The Most Important Decision

When I was young I wanted to be a teacher and have a family with ten children.  I thought that was my life’s purpose.  That didn’t happen.  At the ripe old age of 21 I discovered that my purpose wasn’t something I chose.  Given to me at my creation, my purpose was something I had yet to discover.  It says in the Bible that the Lord “knit us together in our mother’s womb.”  So even though the act that begins the process is with a man and a woman, or whatever else man can come up with, it is God alone who gives life.  Don’t believe anything else.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you anything different.

At 21 I was working at the Gannett newspapers in New York and also in a parking garage next door.  Neither job was full time, but I made enough money to pay my rent and buy my groceries.  I had no idea what God was doing in my life.  To the chagrin of my parents I left the Roman Catholic Church.  I decided that if I wanted to know who God really is, I wasn’t going to find Him in rituals.  When this all began to transpire there was a rich slush of events guiding me.  I had a boyfriend who was preparing to be a minister, yet he was a terrible example.  He would say that we shouldn’t read the Bible and sin at the same time.  Yet he did.  So did I. I felt guilty and we should have known better.

There were friends I had met through work who were just plain wicked. The terrible things they did and said were for a time, alluring to me in my rebellion.  I was young and naïve and determined to embrace the culture of the world around me.  After practicing my own sort of wickedness, I decided that I didn’t want to do this anymore.  I tried desperately to change and never look back.  But I could never really shake the things I had done.  I wanted to live a right sort of life.  Of course, I had no idea how or where to get better.

My sister Margie gave me a ceramic cross that she’d made and it was in my room at the apartment.  It was beautiful but it made me feel even more guilty about my life.  So I began to truly seek God and read a Bible.  I started in Genesis.  I greedily consumed it until I got to chapter 5 and then got mired in who begat whom.  I don’t know where I heard this at the time, but someone said that I should start in the New Testament. so again I started, this time at the Gospel of Matthew and again I arrived at chapter 5.  Right there in the sermon on the mount, I got snagged by a verse about salt.  “You are the salt of the earth.”  What does that mean?  Why would salt lose its taste?

It perplexed me.  Yet it compelled me to continue to search.  I felt like I needed someone to help me understand.

At the parking garage I worked the front entrance.  A girl searching for a job approached the ticket booth where I stood.  With a smooth and buttery Pennsylvania accent, she asked, “Are they hiring here?”  I liked her immediately and directed her to the office for an application.  It “just happened” that there was an opening and as soon as she left, I went to speak to John, the assistant manager who sat reading her resume and application.

“You should hire her,” I blurted out.

He looked puzzled.  “What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know.  I just like her.”

The company hired Adrienne that week. She and I got along famously and she began to invite me to her home for a Bible study.  I was not sure what that meant but I wanted so much to understand the Bible that I said that I would do that one day.  It made sense that studying might open my eyes to something I couldn’t see on my own.  Five chapters in the Old and New Testament just weren’t enough to sustain me.

Adrienne punctuated each day with an invitation to a Bible Study.  As much as I liked her and as much as I wanted to understand the Bible, something else made me afraid.  At the time, I had no idea why fear hindered me, but it did.

They say everyone who comes to the Lord undergoes a struggle accepting His salvation.  That’s the fear that sets in.  I was, riddled with trepidation.  Finally, I promised Adrienne I would go and my own promise obligated me to her requests.  I went to a Bible study and it was on John chapter 3.  On that evening, there were two new people there who didn’t know the gospel and its power to save; a young man named Tom and I.  When Jerry, the man who taught the Bible study, explained how Jesus told Nicodemus that even though he was a Pharisee, he needed to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, I was spellbound.  He put in plain words how sin separated us from a God who is so holy that He cannot accept sin.  He described the punishment that Jesus endured on everyone’s behalf.  If we decided to accept the offering Jesus made to God, His righteousness would cover our sins.  Suddenly I felt dirty, remembering my own failures.  I wanted to accept the offer.

Jerry asked us to pray together and accept Jesus as Savior.  The tug of war in my heart was minute compared to the fear prior to entering the house.  I had already made a decision in my heart that I wanted to know Jesus. My inner resistance was nothing like Tom’s panic.  He was saying that he would much prefer to go home and think about it and decide later.  He pulled his car keys out of his pocket and started to look like he was going to bolt.

But Jerry compassionately further explained.  Life is a tug of war between God and the devil.  We think that we make our own way and our own plans but we are not your own.  Salvation is surrendering to God because the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  He explained that if Tom left then, he was giving the devil a foothold against the Lord.  He quoted verses that said exactly what Tom needed to hear.  I was so set on praying that I don’t remember much that was said.  I was just hoping that Tom would hurry up and change his mind.  Finally, Tom slipped his keys back into his pocket.  He got down on his knees.  Those gathered that evening joined him and we both prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” together.

