Saturday, September 12, 2009

Seems Like Yesterday...

Thirty years ago I was a college freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I was a student in the College of Natural Resources planning to make a career working out of doors. Our curriculum was multi-disciplinary so all students in the college had to take a core of classes in forestry, wildlife management, soils and water resources regardless of one's chosen major. Additionally, a six week summer session of field classes held in a national forest in northern Wisconsin were also required. I began my studies certain that I was in the right place, though life in the dorms wasn't the best -- deafening music, beer cans so deep you could shovel them with a snow shovel, someone dealing drugs on our floor, others spending their nights and weekends doing bongs.

About two weeks into my freshman year, right about this time, I came to a fork in the road that changed everything. One night while waiting in line for supper someone stuck a short survey in my hand. It was a rather innocuous survey with five harmless religious questions like, Do you believe in God? Who is Jesus Christ? Would you like more information about a personal relationship with God? A few days later I received a phone call from someone who reviewed my survey and wanted to follow up. Little did I know who initiated the survey (Campus Crusade for Christ) or who I agreed to meet (their campus director).

At the appointed time Glen showed up with another staff member, Dan, and we talked about the survey and then he brought out the
Four Spiritual Laws. Having been raised in church I pretty much knew the first three laws (God's love, I was a sinner, Christ died to atone for sin) but I had never heard the fourth law -- I needed to personally receive Christ's atoning work and ask God to apply it to my account. I was stunned -- here, right before me in this little booklet, seemed to be the answer to my many questions about who I was and where I was going. Though there was an offer to pray with me at that point I declined -- I simply needed to think more about this matter.

So, thirty years ago, close to this date, I knelt beside my bed one night in Room 120 Baldwin Hall, and prayed the following prayer:

"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."

Thus began a new chapter in my life that is still being written. Though I spent the next 4 1/2 years pursuing that degree in natural resources I don't think I could've foreseen where I am today -- serving as the pastor of a church. Nothing in my family history pointed me in this direction and believe me, more than a few eyebrows have been raised. Yet, I have no regrets. The words of Martin Luther from his hymn, A Mighty Fortress, ring true -- "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also."

I close with these words from Scripture which offer great encouragement...

"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." Hebrews 13:12-14

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