Monday, January 25, 2010

"When Did You Become a Follower?"

Recently I was given the opportunity to share my testimony, about how I became a Christian, at a nearby Correctional Facility. The Lord impressed upon my heart, that testifying "how I "became a believer," was not as important to share at this time, as "how I became a "follower." After all, I don't recall Jesus ever saying, "become," this or that. But He would say to people, as He continues to say through His Holy Spirit today, "Follow Me." So this is my testimony:

As a new believer in Christ, at age 22, I was like a raw nerve ending. Newly convinced of heaven and hell, and thinking it was up to me to convince those I loved of each, I headed back to Boston, armed with Bibles. I didn't ask God to lead me anywhere. I knew just what to do, where to go, and pretty much how to go about it. Boy, was I ever annoying! I think back at my poor family and friends, many of whom thought I'd joined a cult of some kind. It took me about a year and a half to shut up and listen to what the Spirit might have to say, concerning direction. This is the story of how I first started "following" Christ.

Just out of college, I was looking for a job in my field and not having much success. For the time being, I was working in a factory, midnight to eight, slipping tab A into slot B a few thousand times each night. I liked the job fine, because during work I was able to listen to good teaching tapes and to enjoy the spiritual lyrics in my new music tapes. It was a time of learning more about who God is. One of the tape series that I was really enjoying was on spiritual warfare, and I was learning how in Jesus' name, the demons would have to flee, and how God would do great things.

After a few months, all of my old friends and every relative I could think of, had been cornered at some party, and given what for. Those who didn't read the Bibles I gave them for Christmas, got a simpler translation for their birthdays. I'm sure I'd read several times, the verse where Jesus says, "No man may come to Me unless the Father draws them." But who has time for that? Well, finally after 4 months of assembly-line work, taking in tapes and running around telling what little I knew, I couldn't think of any more loved ones who I hadn't told about Jesus. I must have asked God, "What should I do now? What do You want for me to be doing?" Because for the first time, about a year and a half after I "became a believer," He was going to lead me somewhere. It was time for me to start "following."

God is on the move always. You can't "follow" someone who isn't moving after all. And you can't follow if you are sitting still. The scriptures tell us to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, who is the author and completer of our faith. Wheels spun out I suppose, I finally looked up, and was ready to listen.

Each Sunday I would get the Sunday paper, and cut out all the jobs that I “could” theoretically do; not necessarily ones that I wanted. Somehow doing this, helped me to see that there were all kinds of options out there. I suppose that helped encourage me in some way.

Each week that year too, I went to a Monday night charismatic prayer service, as back then, I was going to whatever church was open on that given night. One night this denomination, and the next night a different one; it didn’t matter to me so long as someone was teaching from the Bible. I was like a sponge and though I was going to a wonderful church, I wanted to do something every night. So come this one Monday night, the minister prophesied that “someone” in the room, was looking for a new job, and they were to come forward, cause God was going to “show you” what that job was. Well, I went forward, so sure that it was me he was talking about. Apparently so sure were about 50 other people! We all went forward, and I remember feeling kind of dismayed, not being the only one. I know, I know! Everyone wants to feel special.

Anyway, when the people praying got to me, suddenly one of the clippings that I had cut out of the newspaper the day before, flashed before my mind’s eye and I just KNEW that job was mine. The problem was that I didn’t want that particular job. The job was to be "resident counselor" in a group home, for emotionally disturbed teenagers, and well, I kind of had other plans for my Psych degree. I was thinking more leather couch and rich patients. Ah well. I went home, sent in a letter of application, and though they told me there were about a hundred applicants, I knew the job was already mine. I kept asking God for a different job; but told Him if this was the job He wants for me, then I would do it.

The directors of the group home called me for an interview and I actually tried little things so as not to get the job. For example, during the interview, when they asked if I would find it a bit scary to live in a home with 8 emotionally disturbed kids between the ages of 15 and 21, I said, “CERTAINLY!!!” I figured if God was going to have me take a job I didn't want, He was going to have to work for it. I later found out that that very answer was what got me the job. Apparently the other applicants were too confident.

Well, during that interview, one of the residents of the home flipped out, and it took 3 men holding mattresses to restrain her, and to hold her down. She was moaning in inhuman tones and yelling at herself in 2 different voices. They called it multiple personalities, but it more reminded me of something that involved the Seven Sons of Sceva, from Acts Chapter 19.

Later, while driving home and feeling rather freaked out about the interview and scene, I was asking God if He was sure about this, blah, blah, blah... (Knowing that He was not changing His mind.) All the while driving home, that poor girl and that experience kept playing through my mind. It took 3 men to hold her down with mattresses, and I was going to live in that house? Should I have stood up and rebuked a demon during my interview? I slapped my knee and thought I should have. The best would have been to get rid of the demon. And at worst, they would not have given me the job. Then I repented for thinking that, and for trying to find ways out of this job. I just needed to trust God somehow, that this was the right job for me. Following Jesus is pretty intense, I was finding out. Was learning spiritual warfare why He was giving me this job? Would I have to confront these demons? Yikes! The whole scene gave me the willies!

Well, I got to my parents house, and went to bed, cause I had to get up to work at midnight again. Everyone else in the house was at work or school. I laid down to sleep, but in about 10 minutes, my room and the bed especially started really shaking. Instantly, remembering the teaching tapes that I had been listening to, I shot up in bed, and shouted, “In Jesus’ name, get out of here!” Immediately the bed stopped shaking. I assumed I had brought that demon back with me from the freaky job interview. But the demon was no match for the name of Jesus. Come and gone in a second! I slept so well after that.

The next evening, was Thursday night and on Thursdays I attended a home fellowship group of folk from the church that I was attending. It was a time of worship, Bible study, and testimonies. I REALLY wanted to tell everyone about how I rebuked the demon that was shaking my bed, in Jesus’ name! But I wanted to do it in a way that was not boastful. It was difficult cause on the one hand, I thought it was so cool; but in this circle, I knew that I was kind of proud of this and that I'd just be boasting. And the meeting went on and on, and I was about to share this a few times, but the conversation didn’t really go that way. If I just shared it out of the blue, it would have been forced. I tried to convince myself that it would be “edifying” to others if I shared my personal experience with spiritual warfare, but then I’d stop myself and feel like, ‘no, if I shared it now, it would just be to impress people.” Should I, or shouldn’t I? Finally I set out a fleece. If someone else brought up spiritual warfare, I could casually share my experience. But then I thought, no, if I was too casual, that would not be good, cause really I was excited about it; and casual would be me trying to be cool. I finally just said, “God, I have missed this whole meeting over this. If it is okay with You, I will just NOT share this tonight, and wait till a later time, as You lead.” And it was settled in my head, and I decided not to share my testimony. Peace at last; and I could focus on what was being said by others at the meeting.

About 5 seconds later, it was real quiet, and then Patty, across the room says, “Did any of you feel the earthquake yesterday afternoon?” and Charlie says, “Yeah, I felt it! Imagine! Massachusetts having its first quake in like 69 years! That’s what I heard on the news.” Apparently everyone either had heard about it, or knew about the earthquake but me. With my third shift job, I rarely watched the news anymore.

I was sitting there sweating, as this wave of horror swept over me. What a moron I would have seemed!!! I quietly was rocking and thanking God profusely for not letting me share about how I delivered my room of the demon that was really just an earthquake. I felt like such a nincompoop! But as I sat there quietly, I could just picture God having such fun with all this. I actually sensed that He was enjoying this, and it really was funny. The pride of man really is just so laughable sometimes! I couldn’t suppress the smile and when I was asked what I was so happy about I of course HAD to confess what I had been going through during the meeting.

After that, the jokes flew, and I was thanked for sparing Boston of “The Great Disaster of 82.” News spread around the church that I could stop earthquakes. And for months, whenever one rocked Honduras, or Japan, I would get a call from someone, pretending to be concerned that my prayer life must be slipping.

Anyway, back to the job: I did get that job in the group home; the one that I had not wanted and was afraid of. And about two weeks after I moved into the group home, I knew that I was in the right place for me. I loved that job so much! The kids were just awesome! The staff were some really beautiful people, and taught me so much. My prayer life was soaring as I was always being stretched, and God was so good to me, as He always is! It was a job I would never have ever applied for; sure I would not like it. But God knew me better than I knew myself. He was determined to bless me.

I’ve never really doubted God’s goodness to me since taking that dreaded job, and finding my joy in it. In fact, in almost every move God has led me in since, if I have not wanted to go, it was easy to go ahead and go anyway; knowing His goodness was to follow. Later God told me to go to Haiti. I didn’t want to leave that job and go live in Haiti. Scary! But once there, I never wanted to leave Haiti: Same with Chicago and same with Central Asia. And it was the same with coming back to America. He is always good. He led me into becoming a husband to Ann. He led us to want not just to have babies; but to be parents. He continues to speak to us. And one day soon, He will lead me Heavenward, and then maybe I'll know what I've been talking about all these years.

Somewhere between Chicago and Central Asia, it hit me that He is just always going to be good to me. I know some people struggle with “Is God good?” or “Does He have my best interest in mind with this?” I’ve had doubts about some things, but not about His goodness towards His children. Whatever He says to do, if we’ll do it, we’ll then find out the fun and joy and blessings of His goodness towards His children. Believing in the love of Jesus for us, was a thrill I just couldn't shut up about. But the joy and adventure began when I finally started following Him.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!"

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