Monday, January 27, 2014

His Story Through Me


I grew up in the mainline Lutheran Church in which my mother was the choir director and my father attended at Easter and Christmas. I went through the three mandatory years of catechism and was confirmed as a member and took my first communion. I was absolutely as lost as Hitler no matter what the church said about me. After high school I entered a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I quickly spiraled downward until in 1974 I conspired with several of my friends to rob a bank. We had chosen a rural bank which had one elderly guard and we were committed to kill the guard as we were agreed that we didn't want to go to prison for the twenty mandatory years that New Jersey law required. Before the robbery took place I was involved in a street fight in which my finger was almost bitten off (pretty tough fight, huh?). I ended up living on the street.
 Since my mother was deceased and my father would have no part of me, who could blame him. So I hitchhiked to an exit on the Garden State Parkway, and then I stood outside the exit and hitchhiked. Four black men picked me up and drove me to the exit just off of Route #3 where this year's Super Bowl will be played. My aunt in North Jersey took me in. So in 1974 my mother's sister, who was an atheist, took me in to live.
At the outset I was still healing from the injuries I incurred from the fight and I took some welding classes provided by the government. It was during that time that my brother took me to Broadway to see the play "Godspell" which even with all the things that it could be criticized for God used it to start a searching in my heart. I mean I reasoned in my heart that if Jesus was who He said He was I wanted to know Him. For the next several months everything I saw spoke to me about Christ. A bumper sticker on the car in front of me; a statue in a cemetery; a radio station I accidentally turned to; and finally a Billy Graham crusade on television. Now this was before the advent of "clickers" and you had to get up to change the channel. As I ate my sandwich I decided to wait to change the channel until after I ate. As I listened I became mesmerized by the topic he was preaching on because I had never heard it before. He was proclaiming that Jesus was coming again. I had never been told that before, and it put a totally different light on my search. If He was returning to this earth again it meant two things to me, first it meant that Jesus was real and alive. Not just a historical figure that taught us to love our neighbor, no, He was all that He claimed He was, God in the flesh. Secondly, if He was returning, what implications did that have for me? Needless to say I was consumed with the Spiritual reality about the Lord Jesus that transcended religion.
I couldn't escape it and it was in my heart constantly. One night in March of 1975 I climbed up the face of Garret Mountain in North Jersey overlooking New York City and I said out loud "Jesus, if you are the Son of God and the only Savior, than I want to know you". The Scriptures declare that "whosoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out". On that night the Holy Spirit revealed to me who Jesus was and by faith I became a follower. I had not hear an audible voice however what I did hear was unmistakable.

Now I was as theologically unsophisticated as one could imagine. I had never heard the term "born again" but when I first heard it I thought that was a great phrase because it described what happened to me, I didn't even know it was the Lord Himself that had said those words. My witnessing approach back then was to ask people "Do you know Jesus?" and when they said yes they knew Him I would respond "No, I mean really know Him. He is alive!". People would then look at me with the discomfort that something in me was unbalanced. My atheistic aunt would chide me that it was alright to let Jesus help you get off drugs but don't get fanatical about Him. But I couldn't help but be fanatical, after all, if it was true that everyone that dies will spend eternity in either heaven or hell what else really matters.

I went into Manhattan and purchase a King James Bible and brought it home. Since at first I could not understand many things I began to read the words in red. I would take the Bible out of its box, read the words in red, and place it back in the box. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw someone write in their Bible! To say I was green is an understatement, but I was born again and would never be the same.

Today, almost 40 years later, I still claim Christ. I have been most imperfect through the years, but God's grace has always been my strength. It has been an amazing journey, but the best is yet to come. Praise the Lamb of God Who took away all my sins!


Lorena said...

Praise God, Rick! That is a wonderful testimony to God's amazing grace...and that HE has been using you in this way to preach His gospel, 'the way, the truth, and the life', that is Jesus Christ, our Saviour!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Thank the Lord Jesus - He works in wonderful ways.

I also had those funny little 'signs' during my pre-revelatory days. Even after I was saved, He still showed Himself so sweetly. I remember being sick for a year in and out of hospital and lying in bed hoping to find a radio signal for a Christian radio station which was hard to reach from our mountainous area. All it picked up were songs like "Kiss" and I was so desperately wanting comfort. The song suddenly goes out and in comes this faint sound of an old hymn about the Cross (wish I could remember) but it was so powerfully needed for me at that moment. The whole song played loud and clear. When the song finished, it faded out, and the Rock station signaled back in. Just like that.

I believe that our praying parents, relatives, friends, even strangers we met, who have prayed, had some part in our salvation. Possibly Brother Rick, your mom intently prayed for your deliverance and God's guidance in your life, before she passed away and there is a verse that those prayers are in remembrance to God in heaven.

I remember my Catholic aunt literally putting her hands on my head one day (after my piano lesson with her) and she was silently praying for me. I felt embarrassed but just let her continue. She knew my mother was mentally ill. This aunt had been caught up in a nun's charismatic movement in the catholic community at the time. Not one of my family, even extended, ever talked about or cared about salvation, as they believed being "born" into the Church.

