Yesterday started out pretty good. My wife let me sleep late since I had to get up early for work the previous two days. Then she gave me a couple of cards and a DVD. We then went to church. Mary's aunt worked with my son and got him to say "dada" for the first time on Father's Day. When I tried to get him to say it later, he said, "mom". People went around the church talking about their fathers. I wanted to wait until next Sunday because it goes along with my sermon about witnessing. I told the story of how I learned my dad was saved when he died. It was hard for me to talk because his death still hurts after 16 years, especially knowing that he never got to meet his grandchildren.. I watched the first two omen movies. Then I finished the day with a fancy cigar because I smoked one the day my son was born.
My dad died when I was 21. Over the years, I have done my best to avoid church on Father's Day. That changes this year. This is my first year as a Father myself and I couldn't be more excited. I've been waiting on this for years. I even splurged and got my self a Perdomo Champagne Noir cigar to celebrate. Don't get me wrong. I will be spending a lot of time with my family. But when they go to bed, its alone time for daddy.
I've been a father for about 8 months now. And I admit I have done a lot of praying. Sadly, none of these prayers have been for the well-being of my son. Most of them have been pretty selfish.
1. Please let the baby go back to sleep.
2. Please don't let it be a poopy diaper.
3. Please don't let that leave a stain.
4. Please don't let my spouse know I'm awake.
5. Be quiet in the Name of Jesus!
6. Please don't let him swallow anything.
7. Let me find the baby before my wife wakes up.
Do you have any to add?
And was able to do so on the third attempt. Let me explain. In 2011, I tried to start a non-profit teaching and apologetics ministry. So I decided to connect the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles with the life of Jesus. It was really more a lecture than anything else. In 2013, I was asked to fill in for a pastor at a Baptist church I was attending. I wouldn't call it a sermon or a lecture. I didn't give the congregation anything that could be used for instruction and/or edification. I look back and think about what a mess it must have seemed. But yesterday, I spoke to a congregation about the Biblical Feast of Pentecost. I used Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments. I explained that the primary work of the Holy Spirit is to show us the reality of who Jesus is. The fruit of the Holy Spirit's work is usually a testimony - healing, salvation, etc. I shared how G-d still speaks to his people when we are obedient to His Word and how consistancy in obedience will eventually lead to a testimony. I got some very positive feedback about my message. Now I must find out what to do next.
G-d's timing is sometimes hard to accept. Maybe you've been praying for weeks or even years for a miracle. There are even a few examples in the Bible where G-d's timing took decades and even centuries. Its hard to accept when we need help now. I wish I knew some secret to tell you the make the burden easier to bear, but I don't know of anything that will help. I've been facing my own trial for the past 5 years and just when it seems like I always get knocked back again when I'm on the verge of a breakthrough. It happened again just today.
There are many examples in the Bible where others received their blessings. I just want my turn. The only thing I know is that if G-d is good, then the breakthrough has to come. Sometime. Now would be great.
I think the better use of my time would be to find out what G-d wants me to do while I'm waiting. I honestly have no idea where to start. But I either need to stop doing what I've been doing or start doing what I need to do.
Now it was the governor's [Pilate] custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
Sometimes, we forget that we are often in Pilate's shoes. We have the power to release and pardon a prisoner. The prisoner could be a person we have be holding captive through unforgiveness or something we need to release to the Lord. Just before Passover in 2015, I released my finances to the Lord and he told me a few days later to release a person through forgiveness. During this current season of Passover and Unleavened Bread, I thought of someone who offended me a while back. I reached out to this person and we talked the other night. There are three important reasons for forgiveness. 1. Jesus said we won't be forgiven by the father unless we first forgive those who have sinned against us (Mark 11:25). 2. Our tithes and gifts, which can include service, will be deemed unacceptable unless we forgive and are forgiven. 3. Jesus said we would be handed over to the torturers (demons) if we harbor any unforgiveness (until we pay back G-d for all of our sins, which is impossible (Matthew 18:34-35).
The Bible says in several places that G-d has given us the ability to forgive and that unforgiveness is a right that belongs only to G-d (Genesis 50:19). That means that unforgiveness is a type of blasphemy in which we exercise our will against G-d's.
Forgiveness is not easy and only comes by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, it is a gift that needs to be exercised in order to grow in ability. The person I forgave this current season offended me in a minor way compared to others who have wronged me. So I started out by forgiving a minor offense until I can exercise this gift in a greater capacity. I pray that you will release some of your own prisoners this current Passover season. Don't let the crowd choose. Let G-d choose whom you need to forgive.
You may be familiar with song, "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" In the old days, people didn't perform in front of audiences so much as they got together for the sake of being together and entertaining themselves with music. They would get together in a circle and play gospel and folk songs. A circle was broken when one of its members passed away. Often when my family got together for the holidays, we would play bluegrass and hymns. Our own circle was broken recently. Our guitar player, who was my step-uncle, passed away Monday. I usually played mandolin, but I guess I'm the guitar player now if we decide to keep the circle going. Revelation says that we will sing a new song. Maybe there will be a great circle in Heaven.
I've been struggling to find my purpose in life for several years. I know others who are in the same struggle. A few days ago, I ended up in the hospital. They originally thought I might have had a heart attack, but neither the E.K. G. or the xrays showed anything that would indicate a heart attack. The doctor believed I experienced an artery spasm in my heart. He scheduled a heart catherization the next day. I wasn't scared, but I was anxious. I have been dealing with depression for nearly 5 years. Under any other circumstance, I would have asked G-d to go ahead and let me go. My depression and other disorders make it difficult for me to find and keep a job. I feel like a drain on my wife and my family. I feel worthless most of the time. Now we are expecting our first child in just a few short days.
