Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What are the ways in which my life can be a testimony for Jesus?

God's Response:
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13

Those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

Our Takeaway:
Knowing that Peter and John were ordinary men, the council was amazed at what being with Jesus had done for them. No longer were they backward, fearful disciples. Now, through the Holy Spirit, they were courageous and able to boldly share the truth of Jesus with others.

A changed life convinces people of Christ's power. One of your clearest testimonies is the difference others see in your life and attitudes since you believed in Christ.

God's Challenge:
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then, even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior and they will give honor to God when He judges the world.
1 Peter 2:12

Big T's Thought to Ponder:
I have mentioned this before in past devotions and I was reminded of it again this morning. I have never understood why people refer to it as "our testimony". Shouldn't it be called "His Testimony" and our witness or life account of all the wonderful things Jesus Christ is doing in our lives; as He molds us and grows us up, as He transforms our minds and shapes our hearts, and as He pours His understanding and love into each one of our lives, revealing Himself and who He is in each one of us and who we are in Him.
John 15:1-11

Jesus had just performed a miracle in this guys life, a guy that satan had a hold of and Mark tells us that Jesus told him to, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you". I believe "your family" in this context meant, everybody that the man would came in contact with. Shout it to the ends of the earth!
Mark 5:19

This is His testimony for my life.
1 Peter 3:15

For the better part of forty-six years, like the demon possessed man Jesus healed in Mark 5:19, I too allowed satan to control and rule my life. I truly experienced every lustful and perverted pleasure this fallen world had to offer. I was a self-made, self-indulgent, prideful and arrogant entrepreneur; a shell of a man that didn't even have God on the radar screen, yet I had been blessed from head-to-toe. I was as lost and as far away from God as anyone could possibly imagine, never realizing that Jesus was right there all along just waiting and protecting!
Romans 5:8

Even in the midst of the cocaine parties, booze cruises, and the hedonism getaways in far and distant lands, the Lord always had some sort of hedge of protection around me. I tell you the truth, it's truly only by the Grace of God that I am here this morning to witness to any of this.
Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 1:15-16

I was captured by and in complete bondage to a thirty-six year drug addiction, serious alcoholic binging, and living completely over the edge in what seemed to be an endless pleasure paradox and quest for happiness and fullness of life. I had been blessed by God with a wife that was a saint in comparison; given two beautiful little daughters who rarely saw their daddy and a much older son heading in the wrong direction, never realizing that the little footsteps of a child are sure to follow.
Romans 8:20-21

Consumed and controlled by the all mighty dollar, which there was no shortage of in my life due to a ten-year-old global reach business that God groomed me into. It grew into my personal resource center for all the capital required to live this "successful life style" in which I was consumed by.
1 Timothy 6:10

Consumed to consume, the desire to acquire... This resource center allowed me to live in fancy houses, to drive the flashy cars, drip with gold and diamonds, eat and play at the finest restaurants and country clubs. It allowed me to afford the world travel and frequent Las Vegas getaways disguised as a businessman's busyness.
1 John 2:15-16

By all the standards and values taught and accepted by the fallen world in which we live: work-hard-play-harder mindset, I had truly reached the pinnacle of life, living the American dream! When I had reached the very peak of world success, God finally opened my eyes! It was barren, it was a dead ended road, and it wreaked of death and darkness! This was the night I was rushed to the emergency room, with what I thought was a heart attack.
2 Corinthians 1:4

As I sat in my living room, I felt overtaken and consumed by something I can't fully explain in words, but can only be described as a feeling and sense that life here was over and that I was getting ready to depart from this place. I feared for my life! I screamed for my wife, I huddled down on the floor with my wife and kids- the ones I realized, at that moment, that I truly loved more than life itself. I cried out to God not to take my life and to take care of my family because I knew I wasn't going to make it!

God delivered me to the hospital and I had four days to consider where I was in life and how in the world did I get to such a dark and desperate place. Although there was never any medical explanation of what happened on that dark and fearful night of March 13, 2008, God opened my eyes to reality, gave me hope, stopped the madness and a whole lot more! The only way to describe in words what happened in that hospital over those few days was that God flipped some sort of "Off Switch" inside of me.

From there, God basically laid out a series of events in my life that I can only explain as supernatural and the Divine Plan of Jesus Christ for my life. God had a cure for every disease in my life. When I say disease, I refer to the addictions that are too lengthy to mention; the broken relationships -with my marriage, with my kids and family; my business and the poison I had bred into it and endless other things that I can't begin to list. I want to share a few of His miracles in some sort of chronological order as He began His Divine house cleaning in my life:

"His Off Switch": I was a 3-pack a day smoker, daily pot smoker, cocaine abusing, binge drinker. After March 13, 2008, I never had the slightest desire to do any of these things again; He had set me free and broken the chains of bondage I had been captured by, all for His greater purpose and glory.
Philippians 4:13

"His House Cleaning": Several days after getting out of the hospital, I was sitting at work, and the Holy Spirit called me home to clean house. I went home and cleansed my house of all the worlds temptations. I flushed the contents of my so-called fun box and poured out an entire private stock of gallons upon gallons of satan's assorted pleasures and poisons.
Joshua 24:15b

"Success that Mattered To God": My wife had signed me up for, "Man in the Mirror - Success that matters"- a men's conference, months prior to March 13th. I had no intention of ever going and actually already had an exit strategy orchestrated. The Holy Spirit planted me there that Saturday morning and as I listened to one of the speakers life account of his own out of control and messed up life, I thought to myself, "surely there can't be two of us in this world that have lived this kind of life?" When there was a calling to pray that prayer, I made a second decision for Christ, praying a similar prayer to the prayer I cried out back in March, just to be certain that God heard me.
1 John 5:14-15

"Honesty Is God's Best Policy": After (16) years of marriage, my wife finally popped the question, the one that terrified me! "Have you ever cheated on me?" At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and basically said, "Tony, you have one shot at this- you have lied to everyone in your life for forty-six years; I can clear the slate today and allow the healing to begin, if you'll just be honest for the first time in your life... right now tell her EVERYTHING!" "Everything?" Everything! I knew at that precise moment that I was not only about to lose my wife, I was also going to lose my children. I had some weird kind of peace and decided to just trust God! I cleaned out the closest and shared every dirty little secret of my life that morning- the prostitutes, pornography, mistresses, drug addictions, everything! I didn't hold one thing back and in the process of all my realness, I ripped out my wifes heart. She had no idea of the man she had been married to for the last 16 years, but God knew that she was spiritually strong enough to hear the truth, the truth that would begin to set us both free from the grips and lies of satan.
Colossians 3:5-10

"Weekend to Remember God": Again, in Gods Divine plan, my wife had signed us up for some Christian couples getaway thing at church and again, I had an exit strategy already prepared. Still feeling the wake from the closet cleaning experience just a week prior, the roles were reversed for this weekend outing. I didn't need an exit strategy, I needed a miracle sent from God to convince my wife to go with me to this 'Weekend to Remember' Christian couples getaway! My wife loved the new man that God had been transforming since March 13th , but she hated the old sinful man she thought she once knew. I simply asked her if she would join the new man for a weekend of healing and renewing - leaving all the consequences up to God for a favorable outcome! God truly gave us this weekend- the love letters, the date night on the premier weekend of the movie Fireproof, and a special anonymous book called the "The Love Dare". It was too perfect to be anything other than God's sovereign hand upon us. Our marriage was supernaturally brought into oneness with Christ and it was restored to the eternal covenant we had committed to 16 years prior, but never experienced.
Ephesians 5:25-33; Ephesians 4:16-24; Colossians 3:9-11; Romans 6:6-14

My Resource Center?: God had been completely transforming my life- it was overwhelming to me! There were still so many uncertainties, so many things standing between me and my Savior. God was revealing to me all the poison and corruption that I had built into my company- the resource center that helped fund all the things the old man once desired and the same thing the new man despised! And again, my wonderful wife who was always looking after her husbands best interests, had signed us up for another one of these Christan conferences! It was some Financial Peace gig and a guy named Dave Ramsey. I went just because the guy was a Christian and I remember as I watched Dave on stage, talking about managing the resources that God has entrusted us. He kept giving biblical account to how we are called to be good stewards of the green stuff and that it ALL belonged to God. I was blown away by his teaching about handling personal finances and his sensible action plan for living a debt-free life. At the end of the show, Dave called business owners to the stage and he shared with us his one-week, intensive business seminar in Mexico- one which he would be sharing similar biblical values, but applying them to our business, verses our personal finances in FPU. It was called "EntreLeadership". My wife and I attended the event in Cancun that November and the personal one-on-one time my wife and I had the opportunity to spend with Dave, his wife Sharron, their kids, and his team was beyond awesome; it was a God-given opportunity to be mentored by this man! Dave Ramsey gave me the ingredients and a fundamental launching platform to build a Christian foundation for Ground Zero Electrostatics; to see the commonalities between a static control business and the Kingdom of God. It all sounded pretty weird, but something felt so right.

His Ministry: Dave Ramsey and the EntreLeadership program gave us the cement and rebar to pour a Christian foundation, which has beared much fruit for the Kingdom. He was beginning to reveal to me how Static Control and God fit together and what that looked like. So we had a solid foundation coming together, but we had no framework and not enough intentional Christians call-to-action. That's when a group called C-12 came into my life. It was a complete God thing, with multiple people all non-related to one another, telling me about this C-12 thing. "What is it?" I asked one business consultant from Chicago. "It's a Christan organization made up of local Christian CEO's, presidents and business owners. A group of peer-to-peer accountability partners that meet once a month and act as a board of directors and/or advisors." After about the fourth time God put C-12 in my path, I finally wised up, submitted and joined the group one week later. God had blessed us with the Christian, biblically-based foundation and C-12 was the actual framework- the Christian call-to-action, the wise council, and the conduit that God knew I needed to weather the eminent storms ahead. C-12 was the voice of God's wisdom that helped me realize that Ground Zero wasn't my comany at all- it's God's company! It's the ministry and platform He blessed me with, the one He intended me to use for His glory and Divine purpose for my life! Today anyway...

Waiting Through The Storms: By allowing God to guide me- through the practicing of His presence and by following and implementing the wise council shared by my brothers in Christ at C-12, He was preparing me for the uncharted waters ahead. Times that would bring the rockiest and most barren terrain imaginable, and rough seas that would make the perfect storm look like child's play. If someone could have given me a glance of my future, I couldn't have conceptually imagined the series of trials and tests that God was about to allow to enter my life.
Isaiah 43:1-3; Romans 12:12; James 1:2; Deuteronomy 31:6

From Hero's to Zero'$:
As a company we literally went from Hero's, knocking down $500,000 dollar months to Zero's- clawing to muster up a $30,000 dollar month. This happened overnight and the business was drying up and evaporating before my very eyes. The harder I tried, the worse things became! I had lost 80% of our workforce and our bank reserves had plummeted to the point we couldn't even afford to pay attention. There were many weeks where we couldn't make payroll, even when we could, it was always paid in order of priority from staff to owners. I didn't get it- God had completely consumed me for the past 12 months and I felt like I was walking on clouds; now I was asking myself, "Where did God go and who flipped the off switch on my business?" There laid the problem, "my business". I was still putting the business before God; holding on way too tight and trying way too hard. This process took me from a prideful business owner, to a humble servant, to Kingdom building.
Psalm 57:1; 2 Corinthians 12:9

