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I Can Do Nothing…

Welcome back to Dirt, Trucks and Faith.

By Erick Cleveland

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 8.17.50 AMI have always had a plan. You know, where I am going in life and how I am going to get there. I look back from where I am now and I can see the subtle and not-so-subtle signs God sent.

Let me take you back to show you what I mean. When I was in middle school I decided I was going to be a math teacher and from that day forward I had a plan to graduate high school, get my AA through running start and complete my math degree, all before turning 20. I also was very passionate about Christ and wanted to share the Gospel as often as I could. I had slipped up in my faith enough and I had made a new plan and promise that I would always walk with Him. But like I said I had a plan.

John 15:5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

As we look back at that time in my life I hope you notice the common theme that I do now, “the word”. I had so many plans and was so focused on them I forgot that I can do nothing without He who gives me strength and I was about to get several reminders of this.

The week I proclaimed a promise that I would be keeping my faith in God from this moment forward, a series of events struck. The first was an uncle who had been paramount in the development of my faith was diagnosed with Leukemia. But I assured everyone my faith was not shaken. The second was a friend was run over by a garbage truck and killed and at his funeral the congregation assured those of us who were not members there that we were not saved by the grace of God. But I assured everyone my faith was not shaken. The third happened on the way home from seeing my uncle in the hospital while sitting at a traffic light. In a moment there was a pile of cars in front of me and because I have been trained in the Boy Scouts, I responded. I can tell you that no training in the world would have changed the outcome that day. I went from sitting in my car holding a large pizza in my lap to breaking a car window in order to pull out a beautiful 2-year-old girl who was already with the Lord. In that moment I could only mutter the Lords prayer. I managed to repeat it over every victim, every responder, and even the man at fault. But when I stood over the mother and asked if I could pray for her, she said she did not believe in God. I assured everyone my faith was not shaken, but it was.

I spent nearly a year telling my friends and my family I was fine and that I had faith so nothing could affect me. Over that time there were plenty of signs, both big and small, of God whispering and screaming, “You can do nothing without Me”. The sign that finally made me to look up and stop looking at ‘I’ was when I was driving and saw the lights of an ambulance in front of me and my body froze. Frozen to the point I did not know we ran a red light through one of the busiest intersections in the city, only to be miraculously untouched. In that moment where my life and my friends were almost lost did I finally reach out for help.

I spent so much time making plans and talking about my faith, I forgot to live it. I forgot that my faith is not based on walking along side Jesus or even following Him, but instead letting him carry me. My plans take a lot less time these days, as they are more of a simple prayer:

Your will done in my life so that I may glorify you.

Since my new prayer and truly God centered life, God has not stoppedScreen Shot 2015-03-24 at 8.10.26 AM bringing trials and asking me to do things outside my own plans. I was called to move away from my hometown with my wife and raise my children as a stay at home dad. God has given me the opportunity to raise two young boys to glorify him and made me a more understanding husband and father.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 8.13.52 AMGod’s lesson in my life has always been that I can do nothing, but in Philippians 4:13 we are reminded that “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

 

To see more of the posts in “Dirt, Trucks, and Faith” go to the menu bar at the top of the page.  Blessings.

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Are You In A Dead Zone?

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.05.23 PMCan you hear me now? How about now? Those words are spoken from time to time by anyone who has ever used a cell phone. Even with more and more cell towers going up and the latest coverage offered, there are still many dead zones.

At our family lake cabin, there is a clear difference between which carrier has the better coverage. I have watched many people holding their phones with an outstretched arm on our patio looking for a bar of coverage to make a call or send a text. It’s entertaining to watch.

When I have not been able to get service, I have been bothered about it. How about you? In reality, is having no phone coverage for a little bit really a bad thing? We are so worried about checking our text messages, our Instagram, Facebook, and emails that the idea of being stuck in a dead zone seems to be cause for alarm.

In our desire to be connected to the world with our phones, we have become slaves to technology. Just before I started writing this, I was working on my Bible study and I got a text. I was going to reach for my phone to tell my husband, yes, I can talk now, and then it hit me… I was in my quiet time with God. There was not an emergency and my husband would understand if I finished my study before I called him. I almost chose to set God aside to answer a text.

That knee-jerk reaction to grab my phone and forget about my time with God was a reality check. How many times a day do I reach for my phone to check social media? Am I more concerned about how many bars I have, who is posting what, and what is trending than I am with God? What about you? Are you more concerned with those things than your relationship with God?

