Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Story (Part 2) - Plugged in to Discipleship

Click Here to Read Part 1

The next morning was a day I will never forget.  May 7, 1988.  That morning, as I finally crawled out of bed with a new joy in my heart, my Mom called me into her room.  She was on the phone with my Christian Aunt back in Florida.  My Mom asked me, "So, your Aunt wants to know how the concert was."  I gulped.  I muttered the response, "It was really good."  Before I could walk away, she followed up with, "Did anything happen during the concert?"  No wiggling out of this one.  I had to confess that I had become one of those born again Christians.  This was about a year after the Jim Bakker scandal became public.  Now I was "one of them"?  I recalled a conversation that took place at my Grandmother's house maybe two years earlier.  My Mom said, "I hope my kids become religious, but just not fanatics."  I'm sure my Aunt was about to be thrilled, but what about my Mom?  I don't remember my exact words, but it was something like, "I gave my life to Jesus and became a Christian."  My Mom simply smiled and said, "Oh, OK.  You can go now."  She went back to talking to my Aunt and I went to the living room frightened by the conversation that was sure to soon take place with my Mom when she got off the phone.

Valley View Village Church
Sure enough, she hung up and we talked.  It turns out that earlier in the year, when she was in the hospital, my Aunt came to visit her and she shared the Gospel with her.  My Mom had given her life to Christ there in the hospital room!  We were able to share a moment of rejoicing together.  My Mom had also been talking to a friend of her's, whose son was someone I knew from school.  They attended a church in Valley View, which was only about a 10-minute drive from our house.  And so, risking family scandal of not going to Mass, my Mom and I paid a visit to Valley View Village Church.

From our first visit to Valley View, we fell in love.  I was immediately embraced by the youth group and the people were warm and friendly.  The preaching was like nothing I had ever heard before.  The pastor, Larry Bennett, taught from passages of the Bible, explaining what they meant and applied them to life.  I didn't know the name for it was expository preaching, but I knew I loved it.  I was learning so much, I was like a sponge just taking in everything I could!

Pastor Larry Bennett
The summer of 1988 was filled with youth group activities, church services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and hanging out with friends from youth group.  In fact, one family from the church lived right across the street and it became the "hub" of everything.  It felt like if I wasn't in the church, we were across the street.

On September 25, 1988, during the Sunday night service, my Mom and I were baptized together.  Those first few months at Valley View developed a foundation of discipleship in my life that served as a source of strength and encouragement as I began high school that Fall.  It wasn't a perfect summer, though.  I wrestled with the pressures of my new life in Christ surrounded by friends, and a girlfriend at the time, who did not quite understand what had happened to me.  It resulted in the end of that relationship and kept me out of the loop when I started football camp that summer.  But, I still used those opportunities to tell my friends about Jesus.  I got weird looks, but that was fine.  I had a new group of friends who were there to support me back at church.

By the end of 1988, my brother and my Dad had also come to Christ.  I can remember being at church one Sunday morning when my pastor gave an altar call for people to come forward to receive Christ during the final song.  I was looking at the hymnal and not paying much attention when my new girlfriend from the youth group began poking my side frantically.  I turned and saw my Dad walking down the aisle.  I cannot describe the joy that filled my heart my morning.

Phil Chalmers
My first shattering moment came when our youth pastor, Phil Chalmers left.  He had been such an amazing influence on me in my early days of following Jesus.  I remember to this day when he finally pulled me aside in the church parking lot and, after an entire summer of urging me to stop listening to Poison, Motely Crue and other bands not edifying to my soul, he said, "You will never take another step closer to Jesus until you get rid of those tapes."  God brought such conviction to my heart that I put them all in a box and got rid of them once and for all.  I am deeply thankful for his willingness to speak the truth in love to me.  It was moments like this that would make it hard for me to get used to a new youth pastor.  Little did I know what God had in store for me.

Part 3

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