Monday, May 26, 2008

What difference does it make?

Why should one pursue the holy life? It sounds like a waste of time since we have already received our pass to Heaven so why pursue it? My answer to that would be because of the difference it makes in one’s life. “Well, what difference does it make?” you might ask. I have always told people that aside from the story of Jesus, the best story you can tell is your story. Tell people what a difference Christ has made in your life. No matter your story, tell it. It may be a big and dramatic change or it may be that you have always walked with Christ. Whatever your story, tell it and let God worry about giving you the audience that needs to hear it. In John 9:25 the blind man that Jesus healed says, “I do not know much about Him yet, but I do know what He did for me. He healed me!” (My paraphrase) So here is my story of how holiness and the pursuit of it have made a difference in my life. Sorry to talk about myself, but it is the only story I have.
Holiness and the pursuit of it have made a significant difference in my life. I have gained control over issues in my life that trapped me before my conversion and continued to trip me up afterwards. Until my late twenties I had walked into and out of relationship with God many times. Even though I grew up in a church that taught otherwise, I never could accept that it was impossible to walk away from God because I had done it many times myself! Plus scripture supports this possibility in several places but two of them are John 15 when Jesus says, “if you remain in me,” and in Hebrews 10:35 where it tells us not to throw away our trust. Prior to my latest conversion I struggled with a myriad of sin issues such as alcoholism, sexual immorality, cursing, fighting, pride, anger, and all sorts of unhealthy choices. I use the word struggled only because having been brought up in a Christian family I knew better than how I was living so I struggled trying not to live this way but still falling to the control of sin in my life. After my conversion I found control over most of these issues but not all of them. The ones that remained were not as prevalent as before but they were still there. As I grew in Christ I gained control over more of them but still not all of them. These issues seemed to never go away and God seemed so distant in helping me with them. I prayed and prayed asking God to take these from me. I was just about to give in and proclaim them as the proverbial “thorn in my flesh” (or should I say thorns?) when God confronted me with the idea of giving my life to Him totally. I always thought that was what I did at conversion? Apparently not so much. So in a very broken state on the floor of a coliseum during the alter call at a men’s rally I cried out to God to take my entire life. I was tired of doing it myself and I wanted to fall to my knees and cry out to my Shepard like a sheep does when attacked by a wolf. I came off of that floor with a new sense of God and of living life. I came away from there knowing that there was more to this life than what I had been doing. I believe that on that day God opened my life to growth potential that before had seemed impossible. Since that day I have gained control over issues that I never could have dreamt of before. As a matter of fact I had given up dreaming of someday having control over them.
I have now found a much better life to pursue. I know that I can have control over willful sins that once had control over me. Only now I know that I must rely on God to do it. I have realized that alone I cannot, but partnered with God, I can. I have a love for people that was never there before. I have always loved people but I have never cared about them like this before. I used to be so wrapped up in my own life and my own agenda that I did not care what happened to others. I was the one with the attitude of, “Well they can find their own way like I did,” or, “They got themselves into this mess, they can get themselves out of it!” Even after my conversion I still had this attitude towards people! However, since God got total control of my life He has shown me that in fact I did not get myself out and my one biggest passion has become to follow His will for my life. His will for my life is to fill the bus with as many passengers as possible and to encourage others to do the same thing. It was not until I committed my entire life to Him that He renewed the call on my life to become a pastor.
Now, this has been my personal experience with holiness and the pursuit of it. However I know that everyone is different and I do not want to convey to someone that it must happen like this for them because it does not have to. Even though I use my story as an example, I hope that it comes across only as an example and not the example.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

God & Greyhound?

Let’s take a break from our series on teenagers for a week. I will pick back up next week with a bout two more articles to come on that subject. You can consider that a promise or a warning, whichever you choose. I would like to have a series on living a holy life so I want to wet your appetite for what is to come by giving you a taste of it now. Actually I am writing in code. I have painted myself into a corner this week and have no more time to write a new article so I am going to send you a snippet of something else I wrote this week and plan to expound on it later to make it look like I am doing this on purpose. Seriously though, I do like the idea of taking a break from a series to foreshadow what is to come, even if it has happened by accident!
Have you ever sat around thinking, “There has to be more to the Christian life than this; isn’t there?” I mean, we get saved then we go to church every Sunday for the rest of our lives, yeah right, okay most Sundays, but still, is that all there is? No, it can’t be! There has to be more. So what is it? Well, let’s meditate on Greyhound to help find an answer.
Once a person is saved, regenerated, justified, converted, been blood bought, or whatever terminology you chose to use, their ticket is punched and they are on the bus to Heaven. The funny thing though about buses is that they do not necessarily leave the station as soon as a passenger gets on. So this new passenger has some amount of time between the time they get on the bus and the time it arrives at its destination. During this time the passenger has to determine how they will pass the time. They can do several things. For one, they can get off of the bus if they have grown weary of life on the bus and are tired of waiting for it to leave or arrive. They do have the option and freedom to remove their self from the bus.
They could stay on the bus even though they are miserable because they have a dogged determination to not get off. This is great except if they do nothing to improve life on the bus then they are just going to drag everyone else down who may be having a hoot on the bus.
They could also waste the time. They could spend their time on the bus mindlessly keeping their self entertained, accomplishing nothing of importance or significance by the time it arrives at its final stop.
They could however spend the time at the station familiarizing their self with the bus, its purpose, its operation, even its destination so that during the journey they could be a resource for other passengers or the driver if need be. With this knowledge they could do a couple of things. For one they could use this knowledge to become an expert on the bus and its destination. As an expert they could take pride in what they know that others do not and consistently remind others of their superior knowledge of the bus and its journey. In their expertness they could become judgmental of those who can not see the benefit that they see in being on the bus and therefore refuse to get on. This only reinforces their decision to not get on. If any others do happen to get on with them, they may become impatient with them for not educating themselves better and for not knowing what they already know, maybe even so impatient that they refuse to help the other passengers because after all, “If they really wanted to know they could find out for themselves like I did!”
But, they could also take this knowledge and use it to help as many people as possible to get on the bus with them! They could also use their expertness to lovingly teach and encourage the other passengers to learn the bus and to turn around and use their knowledge to help fill the bus! So in short, as they wait on the bus following their own decision to get on they could do any of three things; get off of the bus and not go on to the final destination; they could just wait for it to leave and then ride solo to the destination (by which they may be surprised if they chose this option); or they can pack it to the brim with others and ride with lots of traveling companions!
There is so much more to the Christian life than just getting your ticket, having it punched, and getting onto the bus. It starts with this, but what follows is so much more glorious than a lonely bus ride; it has to be. Talk to me