Believing

I’m in a series called “TRENDING” where we are answering questions that people from our faith community posed about God, life, and the issues facing us today. A LINK to the VIDEO message is here: http://vimeo.com/channels/forestpointe/100965557 Believing “My business is [...]

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Believing

Hunger: DOING Something

She did something. In a world where hunger is an epidemic and food is appropriately sent to feed the hungry overseas, we often forget that there are hungry children at our own doorstep. Carolyn did not forget. And she did [...]

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Hunger: DOING Something

Heroes: One Day Vacation With a Purpose

Hero is an overused word. As July 4th passes each year, my heart is drawn to people who did extraordinarily great things. Part of the summer has been devoted to vacations. Vacation to me is really vacating and getting WAY [...]

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Heroes: One Day Vacation With a Purpose

Believing

I’m in a series called “TRENDING” where we are answering questions that people from our faith community posed about God, life, and the issues facing us today.

A LINK to the VIDEO message is here: http://vimeo.com/channels/forestpointe/100965557

Believing Believing3

“My business is not to prove to any other man that there is a God, but to find Him myself.” George McDonald

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-18 (NLT)

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey His commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 1 John 5:1-5 (NLT)

1. What is Salvation? Deliverance, Redemption, & Healing through Jesus Christ.

“Salvation comes BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH in Christ PLUS NOTHING.”

2.What is the difference between Catholic belief and the way we believe?

The Five Solas of The Protestant Reformation are:

o Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
o Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
o Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
o Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
o Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

Essential Differences. Catholics believe…

o Extra-Biblical writings and tradition as much as Scripture
o Follow the authority of the Pope as The infallible “Vicar” of Christ
o Believe that salvation comes through the church membership and the sacraments (Salvation by works)
o In praying to the saints, venerating Mary, and trusting that communion becomes the blood and body of Christ when we take it (transubstatiation)

3. What does it mean to believe? Believing means I trust that…

o God is who He says He is
o God can do what He says He can do
o I am who God says I am
o I can do what all things through Christ
o God’s word is alive and active in me.
o Source Beth Moore, Believing God

Beleieving2

4. What if my child made a profession of faith and now has turned from the faith?

o What God has given in salvation cannot be taken away.

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29 (NLT)
o When God begins His work in us, He finishes it.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

5. What if I sometimes doubt my belief in God?

Ask God to let you reach out and touch Him in some tangible way. He will reveal Himself to you.

13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NLT)
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:26-29 (NLT)

The Essential Question: Do You believe? Settle that question today.
Believing1

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Hunger: DOING Something

Hunger1She did something. In a world where hunger is an epidemic and food is appropriately sent to feed the hungry overseas, we often forget that there are hungry children at our own doorstep. Carolyn did not forget.

And she did something about it.

My friend, Carolyn Niemeyer’s, vision has become a reality.

It’s official now. She is a hero. She has been honored and feted by the best and the brightest. She has stood before boards of education and commissioners while receiving high praise. She has fought for the rights of children to eat even as she has battled cancer in her own body. It is a fight she has won on both fronts. With the Backpack Food Program’s most recent award as the Non-Profit of the Year as recognized by WTVI over dozens of non-profits in the Greater Charlotte Region, she has led a movement to feed those who cannot feed themselves.

Carolyn Niemeyer represents everything good about people who care in Gaston County, North Carolina. She did not wait for someone else to do what God laid on her heart. Instead, she did it herself. She did not sit back and play the “Ain’t It Awful” Game where the constant refrain is ”Somebody Ought To Do Something”. Instead, she did it. Hunger2

She had help of course. All great efforts do. Resources and coordinated leaders worked well together as help came from all quarters. Caromont Health provided affordable food service prices and powerful public relations help. Gaston County Schools Executive Valerie Yatko provided the leadership from within and the caring infrastructure to reach inside of each school to find the children who were hungry. Various churches and social service organizations pitched in with funds and volunteers to pickup, prepare, and deliver the food into backpacks of needy children. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Pastor Brack East, her home church and Pastor, led the way with facilities and accounting help. But Carolyn is the detailed catalyst who goes through every project with a fine-toothed comb of particularity.

She’s married to famous Gaston County physician, Dr. Charles Niemeyer, and has reared great children and grandchildren. To her, all children are great beginning with her own. She has faithfully served the community in countless capacities. But now she is living in her own magnum opus.

