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I have known about Jesus my whole life. I accepted His offer of salvation and believed that his sacrifice on the cross was for me personally when I was a young boy. Even so, I couldn't seem to walk with Him like I longed to. I tried. I rededicated my life to Him over and over again. I cried out to Him. I longed to have a relationship with him that was real and life giving and produced the kind of joy I could see in the smiles and eyes of some of my friends. I knew that if I died I would go to heaven because of what Jesus had done for me. But I wasn't experiencing abundant life with Him. Not even close.

You see, up until a little over two months ago , I was bound up in chains of sin and shame. From a young age I struggled with hurts and secrets. I was drawn to habitual sin, and it ensnared me. Sin is enticing, but it always leads to pain. Eventually I tried just about everything to numb that pain. The cycle of sin and shame and pain repeated itself over and over in my life. I would turn to Jesus again and again, for a time, but my chains were wound tight and eventually I would fall right back to where I had been. Proverbs 26:11 says: As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. There was no greater fool than I.

I longed to be free of the addiction and sin that infected my life. It seemed so hopeless....impossible. I was 49 years old, addicted to painkillers and cigarettes. I had made choices that damaged my marriage and I feared if my secrets were revealed I would lose everything that mattered to me. I just couldn't seem to stop. I knew what Matthew 19:26 said: Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible." I wanted God to rescue me. I wanted healing. I begged God for help.

In September of 2016, Jesus Christ did a miracle in my life. I had been earnestly seeking for so very long. Yet I continued to fall, again and again and again. Until God allowed, in fact I would say He revealed, all of my secrets and I was broken. For the first time in my life, I was humble. I was truly ready to repent and to lay all of my sin and sorrow and shame at the foot of the cross and receive His mercy. I was desperate for His mercy. God, so full of love for me, not only poured out His mercy but His grace on my life. He met me in my brokenness and He healed me. He rescued me. He redeemed me.

He has taken away the desire for opiates and cigarettes. He has healed my mind. He lavished His grace upon me - which I did not deserve. Ezekiel 36:26 says: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." That is what Jesus did for me.

I believe that Jesus broke my chains the day I became His so long ago. I just kept holding them around myself, not knowing I could lay them down. My road has been long, and I have brought so much suffering on myself. None of that matters compared to the indescribable joy of knowing Him and walking in the freedom He has given me. I am so humbled and so grateful. This will be the greatest Thanksgiving Day of my life so far. I want the world to know what Jesus has done for me. I know what He has done for me He longs to do for others. I am not special. May He receive honor and glory and praise for the miraculous work He has done in my life!

"Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave will be my song forever.

Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember, oh God, You're not done with me yet


Because I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone
Because I've got a new name, a new life, I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

 

Posted by Scott & Denise Woodliff with
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“Evangelism is everybody’s business”

One of the most difficult challenges that we face as believers in this world is to keep the main thing...well...the main thing! And yet focus is one of the most important keys to accomplishing anything.

If you want to land an airplane, somewhere along the line your focus better be trained upon the runway. If you’re a baseball player and you want to hit for a good average, you must learn how to focus on the baseball. If you want to score a lot of points in basketball, you really need to be able to focus on the basketball goal. If you want to have a successful business, you really need to be able to focus on your vision and purpose. You have to know what the main thing is and then keep the main thing... the main thing. And the same thing is true for the church...the believer...people like you and me.

When that doesn’t happen goals are not realized. Take the Ivy League schools for example. They were all started by people of faith with the intention that people would be educated that the gospel might be shared and implemented in the world for the glory of God. That was the main thing...but when the main thing was lost, so was the dream, the purpose, the vision. Most people would be surprised to know how and why those schools were started. They are hardly a bastion of faith and practice, that’s for sure.

When Paul writes to the church at Philippi he draws a comparison between what the lost world focuses on as the main thing in contrast to the believer, the church.

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:18-21 (ESV)

The unbeliever has their mind set on the things of this world...that is what they focus on. But for the believer our citizenship is in heaven, and Jesus is our Lord, not Caesar. The gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the main thing.

Indeed we are pilgrims. A vagabond has no home, a stranger is away from home, but a pilgrim is headed home. Verse three of Chapter four of the same book teaches us about what the main thing is.


Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3 (ESV)

We just finished as a nation another election cycle. But for the believer our primary focus is on the spiritual not the political. The focus of the church is the Great Commission and the preaching of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The main thing is giving witness to the saving power of the gospel. There are many tentacles’ that seek to reach out and pull us away from the main thing. Most of them you could even consider to be “good” things in comparison to “bad” things. But even good things are not the best thing. The best thing is the main thing and the only thing that we should focus upon and that’s the spreading of the gospel, for it is the only hope for any man, woman, or child.

We are also citizens of this country, the United States of America. We seek to live as good citizens in this world. We vote our conscience and take advantage of the privilege we have to engage our culture and make a difference through our involvement in all avenues of life, including the political.

But as believers we are well aware that it is not an election that will change the heart and minds of people, but only as the elect share the gospel and give evidence of the power of the gospel to save our lives and change our hearts. Make no mistake, the gospel, Jesus Christ, the Savior , is what the world needs more than anything else in life. He alone, by His grace, can save and will save any who call upon His name. He has the power, He is able, and He is the main thing.


But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)

Satan and this world will try to keep you from being witnesses for Him and yet that is our main thing. It is our mandate. That’s what the power of the Holy Spirit is for...to help us focus on the main thing and get it done.

How about this year we let Congress focus on making the laws. Hollywood can focus on taking care of their garbage pit. The boys on Wall Street can focus on the economy. And we can keep focused on what we as citizens of heaven should be focused upon....the main thing. We can tell this world about Jesus! That He is mighty to save.

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20 (ESV)

After all, when you stop and think about it, it’s soon going to be over with anyway. We are headed “home” and we want to take as many with us as we can. After all...it’s the main thing.

 

Posted by Ralph Sawyer with

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