GROWTH AS A CHRISTIAN: THE SURVIVAL PRINCIPAL - Part 2

A great sadness and shame started coming over me during that second year and I would sometimes cry right there in church; not the audible kind but just a silent flow of shirt collar wetting grief because God was so good and I was so bad and because beautiful Jesus had paid such a horrible price for my sorry, useless hide.

It got worse. (2Cor. 7:10) I didn't know it at the time but I was learning about "Godly sorrow". I cried almost every service as the weeks dragged on. The misery of my lost condition started following me everywhere; work, home, all the time, like a big, dark cancer on my soul. THEN ONE SUNDAY NIGHT I GOT SAVED. You can read about the details of it in About the Writer on this website.

Some time went by and I came down from the initial "spiritual high" brought about by the magnitude of the salvation event. There was never the slightest doubt I had gotten saved. That's why God does it the way he does and He takes His own sweet time about it too. You never forget it and you don't doubt it when you suffer and struggle your way to submission.

Just to tell the truth I don't have much faith in the grinnin', skippin', bubble gum poppin' route down front to stand around while some preacher prays a generically scriptural prayer for a silent person and tells him he is saved then the person grins, skips and pops his way back to his seat and starts chatting and giggling with his friends. I won't say it can't happen because God can do anything BUT:

I do know what happened to me and it wasn't that way. It was tears, knees, repenting and begging from me and love, grace, kindness and mercy from God and I knew I was changed forever.

NOTE: (Luke 19:10) "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was LOST." Salvation is different for children. (Eph. 4:22) Their conscience has not been corrupted by the hardening, the numbing, the programming of sin. Pay attention to this and PLEASE don't misunderstand: A child's personality (soul, the person) is in its early formative stage and their concept of their born again salvation event isn't very strong because there wasn't much of a bad personality to change! Good grief! They were innocent but they needed saved from being lost!

Let's go over it again and really nail it down. (2Cor. 5:17) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (John 3:3 & 1Pet. 1:23) When a person is "born again" through the salvation experience they are re-created. At ten years of age what awareness of life did you have? See what I mean? (Matt. 19:13-15) Jesus said; "Don't forbid little children to come to me." SO DON'T. Duuuuhh! See the Is God Fair commentary for an in-depth study.

(Psa. 111:10) "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Little children don't want to go to hell. That is a perfect reason to get saved. They don't want to be left behind if Mommy and/or Daddy is going to heaven; they want to go to heaven with them. Another perfect reason to get saved. It's a shame adults can't simplify like children!

BECAUSE: (Matt. 21:16) Jesus said; "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?" AND: (Matt. 18:3-6) Jesus said; "Except ye be converted, and become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." BUT: There is a problem. (Luke 7:47) As children grow up in church they realize they weren't forgiven for very much but somehow they fail to remember they hadn't done very much sinning either AND: the getting saved from being LOST part somehow gets lost in the shuffle; Devil conscience programming by blinding!

Physically growing Christian children acquire new things like raging hormones, pride, peer pressure, poor foresight, willing acquaintances and temptation they are emotionally ill equipped to handle. Then here comes the Devil and/or some ignorant Christian flappin' his jaws; "You didn't get saved in the first place, you were too little!" AND: There the child goes galloping back into the darkness of sin.

The getting saved from being lost aspect is explained in depth in the, Please take time to read this: The Holy Spirit is Truth article in The Holy Spirit and You commentary on this website. READ: (Matt. 18:11) Nobody ever tells these growing up, or grown up, Christian children that lost is lost regardless of age. Jesus didn't come to save us from our sins; He came to save us from being lost. Sin is in the way and needs to be removed by Jesus' blood THEN: we get saved from being lost.

Children Christians, as they mature into adulthood, get into sin trouble just like the rest of us beautiful, weak, stupid, flawed, needy of frequent forgiveness Christians. Regardless of our age when we got saved, we all have to spiritually grow and each of us (Luke 17:10) should be humbly, flagrantly and loudly grateful for God's astonishing love and endless mercy that puts up with a bunch like us!

Anyway, I came down from the spiritual high and I realized I was still just me! Now don't fly off the handle and think I didn't get saved. I knew I was changed forever. I had a strange new love for people in my heart. I wanted everybody I knew to get saved like I had. I was hungry to know about God. I was so thankful for what God had done. (2Cor. 5:17) I knew everything about me had changed BUT:

I had never read "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation: which is the result of being born again): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." And I probably would not have understood it if I had read it! What new Christian with absolutely no church background can tell what has happened to him like God's word can say it?

