The Gifts and Calling of God Are Without Repentance
Vol: 23 Issue: 27 Saturday, May 27, 2017
Today’s Omega Letter is a bit off the beaten path from our usual course of discussion. I pray that you will bear with me. Its purpose is to encourage those of you that, like me, have heard the call of the Lord on their lives, but don’t believe they are worthy of answering it.
I didn’t want to write this particular message. But there is somebody out there that God intends to hear it. So, listen up!
Last Thursday, Hal asked me to give my testimony at his Bible study. It occurred to me that I don’t do that very often. I avoid it whenever possible. Moreover, I have never offered my own testimony before our Omega Letter fellowship.
The reason, from my perspective, is simple. I don’t like to talk about myself. But I’ve since come to see that as an excuse – my testimony is not supposed to be about me, but about what Jesus has done in my life.
I am not worthy of being a minister of the Most High God. I know it. So does Jesus Christ. I went to Him with this argument some years back. He reminded me that I was not the first.
I am not Moses, and don’t put myself anywhere near that category, but Moses said he wasn’t worthy. Moses reminded God of what a poor speaker he was. He had other excuses, too. Just like me. (Just like you.)
Isaiah argued that he was not fit to speak the Word of the Lord, saying, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” (Isaiah 6:5)
I am not Isaiah, either, but I can make that same argument.
Paul went to the Lord three times to protest his calling, complaining of a thorn in his flesh that rendered him unworthy, asking the Lord to take care of that problem (whatever it was) so that he could be a worthy messenger of God’s grace.
“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
I am not Paul, either. But, like Moses, I don’t see myself as a great speaker, like Isaiah, I realize that I am a man of unclean lips, and like Paul, I know my own ego too well and live in fear I will forget I am just the donkey upon whom the Message is carried. I know who I really am inside, just as He does.
But the Lord’s reply to Paul is exactly the reply He gave me when I made the same protests:
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
Well, weakness is something I have in abundance. . . I am hardly your typical Holy Joe. If you knew me like I do, your reaction would be more like, “Holy cow!” Nonetheless, here is my testimony:
I was born into an Irish Catholic family. We were your typical Irish-Catholics. Dad would give us a quarter for the collection plate when he dropped us off in front of St. Michael’s Church, although Dad never darkened the door unless somebody was getting married or buried.
My Dad was something special – I never realized how special until after I myself become a man – by which time, it was too late to tell him. (He died while I was in the Marines – I only saw him a couple of times in the last few years of his life.)
There was much bad blood between us. He died never knowing how much I had come to admire and respect him. It is among the greatest regrets of my life.
Dad didn’t have a lot of experience with kids and family. He was orphaned young, spent time in an orphanage, before escaping at a tender age and becoming a Depression-era hobo. He ‘rode the rails’, living in hobo jungles for much of the 1930’s. In 1939, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Regiment and shipped out for England.
He and my mother were married in May, 1940, during the Blitz, and soon after, she emigrated to Canada and Dad went off to war. Dad fought in the first Dieppe Raid in 1940, fought in North Africa, was wounded in Sicily, participated in the Normandy Landing on June 6, 1994, fought his way across France and was among the troops that liberated the Nazi death camps at Dachau.
My parents were married for six years before they spent more than two weeks together. When Dad returned home to Canada in 1946, he had never seen his house. When he entered it, he was 27 years old and it was the first home he had ever known.
I was born seven years after the war. Dad didn’t talk about his wartime experiences much, but I remember he suffered greatly from insomnia. I never gave the reasons why much thought. Being a kid, it was just how Dad was.
Only once in a great while would he ever mention anything about the war, and then it was usually in vague and general terms. Much of what I’ve pieced together about him comes from memories of those brief comments.
My father worshiped my mother. When she died of cancer in 1963, she was just forty years old. They had been married almost 23 years, but the war robbed them of the first six. When she died seventeen years later, so did the best part of my Dad (or so I thought in the arrogance of youth). But one thing was certain. Without her, he was a man without direction.
I never knew if Dad came to Christ. It is my prayer that he did while in combat. I cling to the old saying; “there are no atheists in foxholes.”
Growing up in the Sixties, I adopted the ‘never trust anybody over thirty’ slogan. When I left home at age 14, I was propelled out the door by the toe of his boot. I saw him only a couple of times from then until I turned 17 and needed his signature to join the Marine Corps.
I barely knew the man he really was, and like most kids, I blamed him for everything. I never finished high school – in fact, I never finished the 9th grade. (I didn’t even get my GED until I was 24)
When I got out of the Marines, it was as a medical retiree. According to the VA, I was among those vets who contracted soft tissue sarcoma from exposure to Dioxin (Agent Orange).
