Salvation

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conversion to christianity
Sarah’s Story

I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Canada. My parents were socialists and political activists who thought British Columbia would be a better place for us to live, since it had the only socialist government in North America at the time. My parents were also atheists, though they eschewed that label in favor of “agnostic.” They were kind, loving, and moral, but religion played no part in my life. Instead, my childhood revolved around education, particularly science. I remember how important it was to my parents that my brother and I did well in school.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when science fiction was enjoying a renaissance, thanks largely to the popularity of Star Wars. I remember how fascinated I was by the original Star Wars trilogy. It had almost nothing to do with science—it’s more properly characterized as space opera—but it got me thinking about space in a big way. I also loved the original Star Trek, which was more science fiction. The stoic and logical character of Mr. Spock was particularly appealing to me. Popular science was also experiencing a renaissance at that time, which had a lot to do with Carl Sagan’s television show, Cosmos, which I adored. The combination of these influences led to such an intense wonder about outer space and the universe, that by the time I was nine years old I knew I would be a space scientist someday.

I had come to believe that Christianity made people weak and foolish; I thought it was philosophically trivial.
Canada was already post-Christian by the 1970s, so I grew up with no religion. In retrospect, it’s amazing that for the first 25 years of my life, I met only three people who identified as Christian. My view of Christianity was negative from an early age, and by the time I was in my twenties, I was actively hostile toward Christianity. Looking back, I realized a lot of this was the unconscious absorption of the general hostility toward Christianity that is common in places like Canada and Europe; my hostility certainly wasn’t based on actually knowing anything about Christianity. I had come to believe that Christianity made people weak and foolish; I thought it was philosophically trivial. I was ignorant not only of the Bible, but also of the deep philosophy of Christianity and the scientific discoveries that shed new light on the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

As a young person struggling to understand the world without the aid of religion, I got involved in Objectivism. Objectivism is a philosophy built on the idea of rational selfishness. It is based on the work of the devoutly atheist philosopher, Ayn Rand, who lived in Soviet Russia before she immigrated to the United States. Unlike my parents, I had embraced capitalism by my early twenties instead of socialism. Objectivism appealed to me, because of the belief that my life was my own, and that I could make of it what I wanted. It seemed like a strong, logical philosophy.

University and the big questions of life

In my mid-twenties, I moved to the United States to go to university and to prepare for a life devoted to science. I enrolled in the physics program at Eastern Oregon University, located in the same little town where my brother and I had been born. As I began to experience life as an independent adult, I started to find Objectivism a barren and sterile philosophy.

It had failed to answer the big questions: What is the purpose of life? Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?

It also suffers from an ironic lack of internal consistency. For all its focus on objective truth, the philosophy of Objectivism had no source for that truth except human opinion. And, for all their focus on enjoying life, Objectivists didn’t seem to experience any joy at all. Instead, they seemed preoccupied with angrily guarding their independence from all outside pressures.

I had been indirectly supporting the Ayn Rand Institute with a subscription to an Objectivist magazine, but by this time was starting to regret it. Even though I still thought Christianity was silly, ARI’s relentless bashing of Christians was starting to grow tiresome. And when one of ARI’s most prominent public figures mounted a public defense of partial-birth abortion as being “pro-life,” I canceled my support and no longer identified myself with the philosophy. I realized I had outgrown Objectivism.

I began to focus all of my energy on my studies, and became very dedicated to my physics and math courses. I joined campus clubs, started to make friends, and, for the first time in my life, I was meeting Christians. They weren’t like Objectivists — they were joyous and content. And, they were smart, too. I was astonished to find that my physics professors, whom I admired, were Christian. Their personal example began to have an influence on me, and I found myself growing less hostile to Christianity.

In the summer after my sophomore year, I participated in a physics research internship at the University of California – San Diego. For the first time in my life, I was no longer in the center of mass of science—the realm of long-accepted scientific truths—but had moved to the frontier of science, where new discoveries were being made.

I had joined a group in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS) that was researching evidence for the big bang. The cosmic background radiation—the leftover radiation from the big bang—provides the strongest evidence for the theory, but cosmologists need other, independent lines of evidence to confirm it. My group was studying deuterium abundances in the early universe. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen, and its abundance in the early universe is sensitive to the amount of ordinary mass contained in the entire universe. Believe it or not, this one measurement tells us whether the big bang model is correct.

If anyone is interested in how this works, I’ll describe it, but for now I’ll spare you the gruesome details. Suffice it to say that an amazing convergence of physical properties is necessary in order to study deuterium abundances in the early universe, and yet this convergence is exactly what we get. I remember being astounded by this, blown away, completely and utterly awed. It seemed incredible to me that there was a way to find the answer to this question we had about the universe. In fact, it seems that every question we have about the universe is answerable. There’s no reason it has to be this way, and it made me think of Einstein’s observation that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it’s comprehensible. I started to sense an underlying order to the universe. Without knowing it, I was awakening to what Psalm 19 tells us so clearly:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

That summer, I’d picked up a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and was reading it in my off hours. Previous to this, I’d only known it as an exciting story of revenge, since that’s what the countless movie and TV adaptations always focused on. But it’s more than just a revenge story, it’s a philosophically deep examination of forgiveness and God’s role in giving justice. I was surprised by this, and was starting to realize that the concept of God and religion was not as philosophically trivial as I had thought.

Going from unbelief to belief

All of this culminated one day, as I was walking across that beautiful La Jolla campus. I stopped in my tracks when it hit me— I believed in God! I was so happy; it was like a weight had been lifted from my heart. I realized that most of the pain I’d experienced in my life was of my own making, but that God had used it to make me wiser and more compassionate. It was a great relief to discover that there was a reason for suffering, and that it was because God was loving and just. God could not be perfectly just unless I—just like everyone else—was made to suffer for the bad things I’d done.

For a while I was content to be a theist and didn’t pursue religion any further. I spent another very enjoyable summer with CASS, and then during my last year at EOU I met a man I liked very much, a computer science student from Finland. He’d been in the special forces in the Finnish Defense Force, and was just about the most off-the-wall character I’d ever met. But he was also a man of strength, honor, and deep integrity, and I found myself overwhelmingly drawn to those qualities. Like me, he’d grown up atheist in a secular country, but he’d come to embrace God and Jesus Christ as his personal savior in his early twenties through an intensely personal experience. We fell in love and got married. Somehow, even though I wasn’t religious myself, I was comforted to be marrying a Christian man.

I graduated with a degree in physics and math that year, and in the fall, I started graduate work in astrophysics at The University of Texas at Austin. My husband was a year behind me in his studies, so I moved to Austin by myself. The astrophysics program at UT was a much more rigorous and challenging environment than my little alma mater. The academic rigor, combined with the isolation I felt with my family and friends being so far away, left me feeling pretty discouraged.

Conversion to Christianity

conversion to christianityWandering through a bookstore one day, I saw a book called The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder. I was intrigued by the title, but something else compelled me to read it. Maybe it was the loneliness, and I was longing for a deeper connection with God. All I know is that what I read changed my life forever.

Dr. Schroeder is a unique individual—he is an MIT-trained physicist and also an applied theologian. He understands modern science, has read the ancient and medieval biblical commentaries, and is capable of translating the Old Testament from the ancient Hebrew. He was thus able to give a scientific analysis of Genesis 1. His work proved to me that Genesis 1 was scientifically sound, and not just a “silly myth” as atheists believed. I realized that, remarkably, the Bible and science agree completely. (If you’re interested in the details of this, you can either go through my slideshow here or read Dr. Schroeder’s book.)

Schroeder’s great work convinced me that Genesis is the inspired word of God. But something told me to keep going. If Genesis is literally true, then why not the Gospels, too? I read the Gospels, and found the person of Jesus Christ to be extremely compelling. I felt as Einstein did when he said he was “enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.” And yet I struggled, because I did not feel one hundred percent convinced of the Gospels in my heart. I knew of the historical evidence for their truth. And, of course, I knew the Bible was reliable because of Genesis. Intellectually, I knew the Bible to be true, and as a person of intellect, I had to accept it as truth, even if I didn’t feel it. That’s what faith is. As C. S. Lewis said, it is accepting something you know to be true in spite of your emotions. So, I converted. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.

Trials that tested my faith

Maybe that sounds coldly logical. It did to me, and for that reason, I sometimes worried whether my faith was real. And then I had a chance to find out a couple of years ago. That year started with my cancer diagnosis and an unpleasant course of treatment. Not long after, my husband fell ill with meningitis and encephalitis, and it was not clear if he would recover; we didn’t know if he would be paralyzed or worse. It took him about a month, but, thankfully, he did recover. At that time, we were expecting our first child, a baby girl. All seemed well until about six months, when our baby stopped growing. We found out she had Trisomy 18, a fatal chromosomal abnormality. Our daughter, Ellinor, was stillborn soon after.

It was the most devastating loss of our lives. For a while I despaired, and didn’t know how I could go on after the death of our daughter. But I finally had a clear vision of our little girl in the loving arms of her heavenly Father, and it was then that I had peace. I reflected that, after all these trials in one year, my husband and I were not only closer to each other, but also felt closer to God. My faith was real.

I don’t know how I would’ve coped with such trials when I was an atheist. When you’re twenty years old and healthy, and you have your family around you, you feel immortal. I never thought about my own death or the potential deaths of loved ones. But there comes a time when the feeling of immortality wanes, and you’re forced to confront the inevitability of not only your own annihilation, but that of your loved ones.

My Calling

I love my career as an astrophysicist. I can’t think of anything I would rather do than study the workings of the universe, and I realize now that my lifelong fascination with space has really been an intense longing for a connection with God (“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” [Romans 1:20]). But I also feel a strong calling to minister to others through this same work.

I will never forget the student who got me started on this path. When I was a graduate student, not long after I had converted to Christianity, I was leading a help session for an astronomy course, and we were going over big bang cosmology. After the session, the student came to me and asked, very timidly, if it was okay to be a scientist and believe in God. I told her, of course; I was a scientist and believed in God. She was visibly relieved, and told me that one of her professors in another department had said she couldn’t be religious and believe in science, too. I was haunted by this, and wondered how many other young people were struggling with similar questions about science and faith. I decided to help others who are struggling with doubts. I also wanted to help people answer false atheist arguments confidently. I’ve struggled with this, because I know it will be a difficult road to travel. But the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice leaves no doubt about what I have to do.

…two things drew me to God—the overwhelming evidence of his involvement in the physical world and his perfect justice.
When I was in the process of becoming a believer, two things drew me to God—the overwhelming evidence of his involvement in the physical world and his perfect justice. I can help people to see God’s handiwork in the physical world, but I am not capable of perfect justice. None of us are. God’s perfect justice demanded atonement for sin, but because of our flawed nature, we aren’t capable of atonement. God sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to atone for us. Jesus was crucified, He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose. Perfect justice was achieved.

Jesus triumphed over temptation, sin, and death. If we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we are reconciled to God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whomsoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting.” (John 3:16)

I don’t know who you are, dear reader, or what your background is. Perhaps you are a believer; if so, you already know the power of those words. But if you are still seeking God, perhaps you will choose, as I did, to accept this great gift of salvation and be reconciled to God.

purity
A Vapor in God’s Plan

This is the story of me. But that’s not why I’m sharing it with you today. I want you to know how God changed my life and saved me from myself. I want you to see just how incredible God is. May He receive all the praise for what He has done with me, and may I continue to follow Him all the days of my life.

The Old Creation

Once there lived an old creation. Yes, an old creation. His name was Luke, and he looked like every other guy on the street; except for the fact that he was a Christian. But he wasn’t one of those strange religious types. He was a cool Christian; or at least he thought so. He showed off his skills to all his friends. He quietly pursued girls like all those around him, and tried to make his act look as good as possible.

He didn’t praise God unless it was Sunday, and even then he never got serious about it. He wouldn’t be a gentleman to anyone unless he was being forced to by his parents. Oh, he was a “good kid” compared to most, but he never rose too high above his peers’ expectations, and he only worked at something if he absolutely had to (or if it satisfied his own desires).

He never really thought about God much in his everyday life. He mostly had hateful thoughts, girls, or himself on his mind. He was a counterfeit of everything God planned for him to be as a man. He stood up for his hobbies, but never his Savior. He read his science-fiction books all the time, but his Bible remained closed Monday-Saturday. He was, to put it bluntly, a jerk disguised as a Christian. This was me in 2009-2010. Then God decided it was time for a change, and as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, He made me into a new creation. My old self passed, and behold, my new self came!

I never actually comprehended God’s intense love for me, and I never set my mind to do anything worthy of the Kingdom.
I don’t pride myself in the fact that I used to be that old creation. I was pretty bad, I must say. But when I possessed my old self, I played the part well. I didn’t go proclaiming my shameful spiritual condition throughout the halls. I just blended in, tried to look cool, and let my sheep costume make me resemble a true Christian just a little bit. That was all you needed to stay acceptable. Just a good act, cool friends, and “Christianity” (to the short extent of your parent’s beliefs). You just needed to know that God existed, and that as long as your friends liked you, you were doing all right. I based my entire Christianity on feelings and the “religious status” of my family. I didn’t know or care about any solid proof for God’s existence. I never actually comprehended God’s intense love for me, and I never set my mind to do anything worthy of the Kingdom. If I did do something Christ-like, it was basically a way to get some points up on the board for myself, not really to set a good lifelong or even week-long habit.

