Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Come out from among them and be ye separate!

When I first got out of mormonism back in 1990, I knew I had to get into a real church. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I was reading my Bible each and every day faithfully! I took it to work with me and would read it during my breaks. I had a radio in my jeep (I worked for the Post Office in South Phoenix) and I would listen to a Christian radio station during my route. I soaked in the teachings of Chuck Colson, Charles Stanley, and others.

I surrounded myself with Christian friends and I was striving to learn as much as I possibly could. I would ask people questions and was learning from everyone. If they had something different to say, I soaked it in and made it a part of my belief system. The things I was believing in was in a constant state of change. What I believed on Monday would change by Wednesday depending on who I was speaking with. I would listen intently to the pastor of the church I started attending. I respected him. I thought, this man went to seminary so he must know what he is talking about...

who am I to question him or have doubts about what he is saying. So, anytime I spoke with a pastor or someone who had attended seminary, I automatically respected them. Their words were like gold to me! I wanted to be a Christian and it was now a part of my life.

The Love Years

I call these the love years because it was in my early years out of mormonism that all I heard from anyone was...
"God loves you!"
"Do you want to say the sinner's prayer with me?"
"would you like to help out with our youth program?"

So for the next five years, I was active in the church. I helped out with the youth, I went to the college classes and sat in with them, I went to Bible studies each week. God loved me and I wanted to show Him how much I loved Him back! I worked very hard for him. I was a good person and I was sure people could see Christ living within me. I would tell people that I had to be good because I might be the only Bible they see. If I was good enough, I knew they would ask me what was different about me and then I would tell them that it was Jesus. He saved me from death! He loved me a sinner and He loves them too.

It was during the latter part of the Love Years that I felt God calling me into the ministry. Mind you, as a child, I would sit in church and say I would never want to be a preacher. I didn't want people falling asleep while I was talking.
I told my pastor that I felt led to get into the ministry and he set out a course of action for me. My son and I ended up moving back to Illinois to my home town and I connected with the District Office of the church and was accepted to start out as a student pastor. I would work for two churches, while going to college full time to get my degree (Bachelors) all the while, raising my son by myself (he was 12 yrs old at this time).

I was to begin in the ministry on July 1, 1996. Just before Memorial Day a little over a month before I started as a pastor, my dad unexpectedly died. The very first funeral I ever did was my own dad. It was hard but it was so special because of the love I had for him, it was such an honor to send him off to God!

The Ministry Years

The next five years were the ministry years for me. I had just lost my dad, my mentor, my leader, my best friend and I was off to begin a ministry of serving God. It was a challenge. The school I attended was about 45 miles from home and the church, my son went to school about 5 miles outside of town. I adopted my son the previous year (he is Hispanic) and we lived in a small rural community in central Illinois, a very white culture. My son took it hard as others would pick on him for not being white. Kids can be so cruel. But he kept his head up, he got involved in sports and was the best player on his teams. He was always a whole head taller than his friends (he is now 6' 3 1/2") I was working about 50 hours per week for the churches and with school, I was putting in another 25 hours per week, then with trying to spend time with my son, I was getting burned out and fast! I had never lived in a small community before (250 people) and it was hard.

I kept up a good front though. I would give sermons that were very uplifting. When people left my church service, they knew that God loved them. I would tell everyone that Jesus loved them this much (and of course, I had the canned response of spreading my arms like He did on the cross!). I would start off each sermon with a joke and a story. I would then read Scripture and give my sermon on it (it was actually more of a story than an actual sermon). The people loved it. They would tell me after the service that it was one of the best services they had ever heard. (you see, I had a lot of compassion. I was sincere in my message and I did truly love people and God, and it showed) I was the type of pastor who would not stand behind a pulpit and read 10 pages of notes. I was able to just stand in front of the people and give God's message to them. I would talk to them like a friend would talk to another friend. I cared about them. I would finish with a couple more jokes and the day was done.

This was my life for the next five years! It was hard, it was satisfying, it was depressing, it was an honor, it was a farce and a joke!

I wasn't helping anybody. What really ticked me off was before the one service started a woman in church asked me not to talk about homosexuality because her son is gay and he was going to be in church that day. I told her not to worry, I was talking about something else. I never saw that young man again! It haunts me night and day and I just pray that someone has given him the Truth of God's Word before it is too late.

I was a stand-up comedian behind the pulpit (clean jokes) and I was a Christian (in name only!) At home, I was guilty of adultery, of lying, of viewing pornography. Whenever I was supposed to preach on one of these sins, I would always change it to something else. I couldn't look at the written Word on those sins. My conscience was bearing witness to me that I was still dirty. Something was wrong.

