Here’s My Jesus Story

Friend-with-Jesus-clearBack in the days of the church,  people would ask about your testimony and how you “got saved”. Some would have dramatic tales of their conversion experience and others would testify to God’s amazing grace. I am hesitant to share my own story because I don’t have a stirring story to tell of my own experience of salvation. I’m fact, it isn’t very exciting and not what people would assume.

I grew up as a preacher’s kid and was raised in the church. My life revolved around church. I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and other times mixed in. Church was my dad’s business.

Most would assumed that I was “saved” under my Dad’s preaching. I was not. For the first 14 years of my life, I sat on the pew every Sunday and listened to his sermons. Sometimes I was even the subject of them. The fact of simply growing up in church and being there every Sunday did not automatically earn me salvation. Salvation also wasn’t something that I inherited simply because my father and my grandfather were preachers. I also don’t have a story to tell of when Jesus reached His hand way down to me and pulled me out from my sinful ways as I often heard others testify about. Not that I was perfect – far from it – but my story was different from others.  I even had a pastor once who belittled my experience by saying that I cut my teeth on the church pews. While I may not have been the typical idea of what a sinner was to look like, I still had my own experience.

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Evangelist Bruce Scotton in the 1980s

While growing up in church I knew about Jesus and was taught about Him but I never had a personal experience until 1978 when my dad scheduled a revival with a young African-American man named Bruce Scotton. At the time, Bruce was an evangelist who was in high demand for revivals within our church denomination in Georgia. The best description I could give you of Bruce was that he looked just like the character “Rerun” on the 1970s “What’s Happening” television show. While we had evangelists in our home before but Bruce was different. When evangelists would come stay with us, I would be forced to give up my room for the evangelist during the week they were with us and was mostly ignored. Bruce was different. During the week Bruce was with us, he spent time with me. He didn’t ignore me like others had done. He took an interest in me. I clearly remember how we would play games with my Mattel Handheld football game as he would rock back and forth as he was trying to score a touchdown.

During the week he ran the revival out our church and preached, I saw another side of God. One that was personal to me. A God that knew me. God was finally relatable to me and not just a church.  I think the example Bruce showed me during his stay with us helped me to see that God could be a friend.

My dad wasn’t a bad man, he was just really strict and more of a preacher than a father in those years. My image of God and relationship with Jesus was not real until Bruce was there that week. That week I felt like I connected with Jesus for the first time in my life.

I eventually lost contact with Bruce in the years that followed but I will never forget the impact he made in my life and how he helped me to my first experience with God.  My relationship with God has grown since then.  It has been a journey of ups and downs.  I have also had to unlearn things that the church taught me.  It hasn’t always been easy but I have relied upon my personal experience with Jesus.  I know people feel a bit uneasy when you say “Jesus” but when you have had the experience I have had and gone through what I have gone through, you know the one who has been there and not ashamed of it.

I may have cut my teeth on the church pews and may not have a dramatic testimony of being saved but I needed a personal relationship with Jesus too. The key word is “personal” which I did not have until that revival week. Perhaps the worst thing of all is to go to church every Sunday and never have a personal relationship with Jesus. To be so close yet not know Him.

We all have our stories of salvation. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God whether we are sitting in the church or in the gutter somewhere. People need to drop the pious, self-righteous attitude and realize that we are not perfect and we all make our way on this journey the best way we can.

 

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Jesus: Influence in Art and Life

Jesus and Wedding at Cana – Largest Painting in the Louvre Museum in Paris

On our recent amazing trip through Europe, we had the opportunity to visit several churches and museums. We saw some amazing works of art. Speaking as a believer in Jesus Christ (please don’t cringe when I say that) I noticed that a lot of art was either inspired by Jesus or about the life of Jesus. The thought that always came to my mind was that there must have truly been something to all of this. I know there will be some who would argue that this doesn’t prove anything or that Jesus didn’t exist or, at least, he wasn’t more than just a man. After seeing these masterpieces of art, I have to disagree. There was something definitely about Jesus. I can’t believe that artists would have gone to these lengths create such influential pieces of art.

I have heard some say before that Jesus was either an imposter or the real thing.

Yes, there’s something to this Jesus. It’s really difficult today to even talk about Jesus. When you even say something about Jesus people want to cringe or back away. It seems that it’s okay to say God but when you narrow it down to Jesus, people tend to get a bit uncomfortable. They think you’re one of “those” people. Yes, there are some of “those” people who are a bit over the edge of anyone’s comfort zones but being a believer isn’t about being a “Jesus freak” about things or walking around preaching to people using “Thou Shalt Not” or informing people that they are going to hell. I’m sure if Jesus were walking around with us today He would be embarrassed by these people who make Him and His message look bad. He was never in the first picket line and He never pointed a condemning finger at people. He never asked people to join his church or any ridiculous ritual to join his club. In fact, the religious rulers were the ones Jesus was the harshest with.

