It’s crazy to think that I have been doing ministry for fourteen years. I think back to those early days of my salvation spent in jail and a part of me longs to be back in that place. No, I don’t enjoy being confined to a cell or making my meals with a hot-pot and trash bag. However, what I did enjoy was being smack-dab in the middle of a ripe mission field. I was on fire for God and every new inmate meant a new person to share the love of God with. I wish I knew how some of those early converts were doing and if they remained in the faith, but only God knows. Every day since has been a rollercoaster of events. I wish I could capture all of my experiences and bottle them up to give away to each of you, but there isn’t an app for that… yet!
In preparing for today’s blog post, I had to search really deep and really wide to come up with the content that follows. I have never really thought about or tried to list all the things that I have learned over the last fourteen years, but in doing so today, I have experienced a joy and peace that I have not felt in some time. So, without further ado, the top ten things that I have learned in 14 years of ministry.
God is Faithful
This was the first BIG lesson that God taught me. I have yet to write this portion of my testimony down, but I will never forget this lesson. A year or so after I was released from my final stint in Hotel Harris County, I got two Kanji (Chinese Characters) tattooed on my wrists; one on each wrist. Their meaning put together means God is faithful. At the time this statement was just another tenant of my faith that seemed like a cool idea to have tattooed on me. Fast forward several months, one fateful night after having denied my faith and relapsed into drug use, I attempt to take my life by dragging a blade across the tattooed declarations of faith. As I cried out to God, “Why do I feel so alone?” He very gently spoke back, “If you would trust me I will use all of your pain and suffering for my glory.” My response was, _”Prove that you are who you say you are!”_God kept me from bleeding out that night and proceeded to reveal Himself to me through a chain of events that will forever be etched in my heart and mind. I would share them here, but I will save those details for another post.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your walk with God. He is faithful to fulfill His promises both you personally and those revealed in scripture. If He says He will do it, then He will. Our walk would be so much easier if we simply trusted Him. Your walk would be so much easier if you simply trusted Him. He is faithful! Believe that today!
Transformation Starts with Humility
“Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
We live in a cause and effect relationship with God. He is the cause and a transformed life is the effect in us. I have always said that anytime we experience something as big as God, we should walk away changed. If you ever attended one of my youth services you should be imagining a Mac truck right now. It always amazes me to see people walk out of a church on Sunday mornings feeling unchanged and unaffected by what just took place. It didn’t make sense to me until God revealed this little gem to me. Transformation can only begin with humility. Our “free will” is often the wall between a life lived in God’s transforming power and a life lived in powerless religion. After all, in order to receive the free gift of salvation we must first, choose to humble ourselves and declare Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. When the transformation process in my life seems to be stalled, I know it is because I am choosing to be prideful or arrogant instead of humble. This is why Jesus tells us to crucify our flesh (selfishness) DAILY (Luke 9:23).
If there is any pride or arrogance in you, then I can guarantee it is getting in the way of you living a transformed life. I should add that you are not the best judge for whether or not you are being arrogant or prideful. Ask God to reveal your prideful ways and then ask those that are closest to you if they see any pride. Be ready for a slap in the face, but faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).
Community is Not Built by One Person
I have spent many seasons of my life trying to build community with people. In any situation, no matter what the environment, building community is tough. However, when the environment is simply our right resistant to building community within the four walls of a church/group then no amount of effort on your part will prompt a thriving community to be formed. True community within a group and/or church requires intimacy, engagement, time, commitment, transparency, and a desire to be in the community more than anywhere else. When you have a group of people willing to dedicate to these things, community simply thrives.
In my time I have seen two types of communities: Those within the church (internal communities) and those outside the church (external communities). The latter being any external group of friends or family. A church/group that struggles with building community almost always has people who dedicate more of their time to their external communities than their internal ones. Which community are you committed to?
Never Take Relationships for Granted
I am learning this one in my present season of life. As a believer I thought that my marriage was divorce proof simply because we were both believers and that we had both committed to never let it get that far. As a result I became complacent in perusing my wife. I wasn’t oblivious by any means, but instead of chasing after my wife in trying times, I gave her space thinking that she will either deal with it on her own or eventually come to me. After 12 years of marriage, I had given her so much space that I left her feeling unloved and unimportant. Pair that with my other actions and words and who wouldn’t want to walk away?
The people in your life come with no guarantee. It doesn’t matter who they are; mother, father, sister, brother, child, or life long friend. Everyone will get to a point where a painful relationship will become to much to bear. Take inventory of your relationships on a regular basis. Is there strain, strife, or struggle? If the people in your life are of any value, don’t wait! Do something now before it’s too late.
God Doesn’t Fit in a Box
We as a people, love to try to put boundaries on God. It’s like a subconscious goal for us as individuals to figure God out to the point where He no longer surprises us. You may be laughing with me as you read this, but if you really think about it, it’s true. Some of the most difficult times in my faith have been a result of God revealing a side of Himself that I had never experienced before. Anyone who has experienced some sort of horrific tragedy can attest to this. Those whom have seen this side of God know the battle of doubt, fear, anger, and hopelessness that comes with this kind of trial. For those who endure and come out the other side, they also know the growth and peace that is found when God extends the borders of our understanding.
Unfortunately, there is no advice here. This is a lesson that we are all learning on a regular basis. We will always be experiencing new sides of God until the day that we stand before Him fully transformed and able to see Him in all of His glory. What a day that will be!
Check Back Next Week
To save you the eye strain, I will complete my list next week, so be sure to check back next Monday for part 2.