When I was a teenager, I wondered what life was all about. Surely I thought, there must be more to it than just working, eating, sleeping, being entertained, experiencing relationships, and eventually dying. The answer would finally come. The ultimate purpose of human life is to be a servant of Jesus Christ. This is a far greater
calling than practicing religion....even though a person may be reading the
bible and going to church. Since we are born into sin, we must first be changed into a christian who is obedient, faithful, and loving to Him. When we arrive at this point in our christianity,, we are now in a position to be used to do those things which He would have done. Our rewards for our service are an ongoing relationship with Him and His bountiful blessings which are always much more than we can imagine.
I now live in peace and joy. I have come to know that joy comes from Him and is far greater than the happiness I have struggled to produce on my own in my past. I wouldn't want to claim that I'm an "authority" on having a relationship with God. Actually, I'm learning new things all the time. Nonetheless, I'd like to share what I have come to know with you.
Holy God is the great, majestic ruler of the entire universe. He is in complete control of ALL things including distant celestial bodies as well as the smallest detail of every human life.
After years of trying to "figure things out" with my human mind, I finally surrendered to God. I told Him that I no longer wanted to make the decisions in my life. Obviously, considering all the negative outcomes I had experienced, I didn't know what I was doing. I told Him that I would do anything He commanded me to do, go anywhere He commanded me to go. "Just make it clear", I said. "Please don't let me be a victim of my own imagination", I went on, "We both know where that can lead".
Within a day or so, I began seeing pictures in my head. It was like dreaming with my eyes open. The images were as clear as those I was actually seeing with my eyes.....two images at the same time. I love photography and once took an instructional correspondence course in it. I never imagined that it would be anything more than a hobby. I lived in North Carolina at the time of this event. The first picture was an extreme closeup of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. I could only see two or three stripes. It was as though He was making certain that I knew exactly what it was. When I acknowledged what it was, the next picture arrived in my head: a closeup of seabirds flying directly at me. I thought it was ridiculous.
"What's this all about?" I asked. I realized that He wanted me to make a photograph of this image. "But how?" I said. "I can't FLY! I can't get up in a helicopter! How am I supposed to do this? I can't do this!" I would later come to understand that "I can't do this" was the very point He was making. Only He has power.
After viewing this picture in my head nearly a dozen times and protesting every time, I finally jumped in my car and drove to The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I got there late in the afternoon, early evening. The light was just right at the lighthouse. I tried to make a photo on my own and managed to botch several shots. The voice in my head told me to just put the camera around my neck and go for a walk. I saw two great shots in a matter of 45 minutes. It seemed "too easy". Now at dusk I was headed to a nearby motel when I saw a sign that read "Pea Island Wildlife Refuge".
"So!", I exclaimed, as my attention was brought to the sign, "that's where You want me to go? Fine! I'll be there! First thing in the morning!".
The next morning not long after dawn, I was loading my camera gear on my shoulders in this postage stamp sized parking lot. I was the only person there. I always put the "normal" lens (other lenses are wide angle and telephoto) on my camera to go for a walk. That way, I reason, the camera sees the same thing I do. But a "feeling" came over me to use the telephoto lens instead (bringing distant objects up close). I thought this was ridiculous....what are the odds I'm going to use this lens? But the more I protested, the more powerful the "feeling" got. By the time I finally relented and put the telephoto lens on, it was very powerful.
And so down the narrow asphalt path I went with my gear hanging from both shoulders and my camera WITH THE BIG LENS hanging around my neck. After about ten minutes, I arrived at an arched foot bridge. I walked to the highest point in the center and turned to my right. It was a beautiful sight: smooth blue, blue water before me....the sun just rising on the left with golden streaks of light across the sky overhead.....the shoreline on the right with golden reeds along the bank. "Wow!", I said out loud. I had barely emptied my shoulders and caught my breath when a large flock of birds took flight immediately behind me.
They flew directly over my head and went about 100 yards or so away to land on the shoreline to the right. They were now just dots in the distance. "Whew!" I exclaimed. "Did you see that!!" There had to be 75 to 100 birds in the flock, and some had just cleared my head.
About 5 minutes later, just as I had calmed down, they began flying directly at me in groups of 4s and 5s. I put the camera WITH THE BIG LENS to my eye and began shooting. It was like going duck hunting with my camera. And don't you know.....the same image that I had seen in my head was now on the film inside my camera!!
When I had used all 36 frames on the roll, they stopped flying. I was awe struck. I once thought that the Old Testament of The Bible was just a collection of interesting stories. But now, I had a real good idea of how Moses must have felt when he watched his staff turn into a serpent. "AWESOME" is the biggest word I know but it's still way too small.
