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Posts Tagged ‘Baptized’

We sat in our neighborhood group and listened to our sister in Christ convey her disappointment over an experience at church during the past couple of weeks. She has been teaching Sunday school for some time in the third grade I believe, and the person who arranges all of the teachers had called her aside and asked to speak with her. She asked our sister if she had ever become a member of the church before, to which my friend replied no. The lady then told her sadly that we have a policy that one needs to be a member of the church to teach classes, and asked her if she would place membership, my friend refused. She attended the church she went to before this one for ten years and wouldn’t place membership there, she wouldn’t do it now.

She recounted to us that there is nowhere in the Bible where membership in the church is required, that she is a follower of Christ and that’s good enough for her, she was plainly upset. What came to mind for me were several instances in the past that I have seen when a church does not go to the trouble of making sure its teachers and volunteers are on the same page. First off, let me tell you what we do, we have a simple class called “starting point” that is designed for everyone, new and mature Christians alike, or those who have not yet made the choice for Christ for that matter. In SP we go over Christianity, the plan of salvation, who Jesus was and why He came down and was sacrificed for us, what one must do to be saved. We go over what we believe and why we believe it, we provide childcare, and we feed everyone on top of it. It takes four hours on a Sunday afternoon, and it is very interesting, I went twice.

When you leave SP, there will be no confusion of what we believe, everything is spelled out very clearly, and at the end of starting point, you may turn in a membership card if you would like to become a member. There is no being baptized into our church, no proving your Christianity to the church leadership; it is merely about being on the same page. Is this important? I had some very good friends that attended for about two and a half years before going to SP, and they enjoyed the sermons, loved the music but did not get the deeper picture until they went to the class, then they kicked themselves for not going sooner.

Many people choose not to go deeper and that is okay, for we are not to judge but to love, and we embrace them and hope they will keep coming week after week until they develop a hunger to know the Lord. Membership is not required, it isn’t a social club but if you are going to teach or volunteer, that changes things. When I work in the parking lot directing traffic I wear a red “lifeguard” shirt and a name tag that identifies me as a parking lot guy. And when I work the prayer room I just wear a name tag, but to the visitor or even a regular attendee, I am a member of the staff and a code of conduct is expected, if I lose my cool and yell at a visitor who makes a wrong turn, it reflects badly on our church.

I have attended churches before where people have come in and been eager to help, and the leadership just puts them in without even getting to know them. One time a man who had been in the Mormon Church before came over to our church and began teaching the high school boys class, of which I was one. He then began teaching us his opinions rather than the bible, and there was a lot of Mormonism thrown in to it. Another example is when a woman attended our church and we were talking one time, and she stated “you know, I don’t think it really matters whether you pray to God, Buddha, Muhammad, they are all really the same aren’t they, if you are a good person that is what matters”.

It is “very” important what we say when we teach others, we are held to a higher standard when we teach.  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. And the elders charged with leading that church are held to a higher standard still. No one has said it more than me that the church is not the building; the church is not the assembly, or even the gathering, but all of Christ’s followers throughout the world as one. But that distinction as Christ’s own should not be something we hide behind. The Apostle Paul in his many letters to the various churches were always addressed “to the church at Corinth, Ephesus, etc… He never addressed them as “you Christians over there”, he addressed them by their association, and that was their identity. I am sure that if a group of Christians had been traveling from Ephesus and bumped into a group of Christians from Corinth, that is how they would have identified themselves, they were members of the body.  Romans 12:4-5  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

I was disappointed at this situation, I think sometimes we big deal things at church that we shouldn’t. What would happen if she went to her gym and said that she wanted to pay her monthly fee, but she didn’t want the responsibility of being a member and getting a picture taken? Or what if she went to her cell-phone company and told them she didn’t like contracts, so she was going to call the shots and set the terms, I think they would both tell her to take a hike. In the end, I think we could all just learn to surrender a little bit more, don’t you think?

God Bless-JFT

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In my attempts to understand and work through the hard times that kept coming last week, God put people and answers in my path that has led me to some really key spiritual discoveries. These discoveries are huge, they are something I have battled with all of my life, and have finally found resolution to them, in a very long and winding road that led all the way back to a seven day long migraine headache.

After the first attack, when I answered the Spirits call, and was immediately struck down, I did not recognize it as an attack, much in the way we did not recognize the first plane to strike the world trade center as an act of terrorism but more as just a plane hitting a building. But after the second time when the Spirit called (refer to previous post) and the second immediate attack I knew something was up, something was wrong and I was under attack.

