This week our guest lecturer is Zane Black. He is on staff at Timberline (one of our sister schools just across the mountains) and also works with Dare-2-Share, an awesome ministry that equips young people to talk about their faith. Zane is on fire for Christ and it has been awesome learning from him so far this week.
He said something last night that struck me: “Your story is really His story…and that’s all you need.” I have never been good at sharing my faith, and I think that’s because I have been so focused on having all the answers, and less focused on whose story it really is. I don’t have to have all the answers, and that is really comforting. Hearing Zane say that made me realize that it’s not all about head knowledge, it’s about life experience, and how Christ has worked in my life. So I thought I would get on here and share a little bit about my story.
I was born at a very young age (I couldn’t resist) on November 14th to my lovely parents, and joined my sister in making their life more difficult. I was raised in the church, but my faith was always just my parents faith. I went to church because they did, and I kept going because I got lots of candy and got to hang out with my friends. Skipping ahead, when I got to high school I was still going to church (I was even singing up front helping lead worship), but I was living a double life. When I was at church, or church events, I was the one that knew all the verses and typical church answers. But when I was at school, I was whoever I needed to be liked. Towards the end of the summer before my senior year of high school I was hanging out with some guys and got a phone call that one of my best friends since elementary school had been in a car accident, and that one of the other people involved in the crash had died. I became so angry with God. Why would He allow that to happen? My friend didn’t deserve this. Who did He think He was doing this to my friend. After that I turned my back on God. I didn’t want to worship a God that would let that kind of thing happen. So I turned to the things of this world. I used the gifts God had given me for evil. I started drinking a lot and partying more. I would tell girls whatever they wanted to hear so I could get what I wanted from them, and then never talk to them again. I had become so consumed by this lifestyle that I shut everyone out. Even my best “friends” weren’t really my friends. I was never open with them unless it was of some benefit to me.
I graduated high school as a kid who had no idea who he was. A lot of my older friends were at U of O (University of Oregon), and I heard they had a really good party scene, so I decided to go there. I could feel God telling me not to go, but I had ignored Him for so long, and my heart had become so hardened towards Him, that it was barely more than a whisper. And a whisper is pretty easy to ignore. At U of O I continued my life of sin, joined a fraternity, and lived the “college life”. I was beyond drunk almost every weekend, and although I put on a front of happiness, I was miserable. Apparently the Holy Spirit doesn’t enjoy hangovers, and He was letting me know it. I almost completely stopped going to class, and I honestly don’t know how even passed my classes.
When I moved home from Eugene, I was angry. Angry at my parents because they told me that they weren’t going to pay for me to go back to school just so I could barely get by, angry at God, and angry with myself. I didn’t want to set foot into a church again, but because of the respect I have for my parents, I decided I would suffer through it every week. My parents told me that I should pray about where God wanted me to go. The idea of praying for guidance was a foreign concept for me. But I decided I’d do it because I didn’t expect to hear an answer, so I could tell my parents that I prayed, and then do whatever I wanted to do, just like always. I didn’t talk to God anymore, so why would He talk to me?….or so I thought. Now, I’ve heard stories about God dramatically intervening in people’s lives, but I never thought it would ever happen to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For whatever reason, I decided I’d go read my bible and pray…because I assumed that was the correct order of things. For three days in a row, I would flip through the pages with my thing, close my eyes, and randomly stop somewhere and read it. Well, for three days in a row I found myself reading Jonah…I know…crazy right? Especially because in the midst of the mini-novel sized books of the Old Testament, Jonah is only 4 chapters, and is only 1 page front and back. So as far as probability goes…I shouldn’t have stopped on that exact page once, let alone three days in a row.
Now, in the midst of all this my parents were renting out the extra rooms in our house. I was really skeptical, and expected to have to put up with weird people. What I didn’t expect was to come home to find two of the kindest, most joyful, God-fearing women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I didn’t understand how they could be so genuine when they asked me how I was doing. Most of the time it upset me that they could be so joyful when I was so angry at everything. Although they didn’t know it at the time, I was very close to walking away from Christ altogether. But because of the love that they both showed me in my time of need, Christ melted my heart of stone. I can look back and honestly say that if it weren’t for them, there is no way that I would be at a bible school in Colorado. It was absolutely God’s will for them to be in my parents’ house, and to become part of my family, and without them, I would still be lost.
By the end of summer I wasn’t nearly as angry as I had been, and although I wasn’t living my life for Jesus yet, I was beginning to come around. I started taking classes at a local community college and was living at home, surrounded by the love of Christ. I still wasn’t sure why God had made Jonah about as obvious as a neon flashing sign, but I kept thinking about it. So when I went to church one Sunday and my pastor said “We’re starting a series on Jonah this week…” it was like the sign just got made into a billboard, and everything hit me all at once and I started crying in church before the sermon even started (I can’t imagine what the people around me thought, seeing this kid crying before the sermon had even started…usually that doesn’t happen until afterwards).
So, I ended up turning back to God, realizing that it was pointless to run (as Psalm 139 makes it clear, there is nowhere you can go to escape God), and went to a bible school. It wasn’t until a week ago today that I gave me entire life to Christ. Everything I’m now doing, is not me, but Christ doing it. As Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
I can’t even listen to the song “Amazing Grace” without tearing up. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”…I find myself speechless when I try to explain my gratitude to God for rescuing me from my life of sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by GRACE you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Did you hear that? It’s a gift. You don’t have to do anything but accept it. Sure, you can argue theology all day, but you can’t argue the change that has occured in my life because of this gift of grace.
I am no longer the man I once was, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). The same God who created the heavens and the earth loves me, and has redeemed me. And He loves you too…so what are you waiting for? All it takes is to accept the gift that Christ freely offers, and you will “have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
This is my story. Which is really His story. He’s waiting to tell His story in your life. Will you let Him?