Tag Archives: new life in Christ

My Time Travel Testimony

No, this isn’t my latest theory on what the LOST island was.  No, not about my slight obsession with quantum physics ideas on time travel.  And no, not my fan-fiction screenplay for Back to the Future 4.  No, no.  This is the story about how this January God broke through the walls I had built between him and I over the last few years, and how he completely changed my view of my life.

To do this justice, let me tell you what I thought was my testimony…then I will tell you how God flipped that on its head in my own words from the morning that he did.

I was born in a Christian home.  I have two older brothers, a brother that is only 356 day younger, and a sister that is three years younger.  My parents were great at really trying to raise us the best they new how and really tried to seek God and his will for our family.  I like to quote a Rick Mullins song and say, “They worked to give faith hands and feet and somehow gave it wings.”

When I was six, I went to vacation Bible school at our church.  I remember two things from that week.  I remember earning enough “points” to get a stuffed animal camp, and I remember being scared about going to hell.  We were all in the sanctuary of the church.  They asked if we knew where we would go if we died tonight, and if not we needed to raise our hand.  I was real afraid that my destination would be hell, so my hand went up.  I was wisked away to the pastor’s study with several other kids, who I am guessing were hell-ophobic too.

Someone, the pastor I think, told us about Jesus dying for our sins.  He led us through a prayer.  He said we were going to heaven.  I got a Snickers bar…I remember that because I could not eat it.  I was allergic to chocolate when until second grade.  That’s okay.  It was the hell thing that I was worried about.  Whew!  I was glad that was taken care of.

The next thing I remember on this issue was a few weeks later.  I remember asking my mom why I did not feel different.  Why didn’t I feel nicer?  Peaceful?  Joyful?  She said that would come with time and not to worry about.  Okay.  I’ll wait.

I tried really hard to be good.  I tried really hard to do what I thought God wanted me to do…a theme that carried on for the rest of my life (even now).  I tried to be the best Joe for God that I could be.

When I was nine I decided the I needed to be baptized.  I felt a tug on my heart.  I walked forward at church.  Talked with the pastor, and since I prayed the prayer already I thought it was time for the next step of commitment.  My Uncle David is a pastor, we decided to do it at his church.  He walked me through it all again, and then I took the plunge (yes, pun intended).

From that point on, my life revolved around pleasing God.  Living for God.  I went through A LOT of struggles that I won’t get into right now, I “rededicated” my life a few times, but my focus was usually on trying to make God happy with my life.

That led to feeling a calling into ministry.  I went back and forth between missions and youth ministry.  When the time came, I wound up at a Southern Baptist college studing “Christian Studies”…or for those who don’t know what this means, it is like a Pre-Pastor degree before seminary (like pre-law or pre-med).  During college I worked my first two summers at a Christian Camp called Look-Up Lodge, the next summer I did missions in New Mexico, and then, through a long series of events, wound up back at Look-Up for my post-college summer.

That summer I really felt was a turning point in my relationship with God.  From that point on, my life was no longer about “making him happy” but about growing in relationship with him and serving him because of love for him and for others.  I still had many struggles, but there was a change.  I could talk to him.  I could vent to him.  And he would speak to me.  He would comfort me.

Now in the last few year, I grew a little lazy.  Paul was right in the Bible when he said that once you are married it is hard to devote yourself to God.  You are divided.  Once I got married, I started to have less and less of a reliance on God and our relationship cooled a bit.  Even more so once my son was born.  I think my relationship with him staled a good bit.

This January I was challenged by this.  I knew something had to give.  Something my community group leader from church said made me want to do something.  I don’t remember what it was, and I don’t know if he knows he spurred a change in me, but the next day I knew I needed to get up and read the Bible.  I did.  I started in Romans because I know God usually uses it to speak to me.  That was Monday.  Thursday of the same week was when God took a sledgehammer to my heart and started moving furniture.

These our my words from January 21, 2011:

“I was shown this morning that I did not really accept Christ until my summer after college working at Look-Up Lodge. I just did not really understand my need for Christ until then. I knew about Christ and lived my life trying to serve him, but I did not truly understand his sacrafice for my sins until that summer.

It has been hard for me to realize this because I have been a “Christian” since I was six.  I know now that I really did not understand enough for this to be true.  I lived most of my life trying to “please God” and earn his favor.  But that is not Christianity!  Reading through Romans 5-7 showed me that this morning.