Jesus influenced the lives of people which inspired them to create incredible works of art. I’m afraid that Jesus isn’t doing so well in influencing people today because we are making it a political statement rather than just loving people. Yes, there are people in their sins but can’t we still love instead of acting like a Jesus tactical unit ready to take down anyone that isn’t abiding by the rules we think they should follow? I think it is much more effective to love people and set the example. If you are ever around me, I never try to “witness” to anyone and although I have a family history of preachers in my family, I am not going to preach to you. Now, if you ask, I will tell you more but I’m not going to force feed you Jesus or participate in a pointless debate.

You don’t have to holler and scream to convince someone to become a believer. Some think they can preach someone into believing or win some sort of debate. Let me assure you that you won’t debate someone into believing. I have never seen it where the other side relents and believes. I guess it works sometimes but I haven’t experienced it – ever.

Jesus influenced early artists and people with his life. When you go to the Vatican, whether you are Catholic or not – you can sense a presence of God there. Yes, the Catholic Church has its problems as with every other church organization but Jesus definitely had a hand in it. We are all quick to criticize what we don’t know. Sure, there are some wrong teachings in every church and that’s why it is important to dedicate ourselves to apply ourselves to maintaining our own relationship with Jesus Christ. Trust me, you can’t always get your truth from a preacher. Now, there are some good ones out there who do their best to teach their people the right way to live as a believer but even these would caution you to follow Jesus and not their ministry.

Make no mistake about it, there is definitely something about Jesus.

Awesome Songs of Easter

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Easter Sunday was always my favorite day to attend church. It was a tradition for me which started at an early age. When I was a child it was about wearing new clothes to church and the Easter Egg Hunt after church. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the positive message of the resurrection. It has always been exciting to hear about that morning when Jesus walked out of His tomb. Good Friday became an even better Sunday.

During a period of my life, I was a church youth leader and my favorite activity was to direct the Easter program at church. I was always one who was a bit eccentric and liked to do things different. Each year when I planned the Easter program, I would pick a powerful Easter song and have our young people to play roles in acting out the song. These programs were a lot of work but they were always very fulfilling when they were performed. I always had a wonderful group to help me. We had fun but they were all also very committed to what we were doing.

My early productions were rather basic but I found ways to improve each year. The year I discovered the effects of dry ice was an awesome discovery as I learned how to create fog or smoke effects, especially when the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Another year I managed to save tubes of fake blood from Halloween to use them for the productions. The blood was so lifelike that one elderly lady didn’t like it and left. I’m not sure what she was expecting from us acting out a song called “This Blood Is For You”.

Since I would always use modern contemporary Christian songs, there were always the traditional people who would express their dislike for our “worldly” music. In other words, we weren’t acting out songs from the church hymnal.  That’s okay because everyone’s tastes are different, I just liked using songs that were effective to stir the emotions of people and understand the importance of this day.

It was exciting to bring life to some awesome Easter songs. When I refer to Easter songs I am referring to songs about the resurrection.

Here is a list of some of my favorites along with a link to a performance of that song:

  • “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (Listen)
  • “Arise my Love” by Newsong (Listen)
  • “The Champion” by Carman (Listen)
  • “He Lives” by Lakewood Church by Cindy Cruse Ratcliff (Listen)
  • “Rise Again” by Dallas Holm (Listen)
  • “Was It A Morning Like This” by Sandi Patty (Listen)
  • “Jesus Is Alive” by Ron Kenoly (Listen)
  • “Celebrate Jesus” by Don Moen (Listen)
  • “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither (Listen)
  • “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” by Sandy Patti and Larnelle Harris (Listen)

It’s very difficult for me to pick a favorite from the list above.  I can only say that they all have their own ways of bringing out hope and maybe cause a few goose bumps to appear when you listen to them.  I think the first one that I remember which really stuck with me was the first time I heard the song “He’s Alive”.  My first time hearing this song was not the Don Francisco version but one sung by a man that has meant a lot to me.  He was my first counselor in Youth Camp many, many years ago.  He is an awesome banjo player and he performed a memorable version of this song.  I have never forgotten it.

So if you are looking for an awesome Easter song today, I highly recommend any of those on the list above.

Although not an Easter song, the final scene from the movie “Passion of the Christ” is perhaps the best movie scene which depicts the resurrection.  I think it’s pretty powerful.  You can view the scene below: