28 Fundamental Christian Beliefs-#1-The Holy Scriptures

The Holy Scriptures

The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.

__________________________________________

How Does the Old Testament relate to the modern Christian?

The great dividing mark in the experience of many Christians is that space between Malachi and Matthew.  The proclamation of many churches is, “We are a New Testament church, who live by the new testament. The old testament was done away with at the cross”

Some will go so far as to say, “The old testament was about obedience to God’s law, the new testament is about grace and forgiveness.” They will go on to say, “We couldn’t keep it so Jesus kept it for us and we are no longer under the law, so we don’t have to keep the letter, we just keep it in our hearts.” I will address this misunderstanding throughout and, hopefully, provide a better reasoning that will lead to a better experience.

Jesus said,

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4-(Quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3)

This is from Genesis to Revelation!

At the time Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, there was no new testament.

There is a huge misunderstanding about the old testament and it relevancy to us today;  mostly because much of the teaching in our churches look through the tinted glasses of denominationalism rather than  every word of God.

The books of the Tanakh (The old testament, as referred to by the Jews) are often confused with the old covenant and the new covenant.  Did you know that the new covenant can be found in the old testament? This we will explore from scripture itself.

_______________________________________________

Jesus spoke very plainly to the Sadducees about their error on a doctrinal topic.  Why did they “err” in their understanding on the religious topic being discussed?  Two things:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Matthew 22: 29

It is important that each individual who follows Jesus understand and know every word that proceeds from the mouth of God and experience His power in their own lives.

___________________________________________________

What are the scriptures and the power of God?

A few decades after the cross (66-67 AD), Paul encouraged young Timothy about the Holy Scriptures:

 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Then he goes on to say in the next verse:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3: 14-17

Let’s break this down and observe a few points knowing that the new testament writings and letters were not considered scripture until later.  So, Paul is talking to Timothy about the old testament (aka Tanakh)

1.) Paul encourages Timothy to pay attention to what he has learned since childhood from the Scriptures.  The Scriptures were (at this time) only the old testament.  There was no new testament when Paul encouraged Timothy.

2.) The Holy Scriptures will make him “wise about salvation that comes through faith in Jesus.”  Again, the only scripture at that time was the old testament. If it is true for Timothy, it is true for us!  The old testament can make us wise about salvation through faith in Jesus.

3.) All Scripture (old testament) is profitable for:

Doctrine

Reproof

Correction

Instruction in Righteousness

To equip the worker for God

Look at all that is missing in the Christian experience if we don’t live by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God! Is our experience with Jesus not all it can be because we limit our “living by every word of God” to the New Testament books only?

Jesus Used the Old Testament to Teach and Encourage

When Luke described the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of Christ’s resurrection, he referred to the books of Genesis through Malachi as “Scripture.”

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

“Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

Luke 24: 27, 32

Think of how deep the understanding about Jesus would be if more people were searching Him in the books of the Old Testament

Scripture is God’s word and it is what changes a sinful human being.  It has power to sanctify us (grow in our experience with Christ). Jesus prayed to the Father:

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

John 17:17

Jesus is actually praying to God the Father to “sanctify” His followers through the books of the old testament.  In addition, Jesus is referred to as the Word (John 1).  He is the embodiment of God’s written word!

Jesus’ prayer demonstrates that growing in Christ and moving from sinful habits to sanctified habits happens through a right understanding of God and His  word. This includes the old testament!

God’s word is powerful for those who come in contact with it. It will affect their  thoughts and their attitudes.

But, did you notice that it is God The Father’s words that are truth.  When Jesus prayed this prayer it included the Tanakh (old testament books) as well as when he inspired men of the new testament books to write His words.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

It provides a light to direct the daily walk through life:

Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

But, the words must be mixed with a personal knowledge and experience with the Giver of the Word:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17:3

Eternal life is more than just memorizing words.  It is having a personal relationship with the Giver of the Word and Jesus Christ.  By doing so, you become to know Him!  By studying Jesus (referred to as “The Word” in John 1), we can get a clear picture of God the Father:

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.

John 14:7

I believe we can safely say,  “Knowing Him is not limited to the words of the New Testament.”

____________________________________________________

Here is an interesting fact:

Scripture is used 53 times in the entire Bible, but only once in the Old Testament. The other 52 times are all used in the New Testament referring back to the Old Testament.

We can safely conclude the word “Scripture” as found in the both the old and new testament is referring only to the old testament.  Jesus and all the disciples quoted it and used it to prove Jesus was the Messiah and to give hope.

Proof of Jesus in the Old Testament:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

John 5:39

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

Acts 8:35

Which word did Philip open?  It was the books of the old testament!

The Old Testament Teaches us and Gives Us Hope:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

Romans 15:4

_______________________________________

Peter said,

 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1: 19-21

The prophetic word  (reference to the old testament) should  be heeded until the lights start to come on about Jesus!

Many of the problems with appreciating and following the books from Genesis to Malachi are the words “old” and “new”

The Old and New Covenant

Paul said,

 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 8:13

What is ready to vanish?  Is it the books of the old testament?  No! It is the old covenant!