I feel it as I write these words: somebody will pick these words apart, shake their head with great satisfaction, swear I didn't get saved and gladly tell some other Christian; "Let me tell you what I read on the internet blah, blah, blah-------." because some Christians go about straining to misunderstand instead of straining to understand! I wonder how many young Christians have been destroyed by those idiots with their poison tongues!

I'm perfectly capable of doing some incredibly stupid things and I needed to go slow and figure all this new stuff out. I knew I was saved. My sins had been wiped out with Jesus' blood and my sin burden was gone. SO: I had a brand-new start with nothing against me as far as God was concerned. WOW! I was clean as a newborn baby!

(1Pet. 3:21 keywords: good conscience) My conscience was clear! I knew the Holy Spirit was in me because everything was different, outlook, attitude, desire, all of it. BUT: If the Holy Spirit was in me why was I the same old me? I read the King James Bible because that was what I had bought. While I was reading it I was desperately investigating if it was "the right one" or not; there are so many versions. That's in "About the Writer" too.

Somewhere during that time I discovered Jesus had said; (Matt. 24:13) "he that shall endure to the end shall be saved" AND: (John 6:63) "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." MY PROBLEM WAS IDENTIFIED! I was a Christian but I didn't know how to be one. SO: Getting saved was a really, really personal experience between God and me but I didn't know how to develop it further. Conscience! Mine was clear toward God. BUT: It was simple as falling off a log.

My conscience needed re-programmed by God's Word through the Holy Spirit so I could know God better and serve Him. It's no wonder I had this hunger for God's Word, it was the Holy Spirit burdening me. Good grief, I was so stupid. Now the war was inside me, in my soul. The Holy Spirit said; "Just like Adam and Eve Goofy, God's Word, the Bible." I really don't think He called me Goofy but He should have; it was probably just my guilt. (2Cor. 4:4 keyword: blinded) The Devil said; "Hey my dear friend you've got all of that stuff you need."

I thought; "Man, workin' my job, raisin' three children, work to be done around the house, commitments here and there; I don't have the time to study the Bible and get to know God better." (2Cor. 11:14-15 keywords: angel of lightThe Devil jumped right on that one; "That's exactly right! There's no time now to do all you need to do, what more is there anyway? You have to live!" I was like his parrot; "I've got to have time to live my life." (John 14:23-26 esp. V.26 keywords: teach you all things) The Holy Spirit said; "How much do you love God and Jesus?" That done it, that was the tie breaker.

Think about this: How many times have you worked hand-in-hand with the Devil against yourself just like I did in the above paragraph? The Devil will try his level best to stop a Christian from studying God's word. (1Tim. 1:19) "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some have put away concerning faith have made shipwreck (stranded):" If he can shipwreck (stranded) you where you are you will stagnate right there, (Rev. 3:15-16) you will become lukewarm and Jesus will spew (vomit) you out at the judgment.

Have you ever been so sick vomit spewed out of you? It is called projectile vomiting. (Rev. 3:15-16 again) Do you think Jesus is saying lukewarm Christians make Him sick? Do you think Jesus will spue lukewarm Christians out on some back corner of heaven to fester there like a rotting, pus running bedsore? Why?

There's a great comfort in reading God's Word, it soothes the soul. But, somehow, (the Holy Spirit?) I sensed there was more. I wanted to know! SO: I started learning to study God's Word. My first major discovery is there's a lot of difference in reading the Bible and studying the Bible; topics, definitions, names, places, events and etc. I got a good concordance that listed where every word in the Bible is located and gives the Hebrew or Greek definition of that word. My next major discovery was; there's a lot of difference between yakitty-yakking up a grocery list of wishes with a litany of complaints AND real, heartfelt, serious, well thought out prayers.

My praying is a lot different now than it was back then. I'm glad I don't need to know a lot of fancy language to get through to God. God likes for me to tell it just like it is, in my words, from my heart. Like most Christians I usually have to start out by asking for forgiveness for my laziness, sloth, and unprofitableness and whatever else I've managed to stupidly do, THEN:

I tell God what I think of Him, what I think of Jesus (praise), what I think of myself, what I think I really need and then go on about other people. ESPECIALLY in those horrid countries where Jesus and His born again Beauties are persecuted OR: their Christianity is against the law AND: the underground church; see internet: voice of the martyrs, the underground church in China and etc. ANY Christian who don't put himself in their place (empathy- please look up the long definition on the internet) and pray for them should be desperately ashamed of himself!

