I want to share this personal letter about my life to give you hope and encouragement for yours.
Growing up, I went to Catholic School all the way through high school and attended church every Sunday. I prayed, and went to church, and thanked God for things, and asked God for things, and asked Him to bless me. When I was 11, my parents divorced and it broke my heart. I remember turning to God for comfort. I believed in Him, but my biggest problem was that I really did not know the truth about myself or who God really was. As I got into my teenage years and even into college, I made up all my own rules of what was right and what was wrong and always compared myself to other people who were doing worse things than me to make me feel better about myself. I was essentially self-righteous and selfish. I did what I wanted for my benefit and to please myself even though I was a “nice guy”. If I wanted to do something, I just changed my rules again, always making myself “right” in my own eyes. This gradually evolved into a life of sin. Not murder or stealing, but selfishness, drunkenness, foul language, lust, manipulating people, selfish motives, and arranging all my circumstances to best suit me. I was easily angered, fearful, and resentful. I also started making things other than God my idols like surfing, football, food, and most of all, myself. These things became more important to me than Him. I was living only for myself. I was in bondage to sin and not free and did not even know it. I was always searching for things of this world to satisfy myself, but was never truly fulfilled. I always thought I was “right with God” based on the “nice guy” personality I had. I thought that God adds up all the good things you do and compares that to the bad and then decides your fate. But that is far from the truth. I never realized that my sin was actually separating me from God and all that He had planned for my life.
In April, 2005, Cheryl (my wife), our kids and I attended our first service at the Rock Church in San Diego. The Rock is a non-denominational Christian Church. I never attended Christian Churches before, since to me, the Catholic Church made it seem like a sin if you went anywhere besides a Catholic Church. All of our family was also Catholic, so I was worried about what they might think. But something inside really called me to attend the Rock. At that service, I heard the Gospel for the first time (or at least I understood it for the first time.) I went to church for 33 years before that and never really “got it”. The Bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God". The eyes of my heart were opened and I looked back on my entire life and could see the truth about who I really was. It was actually overwhelming to realize how wrong I was about myself and how deceived I had been. I bought into the lie that living for myself is how I would be happiest. I did not realize “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” ~ Jesus. Many times with God, things are opposite of the things of this world. I thought the more I do for myself, the better my life would be, but the opposite is true. If you already know all this, bear with me. It took me a lot of my life to fully grasp it and I would rather error on explaining everything that I learned rather than hoping that everyone that reads this already knows it.
A lot of people believe Christians think they are perfect. This is also the opposite, Christians realize how not perfect they are and how they need God’s forgiveness. The Bible also says the penalty of sin is death. I realized my sin separated me from God and I really was not “right with God”. I realized that God does not add up all the good things you do and weigh them against the bad. Any sin (which includes our actions, words, and even thoughts) in any point of our lives separates us from God. I learned that my unforgiven sin would lead to death during life here on earth (death of relationships, death of finances, death of peace, etc...), physical death (we all eventually will die), and worst of all, if my sin was left unforgiven, it would lead to Spiritual death when I depart from this earth which means being separated from God for eternity.
But then the good news was revealed to me. God knew all this about me. He knows every thought and word and action that I ever did. He knows all this about everyone yet He still loves me and loves you. He demonstrated His love for us by paying the penalty of our sin through His son Jesus’s death on the cross. That is why Jesus is called our Savior; He saved us from the penalty of our sin and gives us eternal life if we believe in Him. I never knew what this meant until that day in April 2005. He actually became my sin and everyone else’s sin on that cross. He changed places with us to pay our penalty. Again, bear with me if all this is obvious to you. It was not obvious to me even though I heard about it growing up. One of the hardest things to explain and understand is that there is only one God but He exists in three persons: The Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct persons, but all three are equally God. All three persons of God, including Jesus, always existed and have no beginning and no end. When Jesus entered humanity by coming to the earth 2000 years ago, He came as God in the flesh. He was all God, yet at the same time, all man. He is the image of the invisible God. Jesus said “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” After He rose from the dead on the third day, He conquered death and still lives today. That is an unbelievable concept and makes being a Christian different from "religion". Being a Christian means being in a relationship with the one true living God!
