My Testimony

Posted: May 16, 2016 in Shared Thoughts

As a child I was raised a Lutheran, and I can clearly remember one day when the Sunday school teacher was obviously feeling a little evangelistic. Up to then we would mostly spend our time coloring, doing flannel board lessons about bible characters, or just spend the time out on the playground while our parents were in Church. But on this one particular day she shared with us kids that if we had Jesus in our hearts then we would get to go to heaven, but if not, well… we would go to hell.

Now that was some pretty powerful news for kids between 6-8 years old. So I raised my hand and asked her, “How do we know Jesus is real?” After all, none of us had ever seen Him hanging around the church and all I had ever seen were drawings or paintings of Him. Now my question really threw her threw a loop, for after looking at me for a bit she honestly replied, “I don’t know, I guess we just better believe in case He is,” Well, that was it for me. If she didn’t have an answer for that one, why would I ask any more questions?

 However, that night in bed I remembered what she said and my thoughts went to a painting my grandmother had of Jesus standing outside an arched door knocking to come in. As I lay there I knew what she said was true even if she hadn’t been able to answer my question. Her crude little Gospel message was still sharp enough to pierce into my little heart. I was scared, and so I began to cry being frustrated that she wasn’t able to answer my question. For had she given me an answer, I certainly would have asked the one that was agonizing me that night, “How do I get Jesus into my heart?”

So as I lay on my back in bed I began to repeatedly turn a knob to an imaginary door on my chest and pretended I was opening a door over and over while crying, “Jesus, please come into my heart…” I wish I could say from that point on I have faithfully served the Lord, but that’s not the case. For though I believed in the Lord, there was still no one in my life that could effectively speak the things of God into my life. Oh I believed Jesus was real, but He quickly became only Sunday-go-to-church real. With no real mentor or example to teach me how to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” I eventually found church was no longer able to capture my attention. Church soon became nothing more than another meeting place that parents took their kids to.

As far as school goes, it was never a real attention grabber for me. The only thing that made any sense to me was math, but oh how I hated English, History, and Science. I just felt it all was completely irrelevant to my life. The worst thing they ever did to me was put me in sight of a window. For the life of me, there was no way I could focus in school knowing the whole world was going on outside.

Add to that, being a teenager in the sixties it was real easy for me to get caught up in the music and drugs and before long I was staying out all night. There was no vision in my life other than living the moment and doing drugs. I had good parents who loved me and disciplined me, but even though I loved them I just couldn’t keep their rules anymore. So after 9th grade I quit school and ended up running away from home when I was fifteen with a pregnant girlfriend. We eventually got caught across the state and had to go home, but it didn’t take long before I was back on the street. I assure you, a fifteen year old on the streets makes a lot of compromises to get by and crime becomes the norm.

Eventually I moved into some guy’s back yard toolshed with a couple other guys, each of us paying five dollars a week. Late one night we were all getting high on a construction site in the neighborhood with some other potheads when two of them began to brag about how great and powerful Satan was. I admit I was a bit taken back by them at first. But being stoned and thinking about my own destitute situation in life, I asked them very seriously, “Ok, if Satan is so powerful, then what can he do for me?” To my surprise they looked at me and got extremely upset and started cursing at me and just left. I wasn’t sure what really happened, I just thought they were extremely weird. But over the years I’ve concluded somehow they were given the message “No, leave this one alone.”

Eventually I ended up in a non-denominational house church that started what they called a “Discipleship Program.” I moved in with the pastor and a couple other men and started my discipleship. After years of involvement I was made a deacon, then an elder, and eventually even an assistant pastor. It was in that church that I met a very special woman and we got married. The church eventually started a school and a Christian dinner theater, but things in general didn’t progress very well. Sadly, some of the leaders didn’t really walk the Christian walk and soon alcohol, sex and sin was the hidden norm everywhere. Being consumed by the guilt of my own sins, one Sunday when my turn came to preach I decided to share my last message from the passage below.

Galatians 6:1 – Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

The focus of my message was simple, are you fellow leaders even spiritual enough to recognize when a man is overtaken in a fault? Or have you too already yielded to all your temptations. It was my last cry of desperation as I made plans to leave the church. My wife and I moved 300 miles away and within a year I was fallen again headlong into immorality, drug use and alcohol. I found out firsthand what a really big jerk my wife’s first husband was… even though to this day she has only been married once.

A couple of years later, and over a thousand miles away from home, separated and all alone on a blood moon eclipse night, I was so drugged out and intoxicated that my body was having alarming signs threatening me that that night might well be my very last. I cried out again to God, “Lord, all I wanted was to be a man of God. I believe in You, but I don’t believe in anything I was taught anymore. Why can’t I be an overcomer? Why can’t I do the right thing? Lord I just want to go home and start over.” I woke up the next day resolved to do just that, but I had so many things I needed to get right before I could. I tried my best to mend local relationships and wrongs committed and then sold everything I owned but my clothes and van and headed back home.

Once home I was trying hard to do the right thing and was graciously reunited with my wife. One Sunday we were with some other Christian friends as we all decided to visit a new Church started by a popular Miami Beach performer who supposedly became a Christian. Having been through so much sin myself, who was I to throw stones or to judge? So I went and listened to him preach as he hit on all the points that makes sinners want a happier and better life. He gave an invitation saying he knew there were many needing deliverance, and if you’ve been struggling with sin then come up and he was going to pray for you. Having struggled all my life with sin I went up.

