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!

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