My mother became a Christian at the age of 10 in a Baptist church Sunday School class. My father was about the same age when he accepted Christ. His family was Presbyterian, but started attending a Baptist church in Des Moines, Iowa when the new preacher told his sister she couldn’t teach that ‘bloody religion’ in his church.
After graduating from high school, my mother moved into Des Moines, Iowa to live with a relative and mom and dad met at an inter-church fellowship. Their romance blossomed in spite of the intrusion of WWII and they were married in 1943. Dad was deployed to Germany and was wounded one month before VE Day. When he came home, they started working on building a family; I was the first of four. Dad and Mom determined to have a family that was focused on worshiping God. Dad prayed before every meal, mom read us Bible stories from The Children’s Book of Bible Stories they bought at Sears and they taught us to pray before bedtime. I remember knowing about God’s love as a little boy from my parent’s example.
I also remember going to church with my parents every time there was a meeting. One Sunday morning when I was five years old, I was listening to a sermon on heaven and hell. The thought of going to hell frightened me, but heaven comforted me. The preacher said we had a choice set before us. The verse he used was Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
When the invitation was given for anyone to raise their hand if they wanted Jesus to come into their heart, I raised my hand. My aunt, who was sitting beside me, took my hand and lowered it saying “You’re too young.”
When the preacher said “If anyone wants to accept Jesus as Savior, come to the front.” I got out of my seat, but my aunt held me back.
Then the preacher said “If there is someone who didn’t come forward for some reason, you can ask Jesus into your heart right where you sit.” He used Revelation 3: 20, Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. I asked Jesus to come into my heart, but didn’t tell my parents because I thought they would think I was too young to know what I was doing.
One day, soon after I made my decision, my kindergarten teacher divided our class into several groups. The kids in our group had to paint a picture and describe the picture to the class. I painted a picture of Christ on the cross and told the class how Jesus had died on the cross for their sins and if they would ask Him into their heart he would take them to heaven when they died. Our Pastor’s wife was the substitute second grade teacher, so word got back to my parents right away.
Not long after that incident an Evangelist came to our church. As a young man, he led a life of crime. At one time he was a bodyguard for Al Capone, but he got saved and his life changed. The pastor of the Baptist church that he attended started a group called The Fishermen’s Club that had several former members of Capone’s gang. They went to churches and gave their testimony of how Christ had saved them. That eventually led to his work as an Evangelist. When he died of a heart attack, he was on his knees by his bed with his Bible open. A great testimony of how God can change a life.
The town I lived in had the nickname of Little Chicago. There were many connections between our town and Chicago so it was inevitable that this evangelist would come to our church and preach. He used to say, “I was saved on September 9, 1934, at one thirty in the afternoon. I know that’s when I was saved and if you can’t name the date and time you were saved, I doubt you are saved.”
At five years of age I didn’t know what a calendar was but I believed him. After all, I was told I was too young to know what I was doing (children should be seen and not heard you know) and the adults thought a lot of the evangelist. I thought “I’ll ask Jesus into my heart today; then I would know what date I asked Jesus into my heart and then I’ll know I am saved. But, I quickly forgot that date and several after that.
When you begin to doubt, there is no end of reasons why you should doubt. You aren’t on fire like the disciples. You haven’t memorized scripture like the Sunday school dweeb. I thought that if I did all the right things I would become spiritual. I memorized Scripture and I listened in Sunday school. We had a good News Club that met in our home and I invited neighbors and classmates. I was president of my youth group. And finally I went to a Bible college. I also thought that if I hung around spiritual people I would become spiritual.
That didn’t work either. I dropped out of Bible school after a year and joined Air Force. Early on in my Air Force career I was assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. In a November 1968 Newsweek article the town just outside Clark was described this way. “At first blush, Angeles seems a typical garrison town. More than twenty hotels rent rooms by the hour as well as more respectable periods of time. Along a one hundred yard stretch of highway no fewer than forty bars serve up drinks, B-girls, fried chicken and steak, along with music several decibels above human tolerance.”
By that time I had just about given up trying to life that pleased Christ and Angeles City provided plenty of activities to help you try forget whatever you were trying to forget. I reasoned that whatever I was doing was OK because it wasn’t as bad as what some of the guy’s were doing and it was temporary. Things would be different when got back to the states.
When I got back to the states things didn’t change. There was an emptiness that needed to be filled and the only way I knew how was to party. One night Eric (a co-worker) and I made a trip to the on base liquor store to restock our supply of booze.
We were returning our rooms with our purchase as two young men walked down the hall toward us. They asked us if we were going to party. Eric said “Yeah! Come on and join us.”
The first thing they said after entering our room was “Can we ask you a question? Who was Jesus Christ?” I think they were from Officer Christian Fellowship. I didn’t want to talk to them but couldn’t leave since it was my room. I talked to them, but desperately wanted them to leave. They asked me if I died tonight would I go to heaven, I told them that I didn’t know and when they asked me if I wanted to be sure I told them something about my doubts and said that until I couldn’t until I was sure I could commit without reservations. They prayed for me and left.
