Since this is the first of my Bible Study blogs I'm going to start with Jesus; the first scripture that will be posted on this blog is probably the single most important verse in the Bible. I will not stop talking about Jesus as long as I do this blog, but this first one is going to be about my not so straight and narrow walk with Jesus. My testimony, if you would. We're going to look at scripture. And this isn't going to be your typical Sunday school Bible study. If I offend anyone, I assure you that was not my intent, but I will only speak the truth backed up by scripture. If you don't believe that scripture is truth I pray that you don't leave now, but continue reading. The reason I'm sharing my testimony is because I feel that if you're to follow this Bible Study that you should know that man who is leading it with Christ as his guide.
So let us get started.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (NKJV).
I was young when I got saved. Unlike most people I can't tell you the hour, the day, the month, or even the year. I believe it was in 1998 or 1999, I honestly don't like admitting this, but it's the truth. Until the age of eleven I had been growing up in and out of churches, only going to church consistently when I lived with my grandparents. I find it a bit sad, that I don't remember the date, and often wish that I could, but my memory is not the best, my wife can attest to that. I may not be able to tell you that information (dates and times), but I still remember exactly how I felt.
Picture a boy, 10 or 11 years old with tears running down his cheeks, full of guilt. Guilty, because for the first time in my life I realized what somebody else had to do for me and for all of us. I was sad, very, very sad. I wanted to go back in time, roughly 2000 years, and climb onto that cross, take the one true God off of it, and put myself up there, after all I was part of the reason he was nailed to a cross.
I may have only been in elementary school, but I desperately needed Jesus in my life prior to that point (thank God that there was always family praying for me). I started hanging out with people that if I ever find out my son is affiliating himself with with I'll lock him down as well as myself. Why myself, because if I don't I'd probably commit murder or at least be drawn to. I'm not going to say what I was doing, but let's just say it could have landed me in a detention center very easily. Not only that, but I was good at lying, like not only would I lie, but I'd twist it with the truth. For example, I was not allowed to play in the river as a child, I taught my best friend at the time how to swim in that river; on the way home we ran through sprinklers. When asked why we were wet, well you get the picture, this continued even after finding the Lord all through high school.
Now that I'm a bit older I realized if I would have been able to get Jesus off of the cross and put myself up there, it probably would've been kind of selfish as there is no way on Heaven, Hell, or Earth I'd be able to save all the lost souls. In the words of Darrel Myatt, a pastor from Keller, TX "The best I can ever hope to be on this earth is just a sinner saved by grace." Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (NKJV).
Through my high school years I was like most kids. I played basketball until I got a job and I had a deep love for video games (still kind of do), and I had 'okay' grades, but I felt that I had a deep connection with God. I had planned to stay a virgin until I got married, though that may not have happened I made it through all of HS. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I read my Bible. I fasted. I prayed a lot.
Let me rephrase that a little. I was a virgin trapped by pornography; Matthew 5:28 "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart" (NKJV). I did go to Church as many Sundays and Wednesdays as I could make it and it truly was to experience the Lord and fellowship, although I really didn't have any grasp on what Christian unity truly was. I carried my Bible around, did I read it? Every now and again, somehow I thought carrying my Bible around made me closer to God. I fasted, but never without telling everyone around me, because I would complain about how hungry I was; Matthew 6:16-18 "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting" (NKJV). I did pray, mostly for myself; for my grades, didn't help much until I started to apply myself though. Even as much as a hypocrite as I may have been I never forgot that Jesus would be there for me and all I had to do was ask for him to be there.