John said,

Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

1 John 2:7

There is a difference between concept of the “old covenant” and the “”old commandments.” While the “old covenant” is “vanishing away,” we must be careful that we don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!

Jesus confirms this:

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Matthew 5:17

Some will reason incorrectly, “Well, Jesus fulfill the Law and the Prophets therefore it has vanished away.”

But listen to the remainder of the words and ask if Jesus has destroyed the law and prophets by fulfilling the requirements and the prophecies.

 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Matthew 5:18

The Naysayers will continue to teach, for example, that the ten commandments have been replaced by grace.

But again, let’s let Jesus tells us what He is talking about.

 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19 

Is there any doubt that our Lord expects us keep or obey the great 10 commandment law written by the finger of God?  Which one of the laws would you feel comfortable breaking?  Which one is the least of the commandments?

If we break one, we have broken them all

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

James 2:10

But, never forget that we cannot obey our way into eternal life.  It is first the grace of God,  the death of Jesus for our breaking of the law (aka sin), and  then faith in Him and His word that gives eternal life to us from a life of sin and eternal death:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 2:8

But, this grace and faith does not make the need for the law to go away.

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Romans 3:31

This 10 commandment law was given by God Himself in the Old Testament.  It has never gone away or nailed to the cross.

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

Psalm 119:160

 We must be sure to not confuse the books of the old testament with the old covenant.

Paul said this about the old covenant:

But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Corinthians 3: 14-16 

There was a covenant with the people of God referred to as the old covenant and this “veil” blinds them unless they turn to the Lord  their eyes would be opened.

When someone reads about the old covenant (not the old testament books) they cannot see spiritually, but when they insert Jesus into it, the veil is taken away. This happened to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and the other disciples when they were meeting in fear and Jesus showed up.  Jesus himself lifted the veil of understanding about Himself.

What is it we should see?  Jesus was the point of the sacrificial system, the feast days, circumcision.  All of these pointed to Jesus and demonstrated His character, God the Father’s character and how salvation works.  They were all shadows of the actual work and being of Jesus.

Image result for images of shadow of God's word

These shadows had their end when Jesus died on the cross:

The law (sacrificial and ceremonial) is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Hebrews 10:1-2

Notice that the context is the “sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year.”  It is not talking about the 10 commandment law or even the old testament books rather the system of worship and teaching that came to an end with Jesus. This system was a teacher to introduce the work and being of Jesus:

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor

Galatians 3:24

Those sacrificial laws God gave to Moses was to teach them about Christ.  When Christ came, they were no longer obligated to perform these sacrificial and ceremonial laws.

It also demonstrated that we were all sinners and could not save ourselves, nor work our way into God’s salvation.  There has never been two methods of salvation i.e. By works in the old testament and grace/faith in the new testament.  We are saved only by the grace God provides and faith (trust) in Him.  God even supplies us the faith if we are willing.

The New Covenant and God’s Law

So we can see there are some things in the old testament books that came to an end, but not the old testament books themselves.  The old covenant came to an end, but what is it compared to the new covenant.  Let’s look at a couple of verses:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Hebrews 8:10 (Paul quotes Jeremiah 31:33)

Notice the new covenant still includes the law (law of morality contained in the 10 commandments), but it is written on the hearts.  It cannot include those laws that passed away.  Therefore, it must include the laws that remain i.e., the eternal law that we have had from the beginning

I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning.

1 John 2: 7

There was something wrong with the first covenant that required a new covenant. But, did God make a mistake and had to rewrite the covenant?  Paul explains the problem was not with God, but with a people who would not keep their end of the agreement.

 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.  Because finding fault with them, He says:“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judahnot according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

Hebrews 8: 7-9

So the old covenant had to be disregarded because it was made null and void by the people who would not continue in the Lord’s covenant.

Paul then tells us because of the failure on the part of the people, the Lord does something dramatic:

The New Covenant and Better Promises

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Hebrews 8:6 (NIV)

God did not make a mediocre promise and then a better promise. The problem with the first covenant was with the people.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them

Hebrews 8: 7

Did you catch that?  The second covenant (new covenant)  would not have been needed if the first one was faultless.  The agreement was not bad, but the fault was with the people.  They disobeyed!  Why?  Because they were not living by trust and faith in the Lord even though they agreed to do everything the Lord asked.

And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.

And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

Exodus 19: 7-8

Exodus 19:8 above is their promise that went bad.  They did not obey God and they broke their covenant often.

So God’s covenant with His people (those in Christ who are the real Israel) will follow and obey the Lord’s will because His laws are written upon their heart and their will be a relationship between God and His people:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 8:10-12

So you can see that both the old and new covenant dealt with obeying the will of God which are contained in His law. Not the ceremonial and sacrificial laws, but the law that remains forever written upon the hearts of people.  It is the moral law contained in the 10 commandments.

 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrew 8: 7-13

The following chart should help see the difference between God’s word found in the old testament and the old and new covenants found therein.

Old Testament Books
Old Covenant
New Covenant
Jesus and His disciples used it to teach and encourage God made an agreement with the people of Israel God makes a new agreement. The old one vanishes when Jesus’ is revealed.
  Eternal  Becomes obsolete  Eternal
Is a light and perfect Had faults because of the people. They made a promise they didn’t keep God writes the law on the heart which perpetuates obedience to his law.
 Testifies of Jesus Based on poor promises of the people. They failed to believe God  Based on better promises because of Jesus
 Has all wisdom, instruction, and revelation to make one secure in the Lord  God kept his part of the covenant. The people made a promise they couldn’t keep without God in their hearts.  They rejected Him.  Through Christ, the person is born again. The attitude about sin changes. The person obeys God from a new heart and a desire to glorify Him.
Endures forever: 

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.

Isaiah 40:8

The people’s promise Obsolete. Vanished

Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13

New Covenant is eternal

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one. Hebrews 8: 6

 

Summary:

All of scripture (including the old testament) was inspired by God.  It is good for the Christian to base His or Her belief in Jesus and discover more about Him in its pages.  It also contains important information about God’s plan of salvation.  To ignore it or claim it is no longer valid is to miss not only guidance, but also encouragement and more information about Jesus.

The old agreement that the people made with God never worked because they made an empty promise and it is replaced by a covenant where Jesus becomes the mediator and puts God’s law in our heart.  Note: if it is in the heart, a born-again person will obey the letter.

Referring back to beginning of this post What if I told my wife, “I can not keep the law regarding adultery, but it is written in my heart so that excuses me from keeping the letter of the law. Therefore, I am free to take my girlfriend out to supper and spend the night with her.”

I wouldn’t have a wife long if I said this.

Under the new covenant, that law is written on the heart, that means you will obey because your heart has been changed and you love God and your wife.  So you obey the letter, but motivated by a born-again heart that desires to do the will of God.

There is so much confusion in God’s community about the old testament VS the old covenant.  I hope this has helped in someway to demonstrate the value of the books of the old testament; the failure of God’s people who did not obey God; and the people under the new covenant who obey because the Lord has changed them.

Next time, we will look at fundamental belief #2, The Trinity.  Until then, may the Lord bless and keep you and your family.

 

A Pig is Washed A Second Time-Conclusion

My personal story of God’s grace and forgiveness

______________________________________________________________________

Conclusion of my testimony.
A Quick Review

As I have told in the previous two posts, my life started with a godly grandmother.  Later in my youth I turned to atheism.  My unbelief had its roots in Vacation Bible school and the description of an eternally burning hell. The logic of a professor in college solidified my reason to be a complete unbeliever.

But, then I was challenged by my first wife to study the Bible to prove her wrong.  After reading and studying intently, I discovered Jesus was all He claimed to be!  I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to come into my life.  For 20 years I was active for the Lord.  I knew him well and would often spend time with Him in the morning praying and talking with Him like my grandmother had done when I was younger.

I had a very popular Bible class at my church each weekend.  The Lord blessed me and my Christian friends in prison ministry.  I was on the front page of a world-wide magazine.  The article about my ministry was called “A Banker Goes To Prison.”  One of my best friends and I had a radio ministry for years called “Answers From Scripture.”  I was chosen by my church to take part in the Billy Graham crusades as a counselor where the Lord worked through me to bring people to Christ.

_________________________________________

The First Step Back

As described before, my Jesus journey came to an end through my own choice encouraged by tragedy and selfishness in my life.  Then for 10 years, I “took my inheritance” and lived it up.  I had no conviction for my sin and was “dead in sin.”  But, soon the money and good times began to fade.

Last time I mentioned passing a policeman while speeding out of my neighborhood.  I had been drinking and had just left a nasty argument with my second wife. I will pick up the story from here.

Just as I passed the officer, going in the opposite direction, the blue lights came on immediately.  I already had one DUI on my record from years earlier.  I was tempted to run, but instead I immediately pulled over and said, my first prayer in almost ten years.

“Lord, please keep me out of jail.”

The police officer came up to my window.  I knew he would be able to smell the beer on my breath.

“In a big hurry?”

“Yes, sir.  I was going too fast.” I said this without looking at him fearing my breath would give me away.

“Can I see your license?”

“Sure.”

He then asked,

“Do you live in this neighborhood?”

“Yes sir, I am about half of a mile from home”

“I would recommend you go back home.” Those words sounded familiar and encouraging. It was God-like….

“Yes sir, I will turn around here and head back that way.” 

Whew!  He let me go!  I was so relieved.  My second prayer was,

“Thank you Lord!”

Although I didn’t know it at that time, this was my single step back towards my home with Jesus.

The incident with the policeman stayed with me.  I began to think about my drinking and how I was ruining my health and putting others in danger.

Then the Lord began to work in my life. I had open the door just a little.

Job Loss Again!

My company reorganized and my job was eliminated.  This move took me off the road and away from an extravagant routine of drinking and eating in fine restaurants.  But, again, I was out of work and had enough money to last a few months.  Cashing in some stock options allowed me to buy a little boat and keep the bills paid.  So for several weeks, I enjoyed the beauty of a nearby lake, fishing, and some drinking.

I decided to start going to Wednesday night prayer meetings at a local church of my own denomination.  I requested prayer to help me find a job. Since I knew many people in the banking field, I began to network with them.  The jobs advertised on the internet seemed to be a dead-end.  I was starting to lose hope, especially because of the bankruptcy on my credit report.  Often bank jobs require a review of your credit report and a bankruptcy will prohibit hiring or, at the very least, encourage the employer to choose someone else with better control over their finances.

God Takes Care of Me

I went on an interview downtown.  It didn’t go well, but as I was walking back to my  truck,  my path crossed with a local bank executive whom I had worked for in my early years.  We had a pleasant conversation and he told me of a position in a different county just south of where I lived.  He said it had been posted on the internet for some time.  I evidently had missed it because I had limited my search on the internet with this particular bank by the county in which I lived.

When I returned home that afternoon, I looked up the job and immediately made a call to the number listed.  I used the name of the bank executive as a lead-in to get past the Human Resource Department and directly to the hiring manager.  By the next day, I had an interview.

The interview went well, but I just didn’t think the nice younger man would hire me.  Anyway, how about the credit report and the bankruptcy?  Even if he wanted me to work there, would the bankruptcy on my record ruin it all?

I was back on the lake the next day enjoying the sunshine and catching a few fish.  I even took a nap under the quite blue skies.  The lake was almost void of people because it was a weekday. I was beginning to feel the presence of God again.

Later that day as I was driving home, I received a phone call.  It was the nice young man at the bank calling to give me the bad news….at least that is what I assumed, instead he asked,

“Is this Eddie?”

“Yes sir!”

“How is your day going?”

“Pretty good” was my weak response.  My confidence level was way  down.   I expected to hear the bad news, as I had heard times before.

Well, I have some good news for you. My heart jumped!

 We want you to come to work for us at $xxxx (much more than I expected) and with a VP title (I didn’t expect a title, much less a VP title!)

That is great!  When do you want me to start?  I tried to not sound too excited and I had a lump in my throat mostly because I felt a surge of God’s presence…It was as if He said, “I can take care of you like before if you will just let me.”

“How about Monday?”

“Yes that will be fine.”

“I’ll be there!  Thank you so much!”  My words were short, because I knew I was about to shed some tears.

 When I got off the phone, I pulled my truck over on the side of a busy road and began to cry.  I thought of the prayer meetings and the “accidental” meeting of a bank executive in such a large city.  The job was waiting for me.  It had not been filled. A coincidence?  No!  It was the Lord who knew my needs.

I started to work on Monday.  I was concerned about not having any health insurance for 90 days.  This would become very important over the next few weeks because I was about to have a life changing event.

________________________________________________________________

My Past Life Style Catches Up With Me

About this time, as expected, the creditors came and picked up my truck and my Harley Davidson motorcycle.  I was without transportation.  Fortunately, my cousin had a “junker” that I could use. It was an old ugly rusty Oldsmobile.  Driving this car humbled me.  Also, the trips to the lake were no longer possible since I didn’t have a truck to pull my small runabout boat.

I put everything into my new job….so grateful to be working and making money again!

My insurance finally kicked in after the 90 days.  This was very fortunate.

As I was sitting at my desk, I felt a tightness in my chest and decided to go to the break room.  It didn’t let up.  So I went out to my rusty Oldsmobile and laid back in my seat.  No relief.  I began to sweat, so I started up the car and drove to my doctor’s office.  I could barely walk into the building.  When I got to the front desk, I told them I was having chest pains and the doctor came running out and instructed the nurse to put me into a wheel chair.  She rushed me over to the hospital next door.  I could not breath and felt like I was going to faint.

I could make this a long story, but I will summarize here.  I had a blockage in the vein known as “The Widow Maker.”  I had an option for open heart surgery or a stent.  I chose the stent.  This helped for about a year, when I had a second attack after a long bicycle ride.  The next attack required bypass surgery.

My extravagant life style and drinking had finally caught up with me.

The night before the surgery Jerry, the new pastor of the church I once attended  came by to visit.  He had prayer with me and I felt at ease.

The surgery went well and I was back at work within 2 weeks and grateful to God to be alive.

But returning to God after a long time is like being in a car accident and having your legs broken.  You have to learn to walk again. God had worked through a police officer (lesson on mercy) and near death through a couple of heart attacks (consequences of sin) to get my attention.  But there was more before I would finally decide to go home.

_____________________________________________________________

Do You Know That Young Man?

One night, my second wife and I attended a function downtown.  It was a very classy event with evening gowns and expensive suits.  As we left the event and walked towards our car and the valet attendant, I remembered my overcoat and went back inside to get it while my wife asked for our car.

When I started back and was near my waiting car and wife, I noticed one of the attendants staring at me.  It felt a little odd that I would notice since I was hurrying along and a little tipsy from the drinking.  The eyes of the young man who looked Ethiopian seemed to penetrate my soul.

When I got in the car and drove away, the young man was still looking.  My wife asked,

“Do you know that young man?”

” I don’t think so. But, he looks familiar.”

Then my wife said something that would bring back that familiar feeling of conviction.  Unknowingly, her words would lead me to take another big step back to God.

“That young man came over and asked me if you were Eddie.  I told him, yes that is Eddie. He then told me you had one of the best Bible classes.  He said you probably don’t know how much your teaching helped him with his journey with Jesus.  Eddie, I didn’t know you were a Bible teacher.  I have learned something new about you tonight.”

Great conviction ran throughout my being.  It was like an electrical bolt of lightning through my conscience.  I thought of my wild lifestyle and the many people I had hurt. But even more, I thought of the once effective witness I had been for Jesus that had been ruined by my decision to ask Him to go away.

I didn’t want my wife to see me cry so I held it in behind moist eyes and a huge knot in my throat.

A Cautious Return to Church

A few days later I asked my wife if she would go to church with me.  She seemed surprised, but willing to go.  We were of different denominations, so I knew it would be a little odd for her and I appreciated her willingness to go.  In over 5 years of marriage, we had never gone to church or even discussed religion.

As we entered the big church, I told her I didn’t know which Bible class to go in so I looked in the window of the first  door.   Inside was one of my former class members (from earlier years) teaching the class.  I said, to my wife,” Let’s go in this one.”

The class had already started and all the eyes of the people in the circle of chairs seemed to be staring at us.  My former class member teaching the class, Maurice, stopped and then began to introduce me.  He said,

“I want you all to meet Eddie.  Many years ago, I attended his class and he had a great influence on me.”

Tears came to his eyes and he stopped talking.  I, too, felt tears and that familiar lump in my throat.  That day we had a inspiring time in the class and the service afterwards.  It was great to see so many people I had not seen in almost 10 years.  It felt good to be back in church.

Conviction and Doubt

Later in the week, I was under great conviction, but was worried that God would not take me back. It seemed like I had forgotten everything I ever taught and the Bible verses that meant so much to me.   I felt the familiar tug of the Holy Spirit to give in to Jesus knocking loudly on the door of my heart.  I spoke to the Lord and said,

“Lord, see all that I have done.  I asked you to go away.  How can you ever forgive me and make things right again?”

Then a passage of scripture came to my mind.

 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;  for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Luke 15: 20-24

This was me!  The Father still wanted me back!

 I wept and I wept….The sin seemed to drain out of my soul like filthy water.

Not only would God take me back, but He was waiting and looking for me to come home and away from the filthy pig pen.  Then he ran towards me, kissed me, and put on me his warm and comfortable robe of righteousness.

What a feeling! I was back home!

A few weeks later, Jerry (the new pastor of the church I once attended and who visited me in the hospital) re-baptized me.

Returning to the Start

I would like to say that I lived happily ever after, but as I mentioned at the start, the effects of 10 years of riotous living, eating anything I pleased, and drinking affected my health and my relationship with my children.  In fact, the alcoholism went away slowly.  My new life in Christ and my Jesus journey even caused conflict with my second wife and we would eventually go our separate ways.

The job I had received because of much prayer was eliminated due to a merger and I went to work for another bank which ended the same way. I found another job in a distant city and was there for 9 months away from my wife and my home.  But, there was a purpose for me being there.  God used me to help bring my son-in-law to Christ.

 I enjoyed the people, but a new job offer in my home city came and I took it so I could be in my house and with my wife.  But, the effects of the many arguments had taken a toll on both of us and after a nasty argument and the police showing up, we divorced.

Within 3 months of our divorce, I lost my job at the local bank.  So here I was again.  Divorced and with no job.  I had enough money to last about 6 months.  With my wife’s income and mine, we had bought a big house in the country.  I loved it.  I wanted to retire there one day.  The big house was lonely.  Only a couple of cats to keep me company.  The winter of loneliness was like a wet cold blanket on me.

Same Troubles. A Different Response.

But this time, I gave all my worries and depression to the Lord.  I told him that even if I lost the house and everything, I would trust him.  I started to meet and talk with Him every morning.  He reminded me to:

“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

My favorite verse became,

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Meeting the Lord each morning for Bible study and prayer often lasted for hours.  I spent more time walking and talking with the Lord than I did with  searching for a job.

I trusted that God knew my heart and my needs, but I was willing to go through another bankruptcy and foreclosure if that was what was required of me as long as I had the Lord and his warm robe of righteousness around me.

I was so lonely, I began to inquire of the Lord about a third chance at marriage.  I described to Him that I would like a woman who also was of the same faith, that loved Him, but was not too stuffy or religious.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

The Lord gave me the desires of my heart.  He found me a job in a different city.  I didn’t lose my house, but was able to sell it.  I miss it greatly, but I have another house in my new city with  my new wife who loves the Lord and is my true soul mate.

