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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time to be a Nike Christian and JUST DO IT!!!

I apologize to all those who follow my blog for my prolonged absence and lack of updates. This post will be a confession of sorts, I suppose; or a testimony, depending on how you look at it, but either way, this will be a long post, and I’m pretty much just pouring my heart out here and laying it all bare. The events of the last couple of months have been a real challenge and have drained me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Actually, things really started heading south about a year and a half ago. That was when, after six years living with his mother, my son came back to live with me. That, in and of itself, wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing, but some of the baggage that came with that, and some of the events that followed as a result, in addition to a series of unrelated events, were far beyond my expectations, and certainly did not play into the scenario I had envisioned with his change of living situation. He had been on long-term medication for emotional and behavioral issues for many years. The small amount of child support I receive didn’t even cover the costs of his medication, let alone the added every-day expenses of simply having a growing teenager in my home. Suddenly having him back in my home was an expense I never expected to incur again. He has recently been taken off of his meds and is actually showing some improvement. That's one of the few good things I can point to as of late.
He came to live with us at the same time my wife and I were planning our wedding, placing deposits and paying for related expenses. One month before the wedding, my wife hydroplaned and wrecked my truck on her way to work, so we incurred the expense of the $1000 insurance deductible. Praise God she was not injured, but the timing of this unexpected expense couldn’t have been much worse. That started the day off bad enough, but it quickly got a lot worse, as later that very same day I was informed that I was being sued for child support for a 15 year-old child overseas in Guam that I never knew I had from my days in the navy. That caused me to have to come up with the money to retain an attorney at a time when I was already under significant financial pressure. However, it was not the mother suing me, but the welfare department of Guam since the mother is on public assistance. Otherwise I would still be clueless about having fathered this child. A DNA test has proven that it is, in fact, my child. Thankfully my wife has actually been taking this better than I have, but if it were a one or two year-old child, that would be a completely different story. During the time the lawsuit was still pending, I had a few other stressful situations occur. Last fall an uncle I was very close to was called home by the Lord, so I incurred the costs of travel and time off of work without pay to be a pall bearer at his funeral.
My uncle, by the way, was an American hero, being a highly decorated army combat veteran, and is buried in the West Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery, but most importantly of all, I know he had a heart for Jesus. Another “taxing” situation (pun intended) was having to deal with the IRS. I ended up owing them quite a bit of money because of having too little taxes withheld after losing deductions I was previously able to claim. I had to make a payment arrangement with them, which will last for several years, to get them to clear a levy on my checking account. The IRS levy caused two payments for two bills to bounce, and I’m sure many of you know what a headache that can cause. Perhaps the most emotionally stressful event occurred the day before our wedding when my son did something very thoughtless and stupid, for which the police were called and he was charged. So, in addition to my own legal issues, I had to deal with the juvenile justice system with my son. He was given strict probation and ordered to undergo psychological therapy. The therapy has to go through my medical insurance, and of course, none of the therapists the court system works with are in my network, so I’ve been forced to pay the much higher out-of-network deductibles. Most youths the Juvenile Justice System deals with come from low income families or they have been removed from the home by the state, so they have all their care provided by the state. I, unfortunately, fall into the middle category where I make too much money to receive any kind of assistance, but not enough to where it is not a financial burden on me. Sometimes it feels as though you are penalized in this country for actually working and trying to make a living rather than living on the government dole and getting tax refunds of tax money you never paid to start with, but that can be a different subject altogether. Well, the child support case was finally concluded about two months ago. I have now been ordered to pay child support to the government of Guam, since the mother has signed away any right to receive child support, for a child that I still have not seen so much as a picture of to this day. It simply takes from my children here that I have been raising and gives to the government of Guam. It doesn’t even go to directly support the child! It makes no difference whatsoever in the child’s life, but has a huge negative impact on the lives of my children here. I was financially stressed enough as it was, but this has pushed me over the edge into bankruptcy. Some may say bankruptcy is no big deal, but it is when you hold a security clearance for your job. That means this threatens the very job I’m depending on in order to pay the child support and keep myself out of jail. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with lately, we have been going through some major upheaval and change at my workplace. I have been seeking part-time secondary employment, but with the economy as it is, the pizza joints aren’t even hiring drivers.

