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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Where is Your God when it Hurts? (Partial Testimony)

“With everything that’s happened to you in your life, I have to ask, have you not ever wondered that if your God is so good where was He when all these things happened?”

A man asked me this a few weeks ago after I shared a small portion of my testimony and as a spur of the moment response I did my best to explain to him the whole “we live in a fallen world where God has given us free will” answer. This response is true, but I don’t feel it is a complete answer for me.

You see, lately I have been working through some grief from a loss in my life and last week my pastor and his wife encouraged me to study the 30th through the 60th Psalm. Something I’ve read many times before but that really stood out to me this time was verse 42:3: “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” King David himself had people ask him this very question and I don’t see him giving a theological explanation regarding it–he asks God for help with his sorrow, he remembers the good that God had done him, and offers praise to Him.

So to answer this question, I’ll tell you where God was when all these things happened:

-When my grandmother (who was raised in the church) decided she would no longer live in the Apostolic faith–nor would she tell anyone in the family about it so that her progeny wouldn’t either–God orchestrated a meeting between an aunt from the other side of my family and an Apostolic preacher she would eventually marry. This man would lead my family to the truth. As a result I would be born into the church and raised knowing God my entire life.

-When my parents (by birth) backslid, God allowed bad financial circumstances that would force us to move from our home in Las Vegas to a small town in Idaho where we would get back into church. Here I would meet the man whom I remember as my first pastor–a man who would years later have a very profound impact on my life.

-When I faced abuse as a child, I had a pastor and church family that showed me not only God’s love, but was the embodiment of that love. Despite trying, they could not help the situation; however, in every way possible they showed me how Jesus would never leave me and gave me a Bible that would be a stronghold for me in years to come. I also had a radio that I would listen to every moment possible, where at any time I could hear praises sung to God and know that there was a God in Heaven who loved me and Who was looking out for me.

-When I was made to do forced labor as a child, there were always people who would offer small gestures of kindness: one woman invited me into her home for tea and cookies, others would buy me drinks or food. Many paid for trinkets they never needed but gave anyway to help a girl in desperate need.

-When my family backslid again, we became homeless and had to move across the country to live with relatives–where we ended up in a town with yet another amazing Apostolic church. I would once again meet people who would deeply affect my life. One of those people was a woman named Sis. Susan–this woman would be the one who prayed with me til I received the Holy Ghost, who would become a mentor to me and an example of Christ who I would remember for years to come. Her husband and father-in-law, who was my pastor, would also be the ones to baptize me in the name of Jesus. I received the gift of salvation here.

-When my parents divorced and backslid yet again, I had the Bible with me that was given to me by a former Sunday School teacher. This Bible would be a constant reminder to me through all of it that Jesus would never leave my side. When I had no support this book became my connection to the One who would never fail me.

-When I was eleven years old and told that everything I believed growing up was wrong, God was patient with me and helped me see over the years what truth really is. He also was faithful to keep me until I was old enough to get back into church on my own.

-When I was thirteen and in the hospital literally dying from blood loss, the doctor said, “There is no possible explanation for why she is alive. It is impossible.” But God in all His sovereignty met me in that hospital room that night where I prayed, “God, I can’t die unsaved. If You will heal me, I will get back into church as soon as I’m old enough to go on my own.” He healed me of my bleeding disorder and today I am a blood donor which has given me the opportunity to share my story of God’s miraculous healing in my life.

-When I was in middle school and had no father in the home, God put a father-figure in my life. He would encourage me (as well as many other young people) to do well in school, get a good education and job, and better yourself. He and his wife are still in my life today.

-When I was in high school and struggled with suicidal thoughts and considered giving up completely, I was moved into a home just down the street from an Apostolic church. This would be the church where I dedicated my life back to God and fulfilled my promise from years earlier to get back in as soon as I could. He healed me from these thoughts and gave me reason to live.

-When family members disowned me for living for God, a pastor and his wife took me in and called me their own. I would find family, my beginnings in ministry, and all of the opportunities and blessings I have in life today from this point.

