God Stories #1 – Eric

March 16, 2013 under God Stories
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God Stories #1 - Eric*

God Stories are powerful, but only when they’re shared.  Here’s the first, in what I’m hoping will be MANY, God Stories to be shared on UnlikelyChristian.com.  I hope you enjoy!

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I was a mistake.

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Well that is how I viewed life during my early years. And when I say early years, I mean 22 years to be exact.

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Before I jump in the deep end I want to warn you. I am not a blogger, I am not a writer, and I am not good at keeping it short. So please bear with me as I tell my Unlikely Christian story.

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In 1978 my bio-parents got pregnant with me in Acuna, Mexico. Only one problem, my bio-mom got pregnant when they were going through a tough time/separation. They decided to work it out but my bio-father made a stance, my bio-mom had to either abort me or give me away because he was not going to raise another man’s baby. So my bio-mom made arrangements to give me away for adoption.

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She reached out to her cousin who lived in Texas. He had married a Fort Worth girl but she could not have children due to an illness she had since childhood. Well they jumped all over the opportunity and before they knew it, I was here. Getting over the Mexico/Texas border would take me an hour to write about and could possibly get people in trouble so I will just fast forward 10 years. 🙂

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Now between the ages of 1-10, my life was gravy! We didn’t have much but I was spoiled rotten.

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  • I had too many toys, and I didn’t pick them up.
  • I took over the TV after school everyday.
  • My dad took me fishing or hunting every weekend.
  • My mom made me my favorite meals when I wanted them.
  • I had the best dog ever and his name was Skippy.

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Now up to this point I knew I was adopted but I never felt adopted. It was just a word to me. Then it happened.

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Around 10-11 years old, I had to go back to Mexico to finalize some paper work for my citizenship. Well part of this visit included getting signatures from my bios. I will never forget this day. I remember walking up to a strange couple, both crying, reaching out their arms to hug me calling me son in Spanish. My bio-sisters were there as well which made it even weirder. Now all of this was a bit overwhelming for me at this young age. First off, who are these strange people and secondly, why does this old man resemble me?

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As you can imagine this was tough to process as a kid and no one really spoke to me about this day or even asked me how I was feeling. It was at this time I realized that I was not wanted when I was born because I was a mistake. The bright side to all of this was at least my adoptive parents wanted me.  I was just looking forward to getting home and getting thing back to normal.

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This was not the case unfortunately. A short time later my dad, left my mom and I. I won’t get into details but it was not pretty. My mom was disabled but had to go to work to put food on the table. She worked full time and also ran on dialysis. My dad was off running around so our fishing days and hunting days were no more. Now this left me home by myself with nothing but time. I remember one day listening to a Jackie Wilson tape trying to wish my dad home. It didn’t work and that feeling of unwanted came rushing back to me. So with out my dad there to guide me, who would I follow?

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The answer to this is, I chose the wrong person!

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I was 12 when I started hanging out with my neighbor who was 3 years older than me. Now I wanted to be just like him, he had the latest clothes, the cleanest fade in all of GP, the newest Jordans, an Alpine in his truck, and money in his pocket. Now he was a complete ladies man, he would bring girls home daily it seemed. He always looked after me in our neighborhood and treated me like a little brother. I remember watching him pick up girls, thinking one day I’ll have that same game. It seems harmless but this was the beginning of something bad. I wanted to be just like him. He had everything that made you popular, so I wanted to be just like him! Like I said, this was the wrong person to try and emulate. I picked up some very bad habits from him.

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Six months after turning 12 I was sexually active. But this was not my decision. My neighbor’s niece stayed the summer and flirted with me daily. She was 18 years old and most young boys dream. Looking back at this I was completely used and many would call it child abuse. At least that is what the counselor told me. 🙂 I struggled calling it that for a long time because I wanted it too and I didn’t like the idea of being a victim of sexual abuse. But it happened and this led to bad habits I battled for a long time.

