I praise God that I had the priviledge of growing up in a strong Christian family and I came to accept Jesus and know Him personally at an early age. As a result I had the strength through Christ to stay out of a lot of trouble through my teen years and had a relatively easy time of standing up for Him. But I was not totally sold out for Him as I had an idol that rivaled Him for dominance in my life, that idol was the sport of Rodeo. I was a proficient roper and steer wreslter and planned on a long career if competition. I had even bargained with the Lord saying I would serve Him doing anything anywhere as long as I could still compete in rodeo. I had even chosen to study toward being a teacher so I could have summers off to rodeo.
But I praise the Lord that it was during my first two years of college that He taught me the true meaning of His being Lord of my life in every area of my life. His biggest tool was the campus ministry of Inter-Varsity which I had become active with. He developed in me a consistency of meeting with Him daily in devotions, sharing the good new with those around me and even gave me the priviledge of leading a dorm Bible study in my dorm room. Yet, He was still to deal with my rodeo problem. After my second year of college as I was gearing up to persue my steer wrestling with all out vigor, I tore the ligaments in my knee and was out for the season with a full leg cast.
That summer the Lord began to deal with me big time. For the first time I realized I could live without rodeo and He helped me to develope even a more personal relationship with Him as He became my prime focus. Also, friends talked me into going to Inter-Varsity's Mission conference Urbana '84 that coming winter. It was there that the Lord called me into "ocupational ministry," I use this term for lack of a better one as we are all called into full-time ministry no matter what our occupation. As a result I transfered to Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College in Phoenix, AZ, the next fall. That's right, Conservative Baptist, meaning anti-charismatic. That is the next part of my testimony.
It was during the time spent at Southwestern College that I met my wonderful wife Cheryl. But sad to say, it was also here that the seeds of Pharaseeism where first planted. As happens to so many Bible College and Seminary students I began to substitute my studies for my personal time spent in the Word. I began to rely on my own "knowledge" of Scripture and theology instead of the Holy Spirit and oftern times relying on my own abilities and programs instead of the leading and power of Christ Himself. I graduated from Southwestern with a B.A. in pastoral studies and attended a year of Seminary at Midwester Seminary (Southern Baptist) in Kansas City, MO. I then went on to spend three years as a Pastor/Missionary with Village Missions, a ministry dedicated to providing pastoral leadership to rural churches in America which could not support a full-time pastor.
It was actually during this time with Village Missions that the Lord began to soften my heart again and draw me close to Him again and He also used my wife Cheryl to open my eyes to all He wanted for us and for His church. She had always had a very personal intimate relationship with Christ during our marriage. In fact, she would visually sit down with Him during her times of devotions and He had given her several visions. Of course in the time of it we kept it very quiet as this was not accepted in our realm of "Chrisianity" and often times she was very frustrated and wondered if she was crazy. But the Lord had laid it upon my heart that this was real and that there was more to having a personal relationship that just knowing the right things to do and say. To make a long story short we began to listen to Him and follow His leading and often times got us in trouble for the churches we served were stuck in legalism and traditionalism and they liked it that way and anything else scared them, as a result we were dismissed from our second church.
It was at this time the Lord shut the door on "full-time" Christian ministry and went so far as to call me out of this type of ministry. This was a very easy time for my wife as she saw what He was doing but it was a very difficult time for me as I had spent five years of college for this and the ministry, it was obvious had become and idol to me. But once again the Lord began to work an greater work in my life and open my eyes and my heart to a deeper, truer relationship with Him. Working in the secular world I became to understand the freedom He had given me to be a witness to the lost. I was no longer a preacher perceived as doing only my job in witnessing, but rather I was just an ordinary man sharing for no gain for myself but rather for the love of those I was sharing with. But things still were not rosy.
As Cheryl and I sought the Lord, believing ALL of what His Word said and offered to us, we became more and more dissatisfied with the "church." God was so real in our devotions and time spent with Him at home and in the workplace, but when we went to church on Sunday mornings it was obvious to us that He was not there in that building and often times we felt as all we were doing was singing to the walls and doing the right thing by going to the services. We began to see that it had become an organizational church rather than the Body of Christ which He intended it. We tried several different churches but soon became so frustrated with the Pharaseeism that we quit all together. For about a year the Lord dealt with us in this desert as He began to break down wall after wall in our hearts and even confront the spirit of Pharaseeism in our own hearts. This was a wonderful time of His opening up our understanding but after a year of this He began to call us back to His Church.
One day as I was in a nearby city I passed by a building and the Lord pressed upon my heart to take notice. It was the Abundant Life Church of which I knew nothing about but I did know that the Lord wanted us there that following Sunday, so that is what we did. Of course it was an AOG church which we did not know at the time, and it was completely different that what we were used to. There were people dancing, raising hands, lying on the floor, ect.. And even at the end of the service they laid hands on many and they were slain in the Spirit. Although this was different than anything we had ever seen, and had even been taught against in previous years, we could not leave, for we KNEW we were in the presence of the Lord. His presence filled the place and we knew we were where we belonged. We soon met with the pastor and through Jack Deere's book "Surprised by the Spirit" the Lord opened up a whole new understanding.
In Christ's Love,