-When I was going through other losses in life, God brought me the man I would marry. I also received the blessing of attending his church and having a second church family. From here I was able to sit under another amazing man and woman of God who showed so much love to me, and since their retirement am blessed to sit under yet another wonderful pastoral couple.

So to this man, who only heard a small portion of my testimony (an even smaller part than I summed up in this post), the statements I highlighted in bold letters were what he heard. What he focused on was the negative things that happened to me and he didn’t understand why I felt that God was so good to me throughout my life. I think Mr. Rogers (you know, from the neighborhood) had an experience that can help explain it:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This man who asked me, “if God is so good where was He when all this stuff happened,” saw the “disaster”. He didn’t see the helpers. He didn’t focus on the people or situations God would send to get me through. He didn’t focus on how God was there–oh, He was there–helping me make it through every situation. Because it is true, we live in a fallen world where God has given us each the free will to do as we please. And that free will sometimes results in sin that hurts ourselves and others. But through that, God provides help.

So God wasn’t deserting me in the hard times. He wasn’t turning a blind eye. He didn’t forsake me. He didn’t fail me. He stuck by my side. He gave me hope. He put people in my life–whether they were pastors, Sunday School teachers, father-figures, church people, radio artists, strangers who had compassion on a child–He always had someone there to help.

So where is God when it hurts? Right there next to you, hurting with you and also helping you through it.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” -John 14:18

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” -Hebrews 13:5c

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” -Psalm 27:10

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” -II Peter 3:9

“For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” -Psalm 31:22

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Drama Of The Waiting Room

Wait Upon the Lord…

The Ballestero Blog

The Drama Of The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room was full of desperate people. Another shift change brought in a new face behind the desk, but that was the only thing different.

An older woman sat by herself in a corner, observing the actions of some of those around her. She even attempted to guess what had brought them to this place.

A few were in so much pain, that they couldn’t stop the tears from running down their cheeks. Her heart went out to them. She knew the only help she could give them was words, and they needed much more than that.

One of the newest additions to the Waiting Room was a young mom. She nervously paced back and forth. Her face seemed tortured and filled with anxiety. She showed no interest in sitting down. Her lips moved, as she prayed silently while pacing the floor.

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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You – Sermon Snippet on Repentance

While looking online for music and sermons several years ago I stumbled across a [longer] version of this sermon on a church website. Unfortunately, neither a Google search nor the preacher who preached this sermon knows if any copy of the sermon exists now other than this 8:55 minute clip that was uploaded to youtube.

As a young adult it really moved me and convicted me about my prayer life and my walk with God. I pray it does the same for you. (Because it is just a clip I have added some notes to the bottom of the transcript).

Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You

When you’re given an opportunity by the presence of the Lord–when the Holy Spirit gives you an opportunity, and He begins to touch your life, and He begins to deal with you and point out areas in your life that you need to change and shares with you and touches you and causes you and brings you to a place of repentance, and you say, “Yes, Lord, I repent, I turn away from that God, and I turn towards you,” and you say those things to the Lord yet just to turn back and act the same way, you’ve treated that which is holy as common. You’ve profaned the holy. We’ve been touched, blessed, convicted, repented–all these things have taken place–we draw near to God–and I have an overwhelming sense in my presence–we draw near to the Lord only to go home and be the same person that we were before we came.

And then we come back into the presence of God as if it’s an average thing. Some will say, “Well, man, I’m okay! I mean, I’m living this way and nobody–nothing’s happened to me. God’s not striking me down and my life is fine.” Fool! You don’t poison a dog with a spoonful of poison. You take the biggest, fattest, juiciest piece of meat and you inject it with the poison. The dog comes. He smells the smell of blood–he smells that steak–and he devours it without even the notion that there was anything in there that would kill him. And he walks away satisfied, thinking he just had a great meal. Only to find out in several hours his life will be taken from him.

“Well, man, I’m living my life. I’m doing what I want, man, I don’t see any of that happen.” You’re just getting started on your steak. You don’t recognize the severity of the situation. You don’t recognize that Satan has reeled you in and that you’ve become ensnared in his trap. And the devil himself is laughing at you, my friend, he’s laughing at you all the way home. Because you think you’re partying and having a good time or you think you’re keeping your issue a secret. Or you think you’re just doing your thing and putting your Christian face on. And the devil is laughing at you. And he says, “Revival? Ha ha ha, they can’t even live right. How they gonna have revival?”

