Finding Hope this Christmas

 

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The lights seemed to twinkle. I sat in the quiet morning the only one awake, staring at my Christmas tree. My Bible was in my lap and a cup of coffee in my hand. I should have been feeling peace and contentment, been delighting in this special season, right? Yeah, not so much. Instead, I was very aware of the wrongness in the world, and I felt depressed, dissatisfied, and hopeless.

“Why, God? Why don’t you stop it? Why don’t you fix it? The world is so screwed up! When are you going to do something?”

“Two thousand years ago”

It always surprises me when the Holy Spirit actually answers me, not audibly but in my heart. (Although, out loud would definitely be surprising too!)

I was out of time at the moment, kids to wake up and get out the door. So I couldn’t keep contemplating God’s answer. A couple hours later though I was alone driving in the car and my thoughts went something like this…

“Yup, the world is a mess; it’s broken. Christmastime can make us even more aware of that brokenness. This deceptive holiday – pretending it should be full of warmth, smiles, and tingly feelings… But often filled with stress, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and frustration. Humph! But, what am I supposed to be celebrating? Jesus. The hope of the world. Baby Jesus. This story is too familiar. God, let me see it new!

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“Jesus coming to earth. This is where everything really changed. Before Jesus: laws, and rules, and animal sacrifices, reminding us that we couldn’t be perfect, that we were separated from God. There were promises of hope, vague prophecies yet to be fulfilled, stories that pointed to something coming, but it wasn’t clear. And then, something crazy happened, something hinted at, but never guessed. The Creator became one of His creations. God quietly slipped into the world. Coming as a baby. The Savior was here. Hope was born.”

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I found myself crying and smiling at the same time.

The world hasn’t changed. It’s still a broken mess. But, Jesus… Jesus brings hope.

This season can be so stressful and full of stuff. But it’s not about the cookies, or the presents, or the decorations, or the parties. It’s not about the perfect experience. At it’s core, Christmas is about a God who slipped quietly into the world because He loved us.

I would encourage you these next few weeks to find a quiet chunk of time where you can really contemplate what it meant for Jesus to come to Earth. Let it sink in and be reminded of the hope we have because of Him!

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Our Cranky Hearts are Leading Us Home

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This is the final part of a three part series. Yesterday I left off with this sentence:

“So where do we go from here? How do we find enough faith to seek when we just feel tired, and cranky, and cynical?”

That’s exactly where we are going to pick up. Fair warning, this might be a rant! 🙂

Don’t be ashamed of your doubt and questions about God. Or afraid of your cynicism and the snarkiness that simmers just beneath the surface when it comes to organized religion. Or feel guilt because of your depression and/or disillusionment with Christianity.

Can I be honest? I am so over American Christianity. I literally HATE how political it has become. The black and white thinking on both sides of the spectrum drives me insane! Besides, what does politics have to do with Jesus anyway? He refused to become a political puppet two thousands years ago, and you’d better believe He doesn’t want to be one today either!

I’m sick and tired of cheesy Christian movies, memes, and marketing. I’m frustrated by tradition, and ritual, and people who say “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” while piling on expectations and standards. Christianese phrases, and formulas, and “easy answers” make me cranky. And don’t even get me started on the gold dust and angel feathers supposedly demonstrating God’s Presence at Bethel Church in California!

I just want more. I want something real. I want truth.

If you resonate with anything that I just said, then I have good news for us. We want more, because there is more. Our cranky hearts are disillusioned because they are calling for home.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What if our frustrations, and doubts, and disillusionment are simply evidences of the real God?  How’s that for a crazy thought?

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As people, we have such an intense longing for connection, for meaning, and for acceptance. We try to satisfy those desires through people, social media, technology, entertainment, etc…but they all fall short. Why? Because we were created to be intimately connected to God. How do we get there? How do we find that connection? How do we find satisfaction and “the more” our hearts desire?

It starts with faith.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

We believe a Real God exists, and we begin to seek Him. Our whispered prayer is, “Show me who You are.” We believe that He will reward our search with Himself. God is our reward! The best ever!!

Jesus is next.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” Colossians 1:15.

“Show me who You are” will lead us to Jesus Christ. He is God in human form. So we seek Him through the gospels. We soak in His words. We watch how he treats people. We follow Him to the cross. We listen to what He said about Himself.

