When I became a Christian, about 15 years ago, one of the first questions I asked was, "Great, I'm a Christian...now what?"  As I've pastored for the last 10 years, I've heard that same question asked by nearly every person I've seen make a decision to follow Jesus.  After talking with one of our pastors, I've finally decided to jump in and write a short book to give to people who make decisions to follow Jesus here at BridgeWay.  I realize that similar books have been written, and I'm not sure I have all that much to add, but I think it will be a great tool to use at our church.  So since I'm going to be writing this thing anyway, I thought I'd post what I write on my blog to create some accountability, and to get some feedback as well.  Remember this is a first draft and no editor has look at it yet...so be gracious.

Chapter 1 - Spankings, Polyester Pants, and the End of the World

I grew up in what would best be called a "Christian home".  My family was active in church from my earliest memories.  Not only did they go to church, but they actually acted like you'd expect people who followed Jesus would act.  Not a bad start.

My parents wanted me to know Jesus, so they did what several Christian parents did in the late seventies and early eighties.  They put me in a private Christian school.  Now before you get all, "your parents were legalistic Christians" on me, let me just say that I loved going to private school.  At least until third-grade.  

Cheating came easy to me.  At first I was worried that I might get caught.  But, I discovered pretty quickly that I didn't have much to worry about.  That was until my usual third-grade teacher got pregnant and we had a substitute who actually checked our work.  Busted.

Getting caught cheating in a Christian school was a pretty big deal.  Kinda like when that Michael Fay kid got busted in Singapore for vandalizing cars.  Only difference was he got off with only four swats.  I on the other hand wasn't so lucky and scored at least six.

It was weird having my first spanking come from someone other than my parents.  It was also strange that it came from someone who was in spiritual leadership.  And it was the first time that I found myself questioning this whole Christianity thing.


I spent the next six years doing the things that most guys my age did.  Going to school.  Playing sports. Flirting with girls. And learning to sin.  I knew it was sin, because the principal at my school made sure I knew it was sin.  

The primary way I was educated about sin was by the twice weekly chapel services that I attended on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  These services were filled with dozens of other students all clad in red, white, and blue polyester from head to toe.  To an outsider, it must have looked like some kind of young republican's cult.

It was in these chapel services that I began to form my understanding of God.  Our principal, who was the primary speaker, explained that God was holy and had a standard for our lives.  As long as we obeyed God we were good to go, but disobey God and BLAMO!

I'm pretty sure that our principal knew exactly when I'd been sinning, because it seemed like every time I did he'd preach from Revelation or we'd watch one of those old "Thief in the Night" movies.  I lost a lot of sleep on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school I was pretty sure that God was nothing more than a divine policeman waiting for me to screw up.  And that Christianity was all about keeping God happy and making sure you didn't get "left behind".


As confused as I was about God, I felt a strong, almost indescribable, pull towards spiritual things.  I was intrigued by the Bible and especially Jesus.  While I didn't much care for the judgmental version of God I'd been taught in chapel, the version of God I saw in the person of Jesus was magnetic.

I didn't really talk about this with my family, but I did share it with a small group of friends who seemed to think that I might be "called to the ministry".

Being "called to the ministry" in conservative Christian circles of the time was on par with becoming a doctor or some other prestigious profession.  So the pressure was pretty huge.  So much so that I decided I didn't want anything to do with it. 

By the time I was a freshman in high school I wanted out, and I wanted out now.  I decided I was done with the whole "Christian" thing.  Problem was I was in a Christian school.  Pretty hard to not hear about God when you're forced to go to chapel twice a week.

I went to my parents and made up what I thought was a pretty killer reason for transferring to the public school.  I explained that I wanted to become an architect and that the Christian school didn't offer any drafting classes.  Bulletproof.  Right?  Apparently so, because my parents agreed with my rationale and I began my sophomore year at the public school.


Unfortunately, like many of my "great ideas", my runaway from God idea had a shorter shelf-life than clearance yogurt at the Save-a-lot.  By the time Christmas break rolled around I was making some pretty poor choices and beginning to pay the consequences.  Between feeling out of place in my new school, and getting suspended for fighting, my sophomore year had soured pretty quickly.  It wasn't long before I was back at the Christian school.  Like it or not.