When you come down and you weep and welp and you repent and you say, “God forgive me. Cleanse me. Set me free, Jesus, please, pardon my sin.” Do you get back up and act the same way you did before you came down? If you had a snot attitude with your mom, do you go back home and have the same snot attitude? If you were a liar before, do you keep lying? If you were cheating on your schoolwork before, did you cheat again this week? Or did you plan to cheat? If God put his finger on that area of lust in your life, did you go back out and still try to act like you were the player? Young lady, did you go back out and still try to get the attention of the boys?

Can I tell you something? It’s profane. Can I tell you something? Listen to me. Repentance is not walking to an altar; it’s not crying; it’s not even asking for forgiveness. Repentance is none of that! Repentance is turning away from the thing you were doing before that was breaking the very heart of God.

If you’re a backbiter–if you like to talk about people–did you come down and repent and ask God to forgive you and get up and keep talking about people? The Bible says it one of the things God hates–sowing strife. Christian repentance–there’s a brokenness in your heart because you sinned against God–you’ve broken the heart of God. You’ve treated the things that are holy as if they were common. And you have a recognition that before God, you are undone. You are in danger of judgment. You recognize that your sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not, “What about that guy?” It’s not about that guy; it’s about you! It’s about your actions! We don’t have time to be cold anymore! We don’t have time to be lazy anymore! You can’t fix your prayer life when you’re standing at the judgment seat! It will be too late! You can’t repent of your sin issue when you’re standing at the judgement seat. It’s too late! So many young people–you’re like an ostrich with your head in the ground. You act like it’s not there. You act like this sin issue is not a sin; it’s a problem. A challenge. “I’m working on that.” As if repentance was like building a house. It’s a change of heart. The problem with most of us is we’re just like the prodigal–we’ve got to be down eating pig slop before we realize that what we’ve done has totally ruined our life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This sermon was preached by Billy Humphrey of IHOP Atlanta. I am in no way affiliated with his church or to any organizations to which he belongs, nor do I agree with his doctrinal statement. However, I do feel like what he has preached here is good.

That said, because this is only a clip of his sermon, I would like to add a few notes. My pastor has often said that preachers should always offer mercy to people when they preach. So in this instance, the clip is not the complete sermon and so upon reading it, one might think “Wow, I’m a sinner and have no hope of ever being saved.” This is far from the truth. The Bible says if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God is a just God, and so it is very important that we preach repentance (Jesus did it, as did the disciples and the early church as recorded in the book of Acts). Equally important though, is that we preach that God died on the cross for us so we can be saved. He also promised us multiple times in the Bible that if we repent, He will forgive us.

Isaiah 1:18 – Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

II Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19 – Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Proverbs 28:13 – He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy.

It is also important to note that the Bible does say we need to repent to be saved:

Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Revelation 2:5 – Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Acts 17:30 – And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Luke 13:3 – I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Right now is a good time to make a minute to pray, asking God to forgive you, cleanse you, and to help you turn from any sin in your life. Also take a moment to recognize that God is merciful and is ready to forgive. We serve a great God.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the youtube video of the sermon clip. Some of the images the video creator put to the sermon may not be suitable for younger viewers. Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Letter to My Backslidden Friend

I know what you’re thinking: Great, just another person to preach at me. That’s all I need.

But you’re wrong. That’s not what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you I miss you. I’m going to tell you that it’s so hard seeing your spot on the pew empty at each service. To not have you by my side during prayer, during outreach, in the church van, or really, everywhere we always used to be together. I’m going to tell you how hard it is to see what you’re doing to yourself now. You say it makes you happy and that you can finally be yourself–but truth is, deep down inside you know that the person you’re portraying yourself to be isn’t you. It’s you trying to be something else so you can be accepted by the world, or by a different group of friends, or so you can try and convince yourself that “See?! I can do just fine out here on my own!”

