Believers Beware!: A Confession and A Warning

If you are one of those people that believe in the name of Jesus, I just wanted to give you a little report and “heads-up” about how my life has progressed with His name in tow.  When I was younger, a message spoke to me while in the 6th grade.  I believed in Jesus.  It was simple and the message of salvation made sense and it struck a chord in the deepest part of me, which I didn’t even know existed.  The Lord used me to do some very sweet work for Him.  It did not last long, maybe a couple of years.  My attention was no longer on Him; my attention turned to girls, basketball, baseball, and the whole teen-ager maelstrom.  My life got a little off track.  I made some mistakes, but nothing that would “destroy my life”.  I was drawn back to Him in my mid-twenties.  I fell in love again!  And the gifts of the Spirit were unbelievable.  He showed me my past in His light and it was liberating to say the least.  I was able to minister to many people in my life at that time through the power of the Holy Spirit.  What was strange then (but now I get it) was that I was drawn to Him first…out of nowhere that I could see.  We just started “hanging out” again and I loved the benefits and power He provided.  Then all hell broke loose.  It is disrespectful to write about some things but suffice it to say, it involved sickness and death…a lot of death.  Looking back, it seems He was preparing me for this storm.  But in this time of tragedy (there was a suicide involved in one part of this “valley of the shadow of death”…which by the way, I understand what this phrase means now.  C. S. Lewis best describes the emotional and physical experience in his book “A Grief Observed”), God used me in a very special way.  I can take no credit for “being there for someone”; because I assure you that is not my nature.  But along the way, I got sidetracked again…

Two things in retrospect jump out at me.  The obvious one is that my mother passed away with cancer and I was unable to “pray her well”, unable to “heal her”, unable to save her even though God and I were close.  I mean my faith was, I thought, strong because I could feel His presence.  The second observation in retrospect is this:  I began to love the “gifts of the spirit” more than I loved the Giver of those gifts.  If you would have asked me at the time, I am sure I would have defended myself.  Even in the heat of ministry, I lost track of the only commandment that really matters:  Love the Lord your God with all of your heart (not part of it), all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength.  You see, God uses us despite ourselves sometimes…especially when we are young and only seeing a hazy picture at best.  After my mother passed, I was pissed at the Lord.  Do you find that blasphemous?  Hey, I’m confessing a sin here!  Cut me some slack and let me take you there.

I am going to leave my family out of this; but I am going to take you to a very dark place, just bear with me.  I became a self-obsessed person who had said to themselves, “I don’t need God, He is just an undependable crutch; I can do this by myself.”  Here is the problem, once you give your heart to Jesus, He won’t give it back!  Even when the devil is begging Him for it as he points down to your pitiful sinful life, even when you give God the finger He is unwavering, even when you address Him and beg for it back…no go…sorry…Damn!  Anyway, my alcoholism took over, my other addictions took over, all my perversions had free reign, and living “my life” brought me to a point of death:  Spiritual death and mortal death.  I didn’t care whether I lived or died.  Period.

Here is the part that is hard to write.  He reached down…way down…and offered me an old friend’s hand.  How could He even be in my presence?  That’s disgusting…He wasn’t welcome here anyway.  Sitting behind bars, stripped of all dignity, ashamed of myself, everyone else disappointed with me, the guilt a heavy robe I wore all day and took to bed every night, on and on the descriptions of me at this point.  You would have thought that I would be the one looking up for help…BUT NO…He just showed up one day.  I am a stubborn, stiff-necked fellow.  But the overwhelming part is this:  My God would not stop loving me.

So what is my message in all of this?

I want everyone reading this to understand the gravity of what I am about to say.  Please do not take this lightly or as a “blessing” to walk away with or a philosophical, namby-pamby abstract illusion.  What I know now is this:  God wants to be close to us…each of us.  He wants to walk with you and be there in a real way; not as an idea or an ideal or a religion or a service but rather as a personality.  He yearns for you, desires you, and is in love with you!  The problem is that once you give your heart to Him, you cannot put anything, I mean anything, in front of Him.  He is above all a jealous God!  But He is so good, why would we or could we even consider putting anything else in front of Him?  Because the liar is crafty indeed and can lull you to sleep and draw your attention away from Him…that is why and how.  Having a relationship with Him by the nature of relationships themselves requires talking to Him, sharing with Him, and just being in love with Him.  That is it!  Everything else is grace.  You see, when you seek God and find Him, that’s just the beginning…not the end.  Finding Jesus is not the goal, waiting for Him to come back is not the goal, walking with the Spirit is not the goal, finding love is the goal.  Out of that love, springs all that is beautiful, all that is worthwhile, all that is required.  Without that love, everything is our own effort, and we can do nothing without Him.  When you spend time in His presence, He will grow you into what you need to be.  The saying, “Let go and let God” is cheesy don’t you think?  It is like throwing bacon-bits at a pack of hungry dogs.  When the Truth behind this saying is more profound like:  “Let go of everything and empty your hands…so you can do nothing else but wrap your arms around the One that can fill you”.  It can sometimes be painful, but mostly it is pleasure beyond what can be expressed.  Your “calling”, your ministry, your dreams, everything comes flowing through experiencing an awesome God…that’s grace.  It is not from you or some goal you set for yourself.  Faith is not something you can “muster up” by yourself.  The only thing we can do is believe, seek, and then find faith by being in His presence.  Faith is a gift from beholding Him…we can only come to the door with belief.  Please do not confuse belief with faith.  He does all the “heavy lifting” if you allow Him to; how do we allow Him to?   By seeking Him first in our life and being in love!  How ridiculous is that?  But it is of divine design that the only pure desire in life is to be loved by God.  Wrap your brain around this one:  desire Him above all else, desire Him more than your life, desire Him more than the gifts He bestows, desire Him more than what He can do for you, desire Him more than your spouse, desire Him more than your children, friends and pets, desire Him more than your love for the poor, desire Him more than your ministry, desire Him more than your church, desire Him above all else  AND He will direct your paths, heal you, use you to spread His love to others by loving you, give you wisdom, and bless all those who come close to the flame that God has created in you.  This is why the Gospel is good news:  it is simple.  Seek His face…Christ gives us permission to do so!  He rewards those who seek Him, He keeps His promises. Seek Him until you find Him, and then just let Him love you.  Period.  Know your God!  Because of Christ’s sacrifice, you may now approach in boldness…

Understand that what I have written above is the “whole truth and nothing but the truth”.  The good news is that He will NEVER let you go; the bad news is that you have really only two choices here:  your life or His, finite or infinite, vanity or eternity, living in a curse or living in a blessing, always searching for love or being in love.  Unfortunately, there is no “middle-ground”.  If you choose your life, you will eventually hit dead-ends, misery, and a lonely existence (if you are a Christian).  Oh, you will have some fun along the way but realize that all that your heart clings to in this life is vanity because it is all temporal.  Eventually you will lose loved-ones and everything that your heart attaches to will eventually be ripped out of your life one way or another.  The Truth is that by giving up all of the desires for anything else but Him results in you gaining it all back on a whole new level!  To actually save your life and all that is in it requires you to lose it…Christ never asked for a “half-a**ed” effort.  That’s for your own good and protection.  Satan loves the “half-a**ed” Christian; they are easy prey (I am living proof).  The Lord’s promises are awesome, but He requires all of you. If you choose His life, then He wants all of you…God is not a part time job.  So if you find yourself complaining, being depressed, feeling lost, and generally far from Him, just drop life like a hot potato and run, don’t walk, and seek His face…God above all, keeps His promises.  It is true.  Don’t believe me though; every person needs to discover this truth on their own.  However, maybe this message will keep you from making some mistakes along the way.  If my train-wreck of a life is any testimony at all to you, take my word on this one…God doesn’t want to be part of your life; He wants to BE your life.  He wants to define it, He wants to love you and bless you and lift you up as a prized possession so all can see His glory.  Oh my God!  You are so wonderful…