God changed my life

psalm 19:14-16We would love to hear how God changed your life.  Please Share your Story:

Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT)

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Here are a few stories of how our mighty and powerful and loving and grace-filled God has changed lives…

Dave’s story….

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Hey, I’m Dave Sapp, and I’m a member of a church here in Federal Way, Washington, LifeWay.  Just wanted to tell you about some of my experiences as a follower of Jesus Christ;  try to tell you a little bit about before, and what brought me to a momentous decision that changed my life, and a little bit about what my life’s been like since then.

Well, I grew up down south, and that’s kind of what you would call a ‘Bible belt’, I guess, and just about everybody I knew –  relatives, mom, dad, friends, people I went to school with, anybody I worked with – a lot of people were Christians or going to churches, and from the moment I was born, I guess, I started to experience church and go to church activities, but it might surprise you to find out that I never decided in my heart, never made that decision to follow Christ until I was in my late twenties.  I guess I was going to do things my way.

My wife and I were married when I was really young.  We were both young and pretty immature, but I guess the one thing that we were going to do was like everybody else, we were going to live happily ever after.  So we set out to do all the things, I guess everybody thinks of when they’re going to fulfill themselves.  We jumped into jobs and careers, and tried to climb those ladders of success.  Spent money, well that would certainly be fulfilling, I guess, to acquire a whole bunch of stuff – homes and cars and almost anything and everything that you could think of that somebody might buy that they thought might make them happy. It continued that way for a few years, not really too fulfilled with it all, and then decided, well, having children certainly that will make you happy, I mean that’s going to be fulfilling, and went ahead and started in raising our family.

Honestly, I kind of got to a point toward my late twenties where, you know, nothing felt right; nothing was real fulfilling.  I’d buy stuff thinking that’d be good, and before I even got home I knew it wasn’t going to really make me  very happy.  I had come to a point where really I was saying to myself, ‘There’s got to more to life than this. This just isn’t much.  If this is it, this isn’t a whole lot.’  Kids started asking questions about why we didn’t go to church, and they were getting invites to go to church things from their friends.  So of course we decided, you know maybe a religious experience would be the thing, and so we started kind of going around visiting a few churches, and we uh, what I did was, you know, nothing really exemplary, nothing really stuck out to me.  I thought this is kind of the same old ritual, these people come together, they pray and they sing, and they have their meetings and then they go home, and I just really thought shoot I just about as soon sleep in a little later, and read the Sunday paper, and watch some NFL football, and maybe cut grass or something.  That would be just about as interesting to me, but let me tell you this.  Somehow, when you make those steps, and you begin to ask those questions, and you’ve opened that door a little bit toward God, He takes a step toward you and begins to provide some answers, and they may in some unexpected ways.

We got a call, an unexpected call, from somebody that we’ve been friends with in the past, and really hadn’t really had any intention on continuing our relationship with them.  But kind of out of the blue, so to speak, we got a call, and the lady said ‘Look, I’m having a home bible study.’  I’d never even heard of such a thing – a home bible study? That just sounds weird!

But the kids had already gone to this church one time, and it was a little tiny church that met in a little tiny house, and (my wife) Paula said, “you know, the pastor there, he’s got a Baptist background, and he’s from Texas like you, and so maybe you’ll be more interested, and maybe you’ll connect with him.”  So I said, ‘Sure, let’s go.  Sounds culty enough to me, let’s check it out.’

So we go to the person’s house, and sure enough, there’s Pastor Bill Arnold, and there’s a bunch of people, some we knew, and a lot we didn’t.  He asked some real theological questions like what was your favorite bicycle you ever had, and some things like that, and he got everybody talking, and pretty soon we’re having a good time, and having some coffee and talking, and I just started to notice that these guys are dead serious about this whole thing.  I mean they’re amped up about Jesus, and this is like a Tuesday or something, and they’re down for this.

