Monday, November 14, 2005

My Road to Damascus

The sermon our pastor preached yesterday came out of II Corinthians 1:1-8. The topic was ‘My Trouble Is For You’. It was all about leaning on the suffering of Christ. Comforting others, having confidence in God and God alone and embracing the promises of God. At the end of the sermon, he asked 3 members of the congregation to volunteer and stand up and give their testimony. Our church is intimate enough, so that you don’t have to have a microphone for everybody to hear you.

One brother got up and told the church how God turned him away from a life of drug abuse. How the Spirit of the LORD ‘touched’ his heart when he was locked up in prison and how he has been free ever since. Another brother got up and told how he lived the life of a drug dealer, and how he was shot with a .357 magnum and sent to the penitentiary. But through the fervent prayers of the righteous, the LORD kept him and preserved him to walk in His way. And finally a sister got up and gave her testimony on how she used to be an alchoholic and victim of domestic abuse by her husband, which came to a climax one day when he had pinned her down to the ground and had a gun cocked at her head..promising to blow her brains out and that’s when her prayer went up to the LORD and He saved her. gets real ya’ll..this ain’t no joke.

I don’t attend one of those mega-churches, where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The church I attend is an intimate congregation of Believers. People who know yo mama dem. Some people may think it out of order or too revealing to tell others their ‘personal’ business. But EVERY person who professes the name of Christ should have a testimony. We all should have an experience on our road to Damascus to tell about.

People who study God’s Word should already recognize that road to Damascus. It is a reference to Paul’s climactic encounter with Christ that is found in the 9th chapter of Acts. We’ve already talked about Stephen and how he was the first martyr for the early Christian church. Stephen was stoned to death for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior of us all. But if you look in that text, you will also see the first mention in Scripture of Saul (who later became Paul) of Tarsus.

And they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. – Acts 7:58

The text doesn’t say that Saul actually participated in the stoning, but it does say that he was down with it, which is just the same.

“Say Saul mane, we bout to go throw some rocks at this our starter jackets for us so don’t nobody steal em.”

“Aiight. Ya’ll get that fool, I’ll watch ya’ll stuff.”

Once you get off into the 8th chapter of Acts, you’ll see that Saul wasn’t a ‘regular’ kinda guy. Saul was a religious zealot. He was born a Jew and studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and he became a Pharisee (23:6). Saul was the chief persecutor of the early Christians, also called the people of ‘the Way’.

He was like the constables and deputies serving those arrest warrants. Dragging Christians (men and women) off to jail.

He wasn’t a ‘heathen’ or atheist, Saul was a devout believer in the law and it was his understanding that he was doing the will of God. Saul was a churchgoing praying man, but yet he didn’t believe that Christ was the LORD. He thought Christians were blasphemous, since they were claiming that Jesus was God. His heart hadn’t been opened.

So then we get to that 9th chapter of Acts, and Saul has his papers from the high priest that gives him the authority to go to the Christ worshippers in Damascus and throw them handcuffs on them, and bring them back to Jerusalem to be beaten and imprisoned.

Back then, Christians had to worship in secrecy or else face death.

So we see ol Saul on that highway, headed to Damascus to serve them papers, with a crew at his command. And suddenly, a light shone around him from heaven.

Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, ‘Who are You, LORD?” Then the LORD said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads. So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the LORD said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus” – Acts (9:4-8)

Jesus showed himself to Saul on the road to Damascus. If you read on in the chapter, you’ll see that Saul had his sight restored after being blind 3 days and 3 nights.

Hmmm. God told Saul to go into the city and await further instructions and Saul went blindly and obediently.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Just like Abram obediently heeded the voice of the LORD and left his home to go on and become the father of many nations, once confronted by the Light, Saul obeyed the LORD’s command. Saul didn’t know what was in store for him in Damascus, but he had enough faith to follow the voice of the LORD.

People want to confine God within their personal realm of understanding.

“If Jesus is God, then why [insert whatever question you might have concerning the reality of Jesus Christ right here]???? “

The Almighty is not to be confined to our reasoning and sight. His ways are above our ways.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

At some point there is a leap of faith you’re going to have to make if you want to see Him. And what I am telling all of you people who haven’t seen Him for yourself yet, especially those people who feel that they are down for God. One of God’s people? Whatever questions you might have about Christ can be understood more through diligent Bible study and an open heart.

