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My Christian Testimony

 

There’s always a “story” behind someone’s decision to publish something for others to read. In this case, there are a number of stories I’d like to share to explain how I came to create this website and to work on publishing a number of instructional resources on LuminousGlory.com.

These stories provide chronological “snapshots” of significant people that God has sovereignly used to bring me into relationship with Him, to bless me in many ways, and to significantly shape my ordinary life. One consistent thing in all these stories is how He’s used people in my life to create a passionate love for His Word.

My Mother, a Bible and a Rocking Chair

My mom died when I was just five years old. But even though I was still a child, I have numerous—and I think, reliable—memories of her.

Probably my earliest memories were of her rocking me in a wooden rocking chair and reading Bible stories to me.

I’m convinced that my mom was a Christian, and I believe that the main impact of her brief five years with me came about through her faithful reading of Bible stories.

This verse from Paul to Timothy has always reminded me of her.

2 Timothy 3:15
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

I believe it was actually the Holy Spirit Who spoke to me—through my mom’s voice—as He used those Bible stories to soften my heart to be open to God’s Word… when the time was right.

Disillusionment, Guilt and Fear

My dad remarried about two years after my mom died.

After their marriage, our family moved from a very small community about 30 minutes outside Houston, to one of the main Houston suburbs where there was an excellent school district for us kids to attend. I suspect to others we probably appeared to be a typical, happy, middle-class, American family—though none of us were Christians.

However, even though things seemed to be good in my family, there were times as a younger boy that I remember my mom and dad having some pretty intense fights. As I entered high school, their fights became more frequent, and also more loud and scary. So much so that my sisters and I would often hide out in our rooms upstairs during those fights.

During those high school years, I began to develop a sense of disillusionment. There was a growing awareness that things just weren’t right, and that there should be something more to life.

Certainly, one of the reasons for those feelings was my parent’s fighting.

Another reason was that I was also becoming more conscious about the very ugly ways I’d often treat other people—especially those who were “different” in their race or abilities.

I believe the Holy Spirit was working to convict me that the ways I sometimes treated others weren’t just ugly, they were sinful. Which led to me feeling guilty—and fearful—about what my eternal destiny was going to be.

One day, when my mom and I were alone in our kitchen, I remember asking her, “Mom, do you think I’m good enough to go to heaven?” And, as most non-Christian mom’s would do, she immediately responded, “Of course!” While at that moment her answer sounded encouraging, it didn’t really work to take away my fears about my sin.

The Bible is very clear in identifying the basis of my entirely appropriate fears.

Romans 3:10-12, 23
10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Looking back now on this time in my life, I realize that the sense of disillusionment and anguish I was feeling was actually a part of God’s work in my life. The Holy Spirit was developing a strong sense of conviction of sin to prepare me for what He intended to do next, which was to bring me to Jesus and into His family by faith.

A Girl, a Surfing Buddy and a Strange Date

In the summer of 1970, at a neighborhood swimming pool where I was the manager and swim coach, I met Leslie. It was (juvenile) love at first sight, and I had this instant hope that someday she would become my girlfriend.

At that time—even though I was going to be a high school Senior when school started in the fall—I’d only been out on a couple of dates. To say that I lacked confidence relating to girls would have been an enormous understatement. Actually, I was so terrified of rejection that I just couldn’t bring myself to ask Leslie out.

Seven months later, at the end of January 1971, I finally got up the courage to get her phone number from a mutual friend, and to call her to ask if she’d be willing to go out on a date with me.

Honestly, I was kind of amazed when she said yes. But, she also asked if it was OK for us to go to a Baptist Revival that she had gone to a few nights before.

While that date “option” wasn’t something I would have ever considered on my own, I was so relieved that she said yes that I wasn’t going to take any chances. So I said something to the effect of, “Sure, why not?”

After Leslie and I hung up, for some reason, I called one of my surfing friends, David, and asked if he wanted to come with us. He said yes as well.

(When you think about it, that was a “crazy” thing for me to do. I mean, this was my first date with a girl I was very interested in. Why in the world would I ask another guy—who might possibly become competition for Leslie’s attention and affection? What I soon understood was that having David come along was definitely a part of God’s plan for me.)

So, on February 1, 1971, the three of us got into my small car and drove to a large auditorium in downtown Houston for my first “date” with Leslie. Once we arrived and entered the building, we were able to find seats towards the back of the main floor. Looking around, we could see that there were thousands of other people in attendance—many of them high schoolers like us.

The speaker for the revival series was Richard Hogue, an evangelist who wasn’t much older than many who came to listen to him. Though young, he spoke with power and authority, frequently quoting the Bible. He had my complete attention.

A “Light-Bulb” That Turned On in My Mind

The more he spoke, the more clearly I understood that according to the Bible, I was a sinner deserving an eternal punishment in hell, away from the presence of God. I understood his explanation of the Gospel message of the Bible: that God—in His mercy and grace—had sent Jesus to die for my sin, to suffer death and hell in my place, and that Jesus rose from the dead to be my eternal Savior. And then I also understood that the Bible presented the Gospel as God’s promise that if I repented of my sin, and truly believed in Jesus as my Savior, I would immediately be forgiven of my sin, receive eternal life and spend my eternity in an intimate personal relationship with Him.

It was honestly a “light bulb” event for me. There’s no better way to express it.

Up till that moment, I had no clue who Jesus really was.

I mean, I knew He was a religious figure associated with Christianity. But I knew nothing of the Gospel: that Jesus was God, Who became man and lived a sinless life, and who then gave up His life to die on the cross in my place—for my sin­—as my Savior, so that I could be restored to an eternal life relationship with God.

It was as though God—through His Holy Spirit—turned on the lights inside what had before that evening been a complete darkness in my heart and mind. I could finally see and understand spiritual truth. There was no way I could deny my sinful, hopeless, fearful condition before God. And yet, I could just as clearly see the amazing, gracious love of God. He was the one desiring and pursuing me, offering eternal life and relationship with Him—even though I was hopelessly lost in my sin.

I was totally convicted that the words of the Bible that the evangelist had shared were true, and that I needed to believe in Jesus as my Savior.

That is, until he started giving what’s called an “altar call.”

He kept asking, “If tonight you’d like the assurance that your sin will be forgiven and that you’ll spend an eternity in heaven in the presence of God, then get up out of your seats and come forward and we’ll guide you in prayer to receive Jesus as your Savior.”

When presented with an opportunity to act on what I was sure was true, for some reason I hesitated. I thought, “I know I need to do this… but, not tonight.” The more he repeated the altar call, the more I repeated my objection: not tonight.

All of a sudden, David stood up and started walking towards the front where the speaker was.

As soon as I saw him get up, I thought, “Well, if David’s going to do this, then so am I!” I immediately got up and followed him down to the front and gave my life to Jesus as my Savior—along with maybe a hundred others.

A Second “Light-Bulb” That Turned On in My Mind

While my decision to trust Jesus as my Savior was the most important decision I could have ever made, there was another significant “light bulb” event which was still to come that night.

After we finished praying to receive Jesus as our Savior, the evangelist and some other leaders escorted us to an area of bleachers where we were instructed to sit. At that point, the evangelist asked, “So, what just happened to you?”

Then, in response to someone answering, “I’ve been saved,” he asked—what I now believe to be the best, first question to ask a new believer—“How do you know you’re saved?” Here, he walked back and forth along the front row of the bleachers repeating the question.

Almost as soon as he had started asking that second question, I knew what the correct answer was. (In this case, I’m convinced it wasn’t from my own understanding. I’m sure it was the working of the Holy Spirit that allowed me to be totally convinced of what the answer was.)

After asking the second question maybe half a dozen times, the evangelist stopped right in front of my friend, David and asked him directly, “So, how do you know you’re saved?” David blurted out an answer he’d apparently been holding in, “Because it feels so good!”

I immediately knew David’s answer was wrong.

Rather than correcting—and probably embarrassing—David, the evangelist simply repeated the question to everyone else, “So, how do you know you’re saved?”

Finally someone else offered the answer which I had suspected to be right one: “Because the Bible says so! It says that God promises forgiveness of sin and salvation to those believe. And it also says that God doesn’t lie.”

Though only a few minutes old as a Christian, this second light bulb event indelibly inscribed this truth in my mind and on my heart: The Bible is the ultimate authority for all Christian beliefs. As Christians, we find rest and peace when we trust the Word of God as the foundation of truth for our lives.

I love how appropriate this passage in Galatians is in describing what happened to me that night.

Galatians 1:15-16
15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…

The emphasized words provide a basic summary of a very significant truth: when it’s the proper time, God will reveal Jesus to us. And, like Paul, when it was the right time for me, I also believed in Jesus as my Savior.

The main point of this story and those two light-bulb events was not “just” that my sins were forgiven and that I became a child of God. On the night of February 1, 1971, God also imparted to me a clear recognition of the life-giving and life-changing power of His Word.

A Path of Stagnation or A Path of Growth

At first, after becoming a Christian, I continued to go to the same Methodist church that I’d been attending since I was about seven years old. One evening, after maybe four or five months of continuing to attend the Methodist church, I decided to attend an evening seminar for the church’s high school group. The basic format was that a guest pastor, Dean Heatley, was teaching and at the end of his teaching time, he took questions from the people in attendance.

At this point, I don’t remember many of the details about the meeting—except for one thing. Dean responded to every question by referring to an appropriate passage in the Bible. He offered gentle—but authoritative—answers, and it was clearly obvious that he knew God’s Word and held it in high regard.

In drastic contrast, the pastors at the Methodist Church rarely taught from the Bible, they rarely spoke of Jesus, and they never told the wonderful news of the Gospel. Rather than leading me forward down the path of life, that evening seminar caused me to finally understand that the teaching at the Methodist church was only leading down a path of stagnation which would inhibit my growth as a Christian.

The next Sunday I decided to visit Spring Branch Community Church, the non-denominational Bible church where Dean was Associate Pastor.

From my first Sunday there, I knew SBCC was a church where I could grow. Contrary to what always happened at the Methodist church, the sermon at SBCC that Sunday—and every service I attended afterwards—focused not on the opinions of the speaker, but on the very Word of God from the Bible.

The longer I attended, the more I realized that going to SBCC was like being enrolled in a Bible Institute. They not only had the normal teaching and worship services in the morning and again in the evening on Sundays, but they also offered a variety of mid-week classes for adults that all focused on the truth of the Bible. Some of the classes offered were basic, which was perfect for me as a new believer. And then some of them were more advanced, which I started attending after a few months of basic instruction.

SBCC was blessed in that their members included many gifted men who were both knowledgeable and effective teachers. The instruction I received at SBCC provided a solid foundation for my Christian life that has sustained me in the faith for what has now been 48 years.

That teaching allowed me to see the beginning-to-end cohesiveness of the Bible. From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible consistently puts the spotlight on the message of the gospel and on the unchanging nature and character of a God of great glory, power and goodness. The God of the Bible is clearly revealed as Someone who cannot be deterred from executing His eternal plans and purposes, moving towards the reconciliation of all the elect and the summation of all things in Christ.

In hindsight, I can see what a wonderfully blessing it was for God to have sovereignly led me to SBCC, and then for Him to use the teaching of His Word to become a foundation for my faith that’s more secure and stable than the entire world under my feet.

I can also see that during my time at SBCC, God worked to transform my appreciation for His Word into a passionate love for His Word.

The Main Point

The main point of my spiritual testimony is that on February 1, 1971, God sovereignly reached into my life and guided me to Jesus, He “gifted” me with faith to believe in Jesus as my Savior, and soon after becoming a Christian, He directed me to a doctrinally solid Bible church that taught the truth from His Word. Since that time, He’s developed in me a passionate love for Him and for His Word, and a corresponding passion for helping others develop their own love for Him and for the Bible.

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