I became a Christian in 1974. I had been raised in a Christian home, but I never personally connected with Christ and the power of the living God. I was attending the University of Washington and living pretty much a heathen life. My brother Todd was attending WSU doing much the same. Then one day Todd called me and said, “Hey, Mark, do you remember all those things we were taught in Sunday School? Well, they’re all true!” Todd had met the Lord personally I remember getting off the phone and looking through the Gideon New Testament (that someone had been handing out on campus). I read the passage in the book of John that states: “This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.” (John 21:24). I’ll never forget the experience. It was like the words became alive inside me; the words of that verse felt like a glowing light – they appeared like they were highlighted in that little New Testament. I knew that I knew that I knew it was all true. It changed my life. I had some bad habits that began sloughing off one by one – I wasn’t even trying to get rid of them! I experienced an overwhelming peace – and joy – and an almost physical warmth inside.
I told my friends that I was a Christian. I told the girl I had been seeing that I was a Christian – and she cried. My old friends were confused and left. I soon made the decision to leave school and return home. My brother Todd also left school and returned home.
We got involved in a great church in Olympia (Evergreen Christian Center). Within a year, almost every friend we had (mostly friends we had made in high school) met the Lord. (Many have since gone into full-time ministry as pastors or missionaries.)
Todd and I were team-teaching our own Sunday School class for young adults Todd felt a call to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the Los Angeles area. I remember feeling somewhat at loose ends – I didn’t really sense any particular “calling” to a ministry position. I prayed about what I should do, but really felt no clear direction. I assumed I would continue working (at a cement plant!) for the rest of my life and working as I could at Evergreen Christian Center. All my Christian buddies were getting married, but I was still single – and really wanting to be married.
It was during this time that, as I studied and prayed, that I read the Book of Hebrews. It scared me. I would read the warnings against unbelief and wonder if I was lacking direction because of unbelief, etc. Nothing seemed to be pointing in a direction for the future.
It was during this time of confusion that the Lord spoke to me. My father and I were attending a men’s prayer group (every Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m.). We would all gather in front of the sanctuary and enter into a time of praise and prayer. One morning, while I was still struggling with doubt (and some depression, I think), I remember just standing silent with arms raised (and probably some tears) when, again, the Lord spoke to me. Again, it’s one of those times where you know that you know that you know you just heard from the Lord. Deep peace, deep understanding, deep warmth. This time, I was amazed: it was two verses – Psalm 3:2, 3, and Psalm 31:19:
Many are saying of my soul,
“There is no deliverance for him in God,”
But, Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
How great is Thy goodness,
Which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee,
Which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge
Before the sons of men!
I remember that part of what amazed me was the fact that not only the words of the verses came to me quite clearly, but also the specific verse numbers and chapters in Psalms.
Within a year, I was off to complete college at Central Washington University – without any money (but the Lord again provided the funding after I made the move to Ellensburg – another story for another time). I met Lori (also another story) and we married in 1981, then off to law school in California. I’m still in awe. The two verses continue to speak to me. When I face different seasons in life, I remember these promises. His word is still active and alive. These verses have become my life verses.
I took some time to relay my own story (thank you for the opportunity!) to make a point. When we read of the various warnings against unbelief and “drifting away,” etc., remember that God has a deep, deep love for each of us, and that he is a refuge for us, and that he has a plan and purpose for us – and that He is incredibly good! The warnings in Hebrews were effective in my life to cause me to really seek to hear from the Lord, and then to obey. It was one of the most exciting times in my life.