June 5, 2016

Great Strides

Today is Sunday. I woke up without a headache and to a fairly cool house (PTL!) Our home AC is not working properly, so while it does cool, it loses its power as the outside air temp rises. This is "no bueno" when it is 115 outside. Last night, when I finally turned in, the inside temperature was hovering at 89 degrees. It was pretty unbearable, but thanks to our ceiling fans, we tolerated the heat.

This morning, the air inside had dropped back to 77 (the set point). Right now, at 1:15, we are at 109 outside, and the inside air has inched up to 80. We are keeping the blinds drawn, doors closed, and hopefully, we will stay cooler today than we did yesterday. The weather, unfortunately, is set to be 111 tomorrow and then steady on at 108 through the end of the week.

My prayer is that our AC people can get the part needed to fix the problem once and for all (this has been going on now for over two months). The Lord has us well-covered, so I am trusting Him to keep us all cool through these next few days of super hot weather. God is good, so very good. He has this well-in hand!

Making Peace with My Past

It has been a good day so far. I went to SBC for morning services and left encouraged by our pastor's message on "eternal security" (based on John 10). He said that the congregation would either leave encouraged or convinced, and of course, I left encouraged. This was because I already believe in the doctrine that says you cannot "lose" your salvation. The sad truth is that there are many Christian denominations out there that preach and teach a false doctrine that is based on "conditional security" or the belief that you can lose your salvation. Then there are some groups, churches, and the like, who believe that if you "backslide" into sin, then the truth is not that salvation has been lost, but that it was never gained in the first place. I don't want to get into a theological debate today, but suffice it to say that my pastor gave a really good sermon that cleared up some of the issues surrounding this idea that once you profess faith (belief and trust) in Jesus as your Savior, you are saved. You can never be "lost" again.

I didn't realize how much of a debate this issue is in theological circles until I googled it this afternoon. Oh my goodness! The theological divide is mighty when it comes to this issue. I am convinced that once you are saved, you are saved. I have no reason to believe otherwise. However, this was not always the case for me. In my 45 years of being a Christian, I have come through so many systems of belief, all protestant, but in varying shades from legalistic to grace-based, from conservative (nay, fundamental) to liberal. Yes, I have experienced doctrinal teaching that runs the gamut, and as a result, for a time I was pretty messed up and miserable.

As a child, I was raised in mainline protestant churches (Presbyterian and Methodist) where it was taught that you were saved once you professed faith in Jesus Christ. This salvation was not conditional. It was a permanent state, meaning that, once you got saved, you were saved for all time. I don't remember any emphasis on Christian living, per se. It was more assumed that you would automatically be a good person, live a good life. Thus, there was this unspoken rule that said that it really didn't matter how you lived your life (you were expected to live a moral life), because you were saved. There was no surrendering to Jesus or the Father's will. There was no seeking to know His will for your life. Pretty much there was an underlying belief that affirmed that you would do the right thing, behave the right way, because grace (irresistible grace) was working in you. Thus, you didn't have to really try very hard to be moral; you would already be moral. If you were saved, it would just happen. There was no "backsliding" into sin or turning away from the truth. If you did either, well then, it was assumed that they were not saved at all. It was sort of an "all or nothing" way of believing. I never really understood all the hub-bub about it because I was so young back then. I just loved God, went to church every Sunday, and believed that He was my Heavenly Father. I believed Jesus was my Savior. I pretty much didn't need to know anything more about the matter.

Until, that is, when I surrendered my life to the Lord as a teenager. My desire to know God and His word continued to develop as I matured, and I found myself attending an evangelical Lutheran church for a time.  Lutheranism didn't work well for me, though there were aspects of it that I liked (the solemn parts, the teaching of Bible doctrine, etc.). I always felt that I wasn't saved in the Lutheran church because I hadn't been raised in the church nor confirmed in their beliefs. I grew a lot during this period in my faith-walk, but I felt empty inside, and I had this deep longing to know God more intimately.

As a young adult, I came to more mature faith in a Disciples of Christ church, a rather large fundamentalist Christian church, in my area. It was here that I was taught the Bible and a lot of doctrine. I also was baptized by immersion in this church. I found Precept Ministries, and became enamored with studying God's word. Some of the teaching at this church was wrong. Well I would say -- legalistic in application -- rather than just wrong. I was messed up "theologically" for a time because in this church, I was taught that I would lose my salvation unless I lived by the rules and regulations in the Bible. Backsliding into sin was the mark of a weak Christian, so failure to overcome temptation was considered an error in thinking, a lack of faith in God. This meant that for me to retain my assurance of salvation, I had to always work towards Christian perfection. I spent a lot of years trying to be perfect, but in the end, my flesh always seemed to win out, and I sinned. Yes, I was a sinner of great impact, and unfortunately, those sins hurt me deeply, wounding me spiritually, and for a time, plunging me into great darkness.

Later in my early 30's, after my family moved here to Phoenix, we started to attend a large Bible church where the doctrine was more reformed, more grace-based. I had a hard time letting go of the legalism, and for many years, lived in this quasi no-mans land between legalism and grace. It took many years of faith, of walking with the Lord, learning to trust Him before I was ready to really surrender my all to Him. At SBC, where I attend now, I had the blessing of learning from gifted pastors and teachers, all who studied the Word and preached directly from it. It still was difficult for me to accept some of the theological precepts because so much of my foundational faith was established in a "conditional security" preaching church.

As I entered into my mid-40's, though, my life changed when I finally let go of the legalism, embraced grace, and began to experience new life, transformational life in complete freedom through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Now, I live this way, believing finally that I am eternally secure that that no one can ever separate me from the love of God through Christ Jesus. Today's message, therefore, was rich testimony of a life lived harshly, with guilt and shame, until finally I came to seem the majesty of His marvelous grace.

As I think about this today, I remember how far I have come. Well, I say "I've come," but the truth is that nothing that is in me or has happened to me is of my own accord. It is all of grace, all of grace. I am here today because of His influence and presence in my life. I am living and walking in His way because this is His purposed will for my life. I give all the credit to Him, all praise, and all honor to His holy name. Only He is worthy to be praised. Only He is worthy this good, good day! Selah!

Making Plans for My Future

It has been such a good day today. I guess you could say it has been a transformational experience day for me. Nothing major happened, outside of my church attendance this morning, but I have to say that I feel really different inside. I feel so confirmed, so well settled. I feel like right now everything is working out exactly as He has said it would. I feel like my life is proceeding along this path at a clip, and that in a short time only, I will see great change come to pass. I think I am ready for this change. I feel confident that I am ready for it. I want so much to experience all that He has in store for me. I want to live my life exactly as He provides, and as such, my desire is to fully embrace the blessing, the gifts that He has for me. I am ready, so very ready to take these next steps of faith.

Moving Forward in His Peace and Prosperity

Several things are on my mind today. The first is His will for my teaching career. I am blessed to have some extra work this summer. I am blessed to be able to teach at GCU and OCU for a couple weeks. This will bring in some needed income, and it will help me be established in my current field of English.

Furthermore, I am thinking about my next steps for full-time work. I am all the more convinced that the Lord is going to provide an online teaching position for me. This has been on my heart for several months now, and I see it as the perfect provision. I see how I can live where He chooses and not feel tied to a particular location. More so, I can go freely, travel and do ministry, all with the ability to do my work and have the freedom to do His will.

Lastly, I see this as the fulfillment of His promise to me. He has promised me prosperity. I am not talking wealth, just moderate income where by I can live comfortably. He has managed my finances well for the past six years, and now that I am ready to work full-time, I think there will be a good job offer coming to me soon. I believe it will be for a position as a full-time Assistant Professor, and I believe it will be to teach online. I believe it will be to teach English and not Communications. I am comfortable with this plan, this path, and I welcome it now. I also believe that I will teach at a Christian University and not a secular one. I will teach and live in two different places. I will teach for a school that is based in a state not of the Lord's choosing for me. I also believe that He will move me to a place that is specific -- it is for ministry -- and not for any other reason. He will send me to a place where I will be active in ministry. This place will be a good fit for me, moderate in living requirements, but where my son will also find his place in ministry too. I feel very confident that together, he and I will be in ministry. I have always believed this is so, but I never quite figured out how. I still don't know for sure, but I am confident that the Lord has a good job for my son and that he will do specific work for the Lord in this place.

I am ready to embrace this path. I am ready to take these next steps of faith. It is up to Him to provide for me, and I believe that He has already provided. It is done, it is His will. I am to go to this place soon. I am to receive His call and His mandate and then I will go. He has made a way for me, and now I must be patient for His directions. He will lead me, guide me, and provide for me. I am ready, Lord. Let's go!

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