The Growth Years

It was during the next five years that I finally started to grow. I left the ministry to get some more training. I have always had a dream of opening a camp for abused and disadvantaged children to introduce Christ to them. So, my son and I moved back to Arizona and we both got a job with Alpha Omega Publications. I learned how to begin Christian Schools and actually help people start several across the world. After I got the training, I was going to serve a church in Iowa. Before moving there, we came back home to visit my mom. Her house was a mess, the car was not running and the yard had not been mowed for about 7 weeks. So I called the church and told them that I was going to stay and take care of my mom. She was all alone and needed someone to take care of some of the household chores. So, I had to find a job in the secular world again. I was hired by a food store just 2 blocks from my mom's house. My first day of work was 9/11/01. Talk about a day that you will always remember! That first day, I talked to all of my new coworkers and we talked about God and how much He loves us.

Something still didn't seem right. I kept remembering that young gay man sitting in my church and me not telling him about the consequences of sin. Of course, I was not facing my own consequences of my own sins. I always believed that there was a heaven and a hell. But I also knew that if you didn't talk about hell, you would be able to reassure yourself that you were going to heaven. I would take my mom to church and her pastor asked me if I would preach one Sunday while he was gone. I did, and really enjoyed it again. It felt good to be up there again. Start it off with a good joke and get people happy. You always want them to have a smile on their face when they leave church. Why not? God loves them! Of course, I was still a liar, an adulterer and still involved in pornography, but I loved God with all my heart!!!! (at least I thought I did!)

The Day that Changed My Life!

I happened to see an advertisement for Way of the Master. I typed it in and heard "Hells Best Kept Secret." and "True and False Converts"

I literally cried! I spent so many years not only fooling myself and my congregations. I was fooling my own family. I was fooling my neighbors, I was fooling my coworkers. And I was fooling my friends
But I was not fooling God!

The Apostle Paul said he had not known sin but by the Law. It was the Law of God that exposed my sins to me. I knew I was sinning but when I realized that "living" in my sins, was a sign of not being saved, I realized that had I died, I would have gone to hell. All those years of listening to people tell me that God loved me, even though I was hiding my sins, I was fooled into thinking I was secure. God's Word says that unless you repent, you WILL perish! I think of that gay boy and realize I blew it! I think of my friends and realize that I never told them what they needed to hear. I think about my own lifestyle and I realize that I could have died and gone to hell. That scares me! I look back and realize that going 6 weeks with a heart beat of 26 beats per minute constantly, I thought I was going to die. I took my son to the Grand Canyon once when we lived out there. I jumped from one rock to another rock (of course I jumped over an open area with no fence, I would have dropped about 1000 feet!!), I was driving home in a heavy fog one night with several kids in my car and you could not see anything. We were driving on the Interstate and were scared to stop because we could have been hit from behind. As soon as we got into town I made a right turn and my front right tire completely fell off the car! My son this past week was at work and a fire broke out (he works in a paint factory) and it could have all blown up with him in there! He was in a car accident once where the car rolled over off the road. He lived in a house that had drive-by shootings constantly. He had a nine year old friend who carried a gun to his house!

How many chances is God going to give us before our luck runs out? I am so thankful that He saved us both so many times. I was driving on the interstate once and was almost crushed between two semi-trucks. Death is just around the corner for any of us.

Are you still living in your sins?

I listened to people all the time telling me what they "thought" the Bible said. They all, each and every one of them, told me the same thing. God loves you!

yes, I know He loves me, but His wrath will also come upon those who do not repent of their sins. Had death come to me before I had repented, I would have ended up in hell for all eternity.

Do I still sin. Yes! The difference between now and then is this...
then, I would sin and try to hide it and just ignore it ever happened.
Now, I recoginize the sin and repent of it immediately. I hate that which I do. Much like Paul when he says he does the things he knows he should not do and he does not do the things he knows he should do. It is an attitude adjustment that I needed.

I will no longer listen to other false teachings. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who want to share their feelings and thoughts about Scripture. I have been there, done that. Now, that Scripture has come alive to me, my understanding has matured. I no longer need to rely on strangers to teach me. The Bible is my sole teacher along with the Holy Spirit.

So now what I do is this...

Come out from among them and be ye separate!

1 comment:

Jfranklin6 said...

Thank God for His faithfulness, to bring you low, and grant you repentance. And how wonderful it is to read this, and say,"Me TOO!"

May God continue to make you able to glorify His Holy name.