Grace Martial Arts Fellowship Newsletters 2000-6

Grace Martial Arts Fellowship began in 1990, went online with a website in 1995 and began publishing newsletters to the Christian martial arts community in 1998.

Because of the quality of information found in those early newsletter articles and the fact they are no longer available online, we’ve decided to re-publish many of them in the coming weeks and months. Our hope is that a new generation of Christian martial artists will be blessed by the wisdom of those who were on the path before them.

GMAF NEWSLETTER JUNE 2000

Welcome to the GMAF Newsletter! We pray it will encourage you in your Martial Arts and Outreach for Christ.

THOUGHTS FROM THE MASTER

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

Jesus Christ

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

The Apostle Paul

WISDOM NOTES

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

One of the primary benefits of children, teens and adults studying martial arts with Christian instructors is walking the path with wise men and women. So many people today are walking in the wrong direction because they have become companions of fools. They will be destroyed unless they learn God’s Wisdom.

WHAT’S CHRISTIAN ABOUT CHRISTIAN MARTIAL ARTS?

Last month we asked the question “What’s Christian About Christian Martial Arts.”

Here is one answer.

By Bob Orlando
http://www.orlandokuntao.com

As a Christian and a martial artist, I am often asked two questions regarding my martial arts study and my faith. From nonbelievers (those who do not subscribe to “Biblical Christianity”) I am asked how I reconcile the apparent conflict between martial arts training and Christ’s admonition to turn the other cheek. My Christian family, on the other hand, want to know how I handle the religious, philosophical, mystical, and metaphysical aspects of the art. The first question reveals the general misunderstanding of Christ’s teachings so common among nonbelievers. The second reveals a similar lack of understanding on the Christian’s part.

Although the “turning the other cheek” question is raised most often by my non-Christian friends, it is just as misunderstood by my Christian brothers and sisters. Since Christians have the greater difficulty with these issues, I will address them from the Christian perspective using frequent biblical references and examples. I will begin with what was for me the tougher of the two questions.

A brochure from a martial arts publishing firm described well what most of the world believes about Christian participation in the martial arts. It said,

Kung-fu teaches that turning the other cheek to those whose ways of life are set in strength and violence is wrong. Such a passive attitude encourages lawlessness and injustice.

The suggestion is that those who believe in “turning the other cheek” believe in voluntarily accepting violence and injustice. Further, such a position is considered wrong and contrary to the philosophy of kung-fu. Since the idea of “turning the other cheek” is from the Bible, are we to believe that there is a conflict between Christian teaching and the study of martial arts? Is the Christian attitude toward physical violence to be a passive one? The essential question is really whether there is ever justification for inflicting injury, or even death, on another human being. That is the primary issue because other issues like pacifism, the morality of war, capital punishment and the like, are actually derivatives or corollaries of that primary issue.1

The idea of turning the other cheek, if not one of the more difficult teachings of Jesus to understand, is certainly one of the more difficult ones to observe — providing it is to be taken without qualification. From the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 38 and 39, we read the following:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

There are two ways we can interpret the command to turn the other cheek. The first is to interpret the text literally, asserting that it means exactly what it says. This would impose a duty of nonresistance on all men in all circumstances. You cannot, however, require the literal acceptance of verse 38 without also requiring the same of the other verses in that chapter — such as verses 29 and 30. Verse 29 reads, “. . . if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out,” and verse 30 adds, “. . . if your right hand causes you sin, cut it off.” Taking these verses literally, without qualification, can quickly lead one to institutionalized confinement! No. This literal, unqualified interpretation seems untenable.

The other way to interpret the text is to say that it means exactly what it says, but with an understood reservation for those cases that everyone would naturally assume to be exceptions. For example, when I tell my children to be good, I do not have to tell them all of what that includes — i.e., don’t burn down the house, don’t put the neighbor’s car in the lake, and so on. Those things are understood. This is a normal interpretation. C. S. Lewis, a popular Christian theologian, put it like this:

“Does anyone suppose that our Lord’s hearers understood him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim? I think it impossible that they could have so understood him. I believe the meaning of the words was perfectly clear — insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not strike back. If, however, your motives are other than egoistic retaliation, then not only are you free to protect yourself and others; rather, it is your responsibility to do so.”2

But can we find any Scripture or biblical examples to confirm this? Yes. Look at Jesus’ life. Jesus lived what he preached. He never returned evil for evil; he never retaliated (although he certainly possessed the wherewithal to do so), but did he always “turn the other cheek?” In at least one case, he did not.3

The 18th chapter of John’s gospel records Jesus’ arrest and trial before both the Jewish and Roman courts. In verse 22 of that chapter, Jesus is struck with the palm of the hand by one of the officers of the Jewish religious court for answering the high priest in what the officer thought was a disrespectful manner. In verse 23 Jesus responded, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”

The officer could have struck him anywhere, but a slap across the face is a common response to disrespectful speech. Assuming that Jesus was slapped across the face, we find no evidence of his voluntarily offering his other cheek for more. On the contrary, he asks why he deserved such unjust treatment.

In the book of Acts, Chapter 16, we find that the apostle Paul took a similar stand. After being beaten and cast into prison unjustly, the Philippian magistrates decided that they would release Paul and his companions and forget the matter. To this Paul responded as follows in verse 37:

“They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now cast us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”

Clearly, Paul accepted no such injustice. This refutes the literal interpretation and supports the normal interpretation. The actions of Jesus and his apostle Paul indicate that there are times when the believer can and should resist evil and NOT offer the other cheek.

The scriptures contain still other examples that support this. Paul, writing in the first epistle to Timothy, Chapter 5, verse 8 charges me, as a husband and father, with the following responsibility:

“If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Provision means more than just food, shelter, and clothing. It also includes safety, security, and protection from harm. Jesus, when telling his followers that they should always be ready for his return, illustrated his point by saying that his return would be as a “thief in the night”; that is, unexpected. In Matthew 24, verse 43, he adds, “But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into.”

While this verse refers directly to believers being ever ready for the Lord’s return, it also clearly demonstrates that a man was rightly expected to defend his home and family from harm. There is one more, lesser known, verse we should look at. In the moments before Christ’s arrest in the garden the following exchange took place between Jesus and his disciples:

“When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, ‘Nothing.’ He said to them, But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. (Luke 22:35-36)

Moments later, as Jesus is arrested; Peter uses his sword to defend his master. In John’s gospel, Chapter 18, verses 10 and 11, it is recorded as follows:

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said unto Peter, ‘Put up your sword in its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?'”

Do these two accounts conflict? No. In the first account the Lord was telling his disciples that the time was coming when they would no longer receive hospitality and would have to provide for themselves including self- protection (the need for the sword). This does not conflict with John’s account, because there Jesus does not tell Peter to get rid of his sword, but to put it in its sheath. The sword was, and still is, necessary. There in the garden, however, it was being used counter to Christ’s purpose.

On the basis of Christ’s teachings, is there really a conflict between Christian teaching and the study of martial arts? No. Is the Christian attitude toward physical violence to be a passive one? Again, the answer is no.

Discussions about turning the other cheek focus on the question of Christian participation in martial arts in general. What about participation in Asian martial arts? Questions about how Christians handle the philosophical and religious aspects of the art usually focus on certain practices common to various traditional martial arts schools. However, before addressing specific questions, some background and history are necessary. We need to know what philosophical or religious aspects are inherent in Asian martial arts, why they are taught, and whether they are necessary for training.

Today, a number of people devote their lives to martial arts study primarily for reasons of self-development. Through their practice of the martial arts, they seek to attain some glimpse of the “wisdom of the East” as set forth in the various philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen. Karate- do, for example, means the way of karate. It is a journey that begins with the physical and ends with the spirit. The goal is to develop the spirit. How? Through physical karate training. This parallels the path of hatha-yoga, with its goal of self-purification through physical application.

The incorporation of the contemplative, meditative, or philosophical aspects into the martial arts may have evolved as teachers began to see a need for morality in the art. As practitioners became increasingly capable of destruction, some form of control — some personal means of tempering physical conduct and actions — became necessary. Hence, moral codes like the Japanese code of bushido evolved.

