My sin and the power of the Gospel!

Posted February 16, 2012 by Carlos
Categories: Christian

This morning I sinned.

Suffice it to say that I may have been impatient, may have lusted in my heart, gotten angry, or said an unkind word to someone. I may have been judgmental or self-righteous. Perhaps I pouted in the presence of God and grumbled against him over my morning doughnut not being as good as I am used to.

For purposes of this post it matters little what my sin was.

Like all of you reading this post I suffer from a weak flesh. Meaning that I am all too prone to fall into some sin that gets the best of me at times.

Intentionally chosen sin. Where I knew that the Lord was displeased with what I was falling into but where I did it anyway.

Perhaps you can relate to that.

But this post is not about my sin as much as it is about the power, real power, of the Gospel.

I want the Lord to use my experience of today to help others who find themselves falling into sin and who like me might fall into the further sin of self-condemnation.

You see after my sin I felt unworthy of being called a Christian. While you may think that such a feeling might be the product of some horrendous sin of a kind that would prompt such self-loathing, in the eyes of the world, it’s no big deal. But that is how I felt.

I know something of the holiness of God and any sin, however insignificant in the eyes of others, matters to God.

So there I was feeling unworthy of being called by His fair name. Walking down the street beating up on myself with my head in the gutter so to speak.

For some reason, unlike at other times when I have chosen to fall into some sin, it dawned on me that I was no more worthy today than I was on the day I gave my life to the Lord and became a Christian.

In my natural self, that I am indeed utterly unworthy and that I will always be unworthy of calling myself a Christian. You read that right. In my natural self.

But the Lord did not call me through the Gospel to be His because I am worthy.  He called me through the Gospel to be His because He loves me!!  He saw my need for forgiveness and drew me to Himself through the Gospel message for no other reason than that He wanted to.  I was lost in sin and wandering aimlessly in the realm of self-righteousness until God broke through to my hardened heart and made me His own.

As I walked along to the McDonald’s that I frequent, where I get my morning cup of coffee, I asked the Lord in view of His love having reached out to save me through the Gospel, to speak to me through my bible reading (I look forward to reading the Word over a cup of coffee not the least of which is because the Lord almost invariably speaks to me through what I read).

And as usual He did!

Before I get into what He laid on my heart through my reading I want you to understand something.

What I am about to share with you is not just intellectual in scope.  It is much deeper than that.  It goes beyond the intellect to the core of my being.  What He said reached down to my spirit, captivated me, and held me to gaze upon Jesus all day long.

The sweet and wonderful presence of the Lord was with me all day long till this very minute.  His presence lifted me up and kept me up.  It allowed me to overcome my more normal reaction to the mundane activities of every day life where I get frustrated at having to do things that in and of themselves seem completely meaningless to me.  Sleeping, eating, taking a shower, walking to and from places, wandering around in the aisles of Walmart looking for just the right kind of garbage bag to help keep my stuff dry from the rain that has descended on the San Diego area.  The more my life is consumed by such activities the more frustrated I usually get.

Today I even had to stand under a bus shelter for who knows how long while waiting for the seemingly unending rain to stop or at least slow down enough to allow me to make it to the next overhang or place of dryness.   I normally hate having to “waste” time like that (though today I feasted, I mean FEASTED, in my spirit under that shelter as I prayed over what the Lord had laid on my heart and conversed with the Lord)!

You see I have always wanted to do something great with my life.  Yet I find myself in these, my later years in life, having accomplished little in both the Kingdom of God and even in the world.  Stuck in circumstances that I can’t seem to get out of.  Unable to break free into the usefulness that I have longed for.  Often wanting to die and be done with it rather having to endure another day of just surviving.

For me, personally, there is nothing worse than feeling stuck.  Of feeling that my life has little significance.  That there is no way out into a far more desirable plane of existence where I am having a massive impact in the lives of others.  Where I am significant.  Where I count for something.

I often feel like a has been.  Like life has passed me by.  Like I have made choices in life that have caused me to miss out.  Like I will, to the day of my death, be a man who desires to do far more with his life than he ever ends up accomplishing and who will go to his grave wondering what could have been.

Don’t get me wrong.  The Lord is in my life and often helps me overcome those feelings.  But they come nevertheless from time to time and it is a constant struggle for me to keep my head held high in Christ.  To look to Him and to be content in my relationship to Him.

Today…well, let’s just say there was no struggle about it.  It was relatively easy to walk in the Spirit.  I floated along, basking in His Presence with nary a passing evil thought lodging itself into my heart or spirit.   It was like there was a shield around my heart.