(My greatest exposure most likely came when I was stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina. For part of my tour in the Corps, I was in supply and logistics, and I used to sit on a 55 gallon drum of the stuff to eat my lunch).
But all it meant to me was at 23, and with two kids, was that I had cancer and was expected to die, (although I knew that I wouldn’t, somehow. The Lord had different plans for me. I always knew that, deep in my heart, even before I was saved.)
At about this time, my older sister read a book that caused her to leave the Catholic Church and become a ‘born again’ Christian. That book was Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth.”
I made it my mission in life to reprogram her back to being a ‘good Catholic’ (meaning going to Mass every year at Easter, whether one needed to or not.)
So I grabbed Hal’s book and set out to show her where he (and she) had gone wrong.
Instead, I came to believe the Bible was true. One day, I went to my sister’s church and heard the altar call. I didn’t come forward, but the pastor’s words rang in my ears all that night.
I awoke in the middle of the night and my bedroom was deathly cold. I could see my breath in the room. There was some kind of malevolence in the room with me – I wasn’t terrified, so much as I was gripped with a sense of unspeakable horror.
I put my new pocket New Testament given me earlier that day by the pastor under my pillow and finally went back to sleep.
It was the first (but not the last) time Satan overplayed his hand in my life, revealing more than he intended. The next morning, realizing from the experience the night before that Satan was real, I reached the obvious logical conclusion. If Satan was real, so was Jesus. I knew which side I wanted to be on and it wasn’t Satan’s.
I asked Jesus to save me that same morning and instantly knew that my prayer had been answered. I also knew at that instant that Jesus had a plan for my life. I had received the call to ministry, but I didn’t want any part of it. Being saved was one thing. Being a Holy Joe was something different.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t learn enough about Jesus. I recall locking myself away in my younger sister’s root cellar with a lantern and a stack of commentaries, which I devoured like a starving man.
But still, I resisted the call. I even moved away to Texas, (thinking I wouldn’t hear it there).
I resisted for more than ten years, rebelling openly, living my life like a heathen, in the process, destroying my marriage and many friendships. I barreled through life like a tornado, damaging everybody who got near enough to be sucked into the vortex.
When I left law enforcement ten years later, I did so as a broken man – both physically and spiritually – and went home to the bosom of my family in Canada to lick my wounds.
A friend set me up with a blind date with the woman who later would become my wife. God sent Gayle to me to straighten me out, although I thought at the time the situation was exactly the reverse.
Gayle was also a Catholic, and we fought some battles royal over salvation by grace vs. salvation by RCC dogma, but, praise God, Gayle also came to know Jesus as her own, personal Savior and gave herself to Him.
Meanwhile, my call to His service grew louder and louder, but still, I resisted. I was a man of unclean lips with enough thorns in my flesh to do a passable impression of a porcupine.
When I came home, all I knew was law enforcement, so I applied for work as a federal Customs officer. I went through a battery of pre-employment screening tests.
The first series had 1500 applicants, the second, the top 500, and so on, until we got to the top 25 of the original group. I scored 7th on that final list. (Two years later, I still hadn’t heard a word from them.)
I don’t recall the details, but I was offered a job by a ministry in Niagara Falls by Peter Lalonde. I think I saw their new program, “This Week in Bible Prophecy” and contacted them first, but I don’t really remember. What I do remember was that I committed to the job before we even discussed a salary. (When we did, it was minimum wage and the offer was as a janitor.)
It was hardly what I had in mind, but it was, after a fashion, full-time ministry. Before taking it, I had had the most intense session of prayer I’ve ever experienced before or since, literally wrestling with God about it in my bedroom for an entire day and night. I neither ate nor slept for twenty hours or more. (I didn’t even go to the bathroom)
I finally agreed with God that I would answer whatever call He gave me, and I would go where He sent me and trust Him for provision. I called Peter and accepted the minimum wage janitor’s job. No sooner had I hung up the phone than it rang again.
On the other end was a nice lady representing Canada Customs, informing me that I was to report to the Kingston Royal Canadian Mounted Police College for training with the Customs Intelligence Unit. I stunned myself by turning it down, saying I’d taken another job.
I’ll never forget her response; “No, no, you don’t understand. This is Canada Customs calling.”
She even gave me 24 hours to rethink it before going to the next guy on the list. That prompted a whole new battle with God in my bedroom, but I knew I had lost that one before I even started. When she called again, I turned it down again, although I could hardly believe what I was saying, even as I said it.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Peter was looking for a writer to help take on the load of writing the TV program, since he also wrote everything else plus ran the rest of the ministry, which had some dozen or so employees. A week after I started, he offered me the chance to write one segment.
Within a month, I was writing the whole script. Peter offered me a chance to write a TWIBP “Special Report” about Bible prophecy, which we called “Front Row Seats.” It was very successful, and I was soon the ministry’s head writer. I turned out dozens of such specials, plus the weekly scripts.
A few years later, Peter changed direction from direct ministry to producing Christian-themed movies, eventually even producing the wildly successful ‘Left Behind’ series as ‘Cloud Ten Productions’.
But God didn’t call me to make movies. He called me to ministry, so I resigned.
That same week, I got a phone call from Cliff Ford, who at the time, worked for Hal Lindsey, asking me if I would consider coming out to work with Hal in California. (I had met Hal Lindsey a couple of times at prophecy conferences where I interviewed him for the TWIBP program.)
I went out there for a few months to get to know Hal. Hal and I continue to this day to be amazed at how good a fit it was for both of us. We’ve been together for fifteen years now. It has been a deeply satisfying assignment, and a blessing beyond description.
From a kid that didn’t finish high school, God brought me full circle to fellowship with the man who, through his book, first led me to Christ. Moreover, God blessed me by having Hal disciple me, putting me through a course of study that Hal says I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, including Hal’s alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary.
After ten years of study under Hal’s tutelage, Hal testified at my ordination, that I was as well -schooled and spiritually gifted as any ministry candidate he had ever known.
(Please understand, I am not saying that in a prideful way, but rather as my testimony of what Jesus has done in my life. I have no more cause to take pride in it than I do to take pride in having a full head of hair. A gift is a gift. The glory goes to the One Who bestowed the spiritual gift, not its recipient.)
I am a most reluctant minister. I don’t like crowds. And I am very uncomfortable in the limelight, much preferring my role as a teacher and facilitator, rather than that of the guy up front.
I started the Omega Letter ministry, (with Hal’s blessing and encouragement) in part, because I could do it from seclusion in my attic.
That is what I’ve most enjoyed about working with Hal. He never pushed me, never insisted that I come out to California for any extended period, (other than for training purposes) and allowed me to work with him from the seclusion in my attic via the internet for most of the past fifteen years.
About a year ago, I got another call that changed our lives as we knew them. Gayle and I were driving from North Carolina up to Canada. I do a lot of praying when I am driving on long trips. This trip was no exception, but the calling startled me.
I turned to Gayle and said, “I think God is calling me to sell our house, buy an RV and go off on some mission for Him. Doesn’t that sound nuts?”
Gayle said to me, “It sure does. I’ve been getting the exact same calling. I thought I was losing it – I was afraid to say anything. Thank God that you brought it up first.”
So, on Good Friday of 2006, we put our house up for sale. The first and only showing was on Easter Sunday. The couple who toured the house put in an offer 27 days later. We accepted it on faith, and the deal closed on July 14.
We followed our leading, and God has provided, exactly as He promised He would, way back on that day in 1989 when the nice lady from Canada Customs gave me twenty-four hours to think things over.
Things haven’t been easy this last few months – if they had, I would have questioned my calling. Particularly since we set out on our ‘road tour’ – for want of a better name to describe it.
We’ve had our share of bumps and bruises, but I write them off to enemy interference with the mission. (As we accepted this latest calling, I learned from a routine blood test that a blood transfusion from a 1991 gall bladder operation infected me with the deadly Hepatitus C virus.)
I don’t know what God has in mind, but the enemy doesn’t much like it. That’s good enough for me.
As I’ve noted in the past, my voice and God’s Voice sound EXACTLY alike in my head. But I’ve learned to tell the difference. (When it is MY voice, I like what it is telling me to do.)
I don’t know where He will lead us next, or even what our mission actually is, at the moment. But I trust Jesus. He knows what He is doing.
And to you, whoever God is speaking to right now about your own calling, let me say this. He STILL knows what He is doing.
Of COURSE, you aren’t worthy! That’s why He is calling YOU. To demonstrate His strength through your weakness. That’s why He is God, (and you are not.)
The time is too short. There is too much to do. Don’t waste as much time as I did. Know that the call is irresistible. The harder you resist, the louder it becomes. And the more painful your rebellion against Him will get.
The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He isn’t going to change His mind. You need to change yours.
Do yourself a favor and don’t fight Him on it. Trust Him and He will make the way clear.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalms 23)
To that one whom the Lord is calling right now, I know that this message is specifically for you. So do you. The sting of my tears as I pen these words is all the confirmation I need. Write me and let me know that you heard it.
And may Our God richly bless us all as we continue in our service to Him. Until He comes.