I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic school from Kindergarten to 8th grade. I grew up in a good home with three older sisters, and my mother was a very devout Catholic and a loving woman. As typical of Catholics growing up in the 1960s, we never actually read the Bible. Our knowledge of Christ came from the Catholic Mass and from daily catechism study. Having never actually read the Word of God written by His own hand, I assumed that the Bible was a collection of parables. Despite my "religious" upbringing, I veered away from the Lord about 20 years ago and did not go to church any longer. I questioned the existence of God and thought if He was out there, He probably really didn’t care too much about what went on in our lives. I concentrated on being a "good person." I thought I was a good person all my life. I didn’t steal and didn’t do anything illegal. I knew right from wrong. I thought being good was enough to get into Heaven, if there really was a such a place. Nevertheless, I hoped that God existed, and I prayed to Him at times, at least when I wanted something. When I didn’t get what I prayed for, I thought He wasn’t really listening and didn’t care.
Throughout those twenty years, I now know that the Lord called and tugged at me, but I was a hard nut to crack. I had gone on to college and earned a degree in biology. I was heavily influenced by the secular humanism of higher learning, and to me science was the answer to everything. If science didn’t have the answer, then it just wasn’t possible.
I guess a real division occurred between myself and Jesus in 1986 when my mother died. How could God take this wonderful woman who meant so much to me and my family? I became angry with God, and it lasted for a long time--although I wouldn’t admit it.
Fortunately for me, the King of Glory had great blessings in mind for me. He had chosen me--yes, me!--to be one of His chosen sheep before the beginning of time. I didn’t know it then, but one dark morning in early December, 1994, Jesus called me home as I was driving to work.
Every year for the past nine, I have driven past Gorman Baptist Church in Durham on my way to work. At Christmas time, they erect a display in their parking lot. It is a giant Bible about 10 feet x 10 feet, and it stands on end with its pages open. I have driven past this every year at Christmas time, and I have read it. Yet like most things in my life, I never actually saw it. This one morning, however, the Holy Spirit had different plans for me. As I passed by the church for the umpteenth time, I looked at the Bible display and actually saw what it said. It simply said, "For unto you is born a Savior, and He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Instantly, I knew what it said. The Jesus I knew as a boy, the Jesus of manger scenes and early morning catechism studies revealed Himself to me as the Lord of the universe and Savior of the world. Savior of my soul. My soul!
It felt like a great bolt of lightning, an incredible surge of electricity, had passed through my body. Every fiber of my body was tingling, and I was swept away by emotion. So much so that I had to pull my vehicle over to the side of the road and park. I couldn’t control this overwhelming feeling of warmth--of an inner fire. I now understand how the anointing of the Holy Spirit is described as fire lighting on men. I wept like a baby. And I prayed--not for something I wanted but for the salvation I needed. I prayed, "Jesus, forgive me, forgive me!" And a voice whether inside me or out, I don’t know, said, "You know Who I am. Why have you been away for so long?" It was all I could do to get to work and get through the day. I called my wife and tried feebly to explain to her what had happened, but she didn’t really understand. (She had not yet become a Christian but soon would with an amazing testimony of her own!)
I was instantly changed. Not that I became Super Christian in that instant, (and I certainly am not one now!) but God had imprinted His law and His love on my heart. Suddenly, I could not learn enough about the Lord. Over the next few months, I devoured the Bible and every Christian book I could get my hands on. Most importantly, I knew the Bible to be the incorruptible Word of God the Father. Not because other Christians said so or because of the apologetics writers I studied but because God told me so by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Old habits and sins began to fall away, and worldly things began to disgust me rather than entice me. Thanks to the ongoing love and witness of a few Christian friends who had ministered to Roberta and me for several years, we began to come to Providence. Not that it was easy for me at first. Although Roberta had grown up going regularly to Protestant churches, to say it was different for me is an understatement! It was true culture shock! Although I trusted and believed in the Lord, it took.