Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

The dead and lost son

June 26, 2014

The beautiful story of a dead and lost son, commonly known as the prodigal son, is an allegory of a selfish, wasteful life that through the process of being stripped to nothing and hitting rock bottom, finds redemption.

After he hit rock bottom, the first ray of hope we find is “But when he came to himself,”. Here we see that he began to see his need. Without “need” there is no turning back.

Then he purposes what he is going to do.
“I will arise and go to my father,”
He then purposes what he is going to say.
“I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son…”

After he purposes, he then follows through with his purpose.
“And he arose and came to his father.” He then confessed his sin and his unworthiness.

Then the father was quick and right there ready to forgive and give him his best, the “Best robe”, and “A ring on his hand”, and “Sandals on his feet”.
Then….. the father has a feast prepared along with a big party.

Then, lest we forget, the father makes a very important statement about his son. “he was dead”. “he was lost”.
Certainly the father was not talking about the sons physical death because he never died. But, he was talking about a spiritual death. This shows how sinning against the Father brings spiritual death that makes one lost from the Father.

In the end of the story, the father says to the other son that was jealous and angry about what his brother was receiving,
“It was right that we should make merry and be glad (threw a big party)
Why? “for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
What a God!
(see Lk.15:11-32)

“That man changed my life!”

May 11, 2012

Someday we will all be very surprised as to who God used to reach people that he was calling.

Today I heard an awesome testimony from a young guy who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. I remember that we had some good God conversations along the way. He showed up with a friend on a corner where I was hanging out. After talking a while he said, “hey do you remember that guy that sat on that corner over there (as he pointed) last summer that had those scriptures on a cardboard sign?”. I paused for a moment as my mind searched for that time. Boom, I remembered.

Last summer there was a homeless man who sat on a very busy corner downtown. He had the usual homelessness gear such as a pack, sleeping bag, dirty clothes and worn out shoes. But, this guy was different from most. This guy was a minister of the Gospel. He sat there with his bible from which he would occasionally read out loud. And yes, he did have a hat sitting there for money.

My mind went back to the couple of times I visited with him that summer. I remembered that he knew the scriptures very well and would engage with a lot of people while sitting on the sidewalk. What I remembered about him the most was this big old cardboard sign that he had taken a marker and wrote some scriptures on it. He had it propped up for all to see passing by. He was a soft-spoken guy, but big and burley. I remembered, I liked him. I did give him some money, but can’t remember how much. A truly different kind of minister for sure. One that most people would pass by and think, “give me a break, get a job” or “sorry, but how are you doing any good?” or “your no better off than all the other homeless bums out here that beg for money”. So goes the story……..

Then we fast forward to our brother who shared what had happened when he had met the man. He said that one day he walked by and stared at the guy, then took a glance at his cardboard sign and walked away. Then, he heard the man yell out, “hey come back here for a minute!”. So, around he turns and heads back to the man. Soon, he takes up a seat on the sidewalk right next to him as people go rushing by.

My friend didn’t go into all the details that happened thereafter, but he did tell me something that I will never forget. He said, “I WAS “BORN AGAIN” THAT DAY“. That man changed my life!” Wow! I thought. I was humbled. Bless God! We will never know completely, all those He uses and how He uses them. Beware less we think, “Oh how can God use that person? Look at what he is doing”.

The bottom line is: God has used and will use anyone he wants to use. And not only that, but how he wants to use them. We dare not judge.

Water and Spirit birth

April 26, 2012

Born again is both being “born of water” and “born of the Spirit” (see Jn. 3:3-8)

Being “born of water” is the cleansing process from within that takes place at the heart. By believing on Jesus and receiving his atoning sacrifice of blood for the remission of our sins and the inherited sin (“the sin of the world” which came from Adam), then one is ready for the outward act of water baptism which pictures what has taken place internally. A death to the old sinful man has taken place when one goes under the water. Upon coming out of the water, the symbol of the “washing of regeneration” that took place is evident. One is made clean internally and ready for the Spirit of God.