Every week during the school year, 600-700 children go home with full heads and full backpacks to feed hungry stomachs until subsidized meals at school resume during the week. The passion of her life in recent years is making sure that hungry children get fed on the weekends when otherwise they would have gone hungry. The Backpack Food Program continues to receive funds, resources, and influence from a variety of sources- many of which are unexpected.

Robert Kennedy was famous for quoting George Bernard Shaw as he often said, “Some see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say ‘Why Not?’ ” Every week when otherwise hungry children go home with food to eat for the weekend provided by a coordinated community effort that they will never see, there is one lady who lays her head upon her pillow and knows, “I helped.” And I am convinced the Father in heaven says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant… I was hungry and you fed me.”
You see, when Carolyn has fed the least of these, she has done it to Him and for Him.
I am glad to live in the same community with her and those who serve children with her.

P.S. I am a Board Member of the Backpack Food Program. I believe because Carolyn believes.

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Heroes: One Day Vacation With a Purpose

Hero is an overused word. As July 4th passes each year, my heart is drawn to people who did extraordinarily great things. Part of the summer has been devoted to vacations. Vacation to me is really vacating and getting WAY out of town. On June 6, 2014, I drove to Bedford, Virginia, about an 8 hour round trip to meet the men of D-Day and honor them. Here are some of my thoughts:

The Longest Day. I read the book in high school. I met the men of the book on a Friday in 50 years after that longest day. And is not just a story. It is history. As documentarians, media representatives, and news networks around the world brought to remembrance what happened on June 6, 1944, I set out to meet in person some of the men who were there- in the boats, on the beaches, and in the air.

I journeyed on this special day to Bedford, Virginia, site of the United States D-Day Memorial, because they went in my place to fight and live so that the government of the people, and by the people, and for the people would not perish from this earth. On that day, many of their comrades died. In the months beginning with and subsequent to D-Day, 200,000 people would die in a war where good had to triumph over evil for the world to survive. Dr. Anthony Eastman, Professor Of History at Gardner-Webb University, says, “World War II was an Old Testament war where good trumped evil.” One veteran I met on Friday survived D-Day and then was transferred to the Pacific Theater where he served on Okinawa and then fought in the Korean War years later.

The skies were a brilliant blue. The Blue Ridge Mountains stood in rolling attention at a distance. A ninety-minute ceremony with presentations from poets, priests, and politicians from the United States, Great Britain, and France began with the “Passing of the Baton” from the “Golden Knights” U.S. Army Parachute team who landed and saluted the original D-Day Paratroopers present for the day. The ceremonies were punctuated by a flyovers by a C-47, a P-51, and the T-6 “Missing Man” formation. All took place under the watchful symbolic eye of General Dwight David Eisenhower in the distance surrounded by the generals and other leaders set in stone memorials who made Operation Overlord successful.
Ike On Mission

At the conclusion of the ceremony, “Homage”, a brand new statue dedicated to “The Bedford Boys” of Bedford, Virginia who gave their lives in the battle was unveiled and dedicated for the first time.D-Day Cross

Surrounding the oval shaped monument area draped in the flags of all the nations who participated, were dozens of living oral history presentations by re-enactors- many of them 18-21 year old young men (the age of the 90’ish year old veterans of this harrowing event 70 years ago). Young SoldierEach spent the afternoon educating us after the service was over.

The pivotal personal moment of the day took place when Robert Sales moved forward to begin his presentation near the conclusion of the ceremony. The official program for the day read:

“Bob Sales served with the Virginia National Guard, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, Company B. He landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 and was the only survivor of the 30 men on his landing craft. Sales was awarded three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star, among other medals, for battling his way across France before he was left wounded and partially blind. Earlier this year, he was presented with a medal by the French government and made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.”Robert Sales

After a brief introduction, Sales deferred to his lovely wife dressed in red and white as she read the account that Bob had written describing the horror of the events that day- the ramp to the landing craft dropping down, his comrades embarking, and then watching them be picked off one by one as he made his way to the shore. He survived miraculously as he crawled across the beach from body to body with his comrades as his shield. In the audience were dozens of men like Bob from around the United States who survived that day to be honored on this day seventy years later.

When the ceremony was over, I made my way to the platform to meet this man who served so heroically. He graciously allowed me to have my picture taken with him. As Bob’s wife being interviewed by others, I met Bob’s sister-in-law. She whispered to me that Bob’s wife had to read the remembrance because it was too painful for Bob to recount on his own. I said, “Of course. This is not just a story. It is real history.”

