How A Widow Helped a Little Boy

When I was younger my dad told me that a particular widow always had ice cream sandwiches and coke at her house.  So once or twice a week I would stop by for a snack and a conversation. I wasn’t smart enough to figure out then that my dad had tricked me into regularly visiting Mrs. Robinson. As time drew on I went for the conversations more than for the sweets. God used my dad’s creativity and sweets to bless both Mrs. Robinson and me more than any gift he could have given either one of us.

widdow

As a little boy I never would have dared visit a widow from the church, but for ice cream sandwiches I’d knock on anyone’s door. I was a chatterbox back then, much like I am now, and would talk anyone’s ear off given the chance.  I also knew how to be polite and listen, especially when I was taking a bite out of a sweet treat. I was blessed to hear her talk about her life and how Jesus had walked with her through it all in the good and the bad.

I didn’t know it as a little boy, but I needed to hear how Jesus had helped her through the hard times. I needed to hear it and she needed to say it, because somehow in the saying, it reminded us both that Jesus was still there. What started out as ice cream sandwiches became worship. We didn’t sing songs. She didn’t break out any music. She just simply testified of what Jesus had done and maybe for the first time I saw someone who had a real relationship with God besides the people in my family.

Things changed, my family moved on, and we lost touch. But her life marked mine and I count her as my first true senior adult friend (other than my grandparents of course). I don’t think she or my dad set out to do anything profound other than introduce a little boy to a widow who could use some company, but it ended up being so much more than that.

As our society has transitioned, one of the things I miss the most is the cross generational conversations. We are fortunate to have several folks in the life of our family that we look up to and are blessed to count them as a friend. One of the things I hope my kids always experience is the blessing of Godly saints, telling true stories about how they have walked with God.

Wednesday Book Give Away (Dug Down Deep)

Last month I wrote a brief book  review of Dug Down Deep, a new book written by Joshua Harris.  This month I have decided to give away a copy on the blog.  To enter for a chance to win all you need to do to briefly (100 words or less) share your story on how you became a follower of Jesus Christ  or a defining moment when you began to grow deeper in your relationship with God. You can see my examples below.  Then on  Monday (February 15th, 2010) I’ll draw a name by random and announce the winner in the comments section here.

My father was a pastor. When I was 14 my dad had a stroke and his church fired him. I hated God and the church and soon started action out in rebellion. My dad confronted my rebellion. I tried to be good enough to make up for the bad things I had done, but I still felt guilty. When I was 24 I finally trusted in Jesus Christ to remove my sin and my shame. Knowing Jesus has changed me and I want others to know about Him. He is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

If you win I will also contact you via e-mail so I can make arrangements to get you the book (so make sure you fill that part out when leaving a comment).

If you are interested you can find out more about my story by clicking here which will take you to the “my story” section of this page.   You can also click here to begin with the first of five posts on how I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I look forward to reading your story!  It always amazes me how God works in our lives.

If you have any questions, I have answered some of those on an earlier post and you can find it here.

Book Review: “Dug Down Deep,” By Joshua Harris

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters by Joshua Harris is a great book  for anyone interested in knowing God.  Harris brings the reader along on his own personal journey through the world of evangelicalism to the places and times in his life when he learned the most about God.  He humbly presents theology and doctrine where they meet at the cross-road of life.  Harris shares his struggles to not only to know God, but to live the faith that he professes providing a very vivid and practical edge to the book.

I appreciated the author’s writing style.  When reading Dug Down Deep I couldn’t help but come away feeling as though we had met several times over coffee and he was just sharing about his life.  I got a glimpse not only into theology and doctrine, but into how he practically seeks to walk with God.  The chapters were very readable and put complex issues on a simple and easy to understand level.

This is one of the most practical books on theology and doctrine I have ever read.  I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone.   Dug Down Deep is an excellent resource. The retail price is $19.99 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $13.49. I gave it five stars.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.  There was no requirement to give the book a good review.  Just to review it and tell you what I really think.

When Church Hurts: Forgiving the People Who Have Hurt Me the Most

Earlier I shared a post in a series about how I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  One of those posts dealt briefly with a series of events that have marked my life beyond all others.  I shared about how my father had a stroke and was subsequently asked for his resignation as pastor.  This series of events occurred when I was 14 years old and still impact me to this day.

My initial response was rebellion and hatred.  For years I was bitter and clung to a hatred of the church in general and this church in particular.  It was a poison in my soul.  It wasn’t until years later that I would look back at this series of events and say with Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). And with the Apostle Paul, “For we Know that He (God) works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28).

The transition took place when I found a way to forgive this church and trust God to remove the bitterness from my heart.  In theological circles they debate this matter of forgiveness like its optional.  Some say that we have a right to hold on to unforgiveness until someone repents of their sin against us.  This is a position that I used to justify my greedy and unforgiving heart.

Then it happened.  I was confronted with the simple text of scripture.  Matthew 6:14-15 tell us that if we don’t forgive others as God has forgiven us, we won’t be forgiven. Some debate that God doesn’t forgive us until we repent of sin, but they miss the bigger picture.  My repentance doesn’t merit God’s forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness was purchased for me through Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sin. God the offended, made the peace-offering.  As the offender all I had to do was receive the terms of forgiveness. I needed to agree with God that I was a sinner, turn from my sin and follow Jesus (repentance).

So now, if I was to forgive others as I have been forgiven I needed to be the one who would make the peace-offering.  That is what God did for me.  That is what the king did for the servant at the beginning of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 when he realized the servant couldn’t pay.  He assumed the debt.  That is what the servant is guilty of not doing with his fellow servant.

So one day I made my way back to the church where it all happened. I sat in the back wondering how one goes about forgiving a church and wrestling with what to do. Then they did something peculiar.  They opened the door for the people in the congregation to share what the church had meant to them. I was resistant.  I had a burning inside that I had to get up and share.  Finally it seemed like they were closing the door for people to share and I awkwardly sprang to my feet and began the slow walk to the front.

By now the eyes of the congregation were on me.  They knew who I was.  I imagine they were all wondering at what I was about to say.  Some gave me an ice-cold glare.  Others had a sympathetic smile.  Still others looked on with a puzzled look on their face.  And I shared, “This church hurt me.  Several years ago, you hurt my father and you hurt my family.  You have left wounds on me that cut deep.  I carry scars and nightmares to this day because of what happened here.  But today I have come not to curse you, but to bless you.  I forgive you! I forgive you all for everything!

At this point tears were gushing from my eyes and knowing we were at the end of the service, I asked to close in prayer.  I put my hands on their pastor and began to offer a prayer for blessing upon him, his family, and the ministry of the church.

Later that night I found out from the pastor and other that the church had begun a process of repenting of their past sins.  I was blessed to have the pastor pray and offer a blessing over me.  Today I pray for that church on a regular basis asking God to move in them.

Given my past it is somewhat ironic that God would call me into the ministry.  Since then I have been blessed to serve with two really great congregations (one for over ten years) and alongside two great pastors.

  • When Church People do Bad Things
  • 3 Things you should know before you Judge your Friends
  • Forgiveness
  • My Story: A Trial that Proves a Faulty Faith (part 2)
  • 7 Steps of a Unified Group
  • Every Student, Every Neighbor

    It was 4 AM and I couldn’t sleep.  So I just laid there in bed with thoughts racing through my head about prayer, how to pray, why we pray, why we don’t pray enough and who would be at their flag pole in the morning.  I was worried because I am not normally compulsive about simple events like asking students to show up and pray at their flag pole.  So I eased my mind and began to call out to Jesus for clarity and  for focus.  In my heart he began a burden that was more fully realized later at the flagpole that day.

    Flag's at Ransom Middle School (iphone)

    I stood around with a crowd of about sixty teenagers at a flag pole as they prayed.  I watched from my huddle of adults as hundreds of other kids piled around the court yard wondering what was going on at their flag pole.  My heart broke for the students.  Sixty at the pole and about three hundred on the outside watching, more arriving each minute.  As I stood there I could see it like a sign over thier heads.  People lost like sheep without a shepherd.  Words about addictions, struggles, and issues that lead to death filled my mind. Words like anorexia, school violence, drugs, depression, peer pressure, alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, bulemia, abortion, suicide, rape, racism, bullying… lies that people believe.  My heart was broken knowing that many have never even heard the name of Jesus other than a cuss word.

    Then I called out to God from the noise in my head and pleaded for him to empower these sixty, these few to reach their school for Jesus.  Though much of the freedoms once afforded teachers and other adults on the campus were coming under attack in our area, one thing was clear… students still have the freedom to share the gospel and tell their friends about Jesus.

    Yet peer pressure stands in the way.  That is what kept sixty around the pole instead of in the crowds.  Its also what kept students from finding their way to school on time and praying at the pole.  The older I get, the easier it is to see.  Like going on a mission trip and seeing the need in another culture, I look at students, now that I am a generation removed, and see more clearly than ever their need for the gospel.  Indeed, I am a missionary to another culture.

    Then it struck home.  What about the place where I live?  What about my culture?  What about my neighborhood just a few blocks away?  Do I see the need there?  There is a need.  Though my neighbors have houses like mine, cars like mine, kids like mine, and experience the same weather I do, many do not know, or have not heard about Jesus.

    So I transitioned out of thought and into thoughtful action.  Rebekah (my 3 year old) and I are out walking the streets in the evenings meeting neighbors and developing relationships for a bridge to the gospel.  My aim is to meet and find opportunities to share the gospel with all of my neighbors.

