This post is a preview taken from the first draft of my second book ‘Taking Jericho’ which should be available at all your favorite EBook retailers sometime 2017.
Here, I will give you just enough of the introduction so you will understand the book and also a complete chapter titled ‘Believing’ about the powerful dynamic of believing in and for other people.
Sandwiched within are the incredible stories of how my wife and I came to found a church in a poor neighborhood of Sacramento, and of the amazing people we encountered along the way. What’s missing here are many of the incredible stories we witnessed as God unfolded in their lives.
As it says in the introduction, this is a story of God. God’s story in me, a one-time atheist motorcycle outlaw, and the little church my wife and I founded in the inner-city of Sacramento.
Excerpted from the Introduction
This book is about overcoming odds, the terrible odds bet against your life and mine, the odds against me or you ever making a significant dent in this often cold, sometimes cruel and always amazing world. Obviously, this is not a book meant to make you feel better about yourself and give you permission and justifications to continue to sit around and bemoan your likely fate while doing nothing about it.
Wal-Mart or your local Christian paraphernalia store stock hundreds of books that will tell you how great you are, which is true, and will make you feel better as you do nothing, which is not true. Humans were crafted for the struggle, and built for the fight; it is part of what makes us into who God intended us to be.
Can you picture the Master of the Universe thinking about how much he adores you while watching you stare unblinkingly at the endless proliferation of television shows about our sad fate?
I didn’t think so.
This is a story about God’s story in me, at one time the worst neighbor on anybody’s block, a once-upon-a-time atheist motorcycle outlaw, and the building of a small inner-city church that my wife and I founded in Sacramento, California.
If the G-O-D word just made you spit your coffee, chamomile tea, or beer onto your Nook or Kindle, STOP take a breath and give it a chance. The story—not the spill. I promise not to work overtime trying to convince you of God’s existence and benevolent character, only He can do that.
If you don’t care two wits about the God stuff, you will still find something here worth your time. I know you will enjoy the story. Most people find it fascinating and downright entertaining. If I had not lived it, I would hardly have believed it myself.
After reading the incredible stories in the past few chapters, you must keep in mind that these miracles happening in the most unlikely of people didn’t suddenly spring from the ground unexpected; nor did it come from merely lots of hard work, grunting and following the manual to a tee.
I have already told you a bit of my account, yet without the stories behind the curtained stage, I would not be here to tell you this saga; there are numbers of incredible people that believed in both Dottie and me. They believed firstly in Christ, which in its right sense lead them to believe in people.
The church I first landed in, Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship of Anaheim, California, is a place filled to the rafters with this kind of believer, a people quick to believe for the most down and out to become the one that would exceed them all. If you haven’t got faith, they will have it for you until the day you can see and walk for yourself.
Somewhere inside my once cursed life lurked a person who longed for something, someone, anyone or anything to believe in him. Hell, my chaotic carousel might have screeched to a halt if I knew for sure that my dog believed in me. I was not alone.
Using the word believe eight times in two paragraphs violates every rule of good prose, but ‘believe’ is just too big of a word to say once and pull out the thesaurus for the rest; the idea behind belief is a winding twisted maze. So much so, that if believe was a person he/she could have some serious identity problems and likely need to be dragged drooling and babbling into the nearest twelve step group. The Greek word most often used for believe in the New Testament hinges all its resources, hopes and dreams on its object—trust might be a better word. I have chosen to put my trust in Christ, which leads me to put faith in people that I’d naturally rather not trust, people I wouldn’t leave alone in a room with my wallet.
In short, I may not trust them, but I do believe in them. I do not allow myself to say, I hope for them because it is just not strong enough to convey how one person lifted up by Christ can believe for the fellow inhabitants of this planet. God has called us to do great things and deposit greatness into other human beings. I intend to do my part to see God’s plan come to pass in their lives.
Anthony was a heroine addict. He was homeless and occasionally slept on the sidewalk outside our first little storefront church. I would buy him food, a sleeping bag, and other necessities from time to time; he waffled in and out of our services at which he mostly slept.
On one encounter, during the week and not a church day, he told me,
“Pastor I’m sick of this, I’m tired and ready to get well.”
My response was that beyond a prayer and believing along with him, I didn’t have much to offer, and that was okay with him. I laid hands on him and prayed believing God to deliver him from his prison. Bells didn’t ring, there were no smoke or tears, but he vanished.
No, not before my eyes, but I didn’t see him for so long that, sad to say, I mostly forgot about him. Until one day when the teenagers were having a carwash to raise money for some project. I hate car washes.
A good-looking man dressed in a suit approached me and said, “Pastor Mike… You don’t remember me do you?” and I couldn’t say that I had.
As I stood there happily stunned into silence, he explained how right after our prayer a Christian Home took him in and helped him get clean. In his words, he now served the Lord full tilt, didn’t even smoke cigarettes any longer. He was just stopping by to thank me.
Without someone to believe in someone else, nothing of substance is likely to happen. Little gets done in a vacuum. Seldom does God work on a poor sap like Anthony or me as we float adrift and alone on our sea of despair headed towards self-destruction.
Without believing in the potential, not merely of people themselves, (save that shlock for Oprah and Dr. Phil) and placing a strong belief in what God can and will do in some willing loser, it all just becomes a dog and pony show—put on to make those who sit in the pews feel good about themselves.
Pastor Carl Friedrich and his amazing church walked into my life when I walked through their doors. Add to that, Don Marion, who pastors the church in Sacramento now, who was a strong mentor and friend and still is to this day. Jerry George, who was grace and faith personified; we became close as brothers, his purpose in our friendship was to see me become what God envisioned. Pastor Rick Fuentes who despite an unending list of severe illnesses led people to overcoming lives; he always told me the hardest things which often pissed me off. I had to apologize to him too often.
The power of one person believing in another, mixed up into the cosmic ball of their own faith along with God’s sovereign influence can accomplish anything.
The outstanding stories of what God has done are merely a skin stretched over the faithful people that believe in and for them.
I know the one in whom I trust,
and I am sure that he is able to guard
what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
2 Timothy 1:12 New Living Translation
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