I wrote some of what I was going through in my blog, and you all responded with concern. Larry wrote me an email with some thoughts that sent me down the path of discovery though. He wrote  ” When I state that your migraines (and most migraines) are caused by a demon, this does not mean that you personally have a demon in you because your inner man is filled with the Greater One. And Jesus does not share space with a demon or Satan. (Only unsaved people can house a demon in them.)

 

But instead, it means that somehow a demon has influence over you. I think of it as a string attached to a door into your soul (mind, emotions, memory, etc.) or your flesh. Somehow this demon can pull on the string to open that door at certain times. Usually, the string is attached because of sin or a curse. So, I always tell people to ask the Lord, “Why does this demon have a right to attack me? What have I done? Or is it something that someone else has done which now affects me?”

This is the Holy Spirit’s job to help you and disclose these things to you.

Once, you know why the demon is able attack you, then you can go on the offense.

 

Hmmm, I thought, demons. Well, God uses angels all the time, I certainly don’t expect the devil to be everywhere at once, of course he uses the evil equivalent of angels to get his dirty work done, but how. I am a good person right? But I do have sin, and it got me to thinking, and it caused me to do some self-examination.

I meet with a group of guys once a week, we open up with one another, we share things that we are having issues with, family issues, work issues, spiritual issues, and we hold each other accountable. It works very well, most of the time, we share much of our deepest problems and pains, but one thing that I realized, is that you can only be held accountable for what you share, and if you don’t share something, then you are hanging on to it, and I still had a couple of things I was hanging on to.

To many of the people who know me, I am outgoing and friendly, to my neighbors I am generous and open, to my accountability brothers an open book, but the truth is, they were misled. They thought they were standing in the open vault of my secrets, but on the back wall there was a book case with a false wall, behind it was the door to the real vault where I kept the remainder of my real deep dark secrets. In that vault were the insecurities, the shame of things I had done and still did in secret, the things no one knew about that I had never confessed, and that I had been terrified anyone would ever know about. As my accountability friends would mill about the faux vault drinking their latte’s I would stand in front of the false wall with my arms spread casually over the bookcase, my heart racing the whole time for fear that one of my friends would stumble and fall on the latch that would open the false wall, exposing the real me for who I was, a sinner, not worthy of heaven, not worthy of anything.

Larry’s letter was so clarifying to me, we weren’t being “truly” accountable, I don’t know why, I know we were trying, but I just wasn’t able to open up “that” deep with these brothers. I do trust these men, maybe the problem is all mine, but the simple fact is this, the devil knows me, he knows my sin and he knows my weaknesses. Yes, I have grown over the years, but trust me; the devil was making the most of what he had. Like having a string to a trapdoor that even I was not aware of he was accessing me through my weakness. Unfortunately I found that there were some things that I don’t share with my accountability brothers. Ahhhh, says Satan, gocha, a rift with the believers, something they don’t feel comfortable with.

There are things, not much just a couple that I share with no one and I keep buried deep inside. So it all began to come together, I had wondered how Satan was hitting me so hard when I was a faithful servant of his, and Larry’s clue led me to the conclusion.

It was at the close of day seven of the migraine, and I was exhausted, spent, and my mind was working slowly. My balance is funky these days, so I decided to shave and shower before bed, four fifteen comes early, and I try to cut my “getting ready for work in the morning” time down. As I showered, I was not thinking about any of these things, but instead “do I have fresh jeans and a shirt laundered for work tomorrow” as I soaped up.

This is what I just love about the Holy Spirit, He interrupts, he doesn’t wait, and tap his toe humming a Barry Manilow, Maniloe, Manilo whatever tune? Who cares, I think you know what I mean. He just comes right in, anyway, so I was washing what hair I have left, and I heard a voice in my head, and here are the words that were given to me by the Holy Spirit in the shower. “The Keys to the Kingdom lie with you Jim”. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do. In order to stop this demon from torturing my family and I, we needed to treat it like any common household pest, figure out how it is getting in, and then close that door.

For the most part, I am an open book, and am open about my past, my sin, etc. but there is that small little vault that I still keep locked to the world, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out where the trapdoor was that the demons were sneaking in through. The Holy Spirit had told me what I had to do, the “Keys to the Kingdom” (gosh, isn’t that a cool line) were in transparency, because true accountability came “only” with true transparency.

