Hello all! No, I haven't disappeared---I have just been in a very busy season as well as a season of reflection. For those of you who know me well, no, you didn't forget my birthday! You'll understand in a moment.
Not too long ago I found an old Bible that they gave me as a cadet at West Point. It remained very unused until the early 90s when, after many "nudgings" from God that I didn't recognize then but do now, I began a quest to find out about this Christian claim that I had mocked and considered a crutch for weak people afraid to die. After a long season of studying the faith, bugging people with hours of questions, arguing long in to the night, etc., I came to the most critical day of my life. I recently opened this Bible, which I had used during that searching season, and I found the following written in the back, surrounded by penned in stars:
Fri, 28 Aug '92-
Decided to ask Christ/the Lord in to my life. I still don't know he exists, I still have trouble w/ some of the implications---some of the things I'm told I should believe, but I have to take a leap of faith, and turn my life over to him, and hope I soon know and love him
Wow! What a neat thing to read and look back on. I can still remember getting up from my knees in front of the wall heater in my Pacific Grove apartment and wondering if I'd just been the biggest fool and sucker there was.
What a journey it has been from that day! I can remember my early days as a Christian thinking I had so much to offer God---to the day they asked me to pastor the church and I realized, in my fear, that I had come completely to the point where I realized I had nothing to offer God other than my willingness. I remember my early Christian days trying to reconcile evolution and Creation and saying the two could co-exist, to the point where I now know, beyond doubt, that God created the world in six days as His Word declares and to eagerly defending that position. I still remember in my early days wavering on the abortion issue, to today where I believe without wavering that life begins at conception and is worthy of defense.
I remember the hesitation and embarrassment I felt telling some intellectual giants in my life who had been so familiar with my Christian criticisms that I was now a Christian---and now how I love wearing Christian t-shirts and the conversations they generate in Walmarts, grocery stores, etc. I remember being arrogant and proud, and now I feel so insecure at times that it is only who I am in Christ that keeps me going. I remember writing about God with a lower case "h" in "him" (see the entry I typed above from my old Bible)---to now where I am passionate about making it "Him" or "His". (I don't say this legalistically like others have to do that, only as a reflection of how I have changed.)
It has been such a journey---and it has just begun! That day, 17 years ago today, I was born again! My eternal life as God's child began and it will be just that, eternally with Him. I can't thank enough all the people in my life who have been a part of this journey---from the best parents a guy could ask for; to Mary Ann, the most amazing wife I could have ever imagined (one whose faith and love for God were the catalysts for bringing me to Christ and have upheld me many times in the years since); to Bill Holdgridge, our pastor at the time at Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay, whose faith and love for God led him to make the most courageous stand to remind Mary Ann that I wasn't a Christian when she agreed to marry me, and who walked with us and stood with us in the coming hard months as I wrestled myself to the point where I could receive Christ and we could get married; to the people in our little church in Bryson who nurtured and grew me through arrogance to walking in grace; to the friends and family and fellowship I have shared in these recent years pastoring in Bryson and Lockwood---to all who have loved, encouraged, been iron sharpening iron, been friends and family; and to my beautiful girls, Bethany and Abigail, who are, already, blessing me with their love for God and the way He uses them to speak to me even at their young ages.
I could go on and on thanking all those who have seeded in to my life. Some of you reading this have only know me recently, and others of you have known me from before that day 17 years ago. Remember, Amy, that night Mary Ann and I stayed up half the night with you and I kept arguing and arguing with you two and how that night I had that dream where sheer, terrifying evil was coming up from a pit at me and I had to be woken by you guys because I was wimpering like a little puppy?
Like I said, I could go on and on, thanking person after person. I will just say to you all---I love you and while I may let you down, while I may be often wrong, while I may not be the best of friends, I consider myself blessed and privileged to have you in my life and I can't thank you enough for your love and friendship and encouragement.
If I could offer one thing that might help anyone reading this to whom what I wrote in my Bible 17 years ago today sounds really familiar to their heart, I would say that the key for me to going from there to here (and I still have a long way to go!) was that I took that decision seriously and brought my life captive to it. The constant refrain of my thoughts from that day forward---whether in doubt or not---was, "I made the decision that Jesus was who He said He was and I need to make this decision or take this action based on that." I began, even though I still had doubts at times, to read the Bible to see what God had for me, not to see if it was true. As I honored my decision to give my life to God, He honored His Word to draw near to those who draw near to Him and to be found by those who seek Him and He revealed Himself to me in deeper and deeper ways as I lived, simply in a faith that felt blind at the time, in respect to my decision.
So, my final reflection and thanks goes to the One who made me, died for me, and gave me life again. To my God---THE God---Jehovah, God Almighty, King of Kings, Immanuel, Lord, Jesus, I say, "Thank You." You have taken me out of darkness and in to your marvelous light. I love You and only wish I could love You more and serve You better. You are everything. You saw me and knew me before You formed the earth, You knew all my mistakes and rebellions and rejections and blasphemies, and still You formed me and lovingly knit me together in my precious mother's womb---knowing all along that Your own Son, Jesus, would need to come to earth and be murdered for me. You have sealed me in His precious blood, You have given me a righteousness and redemption I could never have afforded, and You have born me again as Your precious child and I will know You and love You and be with You forever. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart.