was born and raised in a Christian home. My father was a pastor. All my growing
years were spent in and around the church. I can never remember a time in my
life when I did not know who Jesus is and what He did for me. It was at a very
young age that I accepted Christ as my savior. I was so blessed to grow up in
Now with this kind of a
beginning you would think that nothing could go wrong. This kid will probably
become a pastor, missionary or at least a Christian worker of some kind. He has
everything working for him.
Yet in spite of the great
beginning, my life was a mess until around the age of thirty. Although I had
given my life to Jesus early on, I never developed our relationship. I never
understood God’s grace.
The obvious question is
how could this be? You had such a great start. You were surrounded with every
possible advantage. What went wrong?
My biggest mistake was
that I never read the Bible. I took my Bible to Sunday School and Church, but I
never sat down alone with Jesus and asked the Holy Spirit to speak to me
through His Word. I was a second generation Christian trying to ride on the
coat tails of my parent’s relationship with Jesus.
I spent many years trying
to live what I thought was a good Christian life. I figured that if you didn’t
smoke, dance, drink or curse you were a pretty good Christian. Yet the truth is
that I was not walking in the Spirit. Things were creeping in my life that was
contrary to God’s Word. My early teens pornography began to creep in. By my mid
to late teens alcohol started to come in. My late teens to early twenties drugs
showed up. Along with all this came pride, lying, filthy talk and the list
could go on and on. Even more amazing is the amount of sin I might have done if
only I had an opportunity. I believe the lack of opportunity was the grace of
Now with all this sin
taking place in my life, things externally were going pretty good. My high
school years were quite successful. I was the class president for three years
and captain of the football team. Shortly after high school I was married to a
beautiful lady, had a cute daughter and a house. Michelle and I both had decent
jobs. I was living the American dream.
Yet in the midst of all
this, the success, which came so easily in high school, now seemed to elude me.
Every path I now pursued was turning into a dead end. As each new dream hit a
dead end, I was becoming aware of a growing emptiness with in me.
As time went on, alcohol
and marijuana began to take a stronger grip on my life. Around the age of 26 I
determined that the weed had to go since my daughter was getting older. I
didn’t want her exposed to that. But with a decrease in pot came a stronger
dependence on alcohol. It was not unusual for me to drink to the point of
blacking out. Around the age of 28 I found myself drinking nearly every night
before I went to bed. It was necessary in order for me to sleep.
I had come to a point in
my life were I concluded that my battle with inner emptiness was a losing
battle. Anything I accomplished in life was useless because in the end I would
die. I saw no purpose in living and yet I feared death. Sleep became a
rehearsal for death. There were nights when I would lay in bed with tears
streaming down my face. How could I face God after all that I had done?
Drinking before I went to bed allowed me to escape my prison of fear, or so it
During this time, Michelle
and I were seeking spiritual fulfillment. I had never expressed to Michelle the
depth of my own personal struggle. I was just too proud and embarrassed. We
tried several churches, none of which had what we were looking for. Actually,
we were not sure what we were looking for, but we knew they didn’t have what we
were looking for.
Now at this point you
might say, how could I not know were to turn. I grew up in the church, my dad
is a pastor, I always had a knowledge who Jesus is and what He had done for me;
and this is true. But I grew up on small town denomination churches. All I ever
heard was what a pastor’s kid is not supposed to do. I thought my relationship
with God depended on what I didn’t do. And since I wasn’t reading my Bible, how
would I know the difference. I did not understand the grace of God.
In the fall of 1991
Michelle and I were invited to a baby dedication at Calvary Chapel of
Philadelphia. I had heard a little bit about the church but basically brushed
it off. I left the house that morning with a bad attitude. I was only going
because it was the right thing to do. I had no expectations. It wasn’t until we
pulled into the parking lot that I realized the church was in a mall. I could
not believe that I was going to a church in a mall.
As we entered the church I
had a real sense of love. I saw people who truly loved each other. The music
was beautiful. It was pure and sincere. Then the pastor came to give the
message. At first I began to think, this guy is a pastor? He looked so
comfortable and relaxed. He wasn’t even dressed like a pastor. No suit or tie,
how could this be?
Then he began to teach. He
told everyone to turn to Mark 10. People began to open their Bibles with such
excitement. It was the first time I entered a church without a Bible and was
As Joe was teaching, I was
overwhelmed by the grace of God. Jesus suddenly became real to me. I felt His
presence in an awesome way. Instead of God telling me I blew it one time too
many, He just embraced me and said welcome home. From that moment on my life
has been radically changed.
It is so amazing. I had
turned my back on God. I was a no good rotten sinner on my way to destruction.
But God being completely gracious and loving delivered me from the path that I
was on. Psalms 40:2 He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the
miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.