I Decided to Follow Jesus
It was 1968. Family tragedy had caused my mom to move us to another little town and from the only school and friends I’d known since 2nd grade; I was now in 11th grade. I came to the new school with a chip on my shoulder and an attitude that could cut glass. In time, I gathered a few friends and pursued a path of drinking, drag racing, and partying. I was an angry teenager to say the least…my poor mom.
In the spring of 1970, right before my high school graduation, my little brother, Dean, brought a tall, lanky young man to the house to get a soda. They had been playing basketball. My life was about to change dramatically. Little did I know that a movement that started in California, called the “Jesus Movement” or the “Jesus Revolution” that was sweeping across the nation was now influencing this little town in central Illinois. I heard the Gospel and the message of salvation for the first time and I made a radical commitment to Jesus. I was so excited to find out that I could know I was going to heaven! The tall, lanky young man…well, he became my husband 6 months later. Randy and I were swept up into ministry, which I knew absolutely nothing about. Fifty-three years later, the influence from that movement is still bearing fruit in my life and countless others. It’s my story.
The impact of these kinds of movements or revivals are monumental, historical events that transcend generations. We should continue to look for and expect continued moves of God as a means to impact people all over the world for Jesus! Reports are everywhere that this is happening right now across the nation and other nations as well. Don’t stand back with a we’ll see attitude. Jump in and participate. The world is hungry to hear the truth. The message of the Gospel must continue to go forth and each generation needs to feel the responsibility to influence their generation.
My theme song or mantra back then and continues to be, is the chorus we all sang exuberantly, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back…no turning back!” Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go see the newly released movie, The Jesus Revolution; it will stir your heart and light a fire of evangelism and missions fresh and new.
A Strong Foundation
Just In Time
A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it, and form opinions about it. Half of living is reflecting on what is being lived.
I have discovered through the years that one of the strategies of the devil is to try to isolate us in the midst of our struggles by telling us that we are the only ones feeling the way we are feeling. The lie continues by suggesting that not only are we the only ones that are feeling this way but there must be something inherently wrong with us for having these problems. Shame and guilt act as walls around us to keep us from reaching out and discovering the truth that our battles are not ours alone. What a comfort to discover that others have walked and overcome the path that you now walk, and will, in Christ, overcome!
Reflecting on the past and dealing with it changes us for the future. A person who has come through the battles of life and reflected upon those battles does not remain the same…something foundational changes! I look at things in a different way now. I have more mercy and compassion to offer others. Nothing tastes sweeter nor adds to our strength like overcoming and surviving the assaults of life. Once you face the “Goliath” in your life and survive, you generally find out that you are stronger and more courageous than you thought you were. The reality is that “Goliath” has brothers…big brothers; more battles are likely to come. This thought has bolstered my resolve to stand in the midst of trials…if God brought me through ‘that’ then He will get me through ‘this.’ As over-comers, we have reestablished our foundation in a trustworthy God and indeed can stand, “in the world with head erect, solidly rooted in the knowledge of who we are…” -H.N.
When Corrie Ten Boom, the well-known Holocaust survivor, was a little girl, her father would take her on train trips to Amsterdam. One night, Corrie was sharing her concerns with her dad regarding something she was afraid of. Her dad asked her the question, “Corrie, when we go on the train to Amsterdam when do I give you your ticket?” She responded, “Right before I get on the train.” Her dad said, “That is right and God will give you the ‘ticket’ you need right before you face whatever you fear.” I have drawn on the simple truth of that story many times as I surrendered by faith to the unknown, trusting God to give me what I needed just in time!
Expectations: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
Click here tHow difficult and distressing when reality does not live up to our expectations…what we think ‘should’ happen.
I have talked/counseled/encouraged/rebuked and listened to hundreds of people through the 51 years I have been a Christian. There are those that seem to have unshakable faith and those that struggle almost daily, and many that are somewhere in between. What makes the difference? I don’t have a deep theological answer to this question just some thoughts from years of experience. My somewhat simplistic observation, I can’t help myself, that’s what I do, look for the simplest answer possible, is disillusioned, unmet expectations. People have wrong thinking and wrong expectations because they have wrong thinking and wrong expectations about people and most assuredly about God.
He/she should’ve or he/she could’ve or why did they not respond in a way I ‘expected?’ It gets even weightier when we pummel God in the same way; God should’ve or certainly He could’ve. We, in essence, take God to court and put Him on the witness stand as we throw questions, and yes, sometimes even accusations. I’m glad God does not get nervous over our tantrums!
Only time and experience equip a person with the ability to maintain a certain amount of peace and trust in the midst of life’s unruly situations. You must, and you will, learn the benefit of the words of the Apostle James:
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
Nothing tests our faith like unmet expectations. Of course, we can assuredly ‘expect’ God to move in our situations…the key is to trust His ways and not our ways. Isaiah reminds us of this timeless truth: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord."