I love my guys, my accountability guys, I really do. I don’t know why I can’t go that extra step, maybe one day, maybe because I am the old guy in the group, I don’t know. When I got out of the shower, I was exuberant, I couldn’t wait to follow through, I texted Larry thanking him for leading me here, to this final answer. I felt the final small hole in my heart begin to fill in as I went out on to my back patio and called Tom. Tom and I have been friends since the fifth grade, we are very close. He lives a couple hundred miles away, but we are closer than ever, he is the best man I know. He is the guy I had chosen, I called him up, and I told him he was the only friend that I felt comfortable really telling everything to, and then I opened the vault, loaded the last couple boxes of dirt onto a dolly, and wheeled them over to the incinerator. When we were finished, I left the Vault open, and I poured cement into the trapdoors, the ones that had been tripping me up for decades, causing guilt for decades, I was closing them forever.

As Christ followers, it becomes cliché to say that we die to self, but last week I feel I did, several times. But the last time I died to self, the new guy doesn’t even feel like the old guy, and I don’t mean only spiritually, I mean physically, I don’t feel like me anymore. You may ask yourself “what’s wrong with this guy that he can take something as simple as a migraine headache and turn it into a battle between the forces of good and evil”, and my answer to you will be, I didn’t, they did. I have asked myself that same question, why me, why now. The answer is God does what He does for a reason, and while it may or may not make sense now, it always does later. I am just blessed, mine makes sense now. So, this post is quite a long and winding road, but in synopsis;

As the Holy Spirit put it, we may all have the “Keys to the Kingdom”,

But first, we must be

Transparent

In order to be transparent, we must first

Open the Vault

While we are in there, we must burn the garbage, empty the vault, and

Seal the Trapdoors

We can’t go it alone, we even need someone more than God, we need a friend.

Be Accountable To Someone

When you close the trapdoors that the devil sneaks into your life through, he will have no secret means by which to ambush you personally. Living “fully” transparent will make you a much more effective soul winner for Christ, no holds barred, All In. Even though I had the migraine last week, I would still have to say that last week was the best week of my life to date. God Bless-JFT

P.S. I would like to give special thanks to my brother, friend, and mentor, Larry Nevenhoven for his wise counsel last week. Without his words, I would not have found my way out of the maze.

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Fitz was an old warhorse, a chain-smoking graduate of Annapolis Naval Academy who was first my mentor, then my peer, then my boss, then the worst enemy I have ever had. A small man with a large IQ and a Napoleon complex who always felt he should have been controlling the Atlantic fleet rather than a power plant, he was out to prove he was large and in charge. He had thrown our friendship out the window along with that of any other friendship he had garnered over his thirty plus years working here at the power plant. Fitz was Roman Catholic, and had railed against my faith, calling me an infidel. He was angry at the world because it had taken him so long to achieve in life, but now he was powerful and he was planning on leaving his mark . His reign lasted six years, and by the time a wise new manager struck him down, we were all like abused dogs that had been beaten one too many times, trusting no one and fleeing like rats from a sinking ship when he would enter the room. When Fitz’s last day finally came a couple months later, it was bittersweet. We had once been friends, but those days were long gone, replaced by many memories of abuse and anger. The cake and ice cream social they had in the lunch room was only attended by management. Management were required to attend functions of this type, but for everyone else it was optional, and so everyone else stayed in. I was working that day, and I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to him. That was three and a half years ago.

Twenty-two months ago, Fitz was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. About eighteen months ago, I went to see him, I didn’t call, I just showed up. He was leery at first, non-trusting, wondering what I wanted, but then I just came right out and started talking straight. I said words like “God”, and “love”, and “Forgive”. He softened up, the old Navy salt wore off and he started crying and told me he was really scared. He told me that his wife Christy had left him, and that she had then gotten cancer too. And that he was more worried for her than for himself. He heaved as he told me all of this and poured his heart out and the enemy faded, and my friend reappeared. He had surgery, and so far he is making it, he thinks he will live, I doubt it, but God can do anything. This past Saturday, as I was fighting a small headache, the Holy Spirit called me to attention. I felt the nudge to call my old enemy Fitz on the phone and encourage him, and so I answered the Spirit’s call.