Let me now share with you what the Lord shared with me.  You are going to have to bear with me as I lay it out.  Perhaps you too, if you grasp the implications of what I share, will come to experience the Lord as I did today!

One of the first things that struck me was the following verse…

Mark 14:38

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  This is very similar to something else Paul said in Romans.

Romans 6:19 (NIV 1984)

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.

In Romans Paul had been speaking about how Christians have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (right doing and right thinking).   That though this is true that we do not always see this in our practice because we are so weak in our natural selves that we do not always end up walking triumphantly in the strength of God to be all that He says we have become in the spirit.

Practical and consistent holiness takes time to develop as we grow in our faith and learn to walk out what God says He has made us to be in the new birth.

With that in mind I kept reading. About the arrest of Jesus, His trial (if you can call it that), Peter’s betrayal, and ultimately His crucifixion.

After Jesus was crucified and was put in a tomb with a large stone rolled over the entrance…

Mark 16:1

…Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. … when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.

What particularly struck me about this passage was this.

The women were looking for Jesus in the natural. Their eyes were focused on the natural body of Jesus. A body that had been crucified and that had died.

But, and this is key, the natural body of Jesus was no longer where they expected His body to be. He had been raised from the dead and was no longer there!

Let me ask you…and I am speaking to those of you who are believers and not just Christian in name only, what happened to us when we became Christians?

2 Timothy 2:11

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

Romans 6:5

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We died with Jesus on that cross!!

Let me say that again. We, that is to say our natural selves, that part of us which is the natural self without the Spirit, the seat of indwelling sin and sinful tendencies, died on the cross with Jesus.

It died!

Dead.

Dead as a door nail.

Ever seen a dead, lifeless body? That’s us on the cross.

But that’s not all. What is true of Jesus in His resurrection is true of us as well.

We shared in His death on the cross that we might share in His life. Not that we might share in His life only in the end but also in the present!

Romans 6:10-11 [Amplified Bible]

For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all; and the life that He lives, He is living to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him].

Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.

The biggest single hindrance to our walk with God is NOT, NOT, NOT that we fall into sin!! It is that we do not see ourselves as in Him at all times.

We are in fact in Him at all times! What is true of Jesus is true of us. Read the verses above for yourselves again, carefully. I am not making this up.

We have standing with God at all times because of Jesus. We never lose that standing any more than Jesus can lose it!

We are righteous before God our Father because of Jesus. We can never be condemned as sinners any more than Jesus can be condemned as such any longer.

He was condemned once for all time on the cross never to be condemned again!

What is true of Him is true of us in Him.

Just before Jesus died on the cross He cried out…

Mark 15:34 [Amplified Bible]

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?–which means, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me [ deserting Me and leaving Me helpless and abandoned]?

The cry of Jesus to His Father asking why He had been forsaken was not a cry of unbelief. An expression of feeling that He was abandoned as a result of a lack of faith on His part.

It was an expression of fact. God the Father had indeed forsaken Him when He became our sin offering and took our place on that cross and before God. He became everything that was displeasing to God. He became unclean. Like filthy rags in eyes of God the Father.

He became unfit to be God’s Son!

He became the unworthy one that I often feel myself to be! Do you get it?

He became our shame. Our self-loathing. Our self-disgust. Our sense of failure. Our foolishness.

That we might become all of Him. All that is best in Him through the new birth.

We traded the rags of our sinfulness for His spotless perfection. He became poor that we might become rich in Him. He suffered separation from God the Father that we might never have to suffer that separation ourselves.

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

He is the key to the Christian life!

We will never enter in the fullness of what we are meant to be in Him if like the women who went to the tomb that day, we continue to look at our natural selves and only our natural selves. If we continue to focus on that which our natural self does in our continued sinning.

We are no longer here!

We have instead been raised in Christ to be with Him at the right hand of God the Father. Like Jesus then we have risen from the dead in Him and have been raised up with Christ to be seated with Him in the heavenly realms.

Colossians 3:1-3 [NIV 1984]

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

I have died. There is no longer anything unworthy about calling myself a Christian. The me that was indeed unworthy died with Christ when He died. I died in Jesus. I was on that cross with Him. Suffering what He suffered in my place that I might never have to endure the wrath of God on my sin. God dealt with Jesus as He would have dealt with me if Jesus had not offered Himself for me, in my place.

This is what made a huge difference to me today.