An unexpected check in the mail came that was enough for us to put a down payment on our simple home and have enough left over for furniture.  But, the first thing I did with the money was to  give a tenth to the Lord  and a “thank offering.”

I have been with this position at the bank for over four years.  My wonderful wife of three years is so different and sweet.  We enjoy each other’s company and love to pray together.

I was away from the Lord for 10 years and it has been about 10 years since He ran towards me and gave me that warm comfortable robe of His righteousness.

Our journey back to God can be difficult with slips and slides along the way.  God let’s us see how weak we are without him so that we won’t tell Him to go away ever again.  It is the difficult times and the decision we make to cast all our cares  on Jesus that makes the difference.

Each one of us are on a journey with Jesus.  Our experiences might be different, but Jesus is the same.

Jesus is true when He says,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  This I know.  I left Him, but He didn’t leave me.  I came back, but some do not.

I think of the two young men who were just as on fire for the Lord as me when I first began my Jesus journey.  They left the Father like me.  But, I returned;  they have not.  Lord,  save them a second time like you did me.

I can see how the Lord worked with me, but it was not until I took that single step back to Him that He began to work in my life to save me a second time. Then he built my faith up like a broken bone that is stronger when it heals back.  My faith in Him is stronger now than ever.  I now live it by faith and in obedience to His word.  I am not perfect, but I have a big brother who is not ashamed to call me brother.  He intercedes for me.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren

Hebrews 2:11

It is extremely important to remember that during my dark days there were people praying for me.  I am a big believer in intercessory prayer because I am a recipient of its power. So, don’t ever give up on those prayers for those you love…that have departed and gone back into the world.  There is hope only in Christ.

It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8: 34-35

The Journey continues.  The happy ending comes when Jesus returns. Until then, He is able to complete the work He started in you….but you have to choose.  Even so Lord Jesus come…..

______________________________________

A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 2 (The Trials Kept Coming!)

A personal testimony of the reality of God’s grace….

Billy Graham once said,

“Suffering in life can uncover untold depths of character and unknown strength for service. People who go through life unscathed by sorrow and untouched by pain tend to be shallow in their perspectives on life. Suffering, on the other hand, tends to plow up the surface of our lives to uncover the depths that provide greater strength of purpose and accomplishment. Only deeply plowed earth can yield bountiful harvests.”

I am opening up and making myself vulnerable in this post.  I am letting many people see deep into my experience or, as I call it, my Jesus journey.  This was painful to write and it brought back many bad memories.  Tears were shed as I recalled the many people I hurt including myself!  But, I have been moved to share my testimony, (even the falling away part) to encourage any person on their Jesus journey who has struggles that seem insurmountable.  The answer for you is the same as it was (and is) for me.  You will find it, only in Jesus Christ.

  We are all alike in many ways regardless of our circumstances, but the outcome is sometimes different.  May you be encouraged as you see how the Lord can take someone like me who was “dead in sin” and breath life back into his soul.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

___________________________________________

As I ended the previous writing, I mentioned 1994.  At that point, it had been almost 20 years of active service for God when things begin to change in my experience.  I was being tested and I failed miserably. It is true….not everyone passes the test. Why? Because the Lord gave us the power of choice.  I chose badly.

Following is my story about returning to the mud and choosing to separate myself from the One who promised me the gift of eternal life.

____________________________________________________________

The Trials Kept Coming

I had suspected something was not right for weeks.  So many signs.  A different attitude about things.  I am not talking about myself, it was my wife and the mother of my three beautiful children.

And then like a bolt of lightning the truth came striking out at me.  Hotel rooms, secret meetings, telephone calls.  I fell on my face and wept like a baby.  It hurt deep to know what I learned. I couldn’t catch my breath from the pain!

The next several weeks included moving out, more weeping, talking late at night, wondering about by myself as a husband and father. But, it is here where I made my mistake.  It was my own choice.  Like Jacob, I should have wrapped my arms around the feet of the Lord and insisted I would not let Him go unless He blessed me…But I didn’t.  Instead, I wallowed in my misery.  This would cost me dearly!

Next came a few sessions with a marriage counselor who knew little of what I was feeling.  She had the nerve to excuse my wife’s actions and minimize my feelings by telling me to think of it as her vacation!  What?!!!  That was the final straw.  No more counselors.  I needed healing quickly and completely.

The Great Healer was right there waiting, but I didn’t turn to Him!  If you don’t get anything out of this blog, please remember to turn to Christ immediately if you are faced with hurt and trials! The hurt kept me away.  All that I had learned and taught did not come to mind.  I had once told a Bible class, “If you take a single step towards God, He will come running to you.”  These words and reality would show up 10 years later in a strange set of circumstances.

Why did I not wrestle with God?

“I will not let you go unless you bless me” never came from my lips.

Sadly, my own grieve was about to explode into a full indulgence of rebellion.  It would even lead to death. My own death.  I would be dead in sins.

 We talked.  We tried.  We cried. We took a trip.  But when we came back I filed for divorce.

