Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turn the odometer of my life one more notch.  Yes, indeed it is my birthday.  Today I am 37 years old.  I remember last year, my wife treated me to Hershey Park for my birthday.  She took me to a Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord for breakfast and I ate until my stomach felt like it could explode.  We then went to Hershey Gardens and admired the beauty created by God and unmatched by man.  We also went to Hershey Park and had a good time on a variety of rides and eating more chocolate than any diabetic should ever eat.  If you have not had Hershey's chocolate right from the store at the park, you have not had Hershey's chocolate.  Two years ago, my wife and I were at Disney in Florida for my birthday. We stayed with my aunt and I took full advantage of the Disney "Celebrate" promotion they had that year wearing my big birthday button and receiving free desserts and singing at every meal and random well-wishes and singing from various cast members around every corner.  It was quite an experience! 

Birthdays are also a great time of self-reflection.  It was just about a year ago that I began this blog and so on this birthday I am going to spend some time reminiscing on this thing I do.  I do not know how many posts I wrote, but it is literally hundreds of pages if it were a printed book.  Just from July through December last year, it worked out to be between 300 and 400 pages in the book of my blog I ordered.  I never thought of myself as an author, but I suppose I did write a book.   It began as shorts posts on Facebook and when that quickly became too cumbersome to type from my cell phone on breaks at work, I moved to this site.  It all began with a Psalm.
Blessed [is] the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly [are] not so, But [are] like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.  Psalm 1 NKJV
I still stand on that Psalm.  I still think the call to write this blog is just as strong today as it was a year ago. I still believe our church needs this message.  When I consider the feedback (especially the negative), I have come to the conclusion that a large part of our church has shifted from using the Word of God to define our behavior to using the Word to justify our behavior.  That is a huge problem.  You see, when you study the Word with the heart of conforming yourself to Christ, you will end up with a much different product then if you have a behavior you like and use the Word to justify it.  One way is about submitting yourself to God,  the other is about conforming God's Word to suit your needs.  What we do should be the result of what we read in the Word. We should not take snippets here and there from the Word to justify what we do. 

I have also learned over the past year just how offended people can become when you pick on their pet sin.  I have had one people who one month tell my wife what a blessing it is what I write, but then those same people accuse me of teaching half-truths and legalism when I touch on an area that is near and dear to them.  People seem to love the spotlight of Scripture, except when it shines upon them.  I have offended Christians and unbelievers alike.  The unbelievers who take offense at a Christian blog are no surprise to me.  I expect them to be offended and to not understand the things I write about.  How can they accept the things of the God they have rejected?  What does bother me are the Christians who would rather lash out at me then they would examine themselves.  I have had many people speak about me or my blog to other people, but very few speak to me.  Those who have, rarely use any Scripture to justify their disagreement.  For the most part, it seems that those who have disagreed with me are more offended by my writing about sin then the actual sin surrounding what they are offended about.  Perhaps my blog was offensive to some, but those some are living lives and doing things that are an offense to God.  I stand behind what I write and if that offends some people, there is the choice not to read it. 

What I have also learned is accountability.  I do keep an eye on statistics for the visits to my site, but it can only tell me how many people from which towns and countries visit my site.  Even with that, it is not entirely accurate.  I really have no idea who reads this site unless they tell me.  That means I need to live what I write.  That only makes sense as the Bible tells us that teachers will be held to a stricter judgment.  It is also a good thing because I believe everything I write.  I know I am not perfect, but I know I desire to grow more and more like Jesus every day.  Writing this not only gets me into the Word, but holds me to being an example of the things I write.  I do get things wrong sometimes, and I hate those times.  I hate my failures, but I know God has grace enough for my failures and so I get back up and continue on in my walk.  Where I live and go to church now, I do not have any accountability and so writing this blog has kind of taken that role in my life. 

And, finally, I have learned encouragement.  I am greatly encouraged by those I know and love encouraging me on the things I write.  What is even more encouraging (and no offense to my dear friends), are those who I do not really know who come up to me at a party or something and tell me they are encouraged by what I write.   Knowing I am in the Word everyday and sharing on the Word everyday makes this all worthwhile, but knowing that others I do not even know about are encouraged by it is icing on the cake.  I thank you all who have reached out to me.  God has used you in ways you do not even know.  You see, what you do not know, is that when you encouraged me, it always happened at a critical time or as the result of a critical situation.  Your encouragement has always come in the right way at exactly the right time.  It is usually after someone is offended and sometimes your encouragement to me is in the presence of the person who was offended.  God works in marvelous ways and I want to thank you for being a part of God's work in my life. 

So thank you all for taking the time to read this.  You have seen a variety of things that I have gone through in the past years.  Whether it be the trials of the snow storms last Winter, coming to our decision to move, struggles with people angry at me or what I write, or any of the other things that have made their way into this blog.  I am so glad that I have been able to bless and encourage you.  I hope that I was also able to challenge you.  When I began writing this today, the song "Jesus, This is Your Life Now" by Neal Morse was playing on my iPod.  What an amazing attitude to have.  The Bible tells us that we are not our own, that we were purchased with a price.  That price was the blood of Jesus and what it purchased was our salvation.  In return, we give our lives to Jesus.  We submit our will to His will and we give up our desires and ask Him to fill us with His.  Give your lives to Jesus, not just in word but in everything you do.  The stress you feel is that little bit self holding onto the flesh as tight and hard as it can.  Break free and learn what freedom really is.  If you are offended by anything that I say, please search the Word and tell me where I am wrong.  If I was wrong, I will correct myself.  And if my error made you crack open that old dusty Bible for the first time in years, then God is even using my errors and praise God for that.  A few weeks ago, I foolishly posted something on my Facebook wall.  I said "When you stand for righteousness, oftentimes you stand alone."  It was a discouraging day.  The truth is, though, that when you stand for righteousness, you stand with God and with God you are never ever alone.  I also know God has a remnant and God is stirring up the hearts of many to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow after Jesus.  I know I get frustrated, but I have not given up on the church yet, nor has God.  While the condition of things may get me down sometimes, I rejoice when I think of revival.  If the Lord should tarry, my prayer is for a revival like the world has never seen.  I don't believe in birthday wishes, but I do believe in prayer and that is my prayer this 37th year of my life, that if the Lord should tarry until I am 38 that I may see revival now.
God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  Romans 11:2-5 NKJV

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