April 4, 2007

In participation with "Testimony Tuesday"

I have heard of many new holidays in recent years, usually created by the likes of a Hallmark or American Greetings company aimed at selling more cards. But obviously for other reasons, Tim Challies’ at his blog, Challies.com, has declared today “Testimony Tuesday,” inviting the myriad of bloggers to stand up and testify to God’s rich grace in their lives. I couldn’t exactly find an online greeting card for the occasion, but decided to slip in my own personal word of praise before the stroke of midnight (did I make it?) on this year’s “Testimony Tuesday.”

Unlike many testimonies that I’ve read today at Challies.com, I did not grow up in a Christian home or church. Oh, we had religion, but we didn’t have Christ. I would join my older sister and brother in attending Mass each Sunday with Dad; Mom never attended. Interestingly enough, something about that place captured my interest; I soon became an altar boy, assisted the priests with the Mass and various other duties around the church, and frequently imagined becoming a priest one day. But long before I knew, God was working out a different plan. Only years later would I learn that His plan included the prayers of a dear Christian aunt living in Cincinnati who hardly knew me, yet had been faithfully praying for me and my salvation since my birth.

My sister was the first to encounter the Savior and receive the gift of faith, through the witness of a Bible college student living in a nearby apartment. But it was my brother’s conversion that was most instrumental in my own encounter with God. A new believer, he told me one afternoon that he had decided to be baptized in the Baptist Church – “Wow,” I thought, “My brother’s got guts!” But when he next told me that he was going to invite Dad to come to the service, I thought he was really seeking a battle. You see, ecumenicalism hadn’t yet come of age, at least in my little town in western New York; Catholics just didn’t go inside non-Catholic churches, for any reason. But God … (don’t you love those words in Ephesians?) … But God … had other plans. My brother asked. My father said yes not only for him but for our whole family. And soon I was on foreign soil, a Catholic teen in a Baptist pew, listening to what I would later know to be the gospel – the good news.

It is interesting to look back on that night and ask myself, “Did I leave that place a new creature in Christ?” Or were seeds sown and watered and fertilized that night, with the harvest coming a bit later? I cannot honestly say for certain. But the harvest did come. God’s work of regeneration was done. By the grace of God alone, through faith, I called upon the name of the Lord, and believed.

Life clearly took on some changes from that day foreword, as in church attendance, family relationships, even school performance. To this day, I can still remember that feeling of freshness as I read Genesis and beyond for the very first time. I had traversed some rough junior high years that took me through some hard and emotional times, resulting in some counseling. But I later remember sensing a distinct difference in my thinking with Christ at the helm that soon lead me away from the sessions and medication, replacing them instead with a growing trust in the Savior’s presence and abilities.

I am ashamed to say that the years since have not reflected ever-consistent spiritual growth, or an ever-increasing hunger and thirst after the Savior. I am indeed not without sin. There are ample times when I would so welcome the ability to rewind the videotape of my life, not to view it but to change it. But our God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and not treating us as our sins deserve. And in his graciousness and lovingkindness, including His discipline, the Lord has faithfully guided me along and blessed me with innumerable blessings, far beyond what one’s imagination might conceive. Today, years later, I am headed into year #22 of marriage. I have an incredible wife, three solid children, and the privilege of working every day for a ministry-focused organization, The Banner of Truth.

My maternal grandmother, perhaps a bit eccentric in her later years, would often say, “I can remember back better than I can ahead.” Still with the smile that that always brought to my face, there is some rich truth in what she was saying.” For you see, I, too, can remember back better, and it is good to do so, because that’s where I can see the hand of God on so many different aspects of my life. And in looking back, I am encouraged and my faith grows.

We do serve an absolutely wonderful God!
Grace & peace,


Nikki said...

Thanks for sharing, Steve! You definitely have a story that is unlike most of the others on the links list. It's amazing to see all the different ways that God works to bring his children to him.

TimBix said...

Thank you for sharing your testimony in a way that gives God the praise. It is an encouragement to hear of God's gracious working in the lives of other believers.
Tim Bixby

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