I was, as modern terminology would say, a nominal Christian. One of the definitions of the word “nominal” is: “Existing in name only.” That’s exactly what I was doing as a Christian. I was a Christian in my name alone, not in my actions, words, or desires. The only reason anyone would call me a Christian was because I said I was a Christian. Nobody could see the life of Christ reflected in my pursuits and habits. I loved the world, and kept God in my back pocket as hell insurance. Little did I know that God was not giving up on me yet. He chased me down, got my attention, and saved me from a life of hypocrisy. I’ll never forget His incredible grace and love in doing so.

The Turning Point

“Oh great, another sermon on saving your virginity until marriage,” I thought as I looked over the sheet my mom had handed me. It was a schedule for all the talks I would be attending at that year’s annual INCH conference. INCH is a conference where speakers and authors come and give talks in a series of rooms. It’s based on homeschooling and Christian living, and one of the talks my mom had signed me up for was called, “When God Writes Your Love Story.” I wasn’t exactly thrilled. All the speakers do in those talks is tell you not to have sex before marriage and marry a Christian who goes to church, right? Nope. Not this time. I was in for quite a surprise when I stepped foot into the Lansing Center building on that life-changing day in May of 2011.

I entered the room and sat down. Before the day began, a man named Eric Ludy gave a speech for the teen guys who were volunteering at the INCH conference; that included me. The Holy Spirit went to work on me as soon as he spoke. Eric had a style unlike any other. I could tell from the ever-present smile on his face and the tone in his voice that he truly believed what he was saying. He really loved God. I could tell he really meant what he said. He felt it in his heart. I wanted whatever it was this man had that made him seemingly invincible in the face of the world. Later I realized that through that speech God was working on my heart and preparing me for a transformation beyond anything I thought was possible.

Later, I found the room where “When God Writes Your Love Story” was taking place, and I waited yet again for this strangely vigorous man with such a fire in his heart for God. He and his wife presented the talk together, and as they got into the message they described how to handle love Biblically. They made the bold statement that romantic love is to be saved for one; that God planned one person for us to spend our lives with, and that we are not to squander our passion on whomever we happen to “like” at that particular moment. We are to give our desires to the Lord and wait for His perfect timing. We are to step back, let God write our love story, and give Him our all. This is what their message was about. This is what God used to change my life.

After the talk was over, I went out into the main hall of the Lansing Center and found one of my friends. We talked a bit, but I wasn’t really paying much attention. I was in a daze. Thousands of thoughts about girls, dating, and purity raced across my mind. I had never thought about not dating before. I figured dating was what everyone did when they were old enough. The idea of not chasing after girls was new to me. It was as if someone told me right was wrong and wrong was right. It was astounding, and at the same time strangely drawing. For the first time in my life I felt a desire to serve my future wife and to love her. I really wanted to pursue this “saving my affections” thing, and if you know me, you know that when I truly set my mind to do something, I don’t give up. I’m quite stubborn with what I adhere to in life. If I was going to do this, I was going to put my all into it. There would be no turning back.

The New Life

purityAfter that incredible experience I did some serious thinking. I decided that I couldn’t figure this whole thing out just by remembering what Eric and Leslie said at the conference. I needed to look into it deeper. One of my friends had a copy of Eric and Leslie’s book, “When God Writes Your Love Story,” so I borrowed it. After reading it, I felt like I had found something sincerely worth committing to in life. Before this, I struggled with the purpose of my existence and what I was living for. As my actions made clear, I didn’t want to live for God, and if God wasn’t the purpose of my efforts then what was I doing here on this planet? All I ever pursued in my free time were my hobbies, and they didn’t outweigh all the damage that was in my relationships with my siblings, or the anger and resentment I felt regularly at my schoolwork or my parents. But after I read that book I discovered something valuable, something worth devoting my life to. I wanted in. I made the choice to go all out in favor of this crazy idea of waiting for love and genuinely living for God.