"Alright", I said. "That clinches it....from now on, I do EVERY thing You say, WHEN You say it, HOW You say it." I was still shaking when I got back to the car. This picture can be viewed on my website, davidbucherphotoart.com.
It's one thing to view a great mountain and realize that this is God's work. But to have an event transpire before your very eyes which involves your personal life is another matter entirely. He controls every thing. Awesome Power. WOW!
God exists as three persons in one: The Holy Father, The Lord Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. The order of The Holy Trinity was revealed to me in the elementary terms of "house construction". The Holy Father is Grand Holy Architect. The Lord Jesus Christ is Royal Contractor. The Holy Spirit is Sacred Foreman. Humans are the "construction project". We are to pray to The Holy Father for forgiveness of sin. We also pray to Him to reveal His plan for us to us. We are to pray to The Lord to enact the plan of The Father through us that The Father might be pleased and His Holy Name be glorified. We are to ask The Holy Spirit (who lives within us) for direction and understanding.
I questioned the above Principle
when it was revealed to me. I was immediately reminded of how I too am slightly offended when my important work is interrupted by an unknowing (or rude) questioner with a matter that could easily be handled by someone in a lesser position. Thankfully, all Three Persons of The Holy Trinity understand the human condition.
The Father is holy. And because He is holy, human beings are unfit to be in His presence. In Old Testament times, the Hebrews were required to make a variety of sacrifices to atone for their sins. Night and day they came to the tabernacle with various grain and animal sacrifices in accordance with their wrongdoing. Finally, as He had promised for centuries, The Holy Father sent His Son to the earth to be the one, perfect sacrifice. Animal and grain sacrifices were no longer required. The Lord Jesus Christ became the "bridge" between The Holy Father and unholy humans. Any human who could (and still can!) accept this sacrifice and believe in The Lord Jesus Christ is in position to share a relationship with The Holy Father and The Lord Himself. Indeed, this person is also now in position to communicate with The Holy Spirit who lives inside every human. Any human who does not accept and believe is in an unholy position and will be condemned.
Prior to my spiritual surrender to The Lord Jesus Christ, He who is in control of all the earth and the heavens above, I had to work just as hard as I could to "play to a tie" in life. It seemed that "something was always happening to me". I had received three speeding tickets in my life. Oh, I was guilty all right.....but I was barely over the speed limit. Then one spring night, the day after my surrender to The Lord in fact, I really was speeding.... well over the limit too. The police officer who pulled me over must have been a former Marine. And I suspected that he had eaten nails for breakfast. He spit most of them at me. But to my absolute amazement, he walked away after giving me a mere warning. Wow! It was the first time in my life that something beyond my control actually went in my favor. I was so stunned that I could not restart the car for five minutes. I had surrendered to The Lord, had committed a true "wrong", and I had just been forgiven... not because I deserved it.....but because I had accepted Him, believed in Him, and He was showing His love for me. Awesome!
The Holy Father's foremost priority is the redemption of mankind. Everything He does is directed toward this single priority. Every command He issues takes us a step closer toward transformation into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ and greater servanthood. The Lord rules the earth and serves The Father by following The Father's plan for every human....crafting the human to become one who glorifies the holy name of The Father.
The Lord knows the "desire" of our heart. It is something that brings us the greatest joy. He chooses this one thing to be our way to serve Him. When I am obedient to His clear commands, blessings follow. When I am disobedient or sinful, consequences are the result. He uses the desire of our heart to transform us according to The Father's plan because in this way He has the greatest impact on our hearts. What sheer GENIUS! And what a kind, loving Master He is to allow us to serve by doing the thing we love most. Wow!
The Apostle Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing".
I pray throughout the day. I begin the day with a prayer that presents my basic requests and commitments. During the day I say a number of very short prayers. Some only last a few seconds.....it's like an ongoing conversation. I know that I may be a fairly intelligent human but The Lord has INFINITE wisdom. Clearly, I want Him running my life. And so I ask Him "what would You have me do?" before I make any decision of even small importance. He never leads me into something that He will not lead me through. Then I ask Him for His strength in carrying out His command. I have no strength. No human does. We truly are "sheep". We are only able to make "yes" or "no" choices to situations that come before us. The Apostle Paul is right. We must "pray without ceasing" to maintain a close relationship with The Lord.
There has to be a Hell. Otherwise, Jesus Christ would have died for nothing. And since there is a Hell, there has to be a Satan. According to The Lord, Satan is a murderer and a liar.
Ever notice that when routinely reading a newspaper or performing some other every day habit, that your mind is rarely if ever distracted? On the other hand, try reading the Bible for a while or engaging in some meaningful prayer. Suddenly, your mind is "out in left field", way off the topic. And you wonder "how did I get here?". In fact, any time a Christian takes a step toward The Lord, Satan is there to present a challenge. There really is spiritual warfare.
