February 11, 2022
I was born into an Amish family in a farmhouse, delivered by my grandmother. I attended church every Sunday, with few exceptions from the time I was born. I remember hearing about the second coming of Christ and an eternal heaven to follow. When I was about six years old, I yarned for the second coming because I wanted to go to heaven. I used to tell myself, “I hope today is the day.”
I believed the way to heaven was to be Amish, and I was that. My heart was broken for our neighbor and friend Frank who was not Amish and was destined for hell because he drove a truck.
But then, one Monday morning when I was about nine, I was walking in the cow barn barefooted and thinking about the second coming. On this Monday I was overcome with fear and said to myself, “Oh no, I hope this is not the day.” Isaiah 7:15 says there comes a time in our life when we are old enough to accept the right and reject the wrong. For me it was that particular Monday morning, but I was too young to be baptized and join the church. I was consigned to fear, hoping the second coming would not happen until I was eighteen and old enough to join the church.
When I was thirteen years old, our family went to Jake Plank’s house for church. (It was my oldest brother-in-law’s house). Levi J.D. Herschberger was preaching. I was so moved by his preaching that God called me to the ministry that Sunday morning. I just figured that after I was married, there would be an ordination service and I would pick the song book with the paper, and I would automatically become a preacher for life.
That call never left me, even after I joined the Church of the Nazarene and was baptized there at 18 years of age. Three years later I joined the Air Force and traveled all over the USA and Western Europe including Germany. That call was still heavy on my heart, but I was confused because I would never pick the right book. I scheduled an appointment with the Air Force chaplain and asked if that was God calling me to become a chaplain. He assured me that it was not. I was greatly relieved! But that call persisted even after I got back to the States and became a truck driver.
One day I was driving an old truck, and I noticed there was smoke coming from under the cab where the engine was. I knew it was an electrical fire because the starter was stuck, and I couldn’t shut the truck off. So I jumped onto the back of the truck to see what tools I would need to disconnect the batteries. In my haste to get the tools, I tripped and fell to the concrete. I put my left arm out to soften the fall and when I did I broke my collar bone, shoulder, elbow and wrist.
I was put on light duty by the trucking company between the three corrective surgeries. The company headquarters were located in Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Green Bay. I spent months in the motel rooms in the cities where I did my light duty. I watched sit-coms on the TV, but you can only watch so many episodes before Happy Days and LaVern and Shirley all seem the same. So I picked up the Gidion’s KJV of the Bible and read it all the way through from Genesis to maps. Then I began to watch preachers like Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers and David Jeremiah.
I was not a bad person, but I knew I was a sinner that needed to be saved. I was a baptized church member, tithed 10% of my income without fail, taught Sunday School, attended church services Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and revival meetings when we had those. I even went to other churches when they had revival meetings. I served on the church board and became the treasurer of the church. Even though I was a youth minister I feared I was not doing enough to be saved.
I asked my grandpa what I must do to be saved. He told me that I had to join the church and be baptized. I was relieved to be able to check that off the list. I asked what else. He told me to keep the 10 Commandments. Oh, Oh! I was pretty sure I had lied at some point. Was I destined for hell because of that? He also told me that I had to obey my parents (I’m pretty sure it was a reference to the fact that I was not Amish even though my parents wanted me to be Amish). I was looking pretty hopeless at this point II did not realize it at the time, but that the Bible says no one has ever been saved by keeping the rules). Paul wrote, “We maintain that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” He also wrote that the purpose of the law was to reveal our sinful condition and drive us to the cross of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
That evening in the quietness of the moment, I knelt by my bed and said a prayer that God accepted as a prayer of faith. It was not an eloquent prayer: I did not start with, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” and I did not end with, “In Jesus name, Amen.” I remember the words exactly: “God, if I die and go to hell, it will be your fault because I trust in Jesus completely to save me.” God did an amazing thing in me at that moment. It was like a switch turned on a light inside me. I was overcome with joy and peace. I was no longer afraid of the second coming or of dying. I was no longer counting on my good works to save me because I realized that no amount of good would even be enough. But the finished work of Jesus on the cross of Calvary on my behalf was accepted by God. The Bible tells us that God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us so that we, through him might become the righteousness of God. God took my sin and placed it on Jesus who paid for it on the cross, and he took the righteousness of Jesus and credited it to my account.
Good works play no part in our salvation – God does not need any help from us. The Bible calls our acts of righteousness as like filthy rags before we are saved. Even the sacrifices of the unsaved are repulsive to God. God demands all the credit and all the glory for our salvation. But our works after salvation are so important. As the body without the breath of life in it is dead, so faith without works also is dead. The Bible says that we can tell if a person is saved by the kind of fruit we produce, whether good or bad. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, neither can a bad tree bear good fruit.
Salvation comes by faith in Jesus. Whosoever believeth in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you WILL be saved. These things have I written to you who BELIEVE in the name of Jesus so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life. It’s all about what God has done for us and none of what we have done for him that we are saved. There is no room for boasting, except to boast in the Lord.
This letter has been published with permission from the owner.
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