    I am still burdened for our schools and the student culture (and their parents) that I have been called to pastor and be a missionary to.  My prayer is that as we pray and ask God to send laborers that students and families would catch a vision for God and He would use them to share the gospel with every student, teacher, and faculty member by the end of the school year.

    And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)

    For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”(Romans 10:13-16 ESV)

    What about you?  What is your strategy to reach your neighborhood, school, or workplace?  Are you partnering with others to see Jesus proclaimed where you are?

    Why Asking Her Dad Was Easy

    Avia and I decided that we were ready to be married.  Now all I had to do was ask her dad.  I know for most guys this kind of thing seems scary.  I generally don’t think it is easy to ask another man if you can marry his daughter.  I can think of a lot more comfortable situations.

    Engagement Pictures

    What paved the way to make this an easier situation for both her father and I was that we knew each other (though I can’t ever imagine being completely prepared for another man asking to marry my daughter). I had been hanging out at his house three or four times a week for years.  I had been getting to know Avia in the context of her home.  Not to mention that before we started dating, I asked her parents, particularly her dad, if we could date with the view toward marriage.

    So when it came time to ask, though I was nervous, it wasn’t hard or difficult to muster up the courage to go see her father.  It was natural and easy.  I really respected Avia’s dad and I knew I was asking to take responsibility for his daughter.  Such things demand man to man conversation.

    The details of the discussion we had are private, however, it is sufficient to say that two men met that day and discussed life.  The advice I received and continue to solicit from time to time was excellent advice not only on marriage, but on what marriage would be like with Avia.  I’ve come to the conclusion that no man, before her husband, knows a woman like her father.

    With the blessing of her father, mother, and even her brother (after all I had inadvertently used him to get to know Avia better), I set out to propose.  I had the ring in hand, a bible passage to examine, and an anxious girl friend who couldn’t help but wonder when and how I would ask (it was hard for her to ignore that I had gone out of my way to talk with her father, mother, and brother individually).

    Finally the time came to go to a Thursday night college Bible study that I was co-leading.  I drove by Avia’s house and picked her up.   On the way, I remembered that I had left a book in the sanctuary of the church and needed to go by and pick it up.  As we came into the sanctuary I had already arranged for all the lights to be off, except for one spotlight shining down on the altar.  The altar was empty except for a large bible open to Ephesians 5 and in between the pages there was an engagement ring.  I got down on one knee and said, “I’ve been reading this passage.  I am scared and I am humbled by it because I don’t think I am everything I need to be.  But it does describe the type of man that I want to be and will work the rest of my life to become if you answer yes to my question in just a moment.  Today I have a ring for you and I want to put it on your finger.  It is a promise, a promise that in a year from now we will stand together in this same place before God, before our parents, before a room full of witnesses and declare our love for each other and accept each other in marriage.  Avia, will you marry me?”

    She said “yes” and something to the effect of “you talk too much.”  We embraced and read Ephesians 5:22-33 talked about how we would try and fulfill that passage and prayed together.  Then we went to a Bible study and she showed off her ring.  Eight months later we were married.

    What I saw at Picklefish Changed my Life

    Pickle FishPicklefish was a restaurant in downtown Mobile.  I used to hang out a lot in downtown Mobile talking to people on the street about Jesus and it didn’t take long for us to find Picklefish, which had a great atmosphere and the best pizza in town.  One of the cool things about the restaurant was that it had a second level where you could sit and watch everybody go by on the street.

    One afternoon a group of my friends and I were getting together to hang out in the downtown area.  I invited several people including a beautiful young woman, named Avia.  At the time I thought there was nothing special about inviting her to come along.  I had invited several people from a group (girls and guys) and she was just one that happened to be there.  She said she would try, but had to babysit and wondered if she could take a child along.  We all agreed that it would be okay set a time to meet.

    To be honest, I don’t remember much about the day (other than we were dragging a little kid every where we went).  I do remember at the end of the day as everyone was headed home, I helped Avia put the child in his car seat.  As she drove off, I couldn’t resist the thought that she would be a great wife and mother one day. Then in a moment, it hit me.  She was the one.  She was the one that I wanted to marry.  For the first time in my life I knew love beyond emotion and childish infatuation.  I was ready to pursue Avia with the intent of marriage.  I had never been drawn in so deep by someone’s character.

    Even though I already knew Avia and her family, I needed to get to know her better.  I didn’t even know if she liked me.  I was conflicted in my thoughts.  I had never pursued a woman where I was intentionally trying to learn more about her character (rather than living off the emotional highs of just liking someone).  I wanted to get to know her, but at the same time I didn’t want to lead her on (I had become better at defining relationships and establishing boundaries).  So I began seeking opportunities to spend time with her and her family.

    The Story Continues: 21 Days of Bond(ing)