But God…

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Well, the American Holiday of Thanksgiving is just around the corner. People have all kinds of thoughts during this holiday, but not always thoughts of giving thanks. And thanks to who or what? For many it’s the day before the Christmas shopping rush, known as “Black Friday.” I heard this morning on the radio that some were already camping out at certain stores here in the Dallas area (and probably around the country) so they can be first to get in and grab the good bargains. Others are thankful because the day and weekend are pretty much filled with football. I used to be one of them. But then there are some who are thankful in the right way. They are thankful to God for the grace and blessings He has bestowed to us. I have a couple of thoughts on this today, so I guess you could call this my Thanksgiving blog post.

In hopes of keeping this simple, I just want to talk about a couple of Bible verses that remind me to be thankful. They both contain the words, “But God,” two of the coolest words in the Bible, in my opinion. Let me give you an example: Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” I’ve known this verse for a long time now, but never really gave it the thought it deserves. God didn’t wait until we were “good enough” before He took action in our lives. He took action while we were yet sinners. If you can think back to when you were saved, this should be evident.

I remember driving back from Kansas to Alamosa, Colorado one Sunday. I had been visiting a friend and was on my way back to college. I can’t go into the whole story here, which is part of my testimony, but I will say it was a strange drive back. While I was driving I was thinking about my past nine months of meeting some Christians and spending time talking with them. Suddenly, I had this strange thought that something was going to happen to me in regard to knowing God in a better way. I used to say I had been searching for God for some time but now I know it was God drawing me to Him. I really understood none of it at the time and couldn’t imagine what could happen to me. But I just had this sense that something was going to happen when I got back to college. When I got back to the dorm that evening, someone knocked on my door. It was my friend John who I had been spending time with “talking God” as I came to call it. He invited me to a Christian meeting that Thursday and I accepted. Needless to say, that night was the night I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It was April 1, 1971. So for my first thought of why I am thankful, I give thanks to God for drawing me to Himself on that day and that through all the trials and struggles, He has never let go of me.

The second verse I’d like to talk about is Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” This verse “blows me away,” as we used to say back in the day. In quiet moments, I sometimes ask God how He could even care for me. Since that memorable day in April of 1971, I haven’t really done much for Him. Oh, yes, I served in churches, tried to be upright and honest and even came to work for a missionary organization. You would think I would be pretty happy with what I did. But I was always living and working in the flesh, trying to earn God’s love. We call that legalism which is what the book of Galatians is all about. But look at what the verse says. God made us (that includes me) alive with Christ! I look back on my life before Christ giving me new life and realize how much I was just totally living for my own pleasures, comfort and needs. Oh, yes, I knew there was a God and that I should honor him, but I was powerless to do so. But that all changed when I finally surrendered myself in 1971. Like I say, I didn’t understand any of what this meant back then. My knowledge and understand of the Bible was pretty much zero. But God, because of his great love, called me and by His grace and saved me. He saved me not only for Heaven but He actually gave me the Holy Spirit to guide me and give me the power to do what pleases God here and now!! How great He is!! All I can do is fall down before Him and thank Him.

So, that ends my “Thanksgiving blog” for 2016. I am thankful for the gifts that God has given us. I don’t mean for things like money, good health and friends. These are all good but are also conditional on how God works in our lives. But there are some promises that are absolutely true and that are not conditional. If you have a few minutes these next few days I would urge you to read and pray over Ephesians 1:3-14. Open your heart and just let God’s word speak to you! This passage is just so powerful! Be thankful for who God is and what He has done. I leave you with one verse from Ephesians 1 just to give you a hint of His love for you. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” This absolutely “blows my mind!!!!” I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that God had me in His mind before He even set the foundation of the worId! I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I urge us all to be thankful. We have a glorious God. Amen.

This and That–The Sequel

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I don’t really know how many of you have ever really tried writing blog posts on a regular basis, but sometimes it is quite difficult. That is where I am today. I can think of a lot of things that I would like to write about but can’t really wrap my brain around them. So for this week, I thought I would just put together a few things that have been happening.