Fitz was delighted beyond measure when I called him, we talked for over an hour and I had to say goodbye three times before I was able to get off of the phone. When I did get off the phone, it was time for church. Church last Saturday was not an average worship service, it was one of those that you will remember for the rest of your life, it was one of those that leave you with a memory forever. As soon as it ended, I was struck down hard, violently, and painfully. My mind was scrambled and I wound up in the hospital. It was Saturday night and I would wander in a fog for seven days.

Later in the week on Wednesday evening I felt like my head was in a vice all day, but I hated being closed up in the house all the time, this is day five. I got up and looked out of the front window as Eddie, my neighbor (the cop) was watering his lawn across the street. For some reason, I felt the Spirit leading me to go talk to him, because he was sad and he needed to talk. I crossed the street and greeted him, he did seem sad. I didn’t tell him that I have a secret agent called the Holy Spirit that feeds me information about him, but rather, I ask how things are going with Patty, his new wife. She has been battling with her ex for custody of her two daughters. It has been dragging on for near three years now, and it is straining their marriage. Eddie is hurting as he relates how he just doesn’t know what to do, he has failed before, and he doesn’t want to fail again, he wants it to work. In the mean time, my wife pulls up at our house from work, glad to see me up and around. She respects that Eddie and I am talking, waves and goes into the house.

After Eddie and I have talked for a while, I ask if he and I can go into his garage, and he says we can. He has a piece of carpet there to catch oil drippings, and both of us knelt, and placed our arms around each other’s shoulders, as brothers in Christ should do, and then we prayed. We prayed for his marriage to Patti that God would bless it richly, we prayed that God would be with her two teen-aged daughters and help them to be okay despite the war between their parents. We prayed that the judges would make wise decisions, and that God would give Eddie the wisdom to be a good husband and a God centered man. Tears of relief streamed down Eddies face as we laid his cares at Jesus feet there on the floor of his garage, and when I said “Amen” Eddie was noticeably lighter as we got back to our feet and said our goodbyes.

My headache increased again as I crossed the street and entered my own garage, as the sun set on the fifth day of the worst migraine headache I have ever had in my life. My wife sat at the table with the mail in front of her and a grim look on her face as I kissed her on top of the head quietly. Is something wrong I asked? “Yes” she said as she handed me the letter that had already been opened. Looking at it I noticed the return address was that of my father, who would turn eighty in two weeks and my step mother who was in her early seventies. What was this all about I wondered?

They were splitting up; they were married almost seventeen years, getting together after my own mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994. She had written the letter which they had sent to everyone in the entire family, and told me that she felt that they had committed adultery prior to their marriage, and the elders at their legalistic church agreed with them. They had set a date and would go before the entire church and confess their shame and ask forgiveness, then legally separate. My jaw dropped, I was shocked that this could happen in a church that bore the name of Christ. I immediately called them.

She answered the phone, and sounded weepy. I asked her what was going on, and we began to talk. As the conversation unfolded, I asked her if they had engaged in an affair while my mother had been alive, and she said no. I then said that they must have been intimate when they were dating then, and she responded that they were not, they had waited. When was this “adultery” then I asked. She said that when they were dating, they had lusted, and referring the scripture    Matt.5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Here is the problem with that, adultery is reserved for the married folk. If you are married, and you have an extramarital affair, you have committed adultery, but if you are single, it is fornication. Now when it comes to lust”, or any sin for that matter, I say to the legalistic of the world READ JOHN 8:7 BEFORE YOU TELL  80 YEAR OLD MEN TO GO GET A DIVORCE YOU HIPOCRITES!  Just Sayin’  Now, for your reading pleasure, John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I was able to tell her about the blood of Christ, and how it was shed for us, How she did not commit adultery, and how even if she did, God forgives her. How if she commits a sin, she doesn’t have to notify everyone in the world about it and repent to them, God is the important one. In the end, they cancelled the separation, and stayed married.

The Migraine ended after seven days, the dizziness remains, focus remains elusive, I am not the same. It was a week of battles, but in the end, I think the devil came out worse, haha.

God Bless-JFT

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Definition of beliefs, this has been on my mind a lot lately. As I sit at my cluttered desk, across from my wife, sitting at her not as cluttered desk, I think about my blog. I began my blog a couple of years ago, inspired to write about God. I never thought about even the remotest of possibilities that I would eventually post over two hundred and sixty articles, as I call them. How could I even come up with the material, certainly not without divine intervention, but divine intervention “would” in fact come, and the posts would be written.

Recently, I had a comment from a reader that caused me to really stop and think about “why” I write what I do. My blog, “thoughts on being a Christ follower” is meant to be an encouragement to others, to be uplifting to those who follow Christ already. It is also meant to be thought provoking to those who are investigating Christ as a Savior, and is meant to plant a seed to those who do not know Christ at all, a seed planted in love. God has been so good to me in my life, teaching in love through experiences I have been placed in. So again I ask why, why do I write this Blog?

As a child, raised up in “the Church” as I knew it, we were known as non-denominational, because that implies that there was no headquarters from which all of the franchise congregations were run. I never really knew what non-denominational was, because it was one of those things that the adults “assumed” we knew. Truth was, they probably didn’t know what it meant either. It was assumed that you would get baptized between the ages of ten and twelve, if you were early; they doubted you truly knew what you were doing. If you were late, they began to worry that you were going to go the other way. So, I chose to be baptized at the age of ten, coincidentally on the evening following the baptism of two of my good friends, no peer pressure though 😉 . I just kind of felt it was the thing to do, you know.

After I was baptized, I really did feel white as snow as I rose from those waters, and I did know I loved God. I then began the life of being a pre-teen Christian. Here was the drill, after you became a Christian (baptism), you were then expected to tow the line, and walk sinless. In doing so, sometimes you would occasionally stumble, leading to a collection of sins that would begin to mar your soul. Even one sin on your soul makes you unfit for Heaven, or so we were told, so upon stumbling you would then be lost again. I used to see it like this, a sin was a black dot on my soul, as time would go by; I would begin to look like a Dalmatian. When I just couldn’t live with myself anymore, I would need to go to plan “B”, which would involve taking a walk at the alter call. Every service, twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, the preacher would give an alter call, anyone who wanted to be baptized, or needed the prayers of the church would head for the front pew during the singing of the invitation hymn. As a preteen boy, then as a teen, I spent a lot of time on that front pew, having the congregation pray for my “restoration”. It was so self-defeating, saved on Sunday, lost from Monday on.

Conscious of how often I would make the trek to the front, I began to think “what’s the point”, I am a bad person. I obviously have no self-control I would think because I spend the vast majority of my time standing on the trapdoor to hell. You can’t go up front every week, if I was there as often as I needed to be I would be getting my mail there. So I began to be comfortable with being lost most of the time, and I would actually wish that I would die directly after going forward one day, I mean, if it didn’t happen that way, what were the odds of winding up in Heaven?

From where I stand now, it would be easy to look back at those folks and be angry with them for forgetting to mention the gift of Grace. But in truth, I think they were just the same as many other generations of religious before them, they thought they were doing what was right, they were holding to tradition. I am grateful to God that I was able to break from tradition and ask those hard questions, and that I turned back to the only place where “all” of the answers lie, The Bible. The problem with holding to tradition is that tradition makes us lazy, when we just keep doing what we’ve always done, then we stop thinking about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and God gets lost in our repetition. As followers of Christ, we don’t have the option of becoming lazy where God’s word is concerned, and we do have an obligation to make sure that what we tell others is true and accurate. There is only one way we can do that, and that is by studying God’s Word. Our relationship to God is a personal one, it is a One on one thing with God. Being misled because you chose to let someone else put their own spin on God’s Word without knowing it yourself is not acceptable, we must know what we believe, and we must know why we believe it. We will also be held to a higher level of accountability by God when we share our faith with others, this is an “incentive” for us to make sure that what we tell them is accurate and correct.

I know what it is like to walk around without hope, I know what it is like to feel dirty and worthless. I know what it is like to “know” that you are going to hell no matter how hard you try to be good, and that on our best day, we still aren’t good enough to “earn” Heaven. I fail to understand how the wonderful message of Christ and His sacrifice for us can be missed when we all read the same Bible, but somehow it does. And that is why I write this blog, because I want to do everything I can to tell people the good news, that you don’t have to walk around in hopelessness as I did. That you don’t go in and out of salvation daily and that God knows what we face, and that is why He gave us the gift of His Son, because He knows it is not possible for us to tow the line. We needed help, we needed a “get out of hell free card”, and that card is crimson, that card is Jesus blood. I want people to know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have the gift of eternal life”. He loves us that much!

So that is why I write what I do, because I want you to know what I know, that God loves us. The decision to follow Christ is a decision that only “you” can make, but I hope if you have read my blog that it will encourage you in that direction, to make that decision. While I sometimes write short fiction stories, make no mistake, they are not written to entertain you, they were written with the purpose of causing you to think, ask questions, and seek answers. I love God, and I love you, and I want you to have the opportunity to know the peace inside that God has blessed me with. The word “hope” of salvation has never really done it for me, in my mind failing to capture my true thoughts. “Anticipation” of salvation is more like it, confident in the power of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s promise. Hope has a question mark attached to it, and I have spent too much of my life stumbling around in the gray area already. There are no question marks attached to God’s promise as I know it, so rejoice in the anticipation of our final resting place. Rejoice in knowing that you are bought and paid for, rejoice in knowing where you will spend your eternity, “if” you will only accept Gods gift of His Son.

God Bless-JFT

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“If you never allow yourself to get into a position where you need to be rescued, then God does not have the opportunity to perform a miracle in your life”. ~The Holy Spirit, whispered to me, 2011.

The three men looked at one another and were calm. There was no temptation to give in to the king’s demands, so they simply replied to him the following.

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I imagine these bold men, Heroes of the Bible to me, and I picture them unsheathing the sword of truth and holding it high, knowing they were drawing a line in the sand before a very powerful and proud king. They had made their stand, there was no more talking needed, the fires were stoked, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot it killed even those who threw them in. But they had something else when they went into that furnace; they had the shield of God. The shield of God is something that comes when you wield the sword of truth and take a stand for what is right, prepared to face the consequences. They didn’t know that they would live through the furnace, but they knew that God was with them. This is one of the Bible stories that sends chills up my spine because had they just given in and bowed before the idol, this would have all been a non issue.

Challenges to our faith, to honesty and integrity still come to us regularly, and if we choose to not take a stand and do what is right, God doesn’t get to perform a miracle in your life, as he did with Daniel and the lions, David and Goliath, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I have been reading a lot lately about faith, and I believe the trust that all of these Bible heroes showed in God was rooted in their deep faith. I truly believe God still performs miracles like those above in today’s world, but we have to trust in Him, we have to be willing and able to un-sheath the sword of truth and hold it high in His name, and then the shield of God will appear in your other hand, and you will fear no more.

I have worked at the same job for almost twenty-two years, and in the last year, I have been “told” to submit reports daily that I feel are less than honest. This is the first time in over two decades that I have ever been told to do something I feel is not right. It first began around last Thanksgiving, and my superiors were hostile when I questioned doing it. You see, it was their boss, a new manager who had started it, and they were afraid to make waves. Long about late February, after much prayer, discussion with my wife, pastor, friends, I made a decision. I had to stand for the right.

I went three levels up, to the new managers boss, and calmly told him that I would not be doing it anymore. I explained that I am a Christ follower, and that I knew that what I was being told to do was not right, and I was willing to leave my job over it, it was a moral issue to me. I felt a sense of peace come over me; I knew God was going to take care of me either way as I drew my line in the sand. The manager calmly told me that he would get with “legal” and have the report changed so that I was comfortable with it. And he did, right had triumphed, and I felt the shield of God surround me warmly.

When we work in a secular world, we sometimes work for people who are accepted as good, decent honest people, yet their moral character is different than ours. They are willing to fudge the numbers, or tell a little white lie on a report and they don’t feel the moral dilemma about it that we as Christians do, such is the case with the young new manager I work with. As time passed, this same issue came up again, although in a slightly different scenario, and once again, I was being told to report falsely. Even my peers this time told me I shouldn’t make waves, it isn’t that big of a deal, just let it go and sign on the dotted line. Exasperated, I returned to the same place I did before, first God, then spouse, and friends and pastor for counsel. The answer was the same, I would rather live in a shack and have a clean conscience that compromise what I know is right for worldly security.

I was calm as I went to work on the fourth of July, and wrote an e-mail to a man I have never emailed before, the man who manages all of the power plants in my company and requested a meeting. I was confident as I walked into the office to meet with this man, because I knew that I had the shield of God around me, and I was wielding the sword of truth. I started the meeting by informing this man that I was a follower of Christ, and that Jesus guides my heart and mind, and that I know what I am being told to do is wrong. I explained to him that I was willing to let it all go for this one issue. He sat and listened, and then he agreed with me that it wasn’t the right thing to do. He assured me that this would all be taken care of as we stood and shook hands. Once again, the shield of God surrounded me.

When I told my friends the story of how this had ended, they told me I was gutsy and brave, that I had stood up in the face of persecution. My reply was that I have never been persecuted, people in China, North Korea, Columbia, Egypt, Iran and many others face persecution, I just stood up for what was right.

