I was a fairly regular church attendee as a kid and a youth thanks to the efforts of my mother, but I can say that I got very little from any of it. I am not blaming the church, they may have been doing everything that they were supposed to do. What I am sure of, is that I was empty.
At 17, I was a straight A student, a three year letterman in golf, a partial scholarship to SMU for golf, a car, both parents who loved me, a brother that I loved, and most importantly for a 17 year old boy: a fine looking girlfriend. From the outside all was very good. From my point of view, it was so empty. I was 17 and concerned that this was supposed to be the good life and that when I turned 40, everything would simply be an adult upgrade of all of this.
True to the word of God, I did not seek Him even in my emptiness. I did what so many lost persons do. I tried to get more of what I already had. I tried more friends, new sports, new classes and a group called YoungLife. I tried YoungLIfe because the girl I was dating went to YoungLife. Remember, I was a 17 year old boy I figured that this was another opportunity to be with her.
The girlfriend didn’t last but YoungLIfe did. I heard the gospel for the first time. It may not have been the first time that someone shared the gospel with me, but it was the first time that I heard it. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in June 1978 at a YoungLife camp. I told my parents what God had done in me and that I wanted to be baptized the next weekend at church. I would continue to look for direction in life and God would guide my steps and direct my ways. But the emptiness did not remain because I was now filled with God’s presence in my life.
In college, God surrounded me with very strong Christians and the University of Texas. I know some people think it impossible to find Christians at the University of Texas. May I remind you that our alma mater has a Biblical reference? Back to the matter at hand. God gave me a roommate that was an amazing Christian who was a YoungLife leader at an Austin high school, two strong churches that I attended every Sunday morning and night and a very strong Christian girlfriend.
After graduating God provided me with a job in the banking industry, but most importantly he gave me a wonderful Christian lady to be my wife. She is one of the most powerful examples of Christlike living. She prayed hard and long when we decided to leave our jobs in Florida and enter the seminary.
We moved to Florida after we married and bought our first home, had our first child, and were very active in a local church. Donna worked with the children and I served as a deacon. It was here that I realized that I was supposed to leave what I knew, banking and go to seminary to do something. I had no idea what that something was. We shared the news with stunned parents who could not understand why at 29 and a senior vice president of a bank and a lobbyist for the banking industry I would simply quit. But we were sure that is what God wanted so we did just that.
We arrived in Houston and I went to work waiting on tables, driving a truck for Federal Express and going to seminary. Donna was on staff at Tallowood Baptist church in the children’s department. We lived on small checks, and tips. Our bank was a Tupperware container in the kitchen. God provided enough and “enough is as good as a feast.” God also gave us a second daughter. Another prayer answered.
God used connections in the seminary to direct me to Rice Temple Baptist Church and eventually He called me there. It has been a great 17 years. I know for a fact that many times the church was sure I was nuts. Sometimes I have wondered myself. God has called me to care for this great and diverse body of believers and to care for the forgotten as well. I am so thankful that the church allowed to grow up here as both a pastor and minister.
My testimony has no exciting moments, only many moments of great love from the Creator and Lover of the Universe.
A very important principle in the Bible is the law of sowing and reaping. We see this principle working over and over again. Paul stated it in his letter to the Galatian Christians:
In Romans 12:9-21 Paul drills down on the words of Christ found in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” and in Luke 6:22, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”. Paul does this for the church in Rome that is fragmenting: The Christians with a Jewish background are fighting those with a Gentile background, not to mention constant debate over the way they were to treat the non-believers surrounding them. It is so bad that Brutus no longer comes to the Sunday service so that he will not run into Crispus. Secundus is so angry at both of them that he no longer comes to church at all. Pomponia hired an off duty Centurion to keep pagans from cutting across her yard to get to their temple.
Humans find it hard to live with one another even during the best of times. Some of us aren’t emotionally wired for intimacy. Some of us have crippled flaws that make relationships difficult. In fact, some of history’s greatest contributors have been relationship-challenged. As an adult, Isaac Newton shunned personal intimacy in all its forms, preferring his laboratory in the mind to living specimens. Henri Nouwen, who inspired many of us to move deeper into relationships with God and one another, had trouble himself developing intimacy with others. Relational disorders abound among creative people.
Below is a fascinating visualization of the interconnectedness of the Bible, done by Chris Harrison, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Christopher Römhild of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg: