Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Depth Of God's Grace

     Recently, I am dealing with a very painful part of my past; I am very ashamed of .   Although, I know I am forgiven for it, I have allowed this failure to haunt me.  I haven’t walked in the fullness of my calling or in my walk with Christ.  For so many years, I have allowed the enemy to whisper, “You are a failure.”  “You will never be able to do what God called you too, so why keep believing?” Today marks a new day, a day of freedom from the past.  Somehow, God can even use my failures for His glory.  However, I am tired of walking defeated, exhausted, and trapped from receiving the beautiful truth of the cross-redemption.  Jesus shed His blood for two purposes: to wash my sins away and to take my punishment.  The penalty was justified but Jesus saw a delight in me.  Although the horrible pit was dark, deep, and lonely Jesus didn’t leave me there.  He lifted me up.  So, I will share my deepest scar with you. 
     During my college years, God gently tried to heal my heart from a very destructive childhood.  Honestly, I wouldn’t allow God to have the deepest scars because I was afraid of re-living the pain again.  Deep inside, I knew God wanted to heal me but I didn’t want to walk down this road again.  So, instead of allowing God to heal me, I ran from Him.  I broke a vow I made to God; I would remain a virgin until my wedding day.  Although my husband is the only man I have been intimate with, I broke a vow to God.  I gave up myself to someone else instead of dealing with the truth, the scars, and to receive healing.  I felt unworthy to receive God’s healing of my heart.  After committing this act of sin, I discovered I was pregnant during Christmas break.  As I shared the news with Ryan, he was already prepared to make things right with God and me.  So, we agreed to get married as soon as I flew back to school.  We were moving our wedding day up and would be getting married in the court house.  Beside of making a new commitment, I had to accept the consequences for my actions. 
     My first day back to school, I entered the prayer room of the girl’s hall.  In the presence of God, I asked Him to completely forgive me for breaking my vow, His heart, and running from Him.  While in prayer, I asked God for a sign if He would restore us, I asked Him for a church wedding.  If He would allow us to get married in His house, I felt He would help us in our lives together. 
     I wasn’t sure what would happen but I accepted the consequences of my sins whatever they would be.  So, the next morning, I entered the Vice President of Student Affairs to confess my sin.  Before I entered his office, I knew I was going to be suspended from school.  However, I wanted God’s complete forgiveness and my conscience clear before God and man.  As I shared the truth, I received the consequence but it was wrapped with mercy.  If anyone is suspended from college, they are immediately to remove themselves from the campus.  They are not allowed to say good-bye to anyone or discuss anything but to disappear.   The Vice President prayed with me, hugged me, and allowed me to stay on campus for a few hours to say good-bye.  However, what happened next would be the most beautiful example of God’s grace, mercy, and power of godly friendship. 
     After packing all of my things, I dropped them off to Ryan’s apartment without realizing how fast my life was changing.  Some of my dear friends came to visit me at the apartment while Ryan was at work.  As I shared what happened, I apologized to them, my fears of failing God completely, and wondering what my future would be.  Ryan and I were planning to be married at the court house in a week; my only family (my sister and brother in-law) was driving out of state to be our witnesses.  My friends saw my disappointment of losing my dream wedding, so they advised we are planning your wedding.  I advised, “How are we going to plan a wedding in a week?”  They advised me, “Just watch and see.”
     As I lived my best friend for the next week,  my friends gave me a wonderful gift.  I am almost in tears as I write this, all of our friends chipped in to give us a wedding.  All of our friends decided to give a gift of service to our wedding; everyone took a part to show kindness to us.  My college roommate and her fiancĂ© baked our wedding cake, my best friend bought the flowers, the photographer of the college yearbook took our pictures, and another couple donated the decorations.  Another dear friend of mine, she played the wedding song for us.  In our original wedding plans, our best man who was already a minister performed the wedding ceremony.  Besides this beautiful wedding, our friends lovingly supported us in prayer, never gossiped about it, and assisted us to prepare for the baby.  The body of Christ showed the power of true forgiveness which I will always remember.  Still too this day, I am amazed at the depth of God’s love to me.  It’s still priceless, beyond description to express but it’s beautiful to experience.
     After confessing our sins, getting married, and starting a new life together Ryan and I have experienced grace.  Nevertheless, I didn’t realize how deep it can be.  After starting our life together, I started making plans to attend another school; I was going to be a beautician.  Ryan challenged me to pray about this decision very earnestly before entering the new semester.  As part of my punishment, I was suspended from college for a year which was about over.  So, I went to prayer with completely humility, God what do you want. 
A scripture caught my attention, “For though I preach the gospel, I nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” I Corinthians 9:16    
As I silently meditated on this, I knew what God wanted but I didn’t know if I could do it.  So, I re-applied for the new semester in Bible College but afraid of being accepted again.  Much to my surprise, I received the letter of re-admission.  As I walked on the campus to enroll in my classes, tears rolled from my eyes.   Could God’s grace be this deep?  I just stood on the sidewalk and prayed with gratitude but I said, “God I don’t deserve to be here.”  He gently whispered to me, “No one does Tina; it’s all by my grace anyone is here.” “You are forgiven, walk in it.”
