Thoughts to Ponder

(1 John 4:7-8 NIV) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. {8} Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Getting your ticket punched.

I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. I was taught about Jesus Christ as far back as I can remember. My parents lived what they believed. At an early age I understood that I was under the curse of sin and would one day stand before God and have to answer to Him for my sin. I also knew that there was nothing I could do to save myself, I needed Jesus as my Savior.

I remember going to the altar as a child and asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to live in my heart. I was scared to death that I would die and not make it to heaven. I did not want to face judgment for my sins.

My Father was a Pastor and I took pride in knowing the Bible. Not so much from actually reading it but from being exposed to it at church and in our home. I knew the Old Testament stories, I knew what the disciples names were. I thought I knew God.

I tried to serve Christ. I wanted to live a sinless life. The reason I wanted to do these things was the problem. I wanted to make sure my ticket to heaven was punched. I wanted to escape hell. I just wanted to make it. I figured, if there were degrees of heaven or rewards or whatever you wanted to call it, as long as I made it in, that was fine. Who cares about anything else? The worst heaven has to offer would be better than going to hell.

When I went into the Marine Corps I got exposed to the real world. A world without any Christian influence. I started doing a lot of things I never thought I would do. I knew they were wrong, but I liked doing them. I would mumble a prayer at night when I went to sleep, asking God to forgive me for all my sins. I can remember mumbling that prayer while being so drunk the room was spinning. But I figured I needed to make sure my 'ticket' was up to date.

I went on like this for close to 20 years. I just tried to ignore everything about God, except of course my prayer for forgiveness each night.

I thank God that He was not done with me yet. I met my present wife and we got married. She asked me to go to church with her. She had no idea what church we should go to and she asked me to find one for us. I did not know either so I called my parents who gave me a couple of ideas.

We started doing to a Christ centered, Bible believing church. I went because my wife wanted me to go. I watched as service after service she sat and silently cried. Man, she was bugging me, what was wrong with her? When I asked her, she told me that she had never heard anything like this before. She had never understood that you (anyone) could just call on God and talk to Him and that He would listen. She said she never before heard that a person could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I thought to myself, where has she been? Doesn't everyone know you can have a personal relationship with Christ?

I went on about my business, but she started acting really strange. She did not have a Bible but I did, and it was like new. After all it had not had much use. She would sit up in bed and read until well after mid-night almost every night. That really bugged me, didn't she realize I needed to get some sleep? Then at times she would go so far as to wake me up (if I had managed to get to sleep) and ask me questions about things she did not understand. That was about all I could take, she was asking me questions about stuff I had no idea about. Who cares anyway? Well she did, and I was too proud to admit I did not know the answers, after all I was a preacher's kid. I would give her some answer that I thought sounded good and go back to sleep.

I did not know why but her actions were really getting on my nerves. She was becoming a fanatic. All this crying and reading the Bible, man just get over it! I figured it would pass, after all I guess I used to be like that too.

Well thank God she did not get over it. She finally gave her life to Christ. She still cried a lot at church but it was different, now she was crying and smiling at the same time!! She would try to discuss the Bible with me, but I quickly realized she knew it a lot better than I did, so I did not like to talk to her about it.

Her whole attitude rubbed me the wrong way. She did not do anything really, it was just the way she seemed so at peace all the time. I had seen that peace before, in my parents. She was not worried about going to heaven, she knew she was on her way. I began to feel a horrible emptiness deep in my soul. I had been trying for years to fill that emptiness with everything I could get my hands on. Some things seemed to help for a while but nothing ever lasted.

I finally cried out to God and asked Him to help me. I wanted to have peace and security. I asked Jesus to come into my life and take over. I started reading my Bible and for the first time in my life I found what a 'personal' relationship with Christ was all about. I no longer cared about just getting to heaven, now I cared about serving my Savior, because now I loved Him and I knew He loved me. I realized I had never really known Him before. I had never really tried to know Him before, I had just tried to use Him as my ticket out of hell. I guess in my mind I knew that my parents knew Him so I figured I did too.

You know something? Until I was willing to love Him, I could not understand His love for me. Until I was willing to love Him, I could not love others. I had never really cared if other people accepted Christ as their Savior or not. I had my ticket let them get their own.

I praise God that He did not just punch my ticket and then move on to someone else. He wanted to have a relationship with me. He wanted me to know Him, not just know about Him. He wanted to fill my heart and soul to overflowing.

I now have a passion for other people. I see people and I think that they will spend eternity in torment, separated from God unless I speak out and tell them about the personal Savior I have found. (Romans 10:12-14 NIV) For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." {14} How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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