NEW DAYS OF A NEW LIFE
In 1978, shortly after I had tasted the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, we left the traditional church of my youth and ventured (a bit gingerly, even a little bit scared) into a different kind of a church for us.
My brother-in-law and sister had urged us to come and try this “fellowship” that met in a building in Casa View in Dallas.
Not a church building, just some business building.
Chairs were set up, a makeshift stage in the front.
Seriously, I didn’t know what to expect.
I had heard that there were some “ who spoke in tongues “.
That also made me uneasy.
But, I didn’t even know what that meant.
All this stuff was new and foreign to me.
People were friendly, as Elaine and Johnny introduced us to their friends.
They had been asking us to come for a while.
Fear of the unknown kept me from giving in.
I knew I was in a different life now, since the day I was born again, but I figured I could stay where I was, and just live the new life.
The Saturday before this first trip to this new fellowship, Johnny had invited me to play football at Central Park with some of his friends.
I loved pickup football games, and I said I would go.
We chose teams and started to play.
No arguments, no bad sportsmanship, just a fun competition.
The quarterback on the other team really impressed me.
His skills were amazing; perfect spirals, long distance, into the hands of his receivers.
But his demeanor was so peaceful. His speech was so calm, so quiet.
He enjoyed the play, but it was only a game to him.
I asked Johnny after the game who he was.
“His name is Bob, “ Johnny answered, “he’s the preacher at our church.”
I talked to Bob a little bit afterward, and his humble gentle spirit impressed me so much.
I told Wendy when I got home, I was ready to try that church.
So, here we were, strange surroundings amid people we didn’t know.
The music began.
Three people onstage, a husband and wife, William and Aurelia Drake, and another man, Gary Warner.
Aurelia played the piano, and sang, William played the guitar, and sang, and Gary, well, he just sang. And he could sing!
The songs were pulled straight from the scriptures, with music added by the Drakes, and they were delivered with a joy I had never seen in a church service before.
There were joyful hand clapping dancing songs, with some people lifting their hands in praise, their eyes closed, sometimes flowing with tears of love.
There were songs of worship, slower, more deliberate, sung to the One, they were worshipping.
Did you hear that?
They weren’t singing about Jesus.
They were singing to him.
As if he were there.
We all closed our eyes, but we were listening to the words.
The guy praying was talking directly to God.
As if he knew Him!
“I wish I could pray like that,” I thought.
Then Bob stood, prayed again.
Just like he was talking directly to God.
And he preached from the book that he loved, and explained it in such a way that it spoke to this young new believer in such a way that made me want to discover it for myself.
And, you want to know what was even more amazing to me?
After church was over, people didn’t leave.
We stood around, in small groups, unplanned, unprogrammed, and, even though we had only just met these people, we shared a love, new for me, not as new for them, of a One who had captured us by His love, and had started us on a brand new path of Life.
And the joy I felt as I walked from that place was something I had never felt before.
And it began that day with songs of joy, sung with joy, to the One who came to make our joy complete.
I really miss that kind of worship.
Psalm 40:3 (ESV)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
MY TAKE ON BEAUTIFUL CUPCAKES
I was reading a blog the other day by this guy who says there is no evidence for God, and that we (believers) have been brainwashed to believe that something totally unbelievable is true.
But, the blog I was reading wasn’t about that.
His daughter has a bakery, or works at a bakery. I don’t know for sure, but he posted pictures of some very beautiful cupcakes she had baked and decorated.
And then, over the next few days, he posted photographs of flowers, and birds, and cats, and commented on the beauty that he was seeing in nature.
He takes very beautiful photographs.
I didn’t have permission to show them, so I have removed them. But trust me, they were beautiful pictures of birds, a cat, a flower.
I wanted to comment on the cupcake post how impressed I was with the creative ability of his daughter; how I could see the “image of God” in her, through her ability to design such beautiful and appealing food.
I wanted to ask him if he thought anyone would ever doubt that there was a creator behind the creation of these cupcakes.
And then, I would ask how he could doubt the creator behind the other beautiful natural pictures he had displayed in the following days?
I could see the “image of God” in his creative ability as well.
Maybe he will read this.
I’m sure he will come up with something.
AUGUST 10, 1972
Or was it?
I had spent the summer working for Kraft Foods on the nighttime cleanup crew, wearing a uniform of white pants, and white shirt, and white hair net.
I have always said that August 10 was our first date, but, today, I looked back at a calendar from 1972, and August 10 fell on a Thursday.
You see, I worked nights, Monday through Friday, from 10 pm to 7am. So, most likely, the first date was on the 12th.
But the 10th was the most important day.
I had driven past her house, over and over, just hoping for a glimpse.
She had run into my sister (who I guess had been operating as my “wing man”) as a guest of a friend at Elaine’s youth group at church.
“Wendy,” Elaine has said, “Randy was just talking about you!”
I had looked through her yearbook, seen Wendy’s picture, and I might have mentioned that I would like to date her. We had worked a short time together at Safeway my senior year in high school, her in the snack bar, me as a stocker.
I wasn’t that bold with girls, and, I guess Elaine knew that, so, a little nudge couldn’t hurt.
“Really? How is he doing? Tell him to call me sometime,” Wendy answered.
Elaine passed on the message.
I found her address, and her phone number. (We had phone books back in those days. And maps. I had to actually use a map to figure out how to get to her house.) And I drove by. More than once.
One day, I stopped, walked to the door, rang the bell, and was met by someone I presumed to be her older sister, but it was actually her mom, and, when I asked about Wendy, she didn’t smile, or act friendly, and said, “She’s not here. She’s in modeling class.”
I went back the next day, Thursday, August 10, around 6:00, and we talked out in the driveway, leaning on my car, for three hours.
I was smitten.
When I told her at 9 that I had to go to work, she thought I was making an excuse to leave.
The next day, I called her and asked her out for Saturday night.
She said yes.
And, that Thursday, August 10, was the day that this adventure began.
We each only had a passing acquaintance with each other.
Now, we know each other so well.
A lot of life has happened over the last 47 years!
That driveway conversation began it all.
August 10, 1972.
I have chosen well!
We married on December 30 of that same year.
And the two became one!
I love you, Wendy Gayle Wright Epps!
Dear anonymous friends who need proof,
You don’t understand how seriously I take our “discussions”.
Especially the part where you said you would believe if He would show himself to you.
I don’t think you would, though.
Jesus, once when asked for a sign to prove to them that he was “the one” said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
He went on tho compare Jonah’s three days in the fish’s belly to his coming three days in the grave.
Jonah came out of the fish, Jesus would come out of the grave.
But there is something else in the reference to Jonah.
The men of Nineveh.
They were bad.
When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he went the other way.
He hated them.
And he didn’t want them to be forgiven by God.
Because he knew of God’s capacity to love.
So, when the fish vomited him out in the vicinity of Nineveh, he reluctantly went through the town with a simple message, “In forty days, Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
Now it may have been the message, or it may have been the sight of Jonah after the three days in the belly, but, whatever it was, the people, from the king on down, changed their ways.
They repented of the life they had been living and turned to the God of Jonah.
What I have been trying to tell you guys, all along, is that the sign you are looking for, you can see, but you have to do something first.
Repent of your life with you as god, and turn to the One true God.
Your endless rants about the impotency of the One who made everything show that you have no “sight” to see the kind of Life He will give.
But, one day the door will shut.
And you will remain outside.
Then you will “see”.
I really would like for you to “hear His voice” today, before it is too late.
You must be born again!