Little did I know how difficult this path I had chosen would be. As I moved into this new lifestyle, I found so many things in my life that didn’t match up with my passion to serve God in my romantic desires. After all, I couldn’t abstain from pursuing girls and still treat them like objects, so I found myself wanting to serve God in my view of girls. I couldn’t treat girls as precious jewels made in the image of God while still hating my brothers, so I tried to heal those relationships. And I couldn’t do all this heart-searching without realizing that I was so absent from my Bible and so dead in my prayer life, so I started looking for ways to establish those habits in my daily routine. One thing came after another, and with the help of some fantastic books, I suddenly became so aware of what I should have been doing and what I needed to stop doing. The Holy Spirit was convicting me and changing me.

The Commitment

A few months after these remarkable events, I went to the “Basic Life Principles” seminar with my dad. It was a speaker talking about the truth behind so many “harmless” things we see the world doing, and how to live Biblically in every little decision we face in life. It was a huge turning point for me, and during it I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. I’d thought that I had given my life to God before this, but I know it wasn’t genuine. I was “saved” at four years old, but I remember now that my motives were to please my mom and dad and to fit in. I didn’t care about actually following God. Frankly, I was a bit young to fully understand it, and the fact that my actions didn’t improve at all afterwards affirms that nothing really happened. This event, however, was different. This wasn’t fake spiritual-sounding chatter. This was a real encounter with God and a real commitment. This was my true day of salvation. I knew that from that moment on I never had to worry about Satan telling me I wasn’t saved, because now I really was. Whenever he decided to whisper lies in my ear I could point him to the Basic Life Principles seminar, where God Almighty changed me from a pathetic nominal Christian to an authentic believer.

Today
I want Christ to use me to save those in the same condition I was, especially the youth.
I look back on those defining months of my life with joy, but also with sadness. I’m so grateful to my Lord for saving me from my hypocritical lifestyle, and at the same time I see hundreds around me who are still trapped in the endless cycle of an uncommitted, counterfeit, “Christian” routine. I pity them all the more because I was one of them. I long to be able to help them and talk to them, I pray for them, and I plan to one day devote my entire career and life to saving them. Unless God calls me to something different, I want Christ to use me to save those in the same condition I was, especially the youth. So much begins with the youth of our planet. All the kids who couldn’t care less about God are the next leaders! All the children who see God as a get-out-of-hell-free card are the next generation’s pastors and missionaries! How scary is that? Today I see an ocean of shallow, pitiful kids like I was, obsessed with the world and avoiding God as much as possible.

Do you think I’m being harsh? I know because I was there. I know what I did. I know what was going on among Christian youth. I know how to play the act of a “Christian kid,” and I know what to say to appear secure in Christ. This is happening everywhere. Most just ignore it or don’t realize it. This issue is not just something that a few old people are fretting over. It’s a serious problem, and it needs to be addressed if there is to be any hope for the next generation.

The instruction of the church’s youth cannot be dumbed down or held back.

We young people know that committing to something requires work, and we’re pretty smart too. We can figure out how to hide practically anything from our parents, can’t we? We can put hours and hours into our friends and our video games, right? Well, then we can understand that in order to call ourselves Christians we need to put that time and energy into God! We can handle theology! We can comprehend that it’s all in or it’s all out! Please tell us the Truth! Tell us that there’s no in between! Make it known that we’re either a friend to God and an enemy to the world, or an enemy to God and a friend to the world (James 4:4). We could see that, if only more people were telling us that. Don’t treat us like we’re not responsible to live passionately for God. We’re just as responsible as any Christian! We don’t need another feel-good speech from a guy who tells us, “It’s ok, because everyone sins.” We don’t need pampering. We need challenging messages that show us we are hypocrites and lost sinners! We need understanding of God’s complete forgiveness and His power to overcome our sin. We need encouragement not to “be a man” or “do our own thing,” but to follow God relentlessly.

How About You?

If your life fails to testify to God’s work in your heart and mind, you might want to reconsider your title of “Christian.” It’s true that all genuine Christians stumble and everyone does sin. But those who are saved do not keep on sinning (1 John 3:6) like I did a couple years ago. Ever since God saved me, I know I’ve been different. Yes, I still sin on a regular basis. Yes, I still have a LOT of work to do. But now I know that the Holy Spirit is with me and in me, changing my life day by day. I feel something that was not there before. Do you feel it? Ask God to reveal to you what your life looks like to Him. Ask God to open your heart and your eyes if you’ve been shutting Him out in favor of social media or romance. Be honest with yourself. Are you a Christian? Are you a follower of God? If not, “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Ask God to save you from your sinful cravings and mold you into a committed believer for Him; not just on Sunday or in public, but all the time and everywhere. Are you a friend of God? Or are you a friend of the world? I was God’s enemy, and He chose to save me. I pray he does the same for you.