In the near foreground, a young child played around an anchor used during the war. I snapped a picture. It iBoy and Anchors a picture of life in microcosm- childhood to the wisdom of maturing age all wrapped into one brief shining moment that God allowed me to experience.

As I looked at that little guy, I recalled what I had seen earlier in the week as Tom Brokaw interviewed one of these survivors of D-Day and the “Greatest Generation”. He said as he, like Bob Sales, saw men from his landing craft die one by one for their country, most of them died in the water while calling for their “Mama.”

Sir Edmund Burke once said, “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” My day began at 6:00 AM on Friday and ended at Midnight on Saturday. It was a long day. Theirs began on June 6, 1944. I have to believe it has never ended for them. They live the “Longest Day” everyday…and for that, I am grateful.

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Remembering A Marine- Andrew

It’s almost midnight. Memorial Day is almost over.

Before my day began, I knew what I had to do- especially one thing above all things.

In my neighborhood at the end of one of the streets on my regular running path, I kept seeing this car parked outside a familiar home. I have not taken the opportunity to meet the new neighbors who lived there. We wave when we pass one another, but I’m always too busy to stop and say, “Hello”. Today, I stopped.

I have noticed each time I have gone by this home a car with the window decal that you see pictured here. Anrew Sim's Memorial DayI decided to stop and take this picture. Then, I knocked on the door. No one answered. Later in the day after the day’s work was done outside, I told Andrea that I was running an errand. She said, “To do what?” I said, “To thank the family of a Marine. He died when he was 18 after he had just begun serving our country.”

I rang the door bell three times and almost left again. After all, it is kind of strange for a stranger to ring your door bell unannounced and not yet introduced.

Mr. Sims came to the door. He had an eagle eye look deepened with a wisdom of pain, but a friendly yet quizzical manner. I told him that I was his neighbor and while we had never met, I wanted to thank him for his son’s sacrifice on our behalf as a nation. He shared with me about Andrew and then about Andrew’s brother who left six weeks after Andrew died as a United States Marine to serve our country in Afghanistan in the United States Army. One son died and one survived in the war on terror.

Marine On Memorial Day

I paused to thank him again. We said our goodbyes and on the way to the car I noticed the worn American Flag posted right along the walkway. And I thanked God again for him and those like him who lived and died so I could live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave-just like Andrew Logan Sims.

And I remembered again that Memorial Day was about more than my 3 day weekend…

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MEMORIAL DAY- More Than Just a 3 Day Weekend

memorial-day-3Day

I love this picture by an excellent photographer. It captures what I feel when it come to this weekend.

Everyone who has ever given their life for the “Land of the Free and The Home Of The Brave” is worthy of my honor…and yours.

I hope you will honor those who lost someone with a phone call, a knock on the door, a spoken word, or a written “Thank You” in some way over the next several days.

Memorial Day is more than the launching pad for summer. It is the finishing point of destiny for those who gave their lives so we could live ours. The words of President Abraham Lincoln are as fitting and motivating for us today as they were over 150 years ago when he spoke them over the brothers on both sides of a civil war:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
Gettysburg Address
memorial-day Flags and Crosses

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The Pointe

1000 people streamed into our new worship center on Easter! It is an exciting time for our church. We gave, worked, prayed, sweated, bled, and even cried to make it happen…and it was GLORIOUS! It was glorious not because of us but because of what GOD DID THROUGH US TOGETHER.The Pointe Front Of Building

When we began as Forest Pointe Church in the spring of 2001, we envisaged a church where “the unchurched could turn to Christ and become His fully devoted followers.” We believed that going where God told us to go while loving others the way God wants us to love would cause His kingdom to grow. We called this new ministry “Forest Pointe Church” for several reasons:

1. We wanted to be located in the greater Gaston and Mecklenburg region without being tied to a specific city.
2. We were situated at the Stowe YMCA surrounded by lush forests.
3. We used “The Pointe” due to the fact that this area is filled with rolling hills and locales named with them in mind. For instance, “Mt. Holly” means “Holy Mountain” and Belmont means “Beautiful Mountain”.

On April 20, 2014, God’s kingdom came in a visual, tangible way. We moved in! But before the day ended, the ultimate purpose of God’s coming kingdom was to take place as 30 people prayed to enter into His forever family. All the while, we grew deeper in our faith remembering that God is always looking for lost things. So should we. We rejoice that lost people have found Him. We rejoice as well that we keep finding Him by listening to what He says and doing what He did. It would be tragic if we just view God’s coming kingdom solely in the “then and there” of the future. God wants his kingdom to come “here and now”-NOW!…ON EARTH as it is IN HEAVEN.

The Pointe Churc LOGO

We rebranded as “The Pointe” for several key reasons:

1. A deep impression in my heart after extended prayer time with God. To begin with, “The Pointe is JESUS.” Jesus did not come to make a pointe. He came to BE THE POINTE.

2.The Pointe has been a shortened form of what we called our meeting spaces outside of Sunday morning in rented physical locations at Main Street Crossings and then 26 North Main Street in Belmont. It began as “Pointe 24/7″ and then was shortened through our cultural communication as “The Pointe”. It continued to grow traction when we purchased our new facility at 6700 Wilkinson Boulevard.

3. It is simple to say and easy to pass on to others as we communicate in various ways.

4. The geographical area in which we reside combining properties that begin in Belmont, Mount Holly, Cramerton, Lowell, and McAdenville as the South Fork and Catawba Rivers rush to meet at the end of the famed Peninsula. Interestingly, the first name for this area is “The Point”, a shortened form of “The Fort At The Point.”

5. The timing of moving into our first permanent facility on Easter.

As we begin our ministry as “The Pointe”, extraordinary things are already happening! Dozens of our students and student leaders just finished RENOVATE where they reached into the community on their spring break to make an IMPACT in soup kitchens, residential neighborhoods, and even praying with business executives in downtown Charlotte as they walked to and from work. Clayton King preached for as part of our brand new series “Future Family”. And EVEN MORE people made 1st time professions of faith in Jesus Christ on the 27th.

The Pointe Church has as our mission “To LEAD people to take their NEXT STEP on their JOURNEY WITH CHRIST by LOVING, BECOMING LIKE, and SHARING JESUS.”

In the words of Bach and Handel, who wrote these words on their musical compositions- “SOLE DEO GLORIA”, to God alone be the glory!Soli_deo_gloria-Handel

“And The BEST is YET TO COME- GOD’S KINGDOM”

Thanking God that we get to “BRING IT!”

{Follow us on Twitter @ThePointecc}

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GENEROSITY GONE WILD- A Single Professional Woman’s Story

I received this story and knew you might appreciate it. What happens when you’re young, single, the sole provider for all you need and you face financial challenges. And then your pastor stands up and issues a challenge to tithe. The following story may inspire you.

__Girl With Change In Her Hands______________________________________________________________________________________________

Good morning Pastor Ray,

I am not sure if you are still accepting letters about the tithing challenge, but I still wanted to let you know how it has affected my life.

My personal tithing challenge actually began back with the All In Building Campaign. I was actually living on a very tight budget and when this began I was really wondering where I could cut back on my already stressed budget. This was during a restructure in the department at my place of employment. Just two days after the announcement of the building campaign I was called by my supervisor and offered one of the new positions created as a team lead, which included a 20% pay increase. I readily accepted and knew God had His hand in this because I was committed to contribute to the building compaign. Prior to the tithing challenge I was already having my tithes withdrawn through the church.

Since this has all happened I have been truly blessed in return and given gifts above and beyond my expectations. As it reads in Malachi 3:10 NLT Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be eoungh food in my Temple. If you do, “says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
Generosity Gone Wild
I had several unexpected hospitalizations and/or surgeries within the past 18 months that had depleted my PTO (paid time off) and savings. I needed to have a surgery on my right hand that had been put off for the past two years. I had planned to have this done February or March so that I could rebuild my PTO, but due to increased pain and other indications it was necessary to have this performed January 3rd. I was 29 hours short in PTO for the two weeks before short term disability to start, but I could not wait until this was accomplished. Fast forward to my paycheck with this shortage. My department has the opportunity to earn quarterly bonuses, of which the quarter ended on December 31st and they are not usually determined until the end of the following month or early the next month. We have very high goals to meet and the department had been struggling to meet each of the three goals set for the highest payout. Needless to say, the last quarter of 2013 we meet all three goals with two of them meeting the “stretch” requirements for a higher payout. With God’s help, this was determined in the middle of January and was paid out during the pay period with the shortage. This was able to help cushion the loss of the hours and I was able to keep my budget on track.

I have some very close friends who have often questioned me on how I was able to do all the things that I do, like going to Christian concerts. I have always told them that I tithe. They always say to me “you know that is 10% of what you earn and not take home”. I always tell them I know that. They ask me how can I afford to do this and why do I do this. My reply to them is that I have faith that God will always provide for me and that it states in the Bible to give God our first 10% and our blessings will overflow. I am happy to say that I am now able to tithe and offer just slighltly over this now. We serve an Awesome God!!

In Christ’s name,

Susan Ray
Have a truly blessed day.

Susie

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CHANGE STORIES- Randy Meier’s Story

Randy Meier’s a piece of work and a masterpiece of the Master. His story inspires me. I hope it inspires you as you read it.

Meier

Randy Meier’s Story (In His Own Words)

Every story has a beginning and an end, even the Bible (consider the book of Genesis and Revelation) so in telling my story. My goal is not to try and get people to believe what they don’t want to believe, because most people will believe what they want to believe, whether I like it or not. I just hope it gets you thinking about God.

Because, as a friend reminded me, God is always chasing us. Why? Because He loves us and He wants us to be His forever. He doesn’t need us. He WANTS us! That’s why the scriptures tell us He is slow to anger. Now I am not sure where to begin, I can say that my past doesn’t equal my future, but without faith in Christ, my life it would have ended…via self-inflicted a lot sooner.

I feel like “without being Born again so to speak, we are for the most part all just products of our environments, protégées, to an extent, and I even read in the Bible that the sins of the fathers are passed down from 1 generation to the next, my worst fear because I loathed, and did not respect, my real Dad, although I craved his acceptance and love I never got. Even to this day, I felt like maybe I was or am even under generational curses, from the time I was in diapers although I am not really quite sure. But, I am sure that apart from the blood of Christ I would have been lost, like so many other people.

I do know there is always hope with God, anyway. In growing up and even still now sometimes I felt like my brain was and is trying to kill me. From my earliest childhood memories, I heard I was ugly, a retard, an epileptic lazy eye; those words were constants and a lot of other verbal and emotional abuse. I won’t go too far down that rabbit trail of “Why?” but the words painfully stuck in my inner core and damaged me. I even suffered at the hands of sexually abusive people. I have had greater memories of this and they have had more of a traumatic effect, emotionally in my current adult years. I remember and now can face it

The world’s a scary place, and I was afraid of monsters. And yes, believed lies as well. I was trying to find my way when I gave my life to Christ at 17, I heard He loved me unconditionally and would except me just the way I am. And that Jesus died for my sins, etc.

How could I resist such an offer? I fell in love with God (and still do) with all my heart, mind, body, and soul, but it didn’t change my behavior or the things I was used to doing. It’s just now with my newfound faith I just felt more conviction I guess. It was like “Why do I do the things I do when I Know I ought not to?” Paul wrote about it in Romans.

I don’t know. I mean… does a 5-year old boy say, “Gee! When I grow up, I want to be hooked on drugs and porn and full of shame and blame & hatred & regrets with no self-esteem?! You see our friends and families do not always see or understand the pain that abuse causes us, but God does.

There are so many people living out there (both Christian and not) that are walking wounded with no hope. Only darkness, my past hurts, and habits, and hang-ups had been a big part of what molded my thoughts & motives and actions and attitudes and deciding who I am. Or at least I thought I was, because I now know that I am a child of God. I didn’t then. You see, when you’re a little boy or girl and used to being broken, rejected emotionally, or told lies about yourself, words like “dribbling retard or dumb, ugly, Frankenstein” make you numb to it. As a result, dysfunction becomes your new normal. You either cope and find a way to live (even if it means staying medicated and being promiscuous) and constantly rejected trying to fill that void or you give up and choose to die.

I was deceived and the problem with being deceived is you don’t know your being deceived. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called deception. Make sense? Anyway, the Devil is the father of lies, but thanks are to Jesus, for I am a child of God. We all are the children or seed of Abraham if we put our faith and trust in him, anyway. (See Galatians 3:26).

I am an adult child of an Alcoholic with dysfunctional parents who met on a psychiatric ward during a time in their lives when they were having breakdowns. From their tormented childhoods, I grew up with a total of 3 stepdads (all Alcoholics or addicts or both). My real Dad was and still is apathetic, doesn’t care, and is not involved in my life or even my kid’s life’s in any way. (I guess he’s a product of his environment anyway.)