I am significant in Him. What is true of Him is true of me.

I no longer live but He lives in me. He is me as much as I have become Him. United in spirit. One with Him as He is one with the Father.

John 17:22-23

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I can rest in who I have become in Him. I can let Jesus carry me along as He walks along through me. Doing what He may will to do.

I can see through His eyes, sense His heart, open myself to being all of Him in complete surrender to who He is in me.

This not some crazy theory. It is fact.

And if today is any indication it is also the way to greater holiness and peace. Consistent joy in the spirit.

Anything less than all of Him in all of me is less than all that He wants to be in me.

I feasted in the heavenly realm today. I rode with Jesus in the chariot of His triumphal procession. I tasted a side of heaven on Earth that is the destiny of every Christian. A fullness that can only be had in Him.

All of Him in all of me.

And all of me in Him.

As it was meant to be.

Carlos

PS.  I do not claim to have as full of an understanding as one can have in any of this so if you see something that you consider to be less than Scriptural in what I have said or have anything to add to what I said please feel free to speak up and let us know your thoughts on the matter.

TSA security measures are almost entirely useless at protecting us!

Posted December 22, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Observations on the News

That’s the conclusion of Bruce Schneier, one of America’s top security experts in an excellently written and well thought article -> http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/12/tsa-insanity-201112#

We are dooped into believing that the U.S. is actually protecting us by all the money and all the measures that are put into place by the TSA.  I mean that’s got to count for something right?

Wrong!

Bruce cuts through the facade and reveals the truth.  That all the TSA’s horses and all the TSA’s men cannot keep us from being attacked all over again (a take off from the Humpty Dumpty rhyme)! 

Read the article!

Carlos

I pray to break a potential curse in a man’s life and share a paraphrased Gospel with a student friend

Posted December 21, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Christian

I want to start blogging about opportunities that the Lord gives me to share something of Him with others. 

It may encourage others to make use of similar opportunities presented to them as well as remind me of the various opportunities the Lord has given me which I might otherwise forget about. 

With rare exception I do not set out to share something of God with others on purpose (though the Lord has been leading me to consider doing this more often).  Rather, as a result of Jesus being a natural part of my life and my being open about his role in my life, opportunities present themselves for me to share something of God with others as I otherwise interact with them in everyday settings.  At the gym, at the Library, on the buses and trolleys, at homeless feeds I go to, at McDonald’s, in short anywhere I am interacting with others.

Today is an example of both an opportunity that I purposely set out in my heart to create if it did not present itself naturally and one which occured with no initiative on my part to speak of Jesus to another. 

The former was with a college student who has become a good friend.  I have been wanting to share more about Jesus with him for some time but the timing never seemed right.  Today I prayerfully determined to make the sharing of Jesus with him a purposeful priority in our get together as there existed the possibility that I might not have quality times to share much with him in the future (as he gets super busy with studies again after the Christmas break).

I had indeed shared something of Christ with him in the past but it had always been spotty and incomplete.

I purposely initiate to share the Gospel

While eating together at Hometown Buffet I purposely initiated to share the Gospel with him as the opportunity presented itself to talk about spiritual things (I can’t remember what was said but the Lord opened the door for me to say something to him about God which led into a natural opportunity to inquire further about his beliefs). 

I presented the Gospel to him in paraphrased form (as it just didn’t seem right for me to whip out my Bible and have him read various verses).  I simply talked out the thoughts contained in the various verses I would have shared with him.  That Jesus was God, that He died and rose from the dead, that He paid the penalty for our sins and took our place, and what faith in Him was about. 

It went very well.  We talked about many other things and continued to hang out together as we went to McDonald’s afterwards to enable me to get much needed coffee as I was starting to fall asleep while talking due to not having slept very long last night. 

Successful Socialism in the early Church!

While at McDonald’s I had even further opportunity in that our conversation had turned to talking about the failure of Socialism in our world.  I took the opportunity to open my little Bible and have him read a few verses about the only occurence in history that I am aware of where Socialism actually worked!  The early church.

Acts 2:44 (NIV)

All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Acts 4:32 (NIV)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

That this success of socially loving practice was based on the inclusion of God into the mix and that apart from His Presence that any attempt at true socialism was doomed to failure as the sinful nature rose up through pride, selfishness, greed, and otherwise to cause problems.

We had a wonderful time together and we agreed to get together again tomorrow and even on Christmas Day to  do things together as he is by himself at this time of year and doesn’t have much to do during the Christmas break.

