How God Loved A Cranky Club DJ

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“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”  – Galatians 1:15-16 

When Jesus saved me, I was a club DJ, and fully engaged in the lifestyle one might expect from a club DJ—late nights, drugs, and partying. I had a foul mouth, a sharp tongue, and a deep-rooted insecurity that affected everything I did.

In comparison to some of the characters in the Gainesville bar scene, I was a pretty decent guy. But I was also extremely moody and emotionally unstable. I carried deep pain on the inside that made me touchy and explosive. I didn’t realize any of this, of course, but anyone close to me could tell you, I was a very cranky and irritable person.

I wasn’t a Christian-kind-of-guy, in any way. I had never owned a Bible. I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home. I can’t even remember knowing any Christian people. Actually, the thought of a “hardcore Christian” gave me the creeps.

But like Paul shared about his own experience, “when it pleased GodHe revealed his Son in me that I would proclaim Him.”

In many ways, I feel like I accidentally became a Christian.

At my father’s deathbed, I had this spiritual experience. And I just couldn’t shake it. Even when I wanted to go back to my old life, I had this growing, inner knowledge of His reality, goodness and presence that I couldn’t get rid of. In the midst of all my darkness and wild living, Jesus opened my heart to Him. “He called me by His mercy and grace” alone.

Thank God too, because I don’t think I would of ever visited a church. Even if a sincere friend would have invited me, I don’t think I would have gone. I was just too afraid—I was a night creature, who had not grown up with much family. So the thought of walking into a bright room, full of old people looking at me, made me nauseous.

So how did I become a Christian?

Again much like Paul, “when it pleased God… He revealed his Son in me so I could proclaim Him”.

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The Events Leading Up to My Dad’s Passing

During my first semester at the University of Florida, I started to hear about “God stuff” happening around my dad, who had been diagnosed with cancer a year before. I heard about signs from God and genuine Christian people coming around him and praying for his healing. I was blown away that my dad was open to something like that. 

Then about two weeks before Christmas my dad passed away, I had a brief, but powerful encounter with a Christian on a bus. He witnessed to me and offered to pray for my dad. I write about it here.

A few days later after talking with the young man, I came home for Christmas break and saw my dad’s genuine faith. Without really knowing what I was doing, I started “proclaiming” God to my dad. Maybe this was first “sermon”. But I shared with my dad about the young man I had met on the bus. I encouraged my dad that my encounter confirmed everything my dad had started to believed. I spoke to his faith— that God was real, and where he was going was real.

When my dad passed, I was in my bedroom. The hospice nurse came in to get me, and she had a testimony herself. She told me how a smile had stretched across my dad’s face, right as he slipped into eternity. I don’t know if this lady was a Christian, but she seemed to be deeply moved by what she had seen. When I walked into the room, I saw the smile for myself.

And then something happened in me.

The way I would describe it: it was like I could see the goodness of the Savior in my dad’s smile. In a moment, I knew Him. I knew this God who had saved my dad. And I loved Him. You see, in 2003, when it pleased God, I believe He granted me a measure of faith (Romans 12:3); it’s the same faith I have to this present hour. I’ve grown a lot since that day, but it’s the same grace in me. It’s the same faith.

So let me encourage you, God is no respecter of persons! What He has done in me, He’s able to do in you! “The arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear”. Jesus has died for all of us! God loved a cranky club DJ. And He loves YOU with the same everlasting love! I pray that you’d see Him for yourself, TODAY.

Why I’d Rather be Wanted than Needed

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As a college pastor in Gainesville, Florida, I once had the privilege of hosting a missionary, known as Uncle Charlie. This man was remarkable—he had comforted dying street children in his arms and washed the feet of real, modern-day lepers. Under communism in Vietnam, he had embraced the dangerous call to smuggle Bibles into the country for the underground church. In his latter days, he had built up a ministry to the street children of Ho Chi Min City—where he personally prepared and delivered peanut butter sandwiches to all his “kids”.

I’ll never forget how Uncle Charlie, now in his late 70’s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, pushed himself around slowly in his walker, and laid hands, and blessed us young people. I’ll also never forget when, in private, Charlie lamented to me about the arrogant attitude he sometimes noticed in ministers in the United States.

He leaned in: “AJ, always remember: God doesn’t need you. You need God.”

As the old preacher saying goes, amen or oh-my… I’ve meditated much on this statement over the years. Although it may sound harsh at first, I believe it’s actually extremely loving and has the power to set us free.

Let’s break down what he said… God does not need us. In other words, we’re not that big of a deal. We don’t impress God. God is not (and never will be) awestruck by our spiritual gifts, talents, skill-sets, religious effort, and/or achievements.

And to act like God needs us belies a considerable amount of self-importance.

This is not the attitude God wants us to have. Our loving Father knows this attitude is not good for us; He knows when we travel along the path of self-importance, we always end up in one of two places:

  1. ARROGANCE: I am awesome! God must be so impressed!
  2. DESPAIR: I stink. God must hate me!

You see, pride is a roller coaster. Really high. Or really low. We’re tossed to and fro… from “I’m amazing”, to “I suck”.

Back and forth we go. In the vicious cycle of self-reliance, there’s: 

1.I’m amazing; it’s time to judge everybody else!

2. Oh no, I’m terrible; I’m the worst person ever.

back to:

1. Yay, God is impressed with me! Everyone else really needs to get it together!

2. Oops, I screwed up. God must think I’m an idiot!

Ever felt trapped in this cycle?

Here’s good news: God doesn’t NEED you, but He does WANT you!

So many people today feel like they have to impress God. They are striving to win His approval through their performance and pretense—stuck on the roller coaster of religion. But God is not some secret admirer from afar; He’s not looking for you to impress Him. God invites you into a relationship with Himself, face to face. God wants intimate relationship—nothing more, nothing less. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you.

He doesn’t simply need you. He’s not looking for an employee. He doesn’t want you out there performing for Him— He wants you close to Him.

Don’t you see? The merry-go-round of religion has too much relational distance for God’s taste. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you. He’s that father who will not stop with a pat on the back— He’s coming in for a hug.

God’s not content with feeding your ego. He desires for you to put down the mask, and let Him feed your soul with affirmation and love.

Why would we seek to impress God when we can be loved by God?

Don’t short-change yourself!

God gave up His very own Son, so that you and I could be loved!  Jesus died, so we could be counted as sons and daughters. So we could know God as Father.

Don’t settle for the lonely and empty path of self-reliance and religion. Embrace the call to be a son or daughter. Be loved like a son or daughter.