I thought how terrrible it would be to miss out on meeting my son. Even more terrible would be for him to grow up without a father. So even though I often think G-d answers the opposite of whatever I pray for, I asked him they wouldn't find any evidence of a heart attack and that I would get to live to be able to raise my son. The doctors were unable to find anything that indicated a heart attack, although they shot my artery full of nitroglycerine. It seems G-d has answered my prayers.
All this time, I thought G-d didn't care about me and didn't have a purpose for me. I begged him for death several hundred times in the past few years because my life seemed so meaningless. But now I have a son. It could be that my only purpose is to raise my son.
We often ask G-d to give us some direction and tell us our purpose in life. This is mostly so we can the most out of life and don't think of how G-d wants to use us to affect the lives of others. Jesus' purpose was to deliver us from sin. Paul was a tentmaker, but his purpose was to preach the Gospel of Jesus and lead by example. I look at people who seem to have a great purpose. They often are the people who benefit the least from the purpose G-d has placed on them. When G-d calls you to a purpose, he will send you to a person or group of people. Most people believe their purpose is tied to their occupation. Paul never benefited from his purpose which is why he used manual labor to support himself.
In the Book of Proverbs, children are mentioned as being a heritage from the Lord. Those with sons are considered especially blessed. I believe that a childless man has the potential to win thousands to Christ. But I also believe there is no higher purpose than to be given the opportunity to raise a godly son, even though I may never personally benefit or enjoy the fruits of my labor. In the same way, your own purpose was designed with someone else in G-d's mind.
I was baptized when I was 7 because I thought that was the ticket to Heaven. I had no idea who or what the Holy Spirit was. I was raised in a Baptist Church and the Holy Spirit wasn't discussed much. In the summer of 1993, the Holy Spirit began working on my heart. I was 12 years old. I remember camping with my family and staring at the campfires. The looked like miniature versions of hell to me. The pastor also spoke frequently about living a lie and how good works could not save you.
In September, I attended a revival at Locust Grove Missionary Baptist Church. As with most revivals, it was led by a visiting pastor. I remember almost nothing about the first few nights other than my best friend was with me. The last night was a Thursday. The youth group from the visiting pastor's church put on a series of skits. The last skit is the one that convicted my heart.
A figure playing G-d wore a long white robe with their face covered and sat up in a high chair in the baptismal pool behind the choir loft. Actors, presumed to be dead, would come in and the figure would would ask them why they should be allowed into Heaven. The actors playing saved people would mention their relationship with Christ. They figure would say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord." (Matthew 25:21). The actor would then be allowed into Heaven. Those playing unsaved people were unable to declare a personal relationship with Jesus. They were told, "Depart from me you worker of iniquity. I never knew you." (Matthew 7:23). Figures dressed in black would then grab the unsaved person and drag them to Hell. The last actors came in a group as a family of four. The children were younger than the age of accountabilty and were allowed inside Heaven. The wife and mother had accepted Jesus as her personal Savior and was able to be with her daughters in Heaven. Then G-d came to the father. The actor playing G-d asked him why he should be allowed in Heaven.
The father replied, "I was a deacon. I taught Sunday School. I did many good things in my life."
The actor playing G-d said, "But you never accepted Jesus as your personal savior. Depart from me because I never knew you."
The black figures came out from behind the shadows and dragged this father, who would forever be separated from his wife and children, kicking and screaming into hell. I think we closed with an invitational hymn. I remember standing and bowing. In that moment, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, G-d condescended to make Himself known to me. I was very active in our church. I always had perfect attendance in Vacation Bible School, I went on all the youth retreats. I had even been in the children's choir. None of that saved me or even seemed to matter anymore. Tears started flowing down my face. I turned to my friend and said, "I've been living a lie! I'm not saved."
I then rushed to the altar and one of the pastors led me through the prayer of salvation. I confessed that I was a sinner and that only Jesus could save me. I asked him into my heart that night.
I have struggled and even rebelled since that night. I have struggled with whether or not its possible to lose salvation. But then the words of Jesus come to me. When speaking to G-d, he said, "I have lost none that you have given me" (John 17:12). And in another place he said, "And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day" (John 6:39). To lose salvation would be to call Jesus a liar.
A few weeks ago, I went to a church and my wife asked the pastor if he could help with my anger towards G-d. He led me in a prayer. Immediately afterwards, the worship leader came up to me. He said, "G-d said he was proud of you and wanted me to hug you and say 'it was from Him." The worship leader stood on a chair because I am so tall and hugged me. A few days later, the Lord brought to mind something I had done 2 years ago.
In the summer of 2015, I began experiencing a form of OCD known as scrupulosity. This an OCD that attacks your religious beliefs. I kept experiencing blasphemous thoughts that came continously. Occassionally, these thoughts would manifest as auditory hallucinations (voices). I was terrified to go of going to hell and would repeatedly tell G-d that these weren't my own thoughts. These intrusive thoughts got worse any time I tried to pray or sing a worship song. One day, I went to my special prayer closet in an open pasture. I knew I couldn't pray or talk to G-d without expeircing these blasphemous thoughts.
I looked up at heaven and said, "I don't know what else to do, but I love you and these thoughts are either from demons or from a misfire in my brain." Then I held my arms out and said, "I can't pray right now, so this is a hug." And G-d let me know recently that he remembered the hug I had given Him that day.
He has a thick Appalachian accent and a magnificent beard. He is also married to Mary Eileen Ball.