Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Invitation

This new website “The Grace & Mercy of the Lord” will be dedicated to people telling their testimony about how they came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It will also be open to people telling about God doing an extraordinary work in their life. I will merely kick it off by giving my testimony.

If you would like to add your testimony of salvation…please click on the comments or e-mail icon below. Be sure to include your name and your website link if you have one. As the testimonies come in…I will be sure to feature your story on the grace and mercy of God in your life.

I Will Testify of the Grace & Mercy of the Lord

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior relatively late in my life…at the age of 32. When I look at the statistics on how many people are saved as they get older…I am even more grateful for my salvation in Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you how God worked in my life. As a child growing up…we did not go to church. I’m not sure I can answer exactly why that was except my father Frank was not a Christian. He was more of an intellectual…and while he believed that there was a God…he did not know the God of the Bible. He did not accept
Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

My mom Gayle on the hand had been raised as a Lutheran. She and my dad met during World War II…and were married. While my mom was raised in the church…I don’t think her faith was very deep…nor her knowledge of the Bible extensive. After all she had been willing to marry an unbeliever and raise her children without going to church or teaching them about God.

As a child…our family didn’t read the Bible or pray. I don’t even remember going to church on Easter or Christmas.

While I never witnessed my father’s belief in God…it is my hope that before he died when I was ten…he may have accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He died a few short weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. He was taken to a hospital a couple of hundred miles from home…and I never saw him again. I wasn’t even told he was dying nor given the chance to say goodbye.

Following my dad’s death…my mom and I started attending church. When we moved to California and we went to church with my grandparents Mary and Henry. We went to a St. Olaf’s Lutheran church in Garden Grove.

This was the first time in my life that I had ever gone to church…at least on a regular basis. While my parent’s faith was not readily apparent…they did have me baptized as a baby. Not sure I exactly understand why my parents had me baptized when God was not a part of their everyday lives.

As a child…I did have a curiosity and a desire to go to church. Now this will sound strange…but I even remember lying to a friend when I was about 8 years old…telling her that we attended church.

When I started attending church with my mom and grandparents…I was still not a believer…but God as working on my heart. Even back then…I always wanted to sit in the front row. Whenever possible…I do so today. I love it…no distractions…and I can focus on the sermon and what God wants me to learn.

The Pastor at the St. Olaf’s church was pretty hip as I recall. This would have been back in the early 70’s. A few years after we had moved…he broke his back while body surfing. To an 11 or 12 year old girl…he seem older…at least middle age. But now I wonder how old he was during that time. It will be an interesting conversation with him when I get to heaven.

While living in California for the first time…I went to summer camp through the YWCA. I was terribly homesick…my first time away from home. But within a week or two…the home sickness wore off and I fell in love with camp and stayed the entire summer. At camp…I remember singing songs around the campfire…song about God. Songs like “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.” Through those songs…God was wooing me to Himself. But it would still be many years before I would make a conscious decision for Christ.

However during this time…Satan was also planting seeds. My mom was now attending nursing school full time. We had moved and lived in an apartment complex…and I had a lot of time to myself. What filled that time? Food and TV…both of which were destructive influences in my life…both then…and long term.

bout this time…is when I started to use food to sooth my pain. Going down the path would lead me to being overweight during much of my life until I was 38. I also used another mind numbing agent…TV. You’ve heard the term…latch key kid. Well I was one of them. I watched soap operas…and while not as bad as they are today…nothing good came of that activity. During this time…I started watching the show Dark Shadows…a show about vampires. Supplemented by a diet of other TV shows including Bewitched eventually lead me down a path of new age during my late teens and into my twenties.

In 1972, my mom and I moved to Prescott, Arizona and my grandmother moved in with us. My grandfather was still alive…but in a nursing home. We attended a Methodist church and I went to Sunday School for the first time.

A couple of years after that…in 1974 my mother remarried. She married Joseph Lorenat…and man with a deep abiding faith in God. As we became a “blended family” one of the new things was attending church each week as a family. Joe was Catholic…and we attended Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Placentia, California.

The worship service in the Catholic church is different than a protestant church. It’s more formal and structured. But I had a regular diet of the word God during that time. One Priest that I clearly recall was a visiting Priest, Father Kenney. He was very dynamic…and captivated my attention. He was an on fire Bible believing, Bible teaching preacher.

During this time…I attended church…because it was what we did as a family. My faith was not my own. Yet…it exposed me to God and planted seeds that God would use to bring me to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. After high school…going to church became optional…and at a certain point I stopped going.

