Photo by Jeff Rogers
I was raised in the Nazarene church. I had a wonderful Sunday School teacher. Some of my earliest and fondest memories were in that church in Sunday School.
As I got older, I struggled with the doctrine of sanctification as it was taught in the Nazarene church our family attended. The way I understood it, once you became a Christian you would not fail. I struggled with that for years knowing that I could never live up to that “Christian perfection.” Because of this, I was never baptized in the Nazarene church. In fact, every time there was an invitation, I got anxious and tightly held to the pew.
I stopped going to church during my teenage years. Then, when I was 25, my wife and I started going to a Baptist church. The pastor came to our house and talked to me about giving my life to the Lord. After he left, I prayed, “Lord, I really want to be saved but I don’t think I can live up to what I have been taught.”
It was like He spoke to me, “Just have faith in me.”
I answered “Lord, is that what it is? Just have faith in You?”
I finally realized it wasn’t anything I could do, but what Jesus had already done that saved me.
I got down on my knees and said, “Lord, I want to give my heart and life to you.” That is how my Christian walk began in October 1985.
I decided I needed to be as close to the Lord I could. So I went through a period of studying the theology of different denominations. I had been studying the Bible since I was nine years old. Southern Baptist was as close as I could find to the Scriptures. I began going to a Southern Baptist church, which was the church of the pastor who had come to our house to talk with me. Eventually this pastor asked me to take over the Sunday School class he taught for the adult men. I said, “I’m awfully young to teach a class with 70-year-old men.” But the pastor had confidence and faith in me. I took over the Sunday School class, although it felt quite intimidating to me.
A year later we had a revival. A man preached a sermon that hit me so hard it made me want to preach. I prayed, “Lord, I know there must be a church out there somewhere that needs a preacher. I don’t want any money. I just want to preach.”
A small Baptist mission church needed a pastor at the time. I gave a sermon for their church and then was asked to become their interim pastor. I was there for a year. While I was the pastor, a man came from out of town and told me that the church was going to receive a donation but would not receive the money because I was married to a divorced woman. I stepped down from serving as their pastor. This was a very difficult period in my life. Leaving the pastoring position at this church was one of the most heartbreaking things that has ever happened to me.
During the time I was interim pastor, I was manager of a Goodyear tire store. One Saturday, the guys and I decided to go out and shoot trap. Later, I had a bruise come up on my bicep area. It changed color and I put a heating pad on it. The bruise became an odd color and streaks were going up and down on my arm. My wife told me that I needed to go to the hospital and have it checked out, but I wanted to wait and see if it got better. Later that night, I said “I’m going down. I guess we’d better go to the hospital.” The doctors told me if I had waited one more day I would have died. They put me on some strong antibiotics, but my temperature got worse and my arm got as big as my thigh. I had pus coming out of my skin like sweat. At 8 a.m. on a Saturday, five doctors came in and said, “We are sorry. There is nothing else we can do for you. We have called the University of Kentucky Medical Center and there is nothing they can do for you.” They meant they couldn’t save my life, but I thought they were meant they couldn’t save my arm and would have to amputate.
I was a big outdoorsman and a competitive shooter. I prayed, “Lord, everything I do in life I do with my right arm. Lord, if you can’t see fit to heal me so that I can keep my right arm, I am ready to come on home.” My arm was hanging in a sling at the time and, as soon as I prayed, I felt something that felt like static electricity flowing from my fingertips down through my arm into my chest. This happened three times. I began to feel much better. At 5 p.m. one of the doctors came in and said, “I know what has happened for you and it was not any medicine.” He knew it was a miracle from God. He was my doctor for many years after that.
I have often thought that prayer is like a man I saw fishing years ago. That fisherman had a bucket with him. Before he ever cast his first lure, he filled that bucket with water. He believed he was going to catch fish. Time after time when he cast out, he caught a fish and put in that bucket. He expected that he would catch fish, he prepared for it and it came to pass.
I don’t know why, but the Lord chose to heal me. The biggest thing in my life now is to lift up my fellow brothers and sisters. We all go through trials and get beaten down. I’ve been through a divorce I did not want. I gave up the opportunity to preach and pastor in a church that I loved. I have been in places of trial and tribulation. This helps me be empathetic and compassionate for others going through hard times. I always just encourage them to ‘stay the course’ and put their trust in Jesus Christ. There is no other place to go but Jesus and God the Father to uphold us.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. —Romans 8:16