CR Testimony-To Produce a Heart That’s Willing- 10/07-

My name is Brandon Owen Avance, a believer in the all-surpassing joy of Jesus Christ, who struggles with pride, pornography, perfectionism and guilt and shame.

 No good idea in this is mine; I owe everything to God, his word, and everyone he placed in my way to him, preachers, teachers, multiple authors, to the love of my family and friends: (Show picture of JCR, BR and IM.) God used these guys to bring accountability and community into my life and have been an integral part of the life change He has done during the last two years, for this I am eternally grateful.  No words can express. PRAY…*** MERCIES ARE NEW EVERY MORNING, in this attempt at an honest conversation with friends, let me be most of all honest, as this broken, and needy vessel crying out for more of you and your grace today.  Leave me in awe, and bring me to the fellowship of your sufferings, as I hold you at your word today.  I desire to know you more, let all of us know you more today. 

I was raised in a Christian home, went to a Christian school with Christian friends in a Christian environment, though I never got the incomprehensible grace of Christ.  I was raised in a great family, Mom always told me “All that matters is that you go to heaven”; Dad always said, “Do good.” I was a good kid for the most part, raised playing sports, excelling on the field, quickly learned that adoration and praise came from doing well there. By nature, performance driven, I did well in school, but I got in trouble a lot because of my insecurity, to “be cool.”  I confessed my faith and was baptized at 12, saved in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I was awkward in Junior High, ridiculed a lot by my friends; I thought were cool. Always searching for something real and success- I tried being bad, being good, leading bible studies, following bible studies, setting my own standard for goodness, trying to do more good deeds than anyone else, and more.  Some successful, most not, but all unfulfilling but it didn’t stop there.  My pride wouldn’t let it. I yearned for something greater.  

All throughout, with women and relationships I yearned for approval, after a couple of brutal puppy love heartbreaks, the running back stole my girlfriend, I found that the best athletes got the hottest chicks, so I tried to be a good athlete.  I found success, in a woman that was pleased with me, but that didn’t last for long.  I found, if I couldn’t succeed there, I would succeed on the field.

My “cool” friends got recruited to play college ball… I prayed for years, “God just give me the chance to play Div IA ball.”  I thought, then I’ll be successful.  I dedicated my heart and soul to getting there, straight and narrow, no beer; no cigs, cigars were ok tho… I self-righteously despised the party crowd, so instead, I spent three to four hours a day in the gym, I devoted my blood sweat and tears, toward success on the field.  Two state championships, and all-state honors later, I got a Div IA football scholarship.  The Lord gave me the desires of my heart, with an answered prayer. 

When I left for college, I left behind my “sheltered” Christian environment and lifelong friends from high school to find new friends in college and no Christians showed to my liking. I felt alone and abandoned by God, I liked the party crowd.  They were fun and “seemed” real.  So I hung out with them, and held fast to no drinking and no sex for a while, but I watched as my standards and lifestyle changed to revolve around parties and women.  God, family, Church and Christian friends: mainstays in my life before, began to wear away their welcome, though still present in my walk, definitely on the backburner.  Football, parties and women were the center of my universe.

Football got in the way of church, well kinda.  I just didn’t go.  The Christian crowd kicked me out of their bible study because I was going to bars with my friends. I didn’t want to be alone.  I was isolated, and frustrated with God’s answer to my prayer.

Over Christmas break, my girlfriend at the time came to see me, we got drunk and slept together. Though it was my second time ever, we unknowingly conceived a child… she left to go back to her college.

Over the next two months, I broke my arm in a car wreck-hindering my FB “career”, I was stoned off the pain pills and beer when my roommate hit me in the face one night after karaoke at the bar-making me uncomfortable to even live in my dorm room, I lost my childhood sweetheart, I mean the one that I played house with and promised to marry at 25, she died in a car wreck-shaking my foundations, my trust in life… Then, I can still remember the moment, like a video in slow motion, frame by endless frame… lying on the floor in my room… the phone rang, it was my ex-girlfriend. “You’re what? Are you kidding? Are you sure? What are we gonna do?” 

