the same mistakes I had made, but with the Spirits power, his life prior to his death was an exhibition of generosity and servant-hood. He made a difference in my life and in many others. I hope that is how I get to leave this world to be with the Father.

One of the calls that I have embraced, ignored and ran from is the call to teach. On several occasions, I have been given the great privilege and responsibility to open God's Word before His people and teach. At times it has been Him providing power for what I lacked and encouraged the hearers of His Word, other times I have withered in my own strength. The most challenging aspect for me is to repress what I want to do and rely on the Spirit and to be careful to give God the glory in a genuine way. ANYTHING good belongs to Him, I am incapable of doing that on my own.

No matter our specific calling, being a Christian is disciple making. Speaking God's truths to both the lost and the redeemed with the anticipation that the Spirit will use it to make changes in others is our essential function as believers. God’s gifting always involves impacting others in a positive way, they are never for our popularity or esteem. Keeping that in mind can be very challenging, but when I do manage to do it, I rely on scripture as my encourager. One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 1:6-7 "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (ESV) I pray God will teach me to fan this little flame and send others that I can light up for His glory.