On a beautiful summer afternoon in June 1973 when I was eleven-years-old, my uncle Joe showed up at our home, bringing the new pastor of Terrace Heights Baptist Church to introduce him to my parents, hoping that they would start going to church. The pastor invited my parents to send my sister, Lori, and I to Vacation Bible School the next week.
During the week at VBS, kids worked on creative projects each day. I worked on a bean rooster — different colors of beans that I glued to a 14” x 14” wooden board in the shape of a rooster. I worked on my project all week and heard stories about Jesus. I still have no idea why I was working on a bean rooster during VBS, but that was my project and it turned out pretty awesome! On the last evening, all the parents came to a closing celebration to see the projects we had worked on during the week. At the end of our show-and-tell, the new pastor shared a short devotion about Jesus and His love for us.
At the end of the devotion, my father stepped out of his seat, walked up the aisle, and
accepted the Lord. Two weeks later, my mother accepted Jesus. It was amazing! Up until that moment, our home was filled with strife and insecurity. Our family seemed headed for certain heartbreak and destruction. But with Jesus, everything started to change.
All of a sudden, our family, who never attended church let alone ever talked about Jesus, was different. Our family became very involved and active in the church. By the time I entered my late teens and early twenties, I had this church thing down. I knew how to pray, act like a Christian, say all the right things, and lead the worship set as well as lead the youth group.
However, something was missing. I had a void, an empty spot in my life that I just couldn’t seem to fill. I couldn’t find any real peace, fulfillment, or happiness. I tried to fill the void through starting a business with my father. Still empty. I got involved in church, serving as the worship and youth guy. Still empty. I thought, if I marry the woman of my dreams my life would be complete. It was. Except about three months after our marriage, Kim and I were in trouble, even as newlyweds.
On a Thursday evening in October, the new pastor of the church unexpectedly knocked at our door, wanting to meet his worship leader and the young couple leading the youth group. As we visited, he pointedly asked me two questions:
Rob, do you know for sure that when you die you are going to heaven? I answered, I think so, I sure hope so. His response to me was, Rob, you don’t have to hope or think so, you can know so. Then he shared with me 1 John 5:13: “These things I have written so that you may know you have eternal life.”
Then he asked, Rob, suppose you were to die tonight and stand before God and God were to ask you, ‘Rob, why should I let you into my Heaven?’ What would you say? I thought for a moment and realized I was going to nail this one. I said, Well, because I try my best to live by the Ten Commandments. I’m a pretty good person. I’m the worship leader, and Kim and I lead the youth. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m better than that guy down the road. So, I think I’m good!
I will never forget his response. He said, Rob, you are doing an amazing job trying to work your way to Heaven, but it’s not about what you do. It’s about what has been done for you.
He went on to share with me that Heaven is a free gift. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life” (Romans 6:23). I had never really heard this before. Then he shared with me Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Intellectually, I knew I was a sinner. However, I thought as long as I strived to do good things and as long as the good things outweighed the bad, I would go to Heaven. I learned that the Bible addresses this type of thinking in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” I was on the wrong road! That night, for the first time in my life I realized that it’s not about what I do, my good deeds and works, but what’s been done for me in Jesus dying on a cross for my sin. All He wants me to do is accept, repent, and believe. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Looking back, I realize that if I had died that night, I would have missed Heaven by 18 inches. You see, I had the head knowledge but not the heart knowledge. That night when I made a transfer from my head to my heart, it changed my life forever. The void I was trying to fill with religion was filled by a personal relationship with Jesus.
That following Sunday, after leading worship and listening to the pastor preach, I walked up the aisle and made a public profession to the church that I accepted Jesus. Talk about a shocked church! Yep, the worship leader and youth guy got saved! That night I was baptized.
My life has never been the same. The void in my life was filled, it saved my marriage, and it gave me a new mission in life — to share the gospel and make disciples. This coming May, Kim and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We have been blessed with two amazing children, Ashlee and Bobbylee, and their spouses and four grand-babies.
It’s funny how the Lord works. For me, it all started with an invite to VBS, hearing about Jesus, and working on a bean rooster on a piece of wood. To this day, that bean rooster makes its home on the wall in my home office and serves as a constant reminder of how the direction of a family was changed when Jesus got involved. It’s my daily reminder that it’s not about what I do but what’s been done for me on the cross.