“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:6-10

perfect love casts out fear
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear (Stacey’s Story)

Many evils confront the (consistently) righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:19

“You are nobody! You will always be nobody! No man will ever want you! You are crazy! It’s all your fault!” These are actual words I have heard growing up and in relationships. It seemed no matter where or who I turned to, the end results would be the same; a deep wound to the soul. So desperately longing to be loved, accepted, validated, I would subconsciously seek out relationships that would only solidify my already low image of myself.

Oh, I didn’t do this on purpose, mind you. But, when you have grown up with rejection, it does attach itself to you throughout your life, until something changes. The residue of rejection will torment you until God intervenes and you make the choice to accept His love and help.

I didn’t grow up in a church. There were a couple times I remember my aunt taking us to church for Vacation Bible School, but I never knew the Lord. The idea of a Jesus out there that could love me was hard for me to grasp. Not even my own father could love me, and if a heavenly Father, God, was anything like my earthly father, then surely He must be an angry, unapproachable, and a disappointed God of wrath too.

It is true, our first relationship with our father does shape how we view our Heavenly Father. Sadly, the representation here on earth does not always nurture a true image of a Father’s love.

This is what rejection does to you:

  • It causes you to hide.
  • It causes you to lie.
  • It causes you to fear.
  • It cause you to not trust.
  • It causes you to not know your own identity.

As a young runaway, I learned how to be whoever I needed to be in the given moment. It was a survival tactic. I had so many aliases, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Living on the street, then cocktail waitressing in NYC at the age of 15, I met some shady characters. I also met some good people. You know, we do not always recognize the hand of God on us, or His protection, at the time. It is usually a hindsight, when we look back and wonder how we even survived.

Funny, the very thing I was running from, I ran right to. I ran from an abusive father right into a marriage with an abusive man. Having been on my own, mostly since the age of 12, I didn’t know what it was to be a real woman. I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like. I had my “idea” of what I wanted, I just didn’t know how to get there. I believe inside I didn’t believe I deserved anything better than to be beat down, abused, abandoned, rejected, cheated on, and used. I did not know what love looked like.

His Word says, “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].” 1 John 4:18 (AMP) I was covered in fear.

We all have a past, we come from different walks of life, different experiences, and most of us carry deep wounds that pierce even to the soul. The depth of the wounds can blind us to truth, cloud our vision, and distort our minds. But God!

I could probably write page after page of everywhere I have been, what I have done, or has been done to me. We could sit here and swap war stories all day, no doubt. But, I would much rather give God glory, because I was not an easy case, I was deeply wounded, scared, and in hiding.

Yet, He reached down and pulled me up. He did this, not because I was looking for Him, but because He was looking for me. What He has done for me, He will do for you.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:11

Of course, if I had a choice, I would have written a better life story. But, I do not regret one experience, because had I not experienced what I have, I may not be where I am now. I would not have the ministry I have now. Of course there are still some residual effects, but He is delivering me and healing me from it all.

I met Jesus when I was in my early thirties. It was no gradual introduction, either. I believe He speaks to us in a way He knows we will understand. He meets us right where we are. In our mess, He is right there.

He grabbed me, opened my eyes to see Him, loved on me, and changed me from the inside out. He did such a mighty move inside of me, I looked in the mirror and expected to see Him staring right back at me.

Where I was once surrounded by darkness, He shone His light. Nature was more beautiful, the sky was bluer, He gave me a love for people, and a hunger for His Word. In short, I could not get enough of Him. He planted me in a home church that mentored me and helped me to grow.

perfect love casts out fear

Fast forward… He called me as an Evangelist. I was in ministry and doing a good work for Him. It would be easy to think if you are doing a good work for Him and trusting Him everything would be easy, right? I mean, after all, I am a Spirit filled believer, chasing after His heart, seeking to do His will and believing every Word He spoke. But, there is a reason He has told us to pick up our cross… a cross is a heavy thing to carry. A cross is what He hung from. A cross signifies death. And there is death in carrying the cross, it is a death to yourself, to the world, and to what once held you in bondage. There were times I felt utterly alone and the only consolation I had was clinging to His promise He would never leave me.

Being saved and in ministry did not save my marriage. I am not saying it was His will for my marriage to end. But we all have a free will, don’t we. His love is unconditional and unending. There may be natural consequences to our choices, but He is not angry with us, His children. It seemed the closer I got to Him the more hell was raining down on me. The attacks were very real and came from those I loved dearly.

