Posted by: toddzilla | January 10, 2007

Request #1 My Faith Journey

Well, Loren, you asked so here it is (this is a LONG post…sorry about that…I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff, so bear with me):

My faith journey…journey is such a perfect word for it.  Too many Christians accept Christ and then go back to their normal life or like the parable seed that grew in shallow soil, they bloom for a while then fade out over time.  That’s more of a faith trip or faith vacation.  I guess our first task is to let it be a true journey.

I was raised in the church, well not literally, but I was a churchgoer from day one and a member of First Baptist Church in Graham.  The unfortunate thing about being raised in the church is that when you decide to accept Christ, it has the feel of being just the next step…something that you’re expected to do and I did at age 8.  I was baptized on March 31, 1985.  I remember the exact date because I was told that was my second birthday, my re-birthday.  The thing is, I don’t think I really started my journey that day.  That came about 10 years later.  In the meantime I was in spiritual cruise control…going through the motions.  Going to church and Sunday school, saying my prayers, but not really letting God in.

In college, my journey began.  Freshman year I moved away from the church.  I wasn’t a scoundrel by any means, but I let my attendance drop and was more dismissive of it all…chasing girlies…or a girl to be exact.  Well she broke my heart and that combined with excrutiatingly difficult classes and my need to bury myself in studying in an attempt to heal myself…well, I was in need of God’s help.  He showed up at my dorm door in the form of Matt and Larry.  Every night Matt or Larry would pop their head in and give me a heads up about a quick prayer session at 11:00.  I brushed them off and stuck my nose back in my Thermodynamics book…until I couldn’t come up with any more excuses.  I sat down with a group of about five guys and we all talked about prayer requests and praise reports and then something new (to me) happened.  Larry said “I’ll open it” and Matt said “I’ll close”, the lights were turned off and there was a brief moment of quiet until Larry spoke up and went into a heartfelt prayer retelling the requests and adding to it.  Silence…then another voice and so on until the silence was long enough for Matt to get the hint and close it out.  I stayed quiet, but was moved.  Well eventually prayer time was on my agenda every night and I either opened or closed.  Whenever I walked through the halls Larry would notice a heavy heart or whatever and ask if I needed to talk.  he would grab a Snickers and we would pray and talk.  then one day it was my turn.  A guy came up to me one night and I noticed he was upset, so I pulled him into the room and we talked.  I remember looking out the window and quietly asking God for help to guide me so that I could help out.  We talked and it ended with him smiling, a hug and a heartfelt “I love you”.  I was so shocked that I think I just mumbled something.  I’d never heard that from a guy.  It was awkward for a split second…but powerful ever since.

My sophomore year (I think) I got involved with leading the youth group at Mt. Olive Baptist and it was the best thing I’ve ever done as far as my faith journey goes.  I gave the kids a hard time and kidded around, fumbled through many, many youth and Sunday school lessons through the years.  I watched some leave the group when they got the drivers licenses or turned 18. I watched some stay through college.  I watched some deteriorate despite all I and the other leaders did.  I tried too hard to be cool and neglected the kids spiritual needs sometimes.  But overall they taught me much more than I ever taught them.  My most powerful faith journey week was when I went with them to Augusta Georgia one July on a hot mission trip and I will just have to write that one up in another post.

I got a call one day while home after graduating.  It was one of the prayer group guys from Owen Hall at NCSU…Larry was dead, in his early 20’s.  Heart attack while playing basketball…he died on the court.  I struggled with this for several days, it was the ol’ God, why did you have to let this happen to such a good guy bit.  One day while driving, God answered and touched my heart to let me know that when his servants have done their work, he calls them home and it was powerful because I was part of Larry’s work.

I kept helping the youth at Mt. Olive and even moved into children’s sermons and teaching the senior adult class.  I will tell you one thing…don’t half-step when it comes to teaching 90 year olds!  They will set you straight…kindly and respectfully of course.

Growing up Baptist was an experience and I am so glad that I was a part of that before it got all political.  That in itself its by definition, so un-Baptist!  The three major tenets of the Baptist faith as I understand them are: the Bible is the inerrant word of God, the priesthood of the believer (God has endowed each individual to spread the word and baptize others as well as intepret the scriptures), and the observation of two sacraments (not a Baptist word by the way): the Lord’s Supper (on fifth sundays…inside joke) and baptism by dunking (now whether or not baptism was a requirement for salvation is debatable…see “priesthood of the believer” above).  My interpretation of these tenets has given me a bit of trepidation about denominational beliefs.  I mean if I go to a certain denomination of church does that mean I have to believe in…predestination, for example?  I just don’t buy that and I’m not into non-denominational churches either…too non-commital.  I just don’t see where the church should interpret God for us.  I think the journey of faith is one where the individual walks with God and learns from him and others…then allows that experience to guide them.

