Written in 1989.
I know this now, however, before I met Christ, I did not know the importance of His order in my life. Yet, despite all my lopsidedness, my resistance, my hard heartedness, God still cared for me. I didn’t know it then, but God does really care for me, personally.
As I look back on my life, I now recognize that God wanted so much to hold me in His arms. So much that he constantly tried to show His love to me, yet I was so calloused that I did not see the ”forest for the trees”.
But, you know? He never gave up on me.
I have been blessed throughout my life and have only recently realized that this was the hand of God. As I grew up, God blessed me with a wonderful family that loved each other, vacationed together. I have a wonderful brother and a sister, God held my family together. We did not have the misfortune of a broken home. My father and mother cared for us greatly. This year (1989) we will celebrate their 39th anniversary.
Yet, after attending a Lutheran Church, being baptized, being confirmed in the church, attending Sunday school practically all my life, I walked away from the presence of God and the church while in high school.
But, at school, God was with me. Studies were not too difficult for me; school was fun and I did not get into too much trouble. I even graduated with honors.
I continued to reject God, however. After high school, I couldn’t even recognize the mighty presence of God if it hit me in my face. Many times, he spared me from killing myself while doing something stupid, or from going to jail. He presented to me many opportunities to prosper, physically, and if I had recognized it, spiritually. God gave me to a wife that means more to me than any many could ask for. A wife that is a warm, kind, understanding, and a true friend. We have two children that are dream kids. Yet, I proceeded to abuse this relationship by mismanaging my family life and my time. I was becoming married more to myself than my wife. I nearly lost her, twice.
Through two separations the Lord kept His hand upon my shoulder, or carried me upon His.
I still did not recognize the deliverance that God was offering me.
Today, one of the greatest gifts God has given me is the gift of love between Terry, myself and our two children, Chris and Lesley.
In my work, God continued to wrestle with me to show himself to me. Yet, I continued to ignore. When I was appointed fire chief at Parkland, I was one of the youngest in the State and the Country. I was receiving very good wages, I had power, nothing could go wrong. Well, I was really in the world. I enjoyed all that the world stands for. Pride, lust, greed, if it feels good do it, all were traits that where I was familiar with because they described me.
My pride created the final blow that brought me to my knees before God. I had filled myself so full of pride that I considered the Fire Department mine. Nobody had better mess with it, either. I was suddenly not working for the department; it was my department. Rapidly, I was becoming more and more miserable each day. I still did not recognize that I was out of balance in my life. One day I met with one of my bosses, we had a discussion, we really had an honest to goodness shouting match. This person who had been a close friend of mine moments before, now was a bitter enemy. We no longer spoke to each other and constantly were jabbing and sparring with each other. Here I was, not even talking to one of my bosses.
Needless to say, this was a very rough situation and a major rift developed between myself and all the fire commissioners and the rest of the department.
On that day, when I went home Terry saw that I was about to implode, and simply said to me, ” Why don’t you get into the hot tub, and relax”. Well, wiser words could never have been said. So, I got into the hot tub, and tried to relax. I couldn’t. I was so angry with everything that was happening. I sat in that hot tub for a long time, eyes closed, crying, trying to make sense of what was happening. After a very long period (I don’t know how long), I looked up. There shrouded by the steam of the hot tub, sat my wife. She had been there the whole time. She was concerned for me and wouldn’t leave me alone. We hadn’t accepted Christ, yet. But, in her own, childish way she must have been praying for me. Well, as I sat there, opened my eyes, and saw her, I blurted out… “I have to get back to the church”.
I didn’t know what had happened in the hot tub that night, but now I know that the Holy Spirit had convicted me that I needed the Lord and he was the only possible way to have peace. Terry and I started going to Parkland First Baptist and within three weeks had given our lives over to Jesus Christ and received him as our personal savior. Suddenly, I received order in my life that amazes me even now. It was like turning on a light in an unlit room. Everything was visible. I didn’t even know it then, but Jesus had just made my life complete. He had restored order in my private world. You see the one major element that had been missing was the complete lack of any spiritual aspect in my life. Jesus fixed that in an instant. Many times, since then, God has shown me His love and power. Every time it has been for His glory. I would like to relate one final story to illustrate that: At the time, I received Christ, work was unbearable. And as I have said, this was the blow that brought me to my knees.
As a new babe in Christ, I was thirsty for His word. God led me in His word and in studying His word, he began to reveal to me His wisdom. Prov 25:21,22 ”If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Suddenly, I realized he was giving me a prescription with which to heal my relationships at work. Then I attended Basic Youth and discovered Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
I did two things. First, I made peace with Bob, whom I had offended. Second, I recognized and acknowledged that he and the other two commissioners were God given authorities over me. The Fire Department was not mine, it was Gods! I was not the focus of authority, he was. I needed to submit to the authority of those that God had placed over me.
When I did that, God handed me the fire department to manage for him. After having had trials, fights, wars, you name it at board meetings for four years, there was now peace. We have not had a disagreement since then. When I submitted to the authority of God and those he has placed in authority over me, God opened the doors for me to have greater responsibility. The commissioners now give me more latitude and authority than I could have ever imagined before. It is as close to a blank check in managing the department as anybody could hope for. Psalms 18:39 say’s ‘’You armed me with strength for the battle, you made my adversaries bow at my feet”· In my case God did arm me for my battle. The armament he supplied was a spirit of humility and a proper relationship with those in authority over me. My ”enemies” bowed at my feet. They were not killed, or trampled over by the Holy Spirit but they were brought into harmony with God’s plan by order. Order in our relationship. We are greater today because of the work God is doing through our relationship.
Yes, God has been great to me. He has shown me the power that can only come through him. This power is a direct impact in balancing out my life with him. I owe him everything. I still have problems in my life, especially with time management. Yet, I when I submit to my father and seek His wisdom and guidance, He never fails to show me the way. He strengthens me and supports me in my times of troubles.
In closing, I would like to express some words from the prophet Isaiah. These words summarize my feelings of gratitude towards what God has shown me: ”He gives strength to the wary and increases the power of the weak. Even youth grow tired and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.”
Thank you for your attention this morning. Praise God for all his mighty works.