Thursday, June 30, 2011

Unlikely Disciple

I have a new study Bible. It is called the NKJV Study Bible. Formerly known as the Nelson Study Bible. And it is full of gems. Many annotations, articles, maps, charts and cultural notes. I am liking it moreso than my McArthur Study Bible which has fallen to pieces in the 2 years I have been using it. A tattered worn out Bible can be a testament in its own right. That a falling apart book might indicate a life being put back in order.  It does not feel that way to me so I will just have to take others word for it.

Religion, spirituality, politics, economics, social issues and the like are very complicated complex subjects that frankly confuse me and overwhelm me.  I don't have the answers and my brain goes a little into the overloaded mode when I try to "figure" things out. Basically, it is like how I feel after spending several minutes attempting the New York Times crossword puzzle.  I have to put it down and just walk away.

When I study Scripture, it too can appear to be complicated and complex, threatening to put my mind into overload mode. So I work consciously to keep it simple.  I have been meditating on this passage for the past hour or so:

     The Gospel of John 6:28,29

     28 "Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"
     29 "Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

What? That's it? Just "believe in Him whom He sent?"  No no no it can't be that simple.  Can it?

It is.  The simplicity is so beautiful and poignant.  The people Jesus was talking to were simple people who had just witnessed His power to feed them the day prior but they wanted to know what they had to do and they wanted more proof. 

Do I need more proof?  Or do I just want God to do it for me.  Didn't God do it all for me already?

So just believe.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unlikely Disciple

It has been over 90 days since I wrote anything here. It has been a bit dry spiritually for me. I know that anytime I feel like I am distanced from God it is I who moved; not God.
Although I hate to admit it I am a bit of a whiner and complainer. Most people do not see me that way though. I am very adept at portraying my dissatisfactions in a convincingly righteously indignant manner.
I have been in my life a drug addict, a drug dealer, a liar, a manipulator, a thief, a bully, a braggart, a gossiper, a user, a cheat. I have also been giving and generous, kind, thoughtful, selfless and self-sacrificing. I have been quick to help others and have a quick smile. I think I have helped a great number of people.
I received a message the other day from a man I have known since he worked for me in Seattle around 1998:

[13 years ago, you took a chance on a kid you didn't know from california, who had no local family, no connections, not even a home. He worked for you, and really admired and respected who you were.

You were right, about a lot of things back then. I was naive, and desperate, and a bit of a fool. I think the worst thing about being fired was not so much losing the job, but losing your respect, which I valued, but didn't know how to communicate.

I just wanted to say, you were right, about a lot of stuff... and I was pretty wrong and stupid.

Thank you, for taking a chance on me back then.
13 years later, and I haven't forgotten it, or you.

Well wishes to you and your family.]

Needless to say I was touched greatly by this short note. It reminded me at a moment when I needed reminding that I am not my shortcomings. I am not my failures. I am not my fears or misgivings. I am not my feelings and I am not your feelings. I am not my wants or desires.

I am God's. I have given my life to Jesus Christ. I, on my own am those things that defeat me and discourage me. Without Jesus I am without hope. What a desolate and dry place to be; alone, without God.

But with Him; my hope is like a fountain pouring from my heart. What can I not do when God is with me? One step toward Him is all it takes. One step that at times seems so impossible to take. But when I do I feel those loving hands surrounding me and strengthening me. And it makes me wonder why I wander like I do.
Thank you LORD for always taking me back. Thank you Jesus!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unlikely Disciple

I am attending a Pastor and Leaders Conference at Calvary Chapel Tucson over the next few days. I am not a pastor or leader but I do see myself as being a beginner minister/evangelist.

Any true believer in Jesus Christ as their LORD and Saviour is called to be a witness. And by witness I mean share the Gospel which is the good news of redemption and reconcilliation with God through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for me. Anyone who believes in Jesus is able to make that testimony based on what happened to them personally. I fear many don't for the same reason I sometimes keep my mouth shut when the Word of God burns inside me and I let it be quelched out of fear or possible ridicule by the people around me.

Our world is in chaos. It is fallen and the world is full of lost people who buy into the world's lies of a better everything just at our fingertips. The world is shallow, conceited, self-centered, mean, oppressive and dying.

God's love is what saves me. His love for His people is what keeps me from perishing in my own destructive distractions. His loving forgiving hands hold me when I am lost and alone. I only have to look to His Words to find the guidance and direction I need. If I put my hope in anything other than His Love I am once again doomed. How many times do I need to learn this lesson? How many times do I have to return to the same conclusion before I make a better decision next time? I can almost laugh at the absurdity that anything this world has to offer can satisfy my restless soul. But not quite.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unlikely Disciple

In God's eyes I must be a simple and easily understood person. In my mind it is a whole lot more complex and not so easy to decipher. I have always been a thinker. Or you could say I am a thoughtful man, except when I am not. You may already be confused; welcome to my world.

I have been absent from this blog for a little over 7 weeks as you may have noticed. On January 8, Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and almost killed while others were wounded and some died. Gabby as a lot of Tucsonans knew her as was a frequent and welcome visitor to my cafe. Over the years we have hand numerous conversation and she is always quick with a big smile, a hug and a peck on the cheek. She has this quality of making you feel welcomed in to her life and that you are her friend. She is a great example in that sense to follow. Her being shot was shocking, horrifying and left me reeling. I knelt in the bathroom at my cafe and I prayed. I prayed more earnestly than I ever felt I had before. I prayed for the Father's will to be done, to spare her if it so be, I prayed for any inspiration to show how or if I could help her or anyone else. I prayed because I knew she was Jewish like me and once again there was someone in my life who I cared deeply about who may have never heard the Gospel of Jesus and who may die not knowing it. (see Dec. 14, 2010 post).

I heard a news media report that Gabby had died. I wept. Like a baby I wept. I did not know where such deep emotion came from. Then the news media reported she had not died. I was relieved beyond words. I cannot wait for the day when she once again walks in to the cafe and smiles and hugs me.

I can only imagine that it must be infinitely greater to be in the presence of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ and receive that hug and smile. My spirit yearns for that and I pray that I would weep the tears of a thousands years, being completely cleansed and emptied, then be lifted up by God and set in a place where I would experience no confusion, no saddness, no pain and feel an unexpressable joy that would last forever. Amen!

There is a chasm there. The distance from the one point to the other point. Can it only be acheived by my bodily death; moving into the presence of our LORD? Although it escapes me I know that in essence that is what has to happen. I must die to this world and the things of this world and the ways of this world in order to live for God! The temptations are great! They are overwhelming! They are innumerable! And they are on all sides of me.  I get trapped in them and ensnared and I struggle with them fiercely!

I know the answers are in God's Word. I believe every single one of them. I pray for discernment and wisdom and strength and grace to overcome this world and live for Jesus! I am afraid. The old self has been around a long time and I was really good at being me. I fear the ridicule and scorn that will come from the world. I look to Jesus, the apostles and the martyrs and I feel ashamed. I do nothing and they gave all!

Am I willing to give all? I want to give all. I feel it burning inside me! Yet I stay in my comfortable surroundings and think about giving all.

LORD, light my path and open my eyes; grant me courage and opportunity; let my heart not fail. Amen!

(to be continued with more of my story I promise)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unlikely Disciple

Christmas has passed. The year is winding down as is the children's winter break. Very shortly things will go back to normal. . . Visiting with family this season was pleasant and not too stressful. I am not quite sure if that was due to everyone being a little older, a little wiser or just a bit more relaxed this year. It also could be that everyone was the same as they always have been and I am somehow different. I am different than I was but most days it does not seem that remarkable to me or that noticeable to me. Now on with my tale . . .

My first experience with going to a Christian church as a seeker again did not see me bursting into flames as I passed through the threshold of the sanctuary. I was a bit nervous even though I was meeting someone there. Someone else from the biker world was there and I am sure was keeping an eye out for my arrival as my friend told everyone that I was coming. His name is Turtle and he is a pleasant mild mannered fellow belonging to Bikers for Christ MC. I knew him from events we mutually attended around the state over the years.

There are numerous things I liked about the MC world and the club I belonged to. There are an equal amount if not more things that I always disliked about being a biker. There is an old joke and it goes like this;
"What is the difference between a biker and a motorcycle enthusiast?"
Answer: "A motorcycle enthusiast needs a motorcycle."

Now as most of you sit there going, "huh?" understand that being a biker is 100% attitude. Many are born to fit very comfortably in that role and many fake it. The only difference between the real ones and the fake ones is that the real ones could care less about the fakes. All of them for a myriad of reasons and scenarios can be dangerous people. We will come back to this topic later as it is an integral part of my story.

Turtle came up to me greeting me warmly. He showed me to where he and his wife were sitting and I joined them there. Not all the way to the front but not all the way in the back either. Musicians gathered on the pulpit and started to play. Everyone stood and started to clap along with the music. Turtle was singing and people throughout the sanctuary raised their hands and sang while worshipping. This was a very different experience for me. At a synagogue worship and services are much more serious and solemn with most of the service being in Hebrew. I remember nothing about the teaching that day. They talked about Jesus and I was keeping an open mind. The single most notable aspect for me was the outwardly visible deep belief these people had in God!

Belief was what captured my attention in the beginning and belief was what I kept encountering. How do you believe? Why do you believe? What exactly do you believe? These were the questions that I was continually coming back to. The one point I was convinced of was that I did not know nearly enough to make a truly informed decision. No, that is not true really. I knew something was there but there was some sort of obstacle to fully and unreservedly giving myself over to it. And I sit here today much farther along than on that day almost 2 years ago there is still some unknown hindering me from completely submitting myself to God.

Do I believe in God? Do I believe God believes in me? Do I believe the Bible is the inerrant preserved word of God? Do I believe that Jesus lived, died for my sins and was resurrected? Do I believe my faith in Jesus justifies me? Do I believe I am forgiven continually? Do I believe God is faithful and just and merciful? Do I believe God's mercy is fresh every morning. Do I believe God had a plan for me? Do I believe that God is my friend and that He calls me friend?
The answer to all these questions and more is without a shred of doubt YES!
I believe.

