Freedom to Go 'n Grow Together in Christ
Testimony of Tom C.
I grew up in a small university town in the 50's and 60's. My parents were, to be charitable, agnostic, but given that the university included an Episcopal seminary, I grew up knowing a lot of clergymen and going to church enough to learn a lot of the basics of the Christian faith, a fair amount of the Bible, and a lot of hymns. But I remained agnostic. I was the classic 'I know there is something out there, but I don't know what'. At the same time, I was convinced that man was in control of his own destiny and that if everyone was just wise and clever like me, the world would be a great place.
When wooing my wife to be, I went to church with her, but that was just part of the courtship. Once we were married the job was done and I stayed home on Sundays. Then one day I got a call from the church choir director. He wanted Karen to join the choir and she said the only way she'd join was if he got me to join as well. He was very persuasive and got me to join the choir and start going to church again; except for the summer when choir was off. But something started to happen. In the choir, we were close to the pulpit and in spite of hearing difficulties, I could actually follow the sermons. I stopped taking the summers off. Around the same time, I began to realize that I wasn't so smart and wise after all, that a lot of far wiser men had come before and I could learn from them. And more importantly, I realized that no matter how wise these men, God was far wiser still.
It was no Damascus Road experience for me. I cannot pinpoint the day or even year that I finally accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. But over several years I gradually shuffled down the road towards salvation, and I finally reached it.
You may ask, so what? I became a Christian, but what is the big deal? Salvation aside, .... Just kidding, salvation is what it is all about. But there is more. I became much more self-aware. I learned to accept help from others and from God and not to rely entirely upon myself. I learned that all of us are equal in the eyes of God and none of us are 'better' than anyone else. "The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." I, too, am a vile offender and the pardon, I should say, the many pardons I have received from Jesus are what allow me to keep going forward in life rather than living a life of shame and regret. "My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!" There are so many benefits to being a Christian I can't begin to list them all - the fellowship with other believers, the friendships formed, living a life of purpose rather than a life of pointlessness and the hope for the life yet to come.
And what about God at work in my life? I was inspired to add this section after reading stories about #unplannedparenthood over at Twitchy - check them out. All five of our kids were 'unplanned'. Well, we planned for them because you don't ususally adopt by accident. But we feel that God not only inspired us to adopt, but that he led us to the specific children we adopted. But they were unplanned by their birth mothers, and we thank God that their birth mothers chose life rather than death. For anyone considering abortion, I beg of you to choose life.
Never forget that we are all the adopted children of God.
A lot of things have happened in my life, things that seemed good and bad, planned and unplanned. But with all them, God can mean them for our own personal benefit and / or for the futherance of His plan. I have learned (after many years!) to embrace and accept this.
Favorite Bible Verses:
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV)
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:3 (KJV)
A few shout outs are in order. First, to my wife Karen, who yoked herself to a non-believer, and never gave up on me. To Clyde Holt, the choir director who got me going to church again. To Hopewell Presbyterian Church: even though we felt compelled to leave the denomination, that was my church where I was saved. And to a few influences in my early life - Christians who by their behavior and example made my journey to Christ a bit more likely and a bit easier. Rev. David Yates of Otey Parish, who my dad would invite over occasionally to debate theology. To Mike Crowe, a 'Jesus freak' who lived with us one summer while going to summer school. And perhaps most of all to Episcopal Bishop Girault M Jones and his wife Kathleen, who were regular customers of my vegetable selling business in the early 70's. These were all just wonderful, wonderful people, who I now know modeled the Christian life as well or better than anyone. Remember that you will never know all the people that you have influenced for good in your life.
But is this the best testimony to present to a non-believer? Probably not. It is primarily of interest to other believers, describing my own path to Christ along with a little personal history. It includes jargon that a non-believer would not understand, and doesn't do a proper job of describing just why we need to ask Christ into our lives. Fear not! The Navigators course on discipleship ( 2:7 Series ) gives a good outline on how to put together a testimony for non-believers. In brief: in should not be longer that three minutes, and if applicable, it should include: before Christ, coming to Christ, and after Christ. The purpose is not to present the whole gospel message, but rather to offer up some "bait." You can easily tell whether you have a nibble or a strike or nothing at all, and if appropriate, you can follow up with more info, answer questions, whatever. Here is mine:
Tom C's "My Story"
I don’t believe that I was ever an atheist. I always had a feeling that there must be a Supreme Being of some kind – a creator, a designer, a power of some kind. I remember as a child and a teen, marveling at the natural world and staring at the stars at night. I simply could not imagine it all to have “just happened.” I asked myself the usual questions about why we exist, what the purpose of life might be, why human nature is what it is. I had the questions, but I didn’t have the answers. My thinking about “god” never went beyond nature and the universe. When I went to college, I realized that I was way too smart and wise to believe in anything that couldn’t be proven, so I put the whole god business on the back burner. I did know some very dedicated Christians and I could see that they were different – in a good way. I secretly wished I could be like them, but I was just too rational, and they were not.
Time went by, and my thinking evolved. I told myself that I maybe I could believe in God. All that was necessary was for God to hit me over the head with a 2x4 and make his existence obvious to me. Nothing happened. No dramatics. It turns out that God can work in more subtle ways as well. While Karen (my wife) went to church on Sundays, I stayed home. Until that fateful day when the church choir director called and asked me to join the choir. Not being a church goer and not being able to sing made no difference to him. All my “no’s” went for naught and I somehow joined the choir. Not only did it get me into church on Sunday, but into the choir loft, right by the pulpit. I could actually hear the sermons in spite of my poor hearing. It took time, but I did hear what the Bible had to say. I started to understand the nature of man and of God. We all do bad stuff, we sin, it is our nature. Naturally I had thought of myself as a good person, but it didn’t take much thought to realize I wasn’t nearly as good as I imagined. And certainly, none of us can live up to God’s standards. We fail and because we fail, we remain separated from God. How can we bridge the gap between our sinful selves and a holy and perfect God? Well, we can’t but God could and did. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins. And because of his sacrifice, we no longer need to be separated from God. All we need to do is ask Christ into our lives. Our sins are forgiven, and we become what the Bible calls “new creations” in the image of Jesus.
Well, as I said, it took several years for this message to penetrate my rather reluctant brain and actually believe that Christ is truly the Son of God. I expected that becoming a Christian would involve a lot of “do not’s.” Instead I have found the answers to those nagging questions about existence and purpose and human nature. I have found freedom; freedom from past sins and past regrets; freedom to move forward and become a new and different person from what I was before. That took a bit longer than I expected since it turns out that to become more like Jesus, I must do some work myself. I can’t be passive and leave it all up to God. But I am moving forward and enjoying every minute of it. And best of all, I can look forward to eternal life with God.
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Tom C. does genealogy research on the side. Visit my genealogy website at: Family History.
Tom C. also builds furniture. Visit his furniture page here.