I won’t go down many rabbit trails of my life because:

#1 why and…
#2 I’d have to write a book.

But my 1st childhood memory of my dad was of him referring to me as a dribbling (expletive deleted) retard. I was scared of him. In the midst of it all, my mom made me feel loved. Fast forward. When I was 14, my mother decided to divorce my dad and marry a drunk named Bill, The psychic lady told her, “Bill would get a country western recording contract and you will win the lottery if you move to California.” To make a long story short, we ended up in a homeless shelter and moved about 10 times back and forth to different states over the next year.

We finally ended up in Phoenix AZ living in a small 2 bedroom apartment with my Dad, his new wife, and his stepson along with (yes) my Mom and her new husband, my brother and sister, two cats…EIGHT people in all! I was something right out of a Jerry Springer sitcom, a living disgust for me.

I felt like a character Joe Dirt going to a new High School “Beverly Hills 90210 “ trying to fit in with the “in” crowd. I was now 16. During that time period, I was once in the back of a pick up truck that was driving over 70 miles per hour on a freeway that crashed and flipped multiple times. I slid on hot pavement over 100 and maybe even 200 feet ripping me apart all the way. I should have died and could of died! God’s hand was on my life even then and I didn’t know it
John 15:16 says, “We did not choose him but he chose us.” Romans 5:8 goes even further with “Even while we were still sinners Christ died for us!”

Anyway The Doctor’s pulled glass and nails out of my back for 6-8 hrs.
I now had physical scars all over my back matching my unseen emotional ones.
I should have been grateful for the fact that I wasn’t paralyzed from the neck down which was a miracle in itself. I could not see the glass half full, only half empty, like my life and attitudes.

I felt Ugly on the inside and like a scarred monster on the out side, so I continued to self-medicate with drugs and porn and for me it was a way to cope…. What’s next?

We moved again and at 17 I became obsessed with weight lifting and then got addicted to shooting up steroids. I loved the attention looking good brought me; it was a false sense of self-esteem. I ate it up, until I broke out with horrible acne all over my face and neck. It left permanent, deep scarring. Now I looked and felt like a freak. And whenever I looked at myself in the mirror I hated myself, because it made me even more lonely and angry.

At 17, I felt the Holy Spirit, and answered an altar call, where I came weeping at the altar.

Fast forward>>>> I met a girl; we fell in love, and got married. Her name is Tricia
A short time before we got married, Tricia and I and our daughter, Angela (who was still in diapers), were driving home in our beat up Nissan Sentra. The second we got in the car, it was as if a dam exploded and I began to cry, then weep, for no other reason then the Holy Spirit was calling

Tricia was driving. It was dark. I was on the passenger side and having the deepest prayer I have ever had in my life. It rocked my world, I was crying out to God, like a baby, weeping probably 20 minutes or so. I was just begging him in the way a blind man would beg to see for God to love me and save me from myself and future sins and past regrets and all the shame I carried inside. Mainly, I prayed for God to spare me from hell and then all of a sudden it felt like I was no longer in my body. I went into a trance. Without embellishing or over-exaggerating, I had what some people refer to as an out of body experience. No, I was not high nor was it a dream. Impossible to explain, Yes, but the God of the universe actually showed up, and revealed Himself to my cries. Without speaking a word, He told me “ He would not condemn me to hell. I was in a tunnel and it felt like I was moving at the speed of light though outer space. Tricia said that I was speaking in another language although I have no recollection of it, It ROCKED my world! And it forever anchored my faith. I did not want to come back into my body, but without words God said I had to come back. The next thing I knew, it was over, and I could go on and on with further details but I won’t. Unbelievable? Sounds like it maybe, but I could pass a lie detector test that it happened

In the next chapter of my life, we were married. I was happy! I found a beautiful woman who loved me for me, something I had craved for so long. My wife was an answer to my mom’s prayer for me as well as mine.

Just 1 year later I drifted from God again. I never left loving God, but I was just not following His teachings and precepts for living. Tricia found out she was pregnant and immediately I wanted to have an abortion, out of fear mostly. I figured sooner or later she would leave me anyway. With my mom being married 5 times and having 4 “dads”, I was convinced that nothing lasts and it was only “tissue.” Again, I had succumbed to the problem with deception. At the time, you just don’t know your being deceived.

Wow! THIS time God showed up in an even BIGGER way! We went to have the abortion at the mill to murder our unborn son. I even paid for it when Tricia had second thoughts. At any rate, when the Abortion doctor when to start the procedure, he asked if she was the girl that walked out one time and had come back. Indeed, she had. He then proceeded to say, “ You don’t really want this, and I am not performing the abortion. If you still want it in a month you can come back.” We argued, but he was adamant and walked out. That night, Tricia’s mom gently spoke to us and me in particular saying she believed God wanted us to have the child. I suddenly I saw him for what he really was- my son. God, forgive me for what I almost did!

Dillon, our firstborn, will be eighteen this year. He’s very handsome, smart, and going into the military.

Who would have imagined that God would use an Abortion doctor to keep me from killing my own son! What a God we serve!

Religion or Religious people might think, “Well. Gee. If God really revealed himself to you like that, how could you have backslidden or done this or done that, or smoked this or watched that?

My answer is, “How could the Israelites have done the same thing when they saw the Red Sea part before their eyes?” I am only human. Romans 7:18 says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature.” Things like lust and greed and pride are battles within me even to this day. The Scripture also says “We are God’s workmanship “ implying that I am not a finished product, but a work in progress.

Several years later, my wife and I were on fire for God, but the Word says, “You can’t serve both God and Money” at the same time. My insecurity and fear of not being validated as a man drove me to chase money and success. No lie. I am not bragging but we made and lost a LOT of money.

At any rate, we went to church and tithed, but the entire time I tried to stop smoking weed and using again. I couldn’t stop so I became comfortably numb and dumb and yet financially successful (at least in the worlds eyes).

Years passed. I turned 33. As they say, “Every dog has his day.” Revelation 3:19 says, “Those who I love I rebuke and discipline. So, be earnest and repent.”

Fat forward. We moved to Charlotte, NC. Now with three kids (Dillon, Angela, and Caleb) we were hoping for a fresh start after we lost our entire life savings, 3 houses, several cars, and my job. My dignity ended up filing for a divorce and my life continued to spiral down as my lust for drugs and porn grew stronger. My faith was almost dead. The straw that broke my back was moving to Phoenix. I started smoking heroin and got involved in lots of other bad stuff, but I won’t go too far down that Rabbit trail. Again, I ask myself “Why?” I would take anything just to stay higher. I was very close to suicide.

It was a Sunday. Caleb called my cell. I was a fragile bird, waiting to die, with seemingly nowhere to go. He cried and begged me to come home. My voice shook with fatigue and disgust with myself.

I told him that his mom and me were divorced. I had no home. I was at death’s door. Tricia heard something in my voice and said to come back. She told me that I could just sleep in the basement. So, with no intention of getting back together, I drove nearly two thousand miles in two days. I went forty-eight hours with no sleep. I surrendered to God and determined that whatever he wanted from me would be fine. I am HIS child.

Radical obedience and complete surrender was the hardest thing I ever did. Yet it was the VERY thing God wanted me to do. I was sober, but still very broken and emotionally worn down. I had lost what I thought was everything – money, career, etcetera. But the most important thing of all was that I got back everything that mattered- my family, sanity, direction, destiny, and true peace with God. I have a hope that this world cannot give me! My relationship with Tricia began to grow as old friends at initially and now, we are happily re-married. Imagine that I married the same women twice. I have been clean and one hundred percent sober from drugs and porn for almost 2 years. I am in God’s will and committed to the woman God wants me to be with- the mother of my children and the woman I love. You see, it’s not about a feeling. It’s about obedience and obeying God. I obeyed first and then the feelings came back.

Yes, I still have my struggles. Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I can be a hypocrite. I may stumble or go down a wrong path at times. I may even be a jerk sometimes, but God is working in me and through me in becoming the man of God that He intended. He is straightening me out one step at a time. In closing, I would just like to say that even though my life was probably not God’s “Plan A” for me, with God all things are possible and redeemable. He can take a “Plan B” or “Plan C “ or even a “Plan F” and make it better then the original plan A. That’s the promise of scripture “All things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. “

So I will end my story with Philippians 3:13-14:

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind & straining toward what is ahead, I press on to win the prize for which God as called me heavenward. And my prayer is that I just finish strong, so until that day comes when he will usher me into the gate of Heaven, all things are possible with God.