I know this because I was where you are once. I know what it’s like to go my first full Sunday without church. I know what it’s like to sit around on a Wednesday night trying to convince myself of how great this new found freedom is to have time to do things I wanted to do–and yet in my mind keeps popping up thoughts about the church. I wonder if so-n-so got the Holy Ghost yet. I wonder how that guy and girl are doing now that they’re dating. So weird to think they’re old enough now. I wonder how that newly married couple is doing and if they’re having kids yet. I saw on Facebook that what’s his name is in the hospital–man I miss him. He was always so nice to me. Maybe I should stop by the hospital and see him. No, I can’t do that. What would he want to see me for? I left. Besides, people would just judge me. Nobody cares about me anymore. If they did maybe I would’ve stayed. Not even God cares about me. If He did, all this stuff wouldn’t have happened. Well, I’ll show Him I don’t need Him anyway…

And on and on it goes. You push it out of your head, only for it to enter the next time you’re showering. When you’re standing at the sink doing dishes. When you’re folding your laundry. When you have downtime at work. Whenever you drive past the part of town where the church is. Whenever you see another Christian at the store. But over time it gets less and less. As each day passes it’s easier and easier to ignore the thoughts that come up. It’s easier to go deeper and deeper into the world and to do things you said you’d never do. To do things you used to say “I can’t believe he would do that” about that other guy who left. Or that other girl who backslid. All of a sudden the things they did are normal because every day you walk farther and farther away from God.

Sometimes it makes you hate yourself. You think about all you threw away, and how not everything out here is working like it should. People outside the church have let you down just as much as people inside the church may have. You get hard on yourself thinking about how maybe it was you who failed God. I mean, God can’t fail, right? Maybe it was just me who wasn’t good enough. I’ll never be good enough. Just another reason to never go back to church.

Time goes on. Occasionally you think about church. You laugh because sometimes out of habit you thank God for your food, even though you really don’t see it a necessity now. What has God ever done for me? you begin to question. Then you think about it, and realize He did a lot. Sometimes you push that out of your mind and attribute that success to your own hard work or to a person who did it for you. Sometimes you acknowledge it really was God, and feel like a failure again. How could I leave Him when He did so much for me? Because I’m a stupid failure, that’s why. Now I can never go back because I ruined it all. I messed up my life. God doesn’t want me back, and neither does anyone in the church. Nobody cares.

It eats at you as you go further and further into depression. Once in a while something good will happen, you’ll forget about the whole God and church thing, and think, See how great things are going for me now? My life is really starting to look up! But then something bad happens again and it starts all over. You get more depressed. Bad things happen, you blame God. Good things happen, God gets no credit.

Before you know it, you’re further away from Him than you ever planned to go. You’ve done things you always swore you’d never do. How can you fix it all now? Can God fix it?

You think about maybe visiting church for one service. You talk yourself into going next service, only to think about it over and over again and decide not to when Sunday rolls around. You think about it again a few weeks later. Ok, if someone invites me I’ll go. That way I’ll know if God really wants me to go back. God, there you go. If you really want me to go back You’ll make someone ask me. It becomes like a choose your own adventure book here. You want to go, but also want a reason to not go. But then you really want a reason to go.

What’s stopping you? Are you waiting for that sign from God? Are you waiting for someone to ask you? Are you waiting til you’re done living up your life, and then plan to get back in? Are you scared to get back in because you think people will judge you or that God won’t take you back? Do you just not care anymore? Can you genuinely say you are happy where you’re at? That you never worry about what will happen to you for all eternity?

Can I ask you for one thing? Can you put aside all those questions, all those fears, doubts, reasons, excuses–can you put them away just one night and come to a service?

I remember the first night I went back. I had every intention of going just so I could prove to God that He and church were not going to fix my situation. I was going to go to get the questioning and guilt off of me. And then, because I hated myself and my life so much, I was going to kill myself. But when I walked in the doors of that little church down the street from me, everything changed. It was nothing like I thought it would be and everything like I hoped it would be. Sure, life didn’t get perfect but I had a peace that I hadn’t felt in years. I was able to walk away from all the filth I allowed my life to crumble in to. And I found a God who was ready to take me back. I found a church family who was ready to rejoice with me.

That’s all we want to do with you. When you post pictures on Instagram or make posts on Facebook we’re not judging you. We’re praying for you. We’re trying to think of all the ways we can help you. What we can say to help you realize that what you need is God and not the empty promises of the world. You know this because you remember a time when a friend or family member of yours backslid. You remember what you thought. Nothing is different.

So as you are cycling through all the thoughts you have about God, the church, your lifestyle, what went great or what went wrong, etc, I’m here thinking and praying for you. God, please save my friend. He needs you right now. She’s hurting right now. I know they feel alone. I know things aren’t going right. Help them to see where they will find joy and peace. Help them to come back to you. I don’t want to see them lost, Lord. Please, whatever it takes bring them home.

You see, because I’m not judging you. I’m loving you until you come back–and then I’ll keep loving you. So will the rest of your church family and so will God. You mean so much to us. I love you.

Signed,

Your Friend

 
 

Rev. Lee Stoneking: United Nations Transcript (Raised from Dead Testimony)

Your Excellency, Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly; Your Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of United Nations; Your Excellency, Nassir Abdulaziz-Al-Nasser, High Representative for the Alliance of Civilization; Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen:

I want to thank the President of this General Assembly, the Secretary General of United Nations, and the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilization for your leadership and convening this high level thematic debate on a very important agenda item. Thank you.

You are looking at a miracle. By all medical expertise, I’m not supposed to be alive.

On November 12, 2003 I fell dead of a massive heart attack in the airport in Sydney, Australia. I was clinically dead forty-five minutes. They administered CPR, resuscitation, and they gave me ten electric shock treatments to my heart. In the United States, they give three shock treatments and they stop. In Australia, they give four shock treatments and they stop. They gave me ten electric shock treatments to my heart.The blood had coagulated already in my hands, in my arms, in my feet, in my legs. There was absolutely no hope for me at all. I was just a corpse.

They took my body and put it on a stretcher and carried it to an ambulance. And the paperwork had been finished and it was DOA: Dead on Arrival at the hospital. But in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, when all that medical science knew to do, and with all that was at their disposal to administer, they did not work. But in the ambulance, just a corpse lying on that stretcher, Jesus stepped on board that ambulance and my heart began to beat and the breath came back. The driver was startled. The paramedic was startled. He told me later, he said, “I have never seen anyone recover from what has happened to you.”

This all happened November 12, 2003. After several weeks in Australia, I returned to United States, to my home, by myself because I was totally healed. In 2004, I went to a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee for just a major checkup and they gave me a complete blood lipid profile. Triglycerides, LDLs, HDLs, cholesterol, et cetera. In a couple of weeks I went back for the results and when I walked in the doctor looked at me and he said, “Your results are absolutely excellent.” He said, “But Reverend, we now can check the DNA in a person’s body. We decided to check your DNA.” He said, “When we checked your DNA,” he said, “when God raised you miraculously from the dead, He removed the APOE genote, genetic marker for heart disease, out of every cell in your body.” He said, “That is impossible. It’s impossible.” He said, “Only God could do such a thing.” He said, “When God healed you and raised you up, He totally, miraculously healed you.”

So I am grateful today to be alive because we know, having been clinically dead for forty-five minutes with no breath and no heartbeat, I asked the paramedic later, I said, “Nigel, what happened when you shocked my heart?” He said, “It would beat three or four times and it would stop.” We know that after six minutes or less, with no oxygen to the brain, there is irreparable brain damage. But God has totally raised me from the dead. Finally, a doctor looked at me and he said, “You have defied all the laws of medical science.” I looked at him and I said, “I didn’t, but I know the One who did. His name is Jesus.”

I am an Apostolic Christian and my message here to you today is this: in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, chapter two and verse thirty-eight, it says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The answer, Your Excellencies, to the violence in our day and to the human atrocities in our day, is Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. I give you Jesus. God bless you.

-Rev. Lee Stoneking addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City on April 22, 2015.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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