God loves us all. He wants us to know Him, to understand who He is, to love Him, and to worship Him. In His infinite wisdom and goodness, He has the best possible plan for our lives.
For 2 & 1/2 years I had served The Lord by developing the small photography company that is also the joy of my heart. He used this thing that is so dear to me to transform me into a different person. Indeed, I am still a work in progress. From the beginning, I had wondered what possible purpose The Holy Father could have for me and the pictures He was designing through my head and hands. All I was told at the start was that "there would be a transfer of money form very wealthy people to very desperate people." As I got to know Him better, The Holy Spirit prompted me to ask Him again about His purpose for me. A large difference this time was the condition of my heart. The first time I asked, I had MY interest in mind as in: "Whattya want me to do this for?" But now my heart was asking in just the opposite way as in: "In all Your power and glory, what could You possibly have in Your mind for little me?".
I went on to ask, "Knowing that Your first priority is the redemption of mankind, what possible use could You have for these pictures?". Immediately, I saw an image in my head of an extreme closeup of my signature in the lower right corner of one of my pictures. Situated diagonally across the first letter in my first name were the letters GHS.
I asked, "GHS? What does that mean?".
The Holy Spirit responded, "God's Humble Servant".
"Why the letters?" I went on.
"In this way, all who see will be prompted to ask the meaning of the letters and thus an opportunity to witness will be provided. The Holy Name of The Father will be glorified."
"That's pretty good", I actually said. "Credit will be given where credit is due. But You've gone to a lot of trouble with me......there must be more".
Immediately I saw a black and white image in my head. It was of a small African American girl, about 8 years old. She was on her knees next to a street....maybe in the street. Her face was in her hands, and she was crying. It as heartbreaking to see this small child in such great distress. The Voice said that children were more receptive to Jesus Christ than anyone else. And desperate children were the most receptive of all.
I was awestruck and asked, "What would You have me do?"
Immediately, I saw what appeared to be an abandoned factory which occupied an entire city block. Then it vanished to show bare ground. Next appeared a large two (?) story building running across the front of the property with a large walled garden in the back. The garden was a vegetable garden ringed by fruit trees. The two story building appeared to be a dormitory or hotel.....but then it became clear that it was an orphanage.....a Christian orphanage. And the garden was cared for by the children. They were to be dependent on The Lord for their food supply.....training to be dependent on Him with their lives.
I was almost overwhelmed. I was instructed that the orphanage was to be funded by the photoart through a charitable foundation. I would see a lawyer the next day to begin the creation of The GHS Foundation. When I came home from the lawyer's office, the first sale of photoart was on my fax machine. Wow! Confirmation! He has a plan for me. He has a plan for you too.
God hates pride.
I had been taught from my teenage years onward to be proud of my accomplishments. And although I was not one to brag about anything I had done, I began to feel "pretty good" about myself late in my pharmacy school career. I had prayed to The Lord all through school, and He made me an academic star. However, I forgot what He had done.....I got the wrongful idea that my success was due to me. The year that I was accepted to graduate school to begin work on my Ph.D., my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her that I wanted a brief case. I had carried a clip board with a yellow legal pad on it for 4+ years of school. But now that I was "somebody", I "needed" a briefcase.
God hates pride in a human. And well He should. The earth is a small particle in His vast universe. And a single human being is a smaller particle still. It is certainly understandable that He would be offended that a product of His own creation, a human being, would be prideful over some relatively small accomplishment that the human thinks he or she has produced. No human can do anything with His approval or consent. When a human becomes prideful, that person will be humbled. "Pride goeth before a fall", the Bible says.
Shortly after beginning work on my Ph.D., I was drafted into the military. I would spend almost four years doing small, menial tasks.
Over thirty years later I was listening to Charles Stanley, one of my finest earthly teachers, explain that God hated pride. Charles went on to say that we Christians should ask Him whether we have done anything in a prideful way that has offended Him. I couldn't think of anything, but I went right into my bedroom, got down on my knees, and asked the very question that Charles had suggested.
Immediately, I saw a picture in my head of the briefcase that my mother had given me over 3 decades ago. I knew exactly what it represented. Although I still owned the brief case, I had not used it in all this time. It was in the top of my closet, covered in dust. Before I could say anything in response to this image, a second picture appeared.
There I was, in my ill fitting Navy work uniform with most of my hair shaved off, painting steps. I was on my knees at this particular moment while painting the bottom steps. Keep in mind that only a couple months before, I had been a respected Ph.D. candidate doing research on an anti-cancer drug. Standing just a few feet away in this same picture was a Navy first class petty officer. He was towering over me while pointing his left index finger down at me.
"How many years of education you got, boot camp?", he sneered.
"Eighteen", I answered.
"Well I got EIGHT! And I'M OVER YOU! HA! HA!"
Pride really does go before a fall. God hates pride.
God highly values marriage.
Before my surrender to The Lord, I thought that "I knew women". In fact, I thought that "I could have any woman I wanted". I read several books about relationships with women and even more about "how their minds worked". Not surprisingly, I met with one failed relationship after another.
After my surrender, I had gone almost 3 years without having a woman in my life. Then I got a "yearning" in my heart for a true relationship....not just a flirtation. But remembering all the pain of the past, I certainly did not want to make my own choice again. And so I asked for "a worthy partner who could walk this walk of faith with me". The next day she came into my life. She was only a remote acquaintance and someone whom I would never have chosen myself. I would learn that she too was a Christian and had actually prayed the same prayer that I had prayed. We became friends and then, after a while, romantic partners. The relationship lasted about nine months.
I should mention that during this nine months, we contemplated building a house. I had actually seen a vision in my head a few years earlier of the house that my wife and I would live in: a Victorian house sitting in the middle of a heavy forest with water in the back. When Donna and I first mentioned "house", she mentioned that she loved Victorian and had always wanted to live in a Victorian house. When I went on the Internet to look for house plans, the very first house I saw was the one I had seen in my head years before. I was flabbergasted! I actually said, "Oh, You've got to be kidding! Just for that, I'm going to print off 7 or 8 more plans and WE'LL JUST SEE WHICH ONE SHE CHOOSES!" Of course, she chose the first one. After she made her selection, I excitedly told her about my vision. The only possible location that I could image had to be in the mountains in the western part of the state. Taking matters in my own hands (not thinking to ask The Lord), I took her for a car ride into the high mountain country. Of course, we found no property that matched the description of the vision.
As the relationship detiorated, the notion of a house was not brought up again. Finally, she was gone. I found myself alone in prayer and speaking to The Lord.
"Well," I said, "Another failed relationship. I could have done THAT myself."
Silence from The Lord.
"I don't understand. You brought us together. But I can't believe that You brought me an EMOTIONAL CRIPPLE!"
Suddenly I felt a very hard, tightening sensation around my heart. But I went on:
"I guess she just wasn't CHRISTIAN ENOUGH to handle this relationship!"
The tightening sensation got even tighter....almost unbearable pain.
"I guess You don't want me to say anything negative about her....?"
The tightening loosened.
"Well, let me see", I said. "There are three persons in this relationship. The problem can't be You because You're perfect. And....You don't want me to say anything bad about her.....so it can't be her. That just leaves.......ME! Well, I don't understand. What am I doing wrong? What would You have me learn? Could You please teach me what You would have me know?"
The next night I was driving home from a distant workplace. I flipped on the Christian radio station and there was a sermon about Christian marriage. It was out of the book of Ephesians. I listened to it and thought it was rubbish. "This can't be true", I said. "Someone must have made a mistake in the translation".
Two nights later, I was again far from home and flipped on the radio to hear something interesting. I did: the same marriage sermon as before but by a different minister. "Boy, this must be "theme week". Ya know, I might be able to believe some of this......but I'd have to think about it", I said.
Two nights more. Flip on the radio. The same sermon comes on. Third different minister. Suddenly I remembered my prayer from much earlier in the week: "teach me what You would have me know". And He was. But I had been deaf. Now I realized. "You're talking to ME!" I gasped. "Now I get it! The "surrendered to Jesus Christ" man serves his "surrendered to Jesus Christ" wife. They no longer belong to themselves. She, in turn, submits to her husband under the same circumstances. It's not a PERSONAL issue....it's a HOLY issue. And he is to serve her even unto death. I understand when You say that "death" means not just physical death but indeed I am to reinvent my personality (death of my old self) in order to serve her." I understood too the "hierarchy" of marriage: The Lord speaks to the husband who then relays the message to the wife. It is a huge responsibility which requires the husband to have a very close relationship with The Lord. He is now responsible not only for The Lord's direction for himself but for his wife as well.
That night I was on my knees in prayer feeling very humble. "I'm so sorry", I said. "I'm so sorry that it took me so long to realize what You were telling me all along."
I went on: "No wonder my previous relationships didn't work. I was so selfish. I was asking every woman "What can you do for me?" and now I know that the question You would have me ask is "What can I do for you?". I would be honored to serve dear precious Donna and Holy You. Could I please have the privilege of serving her and serving You?"
I felt a burden lift off of me. Somehow I felt drained. I asked one last question: "But what about her? She's a human too. She's part of this relationship too. Can You change her? I have always understood that all humans have a certain amount of free will. Can You change people?"