We should never badmouth anything that might appear 'strange' or trendy or 'not of God', as long as it's scriptural. Understandably, when new christian groups get out of hand, it grieves the Spirit of God. But, He is so merciful, that he'll go where He's invited in. And, if a small gathering of nuns were hungry for Him, He in his grace and kindness, would have been in their midst. All I know is that we can't box the Lord in our own stereotypes. I'm certain many believers came to Him because of a prayer of someone who doesn't fit our mold of what true redemption is.

Was watching the original "Bonnie and Clyde" and got a first glance at poverty in Texas in those early 30's - and saw how young and foolish people can suddenly go off the rails, even though they've been influenced by a bible belt,a community of christians, or, as one of the characters was, a daughter of a pastor. Every person, whether they come from a concentrated bible-believing upbringing, or a traditional man-made dogmatic legalistic religion, has to choose for themselves, and I believe that the Lord calls everyone under every situation. It goes to show that those who think themselves "arrived" don't always produce fruit, and those who depend on spiritual legalistic works, can later be grafted in with a spiritual revival.


Cherie c. said...

You had thoughts of murder in your drug induced stupor, but not only was I not on drugs, but I actually went through with the murder.

Old church friends used to tell me that I have been forgiven, that the devil brings it up to get me down. I used to try to believe that, but I always knew it was another lie. If we forget we have sinned we become self righteous for sure.

I have confessed it many times but still feel unforgiven and very ugly. What I did cannot compare to what you thought of doing. And I carry it with me always. Every July 13 it is magnified.

I will stand before Jesus one day soon and I have no explanation, no excuse for what I did. No one figures me for a murder, but I am. This country thinks its okay to abort a baby. I do not, but I did. I will meet that person I let them take even though I tried to escape and they wouldn't let me. I should not have gone in the first place and it would not have happened. I was a loser then, and remain so now.

I was supposedly born again at age 14 through the Children of the Kingdom youth group held every Friday night at St. Catherine's Church in Spring Lake NJ. But when the kids smoked weed before the meetings, how can one believe its the Lord talking when you saw the guy get high right before he received his word from what ever god he was hearing from. It was all a sham. A true born again believer would not have done what I did. The remorse is palatable sometimes. When I lost my daughter I knew it must be a punishment.

God has never dealt with me with a gentle hand, at least that is what it feels like. But then a murder should be dealt with harshly by the judge.

When I read that Paul thought he was the chief of sinners, well, he didn't know the life i would lead. I am not looking for sympathy, I deserve disdain, so don't tell me I am forgiven. I can't be. No, I would say I am the chief of sinners and deserve what ever I get and it scares me. Just like the coward I am. It is not enough to say I'm sorry.

I don't know when I became born again, I just know that Jesus is all I ever had but ignored Him. When I look back and see where I am now, I know it was the Lord that got me here. Where I am, who I am now are miles and miles away from who I was. When people say how nice I am I tell them you wouldn't think so if you knew me 30 years ago. I would not think twice of taking on a group of men if they messed with my sisters. I was a tough street girl only thing was street girls didn't cry or feel guilty, i did. And a real street girl almost took my life when I confronted her for tormenting my sister. She died in jail about five years later. You cannot tell me God wasn't there. Only, He left me in my home situation and that was worse than any tough girl looking to fight me. Took a lot of beatings for my sister and gave a lot too. My sons think I tough, but I was a sinful, mean, hateful person. Why God wanted to save me after rejecting Him is beyond me. The guilt weighs heavy, but I'm grateful more than I could ever say. My kids never knew the violence I grew up with, and I pray to God they never will. No drinking, no drugs, nothing like that, but they are still unsaved. So although they lead a so called clean life, they are headed for an eternity I cannot get them out of if they don't repent. I don't know why I am telling you all this. You started it Pastor Rick. I just hope my brothers and sisters in Christ will still want to talk to me after this comment. I can see the comments to me now. Blast away. May God have mercy on us all. He did have mercy on me. So don't deserve it though. Peace

your sister in Christ Jesus

michael said...

Amazing Rick! Great testimony! I too was touched upon while watching Godspell, the theatrical version in San Diego in 1973. A year or so later I was doing my laundry at the laundromat. There was a magazine there and on the cover was a photo of Billy Graham. I read the article about him and he gave his testimony. I remember a sense about it that was captivating. It wasn't more than a few months later in July, 1975 I was reading Matthew's Gospel chapter 1. I got as far as verse 21 and I came alive with that same sense of being born again! It hasn't always been easy since then. I can say though now I'm more amped up for The Lord now than I have ever been! The intensity of Grace and Mercy seems to increase daily these days!

Thanks for sharing that personal testimony!

Anonymous said...

