Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Memorial Stone #4 - Power

It was November of '85 and I had just turned 16. My dad called (my parents were in the middle of a divorce - more on that in another post) and asked if I wanted to visit a new church with him. It was about 70 miles from the town where we lived, but he described the music as being more "contemporary" and I was intrigued. Sure enough, there were guitars, keyboards, and drums...in an adult church service. It was a new concept for me. I was also fascinated with the fact that people seemed happy and free. There was a contagious enthusiasm for more of God. The pastor gave an altar call and one of the invitations was for those who wanted the power of the Holy Spirit. I just knew I needed more. I responded to the invitation and the altar worker I met with prayed with me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Unlike my salvation experience (see Memorial Stone #2), this time I felt virtually nothing, and I sure wasn't going to speak in a language that didn't make sense just because the guy prompted me to. I had read about speaking in tongues in the Bible, but I had never been taught on it, and I guess I am one of those (and still am) who needs to completely check things out in the Word before I "buy into it". I totally believed I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when I had prayed and I was thrilled about it, I just didn't feel that I had to "prove" it. I began to study it out in the Word, found the backing that I needed, yielded my tongue to the Holy Spirit, and it just flowed. Having a Helper to help me pray when I didn't know what to pray was (and is) so wonderful.

Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, told His disciples to "wait...until you have received power from on High." They needed to be properly equipped in order to accomplish the tasks God had planned for them. The Great Commission still applies today, and the Holy Spirit is still here, wanting desperately to equip you with power and help you to be all God wants you to be. Have you ever thought about how long eternity is? When I think about the fact that forever has no end, it makes my brain hurt, but just because my finite mind cannot fully grasp it does not make forever any less real. I encourage you not to let a lack of understanding keep you from seeking all that God has provided for you. Two books I would highly recommend are "The Bible Way to Receive the Holy Spirit" and "Why Tongues?", both written by Kenneth Hagin. I would also highly recommend "Good Morning, Holy Spirit" by Benny Hinn.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I have a need to...

Okay, this is a brief little side journey from the focus on the memorial stones of my life, but I wanted to write about it. Yesterday at church the worship leader played a couple of chords and asked, "Does anyone who came here today have a need?" The very first thing I thought was "I have a need to worship." Then I remembered a scene from that 80's movie "Top Gun" where one pilot says to the other, "I have a need...the need for speed." From what I hear, people who are involved in "extreme" sports get addicted to the adrenaline rush and just have to have it. True worshippers, those who worship God in spirit and in truth, experience the same kind of craving. It becomes a need like hunger and thirst. When we magnify our Need-meeter instead of our "needs", it has a way of putting things in the proper perspective. Praise and worship was nice at church yesterday, and I absolutely love to praise and worship the Lord at home and in the car, but I am learning to worship God with every moment and in every area of my life rather than limiting it to particular times, places, or activities.

Memorial Stone #3 - Here I Am

My 6th grade year (I turned 12 that year) was significant for two reasons. First, there were a couple college students who led worship for the 6th grade Sunday school class. One played a guitar and I absolutely loved watching him play. It distracted me from singing sometimes, but in a good way. The music was refreshing, uplifting, and energetic. I mentioned to my parents that I would like a guitar, but the request seemed to fall on deaf ears. Finally, I made one out of a board, a tissue box, and rubber bands. A couple weeks of playing that and they bought me a real one. My sole purpose for wanting to learn was so that I could glorify God with it in praise and worship, just like the college student. I took lessons for a while and wrote my first worship song later that year. I got to play and sing it a year later at a graduation dinner and it was a wonderful experience.

The other significant thing that year came as a result of reading a book. Actually, it was two books that tell two sides of the same story. They are "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson and "Run Baby Run" by Nicky Cruz. It was while reading those books that I first felt a call to commit my life to helping people. It is very hard to explain, but I just wanted to be in the trenches and help rescue people. My heart's cry at 12 years old was simply, "Here am I, Lord, send me."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Memorial Stone #2 - Screams

It was the summer of 1979 and I would soon be entering fourth grade (to save you the math, I turned 36 earlier this month). It was my first time at church camp and I was having a blast. It was so much fun to be "roughing it" in a cabin with other kids my age. There were all kinds of fun activities during the day and then a chapel service each evening after dinner. One night during the service, my eyes were opened to what this church thing and seeking God was all about. I had memorized John 3:16, but there is a big difference between head knowledge and believing something in your heart. The speaker told the following story:

One night a drawbridge operator had taken his son to work with him. A passenger ship was approaching and the bridge needed to be lifted. Horrified, he noticed that his son was playing on the gears of the bridge. There was no time to run down and grab his son before the boat arrived. He desperately tried to get his attention, but to no avail. The man knew that the closed bridge would certainly damage the ship enough that it would sink and many would die. He closed his eyes and pulled the lever that opened the bridge. His heart broke and tears streamed down his face as he heard the screams from his only son as the boy's small body was crushed between the gears. The screaming stopped, the bridge was up, and the ship passed through. As it passed, the man saw passengers laughing and telling stories, completely unaware of the sacrifice that had been made for them.

