WARNING: This is a story about finding God. Out of respect for those who are offended by this subject, and so as not to take anyone by surprise, this is your chance to turn back. Seriously, it is not my intention to “push” the gospel on anyone who has no interest, but I am not ashamed to make the offer to those who are genuinely searching. I will be delighted to simply do a great job meeting your photographic needs if you choose to use my services.
If, on the other hand, you are hungering for Life and peace, I have taken the time to write down for you the story of how I was “found”. Hopefully my story will help you find rest for your weary soul.
Testimony of Salvation
I call this link “Good News” because that is what it was to me. It’s also what the word “Gospel” means.
I have a great passion for photography, but really that’s just my cover. It is also how I offer something of value to others to meet my financial needs. My greatest passion however, is helping people find eternal life and grow in the knowledge of God. In the interest of that mission I offer this account of my journey in finding the Life that is truly LIFE.
When I was a child I went to a traditional church. I had a desire for pleasing God, but somehow I was also drawn to “badness” and getting attention in inappropriate ways. My grades for “deportment” in class were always an issue when report cards came out. As I grew into my early teens the appeal for the darker side drew me into all kinds of crazy behavior that I’m not proud of today.
When I was 16 my family moved from inland in California to “the beach” – San Clemente. At that time I started to surf. I began trying to move toward some healthier choices because of the physical demands of surfing. I found I was still bound by some of my habits, and I was unable to break free on my own. I was really a lost soul in bondage, seeking to satisfy that inner hunger in any way I could. My internal life was characterized by three things. I would not have admitted it at the time, but I was lonely, insecure, and had a haunting feeling that there might really be a God. If there was, I knew I was falling seriously short of His expectations for me.
As I would later tell my children, “If you won’t be disciplined by those who love you, eventually you will be disciplined by those who don’t.” Well, “eventually” finally came for me, and I started getting into some trouble with the law. I began to feel the consequences of my behavior catching up with me. I decided I needed some real changes, so I got into some of the Eastern religions that were becoming popular at the time. That made me feel a little better, but it wasn’t helping me become the kind of person I wanted to be. By the age of 18 I had come to one firm conclusion: if people truly loved one another the world would be as it should be. Deep inside, I wanted to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, but I had no idea how. I really wanted to be a loving person.
I did have a brush with the TRUTH during that period. I was sharing an apartment with a friend, and somehow, a little pamphlet turned up in our living room. I still remember the title. It said “I Must Tell You This.” It went on to quote the Bible verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It explained that Jesus, the Son of God, paid the penalty for my sins. I could be forgiven for all my sins and receive eternal life if I turned from my sinful life, believed God, and received His gift of salvation through Christ. I knew it was true when I read it, but I wasn’t ready to make that leap. I consciously decided to wait and hoped that if I died, I would have time to slip in under the wire and accept God’s forgiveness at the last minute. In retrospect, I shudder at the thought of taking that gamble.
It was about a year later when I was living and skiing in northern California that a couple of young ladies invited a friend and me to their condo saying that a few people were “getting together” there that evening. We assumed that it was a party.
When we arrived we discovered that it was just a few Christian people hanging out there. It wasn’t a formal meeting of any sort, but they were discussing a newly published book by a man named Hal Lindsay. It was called The Late Great Planet Earth. It was all about (then) recent events and how they were predicted by the Bible as signs of the second coming of Jesus. When I was a kid we occasionally talked about “the end of the world”, but it was always some far off event. I hadn’t even conceived of Jesus “coming again”. I was curious and intrigued. They answered my questions, and I thought “Wow, if this event is imminent, maybe I had better find out more about this.”
One thing that struck me about these people I’d just met was the LIFE they had inside them. It was not a literal glow, but it made them seem to glow nevertheless. They were filled with something I knew I didn’t have, but I wanted it.
I noticed a framed picture on their wall. From a distance it looked like the face of Jesus. As I looked closer I could see that it was writing, bolder in some places and thinner in others to make the “picture”. The writing was what is referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount” spoken by Jesus and recorded by Mathew, one of His disciples. I asked if I could take it down and read it. They said yes. (Like they would say “no”). I started reading. As I did, I realized that the same Jesus I had heard about when I was young, whom I had left by the wayside in search of something to distract me from who I was, had spoken the kind of words that illuminated the soul. I recognized that HE was the source of the “light” inside my new acquaintances. I knew He spoke the truth. The same desire for God I had as a kid was instantly reawakened.
Honestly, it was a gift from God. (Still, to this day, I marvel every time I watch it happen in someone else’s life). My eyes were being opened. Here was one who truly loved and who taught to love. Not in a superficial mushy way, but in a sincere and strong way. Here was one who not only had LIFE, but WAS LIFE. There are so many benefits to knowing the Lord, that I hesitate to say “the best”, but certainly one of the best things I found out in time was this: The same One who taught love, could not only “teach” me about love, but could transform my heart, and help me love in a deep and genuine way. The same one who was LIFE, and who had filled those new acquaintances of mine with LIFE, could fill me with LIFE, and not just life now, but LIFE that never ends.
But I digress.
When my friend and I left that condo, as we were walking down the street, I mentioned to him some of the impressions I had of our experience there. He commented to me “Yeah, that was interesting, I think I might check out the Bible a little more”. I was happy he felt that way, but I thought to myself “I know what I need to do”.
Because of that little pamphlet I had read about a year earlier, dissecting the John 3:16 verse, I knew I needed to turn from my selfish ways, confess my need for a Savior, and receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what I did. I went home, got on my knees, and gave the reigns of my life to God. I decided to let God be my God.
