Thursday, January 29, 2009

God's Grace in My Life

In the last Peanuts, I said I would give my testimony – in this case, what God has done in my life. And of course, it all starts out with my parents. They were missionaries in Japan in May of 1952 when I was born, so you could say I was made in Japan. In the 60’s and 70’s this was as common as ‘made in China’ is today. At a very early age I was taught about Jesus: how I was a sinner, that God loved me, Jesus came, and died on the cross for my sin, and at an early age I accepted Jesus as my Savior from sin. And then I lived happily ever after, right? – WRONG!

The following two incidents are, I believe, God’s providential leading in my life. When I was 10 months old, and learning to walk, I grabbed hold of the handle of a pot of boiling water, and yes, pulled it down on myself and burned large areas of my body which still bear the scars. Dr. Nero told my parents it would be a miracle if I lived – and God performed that miracle. Then when I was 18, the summer after my first year of college, we had just finished working in a field in Minnesota when I was stung by a little black bee. Within 15 minutes, I had passed out and was thrown into the back seat of my uncle’s brother’s car. We were 10 miles from town and I was told later that Eldie drove over 100 miles an hour and went through a red light getting me to the hospital. The nurses were ready with the serum, but when they tried to inject the needle, my veins collapsed. By God’s grace the doctor was able to get the serum in and soon I was on my way to recovery. How close was I to death’s door? Let’s say I remember something about an out-of-body experience, and no, I did not see a white light. It seems evident to me that God had something else for me to do on this earth, and since He saved me from physical death twice and from spiritual death once, I owe a whole lot to Him.

During my college days, I attended Bob Jones University, a fundamental Bible-believing school in South Carolina that recently has been in the headlines for refusing interracial dating among students. Actually this rule was put in place in the 50’s because of flack by parents whose daughter married Billy Kim of South Korea, who took her back there. So originally it had nothing to do with Blacks. My parents had both attended the school and I along with my 3 brothers and 2 sisters dutifully graduated from BJU. And since I am admittedly not the sharpest tool in the woodshed, I barely got out with just above a ‘C’ average. And that was with an education major!

I taught for a couple years, but I wasn’t very good and didn’t really like it all that much. Soon after, I was married to the most wonderful gal. God was very good to me. I certainly didn’t deserve Kathy, but after only seven months of dating we were married. A couple years after we were married, I tried my hand as principal of a small Christian school. Although I enjoyed it and feel I did a good job, after three years we had a new pastor and he wanted to do my job as well as his, so with our third child on the way, Kathy and I headed to Pennsylvania to teach at a Christian school just outside of Reading. Because of circumstances, I left after a year, very disillusioned with teaching, and very much in need of a good job. Christian schools typically don’t pay a lot. This was in the early 80’s and jobs were scarce. I tried to get a decent job, but the best I could do was selling baby pictures, life insurance, and vacuum cleaners. During this time, we had some dear friends who brought groceries and assisted in other ways as we were going through a very dark valley. In January of 1985, again due to circumstances, we left PA and headed for Findlay, OH, where Kathy’s parents lived. Although Kathy’s Dad, Morrie Snook, got me a job doing what he was very good at – selling life insurance, I just wasn’t cut out for it. At one point I was flipping hamburgers at McDonalds for minimum wage. I was in my 30’s, with three kids and 4th on the way. I saw no future, no hope – I believed that God no longer loved or cared for me. I felt abandoned.

Then in November of 1985 I got a job at a local plant that did machining and assembly work. I begged the plant superintendent to let me sweep floors for free for a week and if he thought I did a good job, he could hire me. Well, I guess it made an impression on him, because a couple days later I had a job there making $6.00 an hour – not much but a lot better than I had, especially since there was a lot of overtime. It was a time of healing for me. I had been beaten down psychologically and God was there, allowing me to care for my family.

A little over two years later one-third of the workforce was laid off, including me. Deciding to try management, I made a call to a company that evidently did not exist, but the company I reached was a plastics distributorship. After a couple minutes the guy at the other end asked if I would like to come in for an interview. To make the story short, I went to the interview on Saturday (and wondered if this kind of business was legitimate!), asked my pastor to pray for me Sunday morning, and got a call that afternoon to report to work the next day. I don’t know about you, but I see the hand of God all through the whole episode. We see through a glass dimly, not knowing the future. God looks at the big picture from an entirely different perspective – eternity. He sees the future as clearly as the past.

So 21 years have passed under the bridge since I got into the plastics business. For 6 ½ years I worked with that first distributorship, then the Lord worked it out so I could start out on my own in 1994. In 2000 we bought our first grinder and embarked on a whole new episode. 2005 saw us move into our own building and now we have 60,000 square feet, three grinders and two shredders, and a whole new set of headaches.

Although I believe I have been blessed in an unusual way, I have tried to keep things in perspective. God owns everything: the company, my possessions and house, my family, and myself. I own nothing. And when there are problems, it is such a relief to know that they are not mine – they belong to God. And even though I make some awful decisions, He is there to help me out.

For those of us who have been bought by the blood of Jesus, we need to understand that no matter how dark the way may be, if we are seeking to live for God, He will guide us, with His loving arm wrapped around us, and sometimes when the way is especially trying, He will carry us. That’s when we look back and see only one set of footprints.

And for those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, please let me know. It would be my joy to introduce you to my Savior and my best friend.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Constant in 2009

With the economic downturn this past year: the layoffs, the plant and company closings, the crashing stock market, and people losing their homes, it looks very bleak for this next year. For those who are looking to Obama as a savior who will bring things back to the way it was, there will be an unwelcome wake-up call. Actually it may look well for a short time, but we have had economic policies that to a large extent have brought about the situation we are facing. I am not here to speak about economic policies, however. There is a lot of fear of the future. Most Americans who are facing uncertainties about paychecks and paying bills don’t know who to turn to except their government. At some point the government will not be able to help. We need to turn to Someone who cares, even during the darkest hours.
Many of those reading this may not know my testimony. I plan to put it in this section sometime soon. Briefly though, back in the mid-80s, I was having a great deal of difficulty finding work. We had three kids, were very poor, and were being assisted by fellow church members bringing groceries. It was a very dark period for my family and especially for me, since I was the breadwinner and was expected to provide and couldn’t. This lasted long enough for me to have serious doubts about whether God actually loved and cared for me. If God was testing me, I probably failed the test. You see, Job was put though the wringer by Satan, and though he questioned why God was allowing him to go through his trials, he never questioned whether God loved him. When you go through really dark times, and it seems as though there is no hope, nowhere to turn, and believe God has turned His back on you, that is when God may be refining you; as Job put it ‘I shall come forth as gold.’ Another biblical example is Joseph, who after being sold into slavery, was falsely condemned and spent several years in an Egyptian prison. But when he held up through it all, it was God’s plan to make him Prime Minister of Egypt and to save thousands from starvation. Job himself was restored to his place of wealth and given 10 children to replace the ones Satan had cruelly taken from him.
I have no promise that Grace Plastics will always be a profitable company. I gave it to God when it was first founded, and daily offer it as well as myself to God. Although I and the employees have worked hard to make it successful, the company is His. If He wants it to continue to succeed, I would be thrilled and attempt to give Him the glory. But I hope, if God were to allow Grace Plastics to wither, like so many other companies have, that I would not grow bitter and blame Him for my hardship. If I lose everything, there is one constant, one thing that I can count on – GOD LOVES ME! And in return, whether I am financially successful or whether I lose everything, my duty to God is to love Him in return.
Those who have been saved by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus can have this promise: God will go with you through the valley, no matter how dark or difficult or long it may be. God loves and cares for you, and though you may not know why He is allowing the trial, He is with you. And remember, it may not be God’s heavy hand, so don’t blame Him.
To those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, I pray that you will repent of your sin and come to Him as you are. He will accept you, love you, and walk with you through the rest of your life. It is the wisest and best thing you can possibly do.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eulogy: Gerald Johnson, 12/30/1926 - 12/28/2007

Eccl. 12:6-7: Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust be returned to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.

How does one adequately give a to tribute his father - one who cared for him at childhood, offered invaluable advice at young adulthood, and showed an unswerving dedication to his Lord throughout my life. My hero has passed from this life to eternal life. He was ready to go. In his last hours he kept saying over and over, “I love you, Jesus” and “Jesus, I’m ready to go.”

Our loss is heaven’s gain. I feel truly blessed by God to have been a part of the family God allowed me to be born into. Dad showed me what is of true worth. His life from the time of his salvation has been one of passion for service in the work of the Gospel. He never dreamed of retirement, and only a month ago, when he was unable to do so, did he not “work the works of Him who sent him.”

Dad was also a man who loved. He loved his Savior more than anything else. He also loved his family. As children he loved us enough to pray for us, discipline us, and teach us so as to keep us from lives of foolishness and sin. He also loved the lost. He spent 58 years of his life spreading the light to those in darkness. In the last couple days of his life, he repetitiously told us how much he loved us, especially how much he loved his dear wife.

This is not goodbye. We grieve, but not as others who have no hope. The body lying in the casket is not my father. He is more alive than he has ever been. I believe Almighty God took time out of His schedule to step down from His throne, take my father’s hand and lead him through the Celestial City. He has been introduced to a child he has never known. He has been reunited with his parents, he has met Abraham, Moses, and Paul, he has traded stories with Charles Finney, John Wesley, and Dr. Bob Sr., and he has rejoiced with the thousands he led to the Savior as they worship the King of Kings. I tell you, he is more alive than you or I.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Dad, we have the blessed hope. We will meet you in the morning.

I am a grandfather!

It was 29 years ago that I became a father. I will never forget that time after the birth of our daughter, Elizabeth, when I went back to our apartment. I was overwhelmed with the responsibility that God had placed on me. Kathy and I had brought into this world an eternal soul, one that would live forever! I was responsible before God to teach and train our daughter to prepare her to know and love God, so she could spend an eternity with Him, as well as with her parents and back three more generations to my great-grandfather.

Now life goes on. Nine and a half months ago my father went to his reward, and about that time God brought another soul into the world. That same daughter, Elizabeth, has just given birth to our first grandchild. His name is Garrett Michael Miller. He looks like his father. My prayer is that he will grow up, not only to look like his father, but to be like his father, a godly man who I know will guide his son in the ways of the Lord. It’s my prayer that the chain of generational Christianity will not be broken in the lives of any of my children. Now the prayer extends to the lives of my grandchildren.

There is a verse that comes to mind in Gen. 18:19 where God speaking of Abraham says, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD” (NKJV). God blessed Abraham in a special way because He knew Abraham would bring his children up to ‘keep the way of the LORD.’

Being a grandfather is a tremendous responsibility and as well as a privilege. One has to be careful not to be meddling into the parents’ role, but willing to give wise counsel when it is sought. But as a grandparent it is my duty to pray for the little guy – that God will save his soul and use him in whatever way He wishes. That is my prayer and also, if the Lord tarries his coming, that Garrett will carry on the banner and lead his own children to know the Father.