Sunday, November 25, 2007
Remember my chains!
"Remember my chains" is one line of Scripture that has always intrigued me. There is something so simple and yet so powerful in that one line that has a way of challenging me and encouraging me at the same time. It is part of a personal plea from Paul in the final part of his letter to the Colossians.
When you go through difficult times...
Remember my chains.
When life seems to be bringing you down...
Remember my chains.
When you are not sure what the future holds...
Remember my chains!
Check this out ~~
I grew up as a church-going young child (I used to call myself a Christian but until recently, I have changed my thoughts on that!). When I was 14 years old, my parents gave me the option of going to church or staying home. I decided to stay home! I went the next 14 years, not going to church, but always feeling like I was going to heaven based on the fact that I "believed" in Jesus. When I was about 25 years old, I was working at Hardee's Restaurant as a manager. I was not making much money so I decided to take the exam to get hired by the US Postal Service as a mailman. I went to take the test and prior to the actual exam they let you take a practice exam. I took that exam and completely bombed on it. I didn't get any of the answers right! They then took that exam away from us and gave us two more minutes to study and practice. When it came time for the actual exam, I was able to go through the whole thing and I scored a 100% on it! I was the only one to get a perfect score. I was at the top of the list to be hired. I waited and waited and nothing was happening. After about a year I decided to go back to school. I went over to Bradley University to see about getting into mechanical engineering. I was accepted to attend there. I was supposed to put my deposit down for my dorm on August 31, 1985. On Aug 30th, I received a phone call from the Post Office saying I had been hired. I had to make a decision. Do I take the government job with the good pay or do I go to school for four years and make even more money down the road. I took the security of the Post Office job! After spending a year as a part-time carrier I decided to transfer to Arizona for an opportunity to work full-time. I went to work in South Phoenix and was living in Tempe, Az. I didn't know anyone out there so I got involved in coaching little league baseball. My second year out there, I met Cole (an 11 year old boy). He asked me if I could take him, his older sister and his little brother to church because his parents were going to be out of town. I said I would. When I went to church, everyone treated me so nice and I decided to join the church. It was a Mormon Church. I knew nothing about that religion. They said words that seemed to be Christian. I had heard about salvation, Jesus, God, the Trinity, Holy Spirit. My knowledge was only that of a 14 yr old. I got completely involved in the church. I ended up being the Youth secretary in charge of finances for youth camps. I read my Book of Mormon faithfully every day. I abstained from drinking Pepsi (I cheated some times!!) I was in the church for three years. I started having some questions about what they were teaching. Some things did not make sense. How could God discriminate against people with dark skin? That didn't sound like the God I grew up with. Common sense told me that man did not live on the moon and on the sun (even though that is what was taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young). I did not believe that I could be a god myself. I was single and was made to feel like I was less of a person because I was not married and would not be able to have spirit children when I die. (I will say that Cole and his family always loved me even though I was not a whole-hearted mormon). On my third year in Mormonism, me and Cole and his family all went to the Temple in Mesa to watch an Easter pageant. There was a group of concerned-christians there handing out gospel tracts on mormonism. As soon as it hit my hand, Cole's mom grabbed it from me and said, "don't look at that, it is from the devil." I never saw what it said. Later that year, around the end of the first week of October 1990, my heart rate went down to 26 beats per minute. It stayed that way for six weeks! I went to the hospital and to doctors and specialists and none of them could tell me what was happening to me. They all said I was the healthiest dying person they had ever seen. I was sleeping 17 hours everyday! Six weeks of sleeping 17 hours each and every day! My heart, my lungs, my brain (debatable!), my blood were all excellent. They could find nothing wrong with me. The mormon elders would come over every night and lay hands on me and pray ~~ "in the name of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, we heal you." They would repeat that every single night. Nothing worked! I felt like I was going to die. It finally got to the point where I got so scared and frustrated that I threw my Book of Mormon down on the floor and cried out to Jesus to save me. The very next day, I woke up completely healed. That was on Thanksgiving Day of 1990! My heart has been normal ever since that time. Doctor's never did figure out what was wrong with me. So the next day, I went to a Christian bookstore. It was the first time I had been in one, and what did I see under the heading of "Cults"? Mormonism!! I bought every book I could lay my hands on. For the first time since joining the Mormon church, I was able to read Scripture and it all came alive to me. I could see where Joseph Smith had twisted the truths of the Bible. I decided to go to a United Methodist Church (I grew up in the UMC). I finally was in a service that I remembered from my childhood. As the next baseball season started, I met a boy on my team and I ended up dating his mom. We were engaged to be married in November of 1991 (I know, kind of quick, but I had been single so long!). In October of 1991, I receive a phone call from Rey (the boy on the team) and he said to me -- "he's back!" It seems her exboyfriend had moved back in with her and they were sleeping together. I asked her about it and she said she didn't think it was any of my business. I kind of disagreed with her! I called the wedding off. I was mad at her and at women in general. I was a new christian and this was not supposed to happen to me. I held on to this pain for over a month and a half. Finally in January of 1992, I gave all of my pain over to God and asked him to bring someone else into my life. In October of 1992, he did. I met my son. He was on my mail route as I was delivering mail. He had just turned 9 years old. It is a long story but a wonderful story. Around this time, I had an exposed nerve on my wisdom tooth. The