I grew up in a wonderful home. My mom and dad loved each other, loved their kids and gave us a stable environment in which to find our way to adulthood. Church was a big part of our family life. My parents faithfully attended church and brought us on a week-in, week-out basis. It’s not surprising that our family was very involved in the music program of the church. Mom and Dad sang in the choir and my brother and sister and I were members of the youth choir and youth group. Many of myearly relationships were with friends that I met at church.
As I grew older, those in charge of the youth ministry noticed that I had some leadership skills; because of that I was asked to be a youth leader in our church. That meant I was required to attend meetings with the elders to serve as a representative for the youth in the big decisions of our church.
Here’s the irony, all of those opportunities, came while I wasn’t a believer! It’s seems a little absurd even writing that down.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t been given an opportunity to believe. I mean, I went through a confirmation class; I sat in hundreds of services and heard many, many messages. I remember distinctly a point in one particular youth group meeting where the leader asked everyone in the group to give a brief testimony of what God meant to us in our lives. As a senior in high school, I really had no answer - I just wasn’t a believer. Coming to that realization caused me to make a break from the tradition of church attendance when I moved out of my parent’s house.
Once I was out on my own I turned to the stereotypical pitfalls that young musicians are often associated with. I experimented with drugs, I lived a somewhat promiscuous life, staying out late and burning the candle at both ends. I’m not sure that I felt like I was in a dead end life style but I knew that I felt there was something more to life than what I was experiencing. I found myself drawn to reading about mysticism, eastern religions, and spiritualism. At the time I didn’t think I was trying to fill a God-shaped hole in my life, but looking back, I see that is exactly what I was doing.
A great truth began to unfold in my life; God is an initiator. The scriptures declare that Jesus is “the Author and finisher of our faith” and that God is long-suffering and not willing that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance. The Lord began a work in me then, that continues to this day!
My story of true repentance and belief began in a really strange way. Through some music career circumstances I found myself moving from Sacramento, California back to my hometown of Albuquerque to play in a band with some of my high school friends. We were all in our early 20’s and during my time away in California some things had changed in the lives of my friends. The drummer in the band, Mike Byrd, (who had been my first roommate when I moved out of my parents house) had started reading the Bible. He certainly wasn’t into that when he and I were living together. Truth be told, he wasn’t reading the Bible to become a believer, he was reading the Bible and interpreting it from a very mystical approach, numerology, mysticism and angelic beings were his emphasis.
Mike began to show me some of the scriptures in the Bible that were most intriguing to him. I didn’t automatically become a Christian but then what these conversations did accomplish was awaken my belief in God. Looking back on it now I can say that is where my faith journey really began. At that time nothing in my lifestyle changed but the seed of belief had been planted in my heart.
Several years after that I started a band with another one of my childhood friends, Kent Wall. During our year’s apart Kent involved himself in a religious group called The Way International. More on them later, but one important thing to know is that a key approach to their organization is that they stress Biblical Study. Kent began sharing the Bible with me in depth and I began to read the scriptures for the first time in my life all on my own. I had never wanted to do anything like that before and now found myself reading scripture on a daily basis. I never became a member of The Way International because I found some of their activities to be odd but I did take on their theology. It was at this time in my life that I began to see myself as a Christian.
Now I say I began to see myself as a Christian but now I know that I wasn’t truly a believer because there was no change in my life whatsoever. An interesting pattern was starting to emerge. The conversations I had with Mike Byrd brought about a change in my belief in God, but no change in behavior. My conversations with Kent brought about a desire to read the bible on a daily basis, but still no change in my behavior. A paradigm shift occurred in my thinking and believing but there was no change in my life.
“Why was their no change in my life?” Because the theology of The Way International, which I had taken on, had an erroneous and heretical view of who Jesus Christ is. They don’t believe that Jesus is God! They believe He is the Son of God, but not God the Son! That error makes all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between being a child of God and not being one. And it’s the difference between living a born again, spirit filled life or not. Without the Spirit of God in my life I was unable to change my life. I was unable to be delivered from my drug use, from my worldly thinking and speaking and from the darkness that still was evident in my life.
But thanks to God, that wasn’t the end of my story. My wife and I moved to Southern California, which ended up being the last piece in the puzzle of my finally coming to saving faith.
Once again, the story involves another long time friend I had grown up playing music with. This time, the friend was Mitch Ross. Mitch was the drummer in the band I was in with Kent Wall before I moved to Southern California. A year after Debbie and I moved to Southern California Mitch and his wife Karen did the same thing. Like Debbie and I, Mitch and his wife Karen had gotten involved in the theology of The Way International through Kent. Karen was working at a job in Orange County when one of her co-workers started asking her about her beliefs. When she answered those questions it was clear to her co-worker that our beliefs weren’t in keeping with orthodox Christianity. He began to plant seeds of truth about Who Jesus Christ really is, eternally existent, God the Son.
The four of us began to wrestle with these questions, wrestle with the scripture references that Karen’s coworker was asking us to read and reflect on. After several months of this back and forth of answering questions and having our theology confronted I felt my belief system begin to unravel. Around this time that I found myself one afternoon in my apartment reading a passage from 2nd Corinthians and I just knew in my heart that I could no longer deny the truth of who Jesus was, God incarnate. It’s that truth that changed my whole life because at that moment, I became born again; a new creation and the Spirit of God entered my life. In a moment I no longer had the same urges to do the drugs that had always been a part of my life. In a moment I had a desire to change the way I spoke and the way I thought and acted.
My journey of faith took nearly 10 years from the time I began to believe in God up until the moment I became a Christian. Of course, the journey isn’t over because I’m still in the process of becoming more like Jesus. That’s a day-to-day thing. But without a doubt, that moment in my apartment where I came to believe in the real, true Jesus was the defining difference in my life. It’s made me a different man, a different husband, a different father, a different child, a different musician and a different friend.
I hope that as you read this you can take encouragement from my story. Maybe because you have someone in your life who just doesn’t seem to believe. Maybe you have someone in your life that once believed but has now turned away. Or maybe it applies to you personally. If that’s the case then I pray you will follow the link below to see a wonderful video from my pastor on how to know God and what it means to come to saving faith.