Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Salvation: A Rose Garden with Thorns!

"Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Psalm 16:11

This scripture has always been special to me. If I had to pick one scripture that I could relate to my salvation, it would be Psalm 16:11.

Today's devotional will be more of a testimonial as June 21, 2006, I have been saved for 31 years.

I was saved at a prayer meeting that my oldest brother had just started attending (that was a miracle in itself). Although this meeting was quite different than what I was used to, God met me there with the abundance of His LOVE, and I knew that the God I had hated all my life LOVED me ("…..we love Him because He first loved us - 1 John 4:19). I just couldn't resist His LOVE (John 3:16) and DRAWING me to Him. ("No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…." - John 6:44).

I accepted Jesus as my LORD and Savior (Rom. 10:9,10) on June 21, 1975 and began my first 31 years of serving Jesus.

Although not all people have the same level of intensity when they get saved (and intensity means little in that respect), when I got saved the grass really did seem greener, the sky bluer. Finally, though previously I had wanted to die, I now had a reason to live!

As a new Christian (1975), I asked my parents to take me out of public high school and put me in a Catholic school, thinking that it would be the place for me. But in just one month, I felt that I really wanted to be back in public school with all my unsaved friends who were into drugs, alcohol, etc. I wanted no part of that lifestyle, but just knew that was where I belonged. Because this was where God wanted me, my unsaved friends at public school never did pull me down into sin. If they would have pulled me back down into sin, I believe God would have kept me out of that environment. Thanks be to God with His abundant grace and my love for Jesus, I did not fall back into the ways of my unsaved friends. I still spent some time with them, except when they did the drugs, alcohol, etc.; but most of my spare time was spent reading my Bible and praying.

By the time I was 16 years old, only a few months later, I had left the prayer group where I was saved because they did almost nothing to disciple me as a new believer, and I had become aware of carnal/flesh problems within the group.

From there I went to a small church group I learned about from a born again neighbor. This group had TWO leaders equal in authority (which I later saw can be a problem). I attended this group for awhile until one day one of the leaders gave a strange and short speech, grabbed his wife's hand, and left! I had just experienced something I didn't even know existed - a church split!

From that time on, God has led me, over the years, to various denominational and non-denominational churches. He has led me to attend various types of churches, which I believe has helped me to minister to those from different backgrounds.

On the personal side, my life wasn't a bed of roses and I don't believe God meant it to be. In 31 years I have seen and experienced religious deception through false teachers and false, ungodly manifestations. (Beware of manifestations that are unscriptural and magnify you, another person, or a group.) God, in His mercy, and my desire for truth got me out of those messes.

A few years back, I felt led to tell the pastor (now retired) I had in my late teens (in person and in an E-mail), that I was sorry for some of the stuff I may have put him through regarding my pride, thinking I knew so much when I really knew so little. I have also thanked him for staying faithful to the Word of God over the years and not being drawn away by the many winds of doctrine out there. ("That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive." - Ephesians 4:14)

In the past 31 years I have seen my family experience breakdowns (some ending in divorce). Also, close relatives die, including my mom who went to be with the LORD in her 50's with cancer. I have experienced backsliding (falling away from Jesus) to the extent where I was doing stuff I knew was wrong and sinful. But, again, God faithfully brought me out of those times into His loving arms.

I have had my battles with finances, depression, insomnia, etc., In some areas the victory is 100% manifested; but in other areas, I'm still trusting the LORD.

The bottom line is NO MATTER HOW ROUGH it gets at times, we should remember the words in the following scriptures: "….Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. - John 6:68 and "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." - Psalm 84:10

I say with GREAT JOY that MANY of my family members (nearly all immediate and many extended family members) are saved and living for Christ!

I would like to close with a few things I've learned during my first 31 years as a Christian:

1. Live humbly before God.
2. I keep in mind that I don't know very much and thank God for
what I do know.
3. Live today for Christ as if it is your LAST day! I've seen it
become the last day for many people over the last 31 years.
4. Study and follow the Word of God and not experiences that
may contradict the Bible. (II Timothy 2:15)
5. We can believe in every circumstance, good or bad (and both
will happen), that God will ultimately prove to be in control of
the situation! (Romans 8:28)
6. Respect godly leadership, but NEVER follow a man!
7. The importance of being part of a local body of believers. (Hebrews 10:25)
8. Be quick to forgive and quick to repent.
9. Do everything on God’s timetable –
Don’t rush ahead of God, don’t hesitate when He says GO.
10. Put Jesus first, Others second, and yourself last, and THEN you will truly experience the J.O.Y. of the LORD. (J.O.Y. is an acronym for Jesus, Others, Yourself)

My prayer is today’s devotional/testimony will minister to you and others.

Please feel free to pass this and any other devotions on to others.

In His Service (for 31 years),
Jim Mazzulla

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