pain was more than you can even imagine. I was bouncing off of the walls. I got in my car at 4am and started driving. Not knowing where I was going, I was screaming at God asking him to stop the pain. I was yelling at Him for not helping me. I finally pulled over at a phone booth and looked up dentists in the phone book. I found one that was just one mile down the road. I sat in the car still screaming at God because it seemed as though the pain was getting worse. When I was finally able to open my eyes enough to see, I drove to the dentist office. I pulled into the empty parking lot of the dentist office. There was one light on in the building. I walked up to the building and was able to walk inside. I found the doctor's name on the board and saw he was up on the second floor. I took the elevator up and as it opened up, it opened up to the room with the light on. The dentist was sitting in his chair drinking coffee and reading the newspaper at 4:30am in the morning! I banged on the door and he let me in. He took care of me and as I was leaving, i asked him why he was there so early in the morning. He said his wife's car broke down the night before and she had to take his car out of town so she dropped him off four hours early so she could leave. Here just one mile earlier, I was screaming at God and complaining that He wasn't helping me and yet, the night before, he had already put into motion events that would take care of my need at the time I needed it most! Remember my chains! As for the boy on my route -- I ended up adopting him as a single man and we moved from Arizona to Illinois. I am white and he is Hispanic and I love him with all my heart. He is now 24 years old and has two little boys (3 yrs and a 5 month old). I love them and his wife, Sarah. They are such a blessing to me. After moving back to Illinois, I got into the ministry. I felt God was calling me. I went back as a student pastor. I had to finish my associates degree while working at a church. I met a girl who was just out of high school. She was very depressed and almost suicidal. We became friends. After lots of phone conversations she finally got her life back on track. One month before I started in the ministry, my dad died suddenly. He was my very first funeral that I ever did. As a pastor, I told a lot of jokes. Let me rephrase that, I told way too many jokes behind the pulpit followed by way too many stories. I had a lady come up to me and ask me if I was going to talk about homosexuality. I said I wasn't. She asked me not to because her son was visiting at our church that day and she did not want to offend him. I didn't say a word about it in the service. I never saw the young man again. I lost my chance to witness properly to him about the need to repent of his sins. I never felt right about that. Remember my chains. After a couple of years, we moved to a larger church. Again, I was telling my jokes (just had to be funny!). During this whole time of my ministry, I was an unrepentant sinner. I was living a lie. I did not tell people about God's Law and the need to repent of their sins. I only gave the "feel good" messages. I can honestly tell you that I was not saved as a pastor. I was the equivalent of an emergent pastor, of a Rick Warren or Bill Hybel type of pastor. I had to entertain the masses! Look at how popular I can be!!!! I was about to serve a new church in Iowa when my son and I decided to move back to Galesburg, IL to visit my mom. She was not doing well. The car was not running, the yard had not been mowed for over 7 weeks, and her plumbing was messed up. I called the church and told them that I was going to take care of my mom. I still was not saved but was still calling myself a solid christian because I believed in Jesus (this time around, now that I was not a mormon!). My first day on the job at a local grocery store was 9/11/01. The tragic events of that day will be remembered forever. When I went to work, everyone was in a state of shock. I was able to minister to people about God's love. I went through some very difficult times in my life during the following years. By living a life that had no repentance, I was destined to fall apart. I must have hit rock bottom. I felt unloved by the world and desperately wanted to get that feeling back. I attended church over the next few years and saw things that bothered me. I could see my "feel good" messages were not working. I didn't feel good. Remember my chains! Finally, after hitting rock bottom, I somehow came across Way of the Master and heard a recording of Hell's Best Kept Secret. That changed my life forever. For the first time in my life, I could see just how exceedingly sinful I really was and that I was headed for hell. I was a pastor that was headed for hell. I was a christian that was headed for hell. I was a very good guy that was headed for hell. God's law was preached. I was a liar, a thief, an adulterer and on top of that, I was also a covetous person, a murderer (hate), a person that dishonored my parents. I had not put God first in my life, I worshiped a god that was not the God of the Bible (I always figured that God would not send me to hell for my sins), I blasphemed the name of the Lord by being a terrible example of a Christian to my family and I never kept the Sabbath Day holy. I broke all ten of the Commandments. There was no way out, I was headed for hell. I cried when I finally "got it" that Jesus completely paid the price by dying on the cross for my sins. I finally repented of my sins. truly repented of my sins. I still sin once in a while, but the change is so drastic from where I used to be it is unreal. I now get out and seek to reach the lost. I have witnessed to over 350 people since the beginning of the year. I plan to more than double that next year. Remember my chains!
Life is finally good. I did a revival this past October and was totally persecuted by pretty much every church and even within my own church that I was attending. I count it as joy. Satan never had to worry about me when I was a pastor because I was not doing anything to bring people to God. I was creating false converts. Now that Satan is shooting his arrows at me, I can see that he is worried about me now. I count that as a tremendous joy! Remember my chains. Why did I write this long personal story? I want you to look back on your own life. Can you see where God opened and closed doors to you? Can you see any growth in your spiritual life? Can you see Satan actively going after you? Is Satan worried about the works you do for Christ sake? Remember my chains and remember your own chains. God is in control. He will not lose any of his children. He will gather them to himself! Rejoice in the truth of God's Word. Rejoice in His promises. Remember His chains!