So we continued to go to the Bible study group, and continued to talk, and the more that I was around these people, the more I noticed that there was something authentic about them.  There was just something that they had that I hadn’t really seen before.  I mean it felt like they were ‘heart’ kind of Christians instead of just ‘head’ Christians that knew some stuff about the Bible.  I mean, these people were really living it, and they had the same difficulties and struggles that I did, but there was something in their lives that I just begin to think I want that, I want to be like some of those people.  Why don’t I have that?

Well, just continuing the story, we decided to start going to church, and Billy Arnold was the pastor, and we went to some services, and I guess you could imagine whatever you want to for time passing by – calendar pages falling or leaves changing or whatever.  One night Bill was preaching a sermon, and I’m still wanting to have this kind of thing that everybody else does, and he’s preaching a sermon and only this time it was kind of different.  It felt like I was the only person there, like he was just talking to me, and I felt a little uncomfortable about that.  I felt like I had a spotlight on me or something, but you know it was just God kind of tugging at my heart.  He got to the end of the sermon, and he offered an invitation, and he just said it real simple.  He said like this, ‘Some of you have been going to church a long time and some of you haven’t.  There’s young people here, there’s older people her, but I know that there’s people out there that haven’t made the first little step.  They haven’t made one little step towards Christ to begin this life that is so important for you.  And tonight could be that night for you.’  And he no longer said that, and asked people to come forward, and of course, I knew it was my night to walk forward.  I went forward and as I did, as I reached Bill, I felt somebody take my hand, and it was Paula.  God had called her out the same very night, and we stood there and Billy Arnold led us to Christ that very night in the church.

Well, it was a powerful experience, and still an emotional one for me – don’t mean to choke up for you, but we just continued to take baby steps.   We started to learn more about the Bible.  We started to come to some classes, and eventually we took some more steps and started to kind of maybe minister a little bit, maybe share, maybe take part in some of the ministries at the church.  It’s been years now, but our kids, they all came to these same classes, and came to the conclusion for themselves; they wanted to follow Jesus Christ.  We’ve seen all of them baptized, which you can’t imagine as a parent how powerful that all is.  So, as years have gone by, we just continued to be there for the illumination, and continue to take baby steps.  Now we’re at a border point, we’re not inside the walls of the church; we’re looking outside and looking for opportunities to share what’s happened with us, and to share what we have with other people, and it’s been exciting.

You might ask, you might be saying to yourself, ‘Well, I guess that’s great.  This guy’s life has been perfect since he made that decision.’ and I would just say to you, ‘no’.  That’s absolutely not the truth.  I’ve had mountaintop experiences, spiritual experiences in life, and I’ve had some deep valley sadness and problems, and walked through the desert, and things like that.

But here’s the difference, and I believe this could be the difference for you too, is that I never had that empty feeling that nothing was worthwhile, and I’ve always had a sense of peace, that there is a plan.  There is a reason for me to be here, and there’s a reason for my life, and God’s got it covered for me even into eternity.  So, my suggestion to you, if you are listening to what I’m saying today, hopefully some of you maybe have had the same kind of experiences or maybe even the same kinds of feelings.  Be curious about God.  If you are, just open that door a little bit, and just ask that question.  ‘God, if you are God, if you’re there, make yourself known to me.  Let me in on this life, and let me figure things out same way that other people have.’  I think you’ll be real pleasantly surprised.  In fact, I know you will, about how miraculous the answers that God will provide for you.

Again, thank you and God bless you.  Take care.

YouTube Preview ImageRachel’s story…

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I just want to tell you my story of how I came to know Jesus.  So, I grew up going to church my whole life with my family and, like, I grew up to know Bible stories and just all that stuff.  And then, when I was about 11 years old, well, when I was 5, I accepted Christ into my heart because I went to Bible school and stuff.  And then I was baptized when I was 8 after going to VBS.

And then when I was 11, my dad left my family, and so that was really hard because I trusted him more than I trusted God, and so it was kind of a problem.  And so once he left, I kind of had to start over, and kind of realize that I really do need God more than I’ve been relying on Him before.  And so since then, I’m 16 now, I’ve grown a lot in my relationship with God, and I’ve been able to go to Russia as a missionary, and just God’s been able to use me in a lot of ways since I put my faith in Him.  And I’m excited to see what else He does with my life.