For some, then, the martial arts offer a way that they hope will provide them with the wisdom to understand both themselves and the often unintelligible world in which they live. What they seek is a philosophy of life, a code to live by, a discipline — in an otherwise undisciplined world.

For the Christian, using martial arts study for spiritual self-development fails for two reasons. First, from a practical standpoint, there are a variety of other avenues available to the individual wishing to study Eastern culture, thought, or philosophy to formulate a life credo (and without having to break a sweat doing it, either). Second, and more importantly, Asian martial arts philosophy is deeply entwined in Eastern mysticism and religion. As such, it is incompatible with Christian beliefs. However the philosophical and religious aspects of the martial arts are not necessary for developing the physical skills the martial arts student is seeking.

Target shooting is, for many, an enjoyable pastime, but it is not without its dangers. Awareness and care are necessary to prevent injury. The same is true of everything we do, be it driving a car, cooking, using power tools — even watching television. Martial arts are no different. Christians must be aware of the inherent dangers in the study of Eastern martial arts; but that does not necessarily mean abstinence from physical martial arts training.

The Christian martial artist must remove the religious overtones that are frequently taught as part of Eastern martial arts. Instead, he should concentrate on skills that enhance mental concentration, improve sensitivity to differing degrees of threat, and increase awareness of the interaction between attitude and performance. This is learning the fine art of strategic thinking.

Specifically, the question I am most often asked concerns the practice of meditation. What does the Christian do when asked to meditate? First, the believer need not back away from meditation. There is nothing inherently wrong with meditation.

Scripture abounds with passages admonishing the believer to meditate on the Lord, meditate on his law, meditate on his promises, and meditate on his Word. Thus, when told to use class time to meditate, the Christian can do so. Not necessarily on what the instructor tells him to meditate on (if he tells him anything). Not with the aim of emptying his mind (as in Zen mushin) or looking within for some mystic power (such as centering in Transcendental Meditation), but purposefully and productively busying it focusing it outward and upward to the Creator God.

Throughout history, Christian symbols and quotations from the Bible have been manipulated and abused by many, including the occult, hate groups; even the news media. Should we abstain from displaying a cross because some hate group uses a burning cross to legitimize its actions? Should we avoid those verses from the Bible that have been misinterpreted, twisted, and perverted by those who would use them to serve their own purposes? No! Dr. Walter Martin, founder of Christian Research Institute, probably said it best. “The believer,” he said, “should not surrender the tools of light to anyone simply because others have abused them and perverted their meaning.”4

Alternatively, if the Christian is not feeling particularly spiritual during karate class, he can meditate on the techniques he is learning. Because of its use by New Age groups, visualization has been given an undeserved bad reputation. But using imagination to train physical skills does not violate biblical principles. So the Christian martial artist can use meditation time to rehearse what you were learning; mentally practice; see yourself having a great workout. Again, use meditation to focus your mind and attention in a positive and productive way.

Another question that arises from time to time refers to the practice of bowing. In many schools, everyone bows before entering or leaving the training area. This is done as a sign of respect for a place of learning. In most schools, the students and instructors bow to each other. In some schools, there is even bowing before the American flag (and sometimes before the flag of the country from which the art or the instructor immigrated as well). Finally, there are schools where it is customary to bow before a school shrine or altar. What are we as Christian martial artists to make of these customs?

Historically, bowing has been used to demonstrate an attitude of respect, reverence, and submission. In Oriental culture it is common for people to prostrate themselves on the ground before kings and princes. Such customs were also prevalent among the Hebrews.

However, bowing is just as frequently noticed in scripture as an act of religious homage. No mention is made of posture, so we have no clear instruction as to whether it is of any significance if someone bows with his face to the ground (a common Eastern practice) or simply bows from the waist. This issue is not addressed because it is unimportant. It is not the posture that counts but the purpose.