That’s about the time…when “new age” teachings caught my attention. Everything from astrology to palm reading to crystals. I read oodles of books…by the likes of Edgar Casey and the Seth books. Jack Addington and Terri Cole Whittaker also held my attention with their teaching of Religious Science. This led me down a dark path that could have easily ended with me spending an eternity in hell.

One scene that stands out in my mind was visiting a local new age teaching center. They had a fair which I attended to get some new materials. While I was there perusing the booths I ran into a lady and her husband. The lady was there to get some book on astrology or some other new age philosophy. We started chatting…and what blew me away is when she said she was a Christian. She was incredulous that I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. Even back then…I thought to myself, “Lady I’m not the one who is confused. Jesus Christ and Christianity are not compatible with the new age movement.”

That encounter really stuck with me. When I finally accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior I was a passionate about Christians being educated and well grounded in their knowledge of the word of God.

I kind of muddled around in that new age philosophy for quit some time. At one point…I was just plain angry at God because of how my life was turning out. For a while I decided that he didn’t exist and I would live my life however I pleased. That didn’t last for long…because I realized that even if I decided to not serve Him…that indeed God exists.

During this time of my wayward travels…God was with me…and planted seeds for His kingdom. He did so with the likes of a long term Christian friend Kathy. While not the person who directly lead me to Christ…hers was a steady influence of Christ in my life. If it had not been for Kathy…I’m not sure who would have been that witness in my life.

God also brought other Christians into my path. When you are not a believer…Christians can be down right irritating…a real annoyance. One such person was a lady by the name of Eleanor. I worked with her at one of my first jobs at Wineman’s Department Store. She was a quiet, humble Christian woman…firm in her faith. I was a young, know it all kid who wanted nothing to do with her or her God. I wish I could speak with Eleanor now…to let her know that indeed I eventually did come to know and receive Christ as my Lord and Savior.

In 1989, I moved into a home in Fullerton, California. I shared that place with several friends…Kathy, Julie and Dawn. This home would be the place where God would wield the death knell to my days of unbelief. He did so…in a very subtle, unassuming fashion. Not beating me over the head with doctrine and debates over the truth of Christianity…but instead through the gentle force of love.

God brought into my life the Bock family. Then it was only four members…Nancy and David and their children Monica and Brandon. They were a boat load love and embraced me. They didn’t debate faith…they just lived it out. Always one to reach out and include my roommates and me. Include us in their lives…and special events. Their love is what watered the seeds that God had sown earlier. I lived in that house a short two years…but those years would transform my life. Praise God.

I then moved again to share an apartment with my friend Dawn. Shortly thereafter…within week, if not days…I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I picked up the Bible…and said “God I believe it’s true…and I want to know you.” I wanted the peace and love that the Bock family had. Not exactly knowing the full significance of that decision I can’t tell you the exact day…but I remember it clearly.

I started going to church…the church that I knew I wanted to go to was the Crystal Cathedral. I had on occasion attended that church when my mom and I had moved to California in the early 70’s. While I was there I was baptized…sprinkled. I only attended the Crystal Cathedral for about a year or so. While it wasn’t the deepest Christian teaching I’ve sat under…it got me on the road. I do remember one associate Pastor, Bruce Larson who was a good Bible study teacher.

During this time…I was also heavily listening to Christian radio…I couldn’t get enough of it. I was listening to KWVE...and Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. I started attending Calvary Chapel…and did so for a number of years. They have some awesome teaching…that is well grounded in the Bible. One of my favorite teachers was David Hocking.

David started teaching at Calvary Chapel after he had fallen from grace at his former church Calvary Church Santa Ana. David is a great Bible teacher…and he made studying the Bible very exciting. During this time…I was getting some great Bible teaching. But I was also growing restless. That’s when I made the leap to another church.

I ended up changing churches and started attending Saddleback Church. It was so alive and I loved the music and worship. Saddleback Church is where I was baptized for the last time. Baptism according to scripture…full emersion.

But this change also proved damaging to my walk as a Christian. While the music and worship is great at Saddleback…the Biblical teaching is watered down to make the Sunday worship service enticing to non-believers. Indeed an unbeliever could attend that church and feel fine…and not fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not acknowledge that they are a sinner on the way to hell and in need of a Savior.

The holiness and righteousness of God was lost in the translation for me. Instead of a regular diet of God’s word…I was given a weekly message that made me feel good. I now have a deep abiding passion for the word of God…like never before…and a distain for churches that water down the gospel. Yet…I blame only myself for my fall.

I like Paul can say with assurance…that nothing good lives in me.

