The God I Never Knew
Okay, so I was not raised in a Christian family. But the picture here is from Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior’s north shore – that is where my life and God’s mercy finally intersected in my conscious mind when He let the air supply in my scuba hose get stopped while I was diving on a ship wreck in 60′ of water. At that point, I never knew God. I didn’t even know God existed. Correction: I did know, I was just really mad at Him, so I pushed Him away so He would not exist in my life. This is why I do not believe there are any true atheists in the world. There are those who are angry at God like I was, and keep Him away, and there are people who just don’t know God yet – we call them agnostics: “a” meaning without or against, and “gnostic” meaning knowledge. Back to reality…
So that day back in 1978, my diving buddy asked me if I wanted to pray before the dive. “Are you kidding me right now? Since when did I EVER need God? And why would I shoot meaningless words into the sky? And what could He do for me anyway? He was way too far away! Besides, all the things He COULD have done for me in my life up to that point HE chose not to! Why give me an alcoholic dad? Why all the anger and abuse? Why make my mom and dad divorce and marry EACH OTHER 3 different times? Why did I have to be born with a cleft palate? Why did my aunt molest me? And that is my short list.” So perhaps you see the source of my anger against God. That is also before I knew that one of God’s names is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He has been by my side – and YOUR side – every day of our life. NEVER has He left us! WE just give Him the cold shoulder.
“Somehow” I survived the mishap in Lake Superior which had every potential of doing me great harm if not death. That night back at the cabin with the rest of the diving crew, I could not sleep. I was faced with the question that few ever stop to ponder – “What if I had died that day in 60 feet of water, then what?” I had no answers.
At that time in my life I was into all kinds of Eastern Mysticism, pyramidology, alien worship, and the like. Now here is a great pause! I would not believe in the one true God, Who has loved me from the day I was conceived in His mind, but I would love beings that don’t exist, worship things that are lies – and I thought I was enlightened! Funny how the world deceives us!
A few weeks later I was driving into town (in Minnesota) to get ice for my dad and me for going out on the lake, and I remember driving past a church, and thinking, “Wait a minute! Churches have answers for that kind of question!” I pulled a u-turn, and drove into the parking lot – might I add that it “just happened” to be time for Sunday school to begin – God’s timing is always perfect!
The church was Calvary Memorial Church in Navarre, Minnesota. I was in my cutoff shorts and muscle shirt (not that I had many muscles, just wearing the shirt!) and was ushered to the youth group. For the first time I heard stuff that rocked my world – stuff Jesus did – healing blind people, healing crippled people, raising dead people. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!! Nobody ever told me this stuff before!” Or at least if they did, I wasn’t listening. Truly in a state of awe. Apparently I stuck out as the new kid. Not sure why…perhaps it was my UNSunday like appearance? Everybody else was in their Sunday best – suits, nice clothes, Sunday dresses, then there was Rick – cutoff shorts and t-shirt. Confession – still my preferred mode of dress! 🙂
So after the morning lesson the teacher/youth pastor came up to me and introduced himself to me. Then he asked me the strangest question: “Would you like to come back tonight?” I thought to myself, “You guys go to church twice in the SAME DAY? That is a TOTAL waste of time!” Then he said they were all going out to ice cream afterwards. I said “Sure I’ll come!” Can’t argue with ice cream, eh?
I cannot remember to this day what the evening service was like, but I do remember our time at this place on the shores of Lake Minnetonka called the “Soda Fountain.” It was there over ice cream that Randy Heinsch, Dwight Anderson and his brother Duane shared the Gospel of Jesus with me. The “gospel” means good news. The good news is this: Jesus came to give us life. More than just life. HE showed us how to live, and then gave us the Holy Spirit to heal us and guarantee us the new heaven and the new earth it talks about in Revelation 21.
Currently, we are hurt and dying. Spiritually we are already dead, the body is simply following the spirit to its death. Jesus reverses the spiritual death. In fact He told us in John 6:63 –
The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jesus’ words are spirit and life. Our human effort amounts to nothing in the long run.
