He Has Given Me The Ability and The Opportunity

#offeringthoughts

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Here at River of Life Church, we focus on missions. We understand the value of supporting missionaries around the world who spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We support missionaries overseas, as well as, domestically here in the United States.

Recently at an elders’ board meeting, the pastor suggested we reach out to the local schools to support those in need in our local community. Being Christmastime, I knew this was a good time to start such an effort.

We live in an area of affluence. The median house price and salary range is way above the national average. Although we have some pockets of low income and impoverished people, one traveling in this area would find them few and far between. Yet I knew, behind the walls of some of the finest homes in the area, people struggled financially and providing a blessed Christmas was out of the question. Partnering with local schools, the identity of those people can be protected. Schools know the financial situation of many because of the free and discount lunch programs offered to those struggling financially.

How do I know?

Not too long ago, my family, living in a very nice home in a bucolic neighborhood, struggled financially. I had been unemployed for about five years at the time. From the outside, you would not know. The yard was well-kept, the gardens weed-free and the curb-appeal was wonderful. I had plenty of time to do the work, unfortunately.

Inside, we struggled to put food on the table, keeps the lights on and the children clothed. I would work any odd job I could to raise some funds, but mainly we lived off the savings stored during better times and liquidated retirement funds enduring the double-whammy of taxes and penalties for early withdrawals. Several times, we refinanced the house to use the equity to pay the mortgage. A one point, we thought about selling the house and renting an apartment only to realize we didn’t have enough for a security deposit and a credit rating so bad, no one would rent to us.

I applied to many jobs with a 100% rejection rate. I even applied to companies such as McDonalds, Burger King, Lowes and Home Depot to work any kind of job to bring in some money only to be turned down. My education and experience precluded me from such jobs because they knew it was only a temporary job.

Finally, I was able to obtain a “job” conducting training. I was paid for the days I trained. The pay was minimal, and the employer was very crafty in deducting fees from the little they did pay. I traveled 100% the time, supporting the employer’s business using my personal credit card. Hotel and meals were reimbursed but after some delay. Despite the low pay and full-time travel, I was able to pay enough bills to keep from going bankrupt quickly.

My children were registered for the free lunch program at the local elementary school. At least they got a decent meal Monday through Friday. Dinners were pretty thin on content, but at least they got food. There wasn’t any room in the budget for extraneous expenses or purchases.

Christmastime was coming and as I sat in my hotel rooms night after night, I wondered what Christmas was going to be like that year. The years prior, Christmas was low on festivities and presents, but the children understood because I wasn’t working. This year was different since I was working and their expectations were higher. Not that my children wanted that much in the way of presents, but I could see they were more excited. How could I tell them this year was worse than the previous years because the savings and retirement funds were gone and the money I was making only paid for half of the monthly bills? I remember the night in that hotel room when I was literally being crushed by the thought of another year, when it is supposed to be joyous, being so disappointing for my children. I have never felt a worse feeling than being a father and husband who couldn’t support his family.

I hold a master’s degree in computer science. I developed software that millions of people used. I wrote hundreds of articles that helped shape the telecommunications industry. I was considered excellent at everything I did professionally. And yet, no one would hire me. The only job I could get didn’t even support my family. I shouted at the top of my lungs, “God, make this year different. Let it be a Christmas where my family experiences the Love of Christ, not just in words or a few songs, but in action. I don’t want to go to church, sing all those songs and put a smile on my face as if everything is just fine. God, we need a miracle.”

We received a call from my children’s school asking if there was anything we needed in the way of Christmas presents or food or clothing. My wife took the call while I was traveling. She said yes to all. When she told me about it, I could only gasp. She told me of gifts we had received, ones we could never have afforded. She described the wonderful food provided for a Christmas meal. And then she told me of the jackets we received. There was even one for me. It was a true blessing. I thought of the Christmas Carol story and how Uncle Scrooge finally learned the true meaning of life – doing for others.

I wore that jacket for years. It was my favorite jacket because of the story behind it. The day finally came to donate it to another needy person. As I placed that jacket in the box, I prayed over it.

I said, “Lord, I thank you for this jacket. I thank you for the way it came to me in my time of need and you heard my prayer (venting). I thank you it kept me warm all these years. I ask You bless the person who donated the money for this jacket that he or she receives a ten-fold return. I pray for the person who receives this jacket. May it keep him as warm as it kept me. I ask he receives it and Your Warm Love just as I did when I received it. May he come to know You are his personal Savior. And Lord, I pray You give me the ability and the opportunity to donate jackets, food and presents to those in need. Amen.” I sealed up the box and gave that jacket away.

In Acts 1:8, it talks about ministering to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the world. Since that day I gave the jacket away, the Lord has provided the ability and the opportunities to minister to Judea, Samaria and all around the world through the missions and missionaries I support. With the outreach to the local schools, I can now serve Jerusalem, my local community. The local school only needed 20 children supported for this Christmas. The pastor preprinted 20 envelopes. I ran to the front of the line. I wasn’t going miss my opportunity to give to that child in my community. May he or she be blessed. I pray he or she and the entire family know the love of Jesus this Christmas. I want them to know people, their neighbors, care about what they are going through and want to help. No condemnation. No judgement. No animosity. I want the father and husband to realize there are others who understand that feeling of failure, frustration, and self-doubt. I want him to realize he is loved by a fellow man and by Jesus Christ. I want that family to simply understand the love of Christ working through us to them.

Merry Christmas. Christ is more than the reason for the season. Christ is Christmas. God’s greatest gift to all mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ.


#offeringthoughts

Copyright © 2018 David A. Zimmer, All Rights Reserved.



God Can Take Your Mumblings and Bless Others, If You Let Him

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes I think I need to get the whole message from Him before I can deliver it. I have learned, though, He will speak pieces of a message to me and speak pieces to others. The combined message only comes out when we work together or talk to each other.

When I am developing my Offering Thoughts, I purposely do not look at what Pastor Craig’s, the lead pastor at River of Life Church, sermon topic. I like it when the message God has spoken to me coincides, supports, aligns with or, in some other fashion, connects with Pastor Craig’s sermon topic or a word the Lord brings through someone in the congregation. It builds my faith and trust I am hearing His voice.

Here is a great testimony by Steven Furtick of Elevation Church and Elevation Worship Music. He describes how God created “Oh Come To The Altar” by speaking to several people of his music ministry. That song has blessed me, and many others, over and over. Listen in as Steven describes the creation of the song.

#offeringthoughts

Copyright © 2018 David A. Zimmer, All Rights Reserved.



How Do I Know If I’ll Go To Heaven? “I Don’t Know.”

God has had His Hand upon my life from the very beginning. I don’t know if it was the habit instilled in me by my parents or a natural desire or God’s calling, but I have had an interest in knowing God from the time I was young.

I remember in Boy Scouts that I was appointed the troop’s chaplain although I had no formal training in religious affairs or direct relationship with God. I just had a desire to know God, although I didn’t know Him.

I do remember the two years of Catechism classes in the Lutheran Church, required for Confirmation which would lead to the ability to receive Communion with real wine and wafers at the ripe age of thirteen or so. I remember disliking those classes because they were always on a Saturday morning which eliminated camping with the Boy Scouts for two years (unless I played hooky from Catechism – an unpardonable sin, I’m sure).

At the end of those two years of church history and dogma lessons, I still had a burning question: What were the criteria to get into heaven? I didn’t know the truth of God’s Word. I never heard of the plan of Salvation. And I certainly never understood what Christ did for me on Calvary or the full meaning of His Resurrection. I had heard of Christ’s death and resurrection, but never how they pertained to me personally nor what I was supposed to do with that information.

On the final day of class, the pastor who led the classes asked if we had any questions. No one asked any. Finally, I mustered the strength and courage to raise my hand and asked the most important question of my life. “How do I know for sure if I were to die today, I would go to heaven?”

Simple. Direct. To the point.

To this day, I thank God for the pastor’s honesty. His response was sincere and equally to the point. Had he said anything else, I would have died in my sins and gone to Hell. My desire and need for the truth would have been satisfied. He simply said, “I don’t know.”

Of course, it floored me and I stomped out of the room angry and bitter for losing two years of camping with the Boy Scouts while listening to the boring ongoings about church history and dogma. Who cared!? What did all that ancient history have to do with me? What was the importance of knowing that stuff if you can’t answer an eternal question such as assurance of heaven versus hell?

Being only thirteen or so at the time, I put my search aside a bit. I wandered into other “religions” to see if they held a clue. The books I read I borrowed from my brother who was older by four years. The books were beyond my level of understanding, though they taught many interesting concepts. None gave me the guarantee for which I was searching – eternity in Heaven.

Finally in 1974, my mother came across some radio broadcasts that seemed to make sense, but more importantly, they offered the guarantee for salvation. Of course by then, I was a full-fledged teenager with all the wisdom bestowed on one of such an age. I had run into several people who were Jesus-freaks and basically the radio messages were trying to make me into one of them. Although I listened, they didn’t have much effect on me – initially.
Eventually, the seeds fell among good soil, sprouted and produced in September 1974. I don’t remember the exact date, time, or circumstances. Frankly they are not important. What is important is I gave my heart, soul, and mind to Christ. And, I became a Jesus-freak.

Over the past 30 plus years, I have learned wisdom and temperance along with my zeal for the Word. I have gone through many circumstances. I have seen many come and go. But the greatest thing I have learned is, regardless of others around you, regardless of circumstances and situations, and regardless of your current mood, God’s Word is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing matters, only God’s Word matters. Base everything on His Word and you will have a firm foundation. Without His Word, you have no foundation, nothing to base your life on other than what you can see, taste, smell, feel, or hear – everything that is untrustworthy. God calls them the “unfruitful things.”

Today, I enjoy my walk with Christ. I wish I could say that it is always up and always intimate, but it would not be true. Fortunately, I know He sticks closer than a brother, He is always there, and even when I am more aloof than close, He is still there.

But most importantly, I know in Whom I have trusted. My search for guaranteed salvation ended back in September 1974. I have had no need or desire to see if there is anything else. I am not enlightened, tuned-in, turned-on, or otherwise, with the latest spiritual craze or fad. I am just a simple person, believing and knowing that God’s Word is truer today than ever, more appropriate than ever, and more needed today than ever.

I know the Bible has the answers the world is so desperately seeking but refuses to see because it is the Truth.

Mark Twain once quipped, “People will believe anything but the truth.” People will believe in their own intelligence and the ideas they create. They support them by rationalizations, but their ideas have no foundation.

When you know the Truth, you know the Truth. As the scriptures say, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”*

If you don’t know that freedom and you have looked for it, you can stop looking now. Jesus Christ is the Truth. There simply ain’t no other. Let me say that again for emphasis. There is no other. No other leader, prophet, priest or person under heaven or on earth that can set you free from the damnation of Hell. Only Christ Jesus – crucified, died, and resurrected.

While you might not believe it, or believe God exists, or believe Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, He still believes in you and died for you. But you have to accept the gift. So, simply get over stupidity, pride, ego, and whatever else. It isn’t about how rich you are, how talented you are or how great you are. It is all about what Christ did for you. Period.

David A. Zimmer

 


*  John 8:31, 32 NKJV Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

#offeringthoughts

Copyright © 2018 David A. Zimmer, All Rights Reserved.