So I am realizing that I need to add another chapter to what has been happening to me recently, and again as I often have to do, it needs to start with an apology. I have been very passionate lately, which is a good thing, but my passion has caused me to be a little too confrontational and forceful, which can be a bad thing. So I need to apologize to those whom I have pushed too far, and those that I have hurt.
The other thing I need to repent of is casting who I was before this experience of “gospel renewal” (Of course I have to use a Keller-ism) in such a negative light. This has caused many people offence, which was not my intent. I have made too much of a trifle out of the journey of walking amongst believers who have upheld me through some very difficult and dark times in my life, and for that I am sorrowful. So I again ask for forgiveness from those who’s faithful love towards me has sustained me through many dry times.
I am so grateful for my amazing wife Chelsea who has stuck with me through thick and thin, my family who has always been there for me, and my church Kelowna Christian Center for caring for my mind and soul.
So enough talking about who I was, because to be honest, I have no idea who I was…
I was a church-goer. I think that I am pretty sure that I was saved from Hell, because I have always believed as long as I can remember that Christ died and rose again, and I have confessed Him as Lord. I am pretty sure that I have had some great Holy Spirit experiences. But pretty sure is not assured. And it was sad to see who i was becoming. I was becoming jaded, cynical and proud. I remember at one point saying to someone, “I don’t know if I will every cry again… I just don’t feel the need.”
And now I can say that I have probably shed more tears in the past 3 weeks, than in the previous 10 years. Chelsea can confirm this. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy, tears of passion in fervent prayer, tears of laughter, tears of gladness in celebrating a life well lived at Pastor Arnold’s memorial yesterday.
I can’t stop smiling at people, I walk with confidence, I am becoming a better father and husband. God speaks and I hear.
These words have meaning so deep in my mind and heart, that I can’t stop sharing this amazing truth of the good news of what Jesus has done, in my life, and for his church.
So I don’t need to talk anymore about who I was, for I can for the first time speak in confidence about WHO I AM… today… in this moment:
I am HIS.
What a feeling… to be loved… to be loved first… to not have to earn it… to just receive it…. to trust it… to feel it and know it…
What a joy to stand with others who reflect His glory… to join with the church in lifting our voices in praise and thanksgiving…
What a LIFE I have been given… to fall asleep grateful, to awake rested with praise on my lips, to join with the psalmists… to shout praises when I am alone… to lift up the King of Glory before my kids.
To burn with righteous anger against injustice and lies… to feel the weight of compassion for the weak.
This is life in the kingdom, and it is so real, so tangible, so imminent.
An endless fountain of joy in our Jesus…
An endless fountain of truth in our Scriptures…
An endless sea of the calmness of peace as we trust and rest in Grace…
This is what it means to find yourself in Christ. To have the one who made you… define you. This is what awaits EVERY Christian. This who WE are, and this what the I AM does… He reveals to us, the church, and to me Richard… who I am.
So what happened to me?
[Richard Pauses to Take a Collecting Deep Breath]
To describe what has happened in a few words is difficult, but let me do my best here. Over the past few years, God has been chipping away at my preconceived ideas about reality. Basically I was digging a hole, and I finally hit bottom. Rock bottom, as in the rock of my salvation. I found the treasure of meaning, and had a “FINALLY!” moment.
I think what happened is that God showed me the WHY of the Christian life. When I hit the cornerstone, and didn’t stumble, but rather climbed up onto the rock, and started to build my belief system up from that point, I experienced a clarity of vision like nothing I have ever experienced. I believe that faith is the eyes of our heart, and seeing really is believing. In going deeper than I ever have before in my questioning, I finally found the answers that I needed, and every objection I have ever had was settled. Every one. I think this is what it means to have assurance. To be totally convinced that there is no belief system that explains this world in such clarity as the view of the Bible brought into focus through the lenses of the Gospel of the Risen Saviour.
The other thing that happened to me that radically changed my perspective, was letting go of what I think was a very dangerous belief, at least for me. I thought that me praying a prayer, the sinners prayer, was what saved me. That once we do that prayer, then God owes us all of the “in Christ” gifts of the Christian life.
God owes me nothing. This life I now live, that is hid in God with Christ, is 100% a gift of God, received simply through trusting that it can be mine.
I didn’t choose to be born to Greg and Christine Bitgood. I was forced to sit through church service after church service. I wasn’t the one who showed me Timothy Keller.
Somebody made those choices for me… and suddenly Romans 10:15 exploded into my life, as Paul quotes Isaiah:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52:7
And suddenly I felt something I had never felt before…
GRATITUDE for my Salvation.
God is amazing in how He chooses to build faith in His people. He births ideas in me, that scripture refines and purifies, and then confirmation after confirmation after confirmation. Gratitude is a word I used to give little thought to, but it has now captured so much of my attention.
And God in His faithfulness confirms this idea for me, when sitting through Pastor Arnold’s memorial on Friday, when my pastor Brodie (Arnold’s grandson) shared a vision of heaven given to him in a dream, after his grandfather’s passing:
He came to the banquet feast, and surrounded by a multitude of saints redeemed, from history close and distant, and declared this to them:
“I am so thankful, for my salvation…”
And the entire multitude at the feast erupted with joy and praise!
Oh what an amazing God we serve.
I want to join with David in one of the most beautiful songs ever sung, as he threw himself on the mercy of God after committing adultery and murder:
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
– Psalm 51: 12,13 (emphasis added)
How can we not share this joy we have with others?
Either we haven’t been restored and sustained so we lack the joy…
…Or in ungratefulness, we suppress our joy and sinners are not converted.
Let is be said of the Redeemed, that we share our joy with the world.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
Freely you received, freely give.
– Matthew 10:7,8 (Emphasis added)
I get the gift, He gets the glory.
Ashes for Gold?