Testimony- Drawing the Picture of a Sinner
Some of my earliest memories are learning the Ten Commandments (You shall have no other Gods before me) at a small church on the far side of town that our family attended. I remember the ladies who always sat behind my little sister and me, giving us paper and pens to draw with and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum to sit quietly during Brother Jake’s messages. Years before I was born, Brother Jake had discipled my dad through the mail, while dad fought as an infantry sergeant in Korea. Brother Jake loved us and preached with a pleading heart. Among other memories at our church, I also remember getting up several times as a pre-schooler with my little sister in front of the church. I had on spit-shined shoes and a clip-on bow tie and we sang “Give Me that Ole Time Religion” while holding hands. I have not been asked to sing in church since then. On your birthday you even got to drop coins through the slot in the replica wooden church’s roof and ring the bell. It was a warm encouraging place with kind, caring people where seeds of truth were planted. Our little church echoed the unconditional love of my parents and their personal relationship with God.
GOD’S WORD IS TRUE
I grew up in a place like Mayberry, called Midway Village, later annexed by Del City. Upon entering grade school, out family started attending a neighborhood church, with Sunday School, Royal Ambassadors & Girl's Auxiliary (which were Bible-centered, church-based Southern Baptist missionary education for children) and a church choir. After a few years, this is where I walked the aisle at eight years old. I don’t remember the Gospel message, and I suspect I was responding to the urgent “You should” from the preacher, more than an understanding of Christ’s atonement. I was responding to an “ought to” to be a good person. I don’t recall a real sense of a conviction of sin. I do remember grinning at the pastor’s support socks when my dad and I saw him changing out of his waders after my baptism. Still, it was a place that I really felt at home and was truly influenced by my Sunday School teacher’s love of God’s Word. Studying the Bible with Mr. Capps and the other knot-headed guys, and discussing it, even then was teaching me that God’s Word was really true and that this truth would affect how I lived.
FULL, BUT EMPTY
Then we stopped going to church. I don’t remember a distinct Sunday that we stopped, it just seems it was more by drifting away than a decisive move. It is a mystery still what really happened. I remember as a kid hearing something about church politics and a new pastor coming. I have no memory of my folks being angry or upset at someone. I don’t know if it was this or life encroaching, but within a short time, Sunday mornings were a time for a big family breakfast and household projects. We prayed before meals, but the continued, regular worship, fellowship, and intake of God’s Word went silent. The Bible says in Hebrews, “Do not forsake the assembling together as is the habit of some, but encourage one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The next decade was full, but spiritually empty.
LOOKING GOOD ON THE OUTSIDE
All through school and high school, there were ball games, fishing trips, Rawhide and Combat TV shows, drawing pictures, family vacations to Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies in a converted 48 passenger school bus, a mobile home at Eufala and a loving home life. School came easy, and I excelled. If I lived in my head pursuing the intellectual, then the darkness of my heart didn’t seem to matter so much. It was also the days of war on the evening news and as a kid I was captured by international information. I was awakening to a world that needed fixed. I loved school, loved my family, loved hanging out with friends, but inwardly I grew more and more frustrated. My buddy’s mom described me to another mother as a “good Christian boy” but it was the shell not the substance that was really true. I looked forward to being in college, anxious to get to this phase of life where I thought my blocked goals would be met and answers could be found.
POWERLESS TO STOP SINNING
Sure enough, college was heady stuff for me. Intellectual pursuit was exciting and at hand, but still my frustration grew. The excitement was fleeting and unfulfilling. I knew enough about sin to know I was willing to do it, and willing to do more. My freshman year into my sophomore year was full, fast and literally hell-bent. The Word says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I was a double exclamation point to the truth of that verse! Strangely, at the time, I also had a yearning to start going to church again. God, in His grace and mercy, continued to draw the rebel to Himself. I wanted to fix the frustration. I wanted to find peace from the growing sense that I was doing stuff that I knew better than do. There was a hatred of my own sin, an unwillingness to thwart it, and a deep anger and frustration that I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to.
AWAKENING TO THE ANSWER
As a sophomore in college, the reality of and awareness of my unchecked, accelerating sin was confronted with the truth of Jesus being the One who took my sin upon Himself, and that to a grisly death on the cross. Romans 5 says “But God demonstrated his love love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” For the first time one Sunday morning in a service at First Southern Baptist Church, this became personal to me, no longer conceptual. The evangelist preaching that morning had been reading my secret mail, and I was squirming in the pew. He had me pegged and yet he declared Jesus was the answer to my frustration, sin, rebellion, everything! I could not stop my sin and yet He died for me. The conviction and burden of my sin was staggering, but after clutching the pew through many, many verses of “Just As I Am”, I left the service just as I was. I got into my car for the two mile ride home, believing that my having resisted God would now end justifiably in my death. God had awakened me to truth of my sin and a Savior who would save me, and I had stiff-armed His offer. He would be justified to end my life and send me straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200!
FROM RESIST TO REST
When to my surprise I arrived home, my heart pounding, I went straight in the door and into the bathroom where I wouldn’t be disturbed. I dropped to my knees beside the bathtub. Here I fell upon the promise of forgiveness and eternal life for the helpless sinner who places his trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone. “For by Grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast”. Here beside the towels and soap, my life changed direction, I repented of my rebellion before the One with all authority “in Heaven and on earth”. I turned from ignoring and resisting Him. I confessed to Him that I was looking to Him and nothing else to forgive and save me. I was surrendering my life to His control. No bells and whistles, no angelic voices that I could hear, but the next morning I awoke, at peace, unburdened, clean… unbelievably clean and at peace. All this time, he was drawing me to a place of resting in Him.
INVESTMENT AND GRATITUDE
The next day a guy in one of my college
classes was among the first to hear what had taken place. This guy who carried a
Bible to class, ask me to come over to his apartment at 6:30 the next morning
and he would show me how he had a quiet time with God. My walk with Christ had
begun. The investment of other believers in my life had begun. This continued in
high gear over the next five years when I moved to Stillwater to get training
with the Navigator ministry. It was my involvement in the collegiate ministry at
Universitythat I began learning
what it meant to give your life away. I was learning how to share my faith and
the value of Quiet Times, Bible study and Scripture memory. And toward the end
of this time, I learned how to speak my love to someone, before I knew it would
be returned. Thankfully, Darise said “Yes” and God’s great blessing of my wife
of 30 years began. God has used her to challenge my selfishness and to encourage
me. The Lord blessed us with Heather and Sean (and now our daughter-in-law,
Kelsey). He has blessed me with a wonderful family, with an encouraging church
family of men and women who delight in God. The years since have been filled
with opportunities to walk with Him all over the world, but I am thoroughly
aware that He got no bargain in me. He has blessed me with the privilege to
study and teach His Word. He uses this and Quiet Times early in the morning with
a cup of Earl Grey tea, to call me to set my day in worship of Him. I am a man
grateful for my Savior, forever grateful!
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”