I grew up in a Catholic church and when I was just a kid, church was the thing to do. We went every Sunday and my siblings and I were involved with the children’s programs we had. It was always a fun time as they taught the Bible in a meaningful and interesting way.
As we began to get older, my family withdrew from the church and began to have more family days on Sunday and well you know, life took over and church took a backseat to our family events. In all honesty, I think church was there to help us get an understanding of good morals at a young age and not much else.
While we would return to the church for special events such as Christmas and Easter services, church never became a regular thing again. Eventually my dad became sick and we left the church altogether. My dad would pass away from cancer when I was eleven years old.
When I was thirteen years old, I was introduced to a new church. I had taken the liberty to fight against going to church for any reason for as long as I can remember but I finally went back. About a month after attending the church, I went to a Youth Convention and it was there I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.
While I’ve had many ups and downs throughout my Christian experience, I’ve learned something over time which I can now say with great confidence…I don’t believe in God anymore.
You heard me, I don’t believe in him anymore. I am not saying that to suggest he isn’t real but rather, that the God I pictured in my head is totally different than the one in the Word and through circumstances; I’ve grown to understand him a bit more.
(1) God encountered me at a cross
I remember one particular Sunday morning when I was heading off to church. I was serving as the Worship coordinator. I enjoyed getting to church early enough so I could pray for a little bit and then set up the sound system and run through the worship set list for the day. I always felt there was this needing for ensure everything runs perfect.
When I arrived, I had everything set in my mind and the order I needed to accomplish everything in. I walked into the sanctuary and sat down in the front row and I was about ready to bow my head and begin to say a short prayer when I looked at the rear of the platform where the pastor preaches and I saw the cross hanging there, with a white linen cloth draped over the cross-beams.
It was not a new sight at all; the cross had been there for years but for some reason, I saw that empty cross and knew that God had used that cross to bring me into a relationship with him. In that moment, I never wanted to sin again because I knew how much God hated sin. It was in that moment, I wanted to know God more than anything else. I wanted to pursue Christ and I found myself falling in love with everything about Jesus again.
For so many years I have felt my relationship with God is a start-stop relationship. That is to say, my relationship with God begins when I live holy and stops when I sin. The relationship is over until I confess my sin and God can then restore my relationship. The radical truth of grace is that our relationship with God is ongoing, not based on performance but upon the finished work of Christ. He alone holds me in his embrace.
The sacrifice Christ made is greater and stronger than any of my failures.
(2) God encountered with (an) Angel
I was at ministry training event with my best friend and we learning about an evangelistic outreach called ‘Treasure Hunting.’ A short analysis would be that you gather in groups of three and individually pray and as God speaks and highlights specific places, people and things, and then you write down what is spoken. Afterwards, you and your group go into the city/neighborhood looking for who God has highlighted and pray for them.
Before we went out though, we were asked to pray for one another and pray a vision that we see. While I have always believed in the supernatural realm, I was bit nervous about this because I never felt like I could “tap into” the Spirit like others could.
Well, I was paired up with the Pastor’s wife, whose name is Angel and she began to pray over me. It took a few minutes and then we opened our eyes and she said, “God sees you have a pure heart.”
While I can continue to share what she said, I had to stop there because I am one of those guys who have struggled with lust, pornography and have had inappropriate relationships with women. Yes, I admit to that, and for a long time I covered up that part of my life because I was ashamed of it. It was not something I wanted others to know about because I didn’t want to expose my weakness. I didn’t want others to know there was a struggle that I could not overcome.
I saw myself as someone who struggled and felt inward shame, remorse and felt like God was disappointed with me in that area of my life. Yet, someone who didn’t know me prayed not the Spirit and spoke over me and into me as how God sees me.
I could argue that she didn’t know my past sins but is that how God sees his children? Does God view us based upon our performance? God sees us, not based on our performance, but through the work of His Son, Jesus. Our call is to have faith in him. Faith stabilizes our relationship with God.
My relationship with God is based upon his grace and his gift of faith, which he freely gives me.
(3) God encountered me in my pride.
About a week after my birthday, I was getting up for church. We had been doing a sermon series entitled, Superpowers and it was about using the gifts God has given you. I had been with the church for a while and had served in any way I could. During this series, the Pastor informed me that I was going to be ordained as a Pastor.
When I woke up, I realized how unqualified I felt as a pastor. While I had been eagerly waiting this moment for a number of years, it arrived and I felt unprepared. When I arrived the Lead Pastor greeted me and asked me how I was doing and I told him I felt unprepared and unqualified for the calling. He said to me that I will never feel qualified and that will keep me humble for the task ahead.
Near the end of the service, I was up front and the Pastor asked me to kneel down and he was going to pray over me. While he led the church in prayer, I had a vision in my mind’s eye of God. I could not describe his appearance to you but it was a presence that filled the room and I cowered down, feeling the weight of his glory all around me. In my vision, his voice said to me, “You can never accomplish this task on your own. You will need me every step of the way.”
While I have a long way to go and so much to learn, what I do know is that after being a pastor for a year, there is nothing else I have encountered more in my day to day life where I need the grace, mercy and strength of God to lead me more.
You see I’ve always felt, even as a believer, that my accomplishments were worth something of value. I’ve always felt that I could bring something to the table, even if it’s not that much. As long as I was contributing my two cents, I was doing something to get along. IN my own pride, God showed up to let me know that it was time to let go.
It’s not about me; it’s about Jesus living through me. It’s the life of Christ I am to be about. His life is the message I should preach, his love is the kind I ought to share, his forgiveness is what I should extend to others and I should serve others as an extension of my gratitude towards him.
My pursuit of God’s call must begin and end with knowing that his grace is sufficient for me and his strength is made perfect in my weakness.