THE GOD WHO COULD TOUCH ME

gods-hands-holding-child“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: …Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:5-9). 

Those words above are from Jeremiah and they were among the first words I ever recall ever reading from the Bible. He told Jeremiah that he knew about him before he was born. I realized God wanted me to be born and I was a twin! I felt like God cared. I so young but I knew this, I knew I was here for a reason.

The artist of the children’s Bible had a picture of a young boy and God’s hand and a finger coming out of a cloud and touching his mouth. It really struck me. It fascinated me and I kept staring at that picture.

I immediately began to ask, “Can God do that?”

“Can He touch my lips?”

To this day I can remember that moment. I did not know anything about Jeremiah except two things: he was a boy like me and God liked him. God did not seem distant but he seemed like he was reaching out to me.

God liked me.

For some strange reason, I began to take that Bible and go out behind the Park Hill Apartments. I climbed the high hill that overlooked the row homes and I began to yell down to the people. I saw clouds above the apartments and began to tell them, “There is a cloud of sin over this place!”

I don’t know why I was doing that.

I never saw anyone do something like that before.

What was worse people heard me and were coming out of their homes. I could see them below. I was loud enough to be heard. I began reading out of that Bible as loud as I could. Some kids in the neighborhood were making fun of me. To my right, there was other homes and kids came after me trying to beat me up. One kid came after me and I got scared. I think I found a board and hit him in the legs. He limped away (I was not saved yet so cut me some slack).

My mother said to me later in life when I asked her what she remembered. She remembered that day seeing my brother Mike walking in the house.

She asked him, “Where is your brother?

Mike annoyed and embarrassed said, “He’s out there PREACHING!”

This is the second part of my testimony. Please check back to see the next installment.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

I WAS AFRAID OF GOD

b7d8f979aa62bdc6d88f0611422eda3e“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:31NASB). 

At a very young age God seemed distant and I was deathly afraid of him. I saw God through the eyes of a Roman Catholic who attended Immaculate Conception on Staten Island, NY.  It’s all I knew. I am not placing the blame on anyone or any group. I had kind, loving priests who I saw as angelic. They were masculine, old school priests who were gentle and godly. The only time I talked to them was when I used to go confession and wait my turn to go into the booth. I watched the light turn from red to green and it was my turn. I talked to them through the screen. Why did they do that? I did not know. Maybe they did not want to know who was talking to them. I could smell Father McGinn’s Aqua Velva™ and I knew it was him. I would confess my sins.

After I exited, they would have me pray prayers that would make up for my dirty deeds and sad I did not know them all. I knew the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father”  but the “Glory to the Father” always got me. I did not want to look like I was dumb or maybe I was afraid to ask how to pray it. So I just repeated the phrase over and over. So I could only hope I did the right thing. But I did not feel forgiven. I did not know what it was to be forgiven. I just did it because I thought you could not take communion on Sunday. For me that was church, sit, stand, kneel and go up front and the priest would say, “Body of Christ.” and I  would say, “Amen.” I did not know what that meant. But I would take communion and go home.

I did not know the nuns at all except for when I had “released time” from P.S. 14. I liked learning about God. I remember climbing up the altar at church slowly because I thought God was up there and I wanted to see. But the nuns told me to get back down. They thought I was fooling around but I was not. My heart was empty. I could cry at the fact that no one knew. I thought I loved God but I was afraid of him. It was a strange contradiction. No one helped me with that dread. I lived with terrible guilt. My parents loved me, provided for me and even sent me to church. But church was a scary place and I was always doing something wrong. I was always getting in trouble. I was setting fires or fighting with my brother. I grasped the total truth that I was a sinner-I knew it for sure then and I felt at any moment God would kill me for my crimes against him. I wrote about it even in poetry. I would write and ask God, “Please don’t kill me.”

I would lay awake in my room at night and see things. My imagination would run wild. I was afraid of the angels on the wallpaper I thought they were alive. So I used to sing myself to sleep. I would make up some song (my twin brother Mike would do the same thing) and go “La, La, La” and my mother would hear us but she knew we were singing. But I never called out when to my parents when I was afraid, I don’t know why.

I was alone. I had no gospel. I had no Bible. I was lost.

I used to steal books. I loved books and I love reading them. My parents would have bought them for me but I was a quiet kid and a thief. One time I stole a children’s Bible out of a library. I did not have a library card and I did not ask how I could get one. I loved the pictures in it and I wanted to read it. I guess when I hear people who get their Bible’s stolen, it may be someone like me, it’s OK, let them have it.

I began to see artists rendition of prophets whose name I could not pronounce but I could say names like Abraham, Moses and Micah. But it was when I read Jeremiah that something happened to me.

That is for the next time. This is the first article in this series.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

Walking Past Danger on a Chain

pilgrim_s_progress__chained_lions_by_douglasramsey-d7i7hot“…There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold…” (1 Pet 1:6,7 NLT).

God is allowing something right now to happen in your life to observe and evaluate your confidence in the truth and promises of scripture. He wants to see if you can face life’s challenges that normally would cause depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness and guilt. The sense of danger always seems to be our reaction to serious problems. Hey, problems are problems and that never changes-but what is the solution? What is the way out? The Teacher knows the answers to the test He is giving and He grades you according to your correct or incorrect response. God knows how we will react, but we do not know.  We think we do, but we really don’t. What we believe is seen in how we react to trials just verbalizing our statement of faith.

As we trust him in the storms of life we will see more of his power and nature, not our achievements. God does not polish our trophies he purifies our being and shows us who He is. We say we know what it is to trust in God, much like knowing the answers to a test. God tests that assertion. God is in total control of the test and as a child of God, he is not out to destroy you but remove the unwanted element of self reliance. tested faith, perseverance in full blossom in the ratification of our faith. It is now faith with some muscle. It is my conviction that the test depends on what level you are, every test is adjusted accordingly-and you will walk past the real danger not realizing until later, it was on a chain.

I have paraphrased a story from the classic book Pilgrims Progress in which the traveler named Christian came to the top of a hill and saw two men running at full speed the wrong way. The name of the one was Mistrust (which means full of fear) and Timorous (which means full of doubt). They were on their way to the Celestial City but they had seen blood thirsty lions and were on their way back to their homes in the City of destruction.

Christian became afraid when he heard this, but there was no where to go. He knew the only place of safety was moving forward towards Celestial City. Mistrust and Timorous ran down the hill, and Christian went ahead. But realized he lost the scroll of God’s promises somewhere earlier that day. After a long search he found them but now it was dark and he still had to face those monsters of which Mistrust and Timorous had warned him.

As he walked he saw on the side of the road he saw a beautiful palace and as he began to walk toward it there was a narrow passage. Then he saw the Lions. They were growling and vicious. He did not know how he would get past them and he was about to turn around when a man named Watchful yelled to him, “Don’t be afraid of these lions for they are chained up and they are left here to test if travelers have genuine faith. If you stay in the middle of the path they cannot touch you.”

He walked right through them and they roared and clawed at him but did not injure him at all. Christian was not only relieved but he started clapping and shouting!

All of your trials and difficulties are chained. There is a divine restraint on your difficulties. That should bring great confidence in God. Oh trials are real, this is not a game, but they are on a leash. No matter how difficult the trial, God has restrained it from destroying you. Already you have seen others run away from something that you faced. You were no better than them, but you knew you had no other choice but to serve God. You thought, “I cannot go back because there is nothing to go back to.”  You kept your eyes on Jesus and walked past the danger on a chain. 

You went on thinking that you might fail but that did not stop you. You kept going and saw God was true to his Word.  You thought you might lose everything and instead you gained more than you could have dreamed. You even thought you might die, and you are still alive. All things are designed by God for his glory in your welfare and nothing that happens to you even though it hurts you will not harm you (Rom. 8:28). All God requires is forward motion. Keep going. Keep believing. Stay on the path. Walk past the danger on a chain. 

© 2015 Soul Health Care-give credit where credit is due. Thou shalt not steal.