For whatever reason, the Old Testament God is who people turn to when they want to boss you around with Christian religion. He seems to be easier to twist to their own advantage than Jesus. So, we will run to Jesus and choose to interpret God in the Old Testament through Him.

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And then we need more faith.

 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” John 3:17-18.

We believe in Jesus…that He is God and that His death gives us life. This is the gospel! The good news that God Himself came to heal the relationship between Creator and creation. We acknowledge His amazing love and we are overwhelmed by His grace.

It gets even better!

“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 1:13.

Ah, the mysterious Holy Spirit…I love this part! This is where the relationship happens. This is where it gets awesome and crazy!! (And once again takes faith.) If we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, then we are God’s children and He has given us His very Spirit. Which means that we are never alone. When we cry out in the darkness, “God, where are You?” we must not miss the gentle whisper in our ear, “I’m right here.”

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And that, my friends, is where we start to reconstruct our deconstructed faith. These are the simple core truths of original Christianity.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, or know me in real life, then you know I’ve experienced some of what this broken world has to offer. I spent ten years in a legalistic, twisted, cultic sub-culture of Christianity.  We had two late term miscarriages in a row, and I delivered my second, tiny baby on Valentines Day. My father-in-law died suddenly and tragically a few years ago. I’ve been hurt and betrayed by Church People I trusted on more than one occasion. Prayers I’ve prayed for years have gone unanswered. I have more than enough reasons to doubt.

But, I’ve met Jesus, and there is no way I am leaving Him. I want you to meet Him too!

You aren’t going to find Him on a screen. 🙂 You might find information about Him, people’s opinions, Bible verses, etc. These are a good start. But you will need to put your device down and seek the old fashioned way if you are really going to meet Him.

Be quiet. Listen to the longings of your heart. Ask the Spirit to show you who He is. Let me know what you find!

 

I’m including some links to other posts I’ve written as well as to a few books I found amazingly inspiring. 🙂

The Missing Member of the Trinity

God Does Not Care About Your Jenga Blocks

Rediscovering Jesus – In the Garden

“The Jesus-Centered Life” by Rick Lawrence 

“Recapturing the Wonder” by Mike Cosper

 

 

The God Who Wants to be Found – Pt. 2

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If you read yesterday’s post, then you know that I am treading on some shaky ground according to some conservative Christians. Asking some slightly heretical questions. 😉 That’s okay! Questions are good!

Let me clarify some things before I continue.

I don’t believe that sincere faith in just any religion guarantees access to heaven. I do believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. I do believe in a literal hell. But I also agree with C.S. Lewis.

“We do know that no person can be save except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Throughout the Old Testament, we clearly see God having relationships with people who had never heard about Jesus and were not even Jews: Job, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek Priest of Salem, the Queen of Sheba, and the wise men for example. How did they seek and find the Living God? What’s to say that similar things are not happening today?

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God is not hiding up in heaven. He is not cold and distant. Both the Old and New Testament abound with verses telling us that God is near.

  • If we seek after God, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:12-14).
  • He is close enough to find while feeling in the dark (Acts 17:26-28).
  • The creation itself screams to us about God’s character and attributes (Romans 1:19-20).

What if God is the God Who Wants to be Found? What if He makes it very easy?

I am certain that God gives every one of us opportunities to seek Him. We all have a choice. Whether we live in the USA or in Outer Mongolia. It doesn’t matter. If we seek for the Living God, we will find Him!!  And He will show us enough to save us.

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For example:

In the late 1800s, a Liberian prince named Kaboo (later known as Samuel Morris) was captured and tortured by a rival clan. During one of the intense whippings, he heard a voice from heaven, felt his ropes fall to the ground, and saw a bright light. The light led him through the jungle to a town where he found a mission. Samuel Morris was introduced to Jesus through the story of the apostle Paul and he recognized the God who had set him free.

A video from New Tribes Bible Institute tells the story of a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea where missionaries were teaching chronologically through the Bible. They had gotten just past the Passover in Egypt when one of the old men in the tribe got very sick. As he lay dying, the man cried out to God’s Passover Lamb to save him. He’d never heard of Jesus, but there is no doubt in my mind that that man is in heaven!

There are thousands of amazing stories coming out of the Middle East recently from Muslims who have begun to seek after the true God and Jesus has appeared to them in dreams and visions.

I read once (and it’s driving me crazy because I cannot remember where) about some national missionaries in China who had a remote people group on their heart. They prayed for these people and attempted to reach them. When they finally arrived, Jesus had beat them to it! The people were ready for the gospel, because Jesus had already been there.

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I can’t explain any of this! But it resonates with what I know to be true about the Living God. I am absolutely confident that the God of the Universe LOVES us and WANTS us to know Him. He never forces Himself, but if we look for Him, we will find Him.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I am more concerned for us Church People in America than I am for those in distant tribes. They can look up to a starry sky and wonder about the Cosmos and the God who created it. We see a Universe and contemplate if it happened by accident. We get distracted by our technology, by our barrage of constant information via social media, podcasts, the news, etc. We become cynical in our overwhelming amount of Christianese knowledge.

Maybe it’s not God who is the problem. Maybe it’s us. Isn’t that an unsettling thought?

Every sunrise and sunset screams His glory. Pounding waves throb with His certainty and faithfulness. The immeasurable vastness of the Universe echoes with His power. Animals and insects, fish and birds sing of His creativity and sense of humor. We are surrounded by God’s character and divine qualities. But still we doubt…

“For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” Romans 1:20.

Jesus walked among us as the very image of God. Arguably the most influential man in all of history. He happily lived in calm obscurity for barely three decades. And yet, He managed to completely change the world. But we still question…

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

So where do we go from here? How do we find enough faith to seek when we just feel tired, and cranky, and cynical?

Apparently there is a part three to this blog series. 🙂 Coming soon!

The God Who Wants to Be Found – Pt. 1

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Is God truly loving? And if He is, then how can He condemn millions of people to hell? If God is really good, then what about all the people in the world who have lived and died without ever hearing the gospel?

How can people be responsible for their sin if they never knew anything different? What if they were sincerely following their religion? Shouldn’t that count?

If God condemns people to hell who aren’t responsible, then He can’t be good and loving. He must be angry and horrible. Who wants to believe in that kind of God anyway?

“The space between doubting God’s goodness and doubting His existence is not as wide as you might think.” Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard those questions from people who have grown up in church. But reading them again was sobering. They are legitimate questions asked by people searching for real answers. Too often all they get in return is Christianese.

If you’ve been following my last few posts you will know that I have been on a journey of discovery, reading books that I thought I disagreed with. The first couple were a pleasant surpriseFaith Unraveled was a little more difficult. Written as a memoir, it explains how Rachel Held Evans left a staunchly right, evangelical worldview in search of answers to her many questions. I was left conflicted.

Often Rachel and I would be on the exact same page, using the same Scriptures for the same arguments. Then without warning we’d each take an abrupt 90 degree turn and end up with completely different conclusions. Ultimately though, I didn’t hate the book as much as I anticipated. And I appreciate the questions Rachel forced me to wrestle with as I read.

“There are millions of people, past and present, who have had no exposure to Christianity at all. Are we supposed to believe that seconds after Jesus rose from the dead, everyone on earth was responsible for that information?”

Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled.

Again, legitimate question. Let’s tackle it.

This isn’t going to be a theology lesson. I just want to share my heart with you about the God Who Wants to Be Found.

It’s okay to ask scary questions. I really is! They are good. But as we ask, let’s not suppose too many things about the God of the Universe.

  • We can’t suppose that our understanding of the gospel is the only way. That people must pray a specific prayer, or “walk down the Roman’s road”, or “repent and make Jesus Lord”, or whatever pet phrase you want to use. What if it’s easier than that
  • We can’t suppose that God is either loving and let’s everyone into heaven, or angry and happy to condemn people to hell. What if His wrath has already been satisfied and everyone has an opportunity for eternal life? What if it’s our own choice that condemns us?
  • We can’t suppose that God is hiding up in heaven, aloof and withdrawn. That the only way to find Him is through the Bible or the American version of the gospel. What if He is closer than we can imagine?

These questions sound almost heretical, don’t they? 😉

I’m not a Calvinist, or an Arminian. And if you want to debate theology with me, I’ll have to disappoint you. I’m just a girl who thinks that God is always bigger than we can imagine, always more powerful, more wonderful, more mind boggling. If we think we have Him in a theological box, we are sadly mistaken. He will never fit!