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My dad eventually worked things out with my mom when I was in HS but the damage had already been done. I was going down a path that was not God’s design. I don’t blame my dad for any of what happened, he is my pops and I love him dearly. I am grateful that he adopted me and spent time with me. It is just a shame that he left when he did. I understand he had his own brokenness to deal with. Unfortunately it happened at a vulnerable age for me.

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By the time I hit 19 my life I had little going right. I got my High School girlfriend pregnant and I was a father at the age of 17. I dropped out of school with 2 days left in the year because I got in a fight. Yep that right, 2 days left in school. Not my proudest moment. I was involved in a neighborhood distribution business to make ends meet since I couldn’t get a good paying job to take care of my little one.  I helped my cousin as a bookie taking payments and bets. Not too dangerous but later found out it was illegal. I treated sex very casual like the rest of pop culture.

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Then it happened. My mom passed away in May 1999. With no siblings to lean on and a father that completely fell apart, I was more alone than I had ever been. Between the months of May 1999 and Dec 1999, I don’t remember much. I know there was a lot of drinking with my dad and long sad nights.

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One night my boys drug me out to the club and wouldn’t you know it I met my future wife. Go figure huh.

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I met my wife in December 1999 and within 6 months we started living together. We had something special but we were living together out of wedlock, which led to all kinds of drama. She had mentioned church a few times and sometime in 2001 my Aunt invited us to church. I know invites might not seem important but this invite changed the course of our lives.

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June of 2001, we attended Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX. Ed Young Jr was on stage with his brother Ben. The message was titled “The One”. It was about finding your spouse. I don’t remember anything from it except for this line.

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“Ladies, if you are living with your boyfriend and having pre-marital sex, why will he buy the cow if he is getting the milk for free?!”

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#TruthBomb

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I remember thinking “Oh great, she is definitely leaving now.” What I didn’t know was that God had planted his seed inside her and me.

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A few days later, we had an argument and I asked her if we should try it God’s way? Well she moved back home with her mom and I thought for sure we would fail. God had something else planned for us. Three weeks after she moved back home, I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart. We were baptized together on the same day.

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When I got saved I realized something, I wasn’t a mistake. God had a plan for me the entire time. All I had to do was accept his grace and love.

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Four weeks later, I proposed to her at church at the same fountain we were baptized in. Eight months later we got married in her grandma’s house and she made me the happiest man in the world.

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It has been nearly 12 years since I accepted Jesus in my heart and it was my best decision ever. I am not proud of my past or the decisions I made but I am thankful for my lessons learned. That my story so far, but that’s not the end. I am just getting started!

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GP TexMex

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I am truly blessed to call Eric a friend.  He’s spoken so much truth into my life and helped me to grow as a Christian & spiritual leader, more than he knows.  His faith, I aspire to have.  Thanks Eric, for FINALLY sharing your story!
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Want to share your God Story?  E-mail it to me at me@unlikelychristian.com
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You should totally answer.

January 12, 2013 under Unlikely Christian
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I know from time to time, non-Christians stumble upon my website. 

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That’s great!

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In fact, that’s what prompted me to start this website in the first place. 

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When I was finally open to kicking the tires of Christianity, I didn’t go to my Christian friends, the church or Bible to start investigating.  I went to the internet.  I wanted to see what others had to say, more specifically, people like me, but my world wide web search didn’t net anything helpful.  Nothing out there spoke to me.  Not saying it wasn’t out there, just saying I didn’t find it.  What I did find was a bunch of what I considered to be “over” religious websites, stuff that weired me out, and just some…..well some bad sites.  You know the ones I’m talking about, the kind that automatically play a midi music version of “Amazing Grace” and have little sparkly pixie dust that follows your mouse arrow all over the page.  If that’s you, I’m sorry but I’m only going to forgive you the required seven times seventy times, and not a single time more. 😉   

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With no internet success, I finally ended up going the church route.  Hell got very, very chilly that day my friend.

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Once I became a Christian, I felt a call to reach other people like the guy I used to be – Left-handed, cynical introverts.  But then I widened my scope to those who are far away from God, with no intentions of moving closer – a.k.a. people who are unlikely to become Christians.