 

Scott’s story…

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Hello, my name is Scott Cleveland, and I remember when I was about 30 years old, and my brother and I were well into our addiction at this point, and we decided that we would go camping this particular evening.  So, we went to the refrigerator, and it was really bare.  There was a single frozen chicken in the freezer of the refrigerator, and so, that would be our dinner for the night.  And we got on this Honda 754, and we were shooting down the freeway.

My brother, he would pride himself on lighting his cigarette on the back of that motorcycle, and I remember looking in the rear view mirror of the motorcycle, and there was that single frozen chicken blowing in the wind, and just a line of sparks coming off my brother’s cigarette.  And I looked down at the speedometer, and we’re doing 100 miles an hour, and that’s how I remember that time in my life.  It was like doing 100 miles an hour in the wrong direction in my life.

We hit Little Rock dam that evening, and that’s where we’d be camping out, and it was dark.  There were a couple of guy’s at the bottom of this ravine; they had a little fire going.  So, we went down there, and they had some booze and we had that frozen chicken, and so we had a little party that night.

Right before dawn approached it started to get a little bit of light out, and I realized I needed to get to a phone and call in and tell my boss I wouldn’t be there the next day for work.  So, I shot up the hill and I called in and I came back down and by that time light had come up over the canyon, and you could see each other very well.  You’d be surprised at what the darkness could hide, and I was shocked at the two guys that we had been partying with that night.  They had abrasions all over their face and their arms, and their hands were bloody, and they just really looked like they wore the desert.   And I pulled up on that bike, and they had my brother rolled up into a sleeping bag, like a wienie in a blanket so to speak, and they had a shotgun to his head.  And they said, ‘you need to get this guy out of here right now’. I could tell they were really serious.

So we put Bob on the back of the motorcycle, and headed out Little Rock dam, and if you know anything about motorcycles, you don’t really steer them, you lean them, and the passenger on the back can actually control the motorcycle as much as the rider himself.  And so we went on a long, it was a sweeping left-hand turn out of Little Rock dam, but my brother threw all of his weight off to the right-hand side, and coincidentally, we shot off the side of an embankment.  I just remember when the dust cleared, Bob was pinned underneath the motorcycle and I was really mad at him, and I started walking off.  I was headed towards home, but I could hear that horn. He had a hold of that horn, honking and honking and honking.  And I went back, and I picked the bike up and he got up from underneath it, and I walked home.

You might think ‘Hey, this guy’s life is out of control and how bad could things be, could it get any worse?’  And it definitely could because in retrospect, I could see how sin keeps you in a place longer than you want to stay.  It cost you more than you want to pay.

It wasn’t but maybe a few months after that that my brother Bob ended up in a, it’s called a drug-induced coma in the hospital, and they gave him a 50/50 chance of living.  We were both strung out on heroin and alcohol, and we were abusing cocaine, and really just any drugs that would come along our path, but specifically, it was heroin and cocaine.

So, the family flew up to see Bobby because the doctors are talking that he’s probably going to die, 50/50 chance of dying.  My family was really, they were prepared to see Bobby, but they were not prepared to see me.  I weighed 100 pounds, and I had a couple of abscesses on my body that needed to be lanced, and my mom was like you need to get into a hospital yourself.  So, I remember waking up in ICU at a small hospital in the Antelope Valley and I came to, it was me and Bob in the hospital.  I remember the sounds of the heart monitor, and they had cut a hole in his throat so he could breathe; they had a ventilator in his throat.  His skin was, I remember, it was peeling off much like a snake, but just the shell of a person, and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, if it’s the end of the line, now this is the end of the story, this is where the wheels have fallen, we have taken it to the far extremes’.

