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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In the Garden

By Cheryle M. Touchton

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. Matt 26:39 NIV

On Holy Week, I think about Jesus praying alone in Gethsemane. His soul was overwhelmed to the point of death. He took His disciples to the garden but they had to sit and wait outside. Imagine the emotion as Jesus begged, “Daddy, if possible, take this cup from me.” Then, my sweet Savior modeled acceptance and obedience by finally saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

What sends you to the garden alone? Because of my oldest son, David Paul Touchton, I got into the habit of going into the garden regularly. Bob and I met our adorable David when he was six. He moved in on this 7th birthday. God gifted David intellectually and musically and for a few years, it seemed like his future was bright. When his future fell apart, there was no putting it back together. I begged God to take the cup of David’s mistakes from us but my poor troubled David, broken before I ever met him, used his free will to ruin his life and break my heart. David found God again the last year of his life and when he died of AIDS in 1995, the only place for me was in the garden.

I had to go alone. I wanted my family and friends to enter the garden with me but all they could do was sit outside and pray. At first, I was mad to be there alone but God taught me that there are times when I have to enter alone. I had begged God to heal my son and had to accept that God gave David His perfect healing in eternity. I left that garden finally saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

In the Garden* is my favorite hymn is. I love it. I understand it. I’ve told my family to sing it at my funeral. I ignored nephew Bill when he asked, “If you’re dead, why do you care what we sing?” I’ve warned everyone that they are not to leave out any of the verses because together, they tell a story. I’ve tried to get my family of singers to learn it for me while I’m still alive but they don’t seem as excited about it as I am. Anytime there is a hymn request, I ask this hymn to be sung. I include it in conferences that I lead. I have many different recordings and when I listen to In a Garden, I feel God telling me that I am His own.

Verse 1- In the Garden*

I come to the garden alone.
While the dew is still on the roses.
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The son of God discloses.

I no longer wait for tragedy to send me to the garden. My special time with God is early in the morning. I enter that holy time alone. If I’m still, quiet, and listen carefully, the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve never been blessed to hear the audible voice of God. I had an aunt who heard voices and we locked her up so if I heard voices, I wouldn’t admit it anyway. Nevertheless, I do hear God’s voice in the early morning while the dew is still on the roses.

Verse 2- In the Garden*

He speaks and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.

As soon as my eyes open, the rush of anticipation of my time with God washes over me. I awaken hungry so I rush through my breakfast, quickly make my coffee, and trot upstairs with my dog Belle to my special vibrating recliner and kneeling bench. I kneel before the window and the sweet sound of God’s voice rings in my heart. I sit in my chair, open my Bible, and read the melodious words of God. If weather permits, I go outside. At first, I listen to the birds but the voice of God is so sweet that, to my ears, even the birds hush their singing.

Verse 3- In the Garden*

I’d stay in the garden with Him.
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.

I want to stay in the garden but the work of the day beckons. If what I hear in garden is difficult and the day ahead of me dark, I beg to stay in the garden but God bids me to Go, through the voice of woe. When I beg for my cup to be removed, I wait in the garden until I can pray, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Chorus- In the Garden*

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

As I leave the garden, the chorus stays with me. God walks with me and He talks with me throughout my day. When I’m frightened or uncertain, He whispers that I am His own. The joy we share as God and I walk together in the garden surpasses anything I have ever known.

*In the Garden – Words and Music by Austin Miles

Copyright: Pocket Full of Change Ministries

Friday, April 1, 2011

If the Devil Doesn't Like It, He Can Sit On a Tack

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deut 31:8 NIV

I was 8 years old and loved to sing an old hymn that included the words, “If the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack.” I sang them fearlessly. I still believe those words just as much today but sometimes it takes a moment to recognize the devil’s hand in something.