That doesn’t mean you’re going to understand everything, it just means that if you pray for the LORD to open your heart and reveal Himself to you, that He’ll show you what it real. It is God’s will that ALL should be saved. But unfortunately, everybody ain’t go make it to that other side of the Jordan.

You can’t swim your way to the Promised Land, you can’t jog, fly, or ride in your tight whip sitting on 22’s. If you want to make it to that other side, then you must have faith. It is through faith and faith only that you’re going to make it. I don’t care if you say 300 prayers a day and give all your money away to the poor and help the homeless everyday, works ain’t go get you there, we are saved by faith and faith alone. That is the pure gospel of Christ.

And you ask me how do I know? (smiling)

I’ll tell you what…I asked my wife what she would have said if the pastor wanted her to give her testimony and she smiled back at me and said instantly, “I’d tell everybody how I know Jesus is real, because he changed my husband!”

Ya’ll n’gaz don’t understand how good Jesus really is. The reason I KNOW you don’t understand, is because I don’t see you praising His name. Because when you KNOW Him?? When He has came into your life and opened your heart to the Grace and Mercy that is found in Christ and Christ alone?? Ooooooweee mane.

I used to be one of them ignant n’gaz. My mama and my wife would tell you the same story. I’m naturally hard headed like a mf. I don’t want nobody telling me shit. It started in my youth, I was so ‘caught up’, I often had to ‘catch’ 3 whuppings everyday, usually all before lunchtime. But I thank God that He gave me some parents who never gave up on me, they didn’t spare the rod on D.

But the crucial element, was those whuppings were surrounded by a love that made me know that when I got that az whupping, they were stripes inflicted out of love.

“ N’ out of line!! But we love you. But if you keep this shit up? I’d rather have a dead son than a disobedient one. I brought you in this world, and I’ll take you out.”

I know ya’ll hard headed n’gaz have heard that one before. Because of child protection laws, it is becoming less common today for parents to physically punish their children. When I see those laws and instances of Child Protection Services decreeing to the parents that they can’t touch the same child that they feed and take care of every day?? I just shake my head, because I know that if I didn’t get those az whuppings constantly when I was a lil hard headed nappy headed boy? I’d probably be in jail right now, because I would have grown up without the realization of crime and punishment. Being put in 'timeout' wasn't going to work with me, I needed something more belts and switches.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she told me that if the only testimony you have about how good Jesus is, is an experience from over 20 years ago?? Then you need to check up on your walk. Hmph. Interesting..

Once Saul was converted and he became Paul, he became one of the most influential persons in history. Because he was God’s chosen vessel, Paul became the most prominent writer of the gospel of Christ. When you read the New Testament, most of the epistles (letters) were written by Paul. He flipped his game and went from being the #1 hater against the Way, to being the biggest pusher of the gospel. His preaching skills were kinda boring, (one dude fell asleep and fell out of a window during one of Paul’s sermons. When a preacher is hot? Ain’t nobody going to sleep.), but when it comes to Paul’s gift with that pen??

God inspired Paul to write: I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Phillippians, Colossians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon and he’s the most obvious writer of Hebrews, Paul got on his hustle for the LORD. But Paul’s testimony for Christ didn’t stop with his road to Damascus. Paul went on to be beaten (several times), imprisoned (several times), shipwrecked, snakebit..Paul’s testimony was continuously refreshed and updated.

Me and my wife’s marriage did not start off like a fairy tale. I’m sure a lot of people on the outside looking in may see it that way, but we both know from where the LORD has brought us. Both of us.

People assume that because people are married, with healthy children, living in a house and working, that it’s all good. And me and my wife are both living witness’s that those are not the ingredients for a marriage to be ‘all good’, you need more than that to be happily need Christ in your life. God first.

My wife and I first started dating in high school. But the road that we took to get here today is not one that I would prescribe others to take. It’s a road that most young couples today try to traverse and they end up falling by the wayside. Breaking up. Divorcing. Going your separate ways. Shooting each other.

My wife and I have been on that crevice, that point in life where we both are looking at each other foul,

“F’k you b’tch!!”

“Naww ol sorry az n’ga..F’K YOU!!!”

We might not have said it, but we were definitely thinking it.

And if you ask me what saved us? What made us be able to stick it out and learn to live in love and peace with each other? And all I can tell you is that Jesus is very much real and and very much alive.

Hard headed boys grow up to be hard headed husbands. I was one of those ignant n’gaz that felt that as long as I was going to work everyday and taking care of the house financially, not beating my wife or kids? Then I was free to do whatever the f’k I wanted to do, can’t nobody tell me sh’t!!!

That shout out I gave to Twin wasn’t a joke, I used to see that n’ga in this club on the Southside called Carro’s every Monday night, and drink brews and shoot pool. Everybody that’s been to Carro’s or any ‘club’ knows how it shoot pool, drink your drank and wait your turn, all the while the music is jamming and them girls are walking by. You know about ‘them girls’ right? Don’t start tripping and looking all cross eyed just because your gal is sitting next to you..n’ga SHE know about ‘them n’gaz’ at the club too!!! If you can’t be real, then you ain’t ready.

Carro’s on Mondays, dominoe night on Wednesdays, happy hour on Fridays, Saturday night we might even go to one of them clubs where them girls be dancing at the tables in thongs and heels. Ya feel me? Sundays I’d wake up and make me a good big breakfast and smoke me a cigarillo of hydro and have a couple of dranks and be ready to watch football. My wife and kids could be dressed and headed to church, I’d be waving bye to them and ready for them to get in the car and leave so I can light it up.

But it came a time where I realized that I was living a false reality. I wasn’t happy. My wife and I were co-habitating..we weren’t TOGETHER. I thought about what life would be life later on, when the kids got older and moved out of the house and I saw something that scared me to death.

I saw myself moving on in my life. Kids ain’t here no more, ain’t no sense of me frontin with my wife no mo…LATER!! You do yo thang, I’m go do mine!!!

But it was something about that picture that didn’t sit right with me. N’ga..if you want to leave..why wait 18 years?? Life is short..if you go do it?? Do it now!!! Don’t be that damn fool that’s sitting around 20 years down the road talking about, “I put my life on hold for my kids.” Naww..that couldn’t be me. But before I could quit, I had to be real myself. I wasn’t happy in my marriage, but I also wasn’t going all out either. I wasn’t giving my best to make the marriage work. I was just giving my best to please me.

That’s where my Southern Baptist upbringing kicked in. I wasn’t ready to start going to church, but I was ready to seek the LORD. Above all, I believed that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. So I immersed myself in His Word.

Like most agnostics, I had some serious questions about Jesus..who says that He’s the only Way?? The Bible? Hasn’t that been changed by man??

Everybody I know that has those doubts about the Bible being the inerrant Word of God haven’t read and studied it. They might have read parts of it, but they haven’t studied ALL of it. You have to drink ALL of that cup, you can’t just sip.

And round about that 55th Chapter of Isaiah..I accepted the invitation to Christian Discipleship. And once I accepted the call of the LORD? And I submitted myself to Him? Things started changing in my life.

My wife and I started talking to each other instead of at each other. A lot of our problems were born from past transgressions. Yeah…you may SAY you forgive me, but how come everytime you get mad you bring that same ol shit back up???

Because of Jesus I was able to forgive and move upward. Because of Jesus my wife was able to forgive me. And we grew past that couple that dwelt on knowing what it was like to have one of your podnas come pick you up to go hang out at night, but yet you don’t show back up until the next morning and you’re walking from around the corner..uhh..WHO dropped you off??

Do ya feel me now n’ga??

Some people think just because they 'make it' to their wedding day, and they actually 'get married' that they've made it. But what I've learned, is that making to that wedding day IS a blessing, but it's just the beginning. Cuz that's when that REAL work has to be put in to make it happen. Not just that 50-50 love bullshit that Teddy Pendergrass was talking about. You gotta go all the way mane..100 percent-100 percent if you're going to make it. And you have to put the LORD first in your life. That's my testimony.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the LORD.

Jesus is real n'ga... I KNOW what He do.