I’m happy to have the opportunity, and I pray that God will use my chapter of his story to encourage you in some way today.
Since I was young, I have had two things: God and family.
I am the youngest in a family of five. There’s my father, Thomas, but everyone calls him Andy.
There’s my mother, Jacqueline, or Jacquee.
There’s my oldest brother Steven, my middle brother Matthew, and last of all me.
People often asked my parents why they stopped at three children.
They always said they just felt they were done having kids, but I know the real reason.
When they had me they finally found the perfect child, and that’s why they stopped. Of course I’m just kidding.
From the day I was born I have been in church. I was also homeschooled. For anyone who is confused, it just means that I was just taught at home by my parents rather than going to a public school. I still had to take
the SAT ( it’s like a college entrance exam) and I attended college making the Dean’s List multiple times.
I’m not trying to brag, I only mention that I was homeschooled to highlight one fact, I was very close to my family.
I’m not joking when I say that my brothers are my best friends. Our closeness has often been strange to others, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Basically, I was in church from my birth and surrounded by a close,
loving family, and I loved it this way.
I remember clearly the day I was saved. I was in bed one evening with my brothers and at the time we all
shared the same room, separate beds though. We were talking, and somehow the topic of our conversation
was God, and for one reason or another I blurted out, “I know God.” My brothers, being the loving and
supporting kind, were quick to shoot me down. They said, “No you don’t.” As you can imagine this was pretty
shocking for me so I asked them about it. They said, “You can’t know God unless you first know Jesus.”
Well, that was all the reason I needed, I asked them how I could do that, and they told me to go ask Dad.
So I did, I went right then and there and told my dad I needed to know Jesus so I could know God. So he pulled out what I think was a Billy Graham tract and explained to me what it meant to know Jesus, how to receive
Jesus into my heart, and how to be born again. He asked me if I wanted to continue and I told him yes.
In my mind it was a no brainer. So he recited the prayer and I repeated it gladly. He then took me to my mother and I told her that I had accepted Jesus into my heart. She was the first person I told. A few months later I was baptized.
So, my salvation is a clear result of my family’s faith being passed on directly to me. The end.
That’s just the story of how I got saved. Now I cherish this memory, but I have many times been anxious about my testimony, as it is not particularly dramatic. It means a lot to me, but I can see how it might not mean much
to someone else. When I told my wife how I felt she gave me encouragement. She told me, “A testimony is just your eyewitness account of what God has done in your life. Nothing more.” With that encouragement I felt more comfortable, because I no longer felt the compulsion to follow some formula.
So now, with the introduction as to how I was saved out of the way, I will tell you something that I consider to be of far more importance, and that is how my family’s faith became my own personal relationship with God.
Many people, myself included, were raised in Christian homes. However, there are far too many who, despite
their upbringing, have lost their faith. I intend to explain why I have not and cannot lose mine.
When I received Christ, I was incredibly young. My motivation at the time was not the same as it is for many
adults who come to Christ. I wasn’t looking for a way out of a dead-end life. I had a great life.
I wasn’t thinking primarily about being saved from my sins, though I understood that was the purpose of
Jesus’ death on the cross. I understood that I was a sinner too, born that way in fact, and I was glad that God
was willing to pardon me because of Jesus. I’m just saying it wasn’t my primary motivation. I wasn’t looking for an escape from my sins; I was looking for a path to God so I could know him.
Very soon after I received Jesus as my Lord and savior, I had a dream. In the dream I was sitting on a hill
overlooking a valley. The whole hillside and the valley beneath were covered in tall grass that was blowing
gracefully in the wind. Then a rainbow-colored eagle flew up to me. Now, when I say rainbow, I don’t mean it had blue on one part, then green on
another, and so on. The colors were alive, moving and shifting all over the eagle,
kind of like how Mario looks when he gets a star. Anyways, the eagle was God in the dream and it flew up to me and told me one thing. “Go, tell people about God.”
