I believe that every Christian has a testimony. This one is mine.
I grew up in the small town of Culpeper, Virginia to a Southern Baptist Momma and a United Methodist Dad. Still, our family didn’t go to church for the first few years of my life.
When I was about four, or so, Momma and Daddy joined the local Seventh Day Adventist church. That was my first experience with organized religion.
After a few months, the family switched to the Assembly of God church in Culpeper.
GIVING MY HEART TO THE LORD
My dad committed suicide when I was eight years old. By that time, our family was an established feature at the Culpeper AG church. That’s where Daddy’s funeral was held. We continued to go there for a time after his passing.
In April 1977, just before my tenth birthday, I heard a powerful sermon that evoked a tremendous response in me. Before I knew it, I was walking down the aisle in response to the alter call and I was all set to give my life to the Lord. That’s the way I thought it worked back then: you went down front, said a prayer, and BAM! You were in the club.
So, with tears filling my eyes, I went down to the front of the church and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to come into my heart.
It wasn’t long before we stopped going to church. The small town gossip train just got to be a bit much for Momma. Even church people can be so mean. Still, we never gave up our Christian faith. In our house, Christianity wasn’t a belief, it’s just the way things were. Noah’s flood was treated with the same historic weight as Washington crossing the Delaware.
When I was about thirty, my wife Cindy and I started taking our son, Kevin, to the local AG church in Phoenix, but it wasn’t the same. Unless you were part of the cliche, you didn’t count. It wasn’t long before we started attending another Pentecostal church pastored by my dear friend and fellow ex-wrestler Pastor Pat Malone.
All this time, I really thought I was an above average Christian. I could quote scripture, give advice, perform weddings, but my faith was, in large part, hollow. If I prayed one day, great. If I didn’t, no big deal. There was no hunger for God’s word, no thirst for His righteousness. That all changed after Cindy passed away.
ANGRY WITH GOD
After Cindy passed, I became angry with God. I never stopped believing in Him, but I sure was mad at Him. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to worship Him anymore. This all got compounded when another lady entered my life.
Six months after Cindy’s passing, I met a lady named Deborah at work. If love at first site is real, then this was it! We fell quickly for each other. Deborah is Roman Catholic and she was quite concerned that I am not.
To make a long story short, that difference in religious tradition spelled doom for our relationship. Even though we were engaged, Deborah broke up with me eight months after saying “yes.’
In less than two years, my heart had been shattered twice. Now, it had been ground nearly to dust. I still had some residual anger with God and I didn’t even know what to believe. Was Catholicism right? Should I have just converted? What should I do?
A FRESH LOOK
I decided to put aside everything I thought I knew about God and religion and look at everything with fresh eyes. I wasn’t even sure that Christianity was the right religion for me and, if it was, what flavor?
Ultimately, my decision to remain a Christian hinged on one simple question: Is Jesus Christ still alive today? After all, if he wasn’t alive now, then it didn’t matter which religion I chose, it’s all vanity.
In my research, I could find non-biblical writings mentioning the life and crucifixion of Christ, but not one mentioned that Roman or Jewish authorities had produced His body to disprove the resurrection. Given the stir that followers of “The Way” were making, they surely would have if they could have. That settled it. Christianity was the only choice. But which denomination?
I started studying the scripture, desparately hoping that Roman Catholicism would be proven right and I could win Deborah back. I prayed that God would show me how I just HAD to become Roman Catholic. I wanted that so much. But that’s not what happened.
As I studied, I began to get a clear picture of who God is and who I am in Christ. As I learned things, I wanted to learn more and more. For the first time in my life, I was not only hungry for God’s truth, I was starving! Much to my surprise and consternation, scripture led me to Reformed Theology (a.k.a. “Calvinism”), something I had argued against my entire Christian life, but here it was. There was no denying what sacred scripture taught. I was stunned, but I accepted it.
As time when on, I found a wonderful Reformed church in Queen Creek and made many wonderful friends. I am still friends with my Pentecostal church family and love them all. Those differences of doctrine which divide us are not as important as the foundational doctrines which unite us.
And this, my friends, is my testimony or as I call it “how a life-long Pentecostal became a five-point Calvinist.”
May God bless you richly.