It’s okay to step outside and wonder. How do these questions make you feel? What have you been wondering about? It’s easy as people to become black and white in our thinking. But I think life might actually be a lot more gray.

I’m going to finish these thoughts tomorrow. Share some stories and verses from the Bible. Keep talking about the God Who Wants to be Found. Stay tuned!

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Knowing (Experiencing) Jesus

This is a condensed repost of two earlier blogs I wrote a couple years ago. It was on my heart again. 🙂

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There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them.

I write and talk a lot about legalism and religious Christianity vs a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It sounds good in theory. I’d much rather have a friendship than a list of rules to follow! But how does it work?

God often feels like a celebrity to us. We know (or think we know) a lot about Him. We read articles, blog posts, and books about Him. We listen to sermons, podcasts, and songs about Him. We hear lots of people’s opinions of Him, both positive and negative. But do we actually KNOW Him personally?

How do you get to really know someone like God?

I believe that everything God wants to tell us about Himself can be found in the Bible. One of the things that He tells us over and over again is that if we looks for Him, we will find Him. Check out some of my favorite verses.

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Paul speaking to the religious but lost people of Athens said:

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God promises that if we look for Him, we will find Him. He says that even if we have our eyes closed and are bumping around in the dark feeling for Him, we will find Him because He is close by. God wants a relationship with us! He wants us to KNOW Him, not just facts about Him.

Jesus made this relationship possible! We can’t get to God by doing good things, following all the rules, praying a prayer, raising our hands, or going forward in church. We can only get to God by trusting that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for our sins.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

This is great news! But, how do we actually experience a relationship?”

When you get to know someone like the God of the Universe, you have to think outside of the box. He will blow your mind. You might not understand or being able to explain Him. And that’s okay with me!

God often seems kind of crazy, and He doesn’t usually make sense. Experiencing Him might make you cry, a lot, even when you’re not sad. But, He will also make you laugh. His love is ridiculous, and overwhelming, and amazing.

There is no magic formula for being a friend of God, no three step process. But, here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible. Sometimes we think we know what the Bible says, but we actually know what people SAY the Bible says. It might surprise you to actually read it for yourself. I highly recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual chunks of the NIV with some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit on a bluff at a cemetery overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and made me think about how short life is. Now, I just try to get up before my children. Haha!
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then His Spirit already lives inside of you. So, it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon or podcast and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

Will you take a chance, and step out in faith, and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? You were created for a relationship with Him. This is the true point of Christianity. You will not regret it!

 

Islam is Not the Enemy

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Warning: This is a rant. You might get offended.

Refuges, gun control, Muslims, Islam…hot topics in the last few weeks. Facebook is full of it: articles, memes, statuses, etc. Everyone has an opinion. People calling themselves Christians have opinions. And now I am going to get blunt. Some of their posts and the things they share are downright ignorant and offensive. Christians, this post is for you, those of you who claim to believe in Jesus as your Savior, I’m going to remind you of a couple of things and inform you of some others. Here we go! 🙂

Islam is not the enemy. Muslims are not the enemy, not even radical ones who commit acts of terrorism.

  • Did you know that a Muslim can never be certain if they are going to heaven or not? That they just have to hope in the mercy of Allah, hope that in the end their good deeds will outweigh their bad ones?
  • Did you know that most prayers in Islam are simply a repeated ritual and that Allah is not portrayed as a personal god to be known?
  • Did you know that the Quran cannot be read “in context” because the verses don’t always go together with the next verse? It was compiled after Muhammad’s death by men who had listened to him and memorized what he said. The first complete manuscript on record is dated 200 years after Muhammad’s death.
  • Did you know that in order to understand the Quran, Muslims rely on hadith, Muhammad’s words and actions recorded in tradition, kind of like biographies? Different types of Muslims rely on different authors because they don’t always agree.
  • Did you know that while Islam teaches that Jesus was a historical character, even a prophet, he was NOT the Son of God, he did NOT die on the cross, and he was NOT raised to life?

Islam is not the enemy. Just reading over these few points reminds me who the real enemy is – someone who not only hates God but also hates the people He created. Someone who is really good at telling lies and spinning half-truths. Someone whose main goals are to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy is Satan. Muslims are just lost children of God.

And these precious people are never going to find the truth about Jesus if the only Christians they encounter are so filled with fear and worry that all they can do is hate. They will never find Jesus if the Christians they meet don’t know their Bible, because devout Muslims not only know the Quran and the hadith, they also know the Bible. These lost children will never meet Jesus if they don’t meet Christians who know Him, who have an active relationship with Him.

So, Christians, stop it! Stop being afraid of what you don’t understand. Get educated. Stop expecting this world to be comfortable and satisfying. Stop being shocked and horrified when bad things happen. This is not our home! We were made for more! Stop living for yourself. Use your short vapor of a life to share Jesus because it’s gonna be over really soon. Stop fearing death or the unknown! Be bold, be confident, be fearless because you have the God of the Universe living inside of you, closer than your next breath. Stop believing lies! Start trusting in the truth.

These things that consume our thoughts, and the news, and our Facebook wall…none of them really matter. This world that seems to be falling apart just a little bit more every day…who cares? Let it fall! Because…

Two thousand years ago, a baby quietly slipped into our world. In a tiny town, in a tiny country, looking like an unplanned pregnancy with an unwed mother. Announced not to celebrities, but to a few despised shepherds. Laid not in a cradle, but in a stone feeding trough. Seemingly insignificant, but changing history. A baby, God. Choosing to live humbly among His people. Born to die. The One who spoke the world into existence dependent on His creation for nourishment. The backwards, inside-out, incomprehensible Kingdom had begun. The Promise fulfilled. God with man once again. Restoration. Hope. Peace. Life. Future!

Do you believe this? Do you? Then let’s live it! Let’s go all in! Let’s read God’s Word. Let’s believe it and live it! Let’s love Him and love people! Let’s get to know Him and follow Him. Let’s give Jesus our lives, let Him live through us, let Him change us! Let’s do this! Are you with me?

 

 

IMG_3645If you are interested in getting better informed about Islam, and better understanding Muslims, I just read a fabulous book called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity” by Nabeel Qureshi. Wow! Such a powerful story! Not only does it help to explain Islam, it also provides strong supports for Christianity. It might be my new favorite book and is available at Christian books stores for $17.99 or on Amazon for $13.99.

 

 

Chased by Grace – How God’s Word Changed a Life

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I love hearing stories (testimonies) about people finding Jesus, so I am going to be sharing a few of my favorites with you! You can find them under the “And Then I Met Jesus” category.

This first story is from my husband’s great-uncle Jim. The italicized words are my summary and the regular words are Uncle Jim’s. I hope you enjoy this account of the relentless pursuit of Jesus and the power of His living Word.

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Jim was raised in a loving, Christian home, exposed to the Bible, and taught the difference between right and wrong. He even married a wonderful, Christian girl who tried to keep him grounded and encouraged him to go to church, but he wasn’t interested.

“I suppose when it comes right down to it, I was completely without excuse. Like many, I ran away from the very thing needed for a fulfilled life; I ran away from God. I spent the first fifty-four years of my life without any desire for God. I was such a beach person and ocean enthusiast; I use to think I enjoyed that recreation because I had evolved from an ocean creature and was just returning to my origins. Perhaps I was an atheist or an agnostic, who knows, all I know is that my life had moved away from God and any plan he had for me. But, God has his ways.”

Through a course of events, Jim lost his job on the East Coast and was reassigned to an office in Southern California. Nothing went smoothly, and because their house wouldn’t sell, he ended up packing his car and driving across the country by himself. Jim was looking forward to the 4-5 day drive:  the freedom to choose his route, enjoy good restaurants, and listen to great music all by himself. God had other plans.

“Within the first hour, things changed. I realized there wasn’t going to be any music coming from my radio since it was on the fritz. Unless I had cassette music, which I didn’t, it would be 4-5 days of total silence. Shortly after beginning my journey west, I pulled off the freeway to get a cup of coffee. As I pulled into the parking spot, I noticed a lady just opening up her bookstore. I went in and started to look around. Long story short, I walked out ten minutes later having purchased a set of Bible cassette tapes Old and New Testament.

Just weeks before this, Jim had been in another bookstore in Canada and purchased a book on Bible prophecy. God was beginning to move in his heart. So, what made him decide to buy the Bible cassettes?

