As I mentioned on our Home Page, we are a Christian family. I thought you might be interested in hearing how my husband and I began our journey to reach the personal relationship we now have with our Lord. The article that follows was written by my husband. He felt moved to share his testimony and additional information about his journey. My husband originally published a version of this article on the web a few years ago as a way to help others who may be lost or searching regarding their faith, as we once were. While these are his words describing his journey, I am his partner on this journey. We have learned and grown, together. Here’s his story.
Are you lost? Searching?
I was, but maybe my experience can help you make sense of your own situation.
I’m not someone who is easily convinced about anything and am of the philosophy “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”. So first, let me give you a little information about myself. I am in my late forties, married, with one child. I am employed full time as a Fire Captain/Paramedic and work part-time with an electrical contractor. I have been on the job (F.D.) for about 28 years. I tell you this because I think I am a pretty average, normal guy and have at least been around the block once or twice. Ten years ago, if I would have heard someone say they were “saved”, I would have thought they were some kind of religious freak. So, bear with me! If you have found this article, I now truly believe there is a greater reason you are reading it.
Who did I write this article for? Well . . .
First, if you are a bible scholar, then I am sure you will soon be painfully aware that you are not reading an article which measures up to your caliber. I am writing this for people who, maybe like I did, feel lost or feel as though something is missing in their lives. Or possibly, for the new believer whose life has been affected or changed in such a way that they feel “compelled” to investigate this new conviction and need some direction.
This article isn’t for . . .
As I stated, it is not for the bible scholar, nor is it for the debater or the “my faith is better than your faith” person. I am an “Average Joe” and offer this only for those people who find themselves in a situation similar to mine – about 10 years ago. I am only equipped to defend my own position and beliefs. This is my personal story plus some helpful (I hope) advice.
One morning, about 10 years ago, while I was driving to work, I was going through my usual routine of trying either to find a good morning talk radio show or music station with a song I wanted to hear. I came to a busy intersection and had to make a left turn into traffic to proceed on my route. Just before I made the turn, I pressed the scan button on my radio and it landed on a religious station. I remember thinking “Oh Brother”, and that “as soon as I make this turn I’m going to turn this nonsense off!” But, ‘something’ the guy who was talking said, caught my attention and I felt compelled to leave it on. The person who was speaking was Pastor Greg Laurie. I remember thinking “this guy is pretty funny” and also thinking most of what he was saying really seemed to make sense. I continued to tune into his program daily.
Let me back up a little at this point. . .
My wife and I had recently experienced tragedies that had either personally touched our lives or touched the lives of our close relatives and we had begun to question subjects like our life purpose, beliefs, and faith – or should I say lack of it. Each day, listening to Pastor Greg really hit home and I found myself really looking forward to hearing his show. On his broadcasts, he would share personal stories about his life and I learned that, compared to where he was now in his life, he had come from a very different path. He was very funny and presented his sermons on the level with no sugar coating. I was able to relate to a lot of what he said. Most of the guys in the Fire Service I work with or my friends are straight talkers – no bull. And as I listened to this guy, I could tell he was giving it to me straight. Many times when I listened, I felt as though he was speaking directly to me. There would be sermons he presented discussing subjects or questions that were almost identical to the subjects and questions my wife and I had been discussing recently and often in just the previous night’s conversation. I also began to feel like I was starting to get some direction in my own life. There was a point at the end of each show where Pastor Greg would ask if the listeners wanted to say a “prayer” regarding a request. Well, I always felt compelled from day one to do it, but I initially didn’t, mainly because of my previous faith background. Well one day at the end of one of his shows, I said the prayer and made the request that Pastor Greg stated. I repeated the prayer and it changed my life. Now there weren’t fireworks or lightning bolts, but a peace came over me, like a weight lifted off my shoulders and I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision. I also felt a wave of emotion that sort of took me by surprise.