It was time to write an April newsletter article. I had much to write about. Ministering with my best friend, Nancy Edwards, at Mardi Gras in New Orleans was amazing. 15 people prayed to receive Jesus. When I returned Nancy to Atlanta, 2 more people said yes to stepping up and changing their destinies. I’d also spoken at several events. I sat down to write and words wouldn’t come. What was my problem?

During and in the busy week after Mardi Gras, criticism of the effectiveness of evangelism and what I do came from several sources whose words cut to the bone. Those words, so casually spoken, grew in my mind until I found myself doubting the validity of my call from God on a week where heaven had literally come down and glory had filled my soul. I sought the council of my husband, Bob, who immediately began praying for what he labeled “Cheryle’s discouragement.”

I’ve come to believe discouragement is a demon who follows me when God is with me and goes before me. It attacks right after a spiritual victory. Most often, it finds its way into my heart through Christians or those I love or respect. It is sneaky and ruthless. It preys on my doubts and fears and uses my very heart for God and God’s word against me. It is cunning because I have trouble telling the difference between the demon discouragement and Godly council that I depend on to keep me spiritually fit.

When I heard myself saying to Bob, “I’m confused about what I should be doing,” I knew Bob was right. The demon discouragement had cleverly found a home. It was why I couldn’t write. Truth never confuses me. When my heart is open to God, truth pierces my soul. When my heart is spiritually cold, I can ignore truth so I’m not confused. The fact that I was confused meant the demon discouragement was attacking me and threatening to hinder my ability to Give’em Heaven in 2011. Get thee behind me, Satan!

The Answer
If the demon, discouragement, is hindering your ability to Give’em Heaven in 2011, let me share some truths I’ve learned.

The only effective tool against a demon is to rebuke it and speak the word of God aloud.

If someone has told you that Christians are too “preachy,” know that God calls us to go into the world and preach the Gospel.

If you are wondering if people who pray to receive Jesus are sincere, let me state that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

If you’ve heard that people need to be convicted of all of their sins first, know that they only need to admit they are a sinner and ask for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit often convicts new Christians of one sin at a time over an extended period.

If you think you can’t tell someone all about Jesus in just a few minutes, believe that the lost do not have to understand everything about Jesus to receive Him. They only need faith the size of mustard seed to call on the Lord.

If you are uncomfortable quoting numbers of salvations, please consider that the number of people we lead to Jesus matters because each number is person and people matter. We are to place our light on a table for all see. The Bible often quotes numbers and it is my conviction we should as well. At Pentecost, 3,000 people called on the Lord. In 2010, 132 people prayed with me to receive Jesus. At Mardi Gras, 15 people prayed with Nancy and me to change their eternal destiny. I do not apologize for bragging on God because the God’s word is sharper than a double-edged sword and those salvations came from speaking God’s words aloud.

For those who argue that salvation isn’t just about speaking a few words but is about a changed heart, let me assure you that a prayer that calls on Jesus is made up of words and speaking that prayer aloud is the single most powerful tool I’ve ever witnessed for leading to a changed heart. While “the sinner’s prayer” is not specifically in the Bible, 1) accepting that sin has separated us from God and asking for forgiveness from that sin, 2) confessing that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead for our sins, and 3) asking Jesus to our Lord and Savior is absolutely in the Bible. The order of the words may not matter but confessing, believing, and praying to receive Jesus is the difference between an eternity in heaven and an eternity in hell.

To those who question the feasibility of leading people to Christ while they are in the middle of sinning, let me quote Romans 5:20. Where sin increases, grace abounds. I can personally attest that when Christians evangelize at dark events where sin increases, grace does indeed abound, and many pray to receive Jesus.

To those who counter that it is impossible to follow up with people who pray to receive Jesus right on the street, may I remind you that just as the Holy Spirit sends evangelists to lead people to Christ, He is equally faithful to send teachers to disciple them.

Join us at Pocket Full of Change Ministries and Give’em Heaven in 2011. People are hungry to know Jesus. Don’t let the demon discouragement keep you from being bold. As the old hymn says, “If the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack.”