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So I started UnlikelyChristian.com

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I believe at some point in the lives of every non-believer, they’ll feel gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, nudges to check out the whole “God thing.”  Some will ignore it, but some, like the guy I was, will eventually get to the end of themselves, and look into it.  When they do, some are going to hit the www, and possibly stumble upon my site.

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If that’s you…..well…..this is for you:

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I don’t know your story, but I know mine.

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I was about as far away from God as you could be.  Snapshot circa 2006:  “I don’t need God, Christians are stupid and church sucks!”

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But then…..much to my chagrin, I started feeling the gentle nudges of God.

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I ignored them for a time, but I knew deep down that I should look into it.

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So I did.

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I don’t know your story, but I know mine.

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I was very depressed, like on medication, depressed.

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I had a very bad temper, like scare my kids, bad temper.

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I had anxiety, like call the paramedics I think I’m having a heart attack but turned out to be a panic attack, anxiety.

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I was a ball of constant stress, like wound so tight, I seriously worried about my mental health, stress

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I wept one day, like grown man crying like a baby, wept.

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For the most part, I hid it pretty well, in fact, some of my family/friends might be a little shocked when they read this.  My outside was presentable, but inside I was a complete mess.

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But then…..God started knocking…..and one day…..I finally answered.

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I don’t know your story but I know mine.

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My story changed forever that day.

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The me described above, that’s not me anymore.

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God rescues.

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God changes.

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God redeems.

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God forgives.

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God makes all things new.

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I’m living proof.

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I don’t know your story, but I know mine.

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I don’t know if you’re a mess like I was, even more so, or have it all together, but whatever you are, wherever you are, whoever you are, God loves you right now, and has something better for you!  He has the life He handcrafted for you. 

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Regardless of what you’ve done.

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Regardless of the questions you still have.

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Regardless of “fill in the blank with whatever’s holding you back.”

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God is knocking.

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He loves you.

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He created you, specifically created you.

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And He has more for you.

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What is keeping you from answering?

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What is keeping you from saying, “God, I’m open”?

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You have everything to gain.

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I don’t know your story, but…..

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God is knocking.

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You should totally answer.

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And see where He takes you.

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Your life will never be the same.

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“Look!  I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – God   Rev 3:20 NLT

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The coolest thing I ever read!

October 11, 2012 under Unlikely Christian
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Okay, a little over a year ago I got an e-mail from a reader (Crystal) and it made my heart ache.  An illness had taken her life hostage and she was really struggling.  Here’s an excerpt from that e-mail:

I had to quit my job because of a neurological illness that keeps me at home most of the time. I struggle with this daily, and cry…a lot. I know it’s not right for me to question God but I do question why I was taken from a place where I was so happy and in an instant, to a place of pain and despair. I need to find him again.”   

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I didn’t quite know what to say.  I wanted to say something that would make it all better, something that would help her hang in there, but I was at a loss.  That was heavy stuff. 

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I did my best to encourage her and ended my reply with,

“Maybe on the other side of this illness you will find God in a whole new way. Hang in there. Keep praying. Keep seeking. He’s still there! In the meantime, you will be in our prayers.”

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Checked my e-mail yesterday and found the coolest thing in my inbox – Crystal’s story.  And let me just preface it with, “Man…….GOD is GOOD!”

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Here it is.

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He is Jealous for me… by Crystal

 

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You would never know it by looking at me today, but I was chronically ill for several years. In fact, I almost died…more than once. I had what they called a “closed head injury without a blow to the head” and the doctors didn’t know what to do about it. When I went to church, I had to sit in the very back row away from everyone else so I wouldn’t have seizures. I couldn’t work, LEAVE MY HOME, take care of my children, or even make myself food most days. And fortunately, there was no one willing to do it for me. YES! I did just say that. FORTUNATELY, there was no one there for me. I lost my family, my friends, my job, my ability to communicate with people. No one understood what was happening and they weren’t there when I needed them. And that’s okay with me.

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I once asked why. Why is this happening to me??? Now I can honestly tell you I wouldn’t trade those 3 years for anything. God had been a bystander in my life since I was 13 years old. For the first time in my life, I NEEDED Him. What has come from my illness has been the biggest blessing of my life. Not what I had before… I had Jesus. Now I have a passion for Jesus, and for others to know Him. So to answer my question why…

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“Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

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Being so alone was hard for me to accept at the time, but it did leave me a lot of time with God. I read the bible constantly, soaking in His words. In my darkest moments, when I was so weak and in so much pain, He brought a verse to my attention over and over again. This is what He told me,

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 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

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“Wow, that is quite a promise”, I thought. You couldn’t get much weaker than I was at the time. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I hung to that verse, praying over it daily, and it got me through those days.

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Then there were those lonely days when I just needed a friend. You know…the ones I didn’t have?  I thought about those people I loved that had left me when I needed them so badly and it broke me. Again, I had to open my Bible and seek His word. He told me something else.

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 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

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And this…

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 “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” Isaiah 30:18 

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Now these GOT ME. I had no one else, but HE…the LORD, Our Father was there…right there with me to save me from my broken heart and broken spirit. All I had to do was ask Him to take my hand and fill me with his presence. Life was getting better! My attitude was changing.

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But here’s where things start going awry. My doctors couldn’t heal me, but I knew something they didn’t.

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 Matthew 19:26! “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

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How could I ignore that? If doctors couldn’t heal me, certainly God could! I had many churches praying for me already, but that sealed the deal for me and that became MY prayer day and night. I would ask God to put His healing hands on me and cure me. My pain was chronic; my energy non-existent, I couldn’t hold down the food I was taking in. The prayers came more and more often. I was praying for my health so many times a day, it was hard to think about anything or anyone else.

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I wanted to start serving in the kids’ area at church, but I was waiting to get better. The date kept getting pushed back further and further. Months went by and I was never able to serve because I never got better. Then, I did a bible study called Jonah. It called me OUT. There was a question that asked, “What are you putting above God?” The obvious answers are: money, career, cars, home, spouse, kids, etc. I wasn’t doing any of that, so I put a big question mark beside it and moved on thinking I was all good. Ha! My prayer time came and what did I pray for? You guessed it…the same thing I did 20 times a day every day for months. MY HEALTH.

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“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.” Deuteronomy 5:8

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Idol of any kind? The light bulb came on. I realized I wasn’t serving at church because I was waiting on God to bless me with health first. I was putting my health above HIM! Whoa chica! No bueno! Who is in charge here? Not only was I elevating my health over God, I was letting my fear of sickness get in the way of serving His beautiful children. That was the last time that prayer has ever left my mouth. I put all my trust in Him for my health matters that night. I gave it away. The peace that followed was overwhelming. That was the day I put God back in His rightful place in my life. I would soon understand that He is jealous for me. Oh the blessings that awaited me…

Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now

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I’ve always loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So the day my Pastor stood on stage and sang, “Give it away, give it away, give it away now. Give it away, away, give it away, give it away now.”, I knew exactly what he meant. Actually, I wondered at that moment how he got in my head…putting that aside, I’ll tell you this. That song had been on replay in my head for 2 years as I continually let God take control of my circumstances and ultimately, my life.

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The morning after my realization that I needed to put God back in his rightful place, I took a huge leap of faith and called the coordinator of the children’s ministry and told her I was ready to serve. She didn’t have a spot for me at the time, but told me she would call back when she did. The next weekend at church, instead of sitting in the back row where I wouldn’t get sick, I took another leap of faith and sat with everyone else. Boy, I was pushing it! I was amazed at the end of service when I wasn’t sick from all the perfumes. So amazed, in fact that I went to a store, then another store, and another, until I realized I could be out in public again without reactions or seizures! This was huge. I went from being unable to make a quick run to Walgreens to having the ability to go to several department stores! I was shocked, to say the least.

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The next day I got a call from the children’s coordinator telling me….we have spot we need you to fill.