Later on I had a need to write to a client of mine that a win/win working arrangement that we had discussed and tentatively agreed on was not going to be realistically possible, at least this month (I won’t go into the details other than to say that it was not my fault). 

That meant that I would make less this month than I had thought I would.

The Lord, the ever faithful Provider

But as ever, the Lord knew ahead of time that I would need money to come in through some other source and sure enough a gentlemen who had volunteered on his own initiate to let me use his address to get checks at told me of a check that he had received!  It was like the Lord was letting me know in no uncertain terms to not worry about what I had written to the one client and that He was in control and able to provide for me through one source of money as well as through any other source.  That He was the provision and I needed to put my hope in Him and not any one particular client, bank account balance, or otherwise.

When it came time for me to walk with this gentlemen to his car where he had my check and get it from him…he asked me to pray for him about a potential curse in his life with a view to breaking any such curse.  When we got to his car I told him that the Lord’s protection over a person is contingent on that person surrendering themselves to God by faith in Jesus (in response to something he had said) but that even such does not guarantee that nothing bad will happen and after talking about that a bit with him I proceeded to ask him if I could lay my hands on him and pray over him whatever the Lord impressed on my heart to pray for him.  Right there, in the parking structure, openly, and in plain sight of anyone passing by.

I pray to break a curse!

He agreed to let me do that, I laid my hand on his shoulder, and proceeded to pray whatever I felt led to pray for him.  The thought of someone passing by and thinking we were two homosexuals or doing something odd (I mean how many men lay their hand on another and hold it there?) passed my mind but I quickly dismissed that possibility as I focused on praying whatever was on my heart to pray for him.

It was a good prayer!  Not supportive of him as a potential unbeliever but also not condemning.  I prayed in the name of Jesus against any curse in his life as an expression of God’s mercy and whatever else came into my mind as appropriate given what he had wanted prayer about.

He thanked me from the heart after which I left him, encouraged that the Lord had given me such wonderful opportunity today.  An opportunity to assertively and proactively share with my student friend and a totally unexpected opportunity that presented itself to me naturally.

Carlos

At the gates of hell reaching out to the lost!

Posted December 19, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Christian

Yesterday, a Sunday…while the Church as a whole sat in their buildings and heard yet another sermon on what God’s Word says, sang some more wonderful songs, and undoubtedly had some nice doughnut fellowship afterwards…some Christians took the road of Jesus.  The road less travelled by and boldly went before the unbelievers to proclaim God’s truth that they need to repent and turn their lives over to God.

Though outnumbered a thousand to one, like King David before Goliath these Christians went in the strength of their Lord and took the battle to the enemy. 

Satan’s minions shook at the sight of the Christians taking their stand and raising high the signs on which they had written choice words from God calling the lost to turn from their wicked ways and come to God. 

I was priveleged to be among them!

I had gone there to find out more about them.  To inquire further as to their methods with a view to taking the best of what I learned and applying it together with others in San Diego.   Just one day before I had “bumped” into some of these Christians and had stopped to talk to them, the Lord had laid on my heart the idea of holding up signs with verses together with others all over San Diego.

I had also wanted to ask them about their beliefs in the hope of being reassured that these Christians were not some wackos out to point fingers and do little more than condemn the unbelievers in a spirit that decidedly was not loving or Christian.

After a while spent asking questions and otherwise talking with one of them, I felt comfortable enough in who they were to start holding a sign myself…which I did. 

Holding that sign for Jesus was intimidating!

Until I held that sign myself…my interaction with them had mostly been through the intellect.  Asking questions, hearing responses, making statements.  But when I held that sign for the first time before hundreds and hundreds of people streaming into Qualcomm Stadium to watch a Charger’s game…something happened.   In my heart.   I plunged into putting what I had perceived by my intellect into practice. 

I didn’t stop to analyze what I was doing.  I didn’t think it carefully through.  I didn’t even stop to “pray about it” as the Christians are so prone to do when they don’t want to do something…I just did it!

And I kept that sign in my hands despite the intimidation.  Despite the feeling of being exposed before hundreds and hundreds of people as a Christian doing what many undoubtedly considered a rather Jesus freakish thing to do. 

A little later I returned the sign and left the Christian I had been with to continue around the Stadium to find the Jesus sign holder that I had previously met and had come out to see.   I shall call him J.

I saw J’s sign before I ever saw him (the crowd was rather thick around where he was).  As I made my way through the crowd and drew nearer to where he was I noticed that a young man (who could not have much older than 10 or 12 years old) was preaching out loud through a mega phone next to him.   Turns out that was his son.

I came up and stood with them while J held the sign and his son preached through a mega phone.

A whole host of demons seemed to enter the people

During the time I was with them, a whole host of demons seemed to enter the people around us who started taunting and otherwise harrassing us.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

At one point I offered to hold the sign for J and allow him a little break though no break was to be had. 

A woman came up to his son and started asking questions of his son in a half drunken accusatory manner not one foot from his son’s face!  J of course came near the woman and asked her to back off after which she turned on him and directed her tirade at him.

Others, grown men, in front or in back of us, stooped down on bended knee and did what has come to be known as the Teebow bow (Teebow being a quarterback who has been very open about his faith and who kneels on the field after a touchdown and otherwise).   They weren’t doing that out of respect for God’s truth or acknoweledging Him.  It was a thing of mockery. 

One man brushed past me and bumped me as he kept walking!

Still others yelled out comments mocking God and what we were doing.

One woman verbally lambasted J for letting his son do his preaching for him (never mind that his son was doing that voluntarily and of his own free will). 

Another one stopped and asked us a trick question about whether God answers every prayer in a rather obvious attempt to trip us up depending on our answer.

At one point a man dressed in some kind of funny looking leotard lay on the concrete barrier directly in front of us while others took photographs of him lying there before the Jesus freaks in the background holding up sings with verses.

Mockery, insults, taunts, even a physical bump of my person all for doing nothing more than holding up a sign with a couple of verses and a young man speaking out a verse or two he had memorized. 

The verses that talk about how men love darkness and hate the light came to life before my very eyes as I continued standing with J and his son. 

John 3:19

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

John 15:21

They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Do not think for one minute that we were doing anything worthy of the taunts, insults, and otherwise that came our way.  They hated Jesus without reason (John 15:25) and they will likewise hate us as Christians.   For no reason.

After the sign holding at Qualcomm I was invited to where these Christians are staying and joined them for dinner where I got to hear more from them about their experiences, where they are from, what they believe, and a fantastic testimony from one of them of how he became a Christian, turning from a life of radical and all out sin to serve the Living God. 

Most of these Christians have come from Japan to actually help evangelize the U.S! 

Back in the days just after WWII Douglas McArthur apparently sent out notice to missionary societies that Japan was wide open for missionaries with the result that a bunch came to Japan.

The Christians I was with yesterday are the children or grandchildren of that first wave of missionaries.  Coming back to the land of their forefathers to help win the present generation to Christ.

May the Lord watch over and guide my fellow sign holders for Jesus into the fullness of His will for each of their lives and bless their day off today as they get some undoubtedly needed rest and recreation.

May the Lord raise up a hundred others to join together to raise up banners for Jesus on every street corner in San Diego!  To His greater honor and glory and for the greater progress of the Gospel in this sin hardened, wicked city.

Carlos

Words from a man who knows he is about to die!

Posted December 16, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Christian

Tags: , , , ,

When a man is about to die what he says, assuming that he has some time before his actual death and that he choses to focus on the truly significant things in life, should be taken seriously as words that can teach us a thing or two about how to live.

Paul the Apostle (from the Bible) was one such man.   He knew that his death was drawing near and told Timothy as much when he said “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6 in the Bible).

A drink offering was a drink, like wine for example, that was poured out as a part of a sacrifice to God in the Old Testament.  Paul used this symbolism to describe how his life had been poured out in sacrificial service to God.

The end was near and Paul knew it!

As I read 2 Timothy this morning the Lord really touched my heart through some of what I read and I wanted to share some of those things with you all.   Tears welled up in my eyes through much of what I read as I sat at McDonald’s taking in what the Lord was touching my heart with. 

One of the first things Paul told Timothy, and again keep in mind that Paul knows that he is not going to be around much longer so his words are carefully chosen to pass along the most important things to Timothy, is the following:

2 Timothy 1:7-8

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

What was the reason that prompted Paul to remind Timothy?  The sincere faith in Timothy’s heart (2 Timothy 1:5). 

Because of Timothy’s sincere faith Paul felt led to remind him to fan into flame the gift of God’s Spirit that lived inside Timothy.

That spoke to me in that I too, as a Christian, along with every other Christian have the Spirit of the Living God living inside me.  A real being.  A Spirit that has entered into me from God and that empowers me as a Christian to live a life pleasing to God. 

That we Christians are to fan into flame the gift of His Spirit within us.  Instructions to fan into flame that gift imply and make clear that the gift of the Spirit can be quenched and even made to lie dormant if we do not continually attend to keeping it alive as a fire within our lives.

Not being ashamed of Jesus!

And how did Paul instruct Timothy (and us through those instructions) to fan Him into flame?  By not being ashamed of the testimony of God! 

By having a willingness to be ostracized and otherwise excluded as a Jesus freak or otherwise by those who we share God with. 

Even as I wrote this I had an opportunity, as I often do, to share something of God with another.  The person next to me on another computer, whom I have gotten to know as we have sat next to each at the computers here over time, asked me what the little black book that I had on the table was.  I had a chance to share that it was a Bible and he in turn shared that he was a Buddhist.  The Spirit laid it on my heart to share something with him as a result and I plunged forward by faith to open my mouth and share with him what had been laid on my heart to say to him.

That the Christian faith was an exclusive faith, as different from Buddhism and every other religious system of belief, in that Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can come to God except through Jesus.

Mind you I said it in a perfectly natural way and the reaction of my friend was a testament to the winsome way I said it in that he did not take it wrongly at all and even started to ask me about this post as to what I was writing about.   Sharing with me that many of his friends were Christians and otherwise engaging me a bit more regarding Christian things (though we also went on to talk about sports and other things).

My point is that by acting to say what the Spirit was laying on my heart to say to this man and not being ashamed of being associated with Jesus, that such helped fan the fire of the Spirit within me.  If I do that enough I will achieve a level of burning passion for the things of God in my life that will  result in a life, like Paul’s, of burning out for God with the fire of His Spirit burning brightly through my life.

We are all to do that! 

Do not be ashamed of Jesus in your life!  Speak openly of Him as naturally as you might speak of a beloved spouse or wonderful child. 

I do not mean to say that we are to go around blurting out the name of Jesus at every chance we get just because.  That would just be obnoxious at worst and downright annoying to others at best.  But if the Spirit of God prompts you to say something to another…say it!  Better to say something and be proven wrong respecting the leading of the Spirit than to hesitate at every turn and say nothing.  You can always apologize for the former while the latter way of constantly hesitating will lead you to miss opportunities that God has ordained and brought into our lives to reach out to others through us.

One doesn’t always need to be prompted by the way.  We should speak as openly about God’s involvement in our lives as we might speak about the involvement of anyone else in our lives.  Not hiding the fact that God is there and interacting with us but also not blowing people away with the mention of Jesus’s name every chance we get.

Lack of support even from genuine Christians

Another thing that struck me in what Paul said were his statements that “…everyone in the province of Asian has deserted me…” (2 Timothy 1:15), that “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10), and that “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” (2 Timothy 4:16) . 

As much as we might like to think that all the people who profess to be Christians will support us as we go all out to live for God, doing things His way, the fact of the matter is that if Paul and Jesus’s lives are any indication, that there will be times when many if not most will actually oppose what God is wanting to do through our lives.

People, especially those who profess to be Christians but are not, are naturally inclined to be resistant to God. 

A life that cuts across their natural inclination, as ours should if we are a living testament to how one should live for God, will incur disdain if not outright persecution. 

At times, as happened in Paul’s life, even true believers will turn their backs on what God is doing in and through us.  They will get deceived or otherwise fall into not supporting whom God wants to use or otherwise work through.

That’s just the way it is folks!  If you want to live for God, I mean truly live for Him, you have a choice to make.  Either live for God and suffer loss in this world or gain all that you can in this world and suffer the a lack of real relationship with God in your life.

You cannot be a real Christian and have real relationship with a Living God if you are not willing to give your life in service to Him.  If you are not willing to do that your profession of Christ is a sham.  A superficial thing that brings shame on His name and adds strength to the cry of many an unbeliever that the Christians are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites! 

In the case of following God you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God!  If you are a friend of God the world will hate you!  You will stand for righteousness when those around you want to be left alone to live in their sin.

And just as Jesus suffered abuse at the hands of those resistant to God’s ways you too will suffer. 

Who persecuted Jesus the most?  It was not the “sinners” but rather the religious leaders of his day.  The Pharasees and other Jewish leaders. 

Likewise you and I will suffer the most from those who profess to be Christians but whose lives demonstrate a hatred for God and His ways.  Who do not yield to God in how He wants things to be done, who do not walk by faith, and who will resist a genuine move of God’s Spirit in every way they can.

