Chapter 1. A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away
Well, at least to hear Katie tell it. I'm Old, she teases.
In some ways I still feel like a child. In many ways I never grew up.
I was born into a military family. My dad was overseas for half my childhood (at least!). It wasn't all at once. It was a six-month tour over somewhere, so we had to move off base. When he returned, he would usually have a new assignment, so we would have to move. Then a year and a half over somewhere else (we would have to move off base again).
My mom was a single parent for half my childhood. Life was tough. I never finished a school year in the same school I started in. I made friends, but they were all pretty much short-term ones.
So my mom took strength in being religious. She and my dad were very conservative. Very. VERY. But more about that in a bit.
We went to the Church of Christ. One of their teachings is that you have to be water-baptized by immersion to be saved. At the age of 8 I was scared stiff at the thought of hell. I knew I was a bad boy -- my parents spanked me (paddle, belt, board, what have you) often enough. And I persuaded my parents that I really, really wanted to be saved so I wouldn't go to hell. One of the most frequent sermon themes at the Church of Christ was If You Aren't Baptized You Are Going To Hell. Another was, If You ARE Baptized, But You Sin Before You Die, You Are Going To Hell Anyway. But you didn’t have a change to escape Hell if you weren’t Baptized, no matter how good you were.
The family changed from the Church of Christ after an introduction to Premillennial teachings through Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth.
My mom and dad saw that premillennialism was a huge shift from the a-millennial position of the Church of Christ. They read through every prophetic book in the Scripture. Our home Bible Studies were based on this. Finally they were convinced.
And since being premillennial in an a-millennial church is rather awkward, we accepted an invitation to a "home church," a small group of people who identified themselves as "Plymouth Brethren."
After a few Sundays, my mom "got saved." The Church of Christ was a works-salvation church. The Plymouth Brethren believed salvation was by faith, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Once you were saved, you were always saved. You could not be "lost."
It took me several more weeks before I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I argued with myself that I had done that when I got baptized. But no, I was told that I couldn't come to Jesus with any works to be saved, so one night I asked Him to save me.
I remember it well. At the home church one evening, about two months or so after we had started attending, a girl I liked (Jeanne) asked me how long I had been saved.
Heh. The question was one I could have easily answered in the Church of Christ. I was saved when I got baptized at the age of 8. But now I knew I couldn’t be saved by my good works. I just hadn’t actually asked Jesus to be my Savior, yet. I was a proud and arrogant young man. I was a “good boy.” I didn’t swear. I was a conservative. I obeyed my parents. I tried to do the right thing, to be courteous to others whether they deserved it or not. I didn’t really think I had much of anything to be saved from.
But Jeanne’s question nagged at me. I answered it with, “I don’t know, but it hasn’t been long.” At the time I said it, I knew I was lying. I wasn’t “saved.” I was still trying to save myself.
So in my bedroom that Sunday night, I got down beside my bed on my knees and told God that I was sorry. I gave up trying to be saved by good works. I asked Jesus to save me from my sins.
That was a real conversion moment. I knew what I had done, and why. I had asked Jesus to save me, and on the reassurance of the Word of God, He had saved me. I no longer had to doubt. I was trusting Christ for my salvation, nothing else.
And yes, I told Jeanne the truth the next time I saw her. I told everyone that I had gotten saved. It was a powerful moment that has never left me. The memory of it has never dimmed. The emotions, the tears and the relief I felt I still feel when I remember that night.