Four years ago I went through what is perhaps one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. At the age of 38 I became a widower when my wife died of a sudden massive cardiac arrest. This occurred at a time in my life when I was heavily involved in ministry. After many years of being a “nominal Christian” at Christmas and Easter, I finally “got it.” I had finally opened myself up to Jesus and was learning what it means to follow him and be Jesus to the world. I was at a point where I was learning to walk humbly in the Spirit, submit myself to Christ, and respond to the call to righteous and holy living IN HIM the best that I could, allowing Him to mold me a little more each day. For a while after my wife died I leaned on Jesus for my strength and held onto my faith the best I could. After a while I began to get angry with God and question why He would allow me to go through this. I began attending church less and less; using the excuse that it “just wasn’t the same without her.” Eventually I quit attending altogether. It didn’t take long for the “old man” to rise up within me again. I went for a season living for myself, conforming to the world, not being transformed by renewing my mind in Christ. It was a time of plenty. I came and went as I pleased with hardly a care in the world. Through it all, Jesus was in the back of my mind, but that’s where I kept Him. I was squandering my inheritance as a child of God by willfully and knowingly living a sinful lifestyle. I even bought a shiny new sports car to chase women. I’m one of those guys who name their cars, and this one I named Mindy. In my pursuit of women, it happened one day that I caught one! When my wife and I first started dating I even made sure she was Christian, lest I become “unequally yoked.” She now drives that sports car after giving it a sex-change and renaming it Mark. Despite all the worldly pleasures I was pursuing, I still had the Holy Spirit working on my desire to get back to a right relationship with Christ. It’s something that’s much easier said than done. We don’t have to try to live a sinful, worldly lifestyle; it comes naturally for us. Burying the “old man” and living for Christ as a “new man” is a real struggle because our spirit is completely at odds with our flesh. Our flesh is corrupt and can never be redeemed. It is indeed, as Joyce Meyer wrote, a battlefield of the mind. We must change our mind to be in agreement with God, which should then drive us to change our will into desiring to seek His will for us, which we must then turn into a change of action, evidenced by seeking to live according to His Word and not according to how the world says we should live. There is a reason we are told to take every thought captive, and to renew our mind, and put on the mind of Christ. When we receive the free gift He offered and call upon His name, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us. That is why we are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God desires that we walk in that Spirit and utilize the power of the name of Jesus that we have been given, but He doesn’t force us. We tend to jump back and forth between the Spirit man and the flesh being. Satan, our adversary, probes for our weaknesses, and when he finds them, exploits them in an effort to keep us operating in the flesh and render us ineffective for the Kingdom. When we walk in the flesh he uses our weaknesses to distract us and draw the old man out more and more. When we allow that to happen we give him legal authority to oppress us. That’s oppress, NOT possess. If we belong to Christ, then Satan or his henchmen cannot possess us because that denotes ownership, but he can oppress, or harass us because we allow him to when we don’t walk in the Spirit and exercise the authority over him that we have been given as the Priesthood of Believers. It doesn’t seem to take long for us to find ourselves in a spiritual desert, feeling lost and disconnected from God, letting our circumstances dictate our attitudes and actions rather than the truth of God’s Word. That, however, is exactly what I have done. I stepped out of the Spirit man and into the flesh and let Satan draw me farther and farther down the wrong path. Nearly a year ago my spiritual mentor, or discipler, of several years called me to the church he is now pastoring to return to ministry and teaching. There were several factors that came together that told me it was absolutely a calling from God, so I decided it was time to answer that calling and return to that relationship I knew my spirit desired so deeply. Once I went about stepping out of the flesh and back into the Spirit to walk with Christ again, the spiritual attacks came on hot and heavy. Matthew 12 and Luke 11 speak of an evil spirit returning to a person who has been "swept clean and put in order" and bringing seven others with it. Well, that seems to be what I'm facing, and I opened the door and let them right on in by my own actions and inactions. The culmination of things over the last couple of months finally got me to the point I was ready to give up and started slacking off, stepping back into the flesh. I’m sure I could be clinically diagnosed as depressed, and probably have been for years, but my God is greater, and it is He that gives me strength to go on when I seek Him with all my heart. This Thanksgiving time has caused me to think on all the things I have to be thankful for. God is still providing my needs, just as He promised, but not necessarily all my wants. Sometimes it is very difficult for us to distinguish between the two, but I’ve done a lot of reflection lately to see what my true needs are and what my wants are that may not necessarily be in agreement with what God wants for me. I’ve come to a revelation that God is allowing me to be broken down so that He can build me back up. I have to turn everything over to Him and simply trust Him that He’s got me covered, which is what I should have continued to do in the first place instead of trying to do it all on my own. There’s a lot of truth to the words Casting Crowns sings, “I will praise Him in the storm.” When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the storm around him is when he started to sink. I took my eyes off Jesus and let the storms of life around me dictate my responses and attitudes, which were all in the flesh, and I started sinking. I’ve got to let go and let God, because He never lets go. I’m completely dependent on Him because I’ve made such a mess of things trying to do it on my own. It won’t be easy, but it’s time for me to quit hopping back and forth between the Spirit and the flesh. God has put a calling on my life and I’ve allowed the Evil One to win too many battles. I must step into that calling, trusting and walking with Jesus, and I declare this day to buck up, be like Nike, and just do it!

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