I felt alone. My mind raced with thoughts, “I have to quit school, get a job without an education… I can’t take care of a child… I will not give up MY scholarship; I will not give up MY football career.”  All the work I’ve done to get here, wasted.

I was sick. I blamed God, I found myself in a bitter fight, I WRESTLED MYSELF, AND GOD AND I WRESTLED.  My own self-induced, self-prescribed, self-imbibed, selfishly built set of standards and religion had failed.   I cried out, I cussed, I prayed, I yelled, I prayed yelling. God why would you let this happen to me? I reasoned, I’m a good person, or at least I tried to be. I heard every anti-abortion commercial known to man. I isolated from my family and friends and cried day after day for over a month, I thought, “There’s no way I could ask for help.  I will not be a disgrace to myself and my family.”  “We gotta get rid of this.” I knew I had done something wrong when I made the decision. I had built my own world, formed my own doctrine and this was my own cross… I had made it.  I would not stay on it.  My son, Glory Orion would die on it. 

I stood alone in my own pride, hypocrisy, and sin and HID again.

Then I got a ride back to Dallas, dropped my girlfriend off at the clinic and ran to a gas station to get a money order for $182, they wouldn’t take a check.

I remember a sense of immediate relief from the incredibly intense pain I had experienced in the month of decision of the abortion. I remember a type of release.  But I’d become what I’d hated.

This was the point where I left “religion.”  I walked out.  I didn’t participate in church for the next 5 years.  I mean I went some, but I swore I’d never join another church, those people were just too stuffy, whole buncha hypocrites. As Doc Holiday in Tombstone says, ‘My hypocrisy only goes so far.’  My heart had a gaping hole, and I could fix it, or at least deal with it.

I went wheels off, I sold out the other way.  On the field you’re only as good as your last performance.  Whether I did good or bad, I soaked up all the praises I could, basked in it like a turtle, then went and got stoned and drunk to deal with it. Drinking every weekend, I found fulfillment from women in the bars and outside of them- my “wake of destruction” continued. The guilt and shame did not go away, Careless relations, sexual depravity, and pot, soon followed and became my drug of choice, because it would numb my feelings of guilt and shame and take the edge off my crazy life as a student-athlete… After years of selling drugs, to support my ganja habit, I admitted to myself that I was dealing drugs the day I flipped a bag of cocaine.  I was numb.  

I was so lost, more confused. I knew God was still there, and that he still loved me… and that he loved these people.  I’d try to show them God’s love by rolling up a blunt for them or buying them a beer.   I thought they just didn’t get Christ’s love and at the time, I didn’t realize it, but neither did I.

Even with my habits, I was able to sustain some athletic and academic success in college, championships and individual nominations. It was great! I remember the glory, it was all mine, I had given up on God, for a glimpse of worldly glory.  I’d killed my child, to become a football success and I was successful, but all to my own selfish pride.  Though God still pursued me, I couldn’t get why.

I tried out, but I didn’t make it to the NFL. “too white and too slow.” I was told, I hopped in my car that day and drove home to get a desk job.  Disappointing, I blamed God for being slow.

Two years later, pursuing the Dallas party scene at least 3 days a week, and sitting on the back row at Watermark, My girlfriend at the time had a huge role in getting me to CR, I had convinced her she had a need to go to CR, but couldn’t admit my own need.  To prevent myself from going to CR, I met with the woman I had the abortion, did a personal amends with her about the abortion, because I “knew” biblical principles, or I thought I did.  A week later she sent me a scripture in the mail, on a note card, Jeremiah 29.9-13, I’ll quote 11-13 “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future, then you will seek me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart.”  I read it continually, daily. I found solace that God had plans for me, hope, future, but it didn’t hit until… the bottom fell out, I had to lose hope in me.

Equipped Disciple, scripture reading, God writing the word on my heart, confession and heartache all molded me during this period. It was tough but great, and then came a real trial.