The next morning I woke up before the alarm went off...highly unusual for me. I sat bolt upright in bed and there at the foot of the bed were 3 very lifelike vertical images of Donna. It was like looking at three movies side by side. In the first one on the left she was looking at my photography in a very uninterested way. In the second one she was looking me in the face saying "I don't know why you're spending all this money on this photography. You could be paying off your credit cards!". And in the third movie she was literally handing back the engagement ring I had given her like it was a piece of plastic out of a box of cracker jacks. All of these "movies" had actually taken place in real life. I was FURIOUS at the sight of them. And I shouted out loud while stabbing my right index finger at them: "THERE! THERE! DO YOU SEE THAT! ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT YOU'RE GOING TO CHANGE THAT!!"
Suddenly, I heard a very stern, very authoritative voice say: "Have I not changed YOU?"
I was dumbstruck. There was nothing to say. There was nowhere to hide. Where do I hide from The Lord? I was almost afraid to move. But after a while, I haltingly said, "Alright....You say we're coming back together. Boy, it sure seems far fetched to me. But I trust You. If You say so, it must be true. But could You give me something physical.....something to confirm what You're saying now? You know how I am.....I need some physical proof....."
The next day a postcard arrived in my mailbox along with other assorted pieces of mail. I didn't even look at it closely for a couple of days. When I did look, I realized that He had answered my prayer again. It was a postcard advertising a housing development. On one side was a picture.....an aerial view.....of a lake with land jutting out into it. The land was covered with forest. I realized that this could very well be the site of the house that we had searched for months ago. But The Lord forbidded me to go there myself.
A month or so later, Donna and I were reunited. Indeed, just as He had said, she had been transformed. I told her about the postcard. But, I added, we are not to go to this place until He says so. Not long afterward, I received a postcard from the same development company announcing a "grand opening".
I told Donna that this place HAD to be the place we were meant to live. It was located two hours away near a town where neither of us had ever been. I knew that Donna would be very skeptical so I drew a diagram of the house sitting on the forested land with the driveway cutting across the lot in front of the house. This was certainly out of the ordinary. "But", I said, "I don't want you to think that I'm making this up. It HAS to be the place because He sent it to me as a sign that we would be reunited. Here we are. Here it must be also."
We drove two hours away into a neighboring state. The realtor said that he had one lot out of 150 that fit the description of what we were looking for. Sure enough, there were the big trees that I had been shown in the vision. I saw the place where the picnic table should be placed, next to the lake. But I couldn't visualize where or how the house would be situated on the land. I wasn't totally certain that this was actually the right place.
The realtor then suggested that we go back to the office. When we arrived there, he pointed at me and called out to his fellow realtor: "Hey Brenda! Lot 33! Lot 33!".
"Lot 33!", she said. "Oh, that one's my favorite! Let me tell you how the house is situated on that lot!" And with that, she proceeded to describe exactly what I had drawn on the piece of paper that was in my wife's pocketbook. WOW!
We made the deposit on the land that day.
Yet another Old Testament comparison: I now realized how Abraham must have felt when he was told by God to pack up and move to a place with which he was totally unfamiliar.
God values marriage. And He upholds the marriage of believers who put all their trust and faith in Him.
Just as He told Joshua "to be of good courage", God requires all of us to have courage and faith in our relationship with Him.
A few years ago, early in my walk with The Lord, I decided on my own to take a photo trip to the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia. Because it was my decision and not His, I met with very poor results for the first day and a half of my two day trip. When there was good light for photography, I saw no good photo subjects. When I saw good subjects, there was poor lighting. I wanted to make 3 good shots: a great photo of a flowering tree, the Mountain Laurel; a wildlife photo; and a photo of the mountains themselves. This last photo was a special one....an image of 3 tiers of mountains...the near mountain looking green, the next higher level in the background looking blue....and the most distant and highest mountain in the far background looking purple.
With only a half day left on my trip, I had nothing to show for my efforts. I asked the park ranger for suggestions as to where I might find the mountain shot. He directed me to a trail about 40 miles away. It was about 2 in the afternoon. I had just enough sunlight left to make it there in time for a decent photo shot. I got in my car and suddenly remembered that I had not asked The Lord for anything the past couple days. I instantly realized why "nothing had gone my way". I then prayed that if these photos be His will that He show them to me.
I had only been on the road 20 minutes or so when I saw a lone Mountain Laurel tree at a pullover on the left. I guided the car to the spot. To my surprise the one tree that I had seen from the road was only the "tip of the iceberg". There must have been a dozen trees or more of several different colors of white and pink. I made 10 or 12 quality shots and was amazed. I was down the road and didn't realize for 10 more minutes that He had answered my prayer. I thanked Him.