__________________________________________________

Sickness

One Spring day, I received a call from my wife who had taken our daughter to the doctor.  As a result of some tests, she was to call the hospital at 4:00 PM for the results.  She wanted me with her to talk with the nurse.  She was scared, which scared me.  When we came back from our trip to try and make our marriage work, we both noticed one of our daughters had bruises on her legs.  This led to all sorts of questions and concerns.

4:00 came and I dialed the number.

Hello, I am calling about the results of my daughter’s test.”

“Oh yes.  Hold on for a second.”

It felt like hours until the nurse came back on the phone.

“Could you bring your daughter to the hospital?”

“Of course.  When?”

“We need you to bring her now.”

“Sure.  We are on our way.”

We quickly, put together a small bag and change of clothes for our daughter and we arrived at the hospital within an hour of the phone call.

We all sat down at the desk while the nice nurse began to type information into the computer.  I was positioned where I could see her typing.  Then I noticed it.  A lump came in my throat and I wanted to run from that room, but I had to be strong.

Leukemia!

No! Lord!  NO!

We checked her in and the next day began a series of painful tests including a needle in her back.  I held her hand while she cried out, “Daddy, make them stop.”  I cried with her.  I had to be strong.  My wife had long since run down the hall away from the torture room.

They finally got the sample from her spine and we returned to her room that would become her home for several weeks.

The next day, two doctors came into our room and told us,

“It is not Leukemia.”

I felt a big load off my heart.

“It is Aplastic Anemia.”

That didn’t sound too bad until the Doctors began to explain it.

The load of pain returned to my heart.

Thus began weeks of trying to find a bone marrow donor. No match!

The doctor encouraged us to start thinking about final arrangements.  They gave her a 20% chance.

I could take it no longer, I walked down to the local bar and asked the bartender for something to drink.  Why did I not run to God? Thus began years of drinking.

Aplastic Anemia meant her body had quit producing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  The end could come in one or more of several ways.

Of course, I suspended the divorce.  My attention at work as a senior manager of a bank operation center began to fade.  I didn’t want to be there.  I put on the strong front, but inside my body had stopped producing faith, care, and reasoning.

I found a girlfriend who treated me well.  Now it was my turn to sneak around, lie….and also to feel the burden of guilt and shame. I was learning to turn off any sort of conviction about sin through my friend Jack.  Jack Daniels.

My daughter bloated up from all the medications.  She was so sweet and seemed to be in good spirits.  I loved her so much!  But, I had no way of telling her for the lump and the choking tears that were sure to drown out any sensible comforting communication.  I had to be strong.  But, my strength was being tested almost every day with every thought.  I wanted these thoughts to go away, so I drank….and Jesus waited….

Death

One day at work, I told my secretary I was leaving for the day and I headed to a local watering hole that served excellent  Mexican food.  I met my girlfriend there and we began to drink Tequila.

The waitress came to me and asked,

“Are you Eddie?”

I said, “Yes.”

“You have a phone call up front.”

I had told my secretary where I was going (Cell phones were not common at that time).  So when I answered the phone I was expecting her voice on the other end.  But, it was my brother!

He said,

Eddie you need to come home.” (I was living with him at the time)

“Why?”

“Dad died in a car wreck this morning.”

The next thing I remember was crying uncontrollably at my table.  I had fainted and the people there in the restaurant lifted me back to my table and my food of sorrow laying cold in my plate.

My girlfriend took me out of the restaurant.  The tears continue to flow. She drove me to my brother’s apartment.  My brother and I started a long trip of two hours south to the city where my Dad lived…or had lived until that morning.  We arrived at the hospital and was taken to a dark hallway where we were asked to identify the lump under the bloody sheets.

They pulled back the sheets and my brother and I fell into each other’s arms crying like infants.

The next few days were filled with caskets, flowers, funeral homes and booze at night.  My brother, step-brothers, and sister stayed at my Dad’s house while we waited for the dreaded day of the funeral.

I was a controlled drunk the day of visitation and remember little except trying to keep my composure and not reveal that I had been drinking.  Attending were girl friends and the woman who bore my three beautiful children.  What a mess I was in! My mind was numb to everything!  But, I was sober the next day at the funeral and remember almost every second.

The funeral home director invited the family to come up and say our farewells before they closed the casket for eternity.  It was too much to handle.  My brother and I  walked up to the casket.  We again fell into each other’s arms weeping like we did at the hospital. Sobs that came from deep within.  Why was God doing this to me? Why did I not cry out, “I will not let go unless you bless me?”

I no longer called upon God.  Instead, I called upon my friends Jack  and Bud that night.  They gave comfort for a while, but they would wake me up in the early morning with a dry mouth, a massive headache, and clinging depression.

At some point during all this, I shook my fist at God and told him to “Go away!” I said, to my Creator…the One who I had worked with for the last 20 years.  I told Him,

“I asked for bread and you gave me a rock.  I asked for fish and you gave me a serpent”

Then I returned to my girlfriends and my friends Jack and Bud.  My sins became  easy…absent of guilt. I did not feel the presence of God or any conviction at all.  My life turned very selfish.  I was truly “dead in sin”…like a dead man laying on the floor that cannot hear, see, or feel.

_______________________________________________

Good News and Divorce

In the middle of all this, there was some very good news about my daughter.  She was starting to respond to some experimental drugs that was paid for out of my own pocket.  It was not covered by my insurance.  They were expensive.  Soon my bills were in the six figures.  That along with my newly initiated extravagant/selfish life style would lead to bankruptcy within a few years.

My divorce came through.  It was a terrible day.  My wife begged me to not divorce her and she cried all the way down the halls and steps of the court house….all the way to my car after the judge had pronounced the marriage over.  I could not breath because of the pressure of that day.  I was now an official confirmed jerk. My friends Jack and Bud were waiting for me.  The mental pain and depression were like a vice around my heart and head.

_________________________________________________________

For the next several years, I worked and made good money.  But at night, especially on the weekends, I was at the local bar laughing and partying with my new friends.  Money went through my fingers like water as I often picked up the tab or took my dates out to very expensive restaurants. I did all this and paid alimony and extra child support so my children would not have to move out of their home.  I gave the equity in the home and a new car to my ex-wife.

The distance between me, my children, and God grew wide like a great gulf of water.

Job Loss

One day at work, I was still feeling the effects of the drinking the night before.  I pulled up my email and began to read.  A gay employee of mine sent me an accusatory email.  He was at home that day.  I called him on the phone and went into a rant.  I called him names on his recorder.

This led to my resignation a few days later.  Now, I was without a job, This led to a major pity party that night and a week long trip to Arizona with my girlfriend.

Soon I was living with my girlfriend and getting wilder by the day.  Then came the day, I left my girl friend to live in my own apartment.  I didn’t want to feel tied down to one person.  And, in a way, I wanted to get my life back to normal, if possible.  My daughter moved in with me.  She had recovered from the Aplastic Anemia and was now in High School.  There were many people praying for her.  I never lifted up one word.  I am so thankful that when we don’t want to pray, there are others who will stand in the gap for us.

So here I was; divorced, separated from my children, a drinking problem, partying, missing my father, jobless.  I had tried talking to a psychiatrist.   He said, that he often saw people with only one or two major stresses in their life.  I had several.  He also noticed that my memory was not good and suggested it was the drinking.  Then he prescribed a mediation (Paxil)  to help me with my depression.  He instructed me to not take it while drinking.  Of course, that was never followed. The mixture of the drug and the drinking made me “ten foot tall and bullet proof.”  A few bar fights felt normal to me.  No fear,  just resolving an issue.  When I told the doctor about the scuffles, he immediately took me off the medication.

A New Wife

After the breakup with my girlfriend I decided to go to one of my favorite bars to hear a female saxophonist and a band play.  I had planned to celebrate the freedom from my girlfriend.  I was determined to sit and drink by myself.  I noticed an attractive lady who was turning away men who wanted to dance with her.  I turned and watched the music and decided to go easy on the drinking that night.  After several songs, the attractive lady was asking me to dance.  We danced and talked the rest of the night.   I thought to myself, “Why can’t I find someone like this to be my wife?”  But, she was married and going through a divorce and had three children.  When the night ended, I told her a few lies thinking I would never see her again even though I gave her my card.

A few days later, she called me at work (I had found a good job that paid more than any before).  As we talked and asked questions about each other, I soon discovered that I knew her husband from high school.  It both turned us off and we didn’t talk to each other by phone.  But, several weeks later I saw her at the grocery store.  She said she was going through the divorce, so I asked her out on a date.

We hit it off immediately and began to see each other regularly.  After her divorce, we took a trip to Cancun.  As we headed back after a week away, I felt I needed to slow down the relationship and wondered how I could stop it.

But, there was no turning back.  A year later, we were married.  None of my kids attended the simple wedding.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure it would be good for them.

Our marriage, especially in the beginning was all about travel, spending money and drinking.  The biggest problem with our relationship was the constant arguing.  My wife was extremely jealous and insecure.  Often I was accused of things even though I was completely faithful to her.  I knew what infidelity could do to a marriage and a family.  I wanted a normal life again!

A Small Turning Point.

Despite all this, we had some good moments.  But, one night we got into a huge argument and I left the house and sped through the neighborhood.  I had been drinking.  As I topped a hill, I passed a police car going in the opposite direction.  The blue lights came on immediately.  What happened next was my “one step towards God.”  It was the beginning of my journey back to God though I didn’t know it at the time.  It would be a small path to my “second resurrection” and a return to life after being dead in sins.  This event, along with another a few weeks later, begin to bring great conviction and led me back to church.  That story will be in part 3.

It is true that God never leaves us and that even though our sins as red as scarlet, He will turn them into blinding whiteness.

In part 3, I will show how God took me out of the pig pen and cleaned me up.  AA couldn’t do it.  Expensive doctors were worthless.  I will also tell you how God blessed me and how my relationship with God is stronger now than ever.

for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Luke 15: 24

The conclusion next time.  Blessings until then.

______________________________________