Over the last number of years, God in his mercy and grace has opened my eyes and radically begun to transform my entire life. In a bible study being done by Chuck Missler, I will never forget some commentary on the promise made by God to Abraham regarding the Holy land and Abrahamís decendants. Specifically, it was pointed out that Satan was very aware of the promise being made and used the 400 intervening years to populate the promised land with the Nephilim (Giants), false religions, sensual practices, and every other hurdle possible to challenge Godís people. The wonder of the bible viewed through opened eyes is the depth of scripture and the meanings which can be revealed to have application and wisdom on many levels. The issue of the Abrahamic covenant and the work to interfere with Godís plan struck home in terms of my personal story of salvation. I firmly believe that there is a parallel between the enemyís effort in the Promised Land and the lives of people prior to salvation. The enemy remains busy today populating the minds of people with attitudes, wrong beliefs, and all manner of other wickedness as strongholds and landmines ahead of God calling our names with the offer of salvation in Jesus.
I will never forget when I knew that Jesus Christ was indeed the answer to my salvation on a business trip to Richmond. Initially shaken by thoughts of my need for salvation, I hit the restroom to splash water on my face and in my mind ďre-groupĒ. Little could I have known walking in to that restroom that it would actually be where I met Jesus. Almost immediately I knew I needed to come forward at a church my wife and I had started visiting. I exchanged messages with the Pastor, and the next day I received a return telephone call and talked with the Pastor about my experience and salvation. He asked when we could meet and I shared that we would be attending Church that very night (on a Wednesday night service). Prior to this experience, I held strong opinions that faith was ďpersonalĒ (probably because I had very little) and also would not have dreamed of sharing something personal to a larger group. I could get up and talk in front of a couple hundred people on a business topic, but not on a something like this. It was probably my first sense of how radically my life was being changed. I met briefly with the Pastor before hand and that night happened to be a business meeting instead of the normal bible study. The Pastor asked if I wanted to come forward then, and I found myself responding that I did indeed want to come forward. The Pastor spoke briefly with me at his side, and I found myself sharing my testimony and shedding tears as I related how Jesus had saved me in front of a couple of hundred of my new family in Christ.
In my early life at 6 years old, I had experienced the death of a mother with a father who was a good man but painfully shy and unable to really relate to us particularly with the loss he felt. He worked inordinate numbers of hours to address medical bills. Both my care and my brothers fell to a relative who harbored a great deal of pain and anger about their life. The condition of her heart led her to be a hurtful presence when my father was not around. Beyond issues of personal treatment , my brother and my life were regularly filled by hearing rantings against God. I am not certain that I recall hearing anything positive about God in these early years. My father remarried a few years later to a wonderful women who I fully view as my mother (She adopted both my brother and I). Shortly after their marriage, my mother and father both learned of the nature of the relative providing care and asked her to leave our home. My mother left her career to become a full time mom to us. As a family we eventually attended church together, although it was not a church that focused on the central importance of a personal relationship with Jesus. We were simply religious, but even at that time I felt a tugging at my heart that I now understand. In my teenage years, I became the typical late 80s early 90s teenage boy in many respects with plenty of polluting influences of the world. Additionally, I loved to read and happened into several books which only brought increased confusion (Dianetics and The Comedy of Job being two of the worst). These served as additional confusing elements functioning in the same vein as the awful things I had heard said about God in my early years. With no foundation, at best I think I would have been considered agnostic in my later teenage years and college.
I can look back though and also point to the seeds that God faithfully sowed into my life as well as the hedges He set forth. Some of the people God used included my paternal grandparents and adopted grandparents being some of the first and continuing on to a Baptist lay preacher I worked with in college and a second lay preacher I ended up working with after graduating college. I will also always remember the faithfulness of my beautiful wife who God used to initially lead us to Him when I was useless in leading our household. There also were many others, and may God bless them for their faithfulness.
For sake of brevity, I havenít gone very deep into the details, but let me emphasize that the majority of items put into my life influenced attitudes which served as major internal walls inside of me to the truth of who God is. I had a great deal of pride also as I thought of myself as successfully overcoming the mess of my early life. I was in no position to even have an idea to turn to God. Thankfully, He did not set up a plan of salvation that relies on us though. Immediately after my salvation, I painfully began to realize that there were strongholds and messes inside me that God would reveal and then initiate processes to remove. These ranged from fears of being unworthy / guilt to a frightening realization that efforts for me to read Godís word led to intense emotions /attacks which I certainly did not understand at the time. The strongholds created by the enemy were becoming apparent. In spite of my condition and challenges, God faithfully and steadily worked to remove the large strongholds and slay what appeared to be Giants from my perspective. Many of these early steps were items where I had to lean fully on Jesus with no ability to claim any portion of the victories. Looking back, I realize that the wrongful pride of my heart was also being lovingly dealt with to break down the wall between myself and God that it actually represented. I equate it to the parable of the soils told by Jesus. I was the rocky soil with the individual rocks and boulders being the issues introduced in my thinking both through personal choices and circumstances. Jesus was faithfully showing me the location of each rock/boulder and then initiating a process through the Holy Spirit to remove them from my field. In the new soil of my life the word of God could take hold and bring forth fruit. For my time left here on this earth, I will continue to be a work in progress as God faithfully teaches me to abide in Christ through the new heart He has given me.
As further testimony of Godís grace, both my Mother and Father as well as my youngest brother were all also saved after we had moved from home. I am prayerful about a middle step brother and know that in Godís timing we will all be able to rejoice about Godís faithfulness.
Only the grace and mercy of Almighty God can explain the wonder of the process in my life. My Father has given me this testimony, which is all I truly have as nothing can ever compare to His goodness and love when He saved a wretch like me. I hope that I am faithful with this testimony until the day comes where I can lay it at His feet with thanksgiving.