When I was a junior in high school, I attended a church in my neighborhood. I was just visiting, but the pastor and the teacher of my Sunday School class came and visited me at my home. I loved that special attention, so I visited the church again. They kept preaching about Jesus Christ and about “being saved.” Eventually, at the urging of my Sunday School teacher, I went to the front of the church when they gave an invitation. The Sunday School teacher showed me some passages in the Bible and then prayed with me. I don't think I really understood at that point, but I went through the motions and they said that I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and that, now, I would go to heaven when I die.
That was pretty cool, but I don't think I actually understood at that point. A year or so later, when I was in the Navy, I studied the Bible with a group of friends and gradually came to understand that we all are sinners and that we all have fallen short of God's requirements of purity and holiness. And I came to understand that God had sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect, pure, and holy life, and then to give up His life and die to pay for our sins- my sins. When I finally understood that, I prayed and told God that I believe in Him and in His Son and in His death on the cross for me and for my sins, and that I believe He rose again from the dead. And I asked Him to come into my life and save me. If I had not been saved before, I knew then that I was now because I believe in Him and I confess to others that I believe in Him.
From that day on, I have associated myself with God and with Christ. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Bible college at the demand of my new wife. I did not feel “called” to do that, but I did it to keep the peace with my wife, who had already completed one year in Bible college herself. I completed a three-year course of study in Bible and Missions in 2-1/2 years and, when I was about to graduate from college, I wondered what I would do with my new Graduate of Theology degree. Rationally, I thought I should probably enter the ministry, although I felt no call from God. I put out some “feelers” to see if there was a place where I might enter the ministry. I learned of a church in Sioux City, Iowa, that was looking for pastoral candidates.
I contacted that church and they gave me directions to their church and told me to come on a particular Saturday, which I did. The pastor there told me that the church that needed a pastor was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I went up there the following morning and taught Sunday School, then preached in the morning service. Then preached again in the evening service. At the end of the evening service, the members of the church took a vote and elected me to be their pastor, unanimously. I took that as God's call to the pastorate, although it might not have actually been God that was calling me.
I served in that church for almost three years, preaching and teaching from the Bible each Sunday. Once, one of the members demanded that I let him preach in the morning service on a particular Sunday. That man and his family had a reputation of disobedience to God. I told him that I would not allow him to preach in the morning service, but that I would allow him to speak in a Sunday evening service when we typically had fewer, first-time visitors to the church. He was adamant and said that he was going to preach the following Sunday morning whether I liked it or not.
I prayed and brought this issue to the Lord. I did not know how to handle it myself. This man could have easily created a terrible scene in the church's services if he spoke out in the service and tried to take over the service. This man drove truck for a moving van company and he was going to North Dakota a few days before the service in which he demanded to speak. On his way back from North Dakota to Sioux Falls, his truck spun out on the ice, skidded over 300 feet, crashed into a bridge railing, burst into flames, and he was burned to death in the cab of his truck. This happened on Saturday, the day before the Sunday in which he had planned to take over God's church service in our small church.
This reminds me of Saul when he forced himself upon Samuel's ministry:
I Samuel 13:1-14 King James Version (KJV)
1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.
4 And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.
5 And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.
6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
7 And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.
11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.
About two years later, God called me to leave that ministry and to go to Janesville, Wisconsin, where I accepted a position as an associate pastor with focus on Special Ministries (Deaf, and other handicaps.) How He called me to that ministry is a topic for a separate testimony. Perhaps I will share that with you sometime.