So anyway, there at the beginning, with the Holy Spirit's help and the unholy spirit's hindrance I was on my way to re-programming my conscience to God's way of thinking and the Devil has fought that every step of the way. (2Cor. 10:3-5 & Eph. 6:10-12) It is a war!

Please take time to read this scripture and think about it because it's important. (Phil. 3:8-14 esp. V.10 keywords: fellowship of his sufferings & V.12 keyword: defined: to obtain) (V.12 first): Even Paul, the writer of so many scriptures, realized he had not already obtained (apprehended) the prize of resurrection from the dead like Jesus had and that he could still fail. AND:

(V.10 second): Sometimes we have to suffer when we resist temptation especially if we want it badly, OR: when the Devil beats us down emotionally and puts stumbling blocks in our way OR: well, the list is endless. (Matt. 24:13) "He that shall endure (suffer, trials) to the end shall be saved."

Like any trip, the Christianity trip is not over 'til you get to your destination (heaven) and heaven is what Paul wanted, I assume you want heaven and I know for sure I want heaven. Yogi Berra, the baseball great, said it better than me; "It ain't over 'til it's over". Here's how conscience re-programming can happen to you. I know. I know because it happened and is happening to me.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH: God will not hold you down, uncap your skull and pour knowledge into your unwilling brain. The desire to want to know God better, worship Him and serve Him must come from the individual Christian. That desire is how we show God we love Him. Use your own life in this example. Put yourself in God's place for a minute.

How could you possibly develop a relationship with someone who didn't want to know you or about you? (John 6:66-69) You could love them with all your heart even to the point of dying for them, but if they didn't want to learn about you, to get to know you, all your love for them wouldn't be worth a thin dime. (Rev. 3:15-16) If a person will not commit to you it is impossible for you to commit to them. God is the same way. After all, you are made in His image. SO:

NEVER FORGET THIS: (Rom. 10:8-11 esp. 9-10 keywords: believe/believethdefined: to trust Jesus for salvation and to entrust Jesus with your well-being for the rest of your life. (John 1:1-4 & 1John 1:1-4 esp. V.1 in both: Word) defined: thought, reasoning, motive, Divine Expression i. e. Jesus. READ-> (14:20, then John 15:1-6, then 1John 4:8 & 16) Our relationship with Jesus is a personal relationship (Mark 12:30) based on love. As a young Christian and these things never preached in the churches I attended it took years of private study and prayer for me to fully understand the intimacy God expects (Rom. 8:9-16) to have with His children.

(2Tim. 2:15) Christians are instructed to study the Bible to achieve God’s approval (Acts. 24:16 keywords: conscience void of offence) so you won’t be embarrassed by sinning and ashamed by being ignorant about witnessing to the lost, scripturally explaining your salvation and to be able to give a Bible answer concerning questions about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the purpose of the church, why people are lost, why Christians sin and especially so you can know God better.

(1Pet. 2:2) God’s word instructs all Christians to grow (to enlarge, to increase) in the word. (2Pet. 3:18) Individual Christians are instructed to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (2Thess. 1:3 & 2Cor. 10:15) Christians must grow in faith (1Thess. 4:1-12) and every Christian must grow in love and let that be our way of life. When we grow in the ways of God our conscience is automatically re-programmed to be "tuned in" to God and His ways.

It's like building a brick wall, you've got to lay it one brick at a time. The only source for growth as a Christian is God's Holy Word as enlightened and revealed by the Holy Spirit to you and as you grow you will become a better and more productive Christian through the Holy Spirit and trusting God with your life.

Common sense tells us growth takes time and Christians make mistakes (sin) while they are growing. (2Pet. 1:2-10) Knowledge is a key ingredient in which a Christian must diligently make his calling and election sure. (2Tim. 1:3) Do you have a pure conscience in that you are diligently growing in the ways of God?

(Heb. 9:14) "purge (cleanse) your conscience from dead works (deeds, labor) to serve the living God", conscience re-programming! EXAMPLES: Do you watch TV or do "gaming" in the evenings? If so, do you take an hour or so to study the Bible or read Christian literature? Do you talk on the phone and e-mail or text a lot? If so, do you take some time out to talk to God?

Do you have Bible discussions with your Christian friends? Do you have any Christian friends or are they all lost people? Do you tell your lost friends and acquaintances about Jesus and salvation? Is going to Church the top priority for all your Sundays or do you make weak excuses and take the day off on God? How have you served God?

Look in your own heart, (Prov. 15:3 & Heb. 4:12-13) God already is, (Psa. 36:1-4) and be honest with yourself about yourself. Do you really want to know God the personality or are you satisfied to just know a little about God? Is God satisfied with you? That's what spiritual growth as a Christian means.

Here's an example of me. The first super bowls were held at mid-day on Sundays and I really, really liked watching them on TV. Yes, I'm that old. Then I became a born again Christian. I skipped church on super bowl Sunday for a couple of years, maybe even three or four, I don't remember. As super bowl Sunday approached that next year I was filled with vast anticipation.

As it got closer I started to feel twinges of guilt. The anticipation and the guilt grew at about the same pace. Like I've said before I'm rather stupid and it never entered my thick skull the Holy Spirit was telling me to move on up a little closer to God. I was about to get myself into a situation I'll never forget!

Early that Sunday morning I went to my exclusive, private, praying place. It was up on the hill, back in the timber where there was a good sitting rock beside a maple tree. There was a little level place there too, in the leaves, where my knees just fit. Yes, it was cold back there with the winter wind whipping me.

It never entered my mind God's hot, loving, whip of heaven was going to warm my growing cold toward God heart and make me forget the weather! All I wanted to do was explain to God why I didn't want to visit Him at His House because I wanted to stay at my house and watch the super bowl. Pitiful!

"Lord, thank ye fer savin' me 'n keepin' me. I figure I'm gonna stay at home today 'n watch the super bowl. You know I attend church almost ever' time the church house door is open unless I'm sick or if they force me to work my job." It seemed like things were somehow not coming out the way they had sounded in my imagination. "What's a super bowl?"

A dirty little thought popped into my head before I could stop it and even today I'm ashamed to admit it. "Looks like God ought to know what a super bowl is." I apologized for that thought and things went downhill from there.

He started over. "What's a super bowl?" "It's where the two best teams in professional football play against each other to see who's the best." I didn't want to get too involved with the mechanics of football. We went there anyway. "How do they know they are the two best?"

"Because they are the two teams with the best record against the other teams they play against in their conferences." God let that one go and I was glad because for some reason I was starting to sweat. "How do they know who wins the super bowl?" "It's whatever team scores the most points."

I was starting to feel foolish. "What's a score?" "Each time a team overcomes the other team and scores something against the other team they are awarded some points for it and the one with the most points at the end of the game wins." Boy, that sounded stupid. Why was I starting to feel like a little child? "Do you have a score I can see?"

"No, they haven't played the game yet." "You missed church last year to watch the super bowl. Didn't they have a score?" My head was down real bad by that time and I felt lower than a snake's belly. "Yes Sir, they had a score." "Can I see it?" "I don't have it, Sir." "What good is it then?"

There was an absolute silence. Not a bird chirped, not a dog barked, not a chicken crowed or cackled, not a cow bawled, not a door slammed, not an engine run, not a human voice spoke; absolute silence that seemed like it was going to last forever! I felt like a little animal, trapped and motionless, in the headlights of a speeding car.

My heart was broke! "Lord, do You reckon we can start over here?" "I reckon we can." "Will You forget we ever had this conversation?" "I can do that." He didn't say He had; He said He could. I was learnin'. "Lord I'm sorry I said all that stupid stuff. I'm sorry I put a stupid game between You and me. Stupid television. Lord, I'm really ashamed of myself about how I've treated You. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Lord I want to come to Your house and visit You today so bad I can taste it, if it's alright with You? Lord, please forgive me?"

It was one of those beautiful, wonderful, special times. Spiritually God put His big arms around me, and held me tender close to Him, and loved me, and He forgave me. Just a poor, hillbilly nobody who was important to less than a dozen people, trudging down the hill to our rickety, old house smack-dab in the middle of nowhere KY. to get ready to go to church BUT:

(Luke 8:43-48 esp. V.46 keywords: somebody touched me) Just like the woman with the issue of blood, I had touched God, I was one of God's somebodies just like her and I was still crying because God was so good and He loved me so much. As a matter of fact I'm still one of God's somebodies and I'm cryin' again too 'cause God just blessed me all over again about it. My God is somethin' else 'cause there's none other like Him.

