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14 October, 2010

My Testimony

I had a different childhood; not a bad one, mind you, just "different". I grew up in the military. That, by itself, will make it interesting because of all the traveling! By the time I was 9 years old, I had lost count of all the places we had lived; That is a lot of moving! Usually, we did that moving by car. We had moving companies to actually move the furniture and such, but the family traveled by car. What this means is that my whole world could be touched by hand. I saw a lot of this country going by, but never really experienced that much of it, and never really got into that much trouble. Oh, I got into the usual kind a kid will get into when traveling: "She touched me!" "Are we there yet?" "He crossed my line!" That sort of thing, if you've ever traveled with children, you know what all that can sound like! So, yeah, I got into trouble, but not the kind that so many were getting into at the time. I didn't try any kind of drugs, I never drank any alcohol; The sort of thing that many kids will get into to rebel against parents. I just never really had that much contact with it. They don't call them "drug runners" because they're chasing you down the road while you're driving!
What, then, does this have to do with accepting Christ? Well, When I got older and could understand better what was being said from the pulpit, the Evangelists would give all manner of sermons concerning salvation. I needed to turn from my "wicked ways", I needed to be delivered from my sinful past! This might have meant more had they not began the sermons with stories of how they had been drug dealers, possibly a pimp, maybe in a gang of some kind and had done all sorts of things during these times. Some spoke of being beaten so badly they were left for dead, others did the beating and nearly killed others. The sermon would then turn to me needing to be delivered.....from what?! I didn't kill anyone! I haven't done drugs! From what I could make out from these sermons, you need salvation because of drugs, or alcohol, or maybe the blood on your hands from drunk driving or outright murder; I was guilty of none of these things,so I just assumed I didn't really need salvation! I had nothing to be "delivered" from. However, the man did say I needed to go forward and tell the Church I was saved, so I did.
If you have ever wondered why you need a Sunday School Teacher that is not only a devout Christian, but is also grounded in The Word of God, this is why; I thought I was "saved" until I got to High School, went out with a couple of friends to see a movie and in that movie was a scene that depicted (?)something that frightened me to my core! On the way home that night, I stopped by the house of my Sunday School Teacher and told him of my fears, he explained to me the Truth! He brought out his Bible and read to me the verses which told me what God had to say about salvation. What he told me that night sounded nothing like what I had heard before! I told him that I didn't really need salvation because I didn't "do" anything, so what was I going to be "saved" from? He explained it to me something like this:
(I'm paraphrasing) In Wynne, there is a house, on "C" street. That house has 4 walls, something like a roof on it, no doors inside or out, and no windows. It had been condemned. Obviously, right? No one can live in it, it can no longer be fixed for someone to move into, so, condemn it and get rid of it. That house is us without Christ. We are condemned to sin (Rom. 5:12)! It's not anything in particular we've done that makes us like this, we are born to it. I was convinced it was because of certain things you did that put you in need of salvation, it's because of our sinful nature that we are separated from God, and thus need to be reconciled to Him! It had nothing to do with drugs and alcohol and killing; and it had everything to do with all those things! I stood just as guilty as any murderer, any pedophile, any drug dealer or rapist alive! There is no difference between the sins I had committed and the ones they committed, we all stand equal before God! When Jesus died on that cross, His blood covered sin. Not certain kinds of sins, nor certain kinds of people with sin, it covered sin! It covered me so when I stand before God, He will see that blood, not the stupid things I do. He will give to me what I could never deserve, never earn: His Grace. I should be like that house on "C" street, and thrown out to be burned. Because of a Sunday School Teacher that took the time to be grounded in God's word, and cared enough about me to tell me what he had learned, I found grace!

15 August, 2010

My Own Faith

I have always had a problem with the Apostle Peter. I guess I identified too easily with him to be comfortable. "Mouth in Motion, Mind in Neutral"; that pretty well describes many of the things Peter did, and most accurately describes me! I get a little too far ahead of myself when reacting. I have the best of intentions, with the worst of endings. This makes me more inaccurate than anything else and it shows how incomplete I can be. I consider Matthew 14:22-31 to be a good story of just what I'm talking about.

We find Jesus, having just fed a group of more than 5000 people, He told His disciples to get into a boat and go across to Gennsaret. He didn't go with them, instead He was going to go off by Himself and pray. While they were going across, He began to walk, on the water, toward them. Peter saw this and said "If it is you, tell me and I will come to you on the water" (ON the water!) Jesus, of course said "Come!" He got down out of the boat and actually began to walk on the water! In v. 30: "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"" Jesus was right there to pick him up out of the waves, but, He also reprimanded him. V. 31 He said "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When I first read this I thought it had to do with his faith in God, but if that had been the case why did he follow Jesus? Then I began to think maybe it was his faith in Jesus that was so small and Jesus was, basically, tired of tripping over it; but, if that were the case, then why did Peter even get out of the boat if he didn't trust Jesus?! That left me with only one: Peter! Most of the time when I fall it isn't because of doubt in God nor in Jesus Christ, but because of my doubts in me.
Why, then, did Jesus reprimand Peter for this? Why is that such a bad thing, to not have faith in ourselves? We're not perfect, we are really quite fallible! It's easy to trust (and therefore have faith in) someone who's perfect, but, we fail pretty much consistently. The reason is really pretty simple; When Peter was called to follow Jesus, he was called to be himself, all of himself, including the fallacies! That "call" is the largest part of the reason for our needing to have faith in ourselves. If I don't have faith in me, I have made a mockery of the blood of Christ! When He died for me on that cross, shed His blood for me, cleansed me from all my sins, He took into account my unfailing ability to fall. He did so for the express purpose of saving me from that ability, so that when I do fall, it is not fatal. I can stand up again. Part of the reason is, indeed because Jesus will be there to pick me up just as He was with Peter, but also because when I have a failure I have the option to learn from it and I don't have to fall like that again. I probably will, at least a few times more, until I have learned; but the key is that I can be trusted to learn! I can be trusted not to spend the rest of my life with the same failure time after time. For that reason, I can put my faith, not only in Jesus but, in myself! That is the time when God will be able to use me most, when I trust myself!

31 July, 2010

John 8:1-11

In John, we are given a wonderful story about grace. One that should tell us how we should act. It is the story of a woman accused of prostitution. The story tells us they caught her "in the act"; personally, I always had a hard time with that particular part, I mean, how does one catch a person (just ONE person) in the act of prostitution?! I digress. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law brought her before Jesus. They make their accusation and attempt to make it sound worse, on her part, by putting in that according to the Laws of Moses, she should be stoned. Like so many of us, they made their plans then asked Jesus what did He think? We know the story, Jesus bent down and wrote in the dirt, they got mad, He told them (this is I think the high point of the story) "If any of you is without sin, cast the first stone", and that is made important by what He did moments later when they left and He asked her: "Who accuses you?" "No one My Lord." "Neither do I."!!

We are faced on a daily basis with people that offend us, offend others, they sin! They make mistakes. The problem isn't that they are making mistakes, it's what WE do with them! We (and I have to include myself in this, as I am just as guilty as anyone else!)have a nasty tendency to condemn them. What this story gives us is the best example of what we should be doing with them, not the mistakes mind you but the people. Jesus never made a mistake of any sort, He never sinned in any way. If anyone were capable of condemning her it would have been Him! He alone can stand from the position of perfection and say: You don't measure up! You're not as good as I am, now pay the price! Instead, He stood in a completely different light, He came from the position I am convinced we should!
When we are confronted by people's sins, especially the ones that offend us, We are to look at them from the stand point of: I know I have sinned and can't judge you. To look at them and remember my own sins and say I can't condemn you, I don't live a life that is without sin, so how can I hold your sins against you?
I believe that God will heal the pains left from the sins in our lives, but I also believe that He will NOT cause the memories to go away. The day we forget where we've been is the day we forget the Grace that brought us out! We have been given grace to give to others, this story shows how. When confronted with these problems, we are to remember where we have been and forgive them of where they are! Allow them to move forward also!