(to be continued)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Unlikely Disciple

I needed to do something. Reading the Bible and recognizing It's Truth wasn't the end of this journey. It only fanned the fire that had been kindled in me. Being a non-observant Jew I really did not know what to do next. What was I supposed to do? What was the Bible telling me to do? In my novice understanding was it enough at that moment to just believe? I needed Christians to talk to. Not just Jesus Freaks but people who could grasp the complexity of me. I have to chuckle at myself. Always a little different. Always with special circumstances.

I am a huge fan of my iPod and iTunes. So in December 2008 I started there. I needed more insight and help understanding the Bible and what to do next. There is a search bar on iTunes where I typed in Christianity or something like that and received all types of suggestions for music and books and podcasts. While reading the descriptions there were these free downloads for The sequence of events is not so clear to me today but my best recollection is that I must have listened to a podcast or two. Several things struck me about these teachings. First that the gentleman doing the podcasts was very knowledgeable and he conveyed through his teaching that he absolutely without any reservation believed deeply in what he was saying. Remember, deep belief is what tugged at me while I read the "Left Behind" series. His name is Toby Logsdon and at the time he was finishing his seminary degree. I decided to send him an email explaining my situation and see if he had any advice for me.

I remember writing the email and it was like I was throwing out a life line. No response or a cold response would have been disheartening to say the least. There I go again with my expectations . . . I did receive a response, probably that same day and it was to ask me a couple of questions. He asked me who did I believe Jesus to be? Sitting here now thinking back on this it was the perfect question. Any further steps down this path of faith would depend on that answer and that answer alone. And at the time I did not know. I wanted all the answers and understanding right then. More reading and more listening was what it was going to take.

I also needed someone to talk to. I had to talk to someone about what I was experiencing. My wife was afraid and her Catholic upbringing only made her more fearful. But that is her story for her to tell. I had been riding with a motorcycle club for the past 13 years when this journey became visible. We had rubbed elbows with lots of other clubs and I knew of a guy who rode with a club called Bikers for Christ. In fact I had attended the wedding of one of my members that he had officiated. He was a friendly guy and totally on fire for Jesus. One of those guys if you are not a believer can be a little too much to take at times. I had always liked him and he and his wife seemed to have an affinity for my wife and I. So I reached out and got his phone numbers and called and left him a message to call me. Which he did that day or the next. I told him my story and received much encouragement. I agreed to meet him at his church that upcoming Sunday. Being the zealous individual that I knew him to be he got off the phone with me and started calling others in the church to tell them about me. Then strangers started to call me. Understand, at this time in my life I am a gun toting biker, national officer of a motorcycle club and I don't like talking to strangers.

The first call I received was from someone inviting me to a bible study and the second call I received was from a guy named Douglas and he too invited me to a different bible study. I shared my story with him and he shared his story with me. 9 or 10 years ago he was a methamphetamine addict with a lab in his backyard. Now that was something I could relate too. My whole life seemed to be a life lived outside of anything resembling normal. Abuse, addiction, depression, dysfunction, fear, judgement, criticism, anger; lots of anger. Here was someone that although he didn't know me had walked an unconventional path. I needed someone who had obviously fallen in life who knew that pain and the judgement that goes with it.

Today Pastor Douglas and I are good friends. Over the past 2 years he has lifted me up, encouraged me and been a consistent example of a man of faith. A far more consistent example than I can claim for myself. Praise to God for being patient and merciful towards me. God's grace is an undeserved gift that is so easy for me to take for granted. My debt, paid for by Jesus on the cross, is greater than I will ever be able to repay. And whether or not I believe myself to be worthy of such a gift God so loves me that He offered it to me freely. And I love Him for it.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

side bar / Unlikely Disciple

A dear dear friend of mine died yesterday. I didn't even know she had been ill. I have no real details yet but I am sad and I am remorseful. This was a kind loving friend who had an indomitable spirit who overcame the loss of her father in an airline crash as a young nurse who traveled around the world for years caring for victims of the tsunami and earthquakes. We lost touch and it has been somewhere around four years since we had spoken.

Sadness for the cold fact that now there are only going to be the memories of her laugh, her raspy voice, the brightness of her presence. There will never be another conversation. She will never encourage me again, nor I her. There have been no tears and there may never be but the sorrow is like a warm blanket I wear draped over my shoulders. Not too heavy but enough to remind me it is always there.

Remorse for letting us slip out of touch. Both of us busy with the needs of the lives we had built for ourselves. Never having shared the unexpected turn my life has taken. Never having shared with her the Truth that found me and changed me and cleansed me. Truth that may have set her free.

My hope is that in her travels touching and helping the suffering in the world that someone somewhere shared the Truth with her. I may not know until I am in the presence of the LORD; I may never know.

I loved you Sasha Poll. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and hug you tightly and tell you that. God forgive me.

(more Unlikely Disciple tomorrow)