            A month later my mom called, “Brandon, I need to talk with you in person, we met for lunch.  I’ve found a lump, and I’m going into surgery on Wed to have it removed.”  Turns out it was cancerous, and three weeks of sincere, constant pleading, petition and prayer began.  I met the point where I needed God, yet I still blamed Him. YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO MY MOM, my family, they’re good people, they don’t deserve it.  I was petrified.  God, don’t mess with MY FAMILY.  This isn’t fair.  Again, my foundations were shaking.

I asked God to give me the cancer, grant me her pain, so that she may live.  If ANYONE, ANYONE in my family deserves cancer, it is ME!!!

An answer came, after seeking the Lord’s face… I sat at a stoplight praying and contemplating God- when I heard in my head, a gentle whisper of hope.  God revealed to me, this is not about the cancer in your Mom’s body, but so that all will realize where my treasures are.   Fear not the one who can destroy the body but the soul.  I decided this day God is good, if my mom could love Him through cancer, I would pursue him through it.  I was so worried about my mom’s body, and everyone else’s problems, that I forgot about what the sin I was living in was doing to my soul, separating me from God.  I remembered my mom signing to me as a child, “this world is not my home…” 

I could feel the change that day.  Hope. Death to life. A paradigm shift, a bringing back of Brandon to the essentials, back through the complex maze I had made of me to the simplicity of God, the utterly essential need for a savior to DIE for my sin.

I would seek his face.  If I was gonna do anything, I was gonna be honest, or figure out how to be.  I was in CR the next week, and so began my battle to be, rather than to appear.  I prayed for God to change my heart, it would take a miracle or a God to do that.  He would prove himself to me in changing my heart, this would be my sheepskin laid outside the door.

I subsequently moved back into my parents house to help care for my mom during chemo, as doctors injected chemicals to kill everything in her to get rid of the cancer, and felt like God was doing the same thing to me.  I watched my mom and Dad stand firm in faith that God is sovereign and would take her through it or to Him through it.  Then I watched as my mom’s old friends came back from the woodworks, cook her dinners daily, I watched as friends and family surround her in love and support through the grace of Christ. I wanted that kind of community.  God would soon step in and bring to me three of the coolest Mexican’s I’d ever met in my life.  Revealing to me the love of brothers, outside of just my family, salsa verde and walking alongside me through my own guilt and shame, pride and incompetence of life.  I thought I always trusted blood, just no one else, but it turns out I didn’t even trust myself.

One day I realized, I had stopped feeling, and hid from the pain by shutting down.  I told myself, for years, “Don’t show them they hurt you and don’t cry, it’s a sign of weakness.”  But now, I was in intense pain because of my sin.  At that time God hurt, changing hurt.  It was like new lungs.  New life, but it was clean this time.  I had no choice but to cling to the hope and future he had for me.  His promises.

            During this time, I decided that if there was nothing else I could control in life, the one thing I could control was my relationship with my girlfriend.  I soon asked her to marry me, while carrying this huge burden of my abortion, on top of multiple other hurts stirred up by CR.  I thought I could fix everything by taking care of her and her daughter to justify the sin of my abortion.  It might be enough to justify my sin.  My leadership led to multiplied heartaches, when I could not lead myself well, much less a family.

I hated the person I was, I hated myself for my sin and my rebellion, I was furiously angry with God.  I couldn’t love Him, or accept love from Him. And I found out hurt people hurt people. It’s hard to continue being the bull in the china closet when you’re the bull and the closet.

Over the years, I have led so many women the wrong way, Stepping in, counseling, solving problems, only to make the problems worse because I would make them look to me, and I am not good.  Only God is good.  I broke off the engagement after three months of petition to the Lord, she didn’t deserve to be hurt again by me, surely her daughter didn’t.  This couldn’t have been Christ.  I had to learn firsthand why they recommend not dating in CR.  I’ve never learned lessons the easy way. 

I’d finished CR, done the moral inventory, isolated a lot of idols, coping, etc but my #1 issue was the guilt and shame of my abortion.

It was one line in my 265 line inventory that looked like a child’s Christmas list.  I could confess it, but I couldn’t honestly face it.  I really needed help. I just didn’t have the capacity. I finally found a program and ordered the books recommended, I would get a head start by myself, when I received the book I opened it immediately as I do most, went to read the first chapter, I got through about two pages, and I slammed the book down, and ran from the room, I sat by myself for about two hours that night.  I couldn’t face it.  The book would sit for about two weeks to hide on the side of my bed, until I got ready.  Two guys would soon come in and walk me through the toughest experience of my life, post-abortion healing.  The best study about the nature of God, his characteristics and his truth, for I never had a clear view.  I learned

He is our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend, El Shaddai, Adonaoi, He is because he is, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, all powerful, able to protect, all knowing, never changing, Completer. 100% grace, 100% Truth and in Him there is no contradiction.

Jehovah-Jireh(God, My provider)- Gen 22.1-14, Heb 9.28, Is. 61.3

Jehovah-Rapha(God, My healer)- Ex. 15.22-26,  Ps 107.19-20, James 5.13-16, Is 53.4-5

Jehovah-Shammah(God, who is there) – Ez. 48.35, Ps. 27.9-10, John 14.16-18, I Ch 28.9

He is Lord Almighty, YH-H, YH-H, able to forgive sins and keep no record of wrongs, he is present and he is listening.  His grace is sufficient, he is satisfied with you, and he loves you today.  He is my Abba Father, his furious grace was poured into my cold heart, and sizzled in my frigid soul.  I fought so hard, but his love and grace are irresistible and good.

            *that dividing line, your “greatest sin”// I don’t know when, but some how the before and after of my abortion was more important to me, than the before and after of accepting Christ as my personal saviour, and accepting his unconditional forgiveness of my sins.  Was my decision to have an abortion or my rebellion greater than God?  Could he really forgive me? I learned God offers freedom in forgiveness; I had to remove my conditions on it, even for myself.  I would drive my stake in the ground at the point of forgiveness and hope from Christ, all else could surround that. Truth.

Matt 9 12-13 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  He desires mercy not sacrifice and on top of that calls sinners.  I always thought I’d give him something.  Do something that would make this relationship a mutual agreement.  Some kinda truce.  But now I know that he saved me to tell this story, his story, so that you may know that he is God and It’s finally not about me, but today, I can say that I am a sinner saved by grace, and that in itself is a miracle. 

It has truly been a miracle.  Less of me and more of Him; for God to change even a little bit, this heart of stone is a miracle. Not a one day, Get up and walk miracle,  but a methodical daily crawl to bring me to the throne of grace with confidence, one with the bloody signature of Christ written all over it. Christ’s death is enough to cover all your sin, cast your burdens to him, lay them at the cross. 

Today I do not see a man with a straight face in a stuffy room standing up above me saving my sin like I used to.  I finally see a man wrought with the wounds of war, a battle seasoned, fiercely engaged warrior brought to the battlefield of this world for me, and awesome saviour hung alone on the cross, surrounded by sinners, not a victim crying but a saviour dying for them, mouth dripping with blood, smiling this time for me, laid in the tomb and was raised from the dead to give you living hope.

Hope is granted in Christ our Lord and hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 3.5)  So, I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Phil. 3.12) that my gravestone may one day say.  God said go, and he went.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Paul says in his first letter to Timothy, I Tim 1.15-17Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.  **** ENDS HERE****

 

Freedom; to prisoner; to freedom. 

Gal.5.1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

 

Matt 10.26“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Ezekiel 36.26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Now I wake in the morning and I stand in awe, the sun rises and sets, God moves and lives, not only in my life, but in this world.  He cares. His word is true, la palabra de dios es verdad- Today, his scripture is a blessing. His mercies are new every morning, run to him.   CR is now my church and my home. Where God is making new life, not a day goes by without the beautiful unfolding his grace. He will complete the work he has begun, and he will complete it in you.  ***

Romans 15.13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

OTHER TRAITS OF GOD

Jehovah-Tsidkenu(God, of our Righteousness)-Jer. 33.14-16,John 2.1 Matt 9.9-13,Rom 3

El Roi(God, who sees)- Gen 16.1-6, Ps. 10.14,17

1 Peter 1 1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
      To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,
2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
      Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise to God for a Living Hope  3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  10Conerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
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