The shield of God is an amazing thing, the knowledge that you are being steered and guided by Him, the creator of the universe. Refuse to compromise what you know is right, draw a line in the sand and take a stand for what you believe, and you too will feel this amazing power. If God is for us, who can be against us?

God Bless-JFT

This is a true story

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She was in the corner on her knees facing the wall, her body shaking and heaving with each sob. I couldn’t help but glance over at her after I had prayed with a man whose wife had just filed for divorce. After he stood, I told him he was welcome to stay as long as he would like, and he shook his head and nodded toward the woman. Someone needs help more than I do.

After he left, she rose and walked toward me as I greeted her and asked her if there was something I could pray with her about. She glanced nervously out through the large glass windows that overlook our overflow room at church. When someone would walk by she would quickly turn her head away and down so that she could not be seen. She was constantly shaking and sobbing, and I must admit I cannot remember a time when I felt more helpless.

As I tried to talk to her, she kept looking over her shoulder to make sure no-one she knew had noticed her in this room. She was desperate, her marriage of twenty five years was in danger, she had lost a job, and they were foundering financially. Her husband held her responsible for their financial woes, and she was at the end of her rope. As she recalled the story over and over again in rapid fire desperation, her demeanor was that of a wounded animal, and my heart was filled with compassion.

She then told me that she had gone to church here for twenty years, and knew a lot of people, but in a church our size, you can still get lost in the crowd. The reason she kept looking over her shoulder was because she was afraid someone she knew would see her in the prayer room and tell her husband. I tried to encourage her that it doesn’t matter what people think, it only matters what God thinks, but she found no solace in my assurances. She was desperate for spiritual rescue, yet afraid someone would see her in her weakness and think less of her, and pass that on to her spouse.

She went on to detail that she wanted to go to counseling because they were going through this hard time, and her husband told her that they would not be baring their dirty laundry to anyone, they would settle it on their own. She would not even tell me her first name, so I did the best thing I knew how to do, pray. We prayed for her family for all they hard times they were experiencing. We prayed that God would mend their family and give her the peace and comfort that surpasses all understanding, the peace that only Jesus Christ can provide. As I closed with Amen, she turned without another word and left out the door immediately blending with the crowd further down the way, once again lost in anonymity. Almost….

The One who counts knows her name, and she will never be anonymous to Him. As I left and went home, I felt really troubled by the experience though. God is my strength, He is my shelter, and I know I can always go to Him and find refuge. But the church should also be a refuge. The people of the church, not the building. I cannot fathom feeling so desperate and afraid of my fellow followers of Christ. I know there are other issues at play here, but I believe we all need to have a “safe place” to go to where we will be loved and not be judged. In the song Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns  I feel the same message being proclaimed.

Stained Glass Masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

*Chorus*
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is CONVINCING
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

Chorus x2

Well if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

I guess the question is, is church a “safe place” for you? Do you make it a safe place for others?

