Last week the temperature soared to 108 and smoke from fires in the hills and mountains hung in the trees of Sacramento. But the wind from the ocean and the coastal fog has sent the delta breezes our way. The last two mornings and nights the wonderful delta breezes have blown away the smoke and heat.
In the same way the testimonies of both Toby Brown and Bill Crawford have, at least for me, blown away the lingering effects of General Assembly. That is not to say that there are not great and troubling effects for the whole body of Christ when one part sinks into apostasy.
But the stories of how others were converted to Jesus are like great big gulps of water to thirsty people. While it is always the “Hound of Heaven” relentlessly pursuing us that is the actual cause of our conversion, the ways of coming to Him are like snow flakes, of a unique design. But one part of the story, always, is in one way or another, the word of God.
I thought of my own interaction with the Bible and my conversion as I read about Toby’s journey to an acknowledgement of the total truthfulness of God’s word.
I cannot remember a time, after I learned to read, when I did not read God’s word. But I didn’t understand it; I just thought it must be important. When I was thirteen my Sunday School teacher, who had also been my fifth grade teacher, my sixth grade gym teacher and the wife of the postmaster in our small town, asked us all if we were Christians. I said I was trying to be!
I was baptized in the Methodist Church that year, because I was trying to be a Christian and because everyone else my age was also getting baptized. Later in Stockton, California I started searching for God. The Hound of Heaven was pursuing. I tried different Churches, read books by Christian Scientists and kept reading the Bible. I knew it pretty well I just didn’t understand it.
Finally I asked God to help me understand what the Bible was saying.
A school friend took me and my sister to her father’s church for what she called a revival. We went all week to a little store-front Southern Baptist Church. On the last evening I was convinced, by some dear church ladies who thought I was already a Christian, that I should be baptized by immersion. (God has a sense of humor after all.) So down to the front I went.
When the pastor asked me, “Do you believe the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin?” yes, it really was like a light bulb going off in my head. No one in that church ever knew but my yes was my yes to Jesus Christ.
I was sixteen and finally the Bible opened up with God’s wondrous story of redemption. I couldn’t get enough. The first book I devoured was Romans.
My college experiences were different than either Toby’s or Bill’s. Well to start with, I had six children first! But I went to two secular colleges, a city college, and then the University in Sacramento. And I went as a Christian who believed God’s word was true. I had some wonderful yet hard experiences, because when God sends you somewhere you go in the strength of God’s care but he doesn't always send you to easy places.
Some examples of studying philosophy, religions and finally history in a secular college arena: at City College where I majored in philosophy I came across my first progressive Presbyterian. He taught many of my philosophy classes. Dr. Merritt did not believe in the deity of Christ and hated Augustine as we all found out in the History of Modern Philosophy. World Religions was taught by a Wicca member. And the class I took on the new search for the historical Jesus was, of course, taught by a fellow of the Jesus Seminar. I could go on.
But the important point here is that God’s word was always sufficient in those classes. At one point Dr. Merritt asked if someone had a Bible so they could read Isaiah 53. He wanted to show how the writer was speaking of Israel as God’s son. How easy it was to read and then slip in the words, “You know, some people believe these words were written about Jesus Christ.”
His words and His presence are always sufficient.
"But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:8-10)