Thursday, August 05, 2004

God's Provision at Work
I begin this with a caveat: this post will be long and personal. It is the story of my faith journey and how God has sustained me. Some of what I write may seem a little over the top and unbelieveable, but I assure you it is the truth, and I have witnesses.
Let me begin by explaining that my conversion came around the time I was 20. I was in my third year of college as a religion major, and had spent the week previous in inner-city Kansas City doing missions work at a church there with my BSU (Baptist Student Union) group. While there, I felt the presence of GOd in a powerful way. I had my first experience with the Holy Spirit working and moving and I was stirred. On the trip home to Texas, some of the group sat sharing testimonies, and mine was lacking. All I could do was look back to prayer I said at nine years old, not out of faith, but out of fear. Everything I did after that point was purely intellectual. I gathered knowledge about God, and answered questions the right way, but something was missing and it became very clear on the trip home.
Upon arriving at home, I called my girl friend and asked her not to come over. I had information to process. I sat that night alone at my mom's dinner table reading the "Christian" poems and songs I had written over the years and seeing the faith void in me. I picked up my Bible and read Romans chapter one and felt incredible conviction as I read about the darkness in the hearts of men, and God's relenting to man's will. When I read that God gave man over to his desires, I knew I was on the brink of being soul-less. I felt like God was saying, "This is your last chance. This is you." And I surrendered myself to Him. I sat at the table and wrote down what was going on in my heart. I attached it to the Roman Road, and prayed for forgiveness, ernestly.
The next day, my girl friend came over and priority one was telling her what happened. She was thrilled, priority two was to break up with her because our relationship was outside of the will of God. She was crushed. Eventhough we weren't sexually active, the relationship needed to go because of poor choices previously made, and because I needed time to work through the spiritual birthing happening inside of me. She was supportive but hurt, and ultimately, I lost someone I cared deeply for. But this isn't about that, so onward...
Soon after my conversion, I found myself out of school because of grades; out of my mom's house because I was dumb and living in a 1 room apartment with no money. I worked at a chicken restaurant part time, and lived off of extra chicken, ramen noodles, and bread. This is where I first experienced God's provision. I realize now that the fact that I had free chicken was a blessing, but then, I was still oblivious so God made it abundantly clear. While living there, I had a loaf of bread that lasted more than a month. Not only did it not get moldy, a miracle in itself, but it stayed fresh until I could afford another loaf. For a month+ I ate that loaf of bread with ramen noodles daily without running out, and as i said before, I have witnesses. Even with my young faith, I recognized God's handiwork.
After that experience, a situation arose that caused me to lose my apartment, God responded by providing a larger place. It wasn't as nice, but it was less expensive, larger and included bills. I learned valuable lessons during this period of my life. I will do just about anything moral and legal for money, and comfort is not as important as I thought it was. This apartment was A/C free and upstairs in an old house in Texas, and I lived there through the summer. I sweat a lot, but God promised to provide and that He did.
Two other major life changing events occurred that summer: 1) I shaved my head for the first time, and it is still that way. 2) I proposed to my best friend and she said yes knowing I was broke.
Moving on... I'll jump to the following Spring. I was working a good job as a driver for Airborne Express, when the word came they were closing our shop. They closed us down inApril, my fiancee was graduating in May, and we were getting married in June with both of us jobless. It looked bleak, but God came through (as He always does). The friday before graduation, Laura was offered a job working for the state and it began the week after graduation. I was given a job by a church member after he heard my prayer request on wednesday night. God provided the means for us to get married.
The next six years of our married life took us down many roads, but none seemed to go where God had called me, into the ministry. We served in our local church, but I hadn't finished school and I didn't think I could get a staff position at a church. In my mind, I wasn't prepared. I still had the book knowledge going for me, but , as with many young Christians, I was never discipled and felt woefully inadequate, but on New Years Eve of 1999, I made a decision and penned this:

