Life in the back yard
I read a book recently entitled "Straight from Hell" by Donna Frank. The book tells her story of being born into Godlessness and despair and abuse and confusion and fear. It tells of her maturing into a lifestyle that would guarantee her more of the same.
Then . . . God showed up.The rest of the story describes her deliverance, one painful step at a time, at the hand of God, into truth, freedom and life in Christ.
It's a gripping story because I know that it's true - I've met her. It's also gripping because I know she's not the only one who has struggled with following the flesh. Most of us do at times. We all deal with things in life that God calls sin - things like unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and lust. (yeah, my drooling over the house down the street is lust.)
There are days when my own struggles are "obvious" to everyone within the same zip code as me. Then, there are days when I kind of look like Jesus. On my Jesus days, I feel deserving of God's attention and of my role in the body of Christ. "Oh yeah. I can see it . . . God using me in some fashion to advance the Kingdom, spread some truth, make someone's burden a little lighter. It could happen!"
But, on those "other" days, things can take an ugly turn. On those days I sometimes decide that I have a right to do a little blaming, nurse a few hurts, sling a little attitude in all directions, and exercise a little lust (I'm telling you, if you could just SEE this house. . . ).
And, if it begins to look like I'm not gonna straighten up and fly right - on my own - God will almost always throw me "the look". (If you have parents, you know "the look"). After 2o-something years of walking with God, I am proud to say that "the look" stops me in my tracks. I instantly realize that I've been playing in the devil's back yard and it's time to go home.
The problem is, when I get home, I can't look God in the eye.
I hang around in the back yard hoping He doesn't come looking for me. Because I've sinned - and knew better - I don't feel that I deserve His attention anymore and I'm sure that He's given my assignment in the kingdom to someone else who's nicer, more forgiving and less a pain in the neck. I would have.
Enter, Donna's book. She describes the moment that she prayed and asked Christ to be her Savior. While making Himself very real to her, He spoke to her, saying:
"You are going to build My Church."Here's the incredible part. She was YEARS away from total deliverance. She would spend several more years dealing with a lifetime of anger, abuse, dysfunction, sexual identity issues, fear, confusion, etc. She was years away from actually being what some might call "useful" to God. But God didn't say, "Listen Honey, if you get yourself cleaned up and stop embarrassing Me, I'll consider looking into whether I might have a little something for you to do behind the scenes somewhere. Maybe." He simply said, "You will build My Church."
"You, who are, at this present time, a mess."
"You, who don't yet know Me very well."
"You, who even while you're hearing My words, think that I'm talking about building literal church buildings."
"You, who have never experienced peace or freedom, will bring both to many."
(You, hiding in the backyard. You who won't look Me in the eye. You, who think that I've given up on you because of your mistakes, which are many. You. I have called you.)
God called Donna as a 'church builder' before the foundation of the world. He saw her ministering to prostitutes, homeless folks, strippers and run-a-ways long before He even created the universe. God never saw her as the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wreck that she was. He saw her as His "Church Builder".
He saw the end before He created the beginning.
That's why He is able to "call things that are not as though they are." (Romans 4:17)
That's why He called Abraham "the father of many nations" while he was childless.
That's why He can call us (yes, us) "kings and priests , a royal race" (Rev. 5:10) though we struggle with everyday life and on the surface, bear little resemblance to anything royal OR holy!
While we walk around on this planet bungling our responsibilities, ministering to our flesh and living lives of ------- distraction, He is calling us to leave the back yard and enter His house. He is calling us to come by the kitchen table and pick up our assignments and believe that He has called us and gifted us to minister. While we sit in shame, believing the devil's lie that - because of our mistakes - we are no longer of any real use to God's Kingdom, part of the Kingdom remains un-manned.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10)
Our struggles don't disqualify us. They simply identify us as human --- and our 'human-ness' doesn't surprise God. Donna took God at His word when, after He healed her and set her free, He asked her to ''Pass it forward!" She believed that she was, indeed, a new creature filled with the power and love of the God of the universe - despite the fact that she spent a lifetime in the devil's back yard. And I'll just bet that the people she ministers to in the streets and back alleys and strip clubs are very grateful that somebody took God at His word and isn't afraid to jump the fence and come after them and explain to them just whose back yard they've been playin' in.
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All Things Work Together. . .