God's Yoke Revealed: Humility wasn't the only treasure in these trials. At this point in my journey, I plugged myself into every possible bible study and men's group I could find. It wasn't until my redneck cousin Skipper, had shared with me during one of our 4am Bible studies about the "Yoke of Jesus" and trusting verses trying. I hadn't a clue at first, but God laid it on my heart to have a deeper understanding of what this yoke stuff looked like. It wasn't an egg! Once I understood what a yoke was, God revealed His yoke to me. I must say that it felt weird the first day I took the yoke of Christ around my neck. I felt guilty because I was no longer driving the bus, I was just a passenger on the bus! It seemed too easy, I wasn't working nearly hard enough, it just seemed to free me of my burdens. His revolution came to me during quiet time one morning... I was no longer in charge of my life or responsible for finding a solutions to our financial dilemma... He was! I was to just wait patiently on God and trust that He is in control. Trusting vs. trying, now there was a concept that would lead to growing my faith by leaps and bounds. His business, not mine? God's in control, not me? He is my provider and I am His child? Wow! Could it really be all about God? Him guiding and me believing and trusting on God for EVERYTHING? This was and is exactly what it all meant.
Matthew 11:27-28

Trial By Fire: I resigned as CEO and signed on as Servant Leader. I was broke and broken. He had stripped me and His company of everything and then He began to turn up the heat at the office! With lawsuits coming in about one a week, and with collection calls verses sales opportunities at a ratio of 3:1, we were beaten down and feeling hopeless. Paychecks were scarce at best. Commissions were non-exsistant and we were in survival mode and had been for months. Personally, my wife and I had never been happier in this new relationship with Christ. Then He turned up the heat on the homefront! It started with the A.T.M. machine spitting out a white piece of paper verses the green one I had grown accustomed to... "N.S.F.!, what in the world is wrong with this silly machine"? I rushed to work to confirm with my bank that this was just a bad case of fraud or a stolen identity thing. Sure enough, it wasn't the A.T.M. at all, it was another three letter acronym, the I.R.S.! And they had just cleaned us out of our entire savings, my retirement, and every penny in our personal checking account! Things seem to be going from bad to worse and we were being tested to the gills!
1 Peter 5:10; James 1:2; John 16:33; 1 Peter 1:7

Backup Plan: Our corporate attorney called and insisted on a meeting in his office to discuss a strategy to deal with the all-pending lawsuits that required our responses. Our plan was a common secular approach in business when people are under the pressure of the world and don't know where their security comes from - Bankruptcy! Just walk away! What in the world are you waiting for, file already? Our attorney's plan was brilliant and I agreed to the conception of a new corporation in my wife's name, hanging all our creditors out to dry in order to regain control of my life and my business. I should have felt great about this, right? Wrong! I had a pit in my stomach and an uncertain uneasiness, as I thought to myself, "We just crafted a wonderful and well thought out business plan -just be happy in it." I knew that I would feel better if I would go to that downtown Bible study I had been invited to months prior and it was right around the corner. I walked in, introduced myself and they began to show a video about Faith. The story line was Abraham walking with God and God assuring him that He would be blessed with a son and that he would have as many descendants as the stars above. Abraham and Sarah weren't getting any younger and decided to develop their own backup plan with Hagar just in case God's promise didn't work out. I immediately knew at that moment what I had just done and why I had that pit in my stomach. When I left the study, I called my attorney with the news that we were not going to be filing bankruptcy and that we were going to just wait on God to show up and deliver us or move on to other things. I think my attorney wanted to recommend a good psychiatrist to me!
Hebrews 11:1; 1 John 5:4; Psalm 118:6-9