The New Millennium

I spent a great deal of time thinking about how I want to start the new millennium, and many ideas came to mind. I could finish college, start my own business, or find another job; anything, but it is time for a change. It wasn’t until today, however, that I realized how I want to spend my change of year, decade, century, and millennium. I want to be consecrating my family and myself to God. It has been over ten years since I first felt like I was being called into the ministry, so I think it’s about time to follow his call fervently. I’ve complained over the years of a generational curse on my family, clinical depression, bias towards me and my ideas, but all of the complaints are just excuses. They may be true, or I may be paranoid, but regardless, I am responsible to the call of God on my life, and I have not been faithful to my call. So with the dawning of another millennium, I give myself to God to be used as he sees fit. I place the call that I’ve held on to at the feet of God, and I ask you God to show me the door that I may walk through it. Lord, help me to shine in the darkness, and light the way for my family. God, be the beacon I use to find the way, and lead me into the ministry where you would have me. Lord, find me faithful to the call you have given me

Over the next few months, I began to truly seek God's face, and in April of 2000, I started a ministry I had no way of funding. i sought my wife's opinion, and she graciously said, "If God's leading there do it, and He'll provide for it." I took my wife's wise counsel, and God provided for the ministry. Two months later, my wife's job disappeared. The state shut down the unit she worked in and along with her job, we lost our health insurance, which was particularly bad timing since we had just had baby #2 in February. Of course, God came through again. My job's open enrollment period was conveniently taking place, and we had insurance again, but at a cheaper rate. My salary also went up, which allowed my wife to stay at home with the kids, and my wife's retirement money allowed us to payoff some of our bills. We were sitting pretty, or so we thought.

So, here's my family situation in the middle of July 2000: I'm a full time manager of a Papa John's living in a small house on the edge of the university of mary hardin-baylor campus. I had been readmitted to school beginning in August with full financial aid. My wife is now a stay at home mom, and adjusting to no longer having a job and always being aroud the kids.

Then it happened. In the middle of July, I sent an email to a small church in Utah needing a pastor. The first weekend in August, we drove to Utah (a two day trip) on Friday and Saturday. I preached in view of a call on Sunday (and was called unanimously) the returned home arriving Tuesday night (that's 3000+ miles in 5 days). The next three weeks was a blur of packing, garage sale, cleaning and moving. On Sept 1, 2000 we moved into our two bedroom trailer in Fillmore, Utah to pastor a small church in a small, rural Mormon town. I was promised $200/ month and a place to live with all my bills except long distance paid. my church back home kicked in another $100/month. That works out to $3600/year, but I trusted God's faithfullness because time and again He had proven His word to my family. Again, He didn't fail me. Instead of the 3600 I should have recieved for the year, God provided, through various means, over $15000 in pay that year, and also the following year. He also provided personal and church growth that continued to assure my calling.

After two years, I moved back to Texas to finish school. God provided a cheap place to live, full financial aid, a job, and moving expenses. Over the two year since returning, He has continued to provide. It has been rough because my wife is still a stay at home mom and we now have three kids, and a part time job and full time school schedule really pushes the envelope. But, God is faithful, and in my last two years of school my lowest GPA was a 3.75. This gave God some more fuel to work with, and upon acceptance to seminary, God used my last two years of work to provide me a full tuition scholarship.

This brings us to today, once again basking in God's provision. The situation was this. When i stepped down after graduation, my pay and hours were severely cut, which caused some financial situations. I start school in 3 weeks; we're poor; our lease expires at the end of the month; we have no money for deposits etc. Here comes God to the rescue. God provides a means to make an extra 3-4 hundred dollars by watching kids and delivering phone books. God provides us last minute campus housing that includes water and local phone in the rent, and is only blocks from school. The only deposit is 200/ for the house, and the rent can come out of financial aid. Now, we're just waiting for the job he's going to provide to pay for it all.

Isn't God amazing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I love to watch God providing for His children, especially when those children include me. We have been a bit tense in the taff household because of questions surrounding bills and the move to Abilene, i.e. housing, job, money to move, deposits, etc. Well, God provided for the first big need, as I previously wrote, so there was one release of tension. This week, God has provided more relief. We have a home in Abilene if we accept it. The cost is higher than we wanted, 600/mo., but includes local phone and water. i think the electric also comes through the school, but I have to pay that. The big plus, no deposits except for the 200 to move in. This means several extra hundred to move with. Also, on the plus side:
  1. It is campus housing, just a few blocks from school so financial aid can help pay for it, and I can walk to school.
  2. My wife can relax and breathe again because God has showed her that he really is in control

What a wonderful God we serve. Now for the keep praying part. Please pray:

  1. Since God provided where to live, now He'll provide how to pay for it.
  2. The car, which is trying to breathe its last will be revived or replaced.