Here is the really good news. We cannot do anything to earn God’s forgiveness. We just have to have faith in Him. We have to ask Him to forgive us and surrender our will to His will. I asked God to forgive me that day in April 2005 and have been living for Him ever since. God’s plans for us are perfect. He has a hope and a future for us. It does not mean life will be easy, but it does mean that God will work through ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. When I committed my life to God, He granted me eternal life in Heaven and abundant life starting right then and there. I know for sure I am going to Heaven when I die. It is not based on what I have done; it is based on what He has done for me through His death on the cross. God not only pardoned me from my past present and future sin, but also clothed me with Jesus’ righteousness and that’s how He sees me now!
The Holy Spirit filled my heart that day and continues to guide me. The more I surrender to Him, the more He fills me with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After I surrendered my life to God, I started reading the Bible which is God’s Word. It is living and active. I always thought it was some old crusty book and never bothered to open it until after that day that I received Him, but after I started reading it, I realized how wrong I was. It is timeless and completely relevant to everything in life even to this day! It reveals who God is and who I am. God speaks to me through it and also speaks to me through His small still voice in my heart and mind. After I was a new Christian, I remember lying in bed one day reading the Bible. I stopped because the kids upset me and I cursed when I yelled at them. The very next line said “Do not let an unwholesome word come out of your mouth…” I was both stunned and convicted! My eyes continue to be opened by reading it. I am still a work in progress, but God has freed me from the bondage of my sin. With Jesus’ righteousness covering me and with the Holy Spirit living in me, God sees me as a new creation, my old ways are gone and I am a different person than I used to be. My life is now so fulfilling and that empty void I used to have is totally filled by God. Through Him, I have peace that transcends all understanding. Through Him, I have strength. Through Him, I have guidance for my life. Through Him, all my needs are met. Through Him, all things are possible. Through Him, I have joy. Through Him, I have hope.
I have witnessed so many supernatural God experiences over my life that it is hard to recall them all, but I want to share a couple. One time on a plane ride back to San Diego from Buffalo, I was sitting next to a girl and God spoke to my heart and said “Tell her about the Rock Church”. I actually discussed it with God in my head and said “that would be really weird; I can’t just come out and say that.” I went back and forth with God for a minute in my head and then she turned to me and said “Can you tell me about the Rock Church?” God made that one easy!! In 2007, God called me to leave the comfort of my business partnership at Van Dyke Landscape Architects and to open my own firm. I had a 4-month do-not-compete agreement for projects in San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties. (We did not have four months of savings). Well, the very first day of the new business, I was walking home with Cheryl from dropping the kids off at school. I ran into my neighbor who was a former client, and he said he needed to contact me because he had a project in South Korea with a company in Los Angeles that he wanted me to work on! That project lasted approximately four months!
God does not force Himself on us. He invites us into a relationship with Him. He loves us to Him. While we are on this earth for this blip of time compared to eternity, we have a choice: We can choose to follow Him or chose to reject Him. It is completely up to each of us. He gives us complete free will to choose His way or our way. In this fallen world, there is pain, and loss, and brokenness, and sickness, and addiction, and hopelessness. I know every person struggles with something and life is tough. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world”. I can’t end this letter without the same invitation I received in 2005.
Would you like to be completely forgiven of all your sin?
Would you like to be sure you have eternal life in heaven?
Would you like to become a new person in God’s eyes?
Would you like to receive the love and hope that only God can offer you?
Would you like to start living God's way instead of your way?
If you have never done so, and would like to choose to follow Him, to receive His forgiveness, and to receive eternal life in heaven and abundant life right now, pray this prayer to God:
Dear God, I know that I am not perfect and fall short of your glory because of my sin. You know all the things I did, words I said, and even the impure thoughts I have thought. I know my sin separates me from you and the penalty of sin is eternal separation from you. I confess my sin to you right now. Please forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God and I believe that you died on the cross to pay the penalty of my sin. I believe in my heart that you rose from the dead three days later. Holy Spirit, I invite you to come and live in my heart and guide me for the rest of my life. I surrender my life to you God. Right now, I make you the leader of my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God! Please tell another believer about your decision and get plugged into a Bible-based Church family like Rock Church San Diego or Life Church Buffalo.
May God Bless You!
P.S. If you need to talk or pray, please contact me.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13