Things that Make You Go Hmmm!

Pondering the bigger questions

Wendy DrummI recently had the opportunity to discuss some parts of the Bible with a close friend of mine. They wanted to understand how someone could be condemned and be separated from God without ever knowing about Jesus. They wanted to believe that God would make an exception or another alternative for people in third world nations, or those who could have gone their whole lives without knowing Jesus, or the salvation found only under his name.

I understand this dilemma because it is one I have struggled with before, and the answer is an unpleasant one, but it is also the truth. The Bible says that there is only one name by which people are saved (Acts 4:12). Only one. There are no other alternatives. In Romans, the Apostle Paul lies it out clearly, that all people are separated from God by sin. There is no righteous person (Romans 3:10). It matters not how well they have tried to live their lives, they are sinners. All of our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In the history of the world there has only been one good man, and He didn’t need salvation because he brought it to us.

It also says in Romans that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just physical death but spiritual death as well. There is no other compromise. There is no reprieve. If God were to neglect to punish sin, it diminishes His righteousness. He is perfect. He is holy. He is just. All sin must be punished, and all of us are sinners, so all of us are condemned to die. Period. It’s not pleasant, but it’s true.

So, that makes Jesus Christ the best thing to ever happen to the world. It makes the miracle of Good Friday and Easter the ultimate act of grace from a loving God. All sin must be punished, and that punishment is death, so Jesus Christ took that punishment for us, so that we would all have the right to be called the sons and daughters of God (John 1:12). There is grace. There is love. There is mercy. It’s all right there on the cross, and it came to fruition in the empty tomb. There is salvation for all people. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him would not die, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

There it is. The Good News of the gospel. So what does that mean for the person in the third world that has never heard of Jesus Christ? I’m sorry, but we all know exactly what it means, and that is why it’s so important that we, the body of Christ, get to them while there is still time, so that not one person would be lost (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that we would like to believe that God has a back-up plan for us failing to reach that individual, but there isn’t. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6).  The only way. If there was another way, then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to suffer on the cross. If us just being mostly good, or partially righteous earned us a one on one appointment with God for him to explain things, then why sacrifice His only son? Why did Jesus need to be stripped, beaten, tortured, ridiculed and executed if that was just one of the many ways we could get to God?

He wouldn’t. He didn’t. It’s just not reasonable. The Bible tells us who God is. It tells us who Christ is. It explains who we are, and how loved we are despite all that. It lays out exactly how we got to be this way, and how God, our loving father, accommodated us. It talks about a loving plan for salvation that existed before time began, and how that comes to life around us.

That’s who God is. That’s who Jesus is. That’s who we are. It may not be what we want, understand, or can explain, but God’s ways are not our ways, and you either accept and believe or you compromise the truth. You cannot alter what the Bible says without creating a God that simply does not exist. God is who He is. His ways are right, pure and holy, and they are beyond our understanding. If you want a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and the promise of forever in Heaven with our loving Father, then you need to know the facts. You need to know God’s Word, and what it really says.

But don’t believe me.  I would recommend that you read your Bible and verify that everything written here is true, because that’s what we’re looking for, right?  Then it’s decision making time.  Now that you have the truth… what are you going to do with it?

The Abraham Journey – Part 6

Be Ready

Adam On PointThis next phase of my Abraham Journey would be one of internal growth, change and understanding.  As I stepped into the role as an associate pastor, I would soon discover that what I thought I knew about ministry, preaching, teaching, counseling and leadership was not even close to the reality.  I stepped into this position sure of myself and ready to change the world, but the reality is, it would change me, and at this time I didn’t even realize how much I needed it.

I remember the first time I was asked to initiate something at the church that required volunteers.  No problem, I thought, I am the pastor.  Of course they would volunteer.  And, they will be happy about it!  Isn’t everyone ready to do what their pastor asks?

It didn’t turn out to be like I thought.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t rally the troops and get the job done.  I was frustrated at them.  This isn’t what I expected at all.  Why wouldn’t they do as I asked.  Why did I even need to ask? When I taught why didn’t they want to know the meaning of every Greek and Hebrew word during my sermons?  Why didn’t they understand what I was talking about?  I was excited about my sermon, why weren’t they?

Pastor Tino would continually pull me aside.  He was always very loving and would take the time to explain to me how my approach could have been different.  He would explain how I could teach differently next time.  How my sermons could be more engaging.  I would listen, understand and try to do it a his way next time.

What I didn’t realize then was that I had a very abrasive leadership style.  I had been a leader in the army, and I was used to barking orders and having them obeyed under threat of punishment or extra duty.  As a civilian, I was used to having leverage at work.  I was used to signing paychecks, assigning raises and determining vacations days.  But, here I had no leverage.

I eventually realized that what I was really asking people to give was the most important thing that they have, their time.  I was asking them to give me their time.  I was asking them to take time away from their family, their spouse, their kids and their hobbies.  Why should they help surrender their most valuable resource just to help me accomplish my goals?

I realized I had not made any attempt at connecting or getting to know them.  I had made all interaction about me and what I needed.  I hadn’t done anything to inspire or motivate them.  I was ordering them like soldiers and not leading them at all. I really needed some help in this area.  I needed to change.

I began to read about leadership.  I began to read about being a pastor.  I remember the first book I read, it was “Developing the Leader within You” by John Maxwell.  As I read through this book, there was a point when I stopped reading, dropped to my knees and cried.  I was so shocked and disappointed by the contrast between what he was describing compared to who I was.  This moment of self-realization would begin a journey in leadership training and learning that continues to this day.  From that moment, I read every leadership book I could get my hands on.  I did the workbooks that accompanied them.  I attended leadership round tables, training and seminars.

Then, I got connected to something I could never have imagined.  John Maxwell and his leadership team contacted me about joining a leadership speaking and coaching team.  I would get to be personally mentored by John and his team through videos, phone calls, books, and resources.  I would also spend three days with the other members of the team in Florida to be trained in the areas of speaking, teaching and coaching.  The opportunity to grow in this area was too tempting, and I was all in.

The leg of the journey would really help me uncover the areas I really needed to grow.  I began to learn about servant leadership, and recognized the teachings of Christ as the servant leader.  I began to connect with people in the congregation, and learn about them and what they were looking for in their relationship with Christ.  As I learned more about them and what they were hungering for, I began to preach and teach better.  I began to put their needs first and teach what they needed, not what I wanted.  I began to understand what it really meant to be a pastor.

It was through this transformation that I would also begin to realize and become aware of some challenges in the rest of my life where I had compromised.  There were situations at work that I was not comfortable with.  It is amazing how I did not recognize how for from God’s moral standard I was until I began to grow as a leader and a pastor.  I would be faced with some huge ethical dilemmas.  I was leading my company at that time in a way that was obedient to the instructions I was being given by the owner, but not obedient to the mandate handed to me by Christ.  I decided that I was not able to stand up and preach what I was not willing to live.  I realized that to be a man of integrity, I must be willing and able to live my message and be the example.

So I made the tough choice.  I put my job in jeopardy for what I knew to be right and moral.  For what I knew to be in line with God’s Word.  I can’t really disclose more than that without compromising people I care about who still work in that industry, but let’s just say that I had to do the right thing.  As I stood up for what I believed in, things would change at work.  When I refused to do the things I knew to be wrong, at the expense of the profit margin, I expected to lose my job.  I was too valuable to let go, but it was never the same after that.  I was no longer in the “fold.”  I had lost the trust of the upper echelon and I was ostracized to a point.  To me, however, it was just too important to do what was right with God, and I went to work every day and did my best.  I went home each night able to look in the mirror without conviction.  I put my trust in God and it was all I really needed for peace.

It was also during this time that I also had another amazing opportunity. I met the Director for the International School of Ministry.  I was able to learn their curriculum and take it back to our small church.  I had the privilege to take some members of the congregation through this two year curriculum of Bible training.  As they grew in their knowledge of the Bible, I also grew in my confidence to teach and preach.  It was an amazing time of growth for all of us.

As my time as an associate pastor continued, I began to feel as though God were preparing me for some major change which was coming.  I began to downsize all of my possessions.  I sold anything extra.  I sold my house and rented a room at my Mom’s house.  I began to downsize at work and began to train other people to do my job.  I wanted there to be no obstacle that would prevent me from not being able to move when God called. I didn’t know what God was up to, but I knew it would be amazing, and I would want to be ready.

If I learned anything during this period, it would be “Be Ready.”  2 Timothy 4:2  Tells us to be ready, in season and out of season.  “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (ESV)”

God is calling us to always be ready when He calls.  Be open to change, and most importantly, be open to growth.  God will challenge us in the areas we need to grow in.  I thought I was an amazing leader, until I learned what true leadership look like.  I thought I was a caring pastor, till I saw what true pastoral ministry and care looked like.  I thought I was a great preacher, until people snored during my sermons.  I thought I was a moral man until I saw how I was compromising myself in my vocational decisions.

So, be ready.  Be ready to change, be ready to grow and be ready to be challenged by God.  It is only because He has an amazing plan for you that He will challenge and stretch you.

To the entire congregation of Lamp of God Ministries, I say Thank you.  Thank you for understanding when I was an immature leader and challenging me to grow into a better one. Thank you to Ismael and Roxanne, Gil and Dianna, Robert and Miriam, Justinne and Robert O. Thank you again to Pastor Tino and Olivia.  Thank you to those that met with me, encouraged me and corrected me.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

Abraham’s Journey – Part 5

Discovering the Desires of my Heart

Adam On Point

The next phase of my Abraham Journey would be one of explosive growth.  The next two years would see me graduating from two different seminaries with degrees.  I would also begin to really grow in my faith as I began to truly experience and understand God’s amazing grace in my life.

I began to volunteer as a prayer team member at my church.  I would stand and be available at the end of each service for those who wanted or needed prayer.  I found great enjoyment and huge blessing praying with people.  What I began to see most of all is how God was changing me and giving a huge amount of compassion for people.  I would take their prayer requests home with me and usually be able to follow up with them the next week.  God would show me through this time what answered prayer looks like.  As a result, I have complete confidence when I pray to God.  I also understand that it is His Will, not mine.  I also began to understand that answered prayer may not always be instantaneous, it may not always be the way we want, or what we want, but it is answered in God’s time according to God’s will.

I also began to understand this within my own life as well.  As I began to really seek Him through prayer, I was always confident in His answer.  It was not always what I wanted, and many times I would not understand the answer until later, sometimes years later.  God hears our prayers and answers them.  Be willing to accept His answer, not yours.  Pray that His will be done, not yours.  For when we pray, we must pray not to change Him and His will, but be willing to submit and obey.

It was also during this time that I met two amazing people, Ted and Toni Imsen.  At the time, they were the leaders at the Refuge House of Prayer.  I met them through church attendance, but I got to know them on a different level through their ministry.  I began to serve at the Refuge every Saturday morning on the prayer team.  Each Saturday would see us praying for anywhere between twenty to forty people.  The need was so evident.

This experience within prayer ministry was an amazing time of growth for me.  I began to feel very comfortable and confident in hearing God,s voice and leading as I prayed for people.  I learned to listen and hear the still small voice of Christ and I learned to put all my trust in it.  As I would pray for people week after week, I saw God move in their lives.  I saw people healed, lives dedicated to God, relationships restored and God actively moving.  My time serving with Ted and Toni, and all the others at the Refuge still impact me to this day.

I also began to write sermons during this time.  I figured if God had called me to preach His word, then I should be ready.  I always believe that success is when preparedness meets opportunity, so, I had to be ready when the call came.  Little did I know then, how soon that call would come.

I was serving as a prayer team leader, serving on Saturday morning’s at the Refuge, going to Bible college Tuesday and Thursday nights, leading Wednesday night Bible study and playing drums in a traveling worship band with my brother and nephews.  I was busy. I was growing by leaps and bounds.  I knew a major change was coming.

During this period I also began to downsize all of my possessions.  I sold off cars, motorcycles, boats, and many other unnecessary items.  I began to invest in books for seminary, classes and ministry.  God was leading me to make some major changes during this time.  I began to pay off all debt, including all student loans.  I knew something was coming, I just didn’t know what at the time.

It would happen over the course of a couple weeks.  Our worship band was asked to come and play a Sunday morning service for Lamp of God Ministries in Covina, California with Pastor Tino Madrid. We set up and played a great set of worship songs that Sunday morning.  Playing worship music has always been one of my favorite ways to serve.  After the service, Pastor Tino asked me to come and preach one Sunday morning.  We set a date and I began to prepare.

As I approached the podium that morning, I was nervous.  My brother and his family were there, my cousin Anna was there and a few other members of my family.  I remember, I preached on Hebrews 11:1.  This verse states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I smile when I remember that first message, and how well-prepared I was to preach.  I was so over-prepared. My message, Fighting the Good Fight of Faith was full of Greek and Hebrew words.  I had multiple themes, points and bullets.  I tried to cover as many different aspects of the New Testament as I could.  I tried to cover it all.  Probably in about 45-50 minutes.

I look back now and I laugh, but I was passionate!  I was going to bring change!  I was going to give an altar call for all thirty-five people in that room!  But, no matter what happened, God showed me that day what He wanted me to do.  This was His Call becoming a reality in front of me.  I still have this sermon on CD, if you ever suffer from insomnia call me, I will send you a copy.

However, it was a beginning and not an ending.  God was not finished, He was just getting started with me.  The next week I attended a service for a friend, Pastor David Morales, who was planting a new church.  The senior pastor’s mom approached me after service and said, “I don’t know your name, but God wants you to know that what you have been seeking will come to pass in the next week.”

I really didn’t know what to do with that.  I began to wonder, what have I been seeking?  What could this possibly be?  I had some ideas, but that’s just it, they were all my ideas.  I could not let myself get in the way of God.

The next week, it all made sense.  I had a breakfast meeting with Pastor Tino on Tuesday.  At that meeting, he would ask me to come on board as his assistant pastor.  As an assistant pastor, he would begin to give me regular pulpit opportunities, he would ask me to lead Wednesday night service, the worship team and some other areas.  I knew that the next step of my Abraham Journey was coming to life in front of me.

As I close, there are some things I learned during this time.  We must learn to trust in The Lord.  It is so easy to look around us and wonder why other people are advancing, growing and becoming successful as we seem to be stagnant.  Trust in God.  During this time, I just trusted in God.  I was not concerned with those around me or comparing myself to those around me.  I was trusting in God and doing what He was asking me to do. It was also during this time that those words from Pastor Alex Rosa “Grow where your planted”  would make sense.  So I commission you now, grow where your planted.  Do what God has put in front of you.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:3-6 ESV

The Psalmist tells us to delight in The Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart.  It was also during this time I truly understood what this passage of scripture meant.  It does not mean that God will give me what I desire, but that God will change my desires to be the same as His.  What I wanted and what I desired would change.  Through serving God and His people, through all those opportunities to pray with people and hear their hearts cry to God, He changed me.  My desires where now aligned with His desires.  Everything I now desire is because He has put it in my heart.  As I said earlier, prayer is more about changing you than changing God.  “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Matthew 26:39 ESV. Submit and be blessed.

I have many people to thank for their investment in me during this time.  Thank you to all the staff and teachers at both The Rock Bible College and Andersonville Theological Seminary.  Thank you to Pastors Ted and Toni Imsen, all those I served with at the Refuge House of prayer, Pastor David Morales, Pastor Ro, my brother and nephews, all those I was able to pray with and encourage and anyone else I may have not mentioned.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

NIV Faithlife Study Bible: Intriguing Insights to Inform Your Faith

A Book Review by Wendy

Book Description:

Stay curious. There’s more to explore!

No matter where you are on your faith journey, there’s always more to explore in God’s Word. Dive in and feed your curiosity with the NIV Faithlife Study Bible.

Filled with innovative graphics and rich commentary, this visually stunning study Bible delivers helpful insights designed to inform your faith. Robust study notes are built on the original languages and adapted from the popular Faithlife Study Bible app, which has reached over one million readers.

The balance of striking graphics, comprehensive study features, and intriguing insights from multiple points of view will keep you curious as you explore the treasures of God’s Word.

Features include:

The full text of the most read, most trusted modern-English Bible – the New International Version (NIV) In depth book introductions that include an outline and information on authorship, background, structure, themes, and a map, a timeline, or both Verse-by-verse study notes with the unique focus of revealing nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers Informative contributions by respected scholars and best-selling authors including Charles Stanley, Randy Alcorn, and Ed Stetzer, among others Over 100 innovative full color infographics, comprehensive timelines and informative tables to enrich Bible study Three detailed life-of-Jesus event timelines chronicling his infancy and early ministry, the journey to Jerusalem, and the passion and resurrection 27 family trees and people diagrams illustrate the interconnectedness of key characters in Scripture Helpful overview articles give a bird’s-eye view of the books of the Bible, noting the type of literature and key themes of each book. 14 original color maps at the back of the Bible provide historical and geographical context for key events of the Old and New Testaments

Book Review:

This Bible is very exciting to me.  I was thrilled by the color pictures in this Bible.  Not just because I like picture books, but for a deeper reason.  The teachings of the Bible are best understood through context, or the place, time and audience of the teaching.  While all scripture is still relevant today, we understand better when we understand context.  We find deeper meaning that leads us to greater truth.  The pictures and other illustrations help with that context.  They give you concrete representations of what life was like during the different periods of the Bible, from the typical Israelite home to what kind of fishing boat Peter had.

The only complaint I have about this Bible is that I really enjoy Red Letter in my Bibles.  There are times when God is leading me in study, where I just want to read the words of Christ.  However, this isn’t a deal breaker for me.

Everything about this Bible is useful, from the graphic family trees, to the study notes, to the concordance in the back of the book.  It really seeks to help you get the most from your time of study.  I typically bless someone at my church with each book I review, but I think I may just have to hold onto this one… at least for a bit.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The Abraham Journey – Part 4

Coming out of the Wilderness

Adam On PointThe next phase of my journey would find me on my own.  I was trying to do life with Jesus my way.  I still considered myself a Christian.  I tried watching church at home. I tried to still read my Bible and pray, but the longer I stayed disconnected from other believers, the easier it was not to do these things, or not care if I was doing them.

I was still struggling with alcohol.  I was still struggling with materialism and the things of this world that pulled at me daily.  I still felt wrong for living the way I was.  I wanted to be better. I wanted to turn back to Christ, but now I was afraid to.  I was embarrassed.  I had made a fool out of myself.  I knew that my family and friends were looking at me, and laughing behind my back. Maybe they weren’t, but I felt as though they were.

I also did something really stupid during this time.  One night, being very upset, I threw away all my Christian books.  I took them and threw them in the trash.  I didn’t throw away my Bibles, but all my books.  I sold all my guitars.  I was done.  I was going to live life my way.  Then I went and bought a house.  An expensive house.  While not big, it was costly.  It now required me to put all my effort into work.  Then, I bought a vacation house.  Now I had to work more.  Then, I bought a boat, and two more cars.  And so it went, on and on and…………

And it would continue like this for about a year.  I was living life to the limit.  Vacation house every weekend.  Fast cars and fast boats.  I was single, making six figures a year and living without a care in the world.

However, no matter what I bought, what I drank, where I went or who I was with, there was still something missing. Nothing I could do during this time compared to the fullness and completeness I had felt with Christ.  He made me fully alive.  He gave me purpose and meaning.  He made me live life for more than me.

It wouldn’t be until Memorial Day weekend before things would begin to change.  I held a huge barbecue at my house for the holiday on Saturday.  I invited lots of people and had lots of food.  I smoked tri-tip, ribs, chicken, and asked everyone to bring sides.  I remember at the end of that night, as all the guests were leaving, my step-sister, Christine, asked me if I wanted to go to church the next day.  I tried to dodge, but she asked again.  She didn’t seem to accept my excuses so she finally said that she and Marc would pick me up.  I had no choice then, but to agree.

They picked me up and we went to Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, CA.  I remember walking in and when the worship started, I was broken by it.  Each song was speaking directly to me.  I don’t remember too much about the sermon, but I definitely was feeling God tugging at me.  I didn’t know what to do when I got home.  God was in my thoughts.  I went and pulled my Bible out and began to read.  Then, I prayed.  I remember I felt as though God was asking me, “Adam, where are you?”  Now what is cool about this, is God asked the biblical Adam the same question in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:9.  He asks this question after Adam and Eve had disobeyed Him and eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  After biting the fruit, they tried to cover their sin themselves, and they tried to hide from God.

When God asked Adam this question it did not mean that God didn’t know where Adam was, it was really asked for Adam to realize where he was.  He was separated from God.  He was outside of God’s Will.  Adam was now living life his way, not God’s way.  I once heard a quote “The sin life is not living a bad life, it is living life your way instead of God’s way.”

And that’s where I was.

“Adam, where are you?”

“Not where I am supposed to be God.”

I knew it, and I wanted to do something about it. I returned to Water of Life that next week for a Wednesday night outside Bible study.  Pastor Ozzie Garcia was preaching, and I remember he began to start, but stopped and said that God had put a purpose on his heart to begin with an invitation.  This was an invitation for someone who had drifted away from God.  And so I stood.  I wasn’t the only one, but I knew I needed to stand.  That night would become a launching point.

From that moment, I started again, and this time I did it His way.  I began to pour myself into ministry.  The church had an amazing discipleship program.  I took two years of classes on Sundays.  I began to lead a Men’s Bible Study at my house.  Those were great times.  Tony Baca, Anthony Celeste, Brian Watson, Ryan Seguin, Jeff Lowe and Derik White.  We poured ourselves into the Word.  We laughed, we cried, and we drank lots of coffee.  It was such an amazing time for growth and fellowship.  I also began to attend the Celebrate Recovery program.  Brian and Ryan were such an amazing influence for me during this time.  Celebrate Recovery was crucial in overcoming my addictions and lifestyle.

I also began to attend Bible College at the Rock Church in Colton two nights a week, and I began to attend Andersonville Seminary online.  One of the greatest decisions I made during this period of rebirth was not to enter into the Master’s Degree program at Andersonville, but to start with the Associates Degree program.  My business degree qualified me for a Master’s program, but my heart qualified me to start at the beginning.  I wanted to build a solid foundation, and I was willing to start at the very bottom.

While I look back on this time and feel disappointed in myself for backsliding, I cannot help but realize some of the lessons I learned and how I can now apply those to pastoral ministry now.  I want to be the person that comes along a guy like me and helps direct them back towards Christ. I realize as a pastor, that I really want to do life with people.  I really want to see new believers grow and develop in their relationship with Christ.  I have a real passion for those who struggle with their faith.  I realize the benefit of discipleship.  I realize the benefits of fellowship.  But, the most important takeaway I have from this experience is the ability to recognize when someone might be slipping away from church.  I have seen people use the same excuses and mannerisms I displayed during that time.

So, as I end this, I would ask all my follow believers, be watchful.  Be your brother’s keeper.  Watch them.  Encourage them.  Take their late night phone calls.  Answer their basic Bible questions.  Pray with them, and pray for them.  It’s so important that we watch out for each other.

I also want to remind you that you are never so far from God’s love, that you cannot be recovered.  You cannot slide so far back from God that you are unforgivable, or beyond reconciliation.  You are God’s child, and He will always find a way to you.

Thank you Marc, Christine, Pastor Ozzie, Brian, Ryan, Tony and Anthony, and all the others that were by my side during this time.  You were the people that didn’t give up on me, even when I gave up on myself.  You were the body of Christ for me.  It was your belief in me and your encouragement to step out in faith that would lead me to the next phase.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 8:38-39 ESV

The Abraham Journey – Part 3

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The first of a great series of unknowns for me would be my new life as a Christian.  As I woke up that next morning I realized that although things were different, they were still the same. I was a Christian. I know what happened the night before. I know what I prayed. I know what I felt. I know how much different I felt. But, I still went home to the same house and the same life. I still awoke that next morning on my birthday and went to work. I was different, but everything else was the same.

What I remember now about the first year as a Christian is not really understanding what was going on. I remember pulling out an old King James Version Bible that my grandmother had given me as a kid and trying to read it. Of course, I started at Genesis 1:1. That’s the way you read a book, right? Beyond the creation account, I did not really understand what I was reading. Sure, the language did not help, but I had no understanding of the Bible or what God was trying to tell me through it. I think back on it now, and one of the most important things any church can have in place is a discipleship program for new believers. Left to their own devices, new believers may have a hard time understanding the basics of Christianity on their own. We as leaders must come alongside them and guide them through their early days as a believer.

I also remember I began to serve right away. I was excited about my faith, so I wanted to do something. I tried being an usher. I served in children’s ministry as an assistant. Then I learned to play the bass guitar and served the next two years on the worship team.  Of all the different areas I tried to serve, I enjoyed playing music the most. I really began to understand what worship was and was not. My brother, the worship leader, was an amazing example to me during that time. His devotion and dedication were things that I aspired to. My favorite thing about being on the worship team was being with him.

Even though I attended every service I could, I realize now that I may have had the concept of Christianity that most do. I was looking for Jesus to make my life better. I was looking to live my life with Jesus included. It was my life, then Jesus. He was an add on to what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live. I had not come to the point of absolute surrender. I had not come to the point of Matthew 5:4 and been bankrupt in spirit yet. I had not truly given my life to Christ.

I still struggled with alcohol. I still struggled with materialism. I still did not lead from a position of Christ at work. I was trying. However, that was the problem, I was trying. I was not letting Jesus transform me. I was trying to mold Him to my image instead of being transformed to His image.  Over time, I began to slip away. I dropped out of the worship team. Of course, I tried to make it sound spiritual, “I need a season of rest.” Yeah right.

I began to miss church. Once, twice and then all together. I said I was looking for a closer church, but never found one. Oh, and somehow I began to attend Bible College. Yeah, figure that one out. But that also only lasted about three weeks before I stopped attending that as well. I was not entering a season of rest, I was entering a season of selfishness. I was struggling to identify myself with Christ and still identify myself with the world.

During this season in my life there were people available to help me, but I didn’t see it or accept it. My brother and his wife were always ready to have me over for dinner and talk with me. Pastor David Edwards spent many nights talking with me after we had worked at the new church building. Pastor Ray Almaguer was always encouraging and was gifted at teaching God’s Word. Pastor Ralph Govea who called me after I was MIA for a couple weeks. Pastors Alex and Vicki Rosa were always an example of God’s amazing joy as they taught the children in children’s ministry.  It was Pastor Alex who would come to my house one Saturday afternoon to tell me four simple words “Grow where your planted.” I didn’t know what they meant at the time, but I do now.

I can also look back now and appreciate all those who were trying to come alongside me, but I would not let them.

I think as a young Christian, meaning young in the faith, this is something we really need to get a hold of. There are people who will want to help us grow. The tendency for me has always been to do it on my own. For me, it’s a pride issue.  I don’t need anyone’s help. I can do it myself! That comes from a the positive character traits found in a strong work ethic and a strong character, but it has always been a hindrance to my faith life. I have struggled and fought more than I should have as a young Christian because of this. I needed to realize that as Christians, we are better together. Where I may be weak, you may be strong. I really believe that my thinking in this area was radically changed when I became a married man, but that is a subject for another blog.

If I were going to leave you with one piece of advice it would be this. There are people who will want to help us grow, and we can’t let our own sin nature or shortcomings get in the way of Christ wants to accomplish in us.  Remember that He has started a good work in you, and that’s something you can trust in, even if you get in the way.

Philippians 1:6 ESV 
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.