I remember one evening, looking into the night sky and crying out to Him. “God! Are You even out there?!” I was broken and hurting. I was tired of loss. I had no one else to turn to, I had only Him, and I wanted Him to intervene and make things all better. I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking Him to change my circumstances, I should have been asking Him to change me. So, I yell out, “God! Are You even out there?!” and immediately He answered, “I am right here.”

Ah, yes, He is right here. And with Him is peace that passes all understanding. The kind of peace that says, I do not know why things are the way they are, and I do not know what the future holds, but I do trust You have it all under control, I trust You.

Salvation is the greatest gift and testimony we could have. The testimony is, while we were far away from God He sent His Son to reconcile us and draw us close. Throughout our walk with Him in the flesh that dies daily, He does do marvelous works in and through us. His Word promises, He will never leave us or forsake us. Though the world rejects you, though those who you love dearly and trusted may abandon you, He never will. And how can we know this unless we experience it?

There have been many times the demon of rejection will come knocking on my door and I have to resist it. Perfect love cast out all fear takes on a new meaning when you understand His love is perfect. When we truly know and believe how much He loves us then we will not have to fear the loss of anything or anyone in this temporal life here. We will find true freedom in His love to know who we are in Him and what our calling is.

Of course I have not arrived to complete healing. The wounds from the past are deep. He takes me step by step, glory to glory, and together He and I unearth the wounds and He says, “Do not be afraid, I am going to walk with you through this.”

Romans 8:28 has become my life verse. For I know all things will work together for my good, because I love Him and I have been called according to His purpose. The key word is HIS PURPOSE. Not my purpose, His purpose. Think about that. We partner with Him for His purpose. He chose us!

There is a season for everything. We have seasons of rest and then we have seasons where we have to do battle and resist. We must remember, the battle is not ours, but it is His. We have to trust He will fight for us, protect us, and when we have gone through the fire we will come forth as gold.

Do not be ashamed of where you have been, or where you came from. Your past does not dictate your future. Once you have received Him you are a new creation. Only He is able to heal and deliver. Only through Him do we find wholeness, nothing lacking.

How wonderful that God, creator of all things, who has no beginning and no end, chose us! He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. The God who parted the red sea will go before you and make your path straight.

You are loved by Him, highly favored by Him, and in Him there is no shame.

Be Free & Stay Free

Fishers of Men

In the books of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells Simon and Andrew that if they follow Him, He will make them “fishers of men.” Why would becoming fishers of men be of interest to a couple of fishermen? They were fishers of fish! And just how does one go “fishing” for men anyway? What bait should be used? How big would the hook have to be? Herein lies the story of one such man, or should I say “fish,” and just how it was that Jesus was able to catch him.

As a fisherman myself, there are several things you need to know in order to have a successful fishing trip. Without knowing what you are fishing for, how can you possibly succeed? The following is a short list of things one needs to know in order to catch fish.

  1. Know where the fish are.
  2. Know what equipment you will need.
  3. Know what fish like to eat.
  4. Know when fish like to eat.
  5. Know how to “present” the bait…the lure.

I have discovered that fishing for men is no different than fishing for fish. You don’t even need a license! And you can fish for them year round! In season and out of season. You just can’t keep them or fillet them. It’s strictly catch and release.

fishers of menWhen God set out to “catch” me, He knew everything about me. My deep, dark secrets, all of the mistakes I had made. He knew what things interested me. He knew the things I craved and the things I thought about when the lights were out and I was all alone. Points 1, 3 and 4 in the list above were already taken care of. He still needed Point #2 though…the right equipment.

Enter a good-looking, well-constructed woman onto the scene. Right equipment? Check! Presentation? Check! God had everything in place to catch me and I was totally oblivious to what was going on. I couldn’t even see the hook! That’s because The Holy Spirit cannot be seen.

Unbeknownst to me, the new friend in my life was a Christian. And she was fishing, just like Jesus had taught her to do. And NOT the way the world teaches.

The day of my transformation was January 15, 2006. I was sitting in church with my wife, the result of a guilt trip my new friend had laid on me. Or should I say the Holy Spirit did. I heard a message that day from the pulpit that was exactly what I needed to hear and I became a believer in Jesus Christ right then and there.

