Steve's Story

Steve's Story: Some Friendly Give and Take

Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth

It had once been my dream to have a Timberworks outlet store in malls all over the South, selling our handmade, original design furniture with its Scandinavian flair. This was slowly morphing into a Christian purpose. Since I had undoubtedly been called to some form of fulltime ministry, I began to speculate about how these two “careers” could mesh. It seemed eminently reasonable to me that the Lord would want to build up Timberworks to the point where it could support June and me for domestic or overseas evangelistic trips. Or perhaps our ministry would be supporting those already in the field. There were all kinds of possibilities.

One day the Lord drew me into a vision concerning Timberworks. I normally don’t receive visions from the Lord in either 3D or living color; they are more like the original vision I had of Him in heaven—hazy, much like how the old black and white televisions with rabbit ears were hazy, but real nevertheless. In my mind’s eye I was being shown a stage with two displays on view and another one hidden behind a curtain. Let’s Make a Deal was a well-known game show from the ‘60s onward. Jesus was playing the role of the show’s perennial host, Monty Hall. He was telling me I could have either of the main ideas I was toying with that I mentioned above—they were good ideas. Or I could trade them in for what was behind the curtain, a typical game show gamble. I asked, “Lord, what’s behind the curtain?” That’s My idea for your future. “Well, can’t You just show it to me?” The only way to find out is for you to choose it and then follow Me step-by-step. Without the slightest hesitation I said, “Then that’s the one I want!” How can life become an adventure, if you remain in charge? Additionally, I wanted Him to maximize His use of me. I never imagined that this meant Timberworks (my baby!) would go on the chopping block. But it did.

Sometimes when you give things to the Lord, He turns them around and gives them right back to you, just as Abraham discovered when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. In the exchange we are set free from the fallen human tendency to seize hold of His gifts, seeking to be possessors rather than stewards, then watching Him closely as if the Lord was just itching to take them back. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that nothing that is not given to Him can ever be truly ours.[1] I have certainly found that to be the case at times. At other times He kept what I gave Him! My first discovery of this came very shortly after my conversion, when I vowed to give up coffee as a sign that my love for Him is even greater than what coffee had meant to me during my years in hell. He has held me to that vow, though not by force. The tug upon my heart has been very, very gentle—He even gave me leave once or twice to go back to drinking coffee. Grace is good! But as it happens, graced obedience is even better.

A similar tug-of-war occurred over something else that I gave to Him with a vow. It happened several months after my conversion fairly late at night when everyone else was in bed, including June. I was lingering at the kitchen table where I usually did my Timberworks homework. Jesus came in through the back door. I have no other way to describe it. I didn’t see Him with my eyes, but I could have pointed to His every movement in the room. He spoke into my mind that He was calling me to be as a John the Baptist to this generation to summon His people to repentance, and that I would have to live devoted to His commands and give up anything alcoholic. Of course I said yes. Who can stand in the manifest presence of the Beautiful One and withhold anything He might desire? I immediately gave up alcohol, but not without a struggle. In fact I took wine and beer back quite a few times, before finally deciding I wanted to find out what my life would be like if I kept that vow.

I am going to try not to leave room for two possible misunderstandings. The first would be that Jesus and God just don’t want anyone to drink anything alcoholic period. I personally think that idea is absurd—it is not supported by scripture, let alone by the life of Christ Himself, who was actually accused of being a drunkard. You don’t get charged with that for drinking grape juice! In addition, the recommendations in the Bible are all on the side of drinking wine; it’s even used for a sacrament, just as ample vineyards are a sign of blessing. On the other hand, the prohibitions are all on the side of not getting drunk, except of course being drunk in the Spirit which is a different matter altogether. I don’t have a tendency to alcoholism, so it won’t do to theorize that God was “trying to keep me safe.” That would be a misunderstanding of why He called me to a life of abstinence. The truth is that He didn’t say why; He only said that I was being called into a ministry like John’s. It is well-known that John the Baptist didn’t drink anything alcoholic, so I assume that has something to do with it, but I have learned it’s foolish to speculate about things the Lord doesn’t choose to reveal. Just obey. That proved hard enough, but once I settled into keeping the vow, the calling came to launch Healing Streams Ministry. With the Lord one thing leads to another, so long as we are letting Him do the leading.

[1] MERE CHRISTIANITY by CS Lewis © copyright CS Lewis Pte Ltd 1942, 1943, 1944, 1952.

 

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