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Friday, September 7, 2012
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"I've Been Changed!"
"I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" and "the worst of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:13,16). "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect" (1 Corinthians 15:10).
I've been changed, I've been changed
I've been forgiven, nothing's the same
All of my past has been erased,
nothing ahead but amazing grace
That might explain the look on my face
I've been changed!
Last Sunday Brooksyne shared an example from our chaplaincy role in the workplace and we thought it might be a blessing for our readers as well. A fictional name, Missy, is used, though the woman has granted permission for her story to be told.
"About five years ago we began our chaplaincy at a new company so it was our first walk-through. A foundational aspect of our chaplaincy ministry is visiting the workplace weekly so that we get to know the people, one on one. Over time the employees will open up and share of needs in their life giving us opportunity for ministry. Typically, Stephen visits the areas where men are predominant and I visit with the women.
I introduced myself as I greeted the women one by one and learned their names. ("Learn" is an overstatement, since it takes several visits to learn and remember their names, especially in larger companies such as the one I'm writing about today.)
As I was coming to the last building where noisy machines are operated for making parts I saw a woman, in her 40's, working by herself. I made my way to get closer so she could hear me and told her who I was, why I was there, and learned her name was Missy.
She was initially reserved or maybe I should say "guarded", but within five minutes of our conversation tears began to stream from her eyes. Missy quickly wiped them away, apologizing for her emotion, but I took it as a sign from God that she was deeply troubled. Missy became my prayer focus that week and I looked forward to seeing her the following visit.
Week by week she opened up more and more. Within a few months she confessed to me that she partied a lot, used illegal drugs, and abused alcohol. Our worksite visits are confined to time limits since they're on the job and we seek to not interrupt the work flow, so we made an appointment to talk further over coffee at a local restaurant.
It was there that Missy fully opened up with the troubles that flooded her heart. She had been raised in church, had a godly mother, but for years had been living as a prodigal. In her youth she had done something that she thought unforgivable and had lived in shame ever since. In fact, besides her mother, she had never divulged this guarded secret to anyone else. I assured her, based on the Word of God, that she could be forgiven. We prayed together, I gave her supportive Christian literature and followed up at our weekly visits.
Over the next year Missy stopped drinking, doing drugs and even began the difficult task of giving up cigarettes. She is completely drug free today including the nicotine habit, is reconnected to the church where she had first learned of Jesus' love, and reaches out to others who are in need at the workplace. What a delight it is to visit Missy each week and see the change in her life and in her countenance. She has said to me repeatedly, 'I didn't think I was good enough. I wasn't worthy of God's love and then God sent you here.'"
That's the dynamic of chaplaincy that we enjoy alongside encouraging believers and bearing their burdens. Many people, like Missy, who walk in sin avoid the church because they feel unworthy of being in such a setting. But these same people go to work five days a week. They can easily avoid the church, but when a chaplain shows up at the workplace, develops a friendship and shows personal interest in them week after week, it presents a "nonthreatening" dynamic that provides golden opportunity for an employee to pursue God. Of course we, as chaplains, try to plug them into a local congregation where they will grow in knowledge and service for the Lord.
I wonder how many times people who had not heard of the Apostle Paul's background put their hands over their mouths and said, "O, I just can't believe he was ever like that." But in his own written testimony he states, "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" and "the worst of sinners." (See 1 Timothy 1:12-17.)
But he was able to say; "His grace to me was not without effect." A dynamic transformation had taken place in his life and years later he was able to make such a powerful statement.
How about you today? Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? How has your life changed? Is it still changing? When we experience the true grace of God it will have an effect in our lives. We should be able to identify it and others should witness it as well.
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we who once were outcasts from Your kingdom have entered through the door via the cross. Though we were unworthy like a beggar in bondage and alone; You made us worthy and now by Your grace, Your mercy has made us Your own. We will spend all of eternity thanking and praising You for Your infinite mercy and the undeserved favor we receive as Your redeemed children. We thank You for Christ who made it possible and it is in His name that we pray. Amen.
Brooksyne's Note: I share the story of Missy as an illustration that we can't be certain of what it is that leads one to forsake the God of their childhood. We try to come up with answers but judge incorrectly so many times. I think Missy's story is all too common since there are many who feel unforgivable and unworthy, not realizing that there is no one worthy of God's grace. Satan is master of this deception and uses it to keep people walking in their bondage to sin. If we could earn God's grace we would no longer find it amazing, but rather attainable through our own merit which is the opposite of Scriptural teaching.
Late yesterday afternoon we had the opportunity to "glean" apples from our neighbor's tree. Tom removes the apples he desires to use and then gives us the liberty to pick the rest. The apples aren't necessarily the most appealing looking but are very tasty and over the next several days Brooksyne will find various uses for them such as the photo above from our dailyencouragement archive.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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