I’ve come along way in my life thus far. I’m not where I thought I would be at 31; what vocation I have, marital status, location I live, and even the persons I associate with. But, who is really, at 31, where they thought they’d be at 15? In this final post focussing primarily on me, I want to give a brief survey of where I was, the thinking I exhibited then, when that thinking parted, the moment it began to revert back, and what propelled the ‘victory’ from the rescued thinking. This wont be too long but it will be wordy, I promise–it’s hard to fit 30-ish years into a single blog post and have fullness to it.
I grew up in the Church, was baptized in a Calvary Chapel at 13 by my youth pastor, and was what I considered at the time an “on fire born again believer.” I have a much better definition of what that phrase means now, but moving on. I had the idea I was going to be a carpenter, mechanic, or maybe a youth pastor when I reached maturity. My brother was of course gonna be a pastor, or so we all thought. I thought I would get married and on the way to a quiver full of children by the age of 21. There were always 3 things during those years that stuck with me that my youth pastor taught me.
1. “Be imitators of me…”, that is what Paul says in 1 Cor 11:1. He follows it with the caveat, “just as I also am of Christ”. This theme is spoken of throughout the NT and it comes directly out of the OT. It is comparable to, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”, Peter writes this in 1 Pet 1:16 and is quoting Lev 11:44 directly. It is a loaded command and it requires further reflection, by all claiming the name of Christ.
2. His fervent desire to go through Revelation with his rambunctious and defiant youth group. He did this over the course of, what seemed like ages. I am ashamed to say not much of it stuck. Just the fact that he did it. Not many try to give high school and middle school students a consistent sermon series in that book. And it instilled in me a love of eschatology.
3. The mother of a student once asked him why her son wasn’t saved–she was blaming him. He responded(I am paraphrasing), “I can’t save your son, only God can do that. I can only point him in that direction.” That hit me hard then, when I hit hard struggles, and even today it does that, when reflecting on what I can do to save others from divine judgement.
In 2004, when I was 19, everything began to change. I did’t have a girlfriend yet, nor was I really on the way to my desired vocations. I had another desire on my heart, I left home and moved to the East coast of the US. I wanted to be a christian witness to my, then, best friend. I chose, as a sheep, to live amongst wolves. Well, they sure impressed upon me and I spiraled into what I would consider now a prodigal son lifestyle.
I imbibed everything I did not want my entire childhood. Sex, parties, and booze. I returned a year later with a vulgar mouth, ungodly desires, and absolutely no desire to fellowship with christians. I mean the few I knew prior had either moved away or become just as I was. The only christian fellowship I had of great purpose was with my youth pastor on occasions when I couldn’t take it anymore, the degraded lifestyle that is. If only I had just plugged into a local church, hmmm.
Time spiraled on, and in 2007 I had propelled my depravity to new grounds. I added a whole lot of drugs into the mix. I lived the homeless dirt-bag climbers life and it stuck, there are some good things to learn from that lifestyle (as well as fond memories of that year in particular) but for the most part it is a den of sin.
In 2008, I came back from it, moved to Petaluma, CA and became, “the guy who can get you things”. I sold weed to get free weed, sold shrooms to get free shrooms, got you in touch with people who could get you things I wouldn’t (hypocrisy if I ever heard it), worked 50-60 hours a week at two jobs and had a ton of extra money to not give to Christ’s bride, the Church. I spent it on myself and my friends, who I thought saw it as a symbol of devotion and loyalty. I was wrong, I don’t know what they saw it as, but it wasn’t what I did. I replaced church with my unbelieving friends and the drug culture of the SF bay area. Looking back now I’m thankful the Lord put me through all of that, and would rather I not have done it, but I digress.
In 2013, everything changed. I hit an impasse. I was getting convicted everyday about everything in the life I was living–looking back that was a wonderful thing to be convicted of, sin–it was horrible at the time. I was isolating the things in my life that were causing problems and started to get rid of them, though I couldn’t explain why. I was doing pretty good, or so I thought, until I started hearing things from unknown sources that brought me to a place I never thought I’d ever go. Thank the Lord of Heaven he had a plan for this, just as everything else he brought into my life. To bring me unto himself in more and more close communion. I abandoned everything. I mean everything. I quit my jobs, left my friends, left all my stuff and left the region of the country I had called home for the better part of a decade. All I had were clothes, a car, some climbing gear, and a bike (which got sold three months after I left…I regret that one big time). I had no idea what to do. So I moved in with my folks and started studying. I had to reevaluate everything I once knew. I studied everything, from evolution, to conspiracy theories, to various religions, to gnosticism, eschatology, and christianity. I was essentially planning on becoming a celibate rock climbing traveling monk. There were two things during all of this that stuck in my mind,
“Be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
These two things were my starting point of study and research. If someone is gonna make such bold claims as being the truth, the life, and the way to God–and thereby peace with him– and a person as famous and influential as Paul held Jesus in such high regard, I had to start there, in Jesus’ words in John 14. I had done way too much studying in the conspiracy world and began to get entranced with the christian side of it. So much so that I almost began to go in an entirely different direction than I had just come out of. In the process of all this I had run across the ministry and work of Dr. Michael Heiser. This was a bastion for me. He instilled in me a love of the OT and I ended up rereading the entirety of my Bible with renewed fervor, I saw things I had never seen before. Two verses in particular brought me out completely from the conspiratorial mindset,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
“It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
“Then He shall become a sanctuary;
But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,
And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
“Many will stumble over them,
Then they will fall and be broken;
They will even be snared and caught.”
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Isaiah 8:12-16
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.” Isaiah 45:5-7
I began giving Isaiah 8:12 to all those on the internet christian conspiracy tribes and left the association of them. When someone finally won’t listen, you have to let God cause the growth and move on. I then started reading primarily theology, commentaries, 2nd temple Jewish literature, and teaching myself the fundamentals of Greek and Hebrew. In short, I became REALLY excited about theology, and most importantly about Jesus Christ and what he did for those who believe.
I then stumbled upon the ministry and work of Dr. James White and got even more excited about Greek and church history. His sermon series on the book of Hebrews is the most edifying and humbling thing I had heard up until that point. The Lord used that to convict me into becoming a churchman, something I was on my way to in high-school; before my wayward son lifestyle… cue Kansas here. And I haven’t looked back since. My favorite thing to do is be at corporate worship on Sunday mornings and have fellowship with my church family at Bear Creek Church in Medford, OR. They are the second most important thing to me aside from the Triune God himself. I wish everyone else I know had the same desires for the church as I do, and I will not cease to encourage others to find that passion for it. Though, I still don’t believe marriage and a family a probability for me, I have been grafted into a family larger than I ever could have imagined, and this family has the capacity to love as that of God himself. I don’t have to worry what my giving of time, money, and resources means to them. It is clear, they see it as a manifestation of Christ’s life being lived through me.
For those stuck in a world of conspiracies, drugs, sex, booze, or debauchery, I say find Christ. I beg of you to seek the triune God of Heaven, for the struggles you have are induced because of your rebellion of the one who created all things, even you. And peace with him is all that will repair that broken wall. I pray the Spirit of God move you to seek Christ Jesus the Lord.
Maranatha, Hallelujah, amen.