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Friday, June 11, 2010

What's Your Story?

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class at my church that focuses on our journey with God and realizing how He has put us together, worked in our lives and uniquely designed us to serve Him.

In the class I asked the attendees to reflect on an aspect of God’s character that really resonates with them, and then share why that aspect means so much to them.

Each member of the class went around and shared and it was so cool to hear How God is so multi-dimensional in His approach to each of us.

Then one of the ladies shared that the aspect of God’s grace and forgiveness is what she will never get over. She began to get emotional as she recounted her salvation experience and shared with us how her life was so far from God when He found her.

She was openly crying as she shared about the time when she dropped to her knees and cried out to God to save her! It was so awesome to see her passionate recollection of God’s life changing grace and free gift in her life, we were all moved and encouraged to not forget and not take our stories for granted.

So, I thought I would post my salvation story for those of you who have never heard it, and I encourage you to reflect and be blown away again with what God has done in your life.

Here it is…My Story…

My name is Brent Carl, and I have been a believer in Jesus for 29 years. I attended a Christian school, and was always in church from as far back as I can remember. My mother and my grandmother made many sacrifices to see that my brother and I were surrounded with positive, Godly input and mentors.

At the age of 5 I’ve been told that I accepted Jesus as my savior, and became a Christian. That is when some would say I began my journey with Christ; the only problem is that I don’t remember that at all. So for years I would tell people that I became a Christian at age 5, but deep down inside I wasn’t really sure if it was true, because I couldn’t remember it.

The school I attended was a Christian school whose focus was on building up and training Christian kids in the faith. I guess I must have signed something or verbalized that I was a Christian in Kindergarten but again, I don’t remember.

So, with that backdrop in mind, the day I became a true believer is even more of a miraculous event. You see, every week our school brought in various speakers to share the Word at an all school chapel service.

They brought in Pastors, Missionaries, Teachers and anyone who had a passion for God and a heart to challenge young people with God’s word.

I remember the chapel services always being informative and challenging, but usually coming from the assumption that the entire audience was already saved, and needed training and building up in their faith. I don’t recall ever hearing a salvation message in chapel during my younger days in school.

All of that changed one day when I was in 7th grade. I filed into the chapel like I had done every week and took my seat, took out my Bible, notebook and pen and prepared myself to listen and take notes on the sermon, because we always got graded and quizzed later in Bible class.

The speaker was introduced and he stepped up to the podium and started out like all the others had done before him…”Good morning students, I would like you take out your Bible, Notebooks and pens, and prepare to listen to what the Lord has given me to share this morning.”

He said, “first of all I’d like you to draw a dot on the left hand side of your paper, then another dot on the right hand side of your paper.” He went on to say “the left hand dot represents the day you were born, and the right hand dot represents the day you will die, or Christ comes back, whichever comes first.”

Now I would like you to connect the dots with a line, which represents the days you have on this earth. The two dots represent things that we have no control over. The line represents something you can choose to live for yourself or live for God…it’s up to you.

Now I want you to close your notebooks because that is all the note taking you will have to do today, for the next few minutes I want you to know that I know that you always get challenged to grow in your faith in chapels because the assumption is that you are all believers in Jesus. Well, today I’m not going to operate from that assumption because only God knows the heart.”

At this point, I was riveted on what he was saying, I couldn’t recall a speaker in chapel coming at a message with this approach, and for the next 40 minutes or so he clearly explained the gospel, why it was needed, and why I needed to make a personal decision to follow Christ, and not rely on what others have said or think or whatever.

It was amazing, and as he spoke the Spirit really challenged my heart to make a personal decision to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, to become Lord of my life, and save me from the direction that my life was heading without him. I asked Jesus to be my Savior that day in the middle of a Christian school at the age of 13.

At the end of the message he gave an invitation to come forward and pray to anyone who had received Christ as their Savior. I thought about it, I looked around, and thought about it some more, then decided to step out and proclaim that this day, I choose to follow God for myself, in essence I was saying, “I now own my belief in Jesus.”

I thought I would be the only one, but as it turned out many others joined me as well…God was working in our lives, and in our school, it was an incredible day!

That decision began my journey with Jesus, that has included many ups and downs over the years, but I can honestly say with full assurance that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, not because of anything I have done, but because of His amazing sacrifice and totally FREE gift of salvation. Praise Jesus!

What’s your story? How has He been alive and active in your life? Do you own your belief in Jesus?
His Grace is Amazing and His gift is Free!

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God my Savior ransomed me and like a flood His mercy rains unending love Amazing Grace.”

That’s my story…and I’m sticking to it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Unique

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous ... You were there while I was being formed ... You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.” Psalm 139:14-16 (LB)

Ah yes, Psalm 139. I’ve often said “if I had a dollar for every time I “prescribed” that passage to a teenager in my ministry over the years, I’d be a very rich Youth Pastor.”

This passage has been very influential in my life because it conveys the truth that each of us is unique according to God’s plan and purpose. He doesn’t make junk, and He has a customized plan for all of us.

In this day and age of comparison to others and a skewed view of what success really is, I love this passage even more.

I wrote an article a couple of years back that deals with the importance of discerning right and wrong in the midst of the confusing messages we get hit with every day, it’s called Discernment and as I was thinking on Psalm 139 this morning driving to the office I heard a song that brought this whole concept of uniqueness to mind in a very vivid way.

The song is called “More Beautiful You” by Johnny Diaz, and as it was playing the combination of this passage, many conversations from the past and my own personal struggles over the years were just bombarding my mind as I drove.

I kept thinking of students who “got it” and made Biblically based decisions to discern God’s voice over the world’s, and others who chose to go their own way and are having a rough time in life because of it.

Then, all of a sudden I thought of my daughter, and I wondered if I’m doing all I can do to show her that she is God’s special masterpiece, created uniquely in His image, and what about my son? Am I doing all I can do to model what a Godly man of character is all about, because his “heroes” in life don’t even begin to do that Justice.

The more I thought and contemplated the more I realized how vital my role as a Father really is.

I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I need to have all the answers, but in this world that is really good at making lies look like truth and packaging temptations in a way that are so inviting, I was challenged even more to make sure I’m leading in a way that is constantly communicating that God has uniquely designed my kids for a purpose!

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many “success” as well as “horror” stories over the years, or maybe it’s just that my kids are growing up right before my eyes. Whatever it is, I’m just really getting blasted these days with the desire to lead my family in the way God would have me to lead them.

I’m sick of the world’s lies and I’m sick of the enemy’s schemes! The truth is you and I are made in God’s image, and we’ve been designed uniquely as His original masterpiece. The question I’m processing is “How do I continually express, convey, emphasize and get it across to my family?”

How are you doing with this today? Have you bought the lie of the enemy? You know what I’m talking about, right?

“You’re not good enough, you’re too old, you’re too young, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny, you don’t have any skills, what you’ve done in your past has disqualified you from God’s love and forgiveness”…and on and on it goes.

Well, I want to encourage you to read Psalm 139, and then listen to this song, and especially focus on the part that hammers home the truth that no matter what you’ve done or where you are you can change your path and be restored in Christ. I don’t know about you, but I love that!!

Whether you’re young or old, male or female it doesn’t matter, you are uniquely designed by the Creator Himself. Designed for a Purpose!

My prayer is that we believe that, begin to live that way and model that kind of mindset and lifestyle for our kids and whomever else we have the opportunity to influence.

Psalm 139…I’m Unique as God’s original masterpiece and so are You…SO, there could never be a more beautiful you!

Lesson Learned
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8NvU9Ah-uY