...let your light shine before men... Matthew 5:16
As long as I can remember, I have believed in God. My mother taught me about God and gave me a sense of respect for the Bible. In fact, there has never been a time in which I have not believed. But the God I believed in was "way out there..." and had no effect on how I LIVED. I prayed as a child at night ("now I lay me down to sleep...") but as soon as my mother stopped "listening" to my prayers, they ceased. He was not real enough to me to talk to on my own. I liked going to church once in a while, but since no one else went, that meant getting myself ready and walking by myself, so it didn't happen often....
In the eighth grade I made a friend who invited me to her church. I was thrilled, and began attending every week. She tried to tell me how to be a Christian by accepting Jesus into my heart, but I didn't think I needed to do anything because I considered myself a Christian already. After all, I believed in God, what else was there to it?
About the same time I saw a movie on TV (I think it was "Ben Hur") that showed some of Jesus' life, and his death. I remember thinking to myself, "I wish I could have known him..." and "Why did he have to die like that?" It just didn't make any sense to me. My heart burned within me but I didn't understand why.
Two years later, a friend of our family's came hitch-hiking down the coast to our house in California. Along the way, he was picked up by a Christian who gave him a little tract called, The Four Spiritual Laws, which he pocketed and forgot about. After he left our house (he got my room and I got the couch) I found the little tract in my room as I was cleaning... which I read over and over. It told me WHY Jesus died, and most importantly, HOW I COULD KNOW HIM NOW! It was as though I had received an exact answer to my heart's questions. My heart was pounding and my hands were trembling with excitment!
Finally, I decided to say the prayer at the end of tract to accept Jesus and ask for forgiveness for sin.
[Just so no one will misunderstand.....I have a WONDERFUL MOTHER whom I love VERY MUCH!!!! I praise God for steadfast belief in God which she instilled in me at a very young age!]
That very day, when I arrived at school, I overheard a couple of girls mention a place where there was something about "Jesus"... so I followed them to a room where there were Christians meeting to pray in the morning before class. I was amazed when I saw the "Bible" they were using. It was called "The Way" and used language which I actually understood! I specifically requested a copy of this new Living Bible for my birthday that year. As I read, it was as though Jesus were teaching me... I read His words and my heart was flooded with truth and light and understanding. The scriptures became alive and meaningful for the first time.
Later, I came to understand the reason for my sudden understanding was not so much the new translation of the Bible, but that when I accepted Jesus in faith, my spirit had been born again and was now functioning as God intended. I "heard" His voice and understood things of the Spirit now because He had connected my spirit with HIS... =)
The work will never be finished until I die, God is always changing my heart and helping me grow!