RE:GENERATION: If you’ve been reading my blogs you know I talk a lot about re:generation. Our group of six guys is nearing the end. We are on Step 12 and have four weeks left, if we don’t skip a week. We should wrap things up on December 12th. I wish I could go into all the things that have happened to me in Regen, but that would be impossible do. But there is one thing I would like to mention, and that is my relationship with God Himself. I didn’t really know I had problems with God before starting Regen. Theologically, I thought I was fine. But as we got into things, I realized I always struggled with the idea that God really loved me and that I could trust Him with my life. I found there were pockets of my life that I thought I needed to work out for myself. And speaking of “working out things,” I always felt I had to work to please God in order to gain His acceptance. Scripturally I knew this wasn’t true, but in my everyday life, I was on a works basis with God. I finally came to realize that, and began a time of surrendering these pockets of myself to God. I also came to realize that I need to live by faith and stop letting my feelings rule my walk with God. Those couple of weeks of doing this was quite pleasant and helpful. I no longer try to earn God’s love and am more trustful of Him to lead my life. I have given Him control of my life in prayer and remind myself of that on a daily basis. Some days are still tough, but I just turn it over to Him and sometimes ask Him to show me some small thing of encouragement. My experience has been that He did that on several occasions.

PRAYER: I won’t talk about my own prayer life other to say that it is still a battle for me and I don’t think I pray enough. But, where I used to beat myself up over that, now I just keep asking God to help me and work through it by faith. Just that small step of faith has been a great blessing to me. But what I really want to talk about is that one aspect of my work here at the ministry which is to contact donors and thank them for their gifts. I also always ask if they have any prayer requests when I do this. I get several responses and some of them are heart wrenching. Like one family that is taking care of two girls ages 18 and 29. Both girls are severely disabled; tube fed and need to wear diapers. The girls cannot walk, talk or see. Yet the lady’s only prayer was that they would have the strength to take care of them. She said the two girls are beautiful and have bonded with their family. I thought, “What an amazing ministry this family is having from the Lord.” Rather than complain about how difficult it is, they just ask for strength and keep going and loving these girls. It truly humbles me and makes me see what a complainer I can be. When I get these requests, I take them very personally and seriously. When we say we will pray for a person, we need to do that. Otherwise we are a just a liar.

I’d like to talk about one more thing that has been on my heart recently.

SIN AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: There is an old “hippie” song I like called These Days. It was written by a guy named Jackson Browne when he was around 16 years old. How he came up with this song at that age, I don’t know. The song is about an old man looking back at his life and seeing his mistakes. Jackson Browne was too young to understand any of that, yet the song took off and there are around 10 different single artists and a couple of groups that have sang it over the years. I really like this song because it hits me in my stage of life. But there is one line that always makes me laugh a little. The line goes, “Don’t confront me with my failures, I’ve not forgotten them.” When I hear that line, I catch myself saying, “Well, that’s just wrong!!” I equate “my failures” with my sin. Most, if not all of my failures involve sin in one form or another. At this point, I need to go back to Regen again. When we got to the step of taking inventory of our sins, I thought the group was going to go quit or go insane. We seemed to stay on this step forever. But as I went through the process of confronting my past sins and confessing them, it actually became quite freeing. The Lord actually brought out things from my past that I had forgotten or not even recognized as sin. Now, I need to tell you, for the past 20 years of working in this ministry, I have tried to be responsible and when I needed to confess a sin that I committed against someone I always tried to talk with the person and ask their forgiveness. I have been on both sides of that coin, going to people to ask forgiveness and having people come to me. Scripture even says that if you are leaving your gift at the altar and remember your brother has something against you, to go and be reconciled to him first (see Matt. 5:22-23). That’s a scary thing. But think about it for a minute. If scripture says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed,” (James 5:16a), there must be a reason for it. I would imagine there are several reasons but one of the main reasons to me would be to maintain unity in the body of Christ. James 5:16a says confess, pray for one another, and heal the relationship. That’s pretty powerful!! So, despite what my hippie song says, my suggestion would be for us to keep short accounts with each other, be a peacemaker and do all we can to maintain the unity of the Body. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, God loves humble people, but resists the proud. By God’s grace may we be humble before Him.

OK, that’s all for today. I pray that we will draw closer and closer to God each day and rely on His grace and not on ourselves. His love is so amazing!! May God bless and encourage you all.

Christian Nonconformism

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think in this country, we tend to think of a nonconformist as a trouble maker. I think we, as a country, started out as nonconformists (after all, we started this country in rebellion) but now if you look at the trend of things, we tend to want everyone to conform. It has gotten so strong, that if a person stands up for something he or she believes in, they are shouted down as a bigot, trouble maker, or worse.

So this leads me to a question: can, or should, a Christian be a nonconformist? Maybe I will be tagged as a troublemaker or judgmental, but I would say that in today’s time, it is imperative that we be nonconformists. Don’t get me wrong, there is a wrong kind of non-conformism that tears down rather than builds up. But I’m not talking about that. There was a bishop of the Methodist Church in the US many years ago who once prayed at a deacon ordination, “O Lord, grant that these brethren may never want to be like other people.” I get what he was saying!

So, are you and I nonconformists? Do we even want to be one? My prayer is, “May God make us so!” Talking this way is strange to me. I’ve been pretty much of a “go with the flow” kind of guy for the most part. I do make exceptions to that when it comes to some things like basic Christian doctrines and a few other things. But for the most part, I tended to go along with things even when I disagreed with them, unless it was something I felt really strongly about.

But over the past two years or so, things have been changing. I didn’t ask them to change, something just changed in my heart. I’m no rebel by any means and I am not touting myself as a great nonconformist by any means. But I am beginning to see things that I have accepted in my life and role as a missionary worker that I am beginning believe we do them just because we do them. There have even been a couple of times where I have stood up to some things that I felt were just wrong and have somewhat paid a price for them. To be honest, part of the “price paying” was of my own doing because of the way I presented my case to those in charge. It was done in anger and frustration for which I have gone back and asked forgiveness for my attitude, but I made it clear that I could not back down on the stance I took. If anything, God has taught me to be more humble and loving through my “price paying.”

So, what does a Christian nonconformist look like? I have been studying in the book of Galatians and realize that Paul was the consummate nonconformist. Galatians chapter 1 and 2 is basically Paul’s defense to standing up to the “Judaizers” who were trying to bring the new Galatian Christians back under the Law. Paul would have no part of it. Two of my key verses that I would really like to live up to in my life are quotes from Paul. They are found in Acts 20:24 and Philippians 1:21. I suspect Paul was a lonely man with few friends. But he had received his calling from Jesus Christ and he would not back down on it. That is a nonconformist!

Some of my other favorite nonconformists are Caleb, who stood against all of Israel (along with Joshua) and was almost stoned to death for it. Then there was Joseph in the Old Testament. Most of us have read his story, seen all he went through and how God delivered him from his trials. Some more contemporary nonconformists that I have mentioned before are the thousands (or millions) of Christians suffering persecution around the world and standing strong for their faith. I read a statistic the other day that 75% of Christians are now living in a part of the world where they suffer persecution. I wish I could say my heart always hurts for our dear brothers and sisters. But while there are times it does, there are too many times in my life where I am the center of my thoughts. May God forgive and change me!

There are other contemporary Christian nonconformists who I would like to share but there stories are in a book and there are copyright rules that prohibit me from just copying them here. But allow me to briefly mention a couple of them to you. Most of them will be unfamiliar to you. They are just plain folk like you and me, but they have allowed God to rule in their lives against the flow of many around them. There was a doctor named Nathan who decided to work in Ethiopia. He served there many years until his daughter brought him home because of his age and ailing health. But after a short time, he was so miserable being away from the work that his daughter flew him back. He spent his final days in Ethiopia working with the people.

Then there is a young lady named Jamie. She went to Tanzania when she was 22 and was going to stay there until the small amount of money she had saved up gave out. Soon she came across a small baby whose mother was dying from AIDS. The baby’s mom was too weak to care for him and Jamie started to buy food and supplies for the baby. Just before she died, the baby’s mother came to Jamie and said she had heard she was taking care of her son. She said she had never known such love and wanted to be saved. She will now see her baby in heaven. Jamie also entertained thoughts of adopting the baby but she thought she was being foolish. But God worked it out and she was able to adopt him as a single lady and brought the child home to the states. She later got married and is now back in Tanzania with her family.

