Sometimes life can be difficult to understand. Some people just give up and refuse to let God have His way. Yet, in spite of how things may seem, God surely does have a plan! His ultimate purpose for us has always been for our own good (Jer. 29:11). We can trust Him!
I was born and raised in the city of New Philadelphia, Ohio. My two younger sisters and I were raised going to church every Sunday with our parents. Because of the religious way our parents trained us, my cousin, who was like a brother to me, laughingly referred to me as “wholesome Dave” even though I often tried my hardest to prove to him otherwise. Nevertheless, as far as I was concerned, our family was a very good “Christian”, church-going family.
The first years of my life seemed to take a clear direction. It seemed like everything was falling in place just perfectly. Little did I imagine that all my plans were soon to be reordered by the hand of a sovereign God! Everything began to change when I came in contact with some youth who were starting a Christian singing group. They needed a guitarist and asked if I could help. I agreed without hesitation. For the previous two years I had enjoyed playing guitar for a "rock and roll" band that a close cousin of mine had initiated for me. But that group eventually broke up, so now with another opportunity for me to be involved in music again, I was quite excited. "It's just another kind of music," I told myself.
Even though the love of music was my purpose for joining, the Lord had another plan in mind. Before long, I began to see something special about my new friends. To them, church was more than a mere religious routine. They talked about Jesus as if they had a special relationship with Him.
Up until then I had been very satisfied with "my religion". I went to church every Sunday with my family. I prayed every day. I read the Bible. I did enough good works (at least in my opinion). Yet even with all "my religion", I never felt personally intimate with the Lord like my friends did. Their joy and enthusiasm about Jesus was something which I longed to have.
I began attending a weekly home Bible study and often went to church with them as well. Hearing the way in which they prayed. I began to pray with similar words: "Jesus, be the Lord of my life." "Come into my heart, dear Lord." Outwardly, I probably looked just like my friends; but inside, I was secretly struggling to know the Lord in the same way that they did.
A few months later, during their home Bible study I began to notice that they were all talking with great assurance that they would go to heaven when they died. This truly surprised me. Before I could think, the question came tumbling out of my mouth:
"How do all of you know so assuredly
that you are good enough to go to heaven?"
They all quickly responded to me by gathering around and telling me about an experience they referred to as "salvation" or being "born again". They explained that no one could ever be good enough to go to heaven. All of us are sinners from the day we were born. God is righteous and demands that all sin be paid for by eternal punishment in a place called the "lake of fire" or "hell". Our sinfulness in God's eyes is too great. There are simply not enough good works that even the best of people could do in order to be "good enough" to go to heaven.
Suddenly my eyes were opened and the death and resurrection of Christ became extremely personal to me. That night, before going to bed, I prayed for the first time with the understanding that I stood before God as a wretched sinner. All my religion and good works were filthy rags to His holy eyes of fire. Humility and gratitude filled my soul as I realized that Christ died for my sins. Jesus died and rose again for me! With a newly found faith, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.
At that very moment something wonderful took place. A quiet, yet traumatic change took over my entire being. It had nothing to do with my emotions. In fact, at the time, I felt very withdrawn emotionally. What happened to me was a complete inner transformation! Suddenly I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that all my "filthy rags" of sin had been removed. Jesus had clothed me as His very own child. A sweetness filled my soul. I had been "born again" — I belonged to a new family! Heaven would be my eternal home!
From that day on, a hunger and thirst to know the Lord filled my soul. Just three months later, after meeting one man of God who sacrificed much time to teach me accurately from the Scriptures, I experienced two further spiritual blessings: I obeyed the Lord in "Water Baptism" and immediately afterwards received what the Bible calls the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit", and as I came out of the water, I began speaking in "tongues" – a wonderful heavenly language of praise and prayer.
Just a few weeks after these blessed experiences, my sister's boyfriend and I were jogging down a country road. It seemed like a good opportunity to tell him of my salvation experience.
"Paul," I said, "if die right now, I know without a doubt that I'll go to heaven to be with Jesus!"
For some reason he became very angry with me and began to ask where I thought people of other religions would go if they died. "Do you think you're better than everyone else?" he asked with a glare in his eyes. But before I could answer, he ran on without me. He told my sister he was so upset with me that, were it not for the fact that I was her brother, he would have punched me right in the face!
Later that same night, I shared the Gospel with my sister and told her how l had been born again. The Lord wonderfully touched her and she began to weep and cry as she gave her life to Christ. Within just a few days, her boyfriend also gave his life to Jesus and today they are happily married and living for the Lord. Soon the senior year of high school started. I felt God's blessing upon my life and all my studies seemed to be successful. My life's plans continued In the same direction . . . until a dramatic event took place.