The political chargings of the Southern Baptist Convention (a convention telling Baptist churches what to believe is so anti-Baptist to begin with) began to wear on me, but it didn’t really affect the day to day at Mt. Olive.  The Convention’s ramblings were not required to be followed by individual churches.  The Convention’s insistence to rule on such issues as women’s roles in the church and homosexuality was a real put-off to me.  I don’t get the feel from the Bible or God’s teachings to me that we should in any way limit anybody’s access to God (stuff for another post I guess).

Well, I met who would become my wife…and she was…GASP…Catholic!  Though with her background as with my own, I think it was just something you were supposed to be.  She’s from Buffalo and I challenge you to find many baptist churches up there, likewise the same held true for Catholic church down here in NC.  Well we discussed it and agreed to meet in the middle, granted that would mean a much greater jump for her as she would cross the “Protestant Divide”.  Somehow we settled on Methodist and I’m still trying to get it all down…old dog/new tricks.  We Baptists always joked about the Methodist church (which was always….ALWAYS right across the street from the Baptist one) burning down because the firemen had to sprinkle water on it.  Hey-Yo!

I had gotten out of teaching Sunday school and helping with the youth until this year when my wife Cheryl helped to motivate me and push me back into it and I am very grateful to her for being my rock and for whipping me into action.  Christ United Methodist has given me a chance to help out and I am thoroughly enjoying it!  The group of young adults here is so diverse, learned, faithful, and full of integrity that they are helping Cheryl and I grow tremendously.

What have I learned over the years?  Well we had a tragedy back home this year where a young father and good friend, a shining example of Christ’s love and integrity was killed in front of his children in a freak vehicular accident at Mt. Olive.  Having been a pall bearer something like 7 times by age 25 and losing a cousin to a drunk driver, I had been around a lot of death and a fair amount of tragedy, but this…wow.  Well I was reunited with several of my old Mt Olive youth…my kids as I called them (I’m old beyond my years).  Well they met me with open arms and kept me up to date on what they had going on in college and whatnot.  I guess I may be selfish, but it made me feel good and I realized that the good that you do is not always immediately known.  So hang in there and do the right thing.  You may never see the fruit of your labor and patience, but integrity and the strength God gives wins out.  Now if I only I could make good with all that “my kids” have taught me!

Bullet points of my faith learnings:

-God takes his servants home when they have done His work…hence “the good do die young” but that doesn’t mean that the old are a bunch of jerks.  They are just continuing God’s work…He just called them for longer tours

-There is NO reason to deny anyone access to Christ

-Everyone is created in God’s image, do you treat them that way?

-Christianity is a journey where mistakes are made and pain exists, but God uses it to teach us if we truly listen.

-I thought I had faith…good faith, but God has blessed me so much that I don’t feel that I’ve been tested…will I have faith like Job?  Should I fear the fact that God may put me through the ringer?

-Job didn’t have patience…he had faith

-The book of Job paints Satan wonderfully…Satan can’t make us do it.  he can only tempt us.  He can’t hurt us (unless God wills it) so we shouldn’t fear him.  We should be wary of his presence and prepare for his temptations.  Oh yeah, he doesn’t rule hell (like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons where Sylvester the cat falls through a manhole and there’s Satan in Hell).  No, Satan roams the world and Hell is meant to punish him…that’s my take anyway.

-We never judge ourselves accurately, but we sure think we’ve got everyone else pegged!  We should listen…God teaches us in weird ways

-As Christians, we study God’s truth (His word) and he teaches us His grace, we should balance the two and not condemn, but love

-Kids, no matter what age…teach us so much…they see life through unbiased eyes.  Until some age where they start to take on our prejudices

-Youth tend to leave the church at either age 16 or 18…hold on to them and prep them for college or wherever else life takes them

-Youth have a BS detector…don’t try to be cool.  It doesn’t work…at all.

-I hate that bumper sticker that says “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”…perfect example of not letting faith be a journey.

Sorry for the long post thanks for reading this far!  Tell me some of your journey’s truths

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Responses

  1. Praise God! You have an awesome testimony complete with the struggles that we all endure. Mine has been a turbulant road but a very joyous journey. Gods peace passes understanding and his mercy endureth forever. I don’t say that just to quote scripture but because it’s from the heart of one who’se been to Calvary, but has also made mistakes along the way. Truly our sufficiency is in Christ. Thanks for sharing your story

  2. Todd,

    What an incredible journey. You are an awesome man of God and a great friend. (Even if you are a North Carolina State fan). God’s grace is shown through you and in your relations with others. Never lose that fire for God.

    I’m looking forward to Sunday.

    Shannon

  3. Todd,

    Thanks for sharing from your heart and your life. Your story is a great reminder to us all of the difficult choices we have to make and the faithfulness of God. Keep walking and keep the Methodists in line!

    Peace-
    Greg

  4. Wow, it is great to look back and see the road that brought us here, just think about the future. If i had a top ten blog posts, that would be in it!


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