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“Seriously? That’s how this is going to work, God?” Just when they needed me. Incredible!

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Which brings me to: Romans 8:27-28  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

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As I delved deeper into His word over many months, I read so many things. Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth in Ephesians 3:14-21. If you’ve never broken that apart and read that, you are missing out. The adjectives Paul uses to describe God’s love and power are absolutely beautiful. I strongly encourage you to read it.

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Part of the prayer is this verse:

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“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you TRUST in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17

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Every time I sing, “Give it away, give it away, give it away now”, that means I’ve given all my trust to God in some area of my life. I’ve struggled with the friendships that I lost. I love them, and miss them. But I sang out to God. I still don’t have a job, but again I sang out to God. My son left for college and miss him terribly. I sang out to God. My marriage is not what it should be, again, I sang out to God…loudly. “Give it away, give it away, give it away now”. It feels so good to let Him carry those burdens for me.  I’ve grown to learn that the more I sing, “Give it away, give it away, give it away now”, the more peace I feel and ultimately, the more blessings come my way. I am more in tune with God, and I am continually seeking His face in all I do. That has so much power in my life. Oh yes, that brings me back to that first verse God presented me with so long ago.

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

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NOW I GET IT!

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When people who haven’t seen me in a few years ask me what I did to get better, I tell them what I know to be true:

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“Now all the glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

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Yes, God did heal me. He gets all the glory.

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I still wonder how my Pastor got in my head and came up with the same song I sing after I’ve given my burdens away to God…

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You just can’t argue a transformed life.

June 9, 2011 under Unlikely Christian
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Just finishing up a pretty good book, “Welcome to the Revolution – A Field Guide for New Believers” by Brian Tome.

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I really enjoy reading books like this because I still consider myself a new believer, as I’m only about 3.5 years into this journey.

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Anyway, there was a line in this book that really stood out to me, “A life transformed is evidence of a power that cannot be explained away.”

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People spend so much time and effort arguing about Christianity. Creationism versus Big Bang is a trendy debate. Christians point to The Bible for their answers, the opposition points to science. Both sides are well dug in, both sides feel like they have substance to back up their claims and both sides have no new arguments that will sway the other off their stance. Fight this fight if you want but my guess is you’ll be looking at a stalemate.

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Look, nobody can go back and review the “How the world was created” surveillance tapes because they don’t exist. And since they don’t exist, it makes it much easier to argue about what might have happened. Let’s face it, people like proof. They want to be able to see it for themselves. Want a skeptic to believe in Noah’s Ark? Well until it’s unearthed, good luck. Want a skeptic to believe in the parting of the Red Sea? Better start yanking a bunch of old chariots out of the water and even then, one of them better have Pharaoh’s key chain and proof of liability insurance card in it.  Even Thomas, who was a disciple of Jesus, needed proof before he believed in the resurrected Christ, Who was standing in front of him. – John 20:26-28.  People like proof.  Always have, always will.

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Okay. You want proof? You want proof? How bout a transformed life? The Bible is full of transformed lives, perhaps the biggest being Saul (who later became Paul). Before he met Jesus, persecuting Christians was his business and business was good. After Paul met Jesus, well just grab a Bible and read, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Why you ask? Because Paul wrote them.

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But just as great as Paul’s story, are the stories happening around you everyday. Lives are being transformed by God. My life has been transformed. Just ask my wife. Ask anybody who knew me growing up. Heck, ask anybody who knew me 4 years ago. The mere fact that I’m writing a post like this is…..well just know that the greatest mathematicians ever couldn’t calculate the odds against this happening.

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Scores and scores of lives have been transformed by God. The proof is in the pudding and it’s right there for all to see. So next time somebody tries to draw you off sides in a debate about how the world came into being, I would counter with, “A life transformed is evidence of a power that cannot be explained away.”  End of debate.

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Oh and just in case you’re here because you’re kicking the tires of Christianity, God will transform your life too. In fact, I think it’s one of His favorite things to do.

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