Let me begin by telling how I grew up. When I was growing up, I went to church with my parents as a "part of life." I wasn't told that I had to go, but that's where they went on Sundays, so I went with them. church didn't mean much to me then, except that it was where a few of my friends were, and where I was supposed to go Sunday mornings. When I began to reach the right age (around 12 or 13), I went to Confirmation class, where we were supposedly made "members" of the church. What I really learned during this time was how to have fun while stealing the communion wafers, and that I was having fun with my friends at the time. Nothing that God or anyone else did for me at the time really made much of an impact on me, and as a result, I think I "went through the motions." That was the beginning of the end, before the beginning (if you will).
Years later, I was going to church mostly on Christmas and Easter, again because my parents went. My mom and Dad had served on the church council, and other boards and groups as well. In the long run though, I think I only went when I did because I liked singing the Christmas songs. I had no real knowledge or beliefs in Jesus at that time, nor did I really know what I was doing, nor did I extremely care what I was doing. In January of 1989, I talked to my mother one Sunday morning and said "can we go back to that church we went to last week? I liked the music." I had liked the music, and I had liked the overall feeling I got while I was at the church. My mom, realizing that her son was actually asking to go to church, jumped at the chance. I think God began to work on me at this time, but I don't believe that I knew what he was doing. After talking to the pastor after the service (as had become a normality for my family after church, because that's what you did, you shook hands and said hello to the pastor as you left.)
I went to the next meeting of the youth group. As the pastor had said, there were "a lot of cute girls" there at the meeting, and boy was he right! I immediately fell in "love" (youthful lust) with at least two of the girls present. When the opportunity came to join the group on a retreat I jumped at the chance (though I still didn't know what I was completely doing, I did enjoy getting to know some new people). I learned a bit at that retreat but mostly I really liked being around the girls in this group (I was still a lustful teen!). When they offered me the chance to go to another retreat, this one called "Up With Youth" (basically a 900-1000 person retreat up in Estes Park, Colorado), I readily accepted. I then spent a wonderful weekend learning about God. None of it sunk in though, as I didn't know what I was hearing still, and I didn't know about Jesus Christ or what he could do for me.
My weekend was a wonderful binge of singing (had to learn the words to some songs!) At the end of the retreat though, after a weekend of singing and praying and feeling like I was part of a big family, I was in tears about leaving. I absolutely did not want to leave this new found security that I'd learned about. Little did I know that I was coming around to knowing more about my future. When I took on the challenge of playing High School Football in the fall, I also learned about a group named F.C.A., or Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Wanting to fit in with the group, and knowing that there were many of the popular people on the football team going, I decided to attend at least one meeting and see where it led (I felt that this was a way to get in tight with the other members of the team.
I did not still have an idea that God was working in my life in ways that I would never have imagined. Over the next few months, I learned a lot about my fellow "buffaloes", as our team was nicknamed. I even began to wonder if there was more to this "Jesus thing" that I was being taught about. When we heard a tape around Halloween of a radio show where the host interviewed a possessed person I was scared, and I slept with my bible (the one that I was using for FCA meetings) under my pillow that night. I began to pay more attention to the message that was being talked about in the meetings.
I was beginning to learn more about the bible, and I was learning that there was someone out there. I just wasn't ready to "give in" if you will. I didn't know. When our FCA group went with another school's FCA group to Winter Park, Colorado on a ski trip weekend, I was thrilled to go. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after having gone to the Air Force academy for an FCA conference I was sure that at least I would meet some more interesting people (and maybe female. That was still playing in my mind.) Well, we got to the lodge (the Idewild lodge for any of you who might be from Colorado in this group) and we played some small talk, ice breaker type of games. I had fun, and got to know people.
That night, our two high schools went to the hot tub and had fun goofing around. (a hot tub in winter with the steam, surrounded by snow.... wonderful!) The next day I spent skiing, and that night we had another meeting. After singing some praise songs (I was getting to know the words to some of them) (Humble Thyself, a great song for example) the leader from the other group (Dave Browning was his name) began to talk. I don't remember what exactly was the message, I only remember being very very moved by what was being said. I remember being scared about the way I was living and the things I was doing (no premarital sex, drinking, or drugs, but they couldn't have been far around the bend).
When Dave mentioned about making a choice for Christ, and giving your life to him, letting him into your life and asking him to be in your heart, I thought to myself "Why not? Perhaps this is what I've been looking for, perhaps not. I don't know if this is where I want to be, but I do know that I can't go on the way I've been going. If I try this, and It doesn't work, that is I don't feel some magical peace or some calmness then I can always take it back and say ha ha I was just kidding." boy was I wrong. I proceeded to pray along with Dave, saying something along the lines of "Jesus I know I'm a sinner," and "I ask you now to forgive my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. come into my life and help me to live in your will." With that prayer, I was forgiven and began my new life as a Christian. It was December 2nd, 1989, and the time was 9:38 pm. I was 16 years old, and in a new way, I was a baby again.
What's basically happened since then is an up and down road. I was never been tempted seriously to follow through on my "I was just kidding" thought. Now I know that even if I had thought seriously about it, God wouldn't have let me go. I was a member of His family now.
From that point on , I was saved. Not to say that all has been peaches and cream. I've had my share of doubting times. When my father died, for example, I wondered seriously "why, God, would you do this to me?" When my mother in law had a stroke, I also wondered what God had in mind. I've had my share of fights about God (not fistfights) and have even been talked down about by some because of it. I tried to shrug some of the bad things off, but I know that God's path is straight to heaven.
God just doesn't have it smooth. Life can't always be the easy path. I'll tell anyone more about what was going on in my life if you want to know. email me. Now, after reading the first six books of the "Left Behind" series by Lahaye and Jenkins, I've come across a new burden in my life. I haven't shared my testimony with anyone really, and I haven't been the best witness for Christ I could have been. In fact I've been kinda lousy as a representative of the Lord.
At times I have been caught up still in the day to day earthly goings on. I still suffer from the same vices that I did before, and I am not perfect yet. I know that I never will be perfect. Now, though, that I am almost 10 years a Christian, I feel a new sense of urgency to tell others about what I've been through.
God has done wonderful things in my life. From giving me a sign that directly led to me dating (briefly) a girl who directly led me into my relationship with my wife (ask me about it, it's a good one) to always providing a way out for me in bad situations (though not always the way I want to have it done), to giving me friend upon friend who I would never trade for the world, God has performed many miracles in my life. He can do the same for you. God is Awesome, to quote a friend of mine (Thanks, Michelle) and is wonderful in His love for His children. In other words, here's a quote I try to live by, though I don't always succeed. (Thanks Curt, for giving me so much during your time in Parker. I love you man, for what you've helped me become!) "Stay on the path, Stay on your knees, and watch God stay right in the center of your life" (Curt Campbell).
If you'd like more information on what I've been talking about, please email me. I will be happy to talk to you about what I know, and will be happy to share with you in a non threatening environment. If you feel like God is moving in your life, then perhaps follow along with the following prayer, and receive the gift of God's grace. "Lord, I want to jut thank you now for the things you have done in my life. I know that I am a sinner and not worthy of your forgiveness yet you do forgive me and love me. Lord I ask you now to come into my life. I ask you to live in my heart and strengthen it in Your word. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I know you are my Lord, and my Savior. Thank you for dying for me, and, Lord, thank you for bringing me into your family. I ask for your forgiveness and pray for your peace to now live within me, as Jesus can do in my heart. I do coordinate a small prayer group. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone in private as well as pass on prayer requests for anyone.