April 9, 2017

Newness of Life

What a great Sunday! It is a blessed day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air temperature is about as perfect as it can be. I have enjoyed my day so far. It started off with a bang while worshipping at Scottsdale Bible church, and now that it is noon, I am looking forward to my afternoon of final grading, and my evening dinner date with my good friend, Holly. In all, this blessed Sunday has truly been “blessed!”

As I sit here today, blogging, I am thanking the Lord for the merciful provision of my church, my home, and my family. I have been blessed beyond means and measure, and even though I don’t have everything I think I should have at this point in time, I know that what I do have has been handpicked and hand delivered by the gracious hand of God. I am in this amazing place right now, fully content, happily busy, and with His continued provision of life, work, and a planned future, I know that my life will continue to be satisfied. In short, I know that my life — all of it, in toto, will be satisfied because of the One who sits on Heaven’s throne. He is my sweet satisfaction, and it is in Jesus’ Name, that I lift up a sacrifice of praise this good, good, good day!

New and New and More New

So this morning at church, we celebrated baptism. In all, I believe 17 people were baptized in my service alone. Among the 17 were about 10 children. It is such a joy to see little ones come to Him and to respond with obedience to their fresh faith in Jesus Christ. As I watched their profession of faith, my heart was stirred in such a way that I was overcome with joy. I was filled with the Holy Spirit, who in my opinion, was exclaiming His joy in seeing all of these people follow the Lord’s command to be baptized this good, good, Palm Sunday. I can remember how I felt the day I was baptized. I was a 20 year old, who like in my Pastor’s story today, had been baptized previously as an infant. I fought the Holy Spirit for months as He would move in me to encourage me to go forward after our weekly altar call and obey the Lord in baptism. I finally gave in, praise be to God, and I was baptized shortly afterward. The experience was life-changing for me. I made the conscious decision to profess my faith publicly, and in doing so, I began the transformation process that took me deeper and more intimately into a relationship with my Lord and Savior.

My baptism was a celebration of newness of life, and in my old church, Los Gatos Christian Church, it was not only a profession of faith in Jesus, but also a commitment to church attendance and membership. Yes, in one fell swoop, I was initiated into the church, and for a long time afterward, I found my home in and among the faithful members who called this church their “home” too. LGCC was a non-denominational megachurch back then (it is defunct now), but for many years, it truly was my home. I found my place there. Despite the fundamentalist leanings of the church, the lead pastors were amazing teachers of the Word. The music was inspirational and passionate, and the activities that were readily available were structured for one purpose, and that was, to create faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, this church was all about making disciples, and to this day, I still am molded to this one pursuit. Many large megachurches today are about converting people, saving people (by the numbers), rather than about creating strong disciples of Christ. I don’t mean to say that these churches are not doing their work because that would be wrong of me (and not true). I just mean that I have attended a number of other large churches where the focus was on bringing people into the church more so than on developing their personal faith.

My church today does both. I think they have a nice mix of passion and intensity. I would prefer a concerted effort on discipleship, though, but I understand that what God may be doing is more important than what I think should or shouldn’t be the focus. I am content regardless. I will fellowship where the Lord plants me, and this has been my home church for now on 21 years. It is crazy to think that I have been in this one church for almost 21 years.

It was funny, but as I sat there and watched all these children profess obedience and faith in Jesus, I couldn’t help but hear that for many of them, it was AWANA where they came to first learn about Jesus. Yes, AWANA. I was a faithful AWANA volunteer for so many years, and praise God, as a ministry for good or for bad, it still is producing faithful followers of Jesus. I was praying about ministry options for fall, and now I am thinking that this is where the Lord wants me to be planted for a little while. I am good with that idea. I am really good with it.

What is more is the fact that as I was watching all these wonderful people be baptized, I began to think more about my life here in Phoenix. I began to think about what God has brought to me since I landed here 21 years ago. I mean, I came here for one purpose, but the Lord has used it for another. I am like Joseph in that way. His brothers sold him into slavery, but God used that act for a very different outcome. He saved His people through Joseph’s place in Egypt. In a like way, I started out in Phoenix thinking that moving here would make my life, my family, and my marriage better. It didn’t do any of those things. In fact, it did the opposite. My life turned sour, and for 14 of those years, it was strained, difficult, and very unpleasant. In the end, my marriage ended. I separated and later divorced, and now I am living happily as a single adult. My son is grown, and praise be to God, he is working part-time for a large megachurch in the West Valley. He is attending a Christian University, and he feels he knows what God is calling him to do. My parents are in my care (partly), and while I don’t have my own home any more, I do have a good home to live in with my parents. Furthermore, I have very good, practical work to do. I am a teacher, and in that regard, I have the best job possible. I have my finished education, a nice safe car, and a good future. God took what I wanted initially, and He gave me something better. He made my life beautiful — but only after it had been destroyed by sin and selfishness. He recreated my life, from start to finish, and the new life I have today is a testimony to His blessing, His faithfulness, and His grace. I am in awe of Him today. I am in awe of the work He is doing in and through my life. Selah!

My future is secure. I know what the Lord intends for me to do, and while I don’t have all the details yet, I do know that I am in a very good place. In fact, I believe that I am right where the Lord wants me. It is funny, again I say really “curious” or “interesting” that in my effort to run away to another place, I found no peace. Yet, when I made the decision to stay put, to put down roots here, and to be content in this place, the Lord started to open doors and bless me financially, abundantly with work, and to give me a sense of a secure future. I wanted to move away, to run away from Phoenix because it is hot here, awful in the summers, but mostly to leave my ex-husband and the sour memories that are here in this place. Instead, the Lord chose to keep me here, to not prohibit me from leaving, but rather to leave this door open. I stopped running away a couple weeks ago. I embraced my life, all of it, and in one instance, my soul and my sense of well being was flooded with His peace. I decided that I could make a life here for myself, even without the purchase of a home, and that in doing so, I could live happily, comfortably, and securely. Yes, I made the choice to stay put, to stop always looking for greener grass and trees, and in doing so, His peace, His joy, and His comfort returned to me. I began to see that there is a whole lot of life right here in this desert place. There is a lot of work to do right here in Phoenix.

Now, as I think about staying put, I realize that anything is possible — if it is the Lord’s will for me. I mean, despite not having a permanent job, I am still gainfully employed. I would like one full-time job, simply to get me out of Obama/Trump Care. I would like a job where I can put down roots to, and where I can be happily employed until I retire. But, just today I had this weird thought. So what if the Lord doesn’t provide a full-time job for me? What is the worst thing that could happen to me? As I thought about this more, I realized that there is nothing wrong with working multiple part-time jobs. Yes, I am busy. Yes, I don’t have assurance of contracts. But, I have the Lord, and He is all I need. He is my security. He is my provision. He is my salvation. Thus, if He chooses to keep me happily employed part-time, then so be it. I believe there is a full-time position out there, but until it comes to pass, I am content to remain where I am, to do this work, to be faithful and obedient in it.

In Closing

The morning has faded into early afternoon, and I have work to do. Right now, I am giving Him praise. I am lifting up that sacrifice of praise because the Lord has made a great life for me. Out of the ashes, He has restored my faith, given me new hope, and made my feet fit securely on the path of His choosing. I am in this blessed place, and I have no intention of stepping aside or even thinking about going any where else. He has made all this possible, and for that, I am thankful.

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