“Regarding the cassette tapes, I remember thinking it would be a good opportunity to take a close look at what the Bible was all about, since I really hadn’t paid much attention to it before. Besides, I didn’t have much else to do for the next 4-5 days and it would be a good chance for me to check it out and see if it was true. I got back on the freeway and was a few hours into Genesis when I remembered that I hadn’t gotten my cup of coffee. That was the reason I had pulled off the freeway in the first place! It seemed a bit odd, I thought. I pulled off again and got an extra large cup to keep me going.

After several days of continuous listening to the Bible, I was getting so engrossed that I would not even get out of the car to have lunch at a restaurant. Instead, I would search for a fast food drive thru so that I could keep the tapes playing. I even felt annoyed when I had to interrupt the cassette to order my food.”

Jim found himself feeling frustrated with the Jewish people. They were so stubborn and rebellious, but God just kept loving them. It seemed clear to Jim what God wanted from the Israelites, but they were always going off in their own direction. He was intrigued when God punished them, but then forgave them, and started dealing with them in love all over again.

“I had the sense that God really loved these Jewish people more than anyone else. In fact, I think I was jealous. I remember thinking that maybe I should call my mother when I got into my motel room that night to see if we had any Jewish blood in our family somewhere. Sort of silly now that I think of it, but it just pointed out how clear the Bible was about God’s love for these people. I grew up in a Christian family, so I knew enough about the Bible to know that God had a plan for all people, not just the Jews. About the time I entered California, my Bible cassettes were getting into the New Testament. That picture of God’s love for all people became clear, but I was not ready to believe it, not yet.”

At, the end of the fifth day, Jim made it to Long Beach, CA where he had an extended-stay hotel room waiting for him near his new job. Instead of going to his hotel though, Jim continued to drive around the local area because he didn’t want to stop listening to the New Testament. It finally dawned on him that he could purchase a portable cassette player and finish the Bible in his room. It was the weekend and Jim had a few days before his new job started so he was able to finish his audio Bible.

“I found a church close by that first Sunday and picked up a few Christian books to read that discussed various aspects of Christian theology. The next few weeks were a challenge for me. First, my new job was on the very fringe of my skill set. Second, I was getting frustrated with my time examining what the Bible was all about and who this God was. This was mostly due to my drinking habits.

Alcohol had become a part of Jim’s lifestyle as he spent years entertaining clients and enjoying first class flights and free drinks. After a long day at his new job, he would head back to the hotel and have a glass or two of wine as he read his new Christian books. Problem was, he would fall asleep and when he woke up the next morning everything he read was a blur. In frustration, Jim would pour the remaining wine down the sink. This became a pattern: buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with Christian books, fall asleep, wake up frustrated, and pour out the rest of the wine. Finally, he’d had enough! Jim realized that he needed Jesus.

“It was clear that God loves each one of his creations and had this wonderful plan for their lives. Every morning, I would resolve to take wine out of my life so I could understand more clearly what his plan was. One morning, after again not being able to remember clearly what I had read, I got down on my knees and cried and asked God to take away my urge for alcohol. I told him I could not do it on my own. I asked him to be a real part of my life and to take control. It was an emotional time for me. I was never an emotional type, but I understood my needs and my weaknesses.”

Jim saw his weakness and sin and understood his need. He believed in Jesus as his own Savior (John 3:16-18) and he found eternal life. The Spirit of Jesus Christ came into Jim and began to change him just as He has promised.

“Several weeks later, as I finished one of my books and was making notes in the margin, I realized it had been a few days since I’d had a glass of wine. It seemed strange that I did not notice it sooner. I can’t recall how many days of struggle I continued in before the grip had been broken. All I know is that I was spending more time reading Christian literature and waking up clear-minded in the morning remembering what I had read. God works in his own timing.

God has certainly changed my life and brought new meaning and purpose. It’s been twenty years now and I cannot thank him enough for his grace and forgiveness. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. After I gave my life to Christ, I immediately felt I had wasted my earlier years. I had spent 54 years serving my shallow desires and worldly lifestyle. But Romans 8:28 suggested to me that all things, including my early years, work for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. That verse helped me put my life in perspective. And indeed, God’s word is powerful. I’ve often said that the Bible should have a warning stamped on the front cover: “Caution, read at your own risk. This book will change your life!”

Isn’t this an amazing story of God’s grace and persistence in pursuing us? I love it! I hope you have been encouraged too. The Word of God is so powerful and His love is unstoppable!