October 30, 2013 1 Comment
Over the past few years I have integrated Facebook, and more recently Google +, into my daily life. Through it I have reconnected with dear friends, schoolmates, long lost relatives, Army buddies and even old flames. I have, in essence, seen almost my entire life pass before my eyes. Had it not been for social media, I most likely would have spent the rest of my life without talking to many of you ever again. Because of it I have been given a second chance to renew old ties, to refresh and rededicate my affection and gratitude for you, and to enjoy your precious company once again.
I have also forged new friendships through Facebook and Google +. Too many for me to count. I am now close with many of you all around the globe, and my life is so much richer because of you. Many of you are writers, poets and artists, who share my passion and need for expression. I have quite a few friends now who are politically motivated, and your wisdom and knowledge has motivated me to use my voice to address many of the best and worst qualities of government. My new friends, you show me daily how very similar we are despite our geographical and cultural differences.
I have certainly gone through a lot of changes in my life, and these changes can all be testified to by at least one, if not more, of you reading this. Some of you know just how important my spiritual life has been throughout the years. A few of you remember how, as a young man, I drank up the word of God thirstily, how I had special dreams and even visions that drew me even closer to Him. A handful of you know how devastated I was when my father died from leukemia, how I was so incredibly angry with God for taking him and not me, and how I rebelled and cursed God and started down a dark road of Satan worship, drugs and alcohol. Some of you can recall when I ended up in rehab and then, through Alcoholics Anonymous, tried to reconnect with that Higher Power any way I could, as long as it wasn’t the Judeo-Christian God that had taken the most important person in my life. You know I dabbled with Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions before settling in Eckankar. I embraced it’s doctrine with both arms, and a few of you remember how my language even changed as I talked and taught about karma, reincarnation, different planes of existence and even soul travel. I met some of you while as an Eckist, and you know how devoted I was to this religion. There are quite a few of you who came to know me during the time I discovered that Eckankar had been plagiarized from other esoteric sources, and how that knowledge rocked me to my core. You know how I clung to the 12th century Sufi poet Rumi like a life preserver, and how his words soothed my sense of betrayal. Some of you recall when, in my search to understand the heart of Rumi, I converted to Islam the year of 9/11 and began studying its teachings. I’m aware that some of you worried that I might get sucked into the darker, evil side of Islam, but my renewed quest for God kept me down lighter roads. A few of you, my friends, can remember July 31st, 2005, when at Parkview Baptist Church in Tuscumbia, Alabama and while in the choir loft, the Spirit of God entered my heart like a hammer and I fell at the foot of the cross and gave my life to Jesus. You recall how the old self was laid to rest (Colossians 3:9-10) and how a new man rose from the ground. I returned to my child-like devotion and breathed, drank and ate the word of God. I have come to know many of you since that time, and you are aware of my struggles trying to reconcile my past by making amends, and how difficult this has been.
Those of you who believe differently than I will attest to the deep respect and acceptance I have for your principles, and my reluctance to try to convert you to my religious conviction. This high form of tolerance has been embedded in me for years in the spirit of noninterference, because as you know, most of my adult life was spent on the outskirts of conventional religion. When I became a Christian in 2005, I brought that attribute with me. I’ve been like a man on a tightrope, trying to balance between my own personal faith and acceptance of others’. This precarious attitude has basically prevented me from developing my own testimony for fear of appearing aggressive about my belief, and for fear of losing those of you who do not share my spiritual path. God forbid if I offend someone!
But there is one Friend who has been with me all along. One Friend with the patience and love only the truest of friends can have. I have turned my back on this Friend, I’ve betrayed him, cursed him, wept in his presence, clung to him in rough waters, neglected him, and recently have come to understand that he has been in my heart all along, and now I seek to become more like him every day. I realize that if I’m really serious about surrendering to this Friend completely, I am going to have to trust him without hesitation and have faith in him without reservation. I can no longer keep this Friend hidden. I’ve come to realize that my relationship with this one Friend, Jesus Christ, is the lynch pin, the keystone, the very foundation of my life. If I am to follow his word, I cannot do it half heartedly. I cannot fully dedicate myself to him and tread lightly around those of you who are not Christians. He said “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4) I confess to you, my friends, that even though I have devoted my life to Christ, I have often placed other things in front of my desire to be like him. Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” (Matthew 7:26) If I am to be a better friend, a better husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, a better man, then I must place the kingdom of God and His righteousness first. This involves complete and total surrender to Christ through faith and assurance. I must be so annihilated in Him that when my mouth opens to speak, I will not know if the words are mine or His.
So it is, my patient friends, that I share with you the gradual ‘coming out’ of Jesus in me. I know I will lose some of you. I know some of you will think that this is just another phase in my life. I know some of you will worry that this is one more in a long line of addictions. I know you may doubt my ability to follow through with my words, because how many times before have I become excited about something and then gotten bored with it? I know some of you will think of me as a hypocrite, a poor example of Christianity, a fraud and a fake. I know some of you will become angry when Christ uses me to speak the bold truth. I know some of you will fear that I may slip into insanity. If union with Christ is insanity, may I be afflicted all the days of my life!
I know some of you are rejoicing right now. The fact is, I love each and every one of you, despite what you think of me. Jesus is my Savior, and I am not ashamed to say so. Christ said “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) As Jesus comes out in me, I will always remember His words to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40) This, my friends, is the very essence of life.
Only through the boundless grace of God do I exist. By myself I am nothing, but Christ in me is eternal salvation. I believe that God came to Earth just over two thousand years ago and became a man so that He could be not only an example of righteousness in the flesh, but that He could become the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins, the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, and in his death defeat Satan, and on the third day He arose from the tomb and in doing so He conquered death so that those of us who believe in Him will never die but have eternal life. This I believe. This I know.
On November 12th, 2013 I will be away from the outer world for a period of time. If you show up at my house I will invite you in and rejoice in our meeting, but I will not be available by phone, email or social media. I will not forsake you, my brothers and sisters in Christ at the Oakland Independent Methodist Church. Expect my usual unkempt presence on Sunday. I need time to rededicate myself to God without distraction, to get my priorities straight, to pray for courage, strength and boldness, to surrender my being to Christ, to study the scriptures fervently, to spend more quality time with my family, to let Jesus help me build a firm foundation in the rock of Truth and Love. You will see me again, dear friends, because I cannot stay away from you for long. Each and every one of you are precious to me, and I am so incredibly grateful for your understanding and support. I love you all.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit until we meet again in the flesh. I will be available by phone and internet until November 12th, and would be honored if we correspond. Thank you for your love and patience.