I am so glad Jesus has chosen me to be one of His children. It's very difficult for me to describe my deep desire, throughout my life, to be loved and to find love. I was overwhelmed, at the age of 14, to find out that God loves me. I had wanted my life to be over many times before Jesus came into my heart. I knew my mother loved me, I knew my older brother Tony loved me, and I was very fortunate to have grandparents and uncles and aunts who cared for me. However, no one could love me like God, without conditions. I needed God in my life, and there was a hole the size of Texas in my heart. As with many people, I came from a broken home. My birth dad used to beat my mom, and she had to leave him before he killed her. My mom, my older brother and I lived with my grandparents until I was 4 years old. I loved living with my grandparents; I have great memories of the love I experienced in their home.
My mom moved us to Snyder, Texas, where she met my step-dad, who later adopted my brother and me. I wish I could tell you my life got better with a new name and a new family. Unfortunately, my step-dad was worse than my birth dad. We were moving from one house to another every 6 months. My step-dad sexually molested me until I was big enough to tell him to never touch me again. What Satan had intended for evil, though, God intended for my good; God had a plan for me. I remember going to church as a young boy and hearing from a Sunday school teacher how God loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me. I wanted to know more about Jesus, but things were always changing in my life. Needless to say, I had a very distorted view of what love was all about. I thought love revolved around sensual pleasure.
Jesus gave me the faith to believe in Him. I would look up in that big Texas sky at night and see the Milky Way and just know that God created this world. As I think back to all the teachers, coaches, and girlfriends who would tell me about Jesus, I smile because God was the one who sent them to give me hope. But I still had a lot to learn about love.
By the time I was 18 years old, I had to leave home. My step-dad started beating my mom, and either he or I had to leave before something worse happened between us; I left. I enlisted in the Navy to get away from the continual pain this man inflicted upon my family and me. I learned that just because you are a Christian, you shouldn't think it strange concerning the fiery trials that come, as though some strange thing happened to you.
And when I was 21 years old, someone started teaching me who the Holy Spirit is. What a difference when you live, knowing that the power of God is inside you. But for the two years prior to this, after two tours in Vietnam on board the U.S.S. Tripoli, I had backslidden in my faith. Finally, in January 1975, God called me back into a relationship with Him, which now has grown and grown for over 38 years. Although I don't know whether I would have gone to hell during those years I was backslidden, I do know that God never gave up on me.
By the end of January 1975, I met Betty, and two weeks later I asked her to marry me. We are in our 30th year of marriage together. Jesus has turned to good what Satan intended for evil for me. There have been many fiery trials along the path; Jesus has never forsaken my family and me. My mom and brother are saved, along with many more members of my family. Betty and I have a daughter in heaven, waiting for us. We have a son and new daughter-in-law who love each other very much, and both love Jesus.
It is all about love; in Luke 7:47 Jesus says, "Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."
My testimony is that Jesus has forgiven me of a lot of sins, and I have learned to love much because of this. He continues to forgive me of my sins. That is my desire to love much, to love each of you just as Jesus loves you.
My favorite Scripture passage is in Romans 10:9-13:
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
What a great adventure this has been. The Spirit of God is calling you, and the church, His bride, is also saying come to Jesus. He wants to give you love and hope.