When I went to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois it was the summer of 2006 and I was ready to serve my country until I retired from the Navy or until it took my life. When I got to my first training station in Pensacola I stopped going to church and started reading my Bible even less, okay I stopped reading my Bible. It didn't take long until being a virgin stopped being something I was proud of and quickly became something I was ashamed of. Not, because people were making fun of me, but, because I didn't want to be made fun of. I had no idea what being persecuted for Christ even meant (Call me a Jesus freak today and I would thank you for noticing and not even try to defend myself). I want to make this clear, I was never and have never been ashamed of Jesus, but I was embarrassed to be a virgin. As a matter of fact when I got to Pensacola I only told one person I was a virgin and we were kind of close, but the only reason I was telling her that is because we had been out a few times and I didn't want to be a virgin anymore. She ended up having a boyfriend back home so we stopped hanging out as much. But I still had one mission: lose my 'v' card. And once that was my focus it was gone. I'll never blame Satan for any of my sins, but I will give him credit in saying he is pretty good at providing the opportunity for sin. Can you imagine if my goal would have been to spread the gospel. Satan may provide opportunity to sin, but God will provide opportunity witness.
After spending a few years going to church maybe a dozen times between Air Crew School, Corpsman 'A' School, Field Medical Training BN, and my first duty station at 1st Battalion 9th Marines I left for Iraq. Half of that dozen was closer to the deployment when I found a good church in Jacksonville, NC. In Iraq I tried witnessing, but it wasn't easy when nobody wanted to listen and I didn't really know the word of God as I would have liked to. As a matter of fact the only person who would read the Bible with me was our Muslim interpreter who was considering coming to Christ. I don't know if he ever did, but I do know that a seed was planted in his heart. Again being around so many nonbelievers, I started slipping away again.
I remember when I got home, I didn't pray thanking God for my safe return home. Instead, we went clubbing and got our 'rewards'. Before I went to Afghanistan with MAG 40 to fly Casualty Evacuation, less then six months later my best friend came out to visit me. The morning she left she became my girlfriend. I deployed for eleven months, this time I shared a tent with a preacher. I wasn't where I should have been with Christ, but I was getting there. I read my Bible and I prayed. Actually I became a lot like I was in HS. I was happy that I was getting closer with God.
Less then a month after returning home my girlfriend, turned fiance and I got married. Nothing fancy, close relatives and a few friends at the Sacramento County Clerk house. After finishing my tour in North Carolina I got stationed in Italy, where my wife and I had our first child (still our only this far). My neighbors, God bless them, were not living in that apartment by chance. Instead of inviting us to go to a club or out to eat where we'd gossip they invited my wife and I to Bible Study. The study was led by a Navy Chaplain, but it was more of a conversation about what we were studying than a sit down and listen to what I have to say about the Bible. That is where I was taught humility James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord...(NKJV). That is where I found out about Christian unity Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).
Once the group had started to grow I was introduced to a book called Return From Tomorrow by George Ritchie and Elizabeth Sherrill (click here to see book reviews at Amazon). The book is about a man who in his early twenties (during the 2nd World War), becomes clinically dead for seven minutes from a horrible case of pneumonia and is greeted by Jesus. He claims that Jesus asked him what he had done with his life. He goes on to talk about all of his accomplishments. Jesus then asks him "What have you done for me?" When I finally come face to face with our savior I want to be able to answer that question. I can say that without a doubt that that book was placed in my hands not just by a friend who thought I wanted a good, quick read, but it was placed in my hands by God's perfect will and my friend was just the vessel for me to receive such a great blessing.
That chaplain has been stationed elsewhere and has left us, but the Bible Study group has ended up growing. God has moved so powerfully in my life in the short two years that I've been living in Italy that God has ended up allowing me to open my doors for our Bible Study group, to me that is the most humbling thing ever. I give all the glory to God.
I still struggle with sin, but am free from it and at least now I know how to combat it.
In short I would say that my testimony is close to the Parable of the Lost Son in that I've known God most of my life, but I abandoned his ways only to become lost in sin, but by grace I am alive again (Luke 15:32).
I hope you continue to come to this blog as the rest of the posts will be actual Bible Studies. But now that you've read my testimony you know a bit about me. I hope that this ministry grows and is Blessed by god.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, humbly we seek your presence asking forgiveness of our shortcomings and freedom from the yokes of sin. Lord, I ask that you bless and ripen this young ministry so that many might come to know that you are the one true God. Thank you for your grace and the blessing of the cross. Lord, forever we seek your presence and sing your name. Father I ask for you to continue to bless the body of Christ and teach us how to love as you love. We love you Lord. Amen.