The Day Ronin Acknowledged God As His Shogun

August 10th, 2014, forever known as the day I acknowledged God as God. In these three years, it’s been an interesting journey. I have a picture on my wall from that day, mostly inexpressive, looking into the camera. What a change since then, and the year before.

The Day the World Stopped

It started a little over a year earlier. I had been attending church out of obligation. When my godson was killed in an accident in my home, the church surrounded us. Even our jobs helped where they could.

An investigation started on us, and I eventually became the focus of it. I looked for an attorney, finding I couldn’t afford one and was starting to panic as paranoia crept in. That’s just the outside, inside I was either numb or angry, in shock or filled with anxiety and guilt.

And I couldn’t stop the tremors in my hands.

My wife and I were in counseling for six free sessions through a program offered by work. It was a nightmare to get her in due to a lack of an interpreter. Our pastor filled that role, later taking on counseling us both since our insurance wouldn’t pay for psychotherapy. I paid out of pocket for as long as I could, lamenting my own turmoil.

Broken

At one point in August 2013, I was completely broken. I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare, sure I was going to jail, hated by others, and hating myself. I sat crying in a pew at church while everyone was singing Just As I Am.

Weeping and sobbing, I made the chorus into the most sincere prayer I’ve probably ever prayed.

I come broken to be mended,
I come wounded to be healed,
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled…

God Begins to Move…

Things began to happen. A lawyer offered his services to us free of charge. My wife was cleared, though I was arrested and charged with child endangerment. They let me out on a signature bond, and the officers that did the booking paperwork acknowledged that is was an accident.

The court process went smoothly, so smoothly that our attorney remarked he’d never seen a case go so smoothly. I was given probation, a suspended jail sentence, a fine, and I could never get a concealed carry permit in the state again. That was the deal, and we only had one quibble that quickly went our way.

This, among other things falling so easily into place, despite the emotional turmoil and probability, I began to suspect someone was working in the background.

These lyrics from Andrae Crouch’s song came to mind to explain the year between the accident and my baptism.

Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God

Reborn

The Year of the Prodigal goes over 2014 in depth. I began to study the book of James and reading Immediate Obedience. I was learning how to follow Christ. In that year, I realized I was a lot like the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke, and God is the loving Father.

The Year of Renewal was spent diving into apologetics, and slowly turning away from things that didn’t honor God. During that year, I was diagnosed with PTSD, yet Christ works best with broken things.

I walked away from a business I had inherited the previous year, that had made the original owner wealthy. It didn’t fit me now, I was a new creation. That year rather than being a prodigal, I felt like I had been worked on by a divine blacksmith in life’s fires.

Growing Pains

2016 was the Year of Searching and Growth, where I worked on developing relationships and philosophical musings on God. I felt like I was being prepared for something, and I’m still not totally sure for what.

I lost two friends in a week’s time as I continued searching for my purpose. Occasionally struggling with the idea of relationships, because I think God is getting a chuckle at making a loner logician value and understand people from an emotional perspective.

The end of the year brought our second pregnancy along with our second miscarriage. We grieved, we questioned, yet we trusted God. This was a fire that tempers or destroys faith, and considering how I got here, it was a hotter fire that brought me to Him.

Faith was grounded, tested, and proved that year.

What About Now?

This year has just been me given greater roles at work and church, relationships developing and growing, and working on one big thing. The contrast from then and now has been a complete 180. I’m not sure if any of my old friends understand it, maybe they will if they read this. I’ve even lost some friends.

Still, tomorrow is my 3-year Rebirthday. 🙂

Paul vs James; Saved By Grace or Works?

bible-question-markAre we saved by grace or works? Do Paul and James contradict each other? These questions pop up occasionally, like in class the other day. In case you’ve wondered as well, I’ll take you through the issue.

How Are You Saved?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

You’re saved by the gift and favor of God (grace), through the trust and assurance (faith) that He provides, so that no one can brag. God provides that faith when you hear the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).

Here’s the part people don’t quote very often…

For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Created with a purpose, to do good works/deeds—we’ll get back to that—that God has already prepared in advance for us to do. Being a saved, adopted child of God isn’t just a Get Out Of Hell Free card. God has some important Kingdom business planned for us. James calls people out that ignore that last part.

Faith Without Deeds

 4f25d89ae82e5052b4d233f8cdcc9751What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:14-26 NIV

I love the book of James. It’s been my favorite since God slapped me with James 3:1 one night. I was struggling with an issue, a newborn Christian, praying about and leaning towards lecturing the parties involved. It wasn’t about me. I was just gonna get on my high horse.

A still, small voice inside said, “James 3”.
“What?” I’d never read James before.
“James 3.”

I popped it open on my Bible app and the first thing I read was, “Not many of you should become teachers…” I had to sit down. Then I devoured the chapter. Every word piercing deep. I call it the night that God told me to shut up.

What Is James Talking About?

He’s talking about the saving faith that you have is so transforming your life that it’s evident to those around you. Mere intellectual assent doesn’t do that. Acknowledging Jesus walked the earth isn’t the same as following him as Lord and Savior.

Our actions reveal our worldviews. When we say one thing but do another, it’s hypocrisy, no matter the worldview. When we say it, and live it out, we back it up with some credibility—revealing the strength of our faith.

In James’ examples, Abraham and Rahab believed first, which is faith. That’s what justified them. Then they acted on that faith, which proved that they really trusted God.

But…James 2:24?

Look at the context of the passage rather than just a single verse. Be a good exegete. Admittedly, it is
confusing. Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Reformation, allegedly said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

How Can I Reconcile Ephesians 2 and James 2?

I outlined the two passages and they mesh really well as you will see:how-to-reconcile-eph-2-8-10-and-james-2-14-26

Salvation is a gift of God
by stepping into the trust that God enables
not because of anything you have done.
Crafted by God
not self-made
to do the good works God set for you.
Showing your faith through your works
that authenticate the testimony of a changed life.

Now the question is, do you have a dead faith? All that a Christian does is because of God and through His power. Go to Jesus, accept the gift, get the true faith, and live life abundantly.