Thursday, April 13, 2017

There was a time in my life when I thought I was a believer....

(My church people who were at DNOW will get that title.)


I read something so beautiful today in my quiet time, and I wanted to share it with you, thinking that maybe someone needed to hear this today.

I spent part of my quiet time this morning reading Psalm 136.  For anyone who doesn't know, I am always going through the book of Psalms.  I love reading this Old Testament book.  Anyway, it's one of those Psalms that may have been sung by the congregation in response to the priests.  (I got that straight out of the commentary at the bottom of my bible on the page I was reading from today.)  Over and over the Psalmist writes a phrase, like "give thanks to the LORD, for He is good", and the response will be, "His love is eternal".  

And that's it...that phrase said in response is something that I couldn't get over this morning. 

I don't know about you, but I am so thankful for those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have placed our faith in Him, making Him the Lord of our lives, that His love for us is eternal.  And I don't know about you, but for me, that is so reassuring, because I mess up all the time.  I don't necessarily mean to sin, but before I know it, I'm having a mean thought about someone.  I'm getting mad.  I'm impatient.  I'm saying a careless word.

I think that many people think that you have to be "good" to be a believer.  That's not true!  Nobody on earth could ever be good enough to be given eternal life through Jesus Christ.  The one and only Man who ever lived like that was He Himself, a few thousand years ago when He walked on this earth.  

God wants us like we are.  Blemished.  Imperfect.  Messy.  Complicated.  Doubtful.  Unloved.  

The reason He wants us those messed up ways is so that He can do the refining of us.  That is called sanctification, and that is an ongoing process, like until the day we die.  That way, He will get the credit for how our lives are lived.  Not us...the only thing we deserve is eternal separation from the God who created this world.  But by Him getting the credit and the praise for what our new lives look like, the world will know that He is the one who did that work within us.  

Take me, for example.  I prayed a prayer when I was about five years old, to be saved.  I honestly do not think that prayer meant anything to me, because I was so young, but I could be wrong.  For the rest of my growing up years, I lived life my way.  I didn't pay much attention to God, the One I'd called on to save me from eternal separation from Him. I think I had some moments when God was drawing me to Him, but I think I was responding because of the experience at that moment, like youth camp.  Everyone else was raising their hands, so I did too.  Everyone else went forward to pray, so I did too.  I was asked to help lead worship at the church I attended in my last years of high school, and so I looked the part, because I was supposed to.  But on the inside, I believe with everything in me that my heart was FULL of junk.  

When I was twenty eight years old, I had a huge moment with God.  I don't remember exactly what happened in that moment, but I know that God literally stopped me in my tracks from the life I'd been living, picked me up and turned me in the opposite direction, and from that point on, I've never gone back to that old life.  I gave up smoking, I stopped speaking foul language, I never again said His name in vain, I started devouring the scriptures, and He birthed in me this passion for prayer and His word.  

Around the time of this happening, my kind and gracious Lord placed very strategic people around me, like my old choir director and his sweet wife, Kent and Kathy.  These people and many, many others ministered to me through the power of the Holy Spirit during that formative year of my life, and I was studying the word of God and longing for more and more of Him like I'd never experienced before.  I was being taught through His word, and through such people discipling me, how to pray, how to know more of Him, how to study His word.  He was basically getting me ready for the toughest time I'd ever walk through in my life, but thanks be to God Himself that when it felt like I had no one else around me, I had Him.  

Praise be to God Almighty, that my kids do not remember the old me.  I prayed specifically for Him to do things in my life, and He answered every single one of those prayers.  I prayed that I'd never again crave nicotine.  He totally took away that desire, and even now, I can be around it, and I have never one time wanted to start that habit again.  I prayed that He would blot out the old me and the old Todd (because God did a major transformation in his life that looked very similar to what I'd gone through), and that our children would never remember us in those old ways.  

And they don't.  Just the other day I said something about how I used to smoke, and they all looked at me like I'd lost my mind.  Glory to God for that!  At the very least, Graham should remember this because he remembers EVERYTHING.  

All of these things that happened to me are when I really believe with all of my heart that I became a believer.  There's a message I heard on a podcast by J.D. Greer that is titled "Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart", and in that message, he basically says the same thing.  It's not about a prayer.  It's about a total 180 degree turn in your life.  That is EXACTLY what God did in my life on that one specific night.  It was a night, I do remember that, and I even remember how in my kitchen at home when Todd was gone and all the kids were in bed, the Lord just broke me, and I started crying out to Him in prayer.  

And to anyone I might have offended or if you remember something I did before all of this, know that I was acting as a believer when in fact, I was an unbeliever.  In one bible study I participated in, the teacher said something along those lines...that we often expect unbelievers to act like believers, but they can't!  Unbelievers are living in total darkness and they've been blinded, or it's as if there is a veil over their eyes.  But when we believe in Him, place our faith and our hope in Him, and when we call on His name, making Him the Lord (or boss) of our lives, that veil is removed and all of a sudden, we're living in light.  I remember experiencing that in that time frame of my 28th year.  All my desires changed.  My focus shifted totally.  I only wanted to live my life one way, and that way was to be as closely like Jesus as I could be.  

I said all of that to say this one thing: once we are His, we are always His.  We can turn our backs on Him and we can forget about Him if we're not careful, but His word says over and over and over that He never leaves us, never forsakes us, once we're His.  It says that in Psalm 136 that I was reading this morning...His love is eternal.  It says that in one of my all time favorite passages of scripture passages of all time.  I'll just write it out for you here.

It's Romans 8:38 and 39.

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Once we are His, we are FOREVER His.  Not even our death can separate us, in fact, when we breathe our last breath on this earth, that is when our life is just starting.  For all of eternity, with Him, in heaven.  

Don't you want that hope?  I am so thankful for this hope I have in Him.  So much so that I cannot imagine my life without Him.  I desperately need Him everyday, every moment of my life.  Like my friend Abbey said one time, I can go without a lot.  But the one thing I cannot go without is my Lord Jesus.  I love Him so.

If you want to know more about this, will you reach out to me?  TODAY?  We're never promised tomorrow, my friends.  Don't wait any longer.  

Love to all.  

And to finish off the rest of that title...

There was a time in my life when I thought I was a believer.  I was going through the motions, and playing the part perfectly, until one night in my kitchen, God drew me out of darkness and brought me into His glorious light.  He had been working on my heart for quite some time, and on this one night, I paid attention to the stirring I felt in my heart.  Now, I live my life for Him and for Him alone, and I want everything in my life to show off how amazing He is.  Do you want this kind of life?  

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