     Today, my transcript from school reminds me of a failure I committed but God’s grace allowed me to graduate.  So what are you holding on?  What’s the pain in your past?  God desires to wash it clean and restore your life.  Although many people may view me as a disgrace to God’s family, God has loving grafted me back to Him.  He loves you, desires to be near you.  Just because you fail God doesn’t mean your life is over, God’s grace can restore you.  The past will always show the shame but the cross shows the grace of God.  No matter how far we fall, God will reach us if we are willing to open our hands.  So, if there is something in your past remember this. The old life is buried with Christ; the only one who can raise it again is you.  If Jesus was willing to bury it with Him, let Him have it.  Jesus rose from the dead not to give us only eternal life but a joyful life on earth.  So, many times we look at the past to be reminded of our many failures but if we hold on to it, we can’t grasp the future.  We have a beautiful life give to us by Christ, a new life. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrate Life

     Today is my birthday; I am blessed to be alive.  On the day of my birth, it was the worst ice storm of 1976.  The storm was so bad; my father had to use his pocket knife to chip the ice off the car door before my mom could get in.  The hospital was an hour away with normal weather; I couldn’t image driving in those conditions.  But my parents arrived to the hospital; the doctor was still on the way.  So, they had to stop her labor until the doctor arrived.  After numerous hours, I arrived with many complications.  I was born 3lbs, 6oz, and 20 inches long and it was going to be a fight for the next 24 hours to survive.  The doctors were not sure of my survival but God had other ideas.  Nothing is impossible for God, absolutely nothing.
     Although my mother didn’t get to hold me for a month, I had to stay in an incubator until I was 5 lbs.  I wasn’t able to be cuddled, kissed, or held for a month, the pain my parents  must have been in.  How difficult it must have been for them, as a parent, I now understand.  Although the odds were against me, God’s plan wasn’t going to be stopped.  He was working a healing miracle within my little body, so He could perform the greatest miracle of all, saving my life.  God performs miraculous healings for the physical body but salvation of our souls is still the greatest act.
     At the age of 12, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  But the road I travel until this day was dark, lonesome, and dangerous.  As a babe, I had to learn to fight for my life to stay alive.  But in order to live, I had to learn to die to Christ; I had to surrender my complete will.  The Holy Spirit drew my heart with gentleness, such love, and a miraculous deliverance from abuse.  I never really felt accepted by anyone: my family, my peers, and I didn’t have many close friends.  Children of abuse only let you close enough to see a part of you, never the whole.  Many wounds are visible but it’s too hard to allow anyone near to touch them.  The fear of being completely opened, to face the pain, and allow the scars to heal is frightening.  It’s the hellish chains Satan holds on the abused to keep them bond from experiencing the life, the celebrate life.  Jesus died so we can be whole in heart, mind, and soul.  It’s a complete healing, but so many are unwilling to allow Jesus the opportunity.  As the Spirit quickens our heart, we run from His voice to escape the harsh reality-we are in pain.  We run away from the One who is called to bring life, healing, and deliverance. 

     My friends, ONLY in the arms of Christ, I found life. Satan has tried everything to destroy my life but God has given me joy unspeakable and a life to celebrate.  Although, my calling isn’t complete yet, my heart’s complete in the love of God.  Life has difficult moments but I have the ability to overcome them all through my relationship with Christ.  Throughout my life, the odds have always been against me.  With a horrible overbite, speech problems, low self-esteem, and everyone spoke against my future.   My family would say, “You will never amount to anything.”  My childhood peers would say, “You are ugly.” Or never allow me to be near them, I was scum to them. 
      As I read the Word of God, I learned the truth.  “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) At the cross, Jesus said, “I love you enough.” “You are worth everything to me.”  Only in Christ, I have found life, so I celebrate my birthday with joy, thanksgiving, and know the best is yet to come.  God isn’t done with me.  The devil may try to knock me down but the same spirit that raise Christ Jesus lives in me.  So, I am no longer the underdog, I am the champion because Jesus lives in me. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dreams Really Do Come True

Do you remember your childhood dreams of what you wanted to be?  Maybe it was a doctor, veterinarian, actor, or mechanic but whatever it was it brought a sparkle to your eyes.  No matter what you could see yourself doing it.  Just recently, I had a conversation with my youngest son, Caleb, about what he wanted to be when he was an adult?  I was really surprised at Caleb’s response.  He said, “I want to be a police officer or a fireman because they save people’s lives.”   I responded, “That’s a marvelous dream but have you asked God about it.”  “He responded, “No, but I will.”  So, he bowed his head and prayed.  As we continued the conversation, I advised, we will keep praying for God to answer us about your dream.”  Caleb said, “Why do we have to keep praying?” “I just prayed about it, God will answer.”  Boy, wasn’t I rebuked by my son, what faith he has. 