The “born of the Spirit” baptism can take place at the same time or it can come before or after the water baptism. Also, quite often it comes through the “laying on of hands”. The main thing is that it indeed takes place. However, the “born of the Spirit” never precedes the being “born of water”. The house (so to speak) needs to be clean before the Spirit comes in. How can one know that they have been born of the Spirit? Their spirit will bear witness with God’s Spirit. There will be an internal witness. Also, there will be evidence of “power”. Power to overcome sin and temptation, and also power to become “witnesses”.

The Prison House

March 28, 2012

93074268resize

This prison is not your literal prison. It doesn’t have all the high fences with barb/razor wire. It doesn’t have the guard stations and towers where they watch everything you do. No, but this prison is common to everyone in humanity. We all have been here at least one time in our lives. Sad to say, most are still locked up here behind the walls. They are confined and held captive. They are not free, despite what they may think. They think that they are free because there are no literal walls, cells, bars, fences, prison guards etc. However, in this prison they do have certain privileges just like the literal prisons do. They can watch TV. They can go to the gym and workout. They can play basketball, if they want. They can eat, and of course, sleep. They can talk on the phone to a love one. In fact, they can even go to work while still in this prison. There are lots of similarities between the two.

But, we are not talking about a “literal” prison here. This prison is the Mother of all prisons.  It is way more confining, and in the end, more damaging to the human race than all the prison houses combined.

And what is this Prison House? What is this prison that everyone has been in, or is currently in? IT IS THE PRISON HOUSE OF SIN. It has been around since the beginning of mankind. The first man and woman were its original inmates and Satan is still the master of the house. This prison dates back before there were literal prisons. It is the oldest “International Prison” in the world. And, only one thing and one thing only keeps its occupants enslaved, and that is SIN.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23)

“But Scripture has shown that all mankind are the prisoners of sin,” (Gal.3:22a)

Sin imprisons you, that is what it does. Its the nature of the beast. It takes you captive. It causes you to do things that you don’t want to do. It can so enslave you to the point that upon first waking up in the morning you would run to it against your own will. It could so control ones body, that their own will would take second place to the addiction. I know that for many this would be hard to believe, but it’s true.  Some have been so trapped by the ravages of sin, that they no longer have any say in the matter. Sin is their master, and a very hard one at that. Their bodies are so addicted to the substance that it would be the same as if they would have a noose around their neck and were being led to the gallows to be hung for good. For some, the only hope they have is a straight miracle from God. Not even the best program, nor the best treatment center in the world could help deliver them.

But, lets bring it more down home for a moment. To the everyday common person, so to speak. Most are not out on the streets shooting heroin, or Meth, or smoking crack. But, the prison house is still the same house. Sin is still sin. God doesn’t have a scale in which he measures sin. Many times people say to me that they are not as bad as others. They will give some examples of others they might know or have known. It still remains, that sin brings forth death.  And spiritual death is separation from God. All have sinned, and it’s wages is paid in death, which is eternal separation from God.

While there are  “3 big hooks” that the enemy of our souls uses today, Drugs, Sex and Alcohol, there are many more subtle sins that keep one in bondage at the prison house. Some could be, cheating from their employer, using company time to do personal business. Many do not consider this as “stealing” from their employer, because time is not a tangible item such as taking tools, supplies etc. from their employer. But, stealing is stealing in God’s eyes, whither it be “tangible” or not.

Usually, sin leads to some sort of addictive behavior. It could be flirting with the office secretary which started at first with one look. It then became an everyday thing which eventually led to going out to dinner with her and then over to her apartment. That’s the nature of the beast. It usually starts small, but oh, the end result could be very damaging, and in some cases, effect many people.

Another classic addiction found in the prison house is online pornography. It’s one of the most prevalent “closet addictions” there is. It’s one that can be hidden for many years. However, it cannot be hidden from God who see’s all and knows all.

The Good News is that there is a way out of the prison house if one truly wants out. No, it’s not by “good behavior” or trying to be a good person. Or by “doing your time”. It’s not by “will power” either. Taking prescription drugs to lessen the addiction does not set one free either. In a lot of cases, this just makes the addiction legal. It is not even by going to “AA” or “NA” meetings. These can be beneficial in some ways, but if all one gets is their own “higher power” and they do not get THE KEY to get out and stay out, they will remain stuck behind the walls regardless. These meetings, prescription drugs, will power and the like, are certainly not the cure for sin, which is the only “Key” to getting out of prison. Many have tried to free themselves from the bondage of sin, only to find themselves right back where they left off in relapse. And, in a lot of cases, worse off then they were when they first started.

Many have cured their main addiction through “self-helps”, only to replace it with “smaller ones” which are still sin, which still keeps them enslaved in the House. So, you can still be “clean and sober” yet still be locked up.

Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” ( John 8:36 ). True freedom can only be found in Jesus. Only through the finish work of Christ on the cross can one be freed from the prison house. And that, one must embrace it personally by faith. And, only by “abiding in Christ” can one remain out of prison. One gets the “release” from the house, but then, one must remain daily in Him to stay out of prison for good. If one breaks the law of God (His word), and continues therein, (key word “continues”) they will end up back in the House.

So, Christ is the “Key” to getting out, and the “Key” to staying out. Unless one receives the Key which was purchased by His blood on Calvary, there is NO getting out. No Christ, No getting out. Know Christ, then get out. We must also remember that this Prison is one that has been designed ultimately for eternity. In eternity, once one is there, there is NO getting out forever.

While this post mainly addresses the “unbeliever” in the prison house, it is surely also for the “believer”. If we as believers, are engaged in habitual sin, then we also are in the house. We may be going to church, bible study, meetings, and witnessing etc. But if sin is mastering us, we are enslaved, saved or not. And, we can go no further in our walk/relationship with God, until we are released from prison and set free.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn.1:9)

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom.6:1-2)

From rags to True Riches

February 9, 2012

“He would do things like, scream and yell at people. He would run as fast as he could down the sidewalk, screaming and yelling, pushing people out of his way. People who didn’t know him, or weren’t from this area, would freak out. Many would call the police. He was picked up and taken to jail so many times that Joe had lost track of the count. The police of course knew him all too well.”

I believe in the redemptive power of God to change a life. Testimonies prove it.

Today was a lot like a typical day going out on the streets, getting on the train after riding the bus to the train stop. As the train was getting ready to make its first stop into downtown, I looked out the window and noticed a corner, and a spot to stand hit my eye. I heard the Spirit say, “stand there”. So, as it stopped, I got off and walked back to that spot.

I stood there smiling and handing out the “Why do you need Jesus cards”. Had a couple of good contacts with a few people, and good reception in taking the cards. After about 20 minutes, I turned to my right and this guy almost knocked me over. It was Steve! (name changed to protect the redeemed).

Now, I will back up to approximately five years ago.

The Hawthorne area is an area that the Lord has led me to quite often over the years. Like a lot of towns, they have their part of town that cater to the younger generations and it’s “hippy” like culture. Such is this part of our city. Like a lot of cities, it has deep roots in the occult and witchcraft. But hey, the light shines brightest in the dark, right?

On many visits to this area, I would see this man who lived here and everybody knew him. Why did they know him? Well, it wasn’t exactly for his well dressed look or his very charming personally. He was known as the guy who everybody felt sorry for. He was a part of the town. He would bum food, money etc. from anybody at anytime of the day or night. You’re thinking right about now, that he was the “local town bum” right? Well, you could say that, but it ran a little deeper than that. Let me explain.

I have developed a friendship with one guy down there who has his corner where he hangs out everyday with his cardboard sign. His name is Joe (name changed to protect his popularity). Joe has known Steve ever since he came to this area. Many times when I landed here, I would go over to Joe’s corner and hang out for a while. We would always eventually bring up Steve and talk about how he was doing.

You see, Steve had some real mental things going on. And yes, a good deal of it was spiritual. He would do things like, scream and yell at people. He would run as fast as he could down the sidewalk, screaming and yelling, pushing people out of his way. People who didn’t know him, or weren’t from this area would freak out. Many would call the police. He was picked up and taken to jail so many times that Joe had lost track of the count. The police of course knew him all too well.

I remember on one occasion, I had just arrived there, and it was night-time. I looked down the street and saw the flashing lights. I walked by the police car, and there they were, putting Steve in the car again. After visiting with Joe, he shared with me as to what he was arrested for. It was “indecent exposure”. You see, Steve also had this problem where he would for no known reason, pull down his pants and began to take his clothes off. And yes, right in front of everybody as they passed by. And you can guess what would happen shortly afterwards. Yep, the flashing lights.

Two occasions stand out in my mind as a recall the times when I saw him there. One time, it was the middle of winter, and he had his usual dirty clothes, long matted hair, and dirty face. Because of his condition, you could not carry on an intelligent conversation with him. This always bothered me, however, I did not want to succumb to the thought of “oh well, that’s just the way he is”, and just let him be. I believed he was going to be delivered and healed. So, when ever I would see him, I would push through and try to speak with him. Well, this day he actually stopped long enough to hear me invite him to go with me to the Starbucks for coffee. He said he would! Wow! I was shocked, and quite frankly didn’t expect it. So, we walked down the sidewalk. I spoke to him about God’s love for him. I prayed for him and tried to get some feedback, but nothing.

We came to the coffee shop. I opened the door and he just stood there. I said, “let’s go in”. He just stood there. I closed the door, and we stood outside. After trying to find out why he didn’t want to go in, I finally figured it out. Here was a man who didn’t live inside of four walls. He had no house to stay in. All he knew was the outdoors. It was his home. I’m sure the enclosure frighten him, big time.

So, I asked him what kind of drink he wanted. Much to my surprise he said, “a latte”. I said, “what kind?” He said, “vanilla” Wow!, I thought. Praise God! I got an intelligent response out of him. I hugged him and said, “all right! that it will be”. So, he waited outside and I went in. I came out and smiled, gave him his drink and…….. off he went. What? He could not even stay for a minute? There went Steve, pushing aside people and hurrying down the sidewalk. Well, I was thankful that I had experienced a breakthrough with him anyways.

The other time was when I was standing on a corner in the area, passing out cards and noticed that he came by. I reached out and said “hey Steve, remember me? I bought you the latte? He looked at me as if he never met me or seen me before. I began to really pray for him. I didn’t like what the enemy was doing to this man. Frankly, I was getting real upset. Here was a wasted life that the enemy had no right to take and destroy. After about 20 minutes, I saw him coming back my way. I was not going to let this opportunity pass by. As he came by, I……..

immediately followed him rebuking the devil the whole way. It was a busy day and the sidewalks were full. We swerved in and out of the people passing by. I did not care what they thought of this “crazy man” following this guy and talking out loud, saying “I rebuke the unclean spirits in my brother! Come out of him, right now! In Jesus name! etc.etc.” Then……

He took off in a dead run. I followed a short distance, then stopped and gave him to the Lord. No doubt, many people have prayed for him over the years. I know many people have blessed him with untold blessings such as food, water, sleeping bags, money etc. Heaven will tell the story.

A year went by. No sight of him anywhere. I asked around and nobody knew. Of course, we hoped that he made his peace with God, if he had left us for good. Then one day……. I was downtown at a certain corner, and I looked to my left, and saw him. He was walking at a regular pace. He was dressed nicer. He was clean. I called out, “hey Steve!” He looked at me. I said, “do you remember me?” He shook his head up and down and said, “yes”. I smiled and said, “how are you doing?” He said, “really good”, I have my own place now”. I said, “really!” He said, “yeah!” Then he said, “hey I got to catch this bus”. We parted and I couldn’t believe what I had just heard and seen. I went home that night rejoicing in our Lord.

I couldn’t wait for the next time to go out to Hawthorne and tell Joe the good news. The next week came and I found myself led to go out there and tell him. He was so excited to hear that he was alive. I think he might have given up hope. It was an exciting time for sure.

Now fast forward six months, to today. As I turned to my right, this guy almost knocked me over. It was Steve!  I asked him how he was doing. He said great. He reminded me again that he had his own place, and that he had his own food. He looked really good. We reminisced a little about our times on Hawthorne. He remembered.

Now here is the best part………. I asked him, as I stood there holding one of my “why do you need Jesus” cards, “What about Jesus!” He looked at me and said, “Oh yeah! He’s my Lord and Savior!” Wow! To hear that come from his mouth, was like sweet dew coming from heaven! I hugged him and said, “God bless  you brother!” He smiled and said he needed to catch the bus. What a Redeeming God He is! Changed forever!

A living example of commitment

August 24, 2009

Today I was blessed to listen to a lady as she gave me her testimony of commitment.

In today’s quick and throw away society, little is found out about marriage commitment. We live in a society that accepts divorce as a throw away option to commitment, if necessary. In many cases the couple stands before a minister of God and they recite their marriage vows. In some cases they still say vows that have the time-tested words, “through richer and poor, through sickness and health, tell death do us apart.” All these vows are said before witnesses, the minister, and most importantly, God. (Although, in a lot of cases now days,  there is no “minister of God” who believes in the Bible anymore. And the “vows” have little to do with real commitment such as the above)

What about commitment?

Here is her testimony as the best I remember it:

She was married for 40 years before her husband passed away with his final heart attack. In the last 10 years her husband had four strokes. Each one set him back farther and farther. He became more abusive, angry, bitter, and aggressive with each one. He made continued threats to her life on a regular basis. The family no longer wanted to be around him because of his aggression. In the last year of his life, his wife slept out in the front room with little sleep each night because of the fear of what he might do. She told me, “I had to guard my back at night”.

She also shared about how he became like a little kid out in the yard always getting into trouble. He would be working on things like his tractor, and then get himself caught in a bind and have to yell to his wife to get him out. She would always come to his rescue and help him and get him inside for help.

I was so amazed to listen how, as she put it, “God gave me abundant patience through it all”.

Not only was this a real trial for her, but they also had a physically challenged child to raise. This had its own requirement of much grace and patience, let alone a husband who was no longer the one who she married years ago.

About three-quarters of the way through our conversation she said, “through richer and poor, through sickness and health”. That jumped out at me big time. Wow, I thought to myself. Where has commitment gone in today’s society? Does it mean anything anymore?

Here was a lady that had way more reasons than most to “divorce” her husband. Most would have left long ago and would have put their husband into a rest home for someone else to deal with the mega problem. She admitted that there was a time when she checked into it, but could not get herself to make such a big move and separation.

Her love ran deep. It was not based on circumstances. Most love today between husband and wife is based upon circumstances. Things like finances, status, looks, and figure enter into the basis of keeping that relationship going or not. True love runs deeper than any earthly or physical circumstance.

I could not help but think about our laws today that grant divorce based upon “irreconcilable differences”. How can this be even in the same ballpark as what this lady went through? Or, others that have gone through much worse. You can’t even compare it to “differences”. Or how about this one, “we no longer have anything in common?”

This story has an awesome ending:
She told me that three days before he passed, he made his peace with God and also apologized to her. From that time on he began to change and to smile the remaining three days.

AND GET THIS: (this one blew me away)
HE DIED WITH A SMILE ON HIS FACE! Yep! She told me that when they came to get him to take him to the morgue, that she demanded that they not cover up his face. She said that he went out the front door in the stretcher that day for all to see that he was smiling as he went.

Now she lives with such joy, peace and contentment, knowing that he is at peace, and that she will see him again someday. Her testimony is living proof to what true love, commitment, and forgiveness is. Also to what it can do.

God bless her richly! For her testimony is powerful and it has God all over it!