I pray in Jesus Name. Amen

{NOTE FROM RAY}

WHAT A LIFE! WHAT A PRAYER! I love to see God change people like Randy, like me, like you. Not Perfect. But HIS

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Generosity Stories Chapter 3- Giving Generously- Raw, Real, and True

Corie and Mark Rudisill know the real life challenges of life and death and the place of finances in the midst of all that takes place in our lives. Here is their story as they address their taking up The Tithing Challenge at Forest Pointe Church:

Hi Ray,

Thank you again for asking us to share. So here’s our testimony …it’s raw, real, and true.
Rudisills

This tithing challenge came at a perfect time. As Mark and I begin a new year, we feel renewed knowing that God has blessed us beyond measure. In viewing our tithing journey, one would see many bumps in the road, moments of determination, times of financial despair, and days when finances were looking pretty good. We’ve had our months of struggles, and amazingly throughout everything God has blessed us, taught us new things, and needless to say been incredibly patient with this work in progress. Nothing was more challenging for us than when Mark lost his job in January 2012 … so we thought. Mark searched for nearly 12-months for a new career opportunity, and this was stifled when Mark’s Mom, Carolyn, was diagnosed with cancer. His brother had been fighting cancer for almost two-years, and this news of Carolyn’s cancer blindsided all of us. Carolyn graduated to Eternity in March 2013, followed by Mark’s brother, Timothy, 3-months later in June. Now as Mark’s wife I thought, how can I encourage him to keep seeking a new career when we’re watching the walls cave in around our world? I couldn’t. It was here in the deepest valley that we learned everything…EVERYTHING…is in God’s hands. Just as promised, He never fails. It was during this time that God showed me, personally, new understanding of how He orchestrates His will, sets plans in motion often so far in advance, it blows your mind He is that loving and good. FPU Logo

In 2009, Mark and I completed Financial Peace through our Forest Pointe small group, and we quickly were on a path to becoming debt-free. While we are not quite there yet, God knew that we needed to be in a better place financially in order to endure the impact of Mark losing his job, and the even greater impact of losing our loved ones while he was unemployed. While our finances were cut significantly, because we were not in as much debt as in prior years, the financial pinch was more bearable. We were hearing God as He used this time to teach us what it means to completely trust Him, and even more so for me to be patient and learn to just be there for Mark. We didn’t get it perfect every day, but knew He was carrying us through. Mark and I truly believe tithing is a blessing and an honor, but in being honest, I will say that it was not consistent during this time, and we found again a loving God who showed us giving is more than our tithe. It’s also giving of ourselves in our gifts, talents, and our genuine heart to serve. God revealed new ways to give, introduced us to those that needed us, and just how we can serve Him like never before. No matter the direction, He purposefully blessed us with His will and plan, showing us a new compassion and renewed faith. That blessing is immeasurable.

It’s no wonder I am loving our daily Bible-reading study that we do in our small groups. It’s made a huge impact on my heart. I’ve studied God’s Word in different venues and groups over the years, however each time I dive into God’s Word He shows me something new, something I can apply to my life and daily walk that I maybe hadn’t discovered before. The Tithe Challenge Orange

Tithing is always our honor, and Mark and I could not wait to give from the joy in our hearts for a God that loves us immensely, promises blessings, and delivers in ways never imagined. Mark is working his new career position, back with a medical office practice that he worked for before, and loving where God has placed him…in HIS perfect timing and in His perfect will. Thank you for allowing me to share our story. It truly has changed our lives and our hearts and we continue to see God work every day.

Regards,
Corie

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Generosity Stories: Chapter 2- Seeing The Windows Of Heaven Open Through Tithing

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Generosity works and there are all kinds of ways to tell you about it. The BEST way is through a genuine story from someone putting tithing into practice. Here it is below.

Hey Pastor Ray,

Just wanted to share a few amazing things that have been going on since we started the tithing challenge.

We set up our tithing on an automatic draft because it’s just so much easier and with our hectic schedules we wanted to make sure we didn’t forget.

Here’s the breakdown so far:
2 Weeks into the Challenge- I received an 11K pay raise at work. Totally unexpected.
3 Weeks into challenge – my wife (who does accounting/taxes for a living) found us an additional 400 dollars in tax refunds. Again totally unexpected.
5 weeks into challenge – my wife received a 2K bonus from work. Completely unexpected again….

We serve an awesome God and he truly has been amazing to me and my family!
We are so proud and honored to be part of Forest Pointe church.

Thank you,
SB

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