My final two years of high school were filled with basketball, bad choices, and a couple of painful experiences that led me further from God than I'd ever dreamed possible.  

First I made some dumb choices that led to me being nearly expelled from school.  The only way I was allowed to stay in school was to stand up in front of the entire student body and "confess my sin" publicly in chapel.  Talk about humiliating.  No one wants to stand up in front of 100 peers and say, "Hey I lost my virginity...forgive me."  

Secondly, some "Christians" in our church began to spread rumors and talk negatively about my family, judging my parents for choices that their kids had made.  

I'd finally had enough.  I was done with God.  I was done with faith.  And I was done with the church. The lack of grace, and the disconnect I saw between Jesus and the people who said they were following him had taken it's toll.  Now don't get me wrong, there were still a lot a great people in the school and the church, I just couldn't see them at the time.  It would be two years before I'd pray or even think about God again.


Two years later, after months of weekend parties, skipping community college classes, and watching The Price is Right, I'd had enough.  I was still living at my parents house, and I was tired of living a life that seemed to be about as meaningful as a remake of Howard the Duck.  So I prayed for the first time in two years.  It went something like this.

"God.  I'm not sure if you're real or if you're just some lie that people told me to get me to do what they wanted me to do.  But if you are real, show me today and I'll follow you the rest of my life.  Show me that I'm running with the wrong crowd.  Show me that I'm pursuing the wrong career.  Show me I'm going to the wrong school.  Show me that I'm living for the wrong things, and that you still have some kind of "call" on my life. Amen."

It took about 2 minutes.  Long enough for me to miss the showcase showdown.

Shortly after I finished praying, my dad came home for lunch.  We sat at the kitchen table, ate some cold-cuts, and discussed some seriously deep stuff.  You know, things like when Bob Barker would retire, and why no one can eat just one Lays potato chip.  

After lunch, dad walked out the door, got in his work van, and started to head back to work.  But he never got out of the driveway.  In fact, he stopped the van.  Came back in the house.  And said, "Dale, we have to talk."

He proceeded to share from his heart, telling me how God wouldn't let him go back to work until he came in the house and told me that, "I was running with the wrong people. Pursuing the wrong career. Going to the wrong school. And living for the wrong things.  Oh yeah, and that God had some kind of call on my life."  

Spooky.  Right?

What made it especially strange is that my parents had never once, in the prior two years, confronted me about any of this.  This was the first time.  Coincidence?  I just couldn't believe that it was.  To me, this was God answering my prayer.  


One of the things that my dad helped me to understand that day was that there is a difference between religion and a relationship with God.  A lot of people have religion, but very few people have a relationship with God.  This explained for me how a lot of people could go to church and still act very little like Jesus.  They had religion, but not much of a relationship with God.

I was convinced if I was going to be a Christian, I wanted a relationship with God and not just religion.  I wanted to do more than just go to church and do churchy things.  I actually wanted to have a relationship with God, a real connection to my creator.  I refused to be a Christian poser.

So I decided to pray and ask God to forgive me for all the junk I'd done wrong over the past few years.  Then I asked God to set my life on a new path of meaning and purpose.  What's amazing about it is that God actually did it.  God changed my life.  And if you're reading this, God has either already changed your life or you're wanting Him to change it right now.

If you haven't prayed and asked God to give you a new start, I have written a prayer below that's similar to the prayer I prayed.  These words are not a magic formula.  Instead, they are words that I hope express your feelings towards God and what you would like God to do in your life.  If that's the case, I invite you to pray the following to God:

Dear God, I open my heart and I invite you inside.  I ask that you would forgive me of all that I've done wrong.  I thank you for Jesus, who died for me and gives me the opportunity to be connected to you.  I want to follow Jesus and become more like him.

Thank you for accepting me, and giving me a new start.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, then you have invited the God of the universe to begin working in your life.  What this also means is that you've just taken the first step in your own spiritual journey.  I'm honored to have been a part of the process.  I pray that the following pages serve you as a path that will help you to develop an actual relationship with God, and challenge you to be a part of something so much more than just a religion.

edit post


0 Response to 'Spankings, Polyester Pants, and the End of the World'

Post a Comment