Monday, April 28, 2008

Lessons from a Dumb, Poor, Street Kid

Today’s article is going to be a little different. I am going to be showing a video that some may have taken the time to watch in the past, and others, maybe not. This is actually based on my first message at Mosaic and was an attempt to not only let the congregation get to know me, where I come from, and my personal make up, but also a challenge that if God can change the life of someone like Anthony, He can change individual lives within a community, within a home, and within a church. I will post the video from my presentation at Third Day in Fresno California, and then some objective lessons for folks to consider. It is best to watch the video first, then read the commentary after the video.

Please, if you have not seen the video on The Story of Anthony, take the time to watch. Simply double click on the video, and if the video don’t appear, just click on the link. After watching the video and listening to the story come back and read my thoughts as presented to Mosaic. While this will take some time, I am confident it will be worth while.

One of the first things I want people to become aware of from a Biblical perspective, after listening to the story of Anthony, is that according to Galatians 2:20 that once we come to have a relationship with Jesus, we become new people. I still have the name Michael Anthony Furches but I am no longer the same person. I have become completely new. It is just like the verse says:

Galatians 2:20 - I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. (Contemporary English Version)

The person I was has realized that Jesus is bigger than my problems. He is with me every day and the problems I had as Anthony no longer exist in the way they did before. I have realized something else from this passage though, something what we can all learn, whether individuals, organizations, or churches. These are what I believe to be lessons we can learn from the story of Anthony.

First, God loves the undesirable. You may think you have done things that prevent God from loving you. That just isn’t true; God loves you no matter what you have done. There may be things you have done that he don’t appreciate or like, but as a person, he loves you and wants to change you, no matter if rich or poor, black or white, abused or an abuser, a saint or a criminal, or any other number of conditions you want to place on your life. It is one of the things I think the church needs to do a better job of, that is letting those who society considers undesirable know that Christ loves them and wants to have a relationship with them that will ultimately provide love and compassion to those needing it and wanting it most. I also understand that sometimes the hardest person to love us is ourselves. God can, and wants to change that. We can become people who are lovable, even in our own minds.

Second, God changes things whether situations, people, or churches. God wants your situation to see new light, to see and have hope. In my life, I experienced this; it has changed everything about me, no matter where I am, or what I am doing. I know for a fact, that God still works miracles.

Third, people change when they allow God to change them. I had to make the decision to let God change my life. I was sick of the things I had experienced in life; even after becoming a Christian I didn’t realize my need to let God change me. It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t know, but ultimately I had to experience the consequences of my actions. I believe that when individuals, organizations, families and yes, churches allow God to work in them, they will see and experience change like Anthony. The bottom line is they have to want it. If you don’t want it, you won’t experience it.

Fourth, when one gets back to the basics God Works. It is like sports, the basics, the fundamentals are key to the development of a team and the skills and talents of an individual. I learned the basics and fundamentals are the keys to spiritual growth, not just for me, but any individual, group, organization, or church. Those basics include the following.

Bible Study: The Bible to be the ultimate love letter and instruction manual from the creator of the universe. It is designed to help one understand God, fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ, seek the forgiveness of the things we have done wrong and at the same time, give us instructions on how to live meaningful and productive lives.

We have to allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us. We all receive the Holy Spirit in our lives at the point we come into relationship with Jesus. The problem is we don’t understand what the purpose of the Holy Spirit is. He is there to guide us, help us in our decisions, helps us decipher right from wrong, help us understand the Bible, and much more. We are told in the Bible that the Holy Spirit gives us power. Unfortunately we don’t understand how to realize that power.

We have to be willing to share our faith with others. I know that when this happens, people often say things about us or criticize us, even calling us hypocrites. I believe that sharing our faith is good for at least 2 reasons. One it allows us the opportunity to share our faith with others in a way we may see them come to faith. Secondly, it has others hold us accountable. I write in my book The Keystone Kid a story about a friend confronting me about my faith after I had been saved a short time. He confronted me about smoking dope in his room with several others. I’ll never forget Darrell telling me that if being a Christian was about being able to smoke dope he was good with becoming a Christian. If I hadn’t told Darrell that I was a Christian, he would have never been able to say something to me. That confrontation helped open my eyes that I needed to stop smoking dope. No church was there to help me with this, but God used my willingness to share my faith, to have non Christians confront me about areas that I knew wasn’t quite right in my life.

Prayer is another basic of the faith. Simply put, prayer is talking with God in the way we would talk to friends. We can talk to God about the person giving us a hard time in traffic, or about our bills, disagreements with our spouse, a test in school, a disagreement on a message board, or anything. We don’t have to use special language or anything like that when speaking with God. I compare this to a husband and wife talking with each other. Unless they are willing to spend time talking together, they simply won’t get to know each other. God wants to spend time talking to us, and listening to us.

Another basic to our faith is the need to spend time with other followers of Jesus. I realize many associated with The Virtual Pew may not be involved in a church for whatever reason. That does not negate the need to spend time with other believers though, whether that be finding a local church to be a part of, or attending Christian events. Many towns may have a coffeehouse where you can go listen to bands. There may be speakers or worship events in your community. I personally love small groups or small gatherings in homes where you can talk about faith and at the same time worship God. I have a deep passion and love for the church, but we need to remember, the church isn’t a building but a people, to experience church with a people is ultimately important, and while it is great if you can ultimately plug into a gathering of people which meets in a building, the relationships with each other is the thing I am talking about. I have found that a single person in a large gathering of Christians can get lost if they want. Meaningful relationships with friends, where you can hold each other accountable to right wrong, love, and so forth, is something we all need and can find, even in small settings.

The above are ingredients of getting back to the basics. There are other things to learn from the story of Anthony though. Another is people and Churches can come back to a place where God will work in their lives. The truth is, all people, individuals, groups, organizations and yes, even churches get to the place were we become the focus instead of God. God, his worship, his love for humanity, his love for us, has to always be the primary message. That message of love and salvation through Jesus Christ is critical. While we may stray from that at times, we can always go back home. God is a loving father who will receive us back with wide open, loving arms. We can keep on the same path, going the same direction, seeing little or no effectiveness in our spiritual lives. We don’t have to though; we can experience the power, love and life offered by God through his son Jesus if we just go back home.

While we can learn more with the story of Anthony, I want to close with the concept that with God all things are possible. We read about this in the Bible in the book of Philippians.

Philippians 4:13 - Christ gives me the strength to face anything. (CEV)

I have learned in my experiences that this is true. I realize my strength is in the person of Jesus Christ. I can face difficulties, hard times, yet I can also joy and find myself doing things I can only do because Christ has blessed me.

I still consider myself a dumb ol’ street kid from Tennessee. I should have never experienced the things in life I have, from working with many of the top bands in the world, to calling certain great Christian leaders friends, and having the blessing to meet many individuals some consider stars. There has been more though, nothing compares to performing a wedding ceremony for your daughter or baptizing your son. Nothing compares to having a wonderful wife, or a ministry that has touched the lives of thousands. Those things should have never happened to me, yet they did. I am confident that my God is so big that they can happen with you as well. That is whether you are an individual, a part of an organization, or a part of a church in need of change. The question isn’t what God will do, but will you allow him to do what he wants to? If so, you will learn that the hopes and changes that occurred in my life, can also occur in yours, and for me, that would be a incredible miracle to see happen. Anything I can do to help in the process, don’t hesitate letting me know.

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