I suppose you are wondering why God went to all that trouble because of a ball game. I have too, many times. Like I said; that was more than thirty years ago, back at the beginning of my trip to heaven. I have realized it wasn't about a ball game; three reasons.

#1) It was about the rebellion in my soul and the beginnings of idolatry in my service to God. Now you see how serious it was don't you? I hope you can because if you are so far gone in your Christian walk with God you can't see it you've got a lot of coming back to do (Rev. 3:15-16 keyword: lukewarm) because you might not make it to heaven. No, I'm not putting you down; what you do is your business. It's just a fair warning from me, your Brother in Jesus, because I love you and I don't want you hurt.

#2) I didn't know it then but that tiny battle (at that time it was a big one to me) was a tiny bit of preparation for the bigger and bigger battles to come, and come, and come. (Heb. 13:5-6) Yes, I've lost my fair share of 'em but Jesus said He would never leave me, nor forsake me SO:

(Rom. 8:31) Through Jesus, (John 14:9 & 23) the Holy Spirit, those battles have been won for me and I am a winner! Because I'm still on the firing line fighting as hard as I can because of God's sweet, tender, patient, kind, unending love and mercy and yes, I still need to be regularly rescued, taught, chastised and corrected. NOTE: If you question my choice of words and scripture about the identity of Jesus please read the Who is the Holy Spirit article in the The Holy Spirit and You commentary.

#3) You might think; "Writer, you've got a website and you know a lot about the Bible." To start with, what I've got came as gifts from God because I badly wanted to serve Him AND: it shocks me that God trusts a thing like me with His word. It's not my website, it's God's website and I am more amazed than anybody that He guides, reveals to and inspires a great uselessness like me take care of it for Him.

(Luke 12:48) Jesus said; "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:" THAT LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD. I don't have a "better chance" of getting to heaven than you (Phil.3:8-14 esp. V.12) and the Apostle Paul didn't have a "better chance" than you or me.

You are responsible to follow what the scriptures instruct you to do about learning, growing, praying, worshiping, obeying and finding out what God wants you to do for Him. Then you are responsible for doing it, according to scripture, through the Holy Spirit. I can't find any place in the Bible where any of us are told to go on a "spiritual vacation" after we get saved. SO: You've got a job to do for God and that's between Him and you.

I was talkin' about the bigger and bigger battles to come, and come, and come. At that time I could have never imagined the offers the world, the Devil and my own human nature would offer me on a silver platter and the war they would cause in my soul. Lookin' back on it, that shining, silver platter was really filled with the darkness and worms of oblivion and destruction.

Later on in my Christian experience with God a non-Christian acquaintance from my childhood offered me a partnership in his small, established security company with no financial investment from me. He was known as a shady character but I wanted it because it was at a financially low time in my life. He said my "good reputation" would be an asset to our company. I thought about it and prayed about it for a few days.

(2Cor. 6:14) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." I "felt" (God's warning? you decide) like it was the wrong thing to do so I refused. Two or three years later he lost everything he had because of some missing equipment his firm was guarding and he was making payments on a huge fine.

A few years later I was working for a large unionized coal company. Our union was in the upcoming contract negotiations with the company. The superintendent of our operation had come out and addressed all the union employees and made some veiled threats. Without thinking about it I stood up and presented the case that we just wanted a fair shake by reminding him of the coal camp days when the miners were held in bondage by the company then explained how a dock workers strike had crippled the British economy. "It is a give and take situation and all we want is a fair wage!"

I didn't know it but the union steward passed on up the line to the union hierarchy what I had done. In a few days the union steward told me what he'd done and he had brought me an offer from the union. He said the union was looking for someone to send to college, then on to law school with all expenses paid, but I would have to commit to being a UMWA lawyer. He said I would be paid the prevailing union wage for my present job classification while going to school with all benefits and tutors provided if I needed them. After school I would be paid a lawyer's salary.

To say the least I was shocked right out of my dirty, scrape scarred, work stained, steel-toed boots! Me! My family! On "easy street" for a change! WOW! I thought and prayed about it for a couple of weeks. Then I "saw" (A vision? you decide) myself in a courtroom browbeating people and telling lies, endless lies. I saw myself neglecting my family and going on business trips where there would be parties, drinking and free sex.