There we were all lined up in front from left to right and he started praying. As he walked down the line he was laying hands on the people and they were all falling backwards. So I said to the Lord, “Here I am. No games anymore. If this is You Lord I want it all.” I figured God was big enough to knock me down like everyone else, so I kept my eyes open and waited my turn. When this man reached me he closed his eyes and laid his hand on my head, but nothing happened. I think he was more surprised than me. Suddenly while I am looking into his eyes he angrily says,” You’re not going to resist me you foul spirit!” And then he stepped into me and literally shoved my head backwards causing me to lose my balance.  I immediately stood up, shook my head in disbelief and went back to my seat. As I walked back to my seat I felt the Lord impressed upon me, “I am your Deliverer, do not look to man.”

I did however have the wisdom to understand God wasn’t telling me to ignore other believers or the gifts He had given them for His glory, but at that point in time He wanted me to seek Him and Him alone. It was there I made a decision to put everything I ever thought about Jesus Christ and Christianity upon God’s altar and to start proving all things afresh in the light of the scriptures. What I discovered shouldn’t surprise anyone, for we all heard it for years; the truth will set you free. For men’s problems are never the truth; it is always their unwillingness to fully surrender to the terms of the Truth.

I wish I could say from that point on everything was better, but the reality for me was like it is for all of us; whether we like it or not there is a war going on and until Jesus Christ returns we are all caught in the middle of it. The adversary has never been content to leave me alone, however he now knows that I know he has truly lost this war and his time is short. Nevertheless, he constantly does what he can out of hatred to God to oppose me, or tries to nudge me a little to the left or right, and when that isn’t working he tries to flatter me. He does anything and everything he can to try and get my eyes off Jesus Christ even for just a moment. Perhaps the closest he ever came to destroying me was using God’s own people as a source of discouragement to me, and with a root of bitterness springing up in me I almost threw in the towel and gave up, but my Jesus didn’t. He saved me.

For the record, I have been a pastor, worked for years volunteering by holding meetings at men’s shelters and Sunday night services at a rehab that was a volunteer/mandatory alternative to jail or prison. I even opened a Christian Coffee shop for a couple of years. Through it all, the heart of my preaching was never that men can escape hell and go to heaven, rather that through Jesus Christ all men can be what God always intended them to be, a reflection of His glory made fit for the Kingdom of God. For God made us in His image with the desire that we all be His glory in the earth and by the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can be.

II Peter 1:2 – Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Honestly, while life has never been easy, it has often been very good. But we have all met those who have had it worse than us. So like I often say, “Life’s not fair, live it none the less.” When people ask what I do for a living every so often I still reply, “I work with wood.” Being a tradesman who has always worked with his hands, I eventually became a building contractor. But while I was fairly proficient at the design and fabrication side of the construction business and ended up doing some pretty high end work, the logistical side never ceased to be a grievance to me with all the red tape and regulations. All that stuff just exasperated a guy who simply loved doing a good job for a fair price. My reputation was built on service and quality, and I thank the Lord for the good work ethic that He worked in me. More than once I have sacrificed profit and put money back into the job to assure the customer’s satisfaction. I’ve learned the Lord honors the man that keeps his word, even to his own loss or hurt.

Psalm 15:4 – In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but He honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

Thanks to the economy, I am currently a home inspector in the insurance industry. But I must admit at times feeling as if I am a bit outside the calling God had for me… perhaps like a Levite would, who having no earthly inheritance may have felt when they were forced to wander the land looking for a place to provide for their family due to the neglect and poverty God’s house suffered at times. Perhaps that’s part of the consequences of my sins in this life.

Still, without a doubt one of my greatest pleasures is reasoning the things of God with reasonable people. So please don’t assume the things I share are intended to be dogmatic statements that I am right and everyone else is wrong. Rather I openly share my thoughts simply because I believe them to be true and willingly submit them to the scrutiny of other believers. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate those who love me enough to tell me, “Brother, you’re wrong.” But not only tell me I am wrong, but will patiently labor with me while respecting my integrity and convictions till they can show me just where and how I was wrong. Lord knows how much I need such men and women of God in my life, we all do.

 Romans 14:4 – Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

All that said, for the record I did manage to get my GED, so I guess that’s the height of my academic credentials as a Christian author. Perhaps that really means I am still just a carpenter, a guy who occasionally works with wood and still loves to read his bible. But I would like to make one last point about myself, while I agree we will all disagree sometimes and somewhere, I refuse to “agree to disagree” as if that’s somehow a noble thing for believers in Christ. I can acknowledge when we disagree, but not “agree to disagree.” Simply because if we disagree, it can only be because one of us is wrong, or worse, we both are. How can that “agreeable” with any professing Christian? Rather we must all learn to respect the integrity of each other’s convictions and humbly labor together to understand each other if we are going to make any true headway towards coming to a unity of faith and a knowledge of the Truth. Remember, even at our best, we all only know in part. That’s why we have each other and need charity…

Ephesians 4:11 – And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Therefore, until we all meet each other on the other side, live for Jesus Christ the resurrected King of kings!

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