As I neared Jackson Trail (the place the ranger had referred me to), I made a "wrong" turn. I found myself on a small blacktop service road behind another car that was going about 20 miles an hour. There was a grassy embankment on our left that went gradually uphill for about 15 yards and then gave way to forest. To my surprise there was an adult deer, complete with antlers, grazing in the grassy area just ahead. The car before me passed him, and the deer didn't run. I caught my breath and knew that I had a chance at a rare photo. I shifted the car into neutral and stopped on the road immediately in front of the deer which was about 10 yards away. I picked up my camera with the telephoto lens on it and placed it to my eye. The deer completely filled the viewfinder of the camera. After I squeezed off a couple shots, the deer actually posed for me. After moving slightly away from me, it arched its neck and looked back over its hind quarters at me. Wow! It was a shot that any outdoor photographer would envy. Thank You Lord!
It was about 5 o'clock when I shouldered my gear and started climbing up the hacked out path known as Jackson Trail. Although there was quite a bit of light left, inside the forest was "dusk". The forest was much darker and absolutely quiet. From my time squirrel hunting as a boy, I knew that when the forest is this quiet, it means either that the forest is "hunted out" (there is no small game left) or that there is a predator present and all small game is being very quiet. I moved very carefully, very quietly, and very watchfully up the trail.
The trail is a couple miles or so long. About 2/3 of the way up the mountain I saw a large sign nailed to a tree. It said: "Danger! Bear Country!" I didn't know whether to go back down the trail or continue on up the trail. I could possibly see a bear either direction. What to do? I began to think.
"Boy, if you see a bear on this narrow trail and it stands up and comes at you.....well, what are you going to do?"
"Gee whiz....I don't know.....maybe I could use this camera tripod as a club."
"Are you kidding? You wouldn't have a chance."
"Maybe I could blind it with the camera flash and run."
"Get real. Do you think that flash is going to slow down a bear for long?"
"You're right. No chance."
"Wait a minute. Do you believe in God?"
"Yes I do."
"Do you think He love you?"
"Yes I do."
"Do you think He has a plan for you?"
"Yes I do."
"Do you think He's in control of the bear?"
"Yes I do."
"Do you think He would allow the bear to kill you?"
"No I don't."
"Good. Get moving."
And up the mountain I went. I now knew the meaning of faith. I certainly knew what courage was too.
When I safely arrived at the mountain top, I saw a large rock formation. I clambered up to the top with all my camera gear. There before me was the very 3 tiered picture I had wanted. I was absolutely amazed and overjoyed. I set up my camera and snapped off several frames although only one was necessary. I shouted at the top of my lungs, "I LOVE YOU! THANK YOU!!"
Right then I heard a loud snap, the sound of a large tree branch breaking, just behind me. I whirled around expecting the worst. Instead, I saw a male deer's antlered head protruding from a large bush just below the rock I was standing on. I was relieved as I said "Well hello there!". I knew that The Lord had sent me a sign: if the area was safe for a deer, it was safe for me. My courage and faith had been rewarded. What a day it had become! I walked down the mountain with absolutely no fear.
The Lord sustains those believers who trust Him in faith and with courage.
it is SIN that separates us from God.
I once thought that the Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule pretty much defined all sin. I was wrong. Sin is defined as ANYTHING that offends God. He's offended by a lot of things that we don't even think about. The only thing that we can do when we become aware of our sin is to repent. Repentance is far more than merely saying that "we're sorry". Some people say those words just because they got caught doing something they shouldn't. Repentance occurs when a person says "I'm sorry" from their heart and actually change their way of living. This is what God wants to hear and see.
Something that I once did (and still do sometimes) is CHOOSE TO CONTROL MY OWN LIFE. This is offensive to Him because when a person lives like this they are possibly saying a number of things: 1) I'm unaware of You and Your power, 2) I'm aware of You, but I don't care to have a relationship with You, 3) I don't trust You. I'm afraid to give up control. 4) I know all about You. I just don't want to have a relationship with You. I'm sure that there are other possibilities too....these are just some of the common ones. As I mentioned previously, when I have chosen to control my own life, my life was a series of disasters.
God makes Himself and His commands for our lives clear in a variety of ways: through the Bible, circumstances in our lives, sometimes visions in our heads, sometimes a very small voice in our mind. We don't always receive His message because of our attitude toward a relationship with Him.
I didn't understand when I surrendered to Him, but a "willingness to obey" is one of the first things The Lord looks for in a human. Our primary purpose after we are saved is to become His humble, faithful, loving servant. Clearly, a "willingness to obey" is a basic requirement to becoming such a servant. Why would He possibly entrust a holy mission to a human who wants to do it their way with their limited wisdom or rebellious heart?
And everything He does has a holy purpose. After all, His primary goal is the redemption of all humankind. A lot of people suffer a lot of consequences because they refuse to have an attitude of "willingness to obey".
Over the past few years He has revealed other flaws in me that are inherently sinful. "Pride" and "self centeredness" are two that come quickly to mind. For example, at one point "success" was withheld from me because I would think that "I had accomplished" some great deed. I would become prideful and would have to receive a consequence for my sin. And so it was revealed to me that I, like all humans, have no power. I was permitted to go forward in my walk when I understood that He has ALL power.
I should quickly point out that it is easy to find people who are prideful and worse that appear to be highly successful. Their "success" is not success God's way. They may have great wealth, but they are rarely happy and never know true peace. The money is of little comfort under these circumstances.
God is not Santa Claus.
People often ask God to fulfill a wish in their lives. Perhaps they are wishing for an object or an occurrence of some kind. Disappointment follows when the wish is either not granted or becomes reality in a way they did not want.
I have certainly lived this experience. I have been a pharmacist for years. When my walk of faith began with The Lord, I thought that a mere "job change" from pharmacy to photography was involved. I was thrilled. Retail pharmacy had become an increasingly demanding and pressure filled situation. I wanted out of pharmacy "immediately, if not sooner". To put it mildly, The Lord had more than a "job change" in mind.
I did everything He told me to do. As I mentioned earlier, He led me through product production, internet web development, and marketing strategy. Along the way, I became a different person: obedient, humble, and viewing life and other people in a completely different way.....a way that more closely approaches His way.
Bringing the photoart business to this point was not inexpensive. I told Him that I would do anything He asked: just make it clear and grant me the strength to do it. As a result, I worked 80 to 100 hours of overtime every month for almost five years. I have driven over 200 miles one way to work in places I had never heard of. I realize now that these things were a test of my obedience...part of my transformation. Every overtime assignment proved to be a meaningful experience. When He had finally hammered and shaped me into something resembling the person He wants me to be, I was asked a question by The Holy Spirit.
"David", He began, "do you not think that if The Lord wanted you to have money that He could not simply give it to you immediately?"
"Yes....", I slowly answered...."I guess He could....."
"Why then", He continued, " do you suppose He has asked you to work so much overtime?".
"I don't know", I replied in real wonder.
"It is because you could not be trusted with higher service", He answered firmly. "All of your life you have been resistant in your nature and unwilling to obey Him. And so you have been used by Him in the only way in which you were willing to be used."
I was awestruck and then ashamed of my previous "know it all" thinking. What followed next was a message, an understanding, that came faster than the spoken word. In essence, I was to be relieved of my "lower service" of physical effort in order to serve at a "higher level".
A number of previous events had defined this higher level of service: The Lord seeks to use me to bless those who wish to more closely approach Him. I have been directed to write "Dear Pastor" letters to churches all over the United States (a life long effort) in which I offer my pharmaceutical services for free. The letter contains an offer: the pastor is to show the letter to those in the congregation who are in desperate prescription need. Their financial position must be lower than the U.S. poverty level with no RX assistance of any kind. I am to serve as an advocate for them with the pharmaceutical companies to assist them in receiving free prescription medicine. In addition, I am to convert my home computer to a pharmacy computer and record their patient profile. They are then to write letters to me with their medical questions; I have their record as a reference. I am also to pray to Him for His wisdom in providing an analysis of their profile. I am to offer insightful counseling concerning medications and lifestyle changes which will be of benefit.
But there's more: I was also informed that to heal only a person's body is to produce a mere "optical illusion". They are not truly healed until they are changed from within. Therefore, I am to send to these growing Christians, with all of the medical material, a copy of my own "journey"....which is to serve as a thought provoking "introduction" to a relationship with Him. National evangelists Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries) and Chuck Swindoll (Insight for Living), two of my finest earthly teachers, have provided free magazines as well. The magazines, which may be obtained through a free ongoing subscription, are to serve as "continuing education" and encouragement.
After receiving all of this information, I began collecting church addresses the next day. At this time, I received word that some pharmacy overtime might be available about 100 miles away. I printed out 259 envelopes containing "Dear Pastor" letters and mailed them. I then learned that some overtime might be available across town. I saw the pattern. I told my dear Christian wife that if I were to continue in my obedience that I should receive a possible overtime assignment in my own store. Eventually, I wouldn't have to work overtime at all. Sure enough, replies to my letters arrived in the mail. As I began to respond, an OT assignment came to me within my "home" pharmacy. More mail arrived, and I responded. The OT in the store evaporated and my retail schedule became more free.
But what about the money that was produced by the overtime? Through a series of amazing events, the financial burdens in my life have been considerably reduced...overtime is no longer necessary.
As I continue on in this service, I will be "more used"......eventually the photoart will provide the essentials for my living. ....thus creating the opportunity to serve as His blessing to others all the time, and I will not be required to work in a retail pharmacy at all.
