My grandfather, so I am told, was a very strict and God-fearing man. I never met him, but I expect that I will. I am told that he died singing Jesus Never Fails. It seems that he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
But even so, my grandfather could only deliver his own soul by his righteousness. (See John 1:13). Salvation, forgiveness of sin and everlasting life are not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. I needed to make my own choice.
After my parents married, they learned that my mother was barren, unable to bear children. Remembering the Biblical account of Hannah seeking a male child that she might give him to the Lord, (1 Samuel 1), my mother began to pray and to seek medical treatment. In the fullness of time she had a successful pregnancy that resulted in the birth of my older brother. I was to come along seven years later and a third son two years after that.
A Broken Home
My father left our home to begin another family just after my younger brother's birth, and some time later we learned that my younger brother was mentally retarded. My mother could have given up and decided that all these things were against her, like Jacob of old, but instead she chose to roll up her sleeves and work at keeping her family of three boys. She would do it alone, though she insisted that my father come often to make himself known to us. She wanted her boys to know their father. She taught us to love him and respect him as our dad. I never saw any bitterness in her toward him. She worked, sometimes full time and sometimes part time, to support us. Our dad did pay a little in support. She never opted to look to the government for the support of us though she did get social security for our younger brother.
Today's society would say that I had every cause to strike out at society, to blame society for maladjustment, to blame my absent father. Here I was inner city, black, the middle son, low income, broken home. But environment is not the issue. It never has been. We are what we are by choice. I could choose to react to my environment and background or I could overcome. My mother taught us to take responsibility.
God uses circumstances to deal with us, to goad us, to prod and press us. What has He used in your life? Some choose to run away and blame God, some are drawn to God as their only help and hope. God in His magnificent wisdom purposed to use the situations I faced to bring me to Himself. Pressures and problems can make us bitter or they can make us better. The same sun that softens wax, hardens clay. How do you react to the problems and difficulties of life?
A Devoted Mother
Our mom used a strong hand of discipline. She used her voice, her hand, a belt, a rubber flyswatter, but it was always done in love. She wanted us right. Though poorly educated, she had insight to note differences in each of us. My older brother was tough. He was active, strong willed. He will testify to being spanked every day. I on the other hand was tender and sensitive. I wanted to do right. I wanted to please. A look of displeasure or a raised voice would send me into tears. I thrived on approval. I was good relatively speaking, an easy child to raise, the compliant child, but I did not know God!
My mom sent us to church though she herself did not always go. It was a Methodist Church, though sometimes I went to Baptist churches with neighbors. (This was the day of going to church. It was also the day when we could read the Bible and sing hymns in public school.) At first I did not like Sunday School. I would often cry and would sometimes get sick. I learned under my mother's heavy hand of discipline that it did not pay to cry for no good reason. She would give me something to cry for. (Incidentally she taught us to do our chores without grumbling or griping. She threatened to poke in any mouth that was poked out. And if we didn't do a job right the first time, we would do it again.) She maintained good discipline even through our teen years. I remember her telling my older brother who was bigger and stronger that she'd knock him down even if she had to get a step ladder! And I believe she would have done it!
I learned to go to church and like it. I became active in Sunday School, young adult choir, youth groups. I was even an altar boy. My older brother was studying for the ministry. This had an impact on me for I always looked up to him. [But don't tell him that!] I was a very moral child. I hated wrong. I was sensitive to wrong things. I threw something and hit a window one day. It didn't break, but the lady of the house came running to the door. I ran too, but just as I got to my door, two row houses down the street, I stopped and waited for her. I apologized and promised never to do it again. Another time I sent an unkind message to my music teacher for making us wait and was convicted of the need to apologize for speaking in an unbecoming way to an adult. Once I refused to take a treat because my behavior in class was not, in my estimation, what it should have been. I went on a crusade to clean up the language in school. I, as class representative, canceled a party for my class because they were acting up. (I ended up bringing them refreshments because I felt sorry for what I had done.) I was a weird child!
A Good Boy
Here I was--a well behaved, very moral, shy, religious, bright young fellow, but I did not know God. I had no wants to speak of, no needs, We often had little, but I didn't know we were poor, and really we weren't. My mom always saw to it that we had a good meal on Sundays, though we might have skimped a bit during the week. I was respected and well-liked. I had many friends and few enemies, but something was missing. I was not complete. Wise King Solomon said under the inspiration of God that God has put eternity in man's heart. Someone has said that there is a God-sized empty space in every one of us. We can try to fill it with material things, money, education, religion, drink, drugs, entertainment or countless other things. But only God can fill that void!
I am not sure of my age--it must have been between eight and ten. While I went to church and carried my Bible I was never taught the truth about myself and about my sin, and about God. I learned good stories, moral lessons. Most of the sermons were from the gospels and the chapter on love, never anything from the rest of the New Testament and not much from the Old Testament. I knew that Christ died and arose again, but I was never told that it was for me. At an invitation I went forward in church and was enrolled and given a box of offering envelopes, but no one ever sat down with me and told me that I lacked and needed a real, living, personal relationship with God. My religion didn't do me any good. It only soothed me into thinking I was good enough, leaving me in infinite danger before God.
But God loved me. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16. God's love moves Him to seek the highest and best for us all. God's highest and best is God Himself. God seeks to bring us into a right relationship with Himself, our Creator. God had it worked out. He arranged several things that had an impact on me life. First and probably foremost was a Bible Club, just around the corner from my home. It was there that I learned that Christ died for me, for my sins. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Peter 2:24. The Holy Spirit of God was at work to convict me of sin and righteousness and judgment. I learned that God is perfectly righteous--absolutely right in His being, in His thinking, in His acting. God is absolutely perfect and demands absolute perfection. I learned that I myself am a sinner, falling short of the glory of God. I might not have been as bad, humanly speaking, as others, but I was not as good as God, and I was not good enough for God. I was a good sinner. I was moral, but not righteous. I saw my utter bankruptcy before God though I would not have explained it that way then. I, who wanted so much to be perfect, was imperfect indeed. I could not meet God's standard of rightness. My good works were as filthy rags as the prophet Isaiah says. I knew I needed a Saviour and I learned, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only God and only Saviour.
The Grace of God
Another incident that had impact on me was a street meeting where men and women came into my neighborhood with a loud speaker to share the message of God's kindness towards sinners. I also remember watching an evangelist on TV, and when he gave the invitation to come forward I walked right up to my black and white TV. I would have gone inside if I could have.
Yet another incident was a little leaflet or tract about a hen named Speckle, the prize hen of a little boy. When Speckle disappeared for a few days the little boy searched for her and found her in a field with a brood of little chicks. He brought her food and water often. But one day there was a grass fire. Running to the field the boy found his pet hen scorched black in the flames. With tears he gently moved her dead body aside with his foot. To his amazement her chicks popped out from beneath her dead carcass! Speckle had died to save her chicks!
Christ died to save us from the fires of an eternity without Him. . . .Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; . . .he was buried, and . . .he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. I cried as I read that message. Alas I understood what Christ had done for me and why. . . . What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . . Acts 16:30-31.
Into My Heart
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
We sang it often in Bible Club. I
meant it with all my heart and I made sure of it one night at the foot of my bed.
. . . I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I
have committed unto him against that day. 2 Timothy 1:12.
I have placed my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as my only God and only Saviour from sin. I have deposited my soul into His keeping, and I know that Jesus Never Fails! I had forgiveness of sin and everlasting life, but the big question in my heart now was, why had God saved me? Surely I was no prize, no trophy. What did God have in mind for me?
In 1961 we moved from the neighborhood that had the Bible Club, but closer to the church that had not taught me. I was a babe in Christ without food. I did from time to time read the Bible on my own, but I had no one to teach me. Some time after this my older brother who was studying for the ministry left the church denomination. They had never asked him of his relationship to God. He had come to know the Lord as his Saviour through a revival meeting. This separation had a big impact on me.
In 1968 I headed to college. I asked for God's guidance as to where to go. I was assured in my heart that He wanted me at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. My brother gave me a Bible before I left and encouraged me to read it. College was a rude awakening for me. I was unprepared for the life styles, language, lack of morals of some of my fellow students. I sought spiritual guidance. I read God's Word. I sought a church and went from church to church finding moral and social appeal, but nothing to satisfy my hungry heart. Something was missing. There was no Bible teaching.
On Mothers' Day in 1969, I tried the Middletown Bible Church. My heart sang. This was the same as Bible Club. These people believed and sought to practice the Word of God. They let the Bible say what it says. This was the beginning of a turn around in my life. I began to discover God's purpose for me to be to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).
I had entered college with an interest in pediatric medicine. As I began to draw closer to the Lord, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, I found that God took away this lifelong interest and replaced it with a desire for specific service to Him. God opened the door for me to minister to children and young people in the capacity of a missionary to children. I am eternally grateful to God for His so great salvation!
It would be my
privilege to correspond with you personally about
God's gift of salvation. You may email me at the link below.
May the Lord bless you as you trust in Him.
Write to me: "Mister Steve"
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