I need to say something about my capitalization first, and that is that I capitalize not as a result of wanting to scream and judge you (God will do the judging part), but out of the need to EMPHASIZE AND EXPRESS. EVERYTHING I SAY, I say in love-the love of Christ compels me! So please don't let my capitalizing turn you away, but yes, I will not back down from the truth. I will say it in love, but not recant or compromise.
I've prayed and feel it is truly okay to post this. In the previous posts, I've talked more clearly about how I wasn't saved when I went to Mexico, and now I'd like to share (without using names of individuals), how God used my team and other events to seriously begin drawing me to Himself when I was there for the long-term year and a half. The reason of this post and all of my posts is basically two-fold. The first reason for my posts is that I want God to get glory!!! I mean that! Yes, I do talk about what He has done for me, but it isn't about me----its all about Him----Our Holy God getting the glory He alone deserves from me being used but as a channel as He chooses....surrender for His glory!!!! It is all I can think about!!!
The second reason for these posts is a very real burden that I have for others that are just like I was-- which was that deep down I was "serving myself out of selfish ambition" (how disgusting!!!) although it liked like I was "serving God" and wasn't even a Believer or follower of Christ. I am concerned, yes for lost outside of our church doors, but also for those that may be lost inside our churches--who are busy "serving God" with external deeds and actions but their hearts are far from Him, because they are possibly trusting in a prayer or a decision or false assurance that some other human tried to give them that they "were saved" when they truly have never trusted Christ. (Please read the post "Why Praying the prayer wouldn't work for me" of you haven't done so yet from June 26th 2010) On the other hand I don't want to see people turned away from having that personal encounter and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My desire is that wherever they are in the process of being brought to salvation, they would truly be brought one step closer, whatever that step means. Let me say again, IT IS NOT MY OR YOUR JOB TO SAVE ANYONE----IT IS GODS HOLY SPIRIT WORKING IN LIVES AND HEARTS THAT DOES THAT CHANGE OF HEART IN A PERSON. YOU OR I CANNOT SAVE ANYONE!!!
So with all glory to the Lord alone fully intended, let me tell you why it was a part of His plan to bring me to Mexico and what exactly He did to use others in my life.
Starting with my arrival in July of 2008, I was placed with an amazing family. Now, it really kind of boggles my mind why this would be. But, as I began to live with them, I sensed the love of God overflowing out of them like I never had before from anyone else in my life. Now as I say that I think maybe part of the reason for this wsa that apart from my team, I was alone in a new culture that I didn't have a clue how to begin figuring out and understanding, so maybe that is why their love for God and therefore for me, was such a bright spot in the picture. PLEASE, BELOVED FRIENDS, DO NOT TAKE IT WRONG AS I SAY THIS BECAUSE SO MANY OF YOU FAITHFULLY AND CONSISTENTLY SHOWED ME CHRIST'S LOVE THROUGHOUT THE YEARS OVER AND OVER AND I KNOW YOU DID THAT CLEARLY--SO PLEASE DO NOT THINK THAT YOUR ROLE WAS INADEQUATE OR SOMETHING!! I AM NOT SAYING THAT!!! I AM NOT SAYING YOU DID ANYTHING WRONG!!! I AM TRULY DEEPLY GRATEFUL FOR YOU ALL AND THE LOVE, CARE, PATIENCE, AND TENDERNESS YOU HAVE SHOWN!! but maybe sine I was finally out of my comfort zone of familiarity, the love of Christ was more obvious.
So for almost a whole year, God's love was showered on me by this dear couple. One day the wife and I were by the washing machine and she asked me if I memorized scripture. And i didn't know what to say. She asked me to quote in Spanish some verses I knew, and beyond John 3:16 there wasn't much. All of the sudden I felt nervous and embarrassed, like something wasn't right between me and God, but I wasn't desperate enough to figure it out. NOW PLEASE ALLOW ME TO AGAIN MAKE THIS VERY CLEAR. I AM NOT SAYING, I REPEAT I AM NOT SAYING THAT IF YOU HAVE A HARD TIME MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE OR DON'T DO IT, YOU AREN'T A CHRISTIAN OR SOMETHING. (that is between you and God), but for me it was like a red light flashing that something wasn't right because this couple was so into the Word of God. This couple was in love with it and I didn't have a CLUE what that was like. They would come with devotions for the teachers each morning and I would just think, "How DO they DO that? SOMETHING is different about them!"
LET ME AGAIN CLARIFY THAT LOVING GOD'S WORD IS NOT A REQUIREMENT OF SALVATION!!! THE ONLY THING THAT IS GOING TO GET YOU TO HEAVEN IS TRUSTING ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY IN WHAT JESUS CHRIST DID FOR YOU ON THE CROSS WHEN HE TOOK YOUR PUNISHMENT ON HIMSELF. HE PAID THE DEBT YOU SHOULD HAVE PAID. He lived a perfect life without sin and knowing no sin took your sin (all of the things that you have done that offend God) upon himself because HE LOVED YOU THAT MUCH!!!! HIS OWN FATHER (THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD), HAD TO TURN HIS FACE AWAY FROM HIS SON BECAUSE HE COULD NOT JUST 'ACCEPT" the sin as all of the wrath was poured out on HIS ONE AND ONLY SON. THE TWO HAD NEVER KNOWN SEPARATION--and they WERE INDEED SEPARATED!!!! IMAGINE THE PAIN OF THAT!!!! That is not all!!!JESUS CHRIST not only died but He conquered death once and for all. Three days later, GOD raised HIM FROM THE DEAD PROVING THAT HE IS GOD!! DEATH WAS SWALLOWED UP IN GLORIOUS VICTORY! And when you TRULY understand the depths of His love demonstrated in His death and resurrection, it demands a response.YOU EITHER ACCEPT IT OR REJECT IT. OH MAY GOD but LEAD YOU TO THE TURNING POINT OF TURNING POINTS IN YOUR LIFE!!! THE POINT OF REPENTANCE_TURNING AWAY FROM YOUR SIN AND TRUSTING IN CHRIST. ETERNAL LIFE IS THE GIFT OF THAT ONE PRECIOUS ONCE IN A LIFETIME MOMENT> GOD desires that all (although not all will do so) would be brought to a knowledge of the truth. If you have questions e-mail me!! Let's correspond! IT is YOUR ETERNITY, beloved friend, YOUR ETERNITY!! Hell is real! AND THAT IS WHERE EVERYONE GOES THAT REJECTS JESUS CHRIST AND the KNOWLEDGE OF HIS TRUTH. I know people don't like hearing that today, but it is the ABSOLUTE UNCHANGEABLE TRUTH FROM THE WORD OF GOD!!!
So back to the Word of God--loving the WORD OF GOD will be a natural response when you really understand what GOD'S LOVE REALLY MEANS AND WHAT HE REALLY DID FOR YOU.
So how did God use my team in Mexico? Well for starters I was amazed. Amazed at the qualities that I saw in them that were genuine and the real deal. I saw how kind they were (in general-not saying my team is perfect here by any means---we all still need to grow). The love of Christ shown through them even in the smallest tasks like greeting someone at the door, answering the phone, cleaning an apartment, interacting with one another.
One couple in particular, I saw how they were so secure in the Lord--they knew Him intimately--I could sense that and was so JEALOUS!! I wanted that! I wanted to scream out of desperation, and say that I wanted what they both had, as one of them went to help me get something figured out with my visa one day, bu I was a "missionary" and my pride was still in the way.
Then there were a few others-guys that worked at our camp in construction. And I saw how they worked tirelessly day after day. They had come to serve the Lord as a number one priority whereas, I, honestly had come for, well, more of a vacation that ended up really miserable at that point-a dream that had become a nightmare---wow how disgusting!! My sending agency and church sent me on a vacation??-- I am so sorry all of you----GROSS!!!! I was there to live for myself--not to serve God at all!
Three was one lady that would talk (not in pride) but just share as we met to plan conference, about how she would pray and be able to truly discern and hear things from the Lord. I was amazed by that and thought, "My life isn't that way!....How does she hear from God like that? What kind of connection does she have to God?" Obviously she had the connection that I did not have, which was a real and vital growing relationship with God! (WE KNOW THAT NOW!!)
Then there was the day when another one of the ladies talked to me as I worked on arranging the library for the Cross-Cultural Training center. She talked about how she was teaching some students and had been asking them for the last two years teaching them about what salvation really was. See said they always said something along the line of trust-but trust without a change of the heart...and she wasn't sure if they really understood. So then, of all things she turned to me and said, "So Crystal, WHAT IS SALVATION?" And I looked at her--everything inside of me was trembling. and I said what her students had said "Trust." and she said "Yes, but there is also repentance." (to see my previous discussion on repentance and it's role in salvation, please look at the post titled, "Sharing My faith-It's different Now" on June 24th and I believe there are other places as well.) Well, when my team mate and co-worker said that, it made this sense of bitter dread and fear well up in me and my first thought was, "BUT I'VE NEVER DONE THAT!!!," and let me tell you, I was scared to death! But again to proud to ADMIT it!!!
A few weeks later, I was at our camp property spending the night and I had a dream about hell. And I am not just talking about smelling the fire and brimstone that we read about in the Bible and hear preached about (if by chance "hell" is mentioned in a sermon today!!) In the dream, I kid you not, I FELT the literal separation from God! IT was a sense of loneliiness UNLIKE ANYTHING I CAN EVER DESCRIBE!! People were NOT UNSAVED DOWN THERE GOOFING OFF AND HAVING FUN!! IN THE DREAM, I WAS IN HELL SEPARATED FROM GOD, surrounded by fire for eternity, and separated from everyone and everything. It was the SEPARATION that just awed me. I awoke with a start---the dream was probably the most vivid dream I have EVER HAD in my entire life this far. AND I woke up thinking, "WHAT IF IT IS ALL REAL??? WHAT IF I REALLY DON'T KNOW God? AND WHAT IF I REALLY AM GOING TO HELL?" When my team member asked how I had slept when I went to their house for breakfast the next morning, I told her I had had horrible nightmares, but again was too proud to say what about or admit my lost spiritual condition.
Then there was a day soon afterwards that I could never forget. I was walking across a blue pedestrian bridge near one of the biggest parks in town. My destructive behaviors had been long underway in their path and I heard God say to me, (AND YES, I DON'T WANT TO BE EXTRA-BIBLICAL BUT I KNOW IT WAS HIM WITHOUT A DOUBT!!) "Crystal, do you know what your problem is? and I responded in Anger "WHAT??" and He said to me as clear as day, "YOU DO NOT KNOW ME!!" and I responded back, "WELL, What do YOU want me to do about it?" And you would think that at that point I would have fallen to my knees in repentance--I mean God-the Creator of the Universe I walked on--had JUST SPOKEN to ME. But I knew I couldn't just "pray a prayer" and get saved. PLEASE READ THE "WHY PRAYING THE PRAYER WOULDN'T WORK FOR ME" post from June of you haven't done so!!
Something else that spoke volumes to me was a simple thing like when a team member pulled me aside and asked if I would forgive her for the fact that she had had some not right attitudes towards me when we were on a road trip/vacation together. I thought, "Wow! I never confess to anyone like that! What makes her that way?"Ir the fact that once I was in the states she was on a border trip and made it a point to take me out to coffee because she wanted to make sure there was nothing between us. She wanted it all cleared up---her before God, and her before me, and me before her. I was ASTOUNDED and just like, "Wow! WHO ACTUALLY DOES THIS ANYMORE??" (At this point on December of 2009, I highly doubted I would be back with my mission agency at all.)
And then there was the day that I went over to a Mexican's home and was feeling all of this condemnation. and she flat out confronted me and said, "Crystal, ARE YOU SURE you are a Christian?" I wanted to say that I wasn't, but man, MY PRIDE!! So I said, trembling, "No, No, it's not THAT, it's just that...." and I made up some stupid answer that was a lie instead of humbly saying, "yes, it is as you say!"
