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My Story

I grew up in a fundamentalist legalistic Christian home.   From my earliest memories Christianity was about fear of hell and a system of rules to keep you out of it.  I can remember times when as a child I was acting up and my mother would bring me into the back room and try and cast daemons out of me.  She would be all serious and look and me and ask me if I heard voices in my head telling me to make a mess, or to fight with my sister, and here I was 5 years old thinking to myself   “do I hear any voices…oh no!!! I think I just heard a voice”  Talk about fear of the Lord.  There was almost a rite of passage in my Church community.  There was no church service for children so everyone was in the big church and I would sit next to my father as the pastor would drone on and on doing a sermon he had probably done a hundred times and I would watch my father taking notes and see his pen start to drift across the paper as he fell asleep while writing.  The pastor would finally wrap up and the truly uncomfortable time started.  The dreaded alter call.  The whole congregation would squirm until someone felt guilty enough to overcome the embarrassment of walking down the aisle and talk to the pastor in front of the whole church.  At a certain age it kind of became like an unspoken dare among us kids to go down to the front during the alter call and pretend to kneel down and pray in front of the whole church.  You would kind of peek under your arms to see how many of your friends were watching you.  The time at which my need for a savior really hit home was when I was about 11 or 12 and the revivals started.  We would go see these speakers and I would get so scared that I wasn’t a Christian that I must have prayed the “sinners prayer” at least a dozen times.  You see because Christianity was a system of rules to me,  rules that I could never consistently follow no matter how hard I tried,  I would have  persistent doubts that I didn’t really commit my life to Christ and I would then do it again to make sure.  That kind of religion is very effective while you are immersed in that culture with only those types of people around you.  When I got to be a teenager I became more and more aware of the difficulty of maintaining the rule following for everyone not just myself.  I started to see the cracks in people around me.  The compartmentalizing of their lives and I started to get disillusioned.  The hypocrisy that is so rampant in Christianity began to wear away at the fear of hell that I had from my childhood.  By the time I got to college I decided to take a left turn and chuck church.  I didn’t go so far as to reject God (that was way too ingrained in me) I just let that be a corner of my heart that I didn’t visit very often.  College was a interesting and detrimental time of self discovery.  I desperately wanted a new identity from what was pushed on me growing up.  I looked into art, drugs, sexuality, and philosophy, in an attempt to discover what I believed and not what my parents and every Christian authority figure told me I believed.  Satan used that time to sew the seeds of doubt about the Bible.  I developed a skepticism and disdain for organized religion and I lumped Christianity right in there with everything else.  I got a new set of friends and my life proceded.  I met my wife Betzie in college, and we moved in together after 6 months of dating.  Marriage and kids were not in our plans.    After three years things changed for the both of us and being married did not seem so bad.  It kind of seem like the next logical step. But we were NOT going to have kids!!!… Well  after four years of marriage Betzie decided that maybe she did want to have a child.  I figured that I would go ahead and put up with the inconvenience of a baby because I didn’t want to say no and have Betzie build up resentment towards me later.    That moment when she told me she was pregnant was like a light turning on.  I could not wait to meet that child.    I think that it was having children that brought me back to God.  I wanted to instill strong moral values in my children but I could not find a basis for right and wrong outside of Christ.  Even with all the messed up ways my parents taught me about Christianity the Lord still used them to instill  a strong moral compass in me.  Through all the time that I spent away from the Lord I still recognized that there were moral absolutes and that truth was truth even if I didn’t want to live in it.  As  my kids got older Betzie and I decided that we wanted to raise them in a  Church.  We had two criteria,  it would not be in the denomination that she was raised in and it would not be in the denomination that I was raised in.  Well that did not narrow things down much, and it made it easier to procrastinate finding a Church to try.  God really started to work in my life then.  When I started my business  I met some strong Christians and these guys were different from any Christians that I had ever known.  They were accepting of me and where I was in terms of my doubts.  One of them encouraged me to start to explore my questions and to find real answers to them instead of using the questions themselves as an excuse to keep me from coming back to the Lord.  He turned me on to apologetics and a man named Ravi Zacharias.  I began to take an honest look at my belief system and to evaluate it based on reality and not on what I wanted it to be .    At this point God brought the Rainoseks into our lives.  Betzie met them when we had decided to home school our kids.  Their son Dane was the same age as our oldest Ian and those two boys hit it off like two peas in a pod.  As we got to know them better Danna and Russ asked us weather we were Christians.  We told them about our backgrounds and that we were interested in finding a Church but only for our kids.  I still had a lot of skepticism for Churches at that point.  They kind of put us on the spot and invited us to come visit their church saying that it is always easier to visit somewhere where you know someone.   So we decided to give it a try.  After giving that Church a couple of tries we decided that was not the Church for us.  We were pretty discouraged.   A few weeks later we got a call from the Rainoseks again.  They had tried  another church that was a little closer to their home that some of their friends said was great.  They told Betzie that we HAD to come and visit this  new church.  Well Betzie decided that she was going to do a little research first before we had another bad experience.  She looked up the church online and saw that they were doing a series called the Retro Parent.  That peaked her interest enough  and we decided to  give it a try.  When we drove into the parking lot of this HUGE church I was a little nervous.  I  had no experience with large churches growing up.  But the guys in the parking lot were very friendly.   The early childhood pastor Anne Beecroft made us feel very welcome with the care they showed for our children.    When we walked into the lobby of the big church what should greet our ears but Hootie and the Blowfish live on stage!!! or so it sounded.  I was blown away by the quality of the music and the fact that it was ROCKIN!  What was going through my mind at this point was “this is NOT church”  When Patrick got up and started to speak God reached in and opened my heart.  All 1500 people in the auditorium faded away and it was like he was talking to me alone.   Betzie reached over and showed me the bulletin that said that here they did not claim to have it all figured out and that this was a place to explore your doubts.  I could not stop the tears from coming and at that point I knew that God had brought me home.  The teaching at Riverpointe about relationship with the Father has turned Jesus into a real person for me and has taken the fear away from Christianity.  I have come to find the relevance that God has in my life and has always had in my life.  I can look back now and see how He has used all the trials I have had and the paths that I have taken to bring me here.  I am so aware of his love for me that I feel changed from the inside.  My walk with the Father is no longer about following rules to keep a jealous God from squashing me like a bug.  It is a desire to seek his path because I trust that His plan is better than my own.  I thank God every day for bringing me to a  Church that not only encourages my Faith but challenges me to seek out the Truth of the Bible.