The outwardly religious have always been and will always be the greatest enemy of true believers whose desire in life is to be like Jesus in this world.

To summarize what I have said in this post based on what Paul told Timothy…

  • Christians can quench or fan into flame the gift of God’s Spirit that lives within them.
  • They fan the Spirit within them into flame by not being ashamed of Jesus in their interactions with others (there are other things that can be done of course but in context that is the primary way Paul encouraged Timothy to fan the Spirit into flame).
  • Living for God involves being misunderstood and at times, feeling abandoned by others to stand alone for God.
  • Christians should not be surprised by or stumble over the lack of support for doing things God’s way from genuine as well as false, outwardly professing Christians.

Carlos

Down to the wire but God provides…AGAIN!!

Posted December 9, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Christian, Homeless Experience

I have been down to the wire financially so many times…I’ve lost count and take it pretty much in stride these days in the sense that there is a settled sense within my heart that God will open a way.  Always.

That is not to say that I do not struggle to believe.  I still struggle at times.  Especially when I am down to the wire without seeing any possible way in which my needs could get met.

This was not one of those times as I have a client who is mailing me $50 through regular mail and $200 in hosting commissions (that I earned by referring clients to a great hosting company) coming to me within the next week or two.

But today…I am down to $12.36 cents in my bank account with exactly $1.01 in cash in my wallet.  A whopping $13.37!   Just enough to do laundry a couple of times before the end of the month and not much else.

No sweat…for God! 

A client, who has not given me any work in several months, contacted me today and wants help with something.  They are depositing $250 directly into my bank account today and pre-paying for 10 hours of work (I charge $25 per hour for web development work unless I give a fixed fee estimate). 

All in a day’s provision from God!  Praise God! 

Oh…and the signing for Jesus bro that I met yesterday might have some more work for me too! 

Me.  A homeless “bum” living outside in the bushes.   Too funny!   

Truth is that I am no bum and about the most conscientious, skilled, and trustworthy web developer one could hire though I do sleep in a tent as a homeless person (my clients all know that by the way and have no problem with it in view of the quality work I do for them).

But I am what I am because of God in my life and it is His favor granted to me through others that has enabled me to do any of this at all.  Apart from Him I would likely be just another homeless “bum” or worse yet a Pharasee type blown up by my own sense of self-importance, judging everyone around me, and arrogantly thinking that I am better than others and more worthy of eternal life based solely on my “good” life. 

Carlos

Standing on a street corner for Jesus!

Posted December 8, 2011 by Carlos
Categories: Christian, Personal

What is the greatest desire of my heart?

To be used up in the doing of His will! To give myself along with others to furthering His purposes in this life. To make the glory and wonder of His person known to others through our lives. To march shoulder to shoulder with other Christians into the greatest adventure of them all. Experiencing the Living God at work in and through our lives.

Ironically the greatest discouragement of my life is the very opposite of my greatest desires.

The greatest discouragement of my life has been and continues to be the lukewarmness and lack of faith among those who profess to be Christians around me in our North American culture.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket and the Christians sit around in their fancy church buildings singing some wonderful songs while enjoying dougnut fellowship after their services. Then they go home and enjoy their lives and their fellowship even more as they interact mainly with each other the rest of the week.

Jesus is out among the people but He has no hands, no feet, no mouth, but ours!!

If we do not speak out for Him and about Him to those around us…who will? I ask you…WHO WILL? If it not you WHO?

We talk up a storm about the reality of heaven and hell, of forgiveness, of the life to come, of the comfort of His Presence in our lives, of Jesus being alive, but we live as though these things are not true at all.

Paul said he believed and that therefore he spoke.

What do we believe? If our beliefs are to be seen by how we live and what we do in line with what we profess to believe…then most professing Christians don’t believe a word that comes out of their mouth!!

And the world rightly rejects what amounts to nothing more than just another religion.

Why should anyone give up their lives to a God whose professed followers do not give their all to?

That is the greatest source of discouragement to me! Bar none.

I want to get out there and reach the lost (I’ve done that by myself before but that is not the best). But Christians to do that with are nowhere to be found. I want to get involved in becoming the Body the Lord meant us to be but professing believers are more content to continue being the body of their own creation. Church leaders won’t let me join with others to be all that God might us to be.

But this post is not so much about what discourages me as much as it is about how the Lord is opening doors for me to potentially allow me to realize my deepest desires in Him.

But first…once again I have seen how short I fall in trusting God as I ought.

I am locked out of my Food Stamp card!

Yesterday was the day my food stamps were to start up again (whatever you may think about a Christian being on food stamps, consider this…there is a difference between someone who is abusing the system and milking it for every dollar they can get for free and those who, like me, are using the helping hand offered by the government to help them stand on their own two feet again. I am no different than those who get financial aid Pell grants, unemployment benefits, and otherwise. All these programs can indeed be abused but they also help greatly in times of need).

I had been told by the social worker who certified me as qualified for food stamps again (I had been using them a while back until I foolishly lost them by missing an re-certification appointment) that I could enter the PIN number for my food stamp card as often as needed to remember the PIN I had previously had.

I took them at their word and did just that. Entering PIN numbers hoping to remember the one I had previously used as often as I needed. Well, the truth is that after my third attempt failed…the card got locked and I could not access the benefits.

Very frustrating.

The greatest frustration was that as a result of the misinformation that I was given…another day would be wasted having to travel back and forth for hours to get to a church feed so that I could eat. Since losing food stamps I have had to literally spend 8 or 9 hours a day just to survive being homeless and to eat! I got trapped in a never ending cycle having to take time out of my day to be homeless with barely any time left to effectively get any work done!

Food stamps is a way out for me to be able to squeeze more time into my day in that I can go to the food store, buy food quickly, and then munch on that food for the rest of day at the Library while pursuing web development or other work.

This morning I decided to go to the food store on the chance that my card might have reset itself (which I was told would happen by the card company but where I was told by another social worker over the phone that I would have to go to an office and sit around waiting yet more hours for the card to be reset at a Food Stamp office).

Turns out the social worker was wrong once again (what’s with these social workers giving out wrong information??) and the card did indeed reset itself.

Before I got to the food store however I had to transfer between buses.

At the intersection where the transfer was to take place…

Some Christians were holding signs with verses

Please note that yesterday was the very day that the Lord seemed to lay on my heart the idea of doing that very thing with other Christians (assuming I could find any to do that with me) on the street corners of San Diego (along with the possibility of preaching the Gospel out loud on those same street corners)!

So to me…that was an unmistakeable sign from God that the misinformation I was given that led to me being locked out of Food Stamps was intended by Him to lead me to this very corner, on this very day. To meet these Christians and to pick their brains on what they were doing.

And pick their brains I did!

It was a great encouragement to me. I mean these guys are living all out for Jesus!! Giving their all. The way we ought to live.

The one I spoke with the most had done this type of thing by himself for nearly two years before others joined him!!

A great part-time job?

Aside from the great info I got on what they were doing this brother also told me of how he supports himself. A way that I may be able to do as well.

Essentially it involves working as a dummy helping to train U.S. soldiers by pretending to be Afghans and others in mock situations that mirror the kinds of encounters soldiers will have with real Afghans in Afghanistan.

I don’t want to get into the details of what this brother shared with me publicly here but essentially he works very few days a month doing the above, gets paid well, and involves himself in ministry work with others the rest of the month.

This next month he is heading to Brazil where he will hold up signs for Jesus again.

Signing for Jesus

That’s what he does.

What a wonderful way for the Lord to encourage my heart and what a wonderful way for me to potentially get some work that will allow me to make enough to provide fully for myself. Without food stamps!

I will be applying today.

Of course the Lord will have to provide me with a way to get to the “missions” but this brother knows of two others that would almost certainly be willing to give me rides so that need may be provided for already!

Truly…another circumstance that seemed to be no good and which seemed more in line with frustrating my desire to make good use of my days (through a lack of ability to use the Food Stamps I had been given and saving time thereby) turned out for the good!

I should have trusted the Lord to work all things out for the good instead of focusing the eyes of my heart on yet another day’s hours taken up trying to survive and get anything done while homeless.

The Lord knew that I needed to be at that street corner on this very day. I would not have been there had it not been for my Food Stamp card not working as I was headed early to test the card at the grocery store and from there, in the event it had not worked, to the Food Stamp office. He knew that I needed to hear what I was told and God knows I needed the encouragement of seeing with my own eyes some Christians stepping out of their comfort zone to be all that God wanted them to be. Out among the people and in this case on a street corner. Standing up for Jesus!

Jesus freaks one and all

I count myself blessed and honored to have stood there on that street corner as though I was one of them. Talking freely under a sign with God’s words emboldened as though on a flag. Standing for Jesus.

Throwing caution to the wind and not caring one whit about what others thought of me for doing so.

Doesn’t get much better than that!

Carlos