These are things God has done. These are Redemption Stories.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Redemption Story #6 - The War Inside

Mine is a story of Love.
I grew up in a home with two of the most fantastic, loving, and spiritually stable parents a person could ever grow up with. I had a childhood that was virtually free of trauma, free of worry, and surrounded by beautiful scenery, adventures, open fields and small town ignorance which as a child, is just the kind of naivety that could make someone believe anything was possible.
I've been extremely shy for as long as I can remember, and growing up it was the most natural thing for me to want to be good at things like public speaking or acting and yet be crippled with stagefright and the anxiety that brings. 
Growing up in the church and learning every Bible story that could be found in the Old Testament through Christian elementary school and church served me well, and as well as teaching me about a loving God, it increased my desire to learn about other things. See, I've always been interested in philosophies of any sort, and well crafted world views always gave me pleasure to read, especially if they were done in intriguing ways.
So I've always had a strong foundation, but sometimes it takes more difficult situations to bridge the gap between heart and head. 
After moving to Chilliwack in middle school, I (the shy one, you recall) had to make new friends and start from scratch, changing the entire environment I'd become accustomed to. I found this extremely difficult at first, but like everything difficult in middle school, two weeks later you look back and find that things were not quite as impossible as you might have believed. 
All the way through high school I went to church, even was on youth leadership teams and became a leader at a local youth group, and this was good for me, but once again, my knowledge and understanding of scripture, though logical and well-reasoned, never cut into my heart. But more on that in a moment.
After high school I continued on in youth leadership, and still when my parents, and some of my family, moved away for missions work to England, I was eighteen at this point.
Things seemed to go alright for a time after that, but after a bad break-up, and financial difficulty, and added to that the lack of peer-pressure (far more dangerous than peer-pressure itself for someone trying to stand against the current) led me to explore for myself the means for making myself happy. 
Here I need to mention another blessing. That mind that was given to me by God is the same one that (pridefully at the time) I cherished far more than escape. For, I thought, what am I, if I cannot think? According to certain philosophers, if I cannot think, I cannot be sure I exist, so why would I diminish my consciousness? I tried to lean on alcohol for a time, but both my stomach, and my mind, would not allow this. This is something I thank God for often. 
So I was working to live, and my free time was spent wasting my mind (I'd long given up my reading) on video games, movies, and parties. My parents did almost literally everything they could to support me all my life, but sufficed to say, there are things one cannot be protected from. 
I think, now looking back, that I was probably quite depressed, but all I knew was that I was "free". But instead of being filled with joy, I was filled with frustration.
But like any situation in which tension increases, there comes a breaking point. Throughout this whole depression and spiral "out of control"(about as close as I ever came), I had never, and have never(another blessing), cursed God or asked him to leave my life. One things that I could never let go was that he was there, and though I never lived like it, even then, I thought that if he did end up being real, that it would be better for me to have never rejected him outrightly, it felt too weighty.
There came a point where I thought to myself that it was ridiculous to hold on to old fashioned beliefs that I didn't even have any proof existed, after all, what was the difference between when I went to church and when I stopped? I was determined to find out for sure. So I made a deal with God(traditionally this does not go well for those who make them.) I said to him, "I will read my Bible, and pray, every single day for two weeks, and if I don't notice a difference between now and then, and if nothing changes and I'm not spoken to in that time, then you aren't real, and this conversation will have been wasted on the air."
Three days later, my friends and I all were camping in the back yard with a fire, there were a lot of people there, drinking and having fun in those sorts of ways. I began to become upset with myself for the ways I hadn't been able to live according to Biblical laws in those few days, and that I hadn't stuck to what I'd promised. Three days into reading my Bible and I had become pharisaic and legalistic. But just like before, and like it had always been, my judgment was reserved for myself.
That night I left and went inside to my room and grabbed my Bible. I felt angry for no reason, I felt disheartened and alone. I felt as though the turmoil in my soul would never cease, much less be understood by another person. As a person who holds onto rationalism and unemotional thought, I was hoping for an epiphany, after which the whole world would be come clear, if only my moral and mental glasses could find the correct prescription.
I was reading in Romans, in chapter 7, and praying to God for a restoration. For a change, for a spark, for anything that would help me understand why I sinned, why did I hate, why I despaired. 
And this is what I read: "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Suddenly I was overwhelmed by a feeling I could never remember feeling ever before. It was like the understanding of myself and my failure to trust God, my failure to love or have patience for or find peace with others all became transparently clear, and tears filled my eyes. I immediately had my eyes opened to see the life I was in, this body of death, that reeked of the deterioration of the body and spirit I was intended to have, and the hate and the lack of life that was in my anger. 
What only makes sense to remedy anger that has no real reason is a Love that goes beyond reason, and peace that passes all understanding. Paul, the moral teacher and writer of most of the New Testament, admits his lack of ability to follow every rule and be pure without God, and that there is a continual war waging inside himself, the very same war that had created chaos and frustration in my heart all that time. 
So there I was, at the beginning of a long journey, where before I was full of anger and frustration, full of despair and hate. And with a carefully timed and placed "I love you," from the God of the universe, I was elevated to heights I never thought possible, to understand peace in spite of circumstances, to understand grace, to understand forgiveness, and all of these in unlimited quantities, became the reality of the conversion of my heart. No longer was my life inconsequential, no longer would I think about things of no purpose, but I would set my sights on heaven. Though at the time this seemed simple, the weight of that moment, and the recognition that someone as foolish and destroyed could be loved was the single most important anchor point in my life. 
Though it was only the start of the fully accepted conversion of my soul, and though difficulty was far from over, I can look back and see this as the balance point of my life, the time when I was redeemed, saved from pain and frustration from looking to myself to make myself perfect, and accepting what has been freely given. The love of Christ.
"Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
-Jordan Rempel

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Redemption Story #5 - Secret

I was an addict; actually a porn addict to be specific. I would feed and feed my addiction, not knowing how much damage it can do to a life.

I was baptized, said the right words, went to church and a Christian school. But all the while, I was still seeking something more; seeking fulfilment as we all do to fill that void within us. But here I was, living a life of addiction, and being a normal church-going person. How can someone like me commit his life to Christ and not seek him with a pure heart?

"A fresh water spring can not produce both fresh water and salt water. A fig tree can not produce thorns, nor can a thorn tree produce figs."

I was also a perfectionist. It was easy to pretend like everything was ok, that there was nothing utterly wrong with my life. I liked to think that I had my life all figured out, and that I was a good person, well disciplined. After all I did not do drugs, smoke, drink, or any of that jazz. Except, my heart was still focused on something else. I was in addiction. But it seemed all the while normal.

People thought I was good: I had good friends and people liked me. But people did not know my heart. And I was not vulnerable enough to expose the true state of my heart.

My parents went out one night to Bible Study, and I went and fed my addiction. That night my parents found out what had been consuming my life.

It was only until that point did I realize what a mess my life had become. I realized that I was flawed, imperfect, sinful, and had fallen short.

Because of my imperfection, my big problem, my sin, I became depressed. I felt no reason to live. For why live if we can not aspire to consistent perfection?

I often wondered why this would happen to me, or why God would let this happen to me.

One day, I just wanted to get away alone. I fled away from my troubles, all my problems, just to a place where it was just me. I cried out to God, prayed, and waited on Him to answer me.

From that day forward, I consistently felt God assuring me of His love for me. He loves me, He loves me, He loves me. He loves me despite what I have done, despite my imperfection, despite my flaws. He loves me because He created me. And even though I might have been drifting away from him, He is pursuing me with the same passion and love that Jesus the Son used to bring Him to the point of death for us on the cross.

I felt God's peace come over me. I phased out of this dark season, and invested my life into serving Him in any way possible. God brought me out of a dark season. I started investing my life in missions. I am now clean from my addiction, and look to God for His fulfillment in my life.

I am now a full-time missionary with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), loving to know God and make Him known throughout the world.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Redemption Story #4 - My Road to Redemption

I used to be lost, on drugs, and (at one point) homeless. Living on the streets, thankfully not for very long.

My life growing up was very hard. I felt lost most of the time and didn't feel like I fit in society.

My dad died when I was young (12 years old), and from then on I struggled a lot to find myself and my purpose in life. By the time I was fifteen, I was hooked on crystal meth and crack cocaine. I was in and out of jail my whole life. I was lost and very angry growing up, angry at my situation in life. I was hurt by how my life turned out, I lacked guidance and I was constantly in and out of foster homes.

Not having any kind of parents or guidance growing up, I turned to a life of drugs and crime. Drugs were my escape from reality, but drugs led me to crime, and crime led me to jail. I spent the last 10 years of my life in and out of jails all over British Columbia. But... I found God in jail.

There I was, sitting in holding cells for 5 days, coming down off all the drugs I had polluted myself with. I was looking at 4 years in prison for armed robbery at a liquor store. I was lost and broken and I needed a change. So I cried out to God to come into my life, and help me get clean and sober. The Holy Spirit was planted, every day in jail I woke up and started to pray. I prayed for strength to get me through.

Since I was looking at a very long time, I had to be strong, so I prayed for strength, and God heard my prayers just like the prayer in Jonah 2.

It was very hard being a Christian in jail, I wanted to share this thing that was growing in me, it was the Spirit inside me. I prayed for all the men in there to find God. I have seen what drugs have done to me and to the men in jail, we all had similar stories.

I attended the prison church service's every Sunday. I went around every week door to door gathering every and any one I could to go to church with me. Not only was I saved, but God used me to bring about fifteen other men to him. There was ten of us that would wear crosses and go around praying for the guys. The guards thought we were a new gang - we were, but it was God's gang! We were spreading the spirit of Christ with murderers, drug addicts, and criminals. God was with us, the guards couldn't believe what was happening.

I spent 13 months in jail, and I am finally free from the darkness of prison and the evil that lies behind its walls.

For the first time in my life, I feel free. Not because I am out, but because God has redeemed me of my past life. Today, I'm sober, starting new, and loving the life God has given me. I don't feel lost anymore, instead I feel loved, and I'm trusting God completely with my life. I have been through hell and back, but it took me to go there to be here today.

I feel redeemed.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Redemption Story #3 - The Journey

I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents and 4 siblings. We went to church every Sunday and I always knew who God was. I always knew Him but it took me a while to actually take my faith seriously and start truly living for Him. 

I went to a few different schools when I was younger, each time having to start over, and making new friends wasn’t easy for me. I gave in to peer pressure a few times trying to impress my “friends” and bullied a few people just to gain acceptance. It never did end up making me good friends, but I learned that the hard way.

During all this I continued to learn more about God and one Sunday the pastor asked if anyone would like to come to the front and pray with someone, and give their lives to God. I didn’t go to the front, but I sat there, talked to God and decided I wanted to make that choice for myself. I wanted to live for God and for a greater purpose than myself. Things didn’t change overnight but it started me on a new and exciting journey. Eventually I made some good friends, and we all went through high school together. 

Things went pretty well until my last year of high school. About half way through the year I started to lose my motivation to do well in school, hang out with my friends, and eventually to do pretty much anything. I had a lot of negative thoughts, and I wondered if anyone would even miss me if I was gone. 

I completely denied it at the time, but I was depressed. I slept all the time, my grades started to slip, and it became a struggle to just get through the day. I was in denial, and never told anyone what was really going on. This whole time I always knew God, knew that He loved me and that He didn’t want me to live like this. It got to the point where I had to make a choice. Was I going to sleep my life away, maybe even end it, or was I going to trust God and let Him help me?

And by the grace of God, I made that choice and finally let Him in. It didn’t happen instantly but slowly things began to change. I decided to go to Bolivia, and do Youth With A Mission (YWAM) over there. It was such a help with staying away for the depression and it seriously changed my life. (I would recommend it to anyone who wants to grow with God!) The things I learned, the people I met, what I saw and experienced, it was incredible! I will never forget those 5 wonderful months. 

I learned so much about who I am in Christ and was healed from so many of the things I had been holding onto for years. I was finally free!!  God changed my heart, He spoke to my soul, He invaded my mind, and He forever changed me. I came back and the culture shock was hard but it was so awesome to be able to share with my friends and family all that I experienced and what God did. I was finally able to go to Youth Church! I had good friends to come back to, supportive parents, and I got plugged in at church. I joined a small group and met some awesome new people. I got to know God in such a real, deep way; I just couldn’t get enough of Him!

I am changed. I now know God has a very specific purpose for my life and I trust Him to lead my on the path He has prepared for me. I know He’s always with me no matter what I face I am never alone. When I feel discouraged or depressed I can turn to God and I know those things do not have control of me anymore. I am forgiven! I do not have to live with the shame, because I am free. I’m not who I was and I never have to be that person again. My hope is in God and my help comes from Him. God has never let me down and He continues to work in and through me. I know I am accepted by Him and don’t have to gain acceptance from other people. He loves me like no one else. He has brought so many wonderful people into my life and even the last few years since YWAM He has continued to teach me so much and bless me over and over. I am so thankful for all He has done in my life. I can honestly say I would not be where I am or who I am today if it wasn’t for God’s love and power to save.