Our steady foundation must rest, not on expectations from people, because they will surely disappoint, but on expectancy that God works in His way and in His time!o edit.
Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart
I have such fond memories of the small group of people that greeted us enthusiastically in the spring of 1977. We had just accepted the call from them to be the pastors of this newly formed church body called Faith Tabernacle. We arrived in Melrose, Florida as a couple of skinny kids, 25 and 28 respectively. We didn’t know a lot, we didn’t have a lot of experience, but we were young, energetic, full of hope and vision. Randy led the worship, gave the announcements, took the offering, preached the message, and handled the altar calls. I was in charge of helping people in and out the creaky little door to the little bathroom that was located in the back of the tiny office space that we rented as our ‘sanctuary.’ Those were the days, my friend…
It’s this time of year especially that I seem to spend a lot of time in reflection about what has passed and also hoping and desiring to embrace what lies ahead.
The thankfulness I revel in is always attached to specific memories. One delightful memory that reoccurs regularly as I reflect, was the joy Randy had in leading worship. It didn’t matter if it was on key or out of key it was always sung with gusto. Interestingly enough, those that were in charge of finding the ‘key’ seemed to always find it. One of the favorite songs we all sang together was the following:
… Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given
Jesus Christ, His Son
… And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich"
Because of what the Lord has done for us… Give thanks
Those of you who know this little chorus will be singing it all day as I will. This is a time to specifically set aside a time of thanksgiving. I know it should be year-round but I have no trouble recognizing a special day for the celebration of a grateful heart.
Have a blessed, reflective, Thanksgiving this year… Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Our Greatest Weapon
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD… -Psalm 27:13
I really resent the feelings of helplessness. I am a ‘rescuer’ at heart. I would take on the bully that tried to harass my little brother. I wrote the advice column in our high school paper. I freely gave my best guidance to friends and family (asked or not), but my goal was to just help in some way. And when I had children, that instinct went into overdrive. To say I was a helicopter mom would be a mild description of my exploits…when grandchildren came…well, let’s just say my efforts of rescue and protection increased exponentially.
Watching and listening to the struggles and horrors of what has, and is, taking place in various nations of the world, as well as, right here in America, can cause an overwhelming anxiety of helplessness. We want to do something but to many of us our platform to make a difference is many times limited. What to do…what can “I do?”
You may hear someone, or may hear yourself say, “well, I guess all I can do is pray.” Oh, what an egregious mindset. All you can do? I read this statement the other day:
“If you’re overwhelmed by the fact that there’s nothing you can do except pray, then my friend, you undervalue your greatest weapon.”
Prayer is one of our greatest ways of helping to change the events in the situations we see. I am believing and waiting for some of the miraculous reports that will soon be coming out about incredible interventions in some of the most hopeless situations. And when it is reported it will be because we prayed!
“…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…” Psalms 27:13
Here are a few perspectives and principles that I have learned the last 50 years. I learned them the hard way.
1) Who you are as a believer is more important than what you do.
If we are not in tune…We can build an alternative reality of success instead of wholeness, but it is a fantasy. Get with God and gut this stuff out now, while there are those around you to help.
T. Kempis, a 14th century Monk in writing words of encouragement and correction to young monks entering the monastery said “…if I am outwardly admonished and not interiorly set on fire I may die and find that my life was without fruit, and at the moment of judgment I may be condemned for hearing the word but not fulfilling it, knowing it but not loving it, for believing it but not living it.”
Who you are as a believer is more important than what you do.
2) Self-sufficiency is a trap.
Dependence on ‘self’ leads to prayerlessness. You will find, and it will be a good day when you find it, that having confidence in your flesh is just an illusion. Crisis will drive you to your knees and ultimately flat on your face. And when you cry out and mean it when you say, “Oh God, I can’t do it”…He’ll be there. When you can no longer hold on, He’ll hold on to you. Again, to quote Kempis: “If you are looking for knowledge and learning that is useful to you, then love to be unknown…”
Self-sufficiency is a trap.
3) Don’t fear the crucible event that is coming.
The word crucible means: a situation of severe trial. At some point in your life you will experience, if you haven’t already, an event that changes you. Don’t be afraid…what you do with that life-altering event will reveal who you really are. And it’s good to know who you are and it’s good to find out that you are really stronger than you think you are.
To quote Kempis one more time, “…you must not become dejected nor give into despair… Remember, after winter comes the summer, after night comes the morning, and after the storm comes the great calm.
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” - Ecclesiastes 3
God’s timing…have you noticed? It’s different than our timing!
I’m sure we all probably went on ‘road trips’ when we were kids. If you were like my kids the most frequently asked questions were: “How much further?” or “Are we there yet?”
I have vivid memories, as a child, of traveling with my family from Illinois where we lived to N.D. where my parents were from. Mom and dad would load us up in our 58 Edsel and head north. Of course, back then no stopping at hotels or restaurants…a loaf of bread and a pound of baloney and we were good to go! The nagging question always was, “Are we there yet?”
It seems so difficult to wait for anything…in the natural but how about when we are ‘waiting’ for God to speak or move in situations or issues of life? Listen, waiting on God is the rule not the exception. We’ve all offered God some really good plans but when He doesn’t take us up on ‘our’ plans we try to help open the door. When it seems there are no open doors, we many times try to force the lock; ‘our’ wisdom and strategy then kicks in and we attempt to compensate for our lack of trust! Not until history has run its course will we understand how “all things work together for good.” None of us learn this lesson quickly…The Psalmist in Psalm 13:1 cries out, How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? The Message translation puts it this way…Long enough, God— you've ignored me long enough.
We don’t like not being able to control things. We hate the feeling of utter helplessness. We despair when things happen that we cannot manage. We always look for ways to ‘nudge’ the arm of providence. If it seems that you are stuck in some dungeon or that you have been put on a shelf, it could be God saying; hold steady, I am going to be the One to exalt you and lift you out of this prison experience in My way and in My timing. God comes along and works in such a manner that the only thing you can say is “God moves in mysterious ways…His wonders to perform.” Don’t fret, God knows where you are!!! ‘You’ may not know where you are but be assured, He ‘knows’ where you are!
…Since before time began no one has ever imagined, No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for him. -Isaiah 64:4
Right Where You're Supposed To Be
In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing number of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. -A. W. Tozer
You probably assumed, when you read those first few words, that I was talking about our own current universal darkness…it certainly could apply.
I’m not sure why but I am drawn to the old WWII movies, the history and the upheaval of that time is disturbing, yet enthralling; not only the horror of the events but of the courage of those who not only survived but later thrived. While most of us may not remember much about WWII, who could forget the violence and unrest of the 1960s? I remember waking early in the morning and overhearing my mom and dad discuss the need to possibly build a fall-out shelter. We had air-raid drills in our elementary school and had to hide under our desks. The message of the church I attended in the early 70s was that Russia was going to invade America at any moment. I believe if we would do a walkthrough of history, we would see each and every generation face what seems to be insurmountable and debilitating circumstances. The circumstances may vary but the answer is always the same…stand strong, do not waiver, trust Him and maintain, as Tozer encourages, a growing hunger after God Himself.
So many quote the scripture from Esther that says she was born for her time and her specific assignment to intercede for her nation. Taken to what I believe is a reliable interpretation I trust we can rightly assign this to each and every one of us that pursue after God’s purposes without fear or intimidation.
We are here, at this time in history, to fulfill what God has given to us as our assignments. Every generation must speak to their generation the hope that we have in Christ…it’s our message…it’s our purpose!
Committed to Commitment
Anyone can start a race, it's the finishing part that strains the spirit, body, and soul. Really, anything in life is pretty easy to start; it's easy to start a diet, it's easy to start cleaning out a closet, it's easy to start a fitness regiment, it's easy to start a budget strategy, etc. etc. etc.
When life's surprises drop in uninvited we usually can muster the courage and strength to start the journey, but as time passes, strength and bravery begin to wane; confusion, doubt, and anger relentlessly intrude in on our thoughts. These are those nasty, uninvited, minions that taunt and torment the strongest of us. Try as we may, the water well of perceived strength is discovered to be empty at times. In our attempt to muster up the slightest semblance of the warrior of yesterday we end up scraping the bottom of the well that has now grown rather barren and crusty. The race, once so valiantly approached, now seems to be moving at a turtle's pace.
The desire for someone, anyone, to really understand your particular situation is ultimately an attempt in futility. There will be those with similar stories etc. but the impact on your life in particular cannot really be understood by anyone in general. It's no one's fault of course, our individual journey is just that, individual...solo. So as the journey is individual, so too the things that help. What helps someone else does not seem to often fit the need inside, personally, where the cracks and crevices seep out despair.
Then, you might ask, where do we land in this journey of the unknown? A reasonable question, a not so easy answer. I noticed my little bio on my Facebook page the other day that says, “I am committed to my commitment to Jesus Christ. I have purposed in my heart to stand in the midst of the storm with my face to the wind.” I made that statement early on in this long journey but when I re-read it, I realized it is still true, and it is still my stand!
Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us...let us keep running with endurance the race set before us... -Hebrews 12:1
Buy the Book
You may or may not need this book, but I guarantee you know someone who does. If misfortune in life is trying to destroy you or someone you know, I have wonderful news for you: this book will help you keep living.