17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. –

Romans 7:17-19

During this time…I knowingly chose to step into a relationship with a guy who is a severe alcoholic. You see I was desperate to be married…and wasn’t too keen on God’s plan for me that said wait or no to marriage. So like Abraham I decided to help God out and take some action of my own. By golly this guy was in deep need of help…and I was ready to step right in.

Like Abraham’s choice to disobey God…my choice proved to be a bad one. The hurt, pain and scars of this relationship…went very deep. But I thank God, He did not leave me there. Instead He brought Nadine into my life. Nadine…would introduce me to Bible Study Fellowship.

I’m not sure how many times Nadine asked me to attend BSF. But my “no’s” did not deter her from asking again. Praise God!

In 1998, I started attending
Bible Study Fellowship. Intimidating and overwhelming to a person relatively new to an in-depth Bible Study. But oh my goodness…it transformed my life. That transformation…combined with some awesome Bible teaching from a Pastor whom I would soon meet has given me a deep abiding passion and love for the word of God.

I’ve been in
Bible Study Fellowship since 1998…but did drop out for a little over a year. During the Albertson’s strike…I was working a crazy amount of hours…and stopped just as the study of Israel and the Minor Prophets was getting underway. It would be about a year before I realized the deep hole that was there since I had stopped BSF.

I am crazy about
Bible Study Fellowship. Each year I’m in the class…even if it’s a study I’ve done before I grow and get something new out of it. It’s wonderful bonding with the other women in our group during the school year. This year…we will be studying Romans. I would encourage you to go online…and sign up. You will not regret it.

Bible Study Fellowship class I attend is at Calvary Church Santa Ana. One evening the Pastor David Mitchell came to briefly address the class. Through the Bible teaching of BSF I came to realize that I needed to get rooted and grounded in a church that uncompromisingly taught the word of God. So I made the leap from Saddleback Church to Calvary Church Santa Ana…a change I will never regret.

That first Sunday…I went to just the first service…but got info on the many Bible studies that took place each Sunday. The next week…I decided to attend one of the studies that took place at Calvary…it was called Kindred Fellowship. God used this Bible Study to make another profound change and leap in my faith.

The guy who taught this Bible Study was excited and passionate about the Word of God. He gave it to you in a straight forward, no nonsense kick-butt kind of way. I loved it…and loved Chuck Obremski…from the first time I heard him preach. I thank God daily for bringing Chuck and the people who would become my church family into my life.

Chuck was just crazy enough to feel sorry for the poor slug who would rather go golfing on Sunday instead of going to church and studying God’s word. That passion and the excellent Bible teaching was infectious…and grew my love for God and His precious, holy word…even deeper.

Well Kindred’s Bible Study…continued to grow…and soon we ventured out to start our own church
Kindred Community Church. God had His hand on our Pastor and on our church. We studied the Bible in depth each week…a wonderful process that has given me a love a passion for the word of God. We spent about 70 weeks studying the book of Luke.

During this time…my beloved Pastor Chuck Obremski was diagnosed with cancer. At first it seemed unimaginable that it would be part of God’s plan to take Chuck home while all this great Bible teaching was going on. We were growing closer and more tightly knit as congregation and learning to trust and depend on God, not our circumstances.

Well God’s plan varied from our own…and indeed it was His will to call home His faithful servant Chuck Obremski on September 18, 2005. But our God is faithful…and He has remained with us. We as a church…and as individuals have a passion for God’s word…and love sharing that word with a needy, hurting sinful world. When you run into a person who attends Kindred…don’t be surprised if they take out a CD, hand it to you with the admonition that you really need to listen to this one. Of course they will be ready to hand you more at a moment’s notice.

I can thank God alone that I am one of those people who have a passion for handing out the word of God to people whom I encounter.

I know first hand the power of God’s word in my own life, in the life of our church…and in the life of my beloved Pastor who finished well and finished strong. He heard those words that I long to hear when I meet Jesus Christ face to face, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

So that’s my story and my testimony on how I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. How God poured out His grace and mercy upon His servant. God who loved me and chose me before the foundation of the world. God who is faithful when I am faithless. God who sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within me to lead me guide me and direct me. Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father…who is preparing a place for me and intercedes for me daily. Jesus who will one day welcome me home.

Well…that’s my story. Now I’d love to hear yours. Please click on the comments icon or e-mail me your story of salvation and God’s work in your life…and I’ll post it.

May this website be one that brings honor, glory and praise to our God. May we be keenly aware and ever mindful of the presence of God in our lives.

Lord bless…and I look forward to hearing from each of you.