God is not Santa Claus. He has a divine purpose in everything He does. In the beginning of my walk with Him, I wanted a "job change". I had only my own selfish interest in mind. I wanted an easy, "pressure free" life. Actually, He is providing just that......through complete dependence on Him......with far greater implications than anything I would have ever imagined.
God is not Robin Hood. He does not "take from the rich to give to the poor".
Being rich is not a sin. God judges humans on the condition of their heart....and, He knows what is within every heart. He cannot be deceived. He is in control of all things and places money in the hands of people for different reasons. Sometimes the money is a blessing. Sometimes it is a condemnation.
When I began taking the college campus photos that He commanded me to do, I wondered what His purpose might be for them. At the time I could only be trusted with the following: "the photographs are to serve as a transfer of money from the wealthy to the desperate". With my limited understanding, I thought of Him as "Robin Hood".
Almost four years later, I found myself asking Him what He would have me write in an upcoming college alumni association magazine ad.
"Attack the sports god", I heard in my head.
"WHAT??" I replied, absolutely shocked.
I then listened to the words for two advertisements which I quickly wrote down. Both of these ads were designed to assist these college graduates to identify with the school itself rather than its athletic teams. He hates when humans invent "things" to worship ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me.") : sports, material possessions, etc. I was also informed in this same conversation with Him that He values education.
When a person's mind contains a greater quantity of accurate information, it gives Him more to work with through that person. Therefore, He wants college graduates to donate money to the university itself rather than its athletic teams. The rewards of a college degree last a lifetime. The rewards of today's athletic victory can be forgotton in a day.
It became clear to me that, with God in control of all photoart transactions, all parties prosper: the desperate person to whom a substantial portion of profit will be donated, the college graduate who will more greatly appreciate the education they have received, and me....the humble servant being used by Him. Wow. Although I use my own experience as an example, the same is true in all that He does.
God is in complete control of all things throughout the universe. Everything that God thinks, does, and says has a divine purpose and therefore it is all good.
There have been plenty of times in my "pre-born again" life when I thought God had abandoned me or, at the very least, didn't like me very much. I certainly didn't believe back then that He had total control of all things. After all, the world is full of evil people and often, tragic misfortune. If God is so good, how could He let all of this happen? And then there was my own life. I went to church, tried to follow all of the "rules", and did the best I could for other people. And what did I have to show for it? 1) a failed Ph.D. career, 2) a business deal gone wrong that resulted in bankruptcy 3) not one, but two disastrous "marriages", 4) a pressure filled professional life, 5) mismanaged personal finances that required me to work huge amounts of overtime for most of my professional career. One of my many low points occurred when I was in Navy boot camp. Missing most of my hair and wearing ill fitting clothes, I looked up at the sky one day and screamed, "Why don't You just kill me? You won't let me win!". I didn't think God loved me. I didn't know or understand who God really is.
Was God in total control of every detail of my life? Absolutely. HE HAS TO BE! Otherwise, how could any human ever say a prayer? Imagine how a prayer might sound when spoken to a God who is only a "little bit" in control: "Dear Lord, I have a request to make...that is, if this is in Your department....". It would not, could not, be a meaningful prayer.
My problem in my "pre-born again" time was that I wanted to control my own life. I relied on my own human "wisdom". I was merely "religious". Actually, I didn't realize that there was another way to live. I did not comprehend that a relationship with God was possible or what it could be about. I didn't understand what "surrender" or "obedience" or "service" meant.
All of the pain, frustration, and suffering that He brought to me was necessary in order to bring me to a point of surrender to Him. Therefore, it was good. All of these "misfortunes" still serve me. They present a sharp contrast to what my life has become now. I would never want to return to my old ways.
When I sense "frustration", "pain" or "suffering" entering my life now, I ask Him, "What would You have me learn?". The answers are always revealing and amazing.
I count these "hard times" now as good.....for with them He brings growth to me. As a result of the new growth, I find myself in a better position to serve Him. And serving Him is a joy in itself. The rewards of this service are always astonishingly better than I ever expect.
Everything He does has a divine purpose. Everything He does is always good.
Although I stll have much to learn, I feel that The Lord has taught me so much. After I learned obedience, The Lord taught me faith. Could I still love Him even if I do not instantly receive a blessing for good behavior? By teaching "faith" to me, He matured me in the relationship that I am privileged to share with Him. As long as He is with me....revealing to me His truth, His love, and His wisdom.....I can do whatever He says. Finally, He has taught me subservience: doing something that wasn't really my first choice, but doing it because He said so.....and loving it. Everything that He has chosen for me has been wonderful. And more: life makes sense. I have peace. I could not have imagined that I could be so happy. I wish it for everyone.