Friday, June 29, 2012

My Testimony

The Lord was working in my life at a very young age.  I was born into a Christian family where the parents went to church regularly, lived out their faith, prayed before meals, and read their Bibles.  We went to a Bible church each Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and special occasions.  During summer we would go to Bible camps.  My parents were genuine Christians and I believe many in my extended family are followers of Jesus.   
Our pastors over the years would go through the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse or sometimes topically.  I remember being very young when it was emphasized in Sunday School that we needed to receive Jesus as our savior.   I attempted to do this several times.  Especially when feeling a conviction, worry or fear.  I would be in my room and pray or reach out to God in some small way.  It was also emphasized that we should know the exact date we were saved.  So I would right it on a calendar but then the fear would pass, the calendar would be misplaced and I would forget about it until the next time I was seized with fear.  My parents would sometimes be gone and I would lie awake on my bed hoping they hadn’t been raptured.  Being left alone was more of a fear than death.  As soon as they returned home and there was the sound of the garage door opening, I would be instantly asleep and in the morning I would have forgotten about the whole thing.  I should have shared with someone that I had prayed to receive Jesus but being quiet and reserved, I don’t think I ever did.  
Once during communion, I looked around and noticed how everyone was taking the occasion very seriously and I remember praying too and it felt like I had really communicated with God.  At Bible camp, I remember feeling under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and sensing the need to take my life before Him very seriously.  I attended church in my formative years without much fuss.  I sang along and participated in worship services.  
As I grew into my teens, the pastor at that time would have an alter call.  No one ever went forward.  I felt a strong pull to go forward but was confused because I had received Jesus and I thought I was saved.  I always felt bad that no one went forward.
When I was a junior in high school my dad got cancer and after a few months passed away.  He was the leader in our home and my mom missed him.  I believe he is in heaven because he was born again spiritually.  I tried to honor my dad and respect him but we never connected on a deeper level so when he died, life just sort of went on.  It didn’t help that I was an independent teen trying my best to play it cool.  Please do your best to take care of the temple God has given you.  Yes, being saved, you are on the way to heaven but your family needs you.
For most of my schooling and even beyond, I would avoid the crowds and pretty much seek to be on my own.  The world had its draw and I was confused many times as to what to do.  Should I do as many others did?  But what about that feeling that it wasn’t right?  So, my socializing was pretty much with Christian people as I felt more at home among them.  I went to our youth group and I would speak with my youth pastor on occasion.  I would attempt to read my Bible sometimes and pray but it felt forced at times.
I finished two years at junior college.  This was not the best time in my life.  I was not happy, did not feel like I had any direction, nor did I feel especially gifted in anything.  I went out west to continue a relationship with a girlfriend but that fizzled pretty quickly after getting there, which isn’t surprising considering how selfish I was.  Not much was happening spiritually and my soul had dried up.
At the time, I found a baptist church which I thought was dynamic.  It had a group of young adults my age.  Out of that group, I joined a home Bible study.  I respected the leader, and asked him about not feeling like I knew I was saved.  His advice to me was to go home and pray to receive Jesus again, which I did.  I opened the door to my heart and I was either saved then or I had recommitted my life to Jesus.  I read my Bible and prayed and it felt more genuine.  Some say that we should receive Jesus once and that is enough.  I receive Jesus as Lord & Savior any time I think about it.  I don’t think a prayer stating that you want to be saved and be in heaven is ever something to be ashamed of (that is just my opinion).
Church was always comfortable to me (except when I am under conviction).  We attended a lot of church in my formative years.  We would even go when on vacation or visiting my grandparents.  I remember during my young adult years, just after opening my heart again to the Lord, that I deliberately missed church one Sunday.  It made me feel disconnected and uncomfortable.  I always feel like church is the place to be on Sundays and if I can help it, I will be there.  
In this baptist church I was attending, the bulletin announced that there would be a baptism.  So one Sunday night, I was baptized.  This was when I was in my early 20’s.   I felt the pull to be baptized when in my younger years, but never liked being in front of people.  Plus, no one directly asked me, so it had never happened until then.  If you have a young person in your life that is showing some spiritual growth, you may want to invite them to consider baptism.  Also during this time I helped with the Billy Graham Crusade and then I went on a short mission trip to Japan and one summer I went to Lake Tahoe with Campus Crusade for Christ, then I finished my college degree.
After this, I stubbled about for many years trying to find something.  Being out in the world was never been easy for me.  I am not especially social, I avoid drinking, and I preferred to keep my own company.  After many starts and stops, I was in a job where I worked alone and I would listen to Christian radio.  I remember walking through the lab once and feeling like my life, as the owner, was over.  This was in my early 30’s.  I was seeking the Lord and wondering what else He had for me.
I met my wife at a singles Bible Study which I really enjoyed.  We sung praise songs, had a Bible teaching, prayed, and fellowshipped.  She came one night to give her testimony and I gave (a very poor) speech on evangelism.  I pursued her and we got married six months later.
At first we went to a church that had good teaching and music but was 45 minutes away.  So we went to a small baptist church nearby.  People kept leaving or dying and I felt like maybe I was suppose to do more.  So I was helping with AWANA, mowing the lawn, working the church checking account paying bills, and on the board.  I was burnt out and the church never turned around.  It would be my advice to limit your responsibilities to two or at max three things to avoid being overly involved.  Currently, I have one responsibility.  I teach children's Sunday School and that is about all I can handle right now.  After four plus years of spiritual suffocation, we happened to stop by a new church on a Wednesday night.  Everything I had been working toward was already here.  The pastor was at a Bible college level, live worship, and coffee fellowship.  Shortly after coming to this new church, I placed a prayer request in the prayer box asking that my shoulder would heal.  There was some discomfort as I had tumbled off my bike.  In three days or so, the pain was gone.  I thought that was a a confirmation that this was the right place.
My life verse is Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  I know God loves me.  He died for me.  My sin was what kept me separated from Him.  My only hope for heaven is in Gods Son Jesus Christ.  I love Jesus.  He is my shepherd, my Lord, and my Savior.
Any questions?

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