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Apologetics and Pride

Apologetics is the defense of our Faith, and it was a big part of me coming back to a relationship with Jesus that I had abandoned in college. One of the key players for me was a man named Ravi Zacharias.  When a colleague and friend  of mine brought up the question of faith with me I started in with all my questions that I thought were deeply philosophical and blocked me from seeing any relevance in following Christ.    Instead of arguing with me my friend simply pointed me in the right direction and I was able to get my questions answered on my own by listening to teachers like Ravi.

Now if anyone is unfamiliar with aplogetics, one of the things that drew me in was how Ravi was not daunted by philosophy and logic and he always had a pithy answer that was right on target and turned the question on its head. Things like the existence of evil, pain and trouble juxtaposed with a loving God were all addressed in a way that made perfect sense to my mind that craved logic. Since then my goal was to study Apologetics and be able to win all the arguments that I had been having with myself with all my friends who were outside the faith. I longed to have one of those conversations where I would have the pithy comeback and the audience would laugh and my friend would have that light bulb moment and ask to come to Church with me. Needless to say that did not go over to well.   I couldn’t seem to get my friends to jump at my pointed questions and when they did they would ask questions that I was not prepared to answer, and I would come off looking like an idiot.   It was pretty discouraging to me that I could not bring my friends around with my new found knowledge and faith.

I have since come to find that  following Christ is more about the relationship that God wants to have with me.  One that is based on unconditional love and not head knowledge.   This understanding brought me to a new understanding of the discouragement I was feeling over not having the answers that I knew were there for the times when conversations with my friends did come up.    I started to ask myself why I was feeling disappointed.  I thought it was because I was not being effective in sharing my faith with my friends.  Turns out it was plain old pride.  One thing my pastor told me really spoke to that.  He said that no one was ever brought to Christ because they lost an argument.   I started to see that the hostility  I was encountering from my friends outside the faith was not coming from a place that needed answers to philosophical questions but from a place of pain.  My answers, even if they were on point were not addressing that pain.  Pain from a tough childhood, or difficult set of circumstances,  or a poor example set by a broken someone that was looked up to and  seen and very “religious”.   I saw that I wanted to win and justify myself and my beliefs at their expense, but only love from me without strings attached can address that pain.  For me this is where understanding the Fathers love becomes so important.  Because I know he loves me without strings attached I can relax and leave the job of touching others to him.  What spoke to me in my time of need and questioning might not be what speaks to someone else.  I can not give my faith to someone else.  What He asks of me it to love Him and love others.  All other parts of following Christ flow from that.  Matthew 22:36-40   “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When I look at God in the context of the love that he has for us,  how he loves us no matter what were we are at in our faith or lack of it,  it blows me away.  I begin to want my life to reflect Him and my behaviors flow from that.  Loving others in that way allows the Father to touch them in the way only He can.

Nephilim??????

Are we meant to understand everything that is written in the Bible?

There have been some discussions lately with friends where some confusing things have been brought up about the Scriptures.  These have highlighted for me a struggle that I have been having with reading the Bible.  As Christians the Bible is supposed to be the guide for our lives, but parts of it are baffling to me, some things seem to be contradictions and for some things  there is so little explanation that I wonder why it is in there at all.  So I got to thinking.  Does God really expect to dig deeply into those parts that confound me with cross-referencing, word searches and original Hebrew and Greek?  On some of my questions even that still leaves me scratching my head and a seed of doubt begins to sprout.

I have been praying to God lately about reading the Bible.  I really want to understand what he is trying to teach me through His Word, and the analogy of  us as children of God has popped into my head.  I think about the relationship that I have with my own children.  I know that they don’t have the intellect or life experience to always understand the reasoning behind how I am raising them, the rules that I make, or the things that I tell them to do.  At other times the explanations that I give them for things that I feel are beyond their intellect are incredibly unsatisfying to them.  They want to know everything that I know, and if memory serves as teenagers they expect that they can and do know everything their parents know and more.

This brings me back to the Original Sin.  What did Satan tempt Eve with?… Knowledge!!!  Gen 3:4-6 “You will not surely die” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for giving wisdom she took some and ate it…NIV or as it is more plainly stated in The Message “…And realized what she could get out of it- she’d know everything…”  Pandora’s box was opened by mankind’s desire to kown what was beyond our intellect to know.

I think that Satan is using the same trick on us today.  When we let these things int the Bible that mystify us distract us from the parts of the Bible that are clear as day.  How many times have our children avoided obedience with questions of why or how come?  Just like the times when I have told them “because I am your parent and you need to trust me”, I think the Father is telling us to trust Him.  Everything in His Book is true and right and is there for my good, even the stuff that breaks my brain.  As His child I don’t have the capacity to understand ALL that he says.  Perhaps in the fullness of time when I am with God  I will come to understand,  but I am still only a child.

Father help me to trust you and to keep my eye on the ball.  Bring my focus to those things in your Word that help me to love You and my neighbor.  And not get distracted by my arrogance to know ALL the things You know

-Jon