I was a good practicing Catholic for 64 years. I have
now been a Christian since 1995. How did the Lord
bring this change about?
I was born into a
good Catholic home with loving and caring parents. I
went to a Catholic parochial school for nine years. I
married a good Catholic woman. We raised our children
to be good Catholics. So, although I had some faith
questions, I felt firmly rooted in the Catholic
My son invited me to
visit his Baptist church. I said "O.K., I'll
visit, just don't expect me to change." Little
did I know that the Lord was at work, sending an army
to break down my Catholic foundation and walls. He was
sending my son, my wife, the pastor and other members
from that church.
He sent my son to get
me to think. He would say "Dad,if you get to
heaven by doing good works--doesn't that mean that
some will just make it and some will miss it?"
This got me to think, "Just how do we get to
heaven? Is a grade of 70% good enough? What about the
guy that got 69%? Does he have to spend an eternity in
Hell because of one percent?
Then my son would
say, "As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ
paid the price for our sins. We make the choice to
believe in Him and we ask Him to be our Lord and
Savior." But after 64 years as a Catholic, I
would brush the thought aside.
My son also said,
"Dad, the Catholic church is a church made of
man-made rules, and those rules keep changing.
For instance, it used to be a mortal sin for a
Catholic to eat meat on Fridays, but now, for the most
part it's OK to eat meat. What about those Catholics
that the church, in effect, condemned to hell before
they made the change? What about them?" This was
kind of a sore spot for me, not only because it didn't
seem fair, but also because I really couldn't
understand why the church wanted to send anyone to
hell. Then my son would say, "As Christians we
believe God's standards never change. The Bible says,
'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and
forever.'" But--64 years a Catholic. I'd try to
brush this thought aside too.
The Lord sent a
Christian friend into my life to be my partner in the
journey to Christianity. He sent her to introduce me
to the Holy Bible and to Christian radio. I had a
Bible in the house, but I had not been encouraged to
read it, and I never had read it. Now, I was reading
God's Word for the first time. Carol also took me to
her Sunday night Bible study meetings. There was a man
in the group who impressed me. He would speak boldly
of Jesus and of God's Word. And, he bore witness to
what Jesus had done in his life.
The Lord sent the
people of a Baptist Church into my life to show me the
difference between His people and those of this world.
From the very first time Carol and I visited Highland
Crest, we could sense a presence of the Holy Spirit
that we did not experience in our Catholic church. We
could also feel a joy in the hearts of everyone
present as they worshiped. And the people accepted us
warmly. They invited us to join in with them in Sunday
School, Bible Study, and in fellowship. These were all
new experiences for us. They were all opportunities to
learn of God, His Word, and His Son.
The Lord sent Pastor
Jim to bring the Word of God alive to us, to me. For
the first time, I began to believe. Sunday quickly
became the favorite day of the week for me. It was
exciting and it was making me feel uncomfortable. My
Catholic walls and foundation were beginning to
crumble. But--64 years a Catholic--I felt duty bound
to see if I couldn't patch up those walls and
My friend and I took
a Catholic diocesan course entitled "Jesus is
Lord." We invited our church pastor to our home
for dinner and discussion. We bought and read Catholic
books on a variety of subjects. You know what? I made
a discovery! The Catholic Church claims to be based on
the Bible and on tradition. But it sure wasn't based
on the Bible that I had been reading and listening to!
It was as though they were basing their religion in a
few selected verses of the Bible and were completely
ignoring the overall message! They were not preaching salvation
by faith in Jesus Christ and salvation by faith
in Jesus Christ was now what I believed!
It was at this point
that I stepped forward and made my public profession
of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of
my life. Then things really started happening. I
gained new insight into what sin was all about.
64 years a Catholic. I had been convicted that mortal
and venial sin was what it was all about. As long as I
didn't commit that really BIG sin, I was going to get
to heaven. I could see now that any sin at all was
enough to keep me from God's presence. He is all holy
and the slightest stain of sin would keep me form Him.
The only way that I would ever be in His presence
would be through the washing in the shed blood of my
Savior, Jesus Christ. I could see too, that every time
I sin, I am turning my back on God. The same God who
has given me everything. I gained a new resolve to
walk in His ways.
I also discovered
what it was to believe with the heart. As a
Catholic, I would have said that I believed that Jesus
died for my sins. But, I would have said it from the
mind, because that is what I was taught. Now, I was
believing with all my heart that Jesus came to die
that I might live! And it hurt me to think of the
agonies that He endured for me.
I finally understood
surrender, too. As a Catholic I would have said that I
wanted to do God's will. But that isn't the same. Now
I wanted to turn my life over to Him. I wanted to
follow Jesus completely. Suddenly, I realized that I
couldn't remain a Catholic! To remain Catholic would
mean clinging to a bunch of rules to earn my
salvation. No!! I needed a church that would preach
the Good News, a church that could help me grow.
It was at this point
that I stepped forward and asked for membership and
baptism at the Baptist Church I was attending. God was
at work in my life. Not only was He giving me a new
understanding, but He was also at work changing my
lifestyle. Four days before my baptism, He took my
drinking from me. And He did it in a wonderful way. I
had myself convinced that it was okay for me to drink
as long as I didn't get drunk. I considered myself to
be a social drinker and I felt that I could be a more
outgoing person after a couple of drinks. Deep down,
however, I had always felt that the world would be a
better place without alcohol.
One the Wednesday
night before my baptism, I was sitting on the couch in
the living room, enjoying one of my bourbon
manhattans. I was having warm, happy thoughts about
all that the Lord had been doing in my life. He had
given me a new found faith. He had given me salvation.
He had given me new Christian friends. He had given me
a new church. He had united my family in a new strong
bond. All of a sudden a thought spoke to me--"Do
you think you could give up drinking for Me?"
That really woke me up! I said yes! And the Lord took
that act of surrender and He showed me what He could
do with it. He made it unbelievably easy for me. I
have never had a strong desire for a drink since that
day. It gave strong meaning to the Bible verse,
"Faithful is He that calleth you who will also do
it. (1 Thess. 5:24)" The Lord also changed my
thoughts on tithing. The first time tithing was
mentioned at my church I said to my son, "I'm not
going to tithe and I'm not going to feel guilty about
it." Well, to this day, I'm not sure how He
worked it--but in just a couple of months I was
tithing regularly. And, once again He made it easy for
me. The money was just there--largely a result of a
I also found myself
listening to Christian radio regularly. My taste in
music took a turn from "top 40" to sacred
music. What a joy it is listening to songs of praise
and worship. And the regular Christian radio programs
and messages are helping me to continue to grow and to
understand the Word of God.
The Lord also spoke
to me of purity. I would occasionally watch a movie
that was rated 'R' because of sex and/or nudity,
telling myself that it was only 'a little bad' when
compared to a lot that is being shown. Well, the Lord
has shown me that 'a little bad' is BAD. And, I
am now trying to be very careful about what I watch.
Another thing I am
learning about is what it is to be 'free in Christ.'
The other day I was standing in line at a fast food
place. When my turn to be waited upon came up, a young
man--probably in his 20's jumped in line and gave his
order. We both knew it was my turn, I'm sure. For a
split second I gave thought to letting anger show, and
insisting on getting 'my rights.' Then I thought,
"I don't have to be a slave of anger. I am freed
of that." It was a good feeling.
I'm not sure what the
Lord has in store for me next,I am sure that it will
be interesting. He seems to be leading me towards
being an active witness for Him. All I know is that I
want to be the person He wants me to be.