Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Testimony

Good day all!

When I was a child, my family was Episcopalian. My father grew up in an old school Italian neighborhood of Pittsburgh and was Roman Catholic, while my Mom grew up Methodist in the suburbs. They met when Mom was in college and Dad was on the rebound from the divorce of his previous marriage. Dad said he fell in love almost instantly, Mom said it took her time. I'm more like my Mom.

When they got married they decided to join the Episcopal church. Dad felt it was a nice compromise between his Roman Catholic traditions (he had been excommunicated for the divorce) and Mom's protestant roots.

The Episcopal church has, like the Catholics, infant baptism and confirmation. For those of you who are not familiar with confirmation, it is a time where the person takes on the vows that were made for them at their infant baptism for themselves. There's a ceremony, the bishop comes to your church, and it's kind of a "right of passage" from being a child into being a young adult.

Many families allow their children to go through confirmation as just another "churchey" moment in a long line of "churchey" moments that make up a religion that amounts to nothing more than a Sunday morning tradition.

Not my Mom. No way.

Mom was absolutely firm that I was not going to go through confirmation until I understood exactly what I was confirming and exactly what I was saying that I believed. I'll be honest, at the time, I had no idea. So, as long as I had no idea, Mom was just not going to let me go through with it.

Christ-less churches, and that's what my childhood church was, are weird. In churches like that, you don't have people gathering together because they've been redeemed from a horrible pit by a God who had every right to condemn them to death. You don't have a church full of people who, despite some flaws, have a focus on glorifying God. Instead people gather for whatever reason they gather (tradition, religiosity, appearance, status, socializing, etc.) and go through the liturgical motions. Some make some friendships, some find activities they enjoy (like joining the choir or men's club), and despite all odds, some even repent and trust Christ.

However, most people just show up, go through the motions, and go home as lost, with hearts as dark, as when they showed up. It's truly sad. Therefore my Mom was really a light in a dark place when she made a point of making sure I knew exactly what I was saying at confirmation.

While the other kids my age went through Confirmation Sunday after Confirmation Sunday going through the motions of repeating the same words and affirming things I'm certain they had no clue about, I watched. Frankly, at that young age I was more upset that I stood out among my peers than anything.

Over time, Mom kept working on me. She would point out my own sins. She explained the Gospel to me a piece at a time. She would always remind me that no matter what things I did that I couldn't be good enough to go to heaven. She was patient and consistent. She was a picture of faithfulness.

Eventually, it made a difference. A few years after my peers had been confirmed, things my Mom was saying just made sense. I can't really explain it, and I'm not sure that I could have explained it to someone else at the time, but I just knew that I wasn't good enough to go to heaven. I knew that Jesus was God and that He REALLY existed. I knew I needed Him.

Why did I need Him? I was thief. I liked to go to stores with my parents and see how much I could steal. I got caught once. Mom wasn't happy.

Why did I need Jesus? I was a liar. I would play little games with my friends and lie about who said what about whom and so forth.

Why did I need Him? I was disobiediant to Mom and Dad and to my teachers. I talked back, I mocked. I would sometimes obey outwardly, but in my heart I was full of rage.

I needed Christ. I was wicked and there was no way that God was going to be impressed by reading a certain number of Scripture verses or by helping a lot of my neighbors (or whatever good deed you want to think about).

I was confirmed the next time around, but unlike a number of the people that I knew who had already done it, I was glad to be saved.

The problem was that I was still in a bad church. Yet, God had grace on me and made sure I was secure in His family by putting good people in my path that would help me to grow and develop as a believer. Of course my Mom was still there to help me when she could and when I'd let her. Eventually I met other believers in school and began to study the Word for myself. It was at that time that I read through my favorite book; Romans. My analytical, systematic, mind found much to like in Paul's step by step explanation of the faith. It quickly became my favorite book and Romans 5:6-9, my favorite verses.

Eventually it came time to go to college. I was accepted at Shimer College in Chicago. I had never spent more than a few days away from home, but pressed out on my own toward the mid-west. What I didn't expect to find was a completely pagan college.

I had never really been surrounded by people who not only didn't at least pretend to believe in God, but also out right didn't like him. However, that's what I was faced with. Now, most are inclined to think that this would kill a new Christian. By God's grace, the exact opposite happened to me. In fact, college did nothing but strengthen my faith. I felt that I needed to defend my faith in college because every class I went to attacked it. I was terrible at defending my faith in the beginning, but not wanting to lose a battle caused me to open my Bible and study it. Four years later, I emerged a stronger, thinking, Christian. Someone who had been tested and hardened by those who were determined to undermine the things I believed.

God also continued to shape me through the churches I attended. After moving to Wisconsin I got involved with a non-denominational church there. They were great folks who were zealous for God and loved Him. I felt at home among them and they both challenged me to live for Him and accepted me among them.

Eventually God put John MacArthur, Ray Comfort, and Todd Friel in my path. I began to lean toward to the Calvinist way of thinking. As life would have it, I had to move back to Pittsburgh about the same time and found myself in a church led by Master's Seminary graduates while going through some dark times in my life. God's people cared for my son and I there too. I still attend and serve that church. The pastor is a faithful mentor. The people are faithful friends. God has been good to me and continues to be good to me even though I don't deserve it.

If I had to sum up what God did in my life, I would say that the one thing I'm always struck by is His faithfulness to me, and to us as believers. I was a man who didn't deserve a thing from God, and yet moment after moment, day after day, God has remained faithful. Not just faithful to save me and sustain my salvation, but faithful to sanctify me, to teach me, to love me.

I am indeed blessed beyond imagination, beyond what I deserve. Far beyond anything I could do for Him. I am grateful beyond what I can describe.

I needed God. You need Him too. Repent and trust in Him today!

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1 comment:

  1. i think we need some like buttons in the blogs as well.:-)