Finding the best coverage when it comes to our cell phone seems to be an important thing. However, shouldn’t we be more concerned about finding the best coverage for ourselves? It should be much moreScreen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.12.47 PM alarming to be in a dead zone that applies to our salvation rather than our phone, and sadly for many, that is not the case. At the end of our lives, the number of bars we had, the number of texts, tweets, and posts will mean nothing. What will matter is, are you covered in the saving blood of Jesus?

He offers the best coverage for us in the long run and His coverage is free to all who seek Him. There is unlimited coverage and you will never experience a dropped prayer like you do a dropped call. With Jesus we all become sons and daughters of God, which means as far as plans go, there is no other family plan like His. Okay, maybe that is a bit cheesy, but it’s true… Jesus is the only way to avoid the dead zone. In John 14:6-7, Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” (NIV)

I challenge you to put your phone down for a while each day and spend time with the Lord. Dig into your Bible, take time to pray, go to church, and fellowship with other believers. Get to really know Jesus so that you will know the Father as well. Being covered in the saving blood of Jesus Christ is the best coverage there is. It is the only way to avoid a dead zone. Put God first! I am not saying to avoid your phone and social media just that God should be our first priority. And, by all means, share that coverage with others. Don’t let those you know and love be lost in a dead zone when they could have eternal life.

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Take Out The Trash

Once a week my husband rolls the garbage can to the end of the driveway to be picked up by the garbage truck. Some weeks we have so much garbage that my husband can be seen climbing up on top of the garbage and jumping to smash it down so we can get one more load of trash into the can.Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.49.03 AM

Why is it so easy to let go of that kind of trash and yet the personal trash in our lives we choose to hang on to?  In a sense, we fight to push it down into ourselves like my husband stomps our trash down in the can.  By pushing down our trash (our past sins that we can’t let go of), we can never really be free and clean from our sin.

My pastor talked one night in church about how when we repent from our sins Jesus forgets about them.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NIV)

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)

He puts them in the garbage and puts a lid on it.  So why can’t we do the same?  We often repent and then we take it back.  I know I wouldn’t want to dig through my garbage can to pick some gross garbage out so I can stick it in the back of my closet. And yet it is so easy for us to go and dig our sins back out and hang onto them.

I love knowing that Jesus never holds our trash over our heads. He won’t bring up our sin to cause us shame. Jesus knows how to take out the trash if we would just let Him. If you have been carrying around a sin, let it go. Hang on to Jesus and not the trash that Satan loves to pile on us. There is freedom in Jesus, you just need to get on your knees and give up your sin. He paid the price; we don’t pay anything to dump our trash. Any day can be garbage day, so what is stopping you?

There is no right or wrong prayer in asking God to help you dump your trash, but if you are not sure how to start, let me help you.

Pray this:

Dear Lord, I am tired of dragging around with me the hurt from my past mistakes. I want to live in freedom and I want to know Your forgiveness. Please help me to let go of the trash that is holding me back from really living the life you want for me. Today I give you ______________________ (name it. Whatever it is, you need to give it to God). God, help me overcome the urge to drag that trash back into my life. Quicken my heart any time I try to drag the trash back in with the truth from Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He (You) removed our (my) transgressions from us (me).”   Thank you so much, Lord, for forgiving me. Today I believe with all my heart that what Your word says is true and that I am forgiven. Amen

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It’s Not Just A Snack At Costco

Who likes to go to Costco and get the free samples? I sure do. You wait in line for a minute, grab the sample, say thanks and move on. It’s easy; no thought behind it and it’s free food.

What if we treated communion like that?

2 Timothy 3:16 says, All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” (NIV) If we believe that to be true, then we understand that sometimes we are going to have to make a correction in our lives. I want to look at a correction that Paul gave to the Corinthian church; it might be one that you need to make. I know it has been for me.

If God’s word is living and breathing, we need to take the warm fuzzy stuff right along with the words that can be hard to hear at times. With that being said, let’s look at the correction Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.

For I (Paul) received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (NIV)

Paul is quoting Jesus when He says, Do this in remembrance of me.” When we take communion, we need to do it in remembrance of Jesus and think about what He did for us and why He did it. I am embarrassed to admit that I have done what Paul is correcting the church about doing.

I have approached the table with my mind going in a bunch of directions like I do when waiting in the sample line at Costco. I grab my communion, say thanks, pop it in my mouth and move on like I do when I grab a Costco sample. The correction and conviction I have found in this is powerful. I am guilty of what it talks about in verse 28. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the break and drink of the cup.”

There have been times I have taken communion without giving a thought to the fact I stumbled over my pride or anger just days before. I forget the tidbit of gossip I spoke earlier that week or that I have a list of things to be thankful for. A simple “please forgive me and thank for what You have done” was either forgotten or spoken with little conviction.

I am not trying to make anyone feel bad but we need to be reminded that communion is not just a habit or ritual we do when we come to church. It should never be treated like a snack at Costco.

Communion is a time to fellowship together and to remember what Christ did for us and all He will continue to do. It should be approached with a heart of thankfulness and reverence. Take time to really examine your heart and focus on Christ. You are not in the snack line at Costco. You are approaching the table of the King of kings who gave His life for you.

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The Importance Of Being Vertically Centered

10954215_553447656161_602363106_nGuest Post By Josh Wallace

I grew up in a strict Christian family when I was a kid, my parents were (and still are) very spiritual and strong Christians, for better or for worse it was a sheltered life. I’m not saying being sheltered was a bad thing, just giving you a little insight on how I was raised. From the eyes of a little kid being a Christian was going to church, praying before you ate your food, before your went to bed, following the rules and getting baptized.

I was baptized at a young age; I didn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to be baptized. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing like any good young Christian, I wish I had waited. A little while later I got caught up in the middle of some church politics and experienced my first buffeting in my faith. I couldn’t understand why anyone who professed to follow Christ would act so un-Christ like.

For many years I allowed this to affect me, I floundered along spiritually through high school and college. I would have spiritual highs during week of prayers and times spent with my high school Chaplin Fred Riffel, but they wouldn’t last long. I would refer to my Christianity during those years as lukewarm. I still went to church, I still prayed, but the zeal for Jesus wasn’t there.

After college I wasn’t able to find a job. I applied, interviewed but never got a job, it was a hard time for me. The positive of the situation was that it gave me time to spend with my grandparents. During morning worships I saw just how close to God they were, I knew of the struggles they had earlier in their life and how they overcame them with God’s help and it pointed to their being hope for me. I talked at length to my grandpa (Poppie) one day10965167_553447651171_1704685783_n while golfing about my past; he asked me why I would let anyone affect a relationship that they weren’t involved in? “What does anyone in the church have to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ?” he asked.

It started to hit me that I was allowing outside forces that were not directly involved mold my relationship with God.

It’s been over six years since that talk, but I won’t forget it. It was a turning point for me in my relationship with God. Luckily I didn’t have to travel it alone, I was blessed to spend a lot of time with my grandparents between 2009 and 2012. Having worship every morning with them was a big help for me. I started having my own worships when I wasn’t with them, whether it was reading a chapter of Proverbs or reading devotionals.

The time with my grandparents taught me a lot of what being a Christian really was, it wasn’t just following rules and going to church. It’s about building a relationship with God and then doing what Jesus did when he was here, he went about doing good. Following Jesus and focusing on a relationship produces the fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

Would I go back and change my past? Absolutely not, all the up and downs led me to where I am now in my spiritual walk with God. I would advise others though to take your decisions about God seriously, don’t let others come between you and him. Make those decisions for yourself, don’t feel rushed, God will meet you where you are at, focus on building a relationship with him and everything else will fall into place.

As I have grown older my idea of what being a Christian has changed from what it was when I was little. I now see that Christianity is more than just praying before my meals, my bedtime and going to church. It is about having an undisturbed vertical relationship with God, and allowing him to use me to do good to others.

10962023_553447646181_327057833_nMy grandparents have taught me so much in my walk with Christ and I want to share the wisdom he has shared with me. Below I’ve added a list my grandpa gave me that has helped over the years; it is what my grandpa has attributed his relationship with God to. I hope they help you too!

The Gospel of Joy and Happiness according to Poppie

  • Have a thankful heart
  • Have a forgiving spirit
  • Have a child like trust in God
  • Have an optimistic attitude
  • Give more-expect less
  • Live simply
  • Love generously
  • Care deeply
  • Speak kindly
  • Free your heart from hatred and your mind from worries. Worry is pain suffered for something that hasn’t happened and most likely won’t
  • Get in the word-Bible- morning worship
  • 12 Leave the rest to God

I hope you have enjoyed this awesome post from Josh.  I love what he said about being in a vertical relationship with God. Take a moment to really think about your relationship with God.  Are you vertically lined up with God? This is the second post in this series that gives the awesome wisdom of “Poppie” and I hope to meet him some day. 

If you have not caught the other posts in the “Dirt, Trucks, and Faith series” you can read the other posts by going to the tab in the menu bar and clicking on the series name.  Blessings from the Midlife Domestic Goddess 

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