On a January night, less than six months after I had been born again, the news suddenly came that Dad was sick with cancer. He had gone to the hospital for tests, and unexpectedly, they found the disease. It was traumatic for our whole family. The sky was clear and the ground was covered with snow as I spent that whole night walking up and down the road near our house. Life took on new meaning as I had a heart-to-heart talk with the Lord. "Dear Jesus, You alone know the number of pages in my life's book. Maybe I only have a few days left to live? Isn't it true that You are coming back soon? Lord Jesus, I give my life, my plans, my everything to You. I want to do Your perfect will. Please help me to yield to you!"
Words that someone once penned seemed to be written upon my heart:
"Only one life, ‘twill soon be
only what's done for Christ will last."
At that time I did not fully understand what had taken place inside of me; but little by little the Lord began to unfold His plan. He heard me that night as I gave my life unconditionally to Him; and He has lovingly held me to that prayer until this very day. During those first six months of my new life in the Lord, I tried to witness to my parents, but they had always seemed satisfied with their religion lust like I had been.
Nevertheless, God had a plan for them, also! While still in the hospital, Dad was visited by a Spirit-filled minister who shared the Gospel with him. He received Jesus as his Savior that very day and received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in "tongues", praising and worshipping Jesus while taking a shower right in the hospital! Praises to Jesus! Some weeks later, my mom experienced the "new birth" and received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as well. Then they both obeyed the Lord in Water Baptism.
For the next five months before going to be with the Lord, Dad held weekly meetings in our home where several from the church they attended received Jesus as their Savior and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Some even received healing!
The Lord tugged upon my heart more and more as each day went by. By the end of the five months, I knew that He wanted me to serve Him. The Lord called Dad to his eternal home in June of this year. There was much grief in our family: but we all, nevertheless, felt deep gratitude for salvation and the wonderful promise of eternal life.
During those summer months, I continued seeking God for His will. In September, knowing the Lord had guided me, I joined a mission-oriented church where I began training to serve the Lord on the mission field.
For the first two years, 1977 to 1979, I worked as a teacher and pastor at a private Christian school in Washington, DC. During the following 10 years, 1979 to 1989, I labored as a pastor in over twenty different churches throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. I was also greatly enriched spiritually during a tour that a group of us took in 1981 throughout India, Sri Lanka, England and France. I have a very deep and warm appreciation for the privilege that God has given me to serve Him!
In 1988, God had another special plan for me. Through a unique series of circumstances, I met a wonderful girl named Marietta. Seven years before I had met her, she had been "born again" and knew that God had called her to serve Him. I had placed several conditions before the Lord about marriage, and was waiting upon Him to answer at just the right time. Jesus had breathed faith in my heart that He would be faithful to me if I put my whole trust in Him. I knew that such a lifetime decision was something into which God alone could guide me.
August 19, 1989 was the special day in which the two of us were united in marriage in Miami, FL. Then in August of 1991, the Lord opened the door for us to pastor a Church in San Francisco, CA. Later, in 1994, because of an extreme burden that we felt for children, the Lord led us to open up Christian Life Academy, a Christian private elementary and high-school from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
Today, our only goal as a married couple is to passionately love our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and out of that love to make ourselves one hundred percent available to Him to use us as He should so please in building His Church. Ecclesiastes 4:11 tells us that "a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Our earnest prayer, therefore, is that the Lordship of Jesus Christ would be that "third" cord entwined throughout every part of our lives together, to the praise and glory of His wonderfully amazing grace!
God does have a plan for you!
When life seems utterly meaningless and even contrary at times, you must realize that God is still deeply concerned for you. An elderly pastor told me something that revolutionized my entire way of thinking. He told me that there is one secret that has always kept him sweet at heart even in the hardest of times:
"Learn to see everything from the Hand of God."
It seems like a simple solution, and yet it is so impossible at times! Nevertheless, when we get bitter and resentful in life's trials and disappointments, we'll soon find ourselves incapable of making correct decisions in life. How sad It Is to see someone become sour when life deals out its hardships.
One precious promise in Romans 8:28 tells us:
"And we know that all things work together for
to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Isaiah 28:29 gives us another thought:
"This also cometh
forth from the Lord of hosts,
which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
Regardless of difficult circumstances that may arise, if you can say from your heart the first part of this verse:
"This [the very situation which you are
also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts!"
. . . then the Lord will always be faithful to bring the blessed assurance found in the second part of the verse:
"Yes, My child, I am wonderful
in counsel and excellent in working!"
If you have never been born again – saved, forgiven, and cleansed from your sins through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, then today can be that opportunity for you! Simply believe upon the Lord with all your heart and you shall be saved!
Or perhaps you already know the Lord, but are having difficulty in surrendering your life to Him. Then take this time to reflect upon God's ultimate goodness in having provided a Savior for you. Certainly "He who spared not his own Son" would not withhold any good thing from you! Give your life to Him unconditionally. Don't hesitate. Do it today. You will never regret it!
If you have any questions or simply need someone to talk to, please contact us. We would love to talk to you!