Friday, July 17, 2009
I was having coffee today with a Pastor had I have just met from another church in my area. He is a part of Chicagoland Transformation Fellowship(CTF) which is a group of pastors and Churches that pray and ask God for his blessings and correction in local government (Aldermen, Public Works employees, Police Officers and yes even firemen-may they stub their toes in their next on duty beach volleyball game). I had never heard of anyone setting out to pray regularly for local government unless it was an election. This is a much needed and excellent method for Christians to positively affect their communities. But then again I digress.
I have been in this profession long enough that I reflexively interview people that I do not know. Somewhat suspicious of this Pastor (Officers are paid skeptics)for no other reason than I had never met him in person before, I was asking him questions to get information out of him to see if he was on the level and providing him with as little information about me as possible...all of this happening before I was even conscious of it. Anyway, he provided me with his testimony.
Now most testimonies are very similar with a narrative that begins with too much alcohol, sex, drugs, jail, violence, etc, you then decide you hate your life and everyone around, Jesus finds you in the gutter and you start your walk as a forgiven saint. This is where he threw me down, mentally, and provided me with a prospective shift. What he said was, "I enjoyed my life (pre-salvation), I enjoyed the drugs, I enjoyed the alcohol and I enjoyed the sex. I was happy with my life and did not feel compelled to change anything".
Yet because a co-worker began witnessing to him while he was at work, he started asking the questions, accepted the Lord and never went back to the list of sins he had been committing. He had not fallen into the gutter, God had not removed all the support in his life, he had not suffered any profound affects of sex, drugs and alcohol. God found him where he was at and convicted him before the final blow came.
I always conceptualized our path as sin that was pleasurable, that turns to suffering, then redemption and the Holy Spirit's aid in removal of this sin from our lives. It never occurred to me that God (and of course he can) can convict and remove sin while it still was pleasurable. What hope! We do not have to wait till we suffer the consequences of our actions before we can repent and move on. I have always become convicted of an area where I have fallen into sin, only when it has turned from pleasure into pain. Now I have a chance to turn pleasurable sin into forgiveness and extinction of the action/thought from my life. What a wonderful chance to return to the straight and narrow path in a few steps, rather than returning, bleeding, cut and numb and tired from walking in all the circles. How much more can God's plan be carried on with more steps upon his path.
One of the reasons we attend our church-Harvest Bible Chapel, is that Pastor James can take a passage that I have read a multitude (of sins? of angles? of the dead? the saints? I digress but you gotta love the concordance)of times and yet he will present a take on that passage that forces a prospective shift. The latest one is about the Apostle Thomas.
The verses are from John 20
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
I always read that passage as an example of a lack of faith and a cautionary example of living out your faith. The classic negative example and as such I always looked askew at Thomas.
This is what Pastor James pointed out.
From John 20 again.
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
What Thomas was really asking for was only what the other Apostles had already received. He missed out and only desired the same conformation of Christ's resurrection.
Pastor James then said Thomas has gotten a bit of a raw deal (paraphrase) because he was not asking for the extraordinary only for what had already been given. Jesus statement of 29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." was for all of them not just Thomas.
Prospective shift on Thomas-I do not look at him in the same light anymore. I find that I would definitely would have been Thomas in that circumstance and probably would not have availed myself as well as he did when he was martyred.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I think that I am safe in assuming that I am not the only one that finds himself/herself looking back and being surprised at my current location, bewildered by the multitude of happenings of luck/fate/choice (IE Gods hand) that it took to bring me here and wondering where I am going from here.
Every so often an opportunity presents itself that allows you to have the ability to see the divergent paths separating in front of you rather than discovering all the forks in the road only after you have passed by them.
I have encountered a simple one in which I really do not know which path I will take, the right or the left.
I have applied for tuition reimbursement from my department for a program that I wish to join. While it is in our contract, and a fantastic perk, its acceptance is far from assured, simply because of our current slumping economy and my cities sales tax revenue losses. So I now sit and wait, having taken all the steps that I can take and waiting to see which path God's hand will push me, the right or the left.
PS The program is a cool one and it is from Olivet Nazarene University. It is a Ed.D in Ethical Leadership. It is an expedited executive program and completes in just three years. I hope I find myself there by this time next year, but only if that is where God wants me to be. Here is the link for the program-cut n paste- http://www.olivet.edu/academics/GCS/edd_el.asp