I was simply there to meet and greet. I was at the Senior Olympics to encourage the runners. I was at the event to move around the people and be seen, as a leader. I was simply there for the work.
There he was. About 6 feet tall. He was chewing some food. He mumbled something. I pretended to listen, but did not pay much attention. He asked again. A little louder this time. “Terry, do you still like me?” I said, “Yes, of course Wayne.” As I said those words, I quickly looked away. I held my breath for a while. You see, when Wayne chews his food, crumbs and this yellowish goo drip down his scruffy beard. Wayne does not take regular showers, if any at all. Wayne, sort of, emits an unpleasant body odor.
I wanted to get away. I feared looking at the drool on Wayne’s face was going to make me lose my breakfast. I turned around and walked fast, back to my office. As I walked to the office, I heard God say, “But you eat meals with wealthy people. You go for lunches with clean people. Wayne just asked if you liked him, and you said, “Yes.” You lied.” The conviction was swift. My heart sank. I promised myself I will eat a meal with Wayne sometime in the next few years. That did not work. I had to do something sooner than that. I told my wife “I am going to take Wayne to a sit down restaurant for lunch before October 31, 2014.” I had to be specific. She was surprised. So was I. Would I be able to do it?
Last Sunday, my daughter, Fiela and I had the amazing privilege and humbling opportunity to go for lunch with Wayne. As we walked into Greek Chicken restaurant, all heads turned and looked at us. I planned that we would offer to sit outside. I was convicted, once again. We ordered our lunch and sat down to eat. As soon as I saw the drool, I almost lost it. My lunch, that is. I gave Wayne a bunch of napkins. He seemed to enjoy his chicken and fries. I enjoyed my food, and of course the discussion. We had a wonderful conversation about his family and his shelter. I enjoyed the discussion. Soon, I did not smell the bad body odor. Soon, I forgot about the drool and crumbs on his chin and clothes. It was just three people – God’s children sharing a meal together. It was one of my most favorite meals. I will never forget this day. Thank you God for convicting me. Thank you Wayne for helping me put things into perspective. And, yes, I still like you.
My Reflections on the Count Me In Convention
There was a perfect storm brewing in my mind as we drove to the Count Me In Convention last weekend. I guess I had no idea what to expect. I wondered if the weekend would be only applicable to people in recovery from alcohol and drug addictions. I wondered if my wife and I, and the children would huddle in a corner somewhere feeling out of place. I wondered if we would question why we even went there in the first place. God had a wonderful surprise in store for us.
During the first meeting, that Friday evening, my heart was warmed by the exuberant welcome and responses from the beneficiaries from all over our beautiful territory. As each Adult Rehabilitation Center’s name was called out, the men and women responded in these boisterous chants that would have left many a sports fan stunned. These men and women were excited to be gathered in the presence of God, representing all the work God has done in their lives through their distinct centers. I noticed that I was not an outsider, I am one of them. I have been saved by Grace through faith in our Lord Jesus. I, too, am recovering from many sins that have plagued me over my lifetime. I embraced the warmth of their friendly cheers, and there, stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow redeemed soldiers.
The speaker that first evening, was the dynamic Dr. Steven Arterburn http://newlife.com/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Arterburn . He spoke about his past challenges with sex addiction, and how God redeemed him from it. He testified that when his then girlfriend fell pregnant, he paid for the abortion. As a result, he and his wife could not have children. However, God blessed when they had the privilege of adopting a baby, at birth. Dr Artburn’s testimony resonated with me, and many others. I felt at home, as I knew I was in the company of fellow horrible sinners who were miraculously saved by a magisterial, graceful God!
On the second day, the second guest, Maria Durso https://www.facebook.com/MariaDursoMinistries shared her powerful testimony. She skillfully took us on a journey dating back to the time when her mother was pregnant with her. Her mother’s passing from a brain tumor, her father’s depression, and eventual death. One could almost hear pin drop, as Maria described the abuse she endured at the hands of the religious people at an orphanage, as well as at the hands of street thugs. The whole convention erupted in applause as she described her salvation moment in a room hotel room in Mexico. At the end of her testimony, Commissioner Knaggs challenged us to respond to the message. Hundreds of men and women rushed to kneel at the altar in humility as they surrendered to God’s power. At the altar, the ceiling shone in a shape of the cross. I will never forget the image of people kneeling in submission to God, as the cross was shining over them. It was as if God’s light was piercing through the flesh to provide light in our dark hearts! Hallelujah!
During meal breaks, I would pass a group of our San Diego A.R.C. beneficiaries who would give me a big teddy bear hug, and tell me how glad they were to be at the Count Me In convention. I was able to connect at a deeper level, with most of the beneficiaries, many of whom attend our corps on Sundays. On Sunday morning, my family and I had the privilege of eating breakfast with the beneficiaries from the San Diego A.R.C. who were going to be enrolled as adherents later in that morning. Two of them said, “Captain, we are ready to become soldiers!” I was privileged to witness God’s transforming power in the lives of many of our delegates.
The Count Me In convention was a great experience. It showed me the necessity of linking our Corps with the A.R.C. I am glad I attended the Count Me In convention.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.”
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
- Thank God, always. When you are blessed, do not forget to thank the Lord. How thankful are you? I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- God is good, all the time, God is good. Even if life is not working, God is still good. Even if all hell is breaking loose, God is still good. Whatever the circumstances, God is good. Our problems change our perception of God’s character. Our problems do not change God’s character. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
- His perfect love never ends. He loves me even when I do not feel loved. He loves me, even when I am sinful and bad. He loves me in spite of me. Psalm 100:5 says, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- I shall call on Him when life is tough. I shall call on Him always. Self-dependence gives a false sense of security. Only God will provide the only true security one needs.
- I am to fear not. God is with me, always. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- God gives me the victory. We carry around wounds and scars from battles against sin. Yet, we are still here. We are still here because God has one the victory for us. He has beaten the devil hands down! We belong to the winning army. Praise God!
- God is my helper, and support. Psalm 54:4 says, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”
- I hide, and I am safe in God. I am safe in His everlasting arms. Psalm 91:1-2 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
- I put all my hope and trust in God. It may seem difficult to talk about hope, when our situation feels hopeless. I remember the words of someone who once said, “At the end of the rope is hope. Hope is real, when our current situation makes it impossible to do anything in our own strength. Hope is believing in God’s power. Hope is believing the future is brighter than today. The best is yet to come. Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
10. What is God saying to me this week? He is saying, “Trust Me.” Are you trusting Him in all areas of your life?
While we could never replace the Bible with any other books, there are some Christian books which have enhanced my spiritual walk.
Here are my top 20 Christian books:
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
- Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
- The Purpose-Driven Life – by Rick Warren
- Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
- Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
- Celebration of Discipline – by Richard J. Foster
- Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
- In the Name of Jesus – by Henri Nouwen
- Redeeming Love – by Francine Rivers
- Wild at Heart – by John Eldredge
- My Utmost for His Highest – by Oswald Chambers
- The Pursuit of God – by A.W. Tozer
- The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
- Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World- by Rebecca Manley Pippert
- The Jesus I Never Knew – by Philip Yancey
- The Screwtape Letters – by C. S. Lewis
- What Christian books have had an impact in your life?
- What are you reading right now?
- What is God saying?
- What changes do you need to make in response to what you have been reading?