I remember the day well. I wore a homemade dress—gold on the bottom, black and gold plaid on the top. I felt such a sense of relief as I walked down to the river to be baptized, knowing I would walk back out with my sins forgiven. I wondered what it would “feel” like to have God’s spirit in me. That was 50 years ago — June 22, 1967.
I knew I was lost, separated from God. Though I was just a young teen, I had already dabbled in rebellion. My mouth was filled with cursing and I had already tried a few cigarettes….just because I wanted to. Those were just a couple of many sins. I struggled with the desire to experience the world and to “fit in”…thinking it seemed much too restrictive to follow the “narrow road” as outlined in the Bible. How could that bring freedom? (I’d soon come to learn the great truth in this paradox.) Yet, one thing would never leave my mind.
What would I do with Jesus? I had to answer the same question Pilate asked the crowd around him years ago:
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” — Matthew 27:20-24, emphasis added
I reasoned—either he was true, and rose from the dead…or he wasn’t and didn’t.
Either the Bible was true, or it wasn’t.
I found that it took much more faith to believe it wasn’t true…than to have faith that it is true. 50 years later I have never been more solidly convinced of its truth.
The night before my baptism a scene ran through my mind’s eye again and again. A scene of Jesus showing ultimate love…dying for me. How could I say “no” to that love? I had a “fear of God,” knowing I would give account to him one day, combined with a sense of amazement of what he did for me. I had been thinking I should try to get “good enough” to become a Christian first. I finally realized that the point of the cross was that I could never be good enough. God wanted me, “Just as I am.” When I heard the words to the song by that title, I knew I could not wait any longer. I had grown up reading the Bible most every day, though no one “formally” studied the Bible with me. I remember asking myself…”What if God wanted me to move to Africa? Would I be willing? What if someone pointed a gun at me and asked me to deny Jesus? Would I be faithful?” Ironically, years later I was held at knife point and boldly (through the power of God’s spirit) told the assailant he would account to God for what he planned to do to me. After about an hour, I was let go—completely unharmed. You can read about this in “My Morning Cup”. Three decades later we would be asked to move to South Africa, which we fully planned to do. Last minute changes and needs in the church there changed that plan, which surprisingly brought me more disappointment than relief. Over the 50 years I’ve grown and changed beyond my imagination. I’ve messed up so many times and experienced God’s grace again and again. But, over the past 50 years I’ve never looked back. I’ve seen amazing miracles from God and many amazing acts of love (as well as disappointments and wrongdoings) from others. These have shown me the truth of the scripture: “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” — Romans 3:3-4 God and his word remain true no matter my circumstances or actions of others. Read more…