I told the union steward to pass it on up the chain of command that I was not interested. It was his turn to be shocked out of his boots. "Son! Son, you're turning down the opportunity of a lifetime!" No Mister -------, I'd be turning down God if I took it."

Strangely enough, over the years, various women have offered to have a relationship with me, especially after my first wife left and then divorced me. Some were really pretty and on down the scale of pretty to ordinary like me, I knew it wasn't about me because I'm far too homely and uninteresting. Please believe me; I'm not very intelligent, I'm not handsome by any stretch of the imagination, 99.8% of the time I dress in the rough clothes of a working man, I don't have a fancy vehicle and etc. BUT:

I really, really wanted to believe I was a handsome, devil may care Romeo but my mirror told me the truth. "Oh God forgive me my evil thoughts." The Devil had them deceived about my attractiveness, they were doing his work and he wants me spiritually killed. Sure, lots of times it was hard to resist. The Devil hits you the hardest when you're at your weakest.

You don't go through the death of a child, or a divorce, or whatever without sin and I've been through both of them and a lot of other stuff too. The boy who wrecked and killed my son is an example. He had stayed all night at my house many times and was friends with my sons; I'd taught him to swim just like I had my boys.

He was hospitalized but he went wild in the hospital when he found out what he'd done and he wanted to come to the funeral home during the last day of the wake before we held my Son's funeral the next day. His Daddy and Mommy called and asked about it; I'd gone to school with them. I sobbed out yes and we hung up. "Oh God help me." was all I could get out.

I couldn't help but wonder why anyone would make a cruel request like that! "Help my son who has killed yours". I had friends keep my wife away, she had access to guns and she was crazy with grief. AND: The next day/ late afternoon I met him just inside the funeral home. His Mom and Dad were looking through the front door glass with chalk white faces.

Bandaged, shocked face and staggering he came to me. I held him close and told him it was alright and that I knew he didn't mean it. That's when he started crying. My heart was broken and I was crying and smothering to death. I felt sorry for him and loved him, then choking hatred flashed through my soul AND:

The thought flitted through my brain like a darting, dead black swallow; "I can kill him right here with my hands before anybody can stop me and I know how to do it too because I was taught how in the Marines; always go for the throat where life is concentrated. When you tear it out or crush it nobody can put it back in time!"

Thought prayer; "OH GOD FORGIVE ME.", the flash of hatred was gone and, together, God and I stomped that thought right out of existence and I held him there and petted on him like I did my boys when they were hurtin' while he sobbed his heart out. I walked him up to my Son's casket.

My remaining two sons and their closest friends had ringed the casket with their backs to the room. They were stiff and angry, crying and red-faced; shoulder touching shoulder, straining with frustrated rage. In their 17/18/19/20 year old life experience they felt they needed to shield Jimmie from that final indignity.

We stopped right behind their outraged backs, slightly hunched shoulders, and doubled fists, athletes all, it was a dangerous time. Quietly; "Boys this ain't right, you know Jimmie wouldn't want it, I don't want it, so let us through." With stiff reluctance they parted and let us through.

I could taste their hatred as they surrounded us and stared with their hard, red-hot/ice-cold, angry, tear pouring eyes. He had his look at what he'd done. I delivered him back to his Mommy and Daddy safe and sound. They were shame-faced and wouldn't look at me. Don't you ever think that wasn't hard, I thought I was going to die, but God's love in my soul pulled me through.

I never felt hatred for him again but my wife did and she hated me for my part in it. That was the final straw that broke the back of our already fragile marriage. As far as I know she hated him and me equally until the day she died. Over the years I've run into him here and there and I always encouraged him to remain a Christian.

I'm glad I acted the way I did because that boy is a preacher now. You can read about some of these things in "Judging the Authority Principal" all three parts, in this commentary, and in "The Holy Spirit and You" commentary, the articles "Why is the Holy Spirit" and "Part 2: Old Walter: A CHOSEN VESSEL". Some of it is in "About the Writer" too.

This is a story that happened back in the beginning when God was getting me ready for what was to come. It's written with some hillbilly vernacular and local colloquial expressions. It's very comfortable for me because it's the way we talk. I'll bet you're also the same way about your place and the way you talk.

Understand this; as I grew in the ways of God they became and are becoming the top priority of my life. I don't expect to work my way to heaven and I know I can't buy my way there. Everything God has given me is a gift, including salvation. I deserve nothing (John 14:8-9 then 23-26) yet God gave me the gift of Himself. I love God and I want to make Him happy, period. BUT:

Sometimes, especially when I was starting to learn how to be a Christian, obeying is hard, usually caused by my stupidity. For the first few years of my Christian life I would pitch one or two or, if I felt flush, even five dollars into the collection plate on Sunday and feel pretty good about myself. My Pastor and congregation did not practice paying tithes and it was never mentioned except to say; "Ye kin pay alla the ties ye want to but ye kan't buy yer way inta heaven!" OR: "They ain't nothin' ta them preachers that preach fer money! Lettum werk fer it!"

By that time I had become aware there were Pastors of large congregations who stayed on the run while serving their congregation to such an extent they were so tired and beat-down the seat of their britches drug out their tracks on the way home. I had read (1Cor. 9:6-14 & Phil. 4:13-17) AND: that "Lettum werk fer it!" statement didn't make sense to me because the spiritual part was in the Bible and the physical, common sense part was right under everybody's nose.

Where was the time for a pastor to work a 40+ hr. a week job when he has funerals, surgeries, hospital visits to far away towns and in hometown, visiting sick or shut-in members, prayer, study, sermon preparation, the list is endless. Most company officials have a decidedly jaundiced view of pastor/employees who are missing work to go serve some God Who isn't even on their payroll.

Young, exuberant, self-sufficient pastors have to learn too. That one did and now in the place of that old, warped, ancient pin and post electrical wiring, un-insulated, wooden church house that housed a small congregation IS: a large, modern, brick, carpeted church house with a beautiful baptistery and it is attended by a large congregation. AND: Even by our standards it's way out in the sticks (a remote area) and people travel quite a distance to get to it because God is there.

A few years later I had to move on and serve God in another county in another congregation. BUT: That young Pastor, just like me, is threshing around in his "pot metal years", he's still Pastor at that church and after all these years he's still my friend; more important he's my blood brother (Jesus' blood) and I love him. I wonder why people lie and call them the "golden years"? Pot metal better describes the physical of them. Pot metal isn't worth much, it breaks real easy, and doesn't shine because it is dull.

Like I said before; I was studying the King James Bible for my life and I was not about to trust what anybody told me if they couldn't back it up with scripture. I still feel that way. (Job 1:10-12, 2:1-5 & esp. 1Pet. 5:8 keyword: lion) I knew the Devil would like to kill me spiritually and I knew God wouldn't let him do it if I kept up my part in studying, and praying, and doing.

(Eph. 6:10-18 esp. V.17 keywords: word of God) I had this awful fear of the Devil coming after me and I'd find myself attempting to stand off that lion with a spiritual BB gun. The only place for me to get any spiritual heavy artillery was in the Bible through the anointing and revelation of the Holy Spirit. I hope you feel that way about yourself too.

Good grief, let me get on with my story. I had read (Mal. 3:6-11 esp. V.6 keywords: I am the Lord I change not & Heb. 7:1-28 key: Mel-chise-dec was a type of the coming Christ esp. V.2-11 key: paying tithes). Paying tithes is in that part of the Bible but it hadn't made an impression. I was more interested in learning about the connection between Jesus and Mel-chise-dec and that got me started on studying prophesy about Jesus.

Then one day, for some "weird reason" I thought about tithes. I started "thinking" more and more about tithes as time went on. You know how it goes; "Maybe I ought to think about paying tithes". You're right, I was starting to get a burden to start paying tithes. ***A burden to do something for God is brought about by the Holy Spirit, backed up by scripture, to prepare a Christian to do a job for God.

PRIME EXAMPLE: (Acts 9:1-17) Paul had a desire to serve God. He was simply doing it the wrong way and Jesus, the Holy Spirit, set him on the right path. If a Christian doesn't love God enough to desire to serve Him will God call him to do a job for Him? Can you find an example of it in the Bible? You and your conscience programming decide if you love God enough to desire to serve Him in some way.

What about your lost neighbor or friend? What about finances for that special church project? What about a sick acquaintance, church member, or friend in the hospital? Does a sick friend or congregation member need their yard mowed or a grocery run made? What about that poor family down the street; do you think the gift of a gallon of ice cream or a case of pop would lift them up? What about---? You decide! Got off track again, didn't I?

