O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8, KJV)
This is the thought I seemed to grow up with. I remember spending a lot of time in the forest among the sword ferns, under a large Douglas fir tree thinking about God, eternity, death, and whether or not anyone would miss me when I was dead. Mother did take me to Sunday School and church. We attended a small gathering in an unused room in the local school building, but I don’t ever remember being told that God or Jesus could make a difference in my life. Only once in 18 years while attending this church do I remember an invitation to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. I was about 11 or 12 years old and the invitation took me by surprise — it seemed weird. It seemed like the thing to respond to, but I also thought I was too young and had a lot of life to live so I refused this life changing invitation.
Time went on during the teen years and I continued in rebellion against God and getting more and more hardened in heart. At about 16 our youth group was having a discussion about God, focusing on Jesus, and the miracles He did while here on earth. The leaders were doing their best to encourage the group to recognize Jesus as God, but the decision I made that night in my heart was Jesus was a good teacher of God, but He was just a man. This set me up for more hardening and self-righteousness.
After High school graduation I moved to a little community in Central Oregon for work. All the spiritual insecurities were under control, even if they were just under the surface. I had been accepted by the young people of the community and so on New Years Eve was invited to a party at one boy’s home. At the party, coming in the door was a new girl I had never seen before. Nice looking, long blond hair. Within a week I did something I had never done before: I asked her for a date. (Just to put it in perspective a year and 6 months later we were married.)
One day while we were hanging out the discussion came around to spiritual things. I gave her my “wisdom,” which was, “the miracles that Jesus performed were only for 2000 years ago and not for this day and age.” Her response was, “God hasn’t changed, He is still doing miracles.” That was the end of the discussion. The impact on me was sudden and life changing. It was exactly what this soul needed to hear to give hope to all the insecurities of the soul.
It was two years before there was any change, but we did start attending church and I even responded to altar calls and would pray, but it seemed God was very far away. I had sin that was very hard for me to shake off. If someone had told me that I was saved because I had prayed and repented I could not have accepted that. I needed some conformation of forgiveness. Meanwhile, my wife, who had strayed away from God at the time I met her, got right with God, so I kept putting along because something told me it was the right thing to do.
God is faithful. It was January 4th, two years after I met my wife, about a year and a half after she told me “God is not dead, he’s still doing miracles,” that a change occurred. We were in the last night of revival services. Everyone had gathered around the piano and sang; everyone who wanted to testify had testified; prayer requests had been made and prayed for, and the evangelist preached and made his altar call. I responded.
Everything went off just in typical order. That is when God changed the order of the service. After the dismissal prayer had been prayed, a sister on the back row started praying and worshiping very quietly in a language that I didn’t understand. (Did I mention the church we attended was a Holiness Pentecostal church?) Everyone was very quiet and respectful, even me, but I was ready to go because I needed to smoke a cigarette. A spirit of reverence and awe began to come over me. I thought about resisting but allowed it to continue. About this time a voice in my head began to speak, “It’s now or never, repent.” There wasn’t time to go to the alter, things were very urgent. There was a very real presence of God in that place. (In my own mind I have often likened my new birth to Isaiah 6:1-5 and Saul in Acts 9:3-9. Not the same scenario but, the same of the presence of God.) I don’t know how long I prayed, but I wanted God to know I repent and if you will save me I’ll do whatever you ask.
For me, here is the clincher. Remember the cigarette? When I could finally stop praying I found I didn’t want it anymore. On the way home I littered the side of the highway and threw my package out never again tempted by the habit again.
“…old things are passed away, behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
As I end this testimony I would like to make this disclaimer. I have been very convicted about all the “I’s” and “me’s” in the narrative. This is a testimony about what our Creator and Holy God can do for any heart that will seek Him honestly with a contrite heart.
Bio :: Bob is a retired pastor living in Eastern Oregon. He and his wife Jerry have two children, seven grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. He enjoys working in the yard and garden, reading, and visiting his wife, who lives in a nursing home, as often as he can. He also meets weekly with most lively group of men he has ever met for a Bible study.