Bowing, as an act of religious homage, is addressed extensively in the Bible, and there is no doubt that bowing before any idol, spiritual leader or guide, or representative of a false god is prohibited. Joshua, in his last words to the elders of Israel, said the following:

“Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” (Joshua 23:7)

This theme is repeated throughout scripture, so it is clear that bowing as an act of religious or spiritual homage is prohibited.

So serious is this matter that the godly man finds even innocent association with such an act painful to his conscience. For example, Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy by God through His prophet Elisha. A highly regarded general of the king of Syria, Naaman says afterward that he will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god save the Lord. However, he still has one problem. His master, the king of Syria, still worships his own god. The Syrian king was old and often took Naaman with him to lean on his arm when he went to worship. Naaman’s words to Elisha reflect his predicament. Consider the following passage:

“But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow also — when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this. Go in peace, Elisha said.” (2 Kings 5:18-19)

Again, Naaman, was not worshiping this Syrian deity; his master was. He was not bowing down before Rimmon. He was only providing physical support for his master. However, Naaman found even this association was uncomfortable.

What seems clear from all of this is that the act of bowing itself is not the problem. Rather, it is the purpose of such an act. Biblically, bowing before lawful authority and spiritual leaders (like the kings and prophets) was an accepted practice. For that reason alone I think one would be hard pressed to convince an Englishman he should not bow before his monarch.

As for bowing before a school altar or shrine, if it is done as an act of obeisance or homage to some spiritual leader or guide, then for the Christian, the practice is prohibited and he must excuse himself from participation. If that is not possible (the bowing is required), then he should seek instruction elsewhere. There are many good schools where a Christian can train without having to involve himself in such practice.

Suppose that bowing before the school shrine is simply a cultural tradition, a sign of respect for a place of learning, or just recognition of the efforts of past teachers — without any religious or spiritual significance. Is that all right?

Every believer must answer that question for himself. The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 23, makes it clear that “all things are lawful,” but at the same time, he says, all things are not “expedient.” There may be cultural standards to consider. For example, in our culture, drinking alcoholic beverages of any kind is generally frowned upon by many bible- believing Christians. However, our Christian brothers in Germany would not consider ordering a soft drink or iced tea with their meals. The Christian, then, must balance biblical truth with social standards, asking himself: Is it lawful? Is it expedient? If, in clear conscience before God, you can answer both of those questions affirmatively, then go ahead and participate.

In our school the only bowing we do is a type of mutual salute to begin and end our classes. It is not a bow of submission, obeisance, or homage. Rather, it is like an officer returning the salute of an enlisted man. With the words “Attention” and “Salute,” the teacher shows his respect for the students — they honor him by choosing to study and train with him. The students, in return, show their respect for the teacher as a worthy instructor and fellow student. It is, quite simply, mutual respect.

Finally, those who would tell us to separate ourselves from the study of Asian martial arts because of the general religious influences and overtones inherent there would do well to consider Christmas. Christmas is not held on Christ’s birthday, but on the birthday of the sun. (December 25 was the first day after the winter solstice that the ancients could tell the days were getting longer.) The Christmas tree, the boughs of holly, the Christmas wreath, and the Yule log are all pagan traditions (and these are only a few). With that in mind, should not our response to the Christmas celebration likewise be abstention? No. As with everything we do in life, awareness and understanding are the keys.

The study and practice of martial arts, including Asian martial arts, offer the discerning believer an enjoyable alternative to conventional, and often boring, exercise programs. Further, they are a practical means of providing security for family, self, and home. If they are approached as outlined above, I find nothing in them that conflicts with biblical truth.

Notes and References

1. While the scope of this paper is limited to addressing the question of how a Christian reconciles the biblical principle of “turning the other cheek” with participation in the martial arts, the answers given here have direct bearing on resolution of the primary issue and, to some degree, the satellite issues as well.
2. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1980), 49-50.
3. The fact that Christ was capable of resisting evil is important. A man of peace is not one who is incapable of resisting evil. Claiming to be a man of peace when incapable of resisting evil is merely compliance. Accepting evil, on the other hand, when one is fully capable of resisting or returning it is the true mark of a man of peace.
4. Moody Monthly magazine, December 1986.