I don’t know if I can really describe to you how exciting that was, to have God come up to me and tell me
something. For much of my life people have told me, especially young people, how lucky they thought I was.
They’d tell me, “you’re really fortunate, God told you what he wanted from you.”
I don’t know if this is a universal thing, but in America the majority of people from the ages of twelve to at least
their mid-twenties are just about the most aimless people you’ll ever meet.
I never really knew how to respond to this, especially because all the people who told me this were followers of Christ themselves. I always thought, “It’s not like he told me something especially novel,” I mean, if you’ve read Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and
of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” He’s basically told you the same thing.
If you pay close attention, he even gave more specifics to the mission in the Bible than he gave to me
in my dream. At the time I didn’t really understand why people felt that what God had told me was so much
more direct than what God commanded every one of his followers to do in the Bible.
Now, as an adult, I feel I understand a little better. What God said to me was something he decided he wanted
to say specifically to me. It was personal, and it was a confirmation of the relationship that I now had with him.
What I’ve really taken away from that dream isn’t some grand revelation about what my purpose in life is,
though when I was younger I felt it was.
What God really gave me was the security that he knew me and that he had plans for me.
I’ve had many dreams that I believe were sent by God since then, and every time I learn something new about
God or hear something fresh from him I am more confident in my faith than before. I’ve asked many of
my friends who were once Christian why they aren’t any longer. Some of them tell me that the arguments for
Christianity just weren’t compelling for them. Others have said that they didn’t ever feel any connection with God and were never really sure if he was actually real. In both cases their reasons for leaving don’t resonate
with me, because my experience with God has been both personal and real. This is why I couldn’t even dream of leaving God. God is not just a possibility to me, he isn’t some distant idea to be theorized about in my mind. He is a real and present Lord, Father and friend.
One thing people are often curious about is why I’ve come to Japan. I can’t say for sure why, but at some point
the call to tell people about God was sharpened in my soul and aimed at Japan. Perhaps it’s that my grandma is Japanese, but I’ve never really been that close to her, and she hasn’t really taught me anything about Japan.
To be honest, I really don’t know the source of my draw to Japan, but all I can say is ever since I was around 12 years old, I have had a strong burden to come here. When I was young I wanted to come here so badly that I
would cry and ask my parents why I wasn’t born here. The closest I can come to describing my draw to Japan is by likening it to Jeremiah 20:8
“If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were, a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
That is the degree of passion I have felt so long for Japan. Since coming to Japan, I don't even know if I have
had any positive effect. I have talked to many people about my faith. I was even afforded the opportunity to
spend half a class period telling 5th graders about my faith in Christ. An opportunity I did absolutely nothing to
get, they literally just asked if I would do it. (This is a tangent, but I’d just like to say, a good way to know that
you’re heading in the right direction is the ease by which the doors to it open. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life
banging my head against an opportunity that just won’t open to me, only to turn around and have a door open
without me even trying. And thus far, all such doors have led to Japan.) Of course there are times where I
wonder if I should go back to America. Every time I do though, something deep within me tells me that I
shouldn’t leave, that I haven’t accomplished what I’ve been sent to do.
I’m not sure if I will ever feel comfortable going back to America permanently, because how could I ever say I
was done telling people in Japan about God? Of course, God could just as easily change my course and send me to other people, there are plenty of people on earth who need him, and I’m just trying to make a point.
The call of God is something both intimidating and exciting to me, and I believe those two feelings are to be
expected parts of a born-again life. What God calls us towards is something that we absolutely cannot
accomplish without him, and it is also the one thing we know we were made to do.]
Now I’d like to close with this. If there’s anything I want to leave you with today, it’s that no matter what’s going
on in your life; no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done or what you’ve believed in the past;
God is ready right now with purpose for you.
He loves you, he died for you, and he wants to speak with you.
Don’t let your expectations put God in a box, and don’t let your mistakes hold you back from his promises.
And if there’s anything I could hope for you it’s that you hear God speak new life into you today, for a hope and
for a future. Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes.