Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who returns to his folly.
I mentioned previously that I had disobeyed God in the area of financial stewardship, and, when I cried out for deliverance from the burden of debt I had gotten myself into, the Lord graciously delivered us from all debt and gave me some much needed discipline at the same time. I wish I could say that the story ended there and that I continued in faithfulness from that day forward. Yet my covetous heart quickly led me to return to my old ways.
As with many people in their sins, I did not set out to deliberately disobey God. I simply found myself wanting something and I made some very bad justifications to convince myself that I was not sinning as I had formerly done. When the Lord had delivered us from debt, we were left with a positive sum of $8,000. I didn’t realize it at the time, but eight is the number of new beginnings, and God wanted us to start over fresh as we looked to Him to be our provider, and as we responded with willing obedience in all of our monetary decisions.
We only had one vehicle and I had wanted a pick-up truck for a long time. My wife and I talked about it and we decided that I should go ahead and purchase a truck while we had the money. I began looking around at both new and used trucks, and I found a new Mazda pick-up truck that was selling for about $13,000. I really liked this truck, and I decided that I wanted to buy it.
I justified this purchase like this. If I put down a large down payment then I really wouldn’t be in debt, for I could sell the truck at any time and get back more than I owed on it. Also, since I was now completely debt free, and I was still making the same amount of money as I did when I was in debt, I had lot’s of financial breathing room and could easily make the payments on this truck, which would only amount to about $150 a month. A third justification I used was that I had been told by relatives that buying used vehicles resulted in buying someone else’s problems, so you should always buy something new. I had never really bought into this argument, but it provided appropriate justification for my covetous heart at that moment.
It is amazing how blinded we can become by our carnal desires. God sent me some clear indications that this was not His will, but I discounted them. I had a conversation with the elder I had spoken of before, Bill Martin, who was now living in another town, and I told him what God had done for us and that I was going to buy a new truck. He told me over the telephone that he believed I was making a mistake and was heading right back into that which God had just delivered me from. I repeated to him my list of justifications and he then replied, “Okay, I won’t say anymore.”
I could wish that Bill would have been more forceful with me, even to threaten to come down and give me a whipping if I acted so foolishly by returning to my error. But He left me in God’s hands, and eventually God did give me the whipping I deserved.
God gave me one more opportunity to avert my course. My boss at work had a very nice Toyota four wheel drive pick-up truck and he heard that I was thinking about buying a truck. He approached me one day and told me about his truck, and, without knowing how much money I had available, he told me that he would sell his truck for $8,000. In hindsight I have chided myself many times for not paying attention to what God was saying. I could have had a truck that was probably a better truck than the one I ended up purchasing, and I could have paid cash for it and remained in the will of God by not incurring any debt.
There is no nice way to put it. I acted very foolishly. Having been a partaker of God’s grace and mercy, and having recognized His hand of discipline in my life, I returned to the same folly I had just been delivered from. Lest you should contemplate doing a similar thing, consider well the words of the apostle Paul.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
What the apostle is saying is that if we do not respond rightly to the original discipline, “the limb which is lame,” then the discipline will get more severe, “the limb will be put out of joint.” Paul revealed this same progression of the severity of discipline in writing to the Corinthian church. He said “some are weak and sick, and some sleep (have died).” Even in our nation’s judicial systems we see this pattern adhered to. First offenders are often given a light sentence, but repeat offenders are treated much more harshly. Little did I suspect what was in store for me.
I purchased this truck that I was lusting after, and it was not too long before I was justifying other purchases and I once more obtained credit cards. During these years I was receiving many raises at work, as I was advancing from one position to another. I never went back into the depths of debt that I originally knew, and I felt I was doing well by keeping on top of paying all of my bills, yet I was walking in disobedience.
During these years the Lord made it known that He had a calling on my life to be a minister to the body of Christ, and I was ordained as an elder at one church, and a year later I was ordained as an elder and pastor at another church. I really had a heart to serve God, and I was passionate about understanding the truths of His word, yet I had areas of my life that were out of order. I did not discern the many ways in which these areas of disorder were hindering me in fulfilling the ministry God had called me to, but God knew, and He loved me enough to choose to set matters straight.
I believe it was early in the year 1999 that my life began to head down a track I had not anticipated. The next years were to be some of the most beneficial, painful, instructive, corrective, enlightening, purging, fruitful years I would know. Pain and victory, sorrow and consolation, suffering and growth were all to be mixed together.
In early 1999 we had a couple visit our church and home by the name of Charles and Nancy Newbold. Charles is a Christian minister and author who lives in Tennessee. He had come down to our church in Georgia at the request of some of the other ministers to do some teaching. On this particular day, as Charles and Nancy were preparing to leave our home, they asked if there was anything they could pray for us about.
At this time I had been reading some books by Rick Joyner*, and in one of the books (I believe it was The Harvest) he described a dream-like experience where he was taken to an island. On this island there was much activity going on, some good and some evil. There were two different types of people present, some who appeared glorious, and others who lacked this glory.
(*I have other writings about Rick Joyner that teach the deception he is in. Not every word in his books is deception. http://www.heart4god.ws/index_htm_files/Double%20Jeopardy.pdf)
Mr. Joyner described one particular scene on this island. He saw Jesus standing with a sword in His hand and there was a line of people approaching Jesus. When a man or woman would stand directly in front of Christ He would plunge the sword into the person and they would fall down and die. None of the people in this queue were glorious in appearance, yet after they died they would arise and take on an appearance of glory.
An interesting thing about this was that some people, upon having the sword thrust into them, would die quickly and easily. Others underwent what appeared to be long torments, being in continuous agony, never seeming to be able to die, but continuing in their suffering. As Rick Joyner observed this he asked the Lord what made the difference between those who died quickly and those who went on in continuing agonies. The Lord responded, “Those who die quickly are those who ask Me to put them to death.”
I was very much gripped by what I read, and the Holy Spirit was ministering to me all the time. I understood the substance of those things being shared. As children of God we all must embrace the cross, which is an instrument of death. We must all come to an end of our independent and selfish ways that we might live as Christ who said, “I never do anything of My own initiative. I only do the will of the Father.” The Holy Spirit was impressing upon me that I needed to come to an end of independence in my life that I might be qualified as a vessel of honor in God’s house.
I had been dwelling upon these things for some days when the Newbolds came to visit. I knew that if I wanted to go on with God, to enter into the fulness of those things He had laid up for me, that I was going to have to embrace a death to my many sinful and independent ways. I knew I could not turn back from what the Spirit was speaking to me, for to turn back was to forfeit the good will of God for my life, which was a thought that I could not bear. I knew I had to go forward, and the path before me was one of death to the old man and his ways.
While contemplating these things the Spirit made it known that this path was absolutely necessary, and I considered, that since it could not be avoided, I would much prefer a quick death to a long and agonizing death. My answer to the Newbolds’ question was that they might pray that I would have a quick death.
When I shared this, both Charles and Nancy became very serious. They asked me, “Are you sure you know what you are asking for?” I assured them that I did. They then turned to my wife and asked her, “Are you willing to walk with your husband through whatever God will take him through.” Tony hesitated for a second, and then she said, “Yes, I am willing.” The Newbolds then prayed for us regarding this matter.
Just as Charles was about to go out our front door he turned to me and said, “You know, there are many ways the Lord can take us through a death experience, and one of them is to bring us to a financial death.” With these words he was gone and I was left with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There is no doubt in my mind as I look back over the past years that Charles Newbold prophesied when he spoke these words to me. The Lord did have a financial death in store for us, yet I can only think how fitting and wise this was. If the Lord is to take us through a death experience it makes sense that He would choose the area of our greatest independence and lay it in the dust. The Lord will go straight to that which is the chief stronghold in our lives, for if He can deliver us from that which stands in greatest opposition to His will, then He can deliver us from all other things.
This pattern is revealed in Scripture. When the Lord led the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua being a type of Yahshua, having the same name in the Hebrew) He led them to the city with the biggest, strongest, widest and most impregnable walls. He led them directly to Jericho. This was to be the first battle for the Israelites in the land, and if they could capture Jericho then there would be nothing greater they would ever have to face.
The history of Israel going in to possess the promised land is not just a bunch of interesting stories given to entertain. They are parables of man taking possession of the land in which he dwells. Our flesh was made from the dust of the earth. It is this ground we must possess and rule over. We must drive out every enemy, tear down every stronghold, slay every giant, subdue all the wild beasts, until the land is made into a habitation of peace and righteousness. I had some real strongholds in my life, and the Lord Yahshua was preparing to lead me in to conquer the land.
I mentioned that at this time I was serving as a minister among a local body of believers, so there were actually a number of things the Lord was performing in my life. Not only was He seeking to deliver this son of His from the bondage in his life, but He was preparing me to be fit as a minister who could receive a much greater anointing. I was to undergo a scourging for my waywardness, but I was at the same time to be fitted to enter into a greater calling than I had yet known.
The Spirit of God began to impress the following verse upon me at this time.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
The Holy Spirit spoke to me that I must become faithful in my stewardship of money if I desired to receive true spiritual riches. If I could not be faithful in this unrighteous thing, this carnal and natural area of my life, then God would not be able to entrust to me the spiritual riches He desired to give to me. I yearned very much for true spiritual riches. I wanted God to open up to me the mysteries of His word and to endow me with a high calling, and an anointing to accomplish all that He would lead me to do. I wanted to be a vessel of honor in God’s house as Paul described to his son in the faith, Timothy.
II Timothy 2:19-21
"The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
The Scriptures reveal that God has a high calling set before all of His children. He desires all to be vessels of honor, of gold and silver. Yet God is able to use many of His children only for common things, for they will not submit to His purging and purifying work. They avoid the working of the cross in their lives, and because they are unclean God must relegate them to being vessels of dishonor.
Consider for a moment that in a great house there are choice goblets of gold, encrusted with gemstones. These are brought out to be set before the highest nobility, and are shown off as vessels of great beauty and worth. Yet there are other vessels in the same house. There is common pottery that is used for waste baskets, spittoons, slop jars, and even for bathroom pee pots. God would choose all His children to be vessels of honor, but, if they will not submit to His refining work, He can only use them as vessels of dishonor.
I understood these things, and consequently I invited the Lord to bring me to a quick death to all that was wicked and evil in my life. I wanted to be a purified vessel, and as I was to find out, our heavenly Father is very willing to purge and purify all those who ask this of Him. The way has not been easy, and it has been attended by much pain and sorrow, but, as I look back, these experiences seem to have flown by. The memory of the painful things is now very distant and muted, and I feel washed by having endured the things the Spirit has led our family through.
From Evidence of Things Unseen
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