I’m not Mr. Emotional mostly because of my upbringing. My dad – don’t get me wrong -is a good guy; he was a Corporal in the Army. Then, he worked in construction, but I don’t think he ever lost that Army thing! He always kind of ran our household like a mini boot camp and sayings like “I’ll give you something to cry about!” taught me early in life to “suck it up” and move on. But when I said the prayer, and the first time I shared my story with a pastor at my church, I got choked up. I didn’t really understand it then, but I do now! As you grow in your faith, you too will increasingly understand the stakes involved and the cost of the gift offered to you.
Saved?. . .
For the new Christian, you have heard and should understand this term, but for the person who is searching, you may not understand this term or many of the other terms you will begin to hear. But hang in there, it will shortly become very apparent how many of these terms will apply to your new Christian life. That day, I repeated the prayer Pastor Greg stated and I was saved. Now if you’re new or searching, don’t get nervous . . . just hang in there and keep reading; it will soon make more sense. There was no mystery and the prayer was all I needed to meet the requirements of being “Saved”. OK! Here was the context of what I said; I repeated: “Lord Jesus I know I’m a sinner, but I believe you died on the cross for me. I turn now from my sin and receive you as my Savior and my Lord and I choose to follow you from this day forward. Thank you for calling me and accepting me. In Jesus’ name I pray.” It was and IS that simple. I meant it from my heart! Everything in me told me it was right. I said it, meant it, and I felt relieved. As I stated, there weren’t fireworks or lightning bolts, but I felt a peace in my life, a relief. It changed my life.
It changed my life . . . . .
When I say it changed my life, I don’t mean it was immediate and I surely do not mean I picked up a sign, grew a beard and started yelling at people through a megaphone. In general, here’s how it did change my life. Instead of living a selfish life, pursuing my own desires, I started to try and live my life for God and others. Instead of trying to fill that gap in my life with financial pursuits, parties and the next “good time”, I started to look at what was really important in life.
As for God, I always believed in God, but I thought of Him as very distant from me. I thought of Him more like a Judge with a good and bad list. Each of our names headed a list and there were check marks in the bad and good columns of each person’s list. I always hoped that when my time came, I would have enough checks in the good column and be able to “get in”. I felt that God was “up there” somewhere watching me and if I screwed up, he would shake his head and place a mark in the bad column of my list. If I did pray, it was half-hearted or more along the lines of “if you can do this for me, I will never do that” or “remember when I did that ‘good deed’, now I need something.” It was often a bargain session, rather than true prayer. I always felt like there was a gap and that I could never measure up; but I now know how that gap was filled. God provided the ultimate sacrifice and the answer to that problem thru His Son.
I also learned that, to my surprise, God isn’t looking for the perfect person and he most often (pretty much always!) used the “second string”, the common and many times the broken man to accomplish his greatest work. You don’t believe it? Well, look in the Bible and decide for yourself.
Many other things changed and continue to change in my life. Don’t get me wrong though. Does this mean that everything started to go great in my life and I became a “choir boy”? NO! I am on a continual journey. I continue to stumble, but I did get on solid ground and now have a more clear direction. I made peace with God, but in some ways, my life got complicated. Overall my life has become more fulfilling and peaceful. I try, with God’s help, everyday to live for Him and others. Try is the key word here; if anyone tells you they are the poster child for the perfect Christian- you probably want to steer clear of them. I’ve heard it said and I subscribe to it – “put your faith in God, not men”. Look to God for your Christian life example and you will continue on the right path. I have learned that serving God by serving others is how you begin to live a Godly life. Also, that moderation in some things and elimination of others is how you stay on the right path. If you have trouble with moderation in any given area of your life, you need to eliminate that problem. Now, I could give you specific examples or opinions of things you should avoid, but I would risk being a hypocrite. For me, I can give you an example I have expressed to some friends and guys I work with. “I don’t think God, my Creator, is happy when I drink, get drunk, and act like a complete fool.” As I said, this is an example of mine. I unquestionably am the last one to pick up stones and start launching them. I will say, however, I now do believe that if you have a buddy (brother) who has difficulty with moderation in this or any other area, you should help him by not causing him to stumble because of your actions.