The next day Eric and I went to a remote spot with our motorcycles to practice jumping sand dunes. During one jump, I lost control and crashed into a fence. I lay in the dust for what seemed an hour till Eric went for an ambulance. By the end of the day, I was in an Air Force Medical Center being treated for a broken hip.
The doctors offered me pills for the pain but I didn’t want to take them. I was afraid of turning over in my sleep and re-injuring myself, so I didn’t get much sleep at night. As I lay on my hospital bed thinking about what had been taken place, God brought many Bible verses to my mind. Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The theme of Ephesians 2 is grace. The gift Paul is talking about in verses 8 and 9 is God’s grace. I pondered that little bit of information and wondered if there was any other verse about God’s gift in His plan of salvation.
Hebrews 12:2 also came to mind. It says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” If faith begins and ends with Jesus, then even the faith we have to believe is a gift from God. I realized that I was trusting in my memory not in Jesus, so I said to God, “I’m in your hands. Do with me what you want.” Then I said, “I wish I knew you heard me. I know it is not necessary, but it would be nice if I could know you heard me.”
Then a song came into my mind. It was a song I had sung in the choir in Bible school. We had all our songs memorized for our choir tour. It was Brahms Motet, Opus 29, number 2. The words are “Grant unto me the joy of thy salvation. With thine infinite love uphold thou me.” As I sang those words in my mind, I felt God’s love, then I realized that God was telling me that I had been missing the joy of His salvation because of my doubting and disobedience. I knew that God had answered my prayer in a way that spoke directly to me. I knew that the words of the song had been taken from a Psalm of David and I had a desire to know more about the Psalm, but my Bible was 150 miles away.
Later that day two Candy Stripers came into our room and each had a cart from the hospital library. One of the carts had two Bibles with a concordance. I looked up the verse and discovered it was from Psalm 51:12 “Grant unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
As I read the entire Psalm, I knew that God had directed me to that Psalm. The words of David. In verse 8, David says, Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
After two months in the hospital, my doctor gave me a 30 day convalescent leave. I went to my parent’s home and attended church with them. The pastor was preaching a series of sermons called The God of Broken Things.
Here are a few of the broken things God used from the Bible:
1. Broken Tablets of the Law – (Exodus 32) – The tablets in the ark replaced the broken tablets which represented the broken law. At the same time the law was being broken by the children of Israel, God was giving Moses instructions for the Mercy Seat. When the ark was completed, the new tablets were placed in the ark, under the mercy seat
- Broken Pitchers of Gideon – (Judges 8) – When the pitchers were broken, they revealed the light within which brought victory. The New Testament principle is that we have this treasure (Jesus – the Light of the World) stored in earthen vessels (our bodies) (II Cor 4:7). The world can not see the light within until the vessel is broken.
- Broken Cisterns – (Jeremiah 2:13) – When our own resources run dry we look to the source of Living Water.
- Broken ground – (Jeremiah 4:3) For thus says the LORD, to the men of Judah, “Break up your fallow ground and sow not among thorns.” – No seed can be planted until the ground is broken. In the New Testament Jesus told the parable of the seed and sower. He said that the seed that fell on good ground was fruitful. The good ground was ground that was broken up.
- Broken Roof – When the man made barrier was broken, the man was able to receive forgiveness of sin. (Mark 2:1-12)
- Broken Loaves – (Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-38) – Little becomes much when broken by God.
- Broken Vase (flask) of ointment (Mark 14:3) – The woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, broke the flask to release the ointment. – when she broke the flask, the gift was irrevocable, it was impossible to hold anything back and insured the flask could not be used for any other purpose than worship of the Son of God.
- Broken Ship – (Acts 27:44) – All lives were saved when the ship was broken up.
- Broken Branch – (Romans 11:17) – The natural branch (Israel) was broken from the olive tree so that the wild olive branch (Gentiles) could be grafted in.
- Broken Body – (I Corinthians 11:23-24) –“On the night on which He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you.’”
Jacob was called deceiver by men, but he was called a Prince by God. That’s God’s Grace. Jacob didn’t deserve to be a prince. He didn’t seek God’s blessing. Most everyone say that Jacob wrestled with the angel, but that’s not what the Bible says God in His grace sought out Jacob and wrestled with Jacob to get him to a point where he would seek God. Jacob would not yield to God until God broke his hip. Jacob was all alone; all his possessions had been sent ahead to his brother. Would his brother keep Jacobs possessions as his revenge for Jacob stealing the birthright? It was then that God came to Jacob. Still Jacob resisted, determined to go it alone. Read it again for the first time “So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Only then did Jacob cry out, “I will not let you go until you bless me. What a picture of man today. We claim we are seeking God, but like Jacob, we are trying to do it our way. Seeking Him and wanting Him to bless us our way
When I was in college, was told I needed to find a life verse. I couldn’t find one for myself then, but God chose mine for me. Psalm 51:7-8 – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice.”