Jesus In-Box: God kept reminding me of George Mueller's contagious statement of faith - "I will always have all I need to do all You have asked of me." Our finance manager and I were sitting in our typical Wednesday morning finance meeting, which never seemed to take much of our time back then. As we finished up in prayer that morning, we were both in tears over the abundance of financial trauma we were experiencing. Then, God put it on my heart to create and add Him to the series of incoming correspondence boxes that I had for all the employees. Since He was our new CEO and there was an empty box at the top, we were obedient to His request. In place of the tears caused by all the financial threats that were pouring into the company on a daily basis, we would simply place any financial threats and/or issues that were impossible for us to wrap our finite minds around, into "the Jesus In-Box" - it was jammed packed! This was about a year ago and today the box is completely empty. The debt is still out there but is being paid back at an accelerated rate as God wills. God has poured His Grace upon all the threats and His Company is getting healthier by the hour.
Matthew 19:26; Proverbs 3:5-6; Mark 11:22-23

Blind Bankers: I can only describe the following as God's Divine plan and another miracle from our Savior. Back in April '08 the bank that holds our max'ed out line-of-credit, called me into the bank for an ambush, I mean a meeting. The meeting wasn't exactly with my banker, it was actually a loan committee and they wanted answers! Their biggest question was, "Do you know why we have asked you here today?", "How in the world are you going to pay us the money you owe us?" , "Anthony, what are you doing to stop the bleeding?" I replied with a bold and excited, "We're praying!" As they all stared at me and then at each other, as if I was from Mars or some other planet, the regional VP replied, "Seriously Anthony." I rebutted, "I am being serious. We pray to begin our day and at the closing of our day. We pray with our customers and vendors alike. We even have bible studies at work." "We have elected God to step in as active CEO and I have backed down as servant leader. We are also working on right-sizing the business. I assured them that we were still the 5 million dollar a year company we were just two years prior and that we would be again. I told them that we were keeping our hands and feet busy for Christ and that I felt confident that we would have a profitable June '09. The regional VP said He was curious to see if my story would carry any weight, despite the fact that they didn't think we would make it the remainder of the month and that we were insolvent. He said he would allow us two months but would pull the plug if there wasn't significant change.
John 15:18-20; Romans 8:35-39; Psalm 27:1

God's Companies Are Resilient: We did end up having a profitable June '09 and by God's good grace, Ground Zero Electrostatics has been profitable every month since. I praise Him that we haven't missed payroll since early Q-1 2009 and at the current rate the Lord is pouring His abundance upon us, we will be a debt free company in Q-4 of 2012. These things can only be explained by the Holy Power of Jesus Christ Almighty. The last word from our banker and I quote, "I wanted to tell you guys how happy I am to see this has all turned around for you. Keep up the effort and keep talking to the man in the sky!!! He seems to have a great impact on all of us!" Our banker has inquired about our Thursday Bible Study on more than one occasion. Praise the Lord for the things He has done and all that He is doing!
Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 6:33

God's In The ESD Business: We have made the decision that once our debt is paid in full, and we are no longer slave to the lender, His company profits will be utilized for Kingdom building opportunities that God puts in our path. He has been doing amazing things through a generosity culture that was adopted in November 2009 and we are watching for every opportunity and the good works in which He has prepared for us beforehand. The old "resource center" that was once used for my personal, worldly pleasures has now been transformed into a profit center for the work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!
Philippians 4:19; John 19:35 (NIV)

I could have literally rambled on and on for hours longer, sharing endless accounts to all the things Jesus has done in my life over the past twenty-four months. This journey has been amazing in how He has used me and His testimony to lead others to Christ and encourage the hopeless. We serve a star breathing, heart transforming, mind restoring faithful God that is our endless supply of acceptance, love, joy, peace, strength, courage, kindness, goodness, and every attribute that is desirable.

With complete victory and freedom in Christ, and by claiming the inheritance that I have in Jesus through trusting and believing, there is no longer anything I desire in this world in which we live except for the relationships He will develop through me while sharing His good news with the world. I Love You Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus and Almighty Spirit!

To God be the glory for the things He has done!

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