OK, here are some things that helped me as a new believer . . .
Read your bible! When I became a Christian, I began reading the Bible. For me, I now have an understandable “life guide” to go to for advice on most anything this life has to throw at you. You should try it! Previously, when I would hear people say that the Bible was an old book and out of touch with today’s life style, I would have somewhat bought into that philosophy! That was until I actually read it, and realized the old adage, “history tends to repeats itself”. Many, if not all, of the problems and issues we face today were also present in biblical times.
I would suggest that you get a copy of the NIV Study Bible or a Life Application Study Bible. At times in my life, before I became a Christian, I would feel lost and think maybe there is something in the Bible that can help. I would then pick up a copy of the King James Version Bible that we had collecting dust on our book shelve, and try to make some sense of it. Well for me, the language they used made an already unfamiliar book, even harder to understand. Needless to say, my reading session would be very short and unproductive. Now, I read either the NIV Study Bible or the Life Application Study Bible. If you are searching, I suggest you get one of these versions and start in the Book of John. (Gospel of John)
On the surface, the Bible may seem harsh, hard to understand, and leave you with more questions than answers. But God has given us His Word to help us, and I don’t believe for a minute He wanted it to be difficult to understand or a mystery. To put it in perspective, I believe if Jesus was here today, as in biblical times, he would be spending his time with you and me… common people, struggling with all of life’s common problems. He didn’t come on the scene looking down on anyone or looking to be seated with the “in crowd”. He was more comfortable at the backyard barbeques with the people struggling to make sense of life. Again, don’t believe it, then check it out for yourself. I also believe that if we are really seeking Him and pray for wisdom, He will reveal it to us. He states it best in his own words: Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in, and eat with him, and he with me.” Let’s be clear here – He doesn’t say condemn you, judge you – He says if you open the door, He will sit down and share a meal with you.
Let’s face it, because the Bible is a no frills, no sugar coating, in your face kind of book, people do not want to accept it. Most of us want to believe we are in control of our own destiny. Well, the gift God offers us is free – all we have to do is accept it! It’s that simple, but He is not going to make you accept it. It’s a choice that we are going to have to make and in a world where absolutes seem grayer and grayer every day, I think many people think it can’t be that black and white or simple. There are only two answers to the offer extended, yes or no, but it’s your choice. Again I think he presents it pretty clear in His own words…”whoever believes” John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.
Get into a Bible Study! In addition to reading the Bible, I also tried to find a Bible Study, but I was very apprehensive because I knew my knowledge of the Bible was almost non-existent. I was “fortunate” to know a guy at work who I considered religious. I thought of him in this way because I formerly believed that anyone who would say the name Jesus Christ and talk about his faith in public must be “very religious”. Well, this friend from work introduced me to a man named Hank from his church and the three of us had an informal Bible Study for about a year. The study, along with guidance I received from Hank, really helped me in my faith walk and helped me find a church. I also now attend a Men’s Bible Study sponsored by Bible Study Fellowship or BSF. There are approximately 400 men in that study; men from all walks of life -tattoos to ties and everyone in-between. BSF studies can be found in most cities and you can Google their name for info.
Listen to Christian Radio Programs! Find a Christian radio program you enjoy and find a good pastor on the radio. As I said, I really love Pastor Greg Laurie. His teachings have influenced me greatly as you will find by reading this article. You can cut and paste this link into your browser to go to his website www.harvest.org. I believe God really uses him to share the message and reach people. His shows are powerful and additionally you can listen to him either on his website or download his pod cast. He never talks down to you or over your head and his messages are a benefit to all believers, regardless of your stage as a believer.
