Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Personal Testimony--Pt. 1

Now that I’ve been into the blogging world for a while, I thought I should share a bit of my journey of faith. It might help make some of my ramblings make more sense.

My family had attended Baptist churches for most of my childhood. However, I did not go forward until after we had become members of a Presbyterian church in Denton, TX. I believe I became a Christian about the age of 11 while we were at this church. When my family moved to southern California, I was biblically baptized by immersion at the Baptist church we joined there (ironically one we had attended some years before). Unfortunately, my memory of these events is clouded and I do not remember them very well largely due to a lack of maturity on my part and discipleship/follow-up from the churches. This is one of the side effects of baptizing young kids because they may not remember or they may in turn take for granted the significance of what brought them to that decision.

Over the course of the next 6-7 years, church involvement was primarily a social activity for me (friends and cute girls), thus my faith did not grow the way it could have. I know I had some good teachers, but I didn’t’ take advantage of it. So after my family moved back to southern California, I was exposed to a huge display of false and cultic religious systems. Even though I was regularly attending church, I became curious in these other belief systems. What is so amazing about God is that even though I was not fully committed to Him, on numerous occasions, God steered me away from actually becoming involved with or finding much information about these falsehoods.

Only after my family moved to Austin, TX for my Junior year of high school, was I ever directly exposed to false teaching. As part of a Christmas gift exchange in the marching band, I was given the book One, by Richard Bach, a major proponent of Transcendental Meditation. By reading this book I was directly exposed to TM and other New Age formulas, which at the time, due to the immaturity of my faith, I considered very appealing. Once again, however, God proved His faithfulness to my by not allowing me to expose myself to much other material. I did some reading, but it never went much further than that. If we would have had the internet back then, who knows where I would have ended up.

Then on my 18th birthday, just a few months before graduating high school, my best friend, Kevin Scheible, gave me a copy of Frank Peretti’s book, This Present Darkness, which I read in about 3 days. I quickly located the sequel Piercing the Darkness and finished it. These books followed human characters as well as the unseen spiritual conflict with angelic and demonic characters. These books seriously confronted me about what was going to be my source of authority in my life, especially when it comes to accurate information about the nature of reality, existence, and God. What did it was that some of the deceptive practices of the demonic characters were practically word for word with some of the “wisdom” of the “ascended masters” from One that I had found so attractive. I was forced to determine what my source of authority was going to be. I chose the Bible, the Word of God, and my faith has not been the same since. I'll even share in another post the demonic experiences I had while on campus at the University of Texas.

I believe it is important to say at this point that in the years since my faith became alive and real to me, I have struggled with questions surrounding my salvation experience. I do not remember the initial decisive event very well, to which I have questioned, was I really “saved” at that point or the days after my 18th birthday? I no longer have those doubts. I believe I was saved at 11 for two major reasons. First, I can look back during those years and see the numerous protective acts of God’s faithfulness. Though I wandered, He was faithful and never let me wander very far. His protection went beyond the religious exploration. On several occasions, I was one action, one decision away from dangerous sexual or drug related activities which God steered me away from. Though at the time I might not have recognized, nor even appreciated His work, I do now. Secondly, I believe salvation is by the Grace of God and not by works. If I adhere to the belief that there is no formulaic prayer to receive salvation, nor any other thing that I can do to merit my salvation, then neither does it depend upon my explicit memory of the event. What I do know, is the continuing life and fruit of His presence in my life. If I were to suggest that I was not saved at 11, then I would essentially be saying that I had done something wrong in my part of salvation. Yet that would make the “decision” a work, and not an act of receiving God’s unmerited favor. I am unwilling to believe my actions, nor memory, contributes to God’s saving and sanctifying work in my life, which continues to this day.

The decision to make the Bible my source of authority, just before I entered college, prepared me for what I would find there. I rarely had a class at the University of Texas, that didn’t challenge or even ridicule my faith in Christ—often by undermining the Bible. I had 3 basic options, which most students take today when faced with such challenges. I could:
1. Abandon my faith thinking, “My parents are stupid for ever believing this stuff or taking me to church”
2. Ignore the problem, Plug my ears and deny that there is any criticism at all
3. Study and Research and find that Christians have intelligent and reasonable responses to those criticisms

I chose option 3 and was greatly helped by the Probe Center in Austin (www.probecenter.org a part of Probe Ministries— www.probe.org ) a Christian resource library just off campus. My faith was strengthened rather than weakened because I was forced to think about my beliefs for the first time, rather than just accepting what I was taught without question. It was during this time of growth that I heard the call into the ministry. My college experience was my greatest time of personal growth and walk in the faith. Of course, I failed on many levels as well. Since I was supposed to be taking everything seriously now, I wasn’t always rescued from my poor decisions. God desired me to grow into making the right decisions for myself.

Pt. II will focus on experiences while at the University of Texas that confirmed for me the reality of the demonic and provide a better understanding of why i believe the previous sermon was necessary.

Part III will be life in Seminary and coming to terms with God’s call—meeting my wife and eventually becoming a pastor.


Kevin Bussey said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

Angie said...

The Perretti book were influential in my life too.

Tracy said...

I have wondered whether I was really saved when I was a child too. I know I wandered far away from the path I should have been taking. Reading your blog has helped me to look back, like you did, and see how many times (too many to count) that God surrounded me with his protection even though I had strayed, He was ever faithful. Thank you for your story.