That story lit me up inside. The Bible verses I had memorized seemed to come to life. I understood why people went to church to learn more about this God that loves us so much that He gave His only Son in order that we may have life. The speaker gave an altar call for those that wanted to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and I responded. As soon as I finished the sinner's prayer I felt an overwhelming warmth all over me. It was cleansing and comforting. It was as though I had been asleep (in reality, spiritually dead) all my life and had just awakened to the most beautiful sunrise one could imagine. I was a new creation. I had been born again. The next morning I got up before everyone else and took a walk. I was still me, but different...new. I just had a knowing that this was not some passing fascination, but rather the start of a lifelong relationship.

May we never, ever, ever forget the anguish our heavenly Father must have went through as Jesus was sacrificed for us and the Father had to turn away. I am sure He still heard the whip on Jesus' back, the hammer on the nails, and the screams.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Memorial Stone #1 - Hunger

Memorial stone #1 is one of those times when God intervened without any action or attitude shift from me. He simply had mercy on me and preserved my life. Have you ever heard the expression "I almost died laughing"? Well, I really almost did. I was in second grade and my dad had been chasing me and tickling me. I was in that sweaty, hyper, buzzing state that I'm sure parents can relate to. It was almost bedtime and my mom wanted me to swallow a vitamin C pill. It was big enough to choke a horse. I started to swallow it and then caught a glimpse of my dad sneaking up on me. I'm sure he didn't know I was trying to swallow the pill. I breathed in the pill and it lodged in my trachea, beyond the point where one could still manage to swallow. After choking, coughing, and fighting it I found that I could breath a little, but my chest hurt like crazy. Later they found that it had lodged in my right bronchial tube. My mom fed me an apple to help work it down and I went to bed. From what I have been told, that night it apparently worked its way back up and I choked in my sleep. My parents heard banging noises and came in to find me blue and my body convulsing. I woke up in an ambulance fighting to breathe and remember the ambulance attendant saying, "Relax, just relax." Years later I bumped into this attendant and he told me that on the way to the hospital I had flatlined. They were just about to apply the defibrillator when my body lunged and my heart started again. I don't remember much from the ordeal. I remember my nose bleeding inside the oxygen mask, I remember waking up from surgery and throwing up, and I remember the fascination and thrill that I found in the fact that I could press a button and get ice cream delivered to me anytime I wanted. For a kid who had to surrender his Halloween candy because it was "bad for me" and eat Carob balls and dates instead, the instant ice cream was a pretty sweet deal...literally. Sweeter still was the appreciation for life after I came home from the hospital. I found joy and fulfillment from helping other students in my class with their math problems. I spoke encouragement and showed kindness to the kids who were mocked by others due to their physical or mental challenges. I learned there was a life outside myself and sensed a Creator whom I really wanted to know more. Missionaries came to my church and I was awed by their stories and the items they brought with them. I knew there was a peace in things of God and even began "witnessing" to classmates the only way I knew how ("My church is really neat. Last Sunday they had big snakeskins on a table!") I wasn't even born again yet, but I just knew there was more and wanted others to seek with me. I had a hunger that all the ice cream in the world could never satisfy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hello world!

Hello world! Ah yes, the simple yet exciting phrase used by computer programmers as the output for their very first application in a new programming language. Simple, yes, but it signifies the beginning of a new venture. I saw it fitting because I currently work in software development and I am buzzing with excitement over my new venture into this world of blogging. I long to make more of a difference in this world than I have been. I just know God has more. I have had the privilege of sitting under wonderful Bibles teachers and have read many books that strengthened my walk with God. But what good is knowledge if we don't share it? Sometimes I look at how much I still have to learn and my focus becomes centered on all my inadequacies. That does nothing but cripple God's ability to use us. It's not me anyway, it's God ability working in and through me. I am just a heap of clay in the Potter's hands. It's my job to passionately seek His face and follow His will for my life. Instead of dwelling on the gap between where I am in my spiritual maturity and where I feel I should be, I try to look back at where I have come from and what God has taught me along the way. In Joshua 4 we read about God instructions to set up memorial stones as a sign. If we remind ourselves of what God has brought us through and taught us, we will strengthen our belief that He will continue to move us from faith to faith and glory to glory. The next few posts on this blog will be related to my memorial stones - key events in my life that have brought me closer to God. I hope they help you and encourage you. Like I said in my profile, I appreciate you taking the time to visit. Please check in again soon.

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