Monday, December 30, 2013

To God Be the Glory

43 YEARS: On December 27th, 2013 I celebrated my 43rd anniversary of coming to faith in Jesus. Everybody who knows of me or my ministry knows the details that I have openly shared over the years, but what I have been thinking of is how the Lord used a natural longing in my heart to actually draw me to Himself.
From the time I was a small boy, I longed to be in love, and to be loved. Like all who ...will read this post, this kind of longing is natural as it is God given. My problem, as an unregenerate man, was that I longed to be loved by a girl, and then later, by a woman. There was more than just loneliness in me, there was an aching void that just never seemed to be filled and I thought it could be filled by a woman’s love.
As I grew older, I came to realize that I could not find myself trusting others with any depth. Of course, there are many reasons why that was so, not the least being my mother's serious and frequent illnesses and abusive treatment of her children that left me extremely insecure. I just didn't think she would survive because of her illnesses, and I grew up with a deep fear that one day I would come home and find her dead. Not a good way to grow up, as this fear led me to on one hand, desire a long lasting loving relationship but on the other to be certain that such a thing could not really happen, as you never really know when the one you love will vanish from your life.
When I grew into a young teen, I had typical crushes, but not many of them. I actually was a guy who didn't really want to have a large dating circle, so I would pretty much like somebody but not really allow myself to care too deeply for her. After the age of 16, I really only had two girls I really cared about, and both of them cared for me but were hurt by my crazy life and selfishness and they eventually just couldn't put up with me and broke up with me. When the second break up occurred, I went in to a huge tailspin, and began living a very dangerously crazy life. I was never consciously suicidal, but I certainly began taking risks that if continued, would have ended up with my death. I just didn't care any more, and I began to drink more heavily and to mix drugs and alcohol. I was so lonely, and so brokenhearted that I just pretty much gave up on life, and lost any hope I had that it could get better.
It was during this time that my friend Bill began attending Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, at that time a church gaining national fame for being a Hippie church. In the late summer of 1970, I went to this church for the first time, and was impressed by the love the kids seemed to have in their lives. My first visit to the church was made while I was high on marijuana, but nobody seemed to notice, as their eyes were on something (Someone?) else. All I know is that there was something there that I didn't have, and I was impressed.
Shortly after visiting the church, I almost died because I mixed "downers" with wine (overdosed) and when I survived this near death experience, I began seeking an answer for the pain my heart was feeling.
It was about three months later that the pain and hurt I was feeling, not to mention the huge amount of guilt I carried was used by the Lord to bring me to Him. The date was December 27th, 1970 and I met Him at a youth concert in Hollywood. I wish I could say that the pain was instantly removed, but it wasn't. I kept longing for a woman’s love. One day, the Lord made it clear that my plans were not His, and I submitted to Him my hopes, dreams, wishes, and pains and asked Him to place me in the same place He had put Adam, asleep to my longings. It was at that time that I met the girl who would one day become my wife.
Marie married a man "under construction", but she married a man who had learned to love Jesus more than anyone else. I have never placed Marie before the Lord, and have never looked at her to be my "savior", the one who would fill all the empty spaces of my life. Only Jesus has ever been able to do that, and the blessing is that Marie married a man who did not need to be loved but who actually wanted to love. The beautiful thing is, the more I have learned to love Jesus the more I have learned to love her.
Over these many years, I have seen God bless in so many ways. Beautiful babies, precious grand babies, and friends and church members who are too numerous to count. At the time of this writing I have taught the bible for 40 years, and am now in my 32nd year of pastoring this amazing and loving church, and my eyes tear up when I think of how unbelievably precious my Father has been to me. Truly, He has been good to me and I deeply love Him. Forty-three amazing years, filled with lessons, hurts, disappointments, losses, and sorrows that have been healed by God's amazing goodness, love, grace, mercy, compassion, and care that have overflowed in my life. To God be the glory, great things He has done. I take off my hat to the past, but I have also put on my work clothes for the future! Father, I love You and bless You for all You have done for me. Truly, my cup runneth over!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A United Heart

Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore (Ps 86:11-12) We are to serve the Lord with a complete heart, so we too pray that God will unite our heart that we might glorify Him!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ministry of the Night: A.W. Tozer

This teaching by Tozer has had a tremendous impact on my life. It is a topic that few would share today, in a time when the idea of difficulties actually working for good is foreign to many Christians. Still, his words ring with truth, and I do hope some may receive instruction through them.

If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure.
And right here let me anticipate the objection someone is sure to raise, viz., That God has no"specials" among his children. The Holy Scriptures and Christian history agree to show that he has. Star differs from star in glory among the saints on earth as well as among the glorified in heaven. Without question the differences exist; but whether they are by the decree of God or by His foreknowledge of the degree of receptivity He will find among His children I am notprepared to say with certainty, though I would lean strongly to the latter view.
If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as he is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude,unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.
To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Everything you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be.
This is not to teach the sanctifying power of poverty. If to be poor made men holy every tramp on a park bench would be a saint. But God knows the secret of removing things from our heartswhile they still remain to us. What he does is to restrain us from enjoying them. He lets us have them but makes us psychologically unable to let our hearts go out to them. Thus they are useful without being harmful.
All this God will accomplish at the expense of the common pleasures that have up to that time supported your life and made it zestful. Now under the careful treatment of the Holy Spirit your life may become dry, tasteless and to some degree a burden to you. While in this state you will exist by a kind of blind will to live, you will find none of the inward sweetness you had enjoyed before. The smile of God for the time will be withdrawn, or at least hidden from your eyes.Then you will learn what faith is; you will find out the hard way, but the only way open to you, that true faith lies in the will, that the joy unspeakable of which the apostle speaks is not itself faith but a slow-ripening fruit of faith; and you will learn that present spiritual joys may come and go as they will without altering your spiritual status or in any way affecting your position as a true child of the Heavenly Father.
And you will also learn, probably to your astonishment, that it is possible to live in all good conscience before God and men and still feel nothing of the "peace and joy" you hear talked about so much by immature Christians. How long you continue in this night of the soul will depend upon a number of factors, some of which you may be able later to identify; while others will remain with God, completely hidden from you. The words "The day is thine, the night also is thine" will now be interpreted for you by the best of all teachers, the Holy Spirit; and you will know by personal experience what a blessed thing is the ministry of the night.
But there is a limit to man's ability to live without joy. Even Christ could endure the cross only because of the joy set before Him. The strongest steel breaks if kept too long under unrelieved tension. God knows exactly how much pressure each one of us can take. He knows how long we can endure the night, so he gives the soul relief, first by welcome glimpses of the morning star and then by the fuller light that harbingers the morning.
Slowly you will discover God's love in your suffering. Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing. You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you-the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night, it's power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth's trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven.
What I write here is in no way original. This has been discovered a new by each generation of Christian seekers and is almost a cliché of the deeper life. Yet it needs to be said to this generation of believers often and with emphasis, for the type of Christianity now in vogue does not include anything as serious and as difficult as this. The quest of the modern Christian is likely to be for peace of mind and spiritual joy, with a good degree of material prosperity thrown in as an external proof of the divine favor.
Some will understand this, however, even if the number is relatively small, and they will constitute the hard core of practicing saints so badly needed at this hour if serious New Testament Christianity is to survive to the next generation.

A. W. Tozer, from the book "That Incredible Christian" 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

His Keeping Grace

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25) Thank God for His continual work in our lives! I rejoice in both His saving and keeping grace!