Psalm 37:4 says:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

That is SO true. One of the first things I felt convicted about when I came to believe was not being a godly father to my children. I had failed them AND God in my opinion. But God is a God of many chances. And what do you think He would have me do? How about a volunteer with a youth group. My children were grown and out of the house but suddenly I had dozens of kids to guide and mentor. It was perfect. It was SO God.

Many wonderful relationships came out of the time I spent with those kids. And God was true to His promise. He gave me the desires of my heart. Both of my kids now go to church each week with their spouses – a blessing indeed! Do they believe? I can’t tell that, only God can. But the chances sure a better sitting in a pew rather than a recliner at home!

There is great joy in becoming a fisher of men. You should try it some time. I did. Oh, how I love to watch God pursuing these young people! They are a tricky fish to catch but God is a pro angler. He can even catch fish using old rusted equipment like me – a grandfather” to the next generation.

fishers-of-menHave you ever noticed what letter a fish hook looks like. Coincidence? I think not!

“Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
– John 21:3-7

 

God's unconditional love
The Unconditional Love of God

I am so grateful for the way God has worked in my life. His love for me has been prevalent throughout my past and present. Even before Christ saved me, the Lord’s hand was protecting me.

I wasn’t always aware of the Father. I used to live life on a whim. I never thought about God. When I was a child, my mother made sure I attended church. So, there was knowledge of Him, but I wasn’t able to feel the connection.

I was shy and full of fear during my adolescence years. The feeling of not fitting in with other teenagers was a persistent battle. That awkwardness led me searching to find something to ease those difficulties.

I discovered alcohol and drugs. They seemed to be a solution, but ended up being a life-threatening problem.

Throughout those teenage years getting drunk and high on drugs was my primary focus. They took priority over school, sports, and even girls. Consumed with constant thoughts of ingesting as much of them as I could handle.

The alcohol caused blackouts leaving me no memory of the way I behaved. I became violent and untrustworthy. Sometimes I would wake up with black eyes. They had to beat me up because I was out of control. The only way I thought I could deal with those painful experiences was to continue drinking. That only made it worse.

The drugs caused me to become anti-social. I would use them to the point of becoming comatose blotting out consciousness. The combination of the alcohol and drugs played havoc with my physical, mental and spiritual health.

I almost didn’t graduate from High School, and I know today this was God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. At that time of my life, I would have settled for flunking out because all I wanted to do was get high.

After graduation, I joined the Army. One of my friends convinced me to sign up. We were going to enter the military together, but he backed out and off I went. I didn’t like the armed services. The discipline was tough, and my craving for alcohol was strong. I began plotting ways to get out and my first attempt was going AWL (Absent Without Leave). That got me in trouble.

Again, God’s invisible mercy was working in the background.
I finally did get out and the way I did it was dangerous. I took some medication and wrote a suicide note claiming I took an overdose. They rushed me to the hospital, pumped out my stomach and questioned me about the incident. I told them I wanted out, and they agreed. Again, God’s invisible mercy was working in the background. And I walked out after six months with an honorable discharge.

I returned home. Things didn’t get any better, only worse. See, I had not gotten God’s message yet and continued the road of self-destruction. My morality was becoming a problem because I compromised righteous behavior for wrongful action. I had become a thief and stole other people’s items so I could sell them to support my addictive lifestyle.

Just before my twenty-second birthday, my world came crashing down. The alcohol and drug abuse caught up with me, and I couldn’t stop abusing them. I was desperate to quit, but was unable under my limited power. I was powerless, helpless and devastated.

you (2)Then God’s unconditional love stepped in and rescued me. He had gotten my attention and placed me in the position to find support from others who traveled down that same path. The Lord led me to a Twelve Step program designed to help alcohol and drug addiction. God already knew this was the way I was going to activate my faith.

Over the past thirty years, the unconditional love of God has turned my life completely around. I not only have an active faith in Him, but know how to trust His divine guidance. He has introduced me to His Son Jesus and blessed me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’m forever grateful for the way He has allowed me to live in His presence.

By no means have I stayed on the straight and narrow. I retreated into addiction. Eight of those thirty years I lived in misery. I experienced nothing but unremitting pain and suffering from turning away from Christ. I never knew how bad things would get without God’s love and grace. I do now.

Today I understand the only way for me to remain in God’s favor is to be a faithful follower of His righteous path.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for Christ’s gift of salvation. God has proven to me the difference He makes when I’m humble. All I have to do in understanding it is look into my past and see the miracle He has performed in my life. The impact the Lord has made in my life is extraordinary.