Thursday, March 31, 2016

Through the Pain



Reflections of a Transformed Heart,
a Conviction Ministries Blog

Through the Pain by Autumn Savage Clark


In the last few years God has brought me through some incredible situations. When I look back I cannot help but reflect , not only on what I went through, but the fact that God was with me through it all.


That said, let me tell you a story.


A few years ago I was living in a beautiful relationship with God. I had not only given God my heart, but my dreams, aspirations, and hopes. I had given Him my life. In an effort to understand His plan for my life I continually sought God’s will. Surprisingly though, over time, it almost appeared as if things were falling apart every sincere plea and every cry out to God. Now, I’m not saying I was perfect, but the more I sought God, the worse my life became. Though not quite as extreme, I couldn’t help but see similarities between the story of Job and my life.


The heart-torn cries and pleadings to really connect with God were pouring from the soul of a single mother with two daughters. A single mother who, in spite of  working full time, had dedicated her waking hours to studying the Word of God with designs to enter into full time ministry. I had sensed God’s anointing on my life and had covenanted with God to live accordingly.

Though I didn’t know what my future looked like. I was being drawn into an ever increasingly intimate relationship with God. An inner thirst for His Word, His Truth, and His love continued to increase to a point to where no matter how much I prayed, no matter how much I studied, it was never enough. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for ... God.” (Ps. 42:1 ESV)

In the midst of these cries and pleadings was a person desperate to fully serve God. I interned under pastoral leadership, opening my doors on Monday evenings for Bible study groups and led the youth at church every weekend. All so that I could share the love and Word that God had revealed to me, and during it all, God perpetually equipped me with the courage, strength, and wisdom to do it all.


It was In the midst of these things, that I was confronted with what would be the first of many integral decisions in my walk with God. The situation that arose next would turn out to be one of the most important events of my life. After having experienced success after ministerial success, a morning came where I heard God specifically tell me to “Quit your job and Trust me.”


Hearing God wasn’t strange for me. The relationship that I shared with God was an intimate one. His Spirit and I communed all the time and so, with haste, I quickly answered “Yes Lord!”. I hadn’t contemplated what a change like that would require of me, nor did I immediately realize how much faith this change would require.  As Israel had done on Mount Sinai, I said, All that the Lord has spoken I will do. (Ex. 19:8)


Though my intent was righteous, I had made the decision without contemplating what God’s call would require of me.  Being the “all or nothing” type of woman that I was, I hastily decided to obey Him without really evaluating what that obedience would require and it was that hastiness that would be my downfall.


It wasn’t long and fear and doubts crept in. I began realizing how difficult this calling would be. Then the weight of quitting my job and entering into full time ministry began to present itself. By meditating on the fears, I had given Satan what he needed to rent space in my head. Instead of relying on God to equip and strengthen me, as He had done before, I allowed the Satan’s lies to take root and grow within my walk with God. With every passing day self rose up. I began rejecting the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The fears and doubts resulted in me telling God that I couldn’t obey him, that I couldn’t just quit my job and move into full time ministry. Everything I had accepted as a reason to flee God, was actually the reasons why I should have grasped God more tightly.


Like Jonah running away from his duty. (Jonah: 1:1-3) I started to bury my burden. I excused away and justified my disobedience in an effort to numb the voice of the Spirit. Unlike Jonah though, my rebellion didn’t end so quickly. One bad decision led to another until eventually the person from ages past, the old woman whom had died when I gave my life to Christ, was resurrected and given the dominate position in my life. The revelation of what had happened and how far I had fallen became a weight around my neck. I resorted to using narcotics to aid my flight from God and as the narcotics gained control the Spirit’s voice receded and like King Saul God’s anointing lifted from me. (1 Samuel 16:14 )My intimate relationship with God faded away like the sun’s rays at sunset.