The Breath of Life

Jesus Christ is the “Cause” of all things. God’s Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write these words about Christ to the Colossian Christians. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17) The Apostle John wrote this about Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” (John 11:25) Christ told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

Jesus Christ is LIFE. LIFE is in Christ. Jesus created all living things with LIFE. How did He do it? “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalms 33:6) “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it.” (Genesis 1:30) “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
soul.” (Genesis 2:7) God created all things with the Breath of His Mouth. Within His Breath existed Life because God is Life. God formed the human being from the dust of the ground. Christ, Who is Life, breathed into the form’s nostrils the “Breath of Life” and the form became a living soul. It became Adam, the first human being. Job wrote “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” (Job 33:4) We are alive today because God breathed LIFE into Adam thousands of years ago. Our original life and continued life depends on the “Breath of Life” God breathed into Adam. That original “Breath of Life” of God sustains our life now. It is our original Chi. It is our source of life, power, energy and health.

All living things have “The Breath of Life.” If they did not, they would not be alive. Job wrote “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.” (Job 34:1-15) God’s Breath is in every human being. Believers also have God’s Spirit in their breath. Job wrote “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.” (Job 27:3) The Breath of God is in every animal and insect on earth, every bird above the earth, and every fish and creature in the lakes, rivers and seas. “The Breath of Life” is in every cell of our bodies. We have God to thank for it every day for our lives. Every living thing should worship God continually because He gives them “The Breath of Life.”

Paul explained this idea clearly to the people of Athens. “Him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:23-25)

Consider these things as you move and breathe during your martial workouts. We have a great Gift … THE BREATH OF LIFE!

Defending Like Christ

Last month we said we would share some ideas about how to react to the variety of challenges we’ll face as Christian martial artists. We have seen from the Bible that Christ is a powerful warrior (May newsletter). We have also seen that Christ is a Loving Savior filled with compassion. Christian martial artists have the opportunity to be “like Christ” by showing compassion and power in defending the innocent and doing what is “right.” Christ has the “Power” to destroy the world and anyone in it at any time He chooses. However, our Lord is also Loving, Gracious, Forgiving and Kind. God is Perfect Balance in all things. He is the True Grand Ultimate. He uses His Power with Wisdom to show Compassion. We can learn so much from Him about how to use martial abilities in our daily lives.

Many martial arts systems have a sequential use of force. We pray for God’s Wisdom as we face threat and danger. Here is one example of a sequential use of force. We would like to hear from you about how to include compassion as Christian martial artists.

  1. Mental Defense (avoid conflict)
  2. Speak Softly (turn away wrath)
  3. Verbal Command
  4. Defensive Posture
  5. Run or Stun and Run
  6. Physical Restraint
  7. Temporary Incapacitation
  8. Great Bodily Harm

The process of sequential use of force is based on Threat Levels. Our first defense is to avoid threat or conflict. That can include not going to places where conflict may occur. If we are faced with conflict, we can speak softly and attempt to talk our way out of the threat. If soft words do not calm the situation, the Christian martial artist can verbally command an attacker to stop. Once you have their attention, you may be able to use soft words to turn away their wrath. If a verbal command does not work, you can face your attacker and take a defensive posture. That may be enough to stop the conflict. If the attacker is in your third zone (several yards from you) and continues to come at you, you could move quickly in the opposite direction, but keep your eye on what the attacker is doing. If he runs after you, you may have to turn and move up in the sequential use of force. If the attacker moves rapidly into your second zone (3-5 feet from you), you may have to be ready to move quickly to defend against the attack. If the attacker enters your first zone (close enough to reach you with a grab, punch or kick), you may have to perform an escape or blocking technique followed by a controlling movement or counter strike or kick. Sidestepping or blocking an attack followed by a stunning technique (punch, strike, kick) may give you the opportunity to leave your attacker behind. You are showing compassion to your attacker by leaving and not allowing the attack to escalate. You can also place the attacker in a physical restraint until they give up. If Stun or Restraint techniques do not stop the conflict and you are not able to leave, you may have to increase the sequential use of force by temporarily incapacitating your attacker. That may include a knockout punch, strike, kick, choke, etc. Again, you are showing compassion by not causing the attacker permanent injury. If your attacker means you great bodily harm and you are not able to stop the conflict in any other way, a Christian martial artist may have to make the difficult decision to cause the attacker great bodily harm first. That is an unfortunate circumstance that will cause the attacker and the attacked permanent problems (physical, mental and emotional in addition to possible legal problems). Causing permanent injury or death is the last thing a Christian martial artist wants to do.

Testimony of Danny Young

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death. ” Rev 12:11

I came to know the Lord through the efforts of my mom. She would read me the Bible as a child, even though I had no clue as to what it meant. Whenever she asked me if I understood, I would just say yes to try and get her to stop reading to me. While I didn’t really enjoy the reading, it planted an awareness of God in me at a very early age. I knew He was there, it just never crossed my mind that He wanted to know me– and that I could know Him.

It wasn’t until I was in the sixth grade that things started to happen. Things that would bring me to a personal and rewarding relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.
My friend Tom Price invited me to go with him to a surf club meeting. What he neglected to say was that it was also a Bible study. It was the Disciples Surf Club, and it met in the home of a women named Barbara Plourd. The club members were surfer and non-surfer types from all walks of life who had committed their lives to Jesus. Every Saturday they departed from Thousand Oaks, Calif,(where I lived at the time) and went surfing in the Ventura County region. The surfing was a total blast! I went with Tom to several meetings, and for the most part thought that these people were a bunch of kooks. However, the surfing was fun, and I found myself compelled to go back for reasons that I could not fully explain at the time.

One night after Barbara finished her Bible presentation, she asked if there was anyone in the room who wanted to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. All heads were bowed in prayer, and I kept thinking, “These people are crazy!” — yet my hand went up! Something inside my heart kept saying this was the right thing to do, but my mind was very confused. Someone saw my hand raised and came over to pray with me. That was the night I met Jesus. He came into my heart, and I have never been the same since.

No, I did not lead the perfect life. As a matter of fact, after the group fell apart due to problems among those in leadership, I did not live a Christian life at all for a time. During high school, I did many things that are opposed by Christianity. Yet, I knew that God was near and calling out to me to return to Him. I can even remember one time yelling out loud at God to leave me alone! (I am so thankful today that He did not listen!)

In my senior year at Thousand Oaks High School, around May of 1972, I clearly heard the Lord’s voice speak to me. He said, ” You have been messing around long enough, and I want you back. You need to decide what you’re going to do.” I didn’t fall on my knees and have some dramatic repentance experience. I spent the next two weeks thinking about my life and what I wanted to do with it. The inescapable reality was that I wanted to know God. All the things that I had been involved with had led me to heartache and pain. My parents had divorced, and my family now consisted of just me and my dad. Loneliness is so overwhelming, yet God in His great love for us is always there. I knew this and needed it.

So one night in my bedroom, I rededicated my life to Jesus. His Spirit filled my room with His presence, and that was when my life was completely and forever changed. It has been a long process of change , but it has been more than worth it. The Lord has given me a wonderful life. My wife and I have been married for more than 21 years. I have three terrific children. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Colorado. I can stand on the deck of my house and see the Rocky Mountains.

There have been plenty of trials too. I have been unemployed as an electrician and have been in and out of the ministry due to people conflicts. (I have never been immoral). The church that we started here in Castle Rock went belly up four years later. All of my Pastor friends left me when I had to close the church. My son almost died when he was 3 years old. There have been times when I wondered if life could ever be “good” again. This thing I have found true. The Lord will never leave us , or forsake us. He has always been there in my times of trouble.

This one thing is clear, Jesus is always faithful – even when we are not. When all others fail, Jesus is still there. It is not my intention to claim that since I met Jesus I have had no problems or that my life is always a breeze. Neither do I intend to say that my life has been awful. The point of this message is to communicate that my life is just like yours — and you, too, can find the peace of God that has so enriched my life. God is so good! May you find the joy of the Lord. Let His joy be your strength as you walk down your path of life.

Taking God’s Grace to the World!

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