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. – Hebrews 7:18–19
He is not the distant rule enforcer. He is life giver. Redeemer. Forgiver. Healer.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people…Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11–14
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:13–14
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24
But most of all, He loves. He IS love. Would you open your heart and mind and soul to the Giver of life, the Redeemer, He who would love to heal you and forgive you?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us. – 1 John 4:7–10
This is the God I never knew! It took decades to get to know Him! You can too! It starts with a prayer. The prayer goes something like this….it is not the words that matter, it is the heart’s attitude in the prayer that matters:
Dear God – thank You for loving me. I am hurting, and I need Your healing. I am a mess and I need Your forgiveness. I am dying and I need Your Life to give me life. Your words are life and I invite You and Your words into my life and I give You total control. I no longer push You away – in fact I ask that You draw me near to You. I want to feel Your presence. I want to live my life Your way from here on out. Draw me into Your Words that I might know how to do that better I ask in Jesus Name! Amen!
If you just prayed that prayer for the first time I want you to do 2 things. 1) write down today’s date and time as when you began eternal life. Today is the day you became a Christian. Nice! 2) contact me so I can stay in touch with you and help you grow as a Christian. Life is not meant to live alone. God made us and designed us to live in community. So reach out and let me know how you are doing!
Posted on December 31, 2016, in God is Good. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
What a wonderful testimony, Rick! What makes it so amazing is the young man I met at my first Bible Study, at Searing Center in October of 1983, was nothing like the young man you just described. When we first met you were so radiant with Godâs peace and joy and love. Everything about you reflected God â from the light and sparkle in your eyes to your great enthusiasm and passion and love for God and life and people to your true servant heart. No one would have ever guessed your childhood was like that or that you were not raised in a Christian home. I donât remember if you ever shared any of that with us back then. If you did, I donât remember. 33 years is a long time. I do remember you asking us to pray for your brother who was gay, but thatâs all I remember. How is he doing, by the way? Did he ever get delivered and saved? You may not remember me but I got saved at your Bible Study that first night I went. My cousin, Scott, brought me. He had been taking me to Campus Crusades and asked his friend Mary to take me to Navigators. But I was so lost and broken and so full of pain and fear that I didnât understand (or maybe even hear) much of what any of them were telling me. (I was also going to counseling with Pastor Tim Booth at the Campus Lutheran Chapel). Scott was a year older than I was and had always seemed more like a big brother than a cousin to me, as our families had grown up very close. He knew how fragile I was when I came to MSU and he looked out for me and frequently checked on me and slipped Bible verses under my door in the dorm. After I got kicked out of the dorms for drinking and was forced to drop out of school he came to Searing Center to check up on me. One day I saw your Bible Study posted on the bulletin board by the office in Searing Center and I called Scott and asked him what a Bible Study was and if he thought it would be safe for me to go. He told me to let him check it out first. After visiting that Thursday he came to my room and told me it was good and that he would take me the next week. When I walked into your room that first night I didnât know the water sprinkled on my head in the Lutheran church when I was 8 would never get me into heaven. I had always loved God since I was a little girl and thought I was a Christian. But that night (after I almost threw up as you described the crucifixion in gory detail with a medical dictionary) you told me about being born again. And that night I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior and became born again â knowing I was going to go to Heaven someday, not because sprinkled water but because of Jesusâ blood. I loved your Bible Study, and Hope Baptist Church, and Sam Hairstonâs Bible Study. There was a girl who really ministered to me a lot too, whom I think I met at Samâs Bible Study, but I donât remember her name anymore. I think she lived in an apartment in the same house as he did, but I donât really remember. You and Sam and Pastor Mike and Carolyn and a number of others were so instrumental to my early walk as a Christian. Also, I was so suicidal back then that I am sure without all of you and your loving support I would have ended my life early. I thank God for all of you! God used you tremendously in my life back then and I am sure He used (and is still using) you just as much in more lives than I (or even you) will ever know. So thank you, Rick, for being such an obedient servant of Christ, and for reflecting and shining Godâs light and love and grace and mercy to those of us who were so broken we didnât even know how to receive it. And thank you for pulling me out of the Church Of God Of Prophecy. I have often wondered where my life would have gone if you hadnât. Thank you for loving and following God â and in the process, touching the lives of so many! I pray the testimony you just gave here will be a blessing to still more and that more lost souls will find life in Jesus as a result. God bless you, Rick!!! May God bring you a richly blessed and joy-filled new year!!! Your sister in Christ Jesus, Elizabeth (I went by Beth back then â you frequently called me Bether. J)
Beth! Of course I remember you! I have thought of you and Scott often and have prayed for your well being. Last I knew you were a nanny in New England area? Please let me know how and what you are doing these days!
Blessings and Peace!