Attend a Christian Church! Find a church that teaches from the Bible and adheres to its principles. But know, it is going to be different! What I mean is, if you have never attended a Christian (Protestant based faith) church, it will seem strange. The language you will hear might, and/or will, seem overboard, weird, cultish. I have a hard time explaining exactly how I initially perceived the first Christian Protestant church I attended, but here are some examples of things I would see or hear that made me uncomfortable because at the time, I really didn’t understand my faith. First, I would see people raising their hands and swaying back and forth when they sang praise songs and I would hear them sometimes shout out various phrases during a sermon, like “Praise Jesus” or “Amen”. Initially, I would think “Man, that’s kind of weird!”, “Am I in the right place?”, “Are these people just trying to put on some kind of act?” Then there was the “weird” way they talked – the terms or phrases they used either while singing or in conversation. Things like “We are all washed in His blood”, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus can save us”, “Can you feel His Spirit?”, “We are all crucified in Christ”, “His Spirit is moving in you right now!”
I really can’t remember everything, but those were the highlights. Now if you were raised as a Christian, things like this are familiar and normal to you, but for me, this just added to my confusion over my new found faith. Since I have grown in my own faith, I now understand these actions and this “lingo”. Before, I would have thought this stuff bordered on over the top, freak cult behavior. I’m now ashamed to say it, but I would have categorized people like this as “Jesus freaks” and I would have steered clear of these people. I now can tell you that although I may not act or speak entirely as many of my Christian brothers and sisters do (see I just did it!) I totally understand the actions and each day understand more of the “lingo”. I now know why people are raising their hands and what it means to have His Spirit move you. I was formerly of a different faith, and mostly only a Christmas and Easter church attendee. You may have heard the term or joke people would use when asked what faith they were and they would say they were “Chreasters”. That was how I would describe my faith to people and again I am ashamed to say that I actually thought that it was funny to use that line. After I was saved, I did attend my former church, but for ME I believed I needed to find another church. When I listened to the message, I found it vague and had a hard time applying it to my life. In my own experience, I can tell you that if I sang a song at my former church, I would kind of just mouth the words and go through the motions. Now as I stated earlier, I understand how people can be moved to really show their feelings for God during worship. Today when I worship at Sunday Services, while singing praise songs, sometimes I get choked up because the words point to how much I have been freely given and I have to stop singing because I really am being moved by His Spirit. There are times now where I have either said or done things that I never would have in my “former life”; for instance, sharing my faith with a friend who is experiencing a low point in his life. I now ask for guidance and, if I can get out of the way long enough and allow God to work through me, He will provide that guidance, not only in my request, but also in all areas of my life.
Also, it has been said that there is no perfect church, if there was, you or I wouldn’t be members there. But, you will find, like anything in life, there are going to be things you like and dislike. Unfortunately, if you answered that persistent knocking at the door later in your life, as opposed to being born into it, there are going to be people who think of you as not worthy or a “Johnny-come-lately”. You may find it’s initially hard to relate to the “Christian Scene” and therefore feel like you don’t fit in, but you have to remember this is a “two way street”. You may also find tight knit groups that may not allow you into the inner circle; but don’t take it personally, give it a chance . Just get involved, volunteer, serve, give freely of yourself as He gave freely of himself. Pray to God to bring people into your life that will help you in your new found faith and He will! Remember why you are in a church – to worship, to learn, to have fellowship and to serve God.
When we searched for a church, we used Pastor Greg’s number one rule of advice – “Find a Bible- based Church that teaches from the Bible and adheres to biblical principles.” We looked for a church following this principle and one that would help our child grow in faith. Ask the experts, go online, do a little research. We attended several churches until we finally chose a church. I would suggest you do the same.
In conclusion . . .
As I stated, I wrote this for the person who is searching or who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior but is thinking now what? I have only scratched the surface, but I felt “moved” to do this! In the fire service, we use the acronym KISS which stands for “keep it simple stupid”. So that’s what I have tried to do, rather than hit you with a lot of catch phrases and terminology that would probably just cause confusion or add to your frustration. So, I have kind of given you a “blue collar” view. If you are trying to sort this all out, first pray about it! Really, if you are truly seeking and praying about it, you will be amazed at how God answers your prayers!
Now, when I look back, I wonder how I got by without Jesus in my life. I feel I am a good example of how patient God is. Words can’t express how thankful I am to the Lord for leading me through the darkness to find Him.