“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10 NKJV).
God is the Great Artists. If you simply look around at this world and all the beauty of God’s hands, and if you look up at the stars and see the heavens above, He is an artist. Imagine we are chunks of rocks, and God is the sculptor. He created us, and He works on us and forms us. At times it feels like a chisel and hammer. Sometimes I feel like I have been in the furnace and God brings me out to lay me on the anvil. His hammer strikes, forms, molds, and sharpens. Like fine metal in the refiners furnace he purifies us. The impurities float to the surface, and He removes the dross. So it can be rightly said that we are His workmanship.
He formed us in the womb (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5) and we were born of water (natural birth). For those of us who belong to Jesus, we were born of the Spirit (John 3:5). We were created in Christ by God’s Holy Spirit. Born again from death into life . Real, living faith produces good works (nothing to do with salvation), and our purpose in Christ on this world is for good works. Every believer, follower of Jesus, has a purpose while we are sojourning here.
I find the scripture on this to be very comforting. The good works that God has for us to do, He has prepared them beforehand. So prior to being born again, prior to new life in Christ, God has a plan for us. The plan for us even before the creation of the world was to belong and be in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4). And after our new birth, God has a purpose and plan for us to follow. There is a path that God has laid out before us to follow, and we will follow it (Proverbs 16:9).
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15 NKJV).
This text has so much significance, and I would say its the ultimate target that I am striving toward. That those of us who live because of what Jesus did for us, should no longer live for ourselves, but we should live fully, without reservation, and completely for Him. Oh how the church, at least in America, would look differently if each and every Christian died to self and lived for Jesus utterly and totally.
Our old man was crucified with Jesus (Romans 6:6), and it is no longer Daniel who lives, but Christ that lives in me. And the life which I now live in this body, I live by trusting in Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). My ultimate desire is to live for Jesus in all things, and that I would be pleasing to Him. I am and I want to continue fulfilling that plan that He has for my life, and when I stand before Him I want to hear those words, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 5:21). I want to enter into His joy.
Ministry wise, for around a decade through my mid-latter college years and time in preparation, God had allowed me to serve in a number of ways. I had served in partial pastoral ministry, convalescent ministry to the elderly, children’s ministry, youth ministry, evangelism, missions, construction ministry, drama ministry, service ministry, cleaning ministry, multimedia, ushering, small groups, special events coordination, prayer team, event ministries, apologetics, and teaching. My heart and love for God’s people is from the youngest to the oldest, and serving Christ is more important than anything else. I want to wake up everyday and breathe Christ. I want the labor of my hands to be for His glory, and I want the places my feet travel to be for His work. I never want to do anything else in my life.
It was with faith and obedience that I left Houston and moved to Tulsa. We left everything behind for Jesus. There is nothing more important in my life than Him. We were sent out to start a church there, and within three months of moving, the doors were open. We started off in an elementary school like many other new churches. Sadly and just as quickly, we ran out of money and had to suspend our activities. Shutting down was terrible, and one of the darkest moments of my life.
In hind sight, I would have done things differently. I feel like we failed because some poor decisions I made. I take complete responsibility for it. For anyone going out to start a church, I would say once you arrive spend a year praying, getting to know the area, and meeting people. Start slowly. Get a job first, so that whatever work you start has funds to support it, and don’t spend all your reserves up front. I did not get a job until a month after we had to close our doors. Also, develop a base of faithful people who will commit to praying and financially supporting the new work. God will bring those people into your life, and they will be faithful to support as Aaron and Hur supported Moses (Exodus 17:10-12). Communicate with them. Stay close to the Lord, stay focused, flee from sin, stay pure, fight the good fight, and cling to the Lord with all your strength.
We were in the Tulsa area for about five years. Seeing it now, I believe some of that time, at least a couple of years, was my time in the wilderness. Moses spent a long time in the fields as a shepherd (Exodus 3:1) before God called him to the main portion of his service to the Lord. David was the same. Paul passed three years in Arabia and Damascus before moving into the ministry Christ had for him (Galatians 1:16-19). So there appears to be a pattern. The best thing to do is serve where God allows and in time God will move you where He would have you in each part of your life. Be patient, serve Him, remain faithful.
If my time in Tulsa, the first part, was a test, I would say I failed miserably. With the church failing to take root, I was not sure who I was anymore. I was completely sure that starting a church was the purpose of my life. There was a time in 2006, where I was hoping to start again, but things were so unhealthy that I did not follow that course. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically broken for a variety of reasons.
I now realize that God used the experiences in the first couple of years in Tulsa to allow me to really be broken. After all I had prayed for patience and that God would bring me to a place of utter dependence on Him. I had to go through a time of testing, failure, and brokenness for God to really be able to use me. Its the foolish and weak things God chooses to use (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
We can do nothing on our own, only in Christ. There is no place for self in a servant of God. We are utterly dependent on Him for everything, so believe and trust in Him through every storm, time of trouble, and weakness. You may have a plan in your heart, but God is the one that directs your steps down the path (Proverbs 16:9).
The first part of Tulsa for me would be to see what was important in my life. Would I follow Christ and forsake everything else? Would I go where sent? Would I leave it all for Him? And then what would I do when my plans didn’t work out? Would I look for His plan rather than my own? Would I hold to Him through mistakes and failure? The testing would not end there as I would find out.
In Luke 22, during the Last Supper, Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked for him, that Peter might be sifted as wheat. But Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail, and when Peter had returned to Jesus, that Peter would strengthen his brethren. I could say that my time in Tulsa was not only a time in the wilderness, but also a time of sifting. My love and trust in Jesus never did fail, but I was sifted and broken beyond anything I would have expected. I failed in many ways, but I know the grace of God. I know His mercies. It would take time for me to recover. Everything I went through, in the end, God would use to rebuild and strengthen me.