For some people there is a lot of feeling and emotion involved when they make that commitment. For me there was nothing like that. In fact, though I knew it was a big step for me, I didn’t even realize I might want to note the actual date. I just know it was a week or two before Christmas 1972. I do know I was so zealous to start living for God that I went to church twice that Christmas.
So that is how He rescued me, so many years ago. Now, the “rest of the story”.
A week or two after I received the gift of God, I moved back to San Clemente. I never again saw the people who were the impetus for my decision. I wish I had been able to thank them and let them know of my decision.
Back in San Clemente I started thinking about finding a “Christian” church. “Coincidentally” an old acquaintance of mine had gotten “saved” himself and was going door to door sharing the good news of salvation and inviting people to church. The next evening I went to that church.
Wow! Was that a change from the dog eat dog, ego driven, harsh reality I had experienced among the young surfers and skiers with whom I had been surrounding myself. When I walked in the door, people welcomed me and seemed genuinely happy to see and meet me. I found out later many of these people were always like that. They really loved one another.
That was the beginning of one of the most important elements of the new life I was born into by God’s mercy. The loneliness that was my constant companion, even in a crowd, soon became a thing of the past as I began to build relationships with people who really cared. Even away from home, traveling, anytime I am among true believers, I feel the warmth of true fellowship and friendship. I can’t tell you how much all this warmth and connection has meant to me over the years.
The other component in relieving my loneliness is the very presence of God in my life. The Bible teaches that God Himself actually takes up residence in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible we repeatedly find the phrase “and God was with (insert name)”. The Bible says “If God be ‘with us’, who can be against us?” Having the constant presence and fellowship of Almighty God has been a great comfort to me over the years. And the great thing is He has also promised “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
The second great change in my life since receiving Christ as my Savior is that where I used to be so anxious and insecure there is now such a great peace. The difference is really indescribable. And there is nothing I would trade for it.
I often say that “we live life on the inside”. In other words, no matter what our circumstances, it’s what we experience in our minds and hearts that make our lives seem good or bad. We all see the rich and famous living chaotic, strife-filled lives. Many are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and some of them even commit suicide. We all know (or know of) others who have little and live seemingly boring, regular lives but who are just as happy as can be. So circumstances, no matter how good, cannot produce peace. But to know that the very God of the universe is personally orchestrating every detail of my life, right down to who pulls out in front of me on the highway, gives me greater peace than I ever thought possible. I have had many challenging times since becoming a Christian, and I have learned that, no matter what life brings, God is faithful. Through it all, He is making something out of me that I wasn’t before. And every time, through every trial, big or small, it’s always worth it.
Remember that “haunting fear” that I mentioned toward the beginning of this story? The fear that there might be a God, and that I wasn’t cutting it in pleasing Him? Well, that is gone. Because, you see, the scripture says that “The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.” It is kind of paradoxical that what God saves us from is His own wrath. But His wrath is a necessary part of His character. If He didn’t judge and condemn evil, He wouldn’t be good.
We tolerate some evil because we know some of it is in us and we recognize the hypocrisy of condemning it in someone else. In some ways, we feel like it justifies our own bad behavior when we see it in someone else. But God doesn’t do evil, and He never will. So because He is all good, his standard for us is “all good” too. That is how “The way of the Lord is…the ruin of those who do evil.” It’s a pretty tough spot for us once we’ve sinned because we cannot change the record. Only by the gift of God can our record be changed. The Bible says that “He (Jesus) who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. In other words, He took the punishment for our sin (which is on our record) and because of that we can be credited with His record (righteousness). Our very Judge, because of His kindness to us, becomes our refuge and the agent of our freedom. It is an unspeakably generous offer from God on our behalf.
So, now that haunting fear I had is gone because He paid for my sins: past, present and future. The Bible says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions (sins) from us.” That is pretty far.
Now, I still fall short of perfection every day, but the righteous standing I have in Christ never changes. So all fear of God’s Judgment is gone forever. Now, in theory, I could live a life of corruption and debauchery if I want, but I don’t want that because He has given me a new heart like He promised. Thankfully, He is changing my desires. I no longer feel comfortable with sin; it wrecks everything it touches. It’s not me any more. Why would I continue in darkness, when I have entered into the light? I really love people now, and I don’t want to violate them. I no longer like deadness, I like LIFE, and want as much of it as I can get. Besides that, I’m so grateful for the gift and goodness of God that I want to please Him now. I want to be the son God wants me to be. Also, because I now believe what God says, I know that His ways are good for me; so why would I reject His counsel?
Which brings me to the last thing I would like to share with you.
In any new relationship, we are always taking a chance. That person may turn out to be a scoundrel, or hurt us, or break our heart or disappoint us.
Let me share with you this: God has turned out to be better than I could have imagined. After nearly 40 years, I can say without reservation that He is good, that He is unshakably faithful and loving, and that there is no flaw in Him or His ways. He cannot be improved upon.
I started out with a lot of questions. Through the years I have found that everything about God revealed through the Holy Scriptures makes perfect sense and fits with everything else, including the reality we can observe.
Even the couple of things about Him that the Scripture clearly teaches but that we can’t fully rationally comprehend, such as the Trinity, three persons in one God, make sense in this respect. If God is a higher being (like the kind who can speak the universe into existence), does it really make sense that we would be able to fully comprehend His very nature? Not to me. So I’m satisfied with a couple of mysteries. I’m also pretty happy that throughout eternity I will always be the creature and He will always be the infinite God, whose attributes will always be a source of amazement and worship.
So that is my story, along with a few thoughts and observations.
I’m sure many of you who read this have already made the decision to follow the Lord. But for those of you who may not have, I make this offer, because, as you may recall, this is my real reason for living: If you are truly seeking, and you have sincere questions about salvation or following the Savior, I am at your service. You may email or call. Just remember, we are in the Hawaiian time zone.