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-2 Corinthians 5:17
FROM PASTA TO PREACHING
When Michael Durso opens his Bible to preach, you would never guess that he didn't come up the normal ministerial route. Raised in an Italian Catholic family, Michael was the first-born of three sons destined to inherit the family's gourmet pasta business. Everyone in the area knew that if you wanted the best, freshest linguine or mozzarella for your Sunday feast, Durso's on Utopia Parkway in Flushing was the place to get it.
Money was plentiful for the Durso family, and Michael showed an aptitude for making lots of it. The young man graduated from a Catholic high school and immediately went to work full-time in the family business. After a few years, he met a girl named Maria, who had inherited a fair amount of money herself. The two of them enjoyed the fast life of high-class drugs in the early seventies.
Michael was used to taking vacations to exotic resorts where drugs and immorality were the order of the day. One day, while at a resort in Mexico, Maria made an odd comment. Recently she had been feeling vaguely empty, in spite of all their money and life of pleasure. She suggested that maybe when they returned to New York, they should go to church. She saidthat God seemed to be saying to her, Give me your life. Michael was mildly irritated. He frowned but said okay just to pacify her.
And that is how the young couple ended up at a Sunday night service in a gospel church in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Michael remembers being in a defiant mood. "I dressed as outrageously as I could, in a black form-fitting leather outfit, yellow boots, four earrings in one ear. I mainly wanted to shock these religious people. I was totally obnoxious."
And then ... the meeting was being brought to a close with an invitation to receive Christ. All at once, Michael turned sober. "Suddenly, I Felt overwhelmed. I knew my life was headed for hell. All my confidence in my religious upbringing and my smart image vanished. I felt ashamed of my appearance. Both Maria and I headed for the front.
"People came around and began praying for us. Both of us started weeping. Soon the pastor approached us and did something very unusual: He anointed our foreheads with oil and then said, `Lord, I pray that this couple will be used by you in the days and years ahead.' We were perplexed by that."
Before the end of the week, Michael had moved out of the apartment he and Maria shared to return to his parents' home until a legitimate wedding could be arranged.
In time Michael and Maria came to the Brooklyn Tabernacle and began to seek grounding in the Christian faith. We noticed in both of them a heart to follow God, to study his Word, and to give evidence of his grace and love. Michael and Maria got involved quickly. They organized a street ministry, taking groups from the choir and other workers to perform outdoor concerts in the summer. Whenever we needed help for a task, Michael was willing to take time off from work to pitch in.
Years went by, and in 1984 the board of a struggling church in Brooklyn offered to turn over their building to me if I would promise to oversee the work as long as I was alive. It was a wonderful gift from God, and our pastoral staff began to pray about how best to start a new church in this area. We all sensed the Spirit of God directing our attention to Michael and his wife to spearhead the new venture.
When I finally went over to Michael and Maria's house on a Friday night to say I felt that they should pastor this work, they could hardly believe what I was suggesting. This could mean eventually leaving the lucrative family business. And Michael didn't have the seminary training that ministers are expected to have.
But I believed in my heart that they had something vital: the anointing of the Holy Spirit and humble hearts to seek God's will.
Time has proven that this appointment was definitely what God wanted. We sent thirty or so of our members with Michael to help begin, and the little church grew and grew until it had to relocate. Today it meets in a converted theater and is one of the strongest lighthouses in our city, touching people for Christ in a powerful way.
JUST BE AVAILABLE
The Holy Spirit is still greater today than all our shortcomings and failures. He has come to free us from the restraints and complexes of insufficient talent, intelligence, or upbringing. He intends to do through us what only he can do. The issue is not our ability but rather our availability to the person of the Holy Spirit.
Every time we say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit," we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.
-J. B. Phillips
God's divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature. -2 PETER 1:3-4 God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. -2 TIMOTHY 1:7
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. -ROMANS 1:16
Dear Father Please stir my heart to reach out for all that you have promised me. Forgive my dependence on human resources rather than on your power. Teach me to pray and wait upon you in humility and faith; send the wind and fire of your Spirit upon me. Transform me into a person who bears powerful witness in word and deed to the reality of Jesus Christ our Savior I ask all of this in his precious name.
FROM DESPAIR TO JOY
One of the soloists in our choir is a woman in her mid-thirties named Robin Giles who grew up in Cleveland. When Robin was born to an unmarried twenty-one-year-old, it was obviously a "mistake." Her mother hated Robin's father and lived in a state of perpetual rage toward the daughter she was now stuck with.
From her early years Robin was yelled at, slapped about, and beaten. She never remembered a single hug or a kiss. Along the way, Robin's mother married an older man, a crane operator, whose presence helped to temper the eruptions in the home. But whenever the stepfather was gone, Robin feared for her life. More than once she was threatened with a gun. One day when she was nine and her mother began to berate her, the little girl fled to a large closet. When Robin peeked out to learn whether the storm had passed, she looked toward the kitchen-and saw her mother heating up a metal pancake turner over the gas range. Suddenly the woman turned and came flying in her direction. Robin ran for the safety of the closet again, but didn't get there in time. Soon the hot metal was searing itself against her arm. Her mother finally stopped the attack and began bandaging the wound. But still she snarled, "See what you made me do?!"
Robin was the opposite of an aggravating child. She made straight As in school, kept quiet, read a lot, and tried her best to please. But nothing could tame her mother's rage.
When Robin was twelve, her stepfather died of a heart attack, leaving her unprotected. When her mother caught her one summer night sitting on the front porch, talking to a boy who stood out on the sidewalk, she unleashed the most brutal beating to date-using a doubled-up electrical cord.
Robin ran away to a girlfriend's house, staying two weeks. But when she learned that a warrant had been issued for her arrest, she turned herself in with high hopes that the authorities would listen to her story and help her. To her shock, she was instead locked up in a juvenile detention center for three months. Bitterness began to grow inside her heart.
For Robin, the next eleven years were a rough road of self-doubt, depression, inner seething at the unfairness of life, irresponsible
Excerpted from THE PROMISE OF GOD'S POWER by JIM CYMBALA Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.