This is literally the first day I have felt good in February. Thanks to those who prayed for me. It feels kinda selfish to ask for prayer from God for a cold when there are so many big problems out there; war, famine, big ugly dreadful diseases, broken relationships… In any case, I’m grateful to be feeling better. On to my journey…
As far back as I can remember, my family went to church every Sunday. Our home church was Deer Park Baptist. I “gave my heart to Jesus” at Vacation Bible School there. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. The associate pastor called me into his office, which was quite intimidating… it felt sort of like going to the principal’s office. I had raised my hand when the teacher asked if anyone wanted to give their heart to Jesus and the next step in the process was a trip to his office. He asked me a few questions about sin and who Jesus was and what He did for me. I answered all the questions correctly and we prayed together. He told me that I was now a Christian.
I have some reservations today about the one size fits all formula in which we answer a few questions and we are “in”. Seems more like joining a club than a crucial life decision. In any case I took my decision seriously. I believed what my teacher taught me and I wanted to go to heaven when I died. As I wrote those words, I just remembered something my dad told me the day I was baptized. He said that he noticed that I was more serious than the other kids. I’m glad I remembered that. Thanks for saying so, Dad. I knew writing this would be good for me.
As the years went on and I learned more about God at church, I grew more serious about wanting to follow Jesus. At some point, the repetitious Sunday School lessons weren’t doing it for me anymore. If I had been smart, I would have talked to someone about my journey, but I was a loner and I was pretty sure I could figure it out. In my mind, everyone needed to go through the same steps of learning and growth in series; 1, 2, 3…. Because of that, it was important for me to get them in order so I wouldn’t mess up or miss anything. I knew that they had these racks in the vestibule of the church filled with tracts and I reasoned that this was where I would find out the next steps to take. What I found in the tract rack were pamphlets on how to become a Christian in three easy steps and why the Mormans or Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong and what to say to them when they came to your door. I didn’t find anything like what i was really looking for; the next steps after giving your heart to God. How to grow closer to God.
The church that I grew up in emphasized evangelism. Nothing mattered more than “The Great Commision” from Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It was our job to share Jesus. For a painfully shy little fellow, this was like asking me to walk on hot coals. I reasoned that the main thing was getting the message out. So, I took the tracts that told about how to become a Christian and distributed them liberally. Once on vacation, we stopped for gas and I went to the restroom. While I was in there, I unrolled the toilet paper and re-rolled it with tracts so they would fall out when the next person used the toilet. As we drove away, Dad had something to say about it. It seems that he was the next person to use the toilet. I was so embarrased!
When I was a young teenager, I had a Sunday School teacher, whose name is gone from my memory. He was a short blond firecracker of a man. He really loved Jesus and was full of excitement. He was as anti-speaking in tongues as he was on fire for Jesus. I don’t know why that was such a hot button for him. His teaching was my only knowlege about speaking in tongues and my only perspective about the matter. Whatever speaking in tongues was, he was worried that we’d get involved with it. I took his teaching as gospel and learned chapter and verse why “speaking in tongues was of the devil.” There was no way I was going to get involved with that! In his class we also studied a popular book called “The Late Great Planet Earth”. This was the first popular book I had ever read about what to expect at the end of time. Mostly what I remember about it was that Jesus was coming back in 1988! Whoops.
In the group of four boys that were my age at Deer Park Church, three of them went into fulltime ministry. I alone pursued a secular vocation. Many times I have asked myself what happened to me. For some reason, even then it was important to me that I should be able to be serious about following Jesus without earning a living as a minister. That is not a criticism of anyone in ministry. It is a value I hold dear, not just with regards to ministry, but also taking leadership in groups without being given a formal leadership role. To me, that’s the way the world ought to be. So many people wait to be told what to do instead of using the gifts and talents that God has built into them. There’s a reason we are all different. We need each other.