Finally, there is Rich Mullins. You probably know this name quite well. He was a Christian singer back in the 80s and 90s. But he was not just another Christian artist. His music was powerful and his public appearances were strange at times. He was not just about the music. He would spend much time witnessing and ministering to the audiences and ruffled a few feathers in the music industry with his strange way of doing things and speaking about his sins. It didn’t matter to Rich. Later he moved to a Navajo reservation and taught music. He could have been a big success in the music industry but the money he made from concerts went to his church. The church gave Rich a small salary to live on and gave the rest away. Rich died in 1997 is a tragic jeep accident. He wrote and sang a lot of songs that have been covered by many of the groups of today. My personal favorite is Ready for the Storm. 

So, time to close this. My point in writing this today is just to introduce you and me to the life of being a Christian nonconformist. They are not special people. But they are people who not only read their Bibles, but take to heart what it says and made it part of their lives. James encourages us: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22. One of the differences between a nonconformist and a conformist is that nonconformists are doers of the Word. May God take His Word and allow it to penetrate our sometimes hardened hearts. God bless you all.

Peace at Last

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

November 11th is a very historical day in our country. It marks the end of World War 1. Forgive me for doing another history lesson, but it fits what I want to talk about. November 11, 1918 was the day fighting stopped in “the war to end all wars,” more commonly known as World War I. The exact end to the war has been romanticized somewhat by history writers by using the phrase “the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th month” of 1918, the fighting ceased.

What actually happened on that day was that in the hours before 11am, both sides tried to use up all their ammunition and kill off as many of the other side as they could. Officers ordered senseless charges across “no man’s land” and many were killed in the atrocities that occurred. But finally at 11am, peace came. The guns became silent, the charges stopped, men stopped dying. The peace was so pronounced in it’s silence, that men actually went insane because of it. They had become so used of to the noise and carnage that they couldn’t handle it.

Not long after, November 11th became known as Armistice Day and later became a national holiday  In 1954 Congress changed the day to Veteran’s Day in honor of all the soldiers who died in war. Sadly, “the war to end all wars” gave birth to World War II and the Korean War, and on and on it goes.

A passage came to me this morning as I was doing my normal Walmart run. It was Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God trough our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the Glory of God.” As I thought about this passage, a few things came to my mind that I would like to share.

As with Armistice Day marking the end of WWI, our salvation marks the end of our war with God. Scripture talks about us being enemies of God before our salvation. We may not have thought about it in that light, but we were at war with God. But when we finally surrendered ourselves to the will of God, the fighting stopped. God said, enough. There is now peace! We can have rest. What a glorious day!

But sadly, at least for me, for so many years, I have kept my fight with God going. Not because He was my enemy, but because I could not truly believe that He had made peace with me. I was more a prisoner of war and believed I had to keep trying to earn God’s favor to get out of my legalistic prison I had put myself in, even though He had put all that aside through something called Justification. Through that act, God made it possible for a permanent peace with Him. All I had to do was accept it. Through Justification, God pronounced me righteous, clean and holy before Him. But I kept saying, “No!!! This cannot be!!! How can I be justified before a holy God!!” And that is just it, I can’t, at least in my own right, be holy and righteous before Him. But because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is true whether I believed it or not.

So I continued to live in my little legalistic prison, trying to make myself right before God. It has taken a lot of years for me to finally see this and come out of my legalistic life style that I had bound myself with. But now that it is beginning to take hold, I have this strange peace and freedom that I had never realized before. I tried to describe this to my Regeneration group at church last week but I could only do a poor job. During the recent weeks, I can still see where I fail and displease God in thought and sometimes action. But there is now this strange peace as I just confess it to God and ask Him to please continue the process of making me more like Him.

By God’s grace, I am beginning to learn what John 8:36 means when it says, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” For God’s people, Veteran’s Day happen every day, not just on November 11th of each year. When peace came after WW1, it was only temporary, even though that war was supposed to be the last one. Our peace with God is permanent! Our war of God is over!!! Praise God!!! I guess that is all I have to say today. May God bless you all and may you rest in your peace with our God.