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“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety‑nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” -Luke 15:4-6
I once was lost but now am found. I’m a sinner saved by the undeserved, amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I first accepted Christ when I was about 13. It was a Greg Laurie Monday night at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA. I honestly do not remember much that pastor Greg said that night but I do remember the feeling I had when he gave the invitation to accept Christ. Up until that point I never thought or considered myself lost in life. I was not looking for a savior. I was just being a kid and growing up. I was much more worried about girls and skateboarding than the meaning of life, but for some reason when he gave the invitation to accept Christ it made sense to me. It felt right. So I got up, walked down to the front and sincerely said the prayer confessing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Many things have happened in my life since that day but I can tell you one thing: I was never the same again.
I got involved with a church, met some Christian friends and for a couple of years was living what you would consider a productive and successful teenage Christian life. These couple of years gave me what I now consider my perspective of “childlike faith.” My faith was strong! I saw God in everything and talked to Him and included Him in everything. I had many strong spiritual experiences and had many prayers answered almost instantly sometimes. It was a very happy time in my life that I’ll never forget.
So what happens next in the story? A prodigal leaves home. I met a girl and a very special girl! I fell in love with her and I’m still very much in love with her. She is my wife. We met when we were 15 and have been together ever since. I know the cliché high school sweetheart story. I’m walking proof that it does still happen. I thanked God for this girl—and I still do—but something happened; as my relationship with her grew stronger my relationship with God became less important and eventually I didn’t even care to go to church or read my Bible anymore. In the process of growing up and becoming an adult I fell away from the faith as you could say.
I went to college, got married, chased some dreams, I had some successes and some failures—the typical American life—but an emptiness always remained in me. An emptiness that you could say was more of a longing. I often tried to burry this longing and ignore it. I tried self-medicating with alcohol. I tried to satisfy the longing by chasing dreams but nothing worked. It was still there. What made it worse is that I realized I did not have this longing during my teenage, short lived Christian experience. I say that it made it worse because I was so far from Christianity at this point that I had rejected it. The world had consumed me. The “un-answered questions” and the world’s secular view had devoured my childlike faith, filled me with doubt and tossed me out into a huge pain ridden world.
Through the years—though I had my doubts about God—I still kept an open mind to the spirit world. I was never an atheist but more of an open agnostic. I did not reject the idea of God, or the spirit realm, I just more ignored it saying “I don’t know.” I would go to church sometimes when invited and it would just irritate me more than anything because of how happy everyone there seemed.
Flash forward ten years and I’m at an old Inn vacationing. This Inn is known to be haunted. In the middle of the night I was woken up by a noise. It was not something I could identify. It was a sort of clicking or cranking noise. As I glance around the room I realize its coming from behind the bed. I then realize I cannot move. I am paralyzed and lie awake unable to speak. I then sense an incredibly evil and dark presence in the room and I have the feeling it has come for me. My thoughts are “Oh my God, is this really happening?” Suddenly out of nowhere I can move. I jump out of bed hyperventilating, wake up my wife and rush out of the room. What exactly happened that night I cannot tell you for sure. I don’t know exactly what that was in the room but from the evil presence I sensed I would say it was something demonic. From researching the experience is what is scientifically known as sleep paralysis. This is something that is documented to have been happening to people for a long time. Some explain it as demons visiting you in your sleep and others have tried to scientifically explain it off as nothing supernatural and all made up in your mind. I think those that say it is made up in your mind have not experienced it for themselves.
The reason I have told you all this is because this experience scared me right back to church. In my mind I reasoned if there is a spirit world, then there is an afterlife and if there is an afterlife, then the God of my teenage Christian years must be real. Back to church I went and I started praying to God to take me back. I pushed my doubts aside and recommitted my life to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. A couple weeks after finding a new church to attend the pastor taught on the story in Mark 9 of the demon