That summer at camp, we were working through the holiness of God and learning about the impossibility of us living up to that holiness.  Our sinfulness can not even be in the presence of his holiness.  We need our sin to be covered.  Only Jesus’ sacrafice on the cross taking the wrath for our sins covers them.  That summer I really started to understand this and find much needed freedom in this.  I am free from having to earn my favor in God’s sight.  It was already won for me.

I even had a vision one night during worship where I was in the throneroom of God…and I felt the total weight of my sinfulness.  I really felt like I should be dead compared to his holiness.  I fell down in the vision.  Jesus picked me up and presented me to God.  The weight of my sin was lifted.

I always thought that was just God reminding me of my salvation.  This morning he showed me (after humbling me) that WAS my salvation experience.  Thank you, Jesus!

Such a weight has been lifted this morning, because I have really struggled with understanding my salvation.  I know I am saved by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but I just have been confused about the changes I have seen in my thought processes over the years and having security in my salvation.  God cleared that up for me, and freedom abounds in that.

Now I need to get baptized and symbolically die to sin.  This is something I know I have needed to do (I did not understand really what I was doing when baptized as a kid), but I just needed clarity on it all.  I have that.  I am going to get baptized the next time they do it at my church (not at the end of this month, I am too late to sign up).

It has taken a lot of my pride to be broken down to come to this. But it is awesome, because it shows that God worked through me even before I truly was a Christian! Anyway, I just had to share.”

God has done a ton in my life since then.  He has brought people, books, and lessons that I needed to grow.  I was baptized on Easter this year (AWESOME to indentify with Jesus’ death and resurrection on that day!).  It has been hard to review my life through this lens, but now so much makes sense.

I will probably write more on this another time (the stuff from my past that makes sense now), so I won’t get into it now.  This post is long enough!

I just listened to an awesome sermon by Timothy Keller called The Prodigal Sons, and this totally summed up my life before I became a Christian.  I was the elder brother.  Please check this sermon out.  It is so good.  So different than most teaching on this passage.  Jesus is the true elder brother!

What do you think?  What is your story?  Have you ever had the change over where it no longer is about “pleasing God” to being about “loving God”?

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The Chronicles of OneCupOfJoe: The Lion, The Snake, and The Crawl Space

I will start by telling you about my mixed relationship with snakes.  When I was young, like most boys, I thought snakes were awesome.  I loved them.  They were right up there with dinosaurs.

That was until my first brush with an actual snake on my own.  We lived in upstate South Carolina at the time (my dad was a Marine and we moved around a bit).  I was in our downstairs area looking through some boxes and…a small dead snake.  My older brother convinced me it was a baby copperhead (one of the few poisonous snakes in the area).  Suddenly I was scarred with reguards to snakes.  I no longer felt the same way.  From that point on, I was a bit freaked out by them, or at least the idea of encountering them in the “wild.”  Sidenote: I have come to realize that the snake I found was actually a ring-neck snake.  They are small non-venomous snakes.

This was only compounded several years later when I was in late middle school/early high school.  We were living in Northern Virginia and Mr. Paul, who worked with the youth at our church, took the boys for a nature hike in the woods.  He told us to look out for animals, and specifically snakes.  I was, of course, on high alert.  We broke off into groups, and as the oldest one there I lead one of the groups.  We were walking around and saw something towards the pond.  As we were walking, a couple of the guys said, “Look out!”

SNAP!  Right at my heal was the snapping jaws of a black snake that barely missed me.  Though I know now it is the wrong idea and potentially dangerous if the snake were poisonous, we ran away.  The snake did not persue, but my fear did.  I was now even more afraid.

A few months later, almost the same exact thing happened again as my brother and I walked home from the pool.  The side walk went partially through the woods.  We stopped to pick some honeysuckles, and TD (my brother) yelled.  SNAP!!  Jaws of a black snake next to my leg barely missing.  Only this time we did the proper thing and backed away slowly (our dad had talked to us about what to do when we encounter snakes).

Anyway, these experiences have lead me to an unhealthy fear of snakes.  I hated the idea of them.  I love hiking, but was always uneasy about the snakes I knew were out to get me and usually anxious about the prospect of coming across one.

At some point, I don’t remember when, I decided to try to learn all that I can about them.  As watching G.I.Joe taught me, “Knowing is half the battle.  Yo Joe!”  It seemed that the more I learned about the creatures, the less I worried about them.  I even got to the point during one of my college summers working at a camp that I found a ring-neck snake and played with it instead of running.  I knew it would not hurt me.  The fear was going away.  I started to not even be afraid of the poisonous kind.

That was until recently.  Two years ago this month, my wife, son, and I moved into a house with a pond out back and woods near by.  Snakes were not on my radar at this point until one day when we were getting ready to go to our church small group.  I was holding a cake in one hand and my son’s infant car seat (with him in it) in the other.  As I was walking up the steps to our upper driveway, I heard the familiar SNAP!  I looked down to see a coiled snake just out of reach from my leg.  I bounded up the steps and called out to LA not to come up.  Our neighbor heard me yell.  He came out and was we were both looking at the snake, it went under the steps.  He told me that he was pretty sure that it was a copper head.  My old fear returned.  It was not about me this time, but it was about my family.  It was my job to protect them.

I was freaked out about the prospect of snakes living around our house.  I started to encourage the neighborhood cats to hang out in our yard by putting out treats for them!  I was told that they discourage snakes.  And I guess it worked.  It was almost a year of peace before the issue came up again.

When we move into the house, the door to the crawl space (the space under your house) was warped.  This caused huge gaps.  I knew that this allowed a potential for things to make a home under the house.  It made our list of things to work on, but there were so many other things that got higher priority (it was a foreclosed house and needed a bit of work…still does), so I put it off.  I all but forgot about it, until I had to mow (I kept the mower down there).

Late last summer or early fall, I decided to make one last attempt at mowing and hoped it was the end of the mowing season.  When I opened the door to the crawl space, my old “snake sense” was at high alert (as it usually was when I opened that door).  This time, I was glad…because this time there were beady little eyes staring at me!

I tried not to freak out.  I tried to keep my wits.  I looked at the snake.  It did not move much or coil up.  It was alive, but it was still enough to let me get a good look.  I looked it over and was pretty sure it was not a copper head or any other kind of poisonous snake (thanks to my self-taught snake expertise).  I went and got my shovel anyway (something I bought after the last close encounter of the snake kind).  I poked it with the shovel.  Nothing.  I tried again.  It just looked at me.  Definitely not an agressive snake.  I probably should have left it alone.  I didn’t.  I know my wife.  She would not be jazzed about knowing about a snake living under our house.  I killed it.

Becuase of this experience, and my wanting to protect my family from snakes, the crawl space door gained some priority points.  My dad and I, mostly my dad, replaced the door.  No gaps anymore!  Something that I should have done a long time ago.

Which brings me to my point.  Earlier this year, I went through a study called The Lord’s Table (a really awesome study about our relationship with food…check it out if this is an issue for you).  As a part of it, you reflect on the teaching and Bible passages.  One day in March, I was reminded of me and the snakes, and it is the perfect analogy for sin.  Here are the verses that brought this to mind:

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it”. Genesis 4:7

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

For me, a lion prowling does not evoke fear.  That is not a part of my reality.  I have never experienced a lion outside of a zoo.  I need something more real.  Something like snakes.

You see, to me, throughout my life snakes have been something out to get me.  Always lurking.  Always waiting.  I need to be on the look out.  I need to take serious steps to protect my family.  I need to study them.  I need to understand them.  I need to “know my enemy.”

Why don’t I take sin this seriously?  I need to view sin like I view snakes.  I need to view the devil (and his desire for me to give into sin) like a snake.  Out to get me.  Something to take seriously.  Something to take steps in order to protect my family.

Why do I let sin live in my house?  Why do I invite it in through the TV through the internet.  And I am not talking about the major obvious stuff, I am talking about the stuff that we take lightly, like primetime network TV.  I do not take the steps to make sure there are “no gaps” that let the devil, the snake, into my life and family.

I need to wake up and take this seriously.  Sure “Glee” is a great show, but do I need those thoughts and ideas in my mind and in my house?  “House” is great, but the same thing applies.  Even my favorite, “The Office.”  Should I be so inviting?

It is more than just TV, but it is a great one to think about.  I take it so lightly.

I know it is a constant struggle for us all.  What do you think?  What are your snakes?

Lord, please help me.  I can’t do this on my own!  Help me to view the things you hate as snakes that I need to protect myself and my family from.  Please help me, Father, to “replace the crawl space door” of my heart so I stop leaving room for the snakes to come in.  Please, Jesus.  Help me.  Amen.

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Sin


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