I honestly feel for you, tormenting yourself over the guilt of your past sins. One thing we do know, if you are honest before God and confess your sins, HE IS faithful and just TO FORGIVE you your sins and cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9. The problem you are facing is that you cannot forgive yourself. God has forgiven you of your sins, you have not. You must trust God that you are forgiven, believe His word, and accept that forgiveness, then you are free to forgive yourself. I have sins in my past I am shameful of, and even as a Christian also. I have to take God's word for what it says by faith and accept His forgiveness, which in turn frees myself to forgive myself and go on. Each day is a new day, a new start, His mercies are renewed each and every day. The enemy of our soul is the one that torments us and tries to heap condemnation on us, whereas God only convicts us of our sin. You are feeling condemnation which is not of God. You are leaving an opening in your "armor" which is allowing the enemy to heap condemnation upon you. Take God at His holy word and accept forgiveness, ignore the "feeling" of condemnation and FORGIVE YOURSELF. Take HIM at HIS word, you have to. Forget the past, God has, don't constantly remind Him of it. Press on, each day is a new day, a new start.

Phil. 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Blessings, Randy

Annette said...

This is so inspiring! Thank-You for sharing your testimony Pastor Rick, and a great one it is!

Grateful to all of you, J., Cheri, and Michael for sharing as well. Today, I am filled with hope as to how our LORD is working in His children.

Anonymous said...

In Romans 7:24 "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul is speaking of who he was before his conversion.

Paul tells us what happens when we are born again:
Romans 6:4-7 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Romans 3:25 "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the REMISSION OF SINS THAT ARE PAST"

After we are born again, if we commit any future sin:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

Cherie c. said...

Anonymous said...

You are so sweet, thank you for the reminder. When I think back it floors me how horrible I was. I want to say that wasn't me but it wold be a lie. Praise God for His saving Grace. I am white knuckled holding on to the hem of His garment.

Hebrews 13:1

1 Let brotherly love continue.

Hebrews 13:25

25 Grace be with you all. Amen.

your sister in Christ Jesus

Anonymous said...

Failing to forgive ourself is a form self torment!
Man can't forgive his past by sheer will power yet he can be redeemed by God through faith in Christ and empowered by the love of the God of the holy Bible to do this.
Dear readers, beating yourself up over the past isn't God's will for you. The more Christ loves someone the more they can love Him in return. This being "free" in Christ means we are more than overcomers. In Him man is a new creation. A new creation lives a different life.

If you have been born again be gentle on yourself and move on from your past into today, for the LORD has bright today and tomorrow for you! Praise the LORD that you are no longer a prisoner of the past!

Anonymous said...

Cherie: You are forgiven. The Word says you are. No one can argue against the Word of God. Satan loves to put the fear in us, doesn't he?

If we harbor hate for our brother, scripture says, we are no different than a murderer. No one is justified by anything other than the blood of Jesus.

I hope I can express what I'm trying to say here. But, we as christians in this culture, sometimes exploit certain sins to feel vindicated. When a young girl has had no christian guidance, or is in an environment of constant negativity and death, she or he will fail. Peter would have killed for Jesus, before he was rebuked. Paul had christians sent to jail, who were executed. None of us have any excuses. All those unborn children who've been removed from the world are in the Lord's care and in perpetual joy and love with the best parent of all. No matter how we beat ourselves up, we can't make any situation bad, as long as the Lord is in charge, all things come together for those who are in Him.

He is coming soon. Love you, and you and I can rejoice that our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, because that's what the word says. (although on weary days the enemy throws in a wrench of doubt, but I won't yield). Alleluia!!!


Anonymous said...

Peter's actions were ungodly on that occassion. It was Saul of Tarsus not Paul.

Cherie c. said...

To you all, do not deserve such loving brothers and sisters in Christ, I am overjoyed and embarrassed at the same time. Love you too J. To you all from our Lord:

Psalm 133

133 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Still have a bit of a nagging doubt. How can He forgive that? I am surely amazed and broken. It is difficult to fathom, but I will humbly be forever grateful for it.
Too good to be true even though it is true, if you know what I mean. It is hard to put into words.

We are convinced that something that small means nothing, but the fact is it is something. When my boys were born the guilt was so heavy, breathing was difficult. If I told you what the father of that child said to me when he unexpectedly visited me after the birth of my older son, I am sure you would not blame me for throwing a potted plant at him and very angrily asking him to leave.

Still my fault. I am the one who went there with him to that place. I tried to make it stop, but they said it was too late, I had no choice after I signed the paperwork. If I hadn't gone in the first place it never would have happened. I am a coward.

It has been on my heart to speak to women about this because I know the other side of it. You cannot imagine how it feels afterwards and unless a person is stone cold dead inside, it affects you. I don't care what lie they weave, it affects you, all your days. I can self righteously say the other women there had worse excuses than I, but that would be wrong. No matter what the self-convincing argument one gives, it is wrong. Many of these women would fight against genocide or the death penalty because they grew up learning abortion is okay, that it is just a medical procedure. When I found out the horror that baby went through to be killed, I'm was sick. It still brings nausea when I think about it. When I think about it, I cannot see how I am forgiven, just can't. I tried to stop it, but again, no excuse. If I didn't live a lifestyle that brought this about in the first place, it would be a nonevent. I choose to live in sin, and this is the result. Regrets are haunting and painful. And the tragic events that happen with that lifestyle hurts others and you. I can only hope I have been forgiven, but don't you agree that I do not deserve it.

May the Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Thank you for your forgiveness.

your sister in Christ Jesus