God Bless-JFT

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We have been meeting in secret for months now, six to be exact. The other villagers think we may have crossed over to “the Way”, but they are not certain. We meet in the huts with the white men in the middle of the night, reading the words of “the way” by candlelight so as not to provoke suspicion. There are seventeen of us who have seen the light. We have discovered the truth after so many years of reciting the satanic manuscripts, agreeing with people who told stories of killing the infidels to the glory of Allah. Now we gain our strength through the stories that the white men tell us. There are also others from our village who have followed “the Way” privately, who have become learned at the scriptures, and they help us to understand in a way that the white men can’t. They study diligently to become proficient in the verses so they can spread stories of “The Christ Man” to villages far and wide. We used to only have hate and hypocrisy, now we have love for one another. We meet each other’s needs regularly now, and show kindness to all.
We have set out as a group of seventeen tonight. There are two of our village pastors that will be meeting us outside the village near the large stand of trees. No lights of any kind are allowed, no talking as we move through the bush. After moving silently toward the rendezvous, we will meet up with the others near the small brook a kilometer outside the village. My son and daughter are so happy to be going to the river to openly profess their commitment, they have a sack with white robes inside that they want to wear when they arise from the water. They wanted to wear the robes on the journey, but it is too dangerous, there are still roving bands of killers who are just lying in wait for a group like ours.
We are at the trees now, under the canopy nearest the side where the branches droop to the ground, taking cover. Our village pastors were a little late, but then we pushed on to the brook to meet the other villagers. After confirming the coast was clear, we moved on toward the river.  We walked in silence by the brook, the babbling water giving us cover of noise. For a while we do not have to worry so much about snapping a twig under foot. The cool air near the brook refreshed us, some stopped to drink deeply of its fruits, sating our thirst. Then we travelled on, nearing the river, and not long until sunrise.
The river is slow moving, this is the place we come as a family to swim on warm summer days. We bring food and several families will spend the day lying on the grass under the trees, enjoying the cool breeze. This is where my wife and I would come to sit beneath the trees when we were courting, planning of our life together. Tonight, it is where we will be immersed in Baptism for remission of sins, an outward expression of our inward faith. We are all so happy, yet somber at the same time, reflecting on the sacrifice that was made that we may know salvation. My wife and I delight in the knowledge that our children will know “The Christ Man” Now, instead of later in life like us, how much better their lives will be for it, knowing “The Way” now. My son wants to be a pastor, like Umar the villager. Umar found “The Way” several years ago and takes great risks to spread the Word far and wide. Umar is now taking the first of us into the river, the sky is getting light in the east as he immerses the first few. As one after another of our brothers and sisters comes out of the water, we embrace. We are forever joined in eternity as children of the living God. Now twelve of us have gone, and soon my son and daughter go, my heart is singing. Next my wife, my best friend, my lover goes, as tears of joy flood my eyes. Now it is I, the last to go, and then I am immersed. I feel so light and perfectly spotless as I arise from the water. I embrace with my family, my friends, my relatives, we are one.
There is noise at the shore, I look and see Sani and his men at the shore, they wait with angry expressions showing in the early morning light. They are silent, they just stare as we begin wading toward the shore, our  son and daughter dressed in their white robes, look like angels as the sun breaks the horizon. Sani and his men shout curses at us and wave their machetes at us, commanding us to curse “the Way” or die. Umar the pastor is the first to reach them, he holds his arms out and looks beyond them as they slaughter him in cold blood. Next comes my sister and her two girls, they calmly walk toward Sani’s men and are cut down like the stalks of sugar cane we harvest. My friends and family are crying gently as go forth, leaving this world for the Promised Land as they bravely walk forward. As I look at my wife, son, and daughter, I see their sweet faces and feel the impending pain of our loss from this world, calmness surrounds me, and then I see Him. Beyond Sani and his men, “The Christ Man” awaits, a smile of love and warmth on his face, but also of pain and sorrow, sorrowful of what awaits us, but rejoicing for us that we will soon be with him. As my wife reaches Sani, she looks back to me, and her face reflects a peace that surpasses all understanding, then she crosses over and stands with “The Christ Man”. My daughter reaches Sani’s captain, then over his shoulder I see her Jump into the arms of her heavenly father, my son then steps up to one of Sani’s soldiers, and bravely stands his ground, as the coward sends him to stand to the right of his heavenly father. They are all wearing the robes now, whiter than ever, my friends and family standing behind the marauding killers. But they are not sad, they are all grinning, some are beconing me, laughing, and “The Christ Man” is now grinning ear to ear, waving me on. As I reach Sani, I reach out, place my hand on his shoulder, and give it a squeeze and tell him it is okay, I forgive him. He backs up, has a look of horror on his face at what would make a man who has just lost his family say something like that, then his face changes back to the Sani I know, and finishes it for me. I look around, and “The Christ Man” is with me now, he places his arms around me and says, come go with me to meet my father now. And all of us begin the journey together, the journey of a lifetime, in a place of eternal Bliss.
Sani and his men throw our remains into the current of the river, there will be nothing to show what happened here. As he and his men start back into the bush, he thinks for a moment about Manase and what he said in the end. How could a man, albeit an infidel, forgive the killer of his children, the killer of his friends, the killer of his wife? Allah offers no peace like the peace in the eyes of Manase as he walked to his slaughter. I know to think such thoughts are an affront to Allah, but Allah rewards killing the infidel, but does not offer peace to those who are going into slaughter. Sani will think of this later when away from the others, Sani will have to consider this more deeply, find the secret to their peace. As he plunders their belongings, he finds a small book which he immediately pockets. He will look at it tonight in the privacy of his hut.

God Bless

JFT

This ficticious story was inspired by real events that occurred in Jos Nigeria in early 2010

(Previously posted but re-edited)

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