That was the beginning of fulfilling my purpose in this life.  It was a decision I alone had to make and yet the circumstances that God put into place humble me these years later.  I see a more complete picture now than I did then.  It was one of the best and most important decisions in my life and yet He prepared my life so that I could choose no other option.  God is so good.

If you pray… If you don’t…

This evening was the evening that we meet to have dinner together and pray.  We have been praying together now for so many years none of us can remember how or when it started.  Sometimes it was on Monday evenings, sometimes on Thursdays but right now it is on Tuesday evenings.  We have seen the Lord work on our behalf so often that we trust Him to answer.  We have been praying so long together that no subject is off limits.  The subjects of our prayers have ranged from our personal lives to our children and grandchildren to our employment.  We have experienced miracles.  We are three Christian sisters.  We don’t look very powerful and without Jesus we would have no strength at all.  But with Jesus we are strong.

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Today is a day when I am feeling overwhelmed with the prayer needs of others.  There are so many that I thought that I could pass them on to you.

IF YOU PRAY…

To begin, my sister Marge has a great-granddaughter named Suzie who is going to have surgery tomorrow.  It is my highest priority today.  Pray for Suzie.  She is 2 years old.

I personally had a gnarly day.  Pray for me and my relationships at work.  Pray for a co-worker.

Pray for a lady who has lost both her legs, her eye sight, and has neuropathy in  her fingers.  Because of this, she cannot depend on learning Braille.  Pray for her to see Jesus.

Pray for Camden to have a complete healing or for the tests to just be wrong.  He may be in need of surgery and it is said that he won’t outgrow the disease if he has it.

Pray for an oldest brother who would not say Happy Father’s Day to his dad.  His siblings did, but when his dad said, “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Father’s Day?”  He just smiled and shrugged.

Pray for the salvation of family members.

IF YOU DON’T PRAY…

You might ask, what is the catch to prayer and why don’t everyone’s prayers just get answered?  Well, Jesus prayed a prayer that didn’t get answered the way He desired.  Right before His tortures and crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.  Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Your prayer has to be according to God’s will.  In other words, praying to win the lottery probably isn’t in God’s will for your life.

Sometimes, God answers prayer almost immediately. We three sisters prayed to have a certain answer to prayer a couple of weeks ago.  And when we met for dinner this evening our sister was delighted by God’s answer and praising Him.  The answer fell right into her lap.  The very thing that she was praying but could not speak, was answered by her son from his own mouth, in his own words!

An even faster example came today.  This morning I prayed with a sister and this evening she called to say that the answer had come! This was a prayer of concern for a person in her care for which she needed wisdom.  The answer again, was quick, when someone else provided the answer she needed.  God is awesome!

Sometimes the answer to prayer comes after a long time.  In this case, the timing for the answer must be right.  In my own life, I had prayed for something for so long, I was weary of praying it.  Then one day, in utter desperation, I prayed a prayer asking the Lord for some word that would help me to know that He was hearing my prayer.  The answer came from the Bible.  Here is the first verse:  “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant?  Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”  That is Isaiah 50:10.  Then right across from it, another verse seemed to be burning out of the page at my eyes.  “‘Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?’  For thus says the Lord:  ‘Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.'” That is Isaiah 49:24-25.  The details of this event are still such a blessing!  The prayer was answered within a month and the blessing was permanent.  Thank You Lord!

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I have felt the weight of a burden that I carried for years.  The prayer was hindered through my own disobedience.  Don’t expect to get rewarded with an answer to prayer when obedience to God is lacking.  It’s like desiring a raise and knowing in your heart that you haven’t earned it.  There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

My obedience was corrected.  The burden was suddenly lifted from me.  I was elated, but could not help but think of this lovely gift as false.  “Okay, when will the other shoe drop?”  But then I was reminded of what Jesus said. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  In other words, God only gives good gifts to His children, not evil gifts.

That made me remember something else.  There’s a verse in Revelation that says that we overcome wickedness by the “blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.”  The only thing that saves me is the bloody sacrifice that Jesus made for me.  My righteous deeds are worthless to God.  He says that they are like filthy rags.  The only thing that He will accept is a perfect sacrifice – Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And the thing that allows me to overcome temptation is the memories I have of the many, many blessings that God has given me.  They are stored in my mind.  When I am tempted to not trust Jesus for an answer to prayer, I have this long list of answers to prayers.  Jesus and the loving kindnesses that He has given me over the course of my life, give me the confidence.  The list just keeps getting longer and the telling or the testimony, strengthens me to overcome temptations.  It encourages me to tell what Jesus has done for me.  And it all starts with prayer…

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