I started teaching a Sunday school class to new believers, "just to have something to honestly write my home church that I was "doing" something (YUCK!!!!! I AM SO honestly SORRY YOU GUYS!!!!) And as I taught the lessons I found out that I couldn't even teach a simple lesson-it took HOURS to prepare--and I am not kidding! I was again so JEALOUS for what they had!! They came with joy and I wanted it so bad---I didn't have it!! I think they knew something was "up" with me and "not right." They would talk amongst themselves quietly in Spanish, but never to me. But I was too PROUD!!!!
And then I got asked to "prepare a devotional for the youth of our team" during a camp planned for them. I read a Psalm or something. I had them talk the whole time as much as possible.....because I didn't have a clue what to say and didn't want them to know!!
And one more story. I think it was the 13 or 15 year old daughter of a couple on the team. I can't remember exactly what she said now, but it cut me to the core. She said something along the lines of "wanting to live a godly life so that she would have a truly good testimony when she was older." and when she said that, all I could think was, "Wow! YOU are so young and when I was your age that was the farthest thing from my mind. I wish I was like you!"
And speaking of bad integrity, how many hours did I actually spend on language study a week? Whoops! I started out okay but things began to slack as time went on. It didn't help as I got more and more frustrated with my tutor either, (NOT that this was an excuse for my sin) (very sincere and deeply profound sorry to the person who knows who she is that was the language aptitude person at that time.)
The TRUTH IS THAT EVEN THOUGH OUR SIN AFFECTS OTHER PEOPLE AND, YES, WE SIN AGAINST THEM, WE ULTIMATELY SIN AGAINST GOD FIRST!! IT IS HIS HOLY STANDARD THAT WE HAVE VIOLATED!!!
And then there were a few kickers--the last one when I was in Mexico where My team member seeing my distress gave me the "To Consent to be loved, while unworthy, is the great secret." quote, which I am not sure who said it. And I knew that she was right--she had hit the nail on the head. She said that was my prescription to healing0-and it was. God revealed His love to me---and now I am never GOING TO BE THE SAME AGAIN!!!! I had NEVER BEEN ABLE TO CONSENT TO BEING LOVED BY GOD BEFORE IN LIFE--I THOUGHT MY SIN WAS TOO MUCH FOR HIM TO FORGIVE!! IT WAS A LIE!! AND IF YOU ARE THINKING THAT RIGHT NOW---YOU ARE BELIEVING A LIE AS WELL. THE ONLY SIN THAT WILL SEND SOMEONE TO HELL IS REJECTION OF THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT HE OFFERS--end of story!! What do you really believe, dear friend? What do you really believe?
And then there was when I was at headquarters in the states with my mission agency. I spent about two weeks there recovering, and trying to go to counseling, that I was, by no means, ready for....yet. And a dear friend of mine there that I admired sat me down in her apartment one afternoon and said, "You're having such a hard time forgiving yourself for what you have done. It's like you are trying to earn your salvation. Are you sure you are a Christian?" This was December 2009, and STILL I was not ready to admit the truth. Of course she was right!
SIDE NOTE: IF you are unable to forgive yourself for things you have done, it may possibly be because you do not understand what God's love truly meant for you. Ask God about that if it pertains to you--just you and Him.
And then there was my Pastor at my home church about two or three weeks before the Lord Found and saved me. He said a quote in one of his sermons which was, (and I am not sure who said it--I will try to figure that out ASAP), "Do I really believe that what I really believe is REALLY REAL?" Think about that one! It just about pout me through the floor when He said that one, because my answer was of course, still "No!"
So you see, with no condemnation, I tell you a few of the stories of how God used people on my team to really work and begin to draw me to Himself, as well as others, like my friend at the mission agency headquarters, and my pastor at my home church. I AM NOT PROUD OF HOW I LIVED BEFORE, BUT I KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT I AM TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY FORGIVEN FOR IT ALL BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST THAT WAS SHED IN MY PLACE!!!
SO what about you, beloved dear friend? God challenges you saying,"Do you BELIEVE that WHAT YOU REALLY BELIEVE is REALLY REAL?" Is it real, or is it something you just pull out on Sunday to go through the motions and look good? Is what you REALLY believe REALLY real to the extent that it changes you day in and day out and you can't help but live for Jesus Christ with every cell of your being?
TO GOD AND TO THE LAMB BE THE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!