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Seeking Things Above

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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My Damascus Road

On the way to Damascus, a Pharisee named Saul was stopped and knocked down by a blinding light. A voice called out to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” This was Saul’s confrontation with Jesus that changed the course of his life and the course history. Saul’s name was changed to Paul and he went on to spread the Gospel through the Roman Empire and write 13-14 books of the New Testament.

I had my own confrontation with Jesus on my own road to Damascus. My experience was no where near as dramatic as Paul’s. My life changed forever and I guess in some regards history was altered from its current path, at least for me.

Nobody will ever confuse me with the great evangelists of today or their local pastor for that matter. However, my hope is that as I share my story that it will affirm, inspire or convict whoever reads it to the glory of God.

So hear it goes…

My dad was a Southern Baptist preacher but I don’t have any memories of him leading a typical Southern Baptist church. He joined the Army while I was just a toddler so all of my childhood memories are as him being a chaplain and a large portion of that as a hospital chaplain.

When I was 10 I remember one night asking Jesus into my heart. I did not know exactly what that meant only that it was the right thing to do. I don’t remember talking to anyone about that decision. I think it was the expected thing for a child of a minister to do.

As I grew up I heard many different conversion stories that included life altering changes once someone accepted Jesus as their savior. I never had this big shift in my life which often made me question if I had really done it right. I think I asked Jesus into my heart quite a few times growing up, never knowing if I got it right or not.

All was well while I was a pre-teen. I had some unexplained episodes as a 12-13 year old where I would lose my temper and go into a rampage on the playground, sometimes swinging wildly at whoever I was angry with. These incidents were few and far between so really uneventful. However, in hindsight, maybe there was a hint that something was not exactly right.

My freshman year of high-school we moved to Ford Hood, Texas. This is where Satan really made his move. I was hitting puberty in full stride, in a new environment with no friends and confused about all the things that confuse teen-age boys. I was ripe for the picking.

Being an Army brat I was used to moving around every couple of years. Up to this point, I always made friends through sports. I had also been in a fairly sheltered environment of the DOD school systems. Now I was in public high school with drugs, alcohol and racial tensions that I had never experienced before in my life.

I broke my arm right before the first football game. The only avenue I had ever known for connecting with new people and making friends was gone. Satan had some new ways in store for me.

At first, my friends I met were new kids just like me and we hung out together trying to figure this high-school thing out. However, soon we all quickly learned that it was the crowd that liked to party that had the open arms for new friends. I would go to church but nobody in the youth group attempted to connect with me. I ended up hanging out with the un-churched crowd that was more than happy to take me in.

My senior year we moved to Panama. It felt like the end of the world moving my senior year. However, when I look back on it I think the move saved me from falling further into the pit than I had previous to that point. Panama was not my Damascus road but at least it slowed down my descent on another well known highway.

I graduated high school in Panama and attended two years of community college there. While I fit in better in Panama, getting back into sports and making new friends, I had already discovered another way to easily fit into a new crowd and that was the party crowd. I still went to church most Sundays and still considered myself a Christian but my lifestyle did not reflect it.

When my family moved back from Panama I attended UTSA for a semester where I met nobody. I was lonely and miserable. I did not know anyone at the school and I don’t remember even trying to get involved in a youth group at the Baptist church we attended.

After one semester at UTSA I transferred to Texas A&M. This was really my first time to live away from home for an extended period of time. I had no problems meeting people and fitting in at A&M. I found my way to a fraternity party and from then on it was four more years of party life and just enough school to finally get out with a degree.

I graduated from A&M and had a short-stint as a computer programmer for a small company before I got the job I still have today, nineteen years later. It was at this point in my life that Jesus started to call me back.

I still lived the party life after college. I had friends and I had girl friends and I really never gave too much thought about God or church. Every once in while the topic would come up and I would have a little bit of guilt rise up but I would quickly quench it.

For the most part I quenched the guilt by convincing myself that all the bad things talked about in the bible were either Old Testament or non-relevant New Testament writings by people other than Jesus. If the writing was not in red it really did not matter. However, I really did not know all the red writing either other than the popular sermon and Sunday school stories.

Nevertheless my soul yearned to come back even before I realized it.

I met a girl at work. I remember getting this huge crush on her. One reason was because she was cute. However, the other reason was that she attended a bible study on Thursday nights. Inside I wanted to go out with this girl, not only because I liked her but because I saw it as an opportunity to go to a bible study. I do not know how or why this desire was growing in me. It was just there.

I did take this girl out a couple times. I thought we had a great time but then she laid the bombshell on me. She said she could not date me because I was not a Christian.

“What?” As far as I knew I had been a Christian all my life. I talked to God a least a few times a month, more often if I was upset or feeling a little guilty. I told her, “good news! You’ve made a mistake, I am a Christian.”

Her answer was my blinding light, “I never would have guessed you were a Christian. You don’t live like someone that knows Jesus. You live the happy-hour life.”

That afternoon I went for a run and I heard Jesus say, “Tony, Tony, why are you persecuting me?” I wasn’t literally blinded but the spiritual scales did fall from my eyes.

I’d like to say that from that day on I went forward and sinned no more. I don’t know about other people but for me, I had strayed so far off the path that it has been a long journey to get back on it.

That relationship with that girl soon fizzled (she broke up with me to date a married man – crazy world). However, a few years later God did bring a wonderful woman into my life that was on her own spiritual journey back to Him.

Today I believe my wife, Amanda, and I are both on God’s path. We stumble here and there and wander off slightly from time to time but we never lose sight of where we need to be and follow Jesus back to his road.

I often wonder if I was really saved when I was ten or was I not really saved until I had my Damascus road encounter as an adult. I think the problem I had when I was ten was that I did not understand sin and I did not understand what it meant to make Jesus Lord of my life. I don’t worry about it too much because I know I’m saved now. However, it does give me a burning desire to disciple my children.

My kids believe in their heads that Jesus died for their sins because mommy and daddy say so. My desire is that they believe in their hearts that He is their savior and Lord. They need to understand sin, that they are sinners, and that only Jesus blood on the cross saves them from those sins. My prayer is that they don’t waste 30 years as a barren tree but that they bear fruit their entire lives.

God instructs us to disciple our children.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8 (ESV) 4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
What are the risks if we don’t?

Matthew 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.


Karen Zemek, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

What a testimony and what a good blog that glorifies our Lord! I imagine there would be no greater joy than to know your children love and serve Jesus Christ. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great testimony! Thank you for sharing it in such a public way. My own testimony is not so far from yours and I am happy to say that God does work miracles in getting his lost sheep back to His arms! Yay!

Anonymous said...

No reply's to your repliers?

Tony said...

Sorry - Anonymous. I must have missed your first comment if it is the 8/10 comment. Thanks so much for coming by again.

I visited Karen's site back in June to reply to her.

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