By now you would think that I had realized the degree to which I had separated myself from God, but the truth is that I didn’t. I continued as though God was still empowering my life, but when I opened my mouth to witness there was no power. In a way, I had become a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)


I could recall the days when I would open my mouth and God’s words would come forth. People would be utterly convicted, but now confusion was taking over me. Slowly, with every passing moment,  I stepped out of the will of God and all of the roles He had placed me in.


However, regardless of how far I drifted away from God; He never left my side. God’s providential care, His love, His long-suffering was evident the day that I left the house and encountered a stopped semi-truck while traveling at 50mph. Here I was, pregnant with my fourth daughter, sitting in a scene of devastation .


I can remember opening my eyes and seeing a man standing standing there with a look of shock in his eyes. His face said it all. As my voice crackled, “Help me I am on fire”. The day that had begun in devastation ended in trauma. What followed were months of tears, surgeries and rehabilitation.


I can look back at all of that and lament about it, but the truth is that the accident acted as a catalyst for reuniting my relationship with God. Here I was years later, once again given an opportunity to walk with God as I had years ago when, as a child, I encountered him face to face. As a child he and I had spent hours with one another. Hours of communion filled with joy and heart warming love. This time though, rather than being a joyous child filled with laughter, I was a child pleading for my life. A child begging to feel His warm embrace!

Monday, December 7, 2015

When It's Not Over



Have you ever loved someone, but not appreciated them as you should have? In time you develop relational problems and what results are issues so complex and significant that no matter how much you try, you just cannot seem to right the wrong?
Two days ago I sat down and spoke with a friend who had just finalized his divorce. It had been a very draining battle that required him to submit everything to God. There were days that seemed as though he would not make it through to the next, days where he didn't know who he was anymore, and nights where he could forget who he was. In the midst of that, there was an ever abiding love for his wife. He knew he wasn't the perfect husband, but he had hoped and prayed that God, in His infinite wisdom, would find some way to unite he and his wife again. But alas, the day came when the paperwork was signed and the marriage covenant was legally absolved.
As the moment arrived, clarity and peace of mind came over him. As the paperwork was coallated and the parties gathered in the room God gave him the assurance that He wasn't finished, that though the marriage was being legally absolved, God wasn't done fighting for her soul, and He wasn't finished fighting for their marriage.
For years he had been battling through his pain and anger while trying to understand those same emotions in his wife. The issues had been pulling both of them in a thousand directions. As the topic of divorce would surface, fear would fill his heart as it would any father and husband who loved his family. A fear that divorce would somehow be the final blow, but on that fateful day God assured him that it was not over.
I believe it was then that my friend finally gave the care of his wife over to God in a way that he had not done before. I know he had given her to God, but there was something more complete about it this time. I believe that in our "infinite wisdom" we try to hang onto the things that need to be let go of. Now hear me out. I am not advocating divorce or abandonment. I am simply saying that sometimes we fight God's battles. If we trusted God to fight the battles that many times we fight, more often than not, the outcome could be different. Our limited ability to see into the heart of another and our total lack of understanding the path that God has mapped out means that we ought not fight a battle that we are not designed to fight.
In regards to my friend, I cannot say whether that is true of him or not. What I do know, is that when all control was removed from him, he finally had peace. Maybe that is what we need to be seeking all along. Maybe we need to pray to be shown how to give God control in order to learn to be at peace when not at the helm. I believe it is only when we recognize our own weakness that we can see and stand in awe of God's tue strength. Only then can we exemplify the true faith that is necessary to do the type of work that needs to be done.
I have learned a lot from my friend. His trials, struggles, and strengths through this incredibly trying time have enriched my relationship with God. I can see a lot of myself in my friend and I only pray that if ever in a similarly trying time, I might remain as spiritually submitted as he.
What battles are you fighting that aren't yours to fight? Is there something in your life that requires you to get out of the way so that God can have a direct line of sight to His intended target? Is there something you are holding onto that is preventing God from reaching you? Are you trying to hold onto something that has to be set loose in order to find it's way home? The truth is, only God can answer those questions. Each and every one of who who relate to tis will only relate to it because of God's still small voice whispering in your ear.
Tonight I am praying for my friend. Tonight I am praying that he holds onto the assurance that he received through that peace, that he has a strangle hold on the truth that God is in control. I am also praying that my eyes be opened to the things that I am holding onto that stand between myself and God or between my wife and God. Life is too short to spend it separated from the Lord. All I know is that the closer I move towards God, the more I realize that I need Him. May that be your realization today as well.
In His Service,
Greg

Sunday, September 13, 2015

When Google Supersedes God's Word

In 2012 I was released from prison on parole. For six years prior to that I had been shuffled from one facility to another, totalling 13 in all. However, there was one constant among all of them. That constant was my dream. I had the dream that one day I would be able to worship God side by side with my fellow brothers and sisters.

The day came when I was released and I was finally able to go to church as I had longed for year after year. There I was, singing, praying, and worshipping God, but it wasn't long before I noticed something missing, something very important. See, in prison, there was a sense of Christian unity among those that I had worshipped with. We had common foes, common struggles, common dreams, and comon victories. It was the same no matter what prison I went to. Those of us who were true Christians knew and trusted one anoher in spite of having never met because, at the end of the day, we knew "we" was all we had.There was a sense of brotherhood among us. Yet, once in the church that I longed for, the church of my dreams, I realized that in the midst of "the faithful", the one thing that was missing, was "brothehood." The brotherhood that comes when Christ is in your midst.

It didn't take long before I was able to see that the church that I had dreamed of was just that, a dream. The church of today is filled with individuals who have an intelectual religious life, but rarely anything else. In place of brotherhood was back stabbing and gossip. The wheat and tares are certainly growing together. It was only in the light of modern Christianity that I began appreciating my previous experience. In spite of the bloodshed, incarceration certainly had it's benefits. In prison I had the advantage of having to explain my faith to those who believed differently. Very quickly I learned that if you claim to stand for Christ, someone was going to test you. Fortunately, I had grounded my faith in that solid Rock. I had studied God's Word every chance that I had and grounded my beliefs in Truth. The tests came, and the test went. Day after day my faith grew stronger.

I can honestly say that I am saddened by the condition of today's churches. Many are weak in faith and lack an experiential understanding of even the most fundamental facets of God's Word. I speak not only of the laity, but of the leadership as well. In retrospect, I look back at my time in prison and thank God for every test that I received. I thank Him for the questions asked by the Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Atheists. I thank Him for the threats to my life and for the opportunities to experience victory over temptation. I thank Him for the struggles and for the spiritual forsight to know that only through exercising faith in those moments would my relationship with Him grow stronger and my Love for Him grow deeper.

The church of today is a truly a pitiful sight. On Saturdays and Sundays I travel to churches hoping to see what I dreamed of. However, what I find most often are pastors who, with voices trembling, are conveying messages filled with hesitancy and doubt. They speak as though they are not convinced by God's Word and even worse, not convicted by it.  Never would I have imagined seeing so many biblically illiterate leaders. Entire sermons being prepared using Google instead of God's Word. More often than not, that which is socially acceptable superseding that which is Scriptural.

And once again, to the leaders of today God cries,

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6 ESV

It would be easy to continue criticizing the modern day church, but instead I have decided to do what I can to meet the challenge.


Currently, Conviction Ministries is preparing a revolutionary set of Bible studies designed to help those searching for answers. The studies will educate the sincere student, not only about the Christian faith, but about how to defend it biblically, intelligently, and in a relevant format. It is our prayer that through them, one can develop a firm foundation in the Word of God. Stay tuned in the weeks to come. 

If you can relate to what I wrote or if you would like to contact me, free to email me through our website at www.convictionministries.com
-Greg Emelander