But, in retrospect, it was really not the end of our story, but it was really the beginning of our story, certainly the beginning of mine.  It was an opportunity for me to get out of the Antelope Valley, and I went into a drug and alcohol treatment program.  There was a man there, a minister that led me to the Lord. And I remember one night just falling on my knees, and just surrendering to God and crying, and just going, ‘You know God, if you just give me a little bit of peace.  That peace people talk about, I’ll follow you.  I’ll do anything you want me to do.  I‘ll clean toilets, whatever you ask of me, I will do’.  And He came through with His peace on that.  I was filled with the Holy Spirit, and I have that peace that I always longed for.  That thing that I was filling up with drugs and that crazy lifestyle, that big whole in my heart, He filled it for me, and it’s been on honor to follow God, and I said the other night, ‘Gods really doing something on the inside of a person.  There’s always evidence on the outside, and this isn’t about me but it’s like ‘Hey” you can tell there’s a changed life here.

So I am proud to say that I’m a father of four beautiful girls, and we have a wonderful home, we have our own mortgage, we own our own property.  I think the best part of my life right now is that I’m instrumental in leading people to the Lord. So, that small treatment program that I went to in 1999, now I’m the program administrator there.  I’m in a position where I can really partner with the Lord, and develop relationships with people that were sidetracked just like me back in the day, and help them get back on track in life.  My brother, also, he came out that coma, and he came through that same treatment program, and he’s doing very well.  He’s married, he has his own home, rides a really cool Harley, and he’s a super happy guy.  So, God just brought two through the gate, so to speak.  That’s my testimony, and I’m glad to share it and let people know that Jesus really is alive, right now.  He’s changing lives and it’s all about surrendering and letting God do what He’s really wanted to do, all along.

 

Debbie’s story…

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I’ve needed to remember this a million times in my life.  I had the privilege of being raised in a loving, Christian home.  Not always getting to do what everyone else did growing up, was not always my favorite.  But as an adult, I’ve learned that was a blessing, not a curse.

As a child, my family, we moved around a lot – new places all the time, about every couple of years.  And the first thing my parents did was always find a church.  We would get connected with the youth and the families, and so that was always important in our family.  As a child, I never really gave that any thought, it was just what we did.  As an adult, I realized, still moving around a lot, that that was important to everybody in the family, in keeping us all centered, so we did that, as well.  We never lived by relatives a lot, so we found that a church family was the next best thing to physical family.  So that was always very helpful growing up.

Like most, I lived far, far from a perfect life.  I’ve made mistakes along the way.  I accepted Christ as a small child – I was only 9 – back in the days when you got to get up, and walk down the little aisle, and profess your faith in front of everybody.  I’ve strayed at lots of different times during my life, but God always puts me back on the right path.  He puts people in my way to remind me of which way I’m supposed to be going, and guide me in the right direction again.

There have been times when I chose to ignore that advice, and clearly made the wrong choices, but God has always been faithful to me, and He’s just always there.  In those times when I make those wrong choices, it always seems like every sermon, every Bible study you go to is like talking to you, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I didn’t get that.  I see that now”.  And so I don’t know how He can do that, but He just always tips the mark on us.

Um, lost my place.  Um, probably the biggest trial I’ve had in my life was my divorce, and at that time I truly did not want to do the right thing.  I had a lot of people in my life who gave me the right direction, which I chose to follow.  Not because I wanted to, but because I knew it was the right thing to do.  I’ve had to ask for forgiveness time and time again in my life for different things that I’ve done.  He always forgives you, which is great.  And despite all of the mistakes that I have made, I’ve found that Christ has always blessed me.

I am absolutely amazed at where I am in my life right now considering some of the things I’ve done in the past.  But I have chosen to be faithful, and do what I knew was right rather than what I wanted.  Even though the social media, the world around me, everybody’s fine if that’s what you want to do.  But I knew in my heart that wasn’t the right thing to do, but I’ve always tried to choose the right path and God has been very faithful to me, and I just can’t believe how good my life has been by just doing what I knew was right, and not just following the easy path.  He always picks up the pieces, and shows you the right way, and off you go on with your life.

I guess my biggest thing is God is so faithful.  Don’t know what I’d do without Him.  Can’t imagine those who try to live without Him, how that even is possible.  I don’t know, most of my life I just considered that’s my life, it was easy.  Never had many huge trials in my life and when one came along, I was glad to see that faith was there, and I knew what to do, it just took a little time to get there.  God is always faithful.