SO: At that time, before I worked my way up to getting enough experience and proficiency to obtain the above-mentioned union coal mining job, we were living a non-union coal miner's much smaller paycheck to paycheck, hand-to-mouth existence and there was no way we could afford to pay tithes. "A dollar out of every ten, ten out of every hundred, no-way! I can't afford it." I didn't dare tell God that but I was thinkin' it. Draw your own conclusion. The burden got worse------and worse------and worse. When I did start praying about it I eventually pulled my biggest gun; "Lord, my wife'll have a conniption fit if I mention tithes. You know how she is."

Days went by and I thought, not prayed, thought; "This'll break-up my family shore as shootin', shore will!" The burden got worse and I saw I was going to have to go for it to please God. (Gen. 3:12) I wouldn't admit I was blaming it on my wife just like Adam had done about Eve. She was my excuse for being disobedient and greedy and I was telling God a lie too!

I suppose I slunk through the house like a guilty hound. Boy, I dreaded this coming confrontation. When my first wife got mad she could talk faster than I could hear. She was a fiery, high-steppin', hot-tempered, fast-talkin' beauty and I knew I'd be in trouble as soon as I mentioned tithes. I was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place; God on one side and her on the other one.

I leaned up against the door jamb between the kitchen and living room with false casualness. She was working in the kitchen when I spoke; "Baby, have you ever considered us paying tithes?" She exploded! She threw her hands up in the air as she whirled around! "I thought you never was gonna mention it. I'm burdened to death about it. You make the money and I figured it was your decision. Let's do it!" Well, so much for that and we started paying tithes. The Lord had already fought and won that battle and I was too stupid to know it.

We did pretty good for a while and somehow we didn't miss the money. It's an odd thing about the coal market. For mysterious reasons known only to the Wall Streeters it booms and busts. We on the black faced, sore backed, callused hands side of the equation know only that coal sales start going down and our jobs get thin. My job went to four days a week, then to three, then to two and finally to one in a slow cartwheel over three or so months. On the days off I desperately worked any odd job I could find for whoever needed whatever done. Then that one-day a week was gone and the company wouldn't honor it if we signed up on unemployment!

Finally a Sunday came when we went to church dead broke. I had a little money coming from a couple of small fix-it jobs but I didn't know when it would come. No tithe that day but worst of all my middle son needed a prescription the next day that cost twenty seven dollars and I didn't have it. We had canned stuff from the garden, food in the freezer and dry goods like flower, meal, sugar, dry beans and etc. BUT: no money.

As we came out of church after services an old lady hollered wait a minute and caught up with us in the parking lot. She stuck something in my shirt pocket and said; "God put it on my heart ta do this. Look at it when ye get home." She turned stiffly away and trundled slowly toward her daughter's car.

When we got home I looked and it was thirty dollars in rolled up, wrinkled bills. I know I turned white as a sheet, my breath was caught and I shook my head in awe. Nobody in this physical world knew we were broke. Obviously Somebody in the spiritual world did know! Twenty seven dollars for my Son's medicine tomorrow and three dollars for our tithe next Sunday and that's exactly what I did. God's incredible love and mercy had overcome my greed, lies, excuse making, rebellion, stupidity, disobedience, blindness, doubt and fear. AND:

God showed me through the filled with Christian love, obedient, tender heart of that spiritual, old Christian woman there was a level of closeness with God I did not have. In spite of my sin God had lovingly shown me how I could move a little closer to the center of His will. God programming my conscience through an obedient Christian and His Holy Spirit. Yes, I've seen tight financial times that required financial planning since then but I've never been broke again.

That "God lesson" showed me God would protect me and take care of me and He has. It's my responsibility to be careful and frugal with what God has enabled me to earn. I have to sort out between my wants and my needs and that gets tough. Somehow store sales come along at the right time that save some money and things like that. Through God's provision there is always enough and, believe it or not, I'm satisfied.

I've seen a lot of funeral processions but I've never seen one with a U-Haul trailer hooked to the hearse so the deceased could take his riches with him. As far as God's money goes; sure, I give it into the hand of man but in my heart I'm giving it to God. SO: What they do with God's money, blessing or cursing, is between God and them. It's their responsibility to God to spend God's money the way He wants it spent.

I'm glad I'm not in their place because I'd probably mess it up. Sometimes I help Christians in little ways and yes, sometimes I give more than the tithe but never without that quiet little "leading" from God in my heart. He knows better than me the things I need to do. He knows I love him with all my heart and I know He loves me with all His heart; there is nothing else necessary in this life. Holy Spirit conscience programming.

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