     As I type this blog today, I am pursing my dream to fulfill God’s calling on my life.  Honestly, I feel really old to pursue this especially with my birthday a few days away, but I have decided not to hold back.  At the age of 14, God placed a dream within my heart to preach the Gospel of Christ.  I don’t doubt God’s desire but I have doubted my ability to complete it.   But I guess who hasn’t doubted the Lord’s call or dream within one’s life.  Most of the famous patriarchs have doubted their ability to do what God desired: Moses, Gideon, Joshua, and Joseph.
          Nevertheless, I started thinking about the call of Joseph; he was very young at the time of his dream, 17 according to scripture. (Genesis 37:2)  Joseph was the favorite child of Jacob who purchased a beautiful coat of many colors.  Besides the love of his father, Joseph receives a dream from the Lord about his future.  All of this attention caused his brothers to hate him, so they rejected him.  The spirit of rejection was so instilled within; they decided to physically remove Joseph from the family.  Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him but they decide a different plot.  Joseph comes to find his brothers to assist them but they destroy him.  They stripped him of his beautiful robe and placed him into a cistern while they eat.  While they dine, they get a revelation as the Ishmaelite’s come to town to sell him into slavery.  Can you image being betrayed by your own brothers this way? 
    Joseph’s brothers didn’t understand his dream, they even teased Joseph among themselves by calling him, “Dreamer”.  Jacob kept the matter in his heart but he questioned Joseph’s dream.  So, Joseph had to trust God to complete it.  Joseph’s own family didn’t understand the dream or what God’s intentions were.   Keep in mind, everyone will not support your call or dream for your life.  Understandably, we desire to have our family and close friends to support us with our desires.  But what if they don’t?  Is it worth pursuing with no one behind you but God?  What is God calling you too?
     I admit, I have allowed fear to cripple my abilities to reach for the dream but inside my heart it burns.  No matter what I do or the length of time spent, I can’t stop yearning to complete it.  Sometimes, I have tried to ignore it or convince myself the call never happened but I know it did.  After graduating from high school, my dad asked what I was planning to do after school.  My father wasn’t very happy about my choice; I was going to Bible College to prepare to become a minister.   He angrily advised, “You don’t have my support in your decision.”  And he stormed out of the room without another word.  Besides my father, I have received harsh criticism from other pastors, ridiculed, and advised to forget this call because I am a woman. 
     Although Joseph was faced with very harsh realities, he still trusted God.  Joseph remained faithful to God, committed to the tasks before him, and didn’t get a bitter spirit through it all.  Once Joseph was sold into slavery, he ended up at Potiphar’s house.  Even while being a slave, Joseph was promoted to trust in the care of the slaves and the household.  He remained faithful to God’s word, although he was tempted to stray.  He didn’t sin against God or try to destroy Potiphar’s name or marriage because of his circumstances.  Potiphar’s wife tried numerous times for Joseph to sin with his body by having sex with her.  Joseph chooses the right path by running away but it still caused some personal grief.  People will try to prevent your dream from coming true.  They will try to tempt you to stray, attack your character, or cause other's to doubt your ability. 
     Although his character was attacked for doing right, Joseph still was placed in prison.  But God wasn’t done with Joseph’s life.  Joseph’s dream would start the journey of his life but his gift would be used to fulfill his life.  Despite all of the hardships, Joseph's call was still evident through the interpretted dreams of the baker and the cupbearer.  Although the dreams were prophetic of what would occur for these men, Joseph was used by God.  Joseph asked for the cupbearer to remember him but he forgot him.   So, Joseph had to wait two more years, he was still waiting for God to fulfill His promise.  The waiting period is very difficult, I understand this completely.  But I would rather wait on God to open the doors then to create havoc, like Abraham and Sarah with Ishmael.  Instead of waiting for God’s promise, they tried to fulfill God’s promise with their own wisdom and ability.  Their impatience not only destroyed their family but the nation of Israel.  God’s timing is always best but He is preparing your for the dream. 
        Your future isn’t dependent on man who will forget you, God never forgets you.  It can sometimes feel this way but God is teaching you valuable lessons to prepare for the big picture.  In Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
     And the Joseph realized God was preparing him for the best options in life: to protect his people and to make him the right hand of the pharaoh.  God has good intentions towards us; He is preparing us for great things.  It’s sometimes in the prison, we learn the meaning of life: to trust God.  Your life’s dream will be fulfilled, if God promised it.  It is done.  However, I can’t guarantee how long you have to wait but be faithful in all things.  God will fulfill it.  Your responsibility is to trust God, be faithful with your work, don’t get bitter over the circumstance.  You could be one call away from the door being opened, but your attitude could be what’s holding you back.  What’s the dream worth to you?  Although it cost your reputation, your family’s blessings, or your life will you keep the dream?  If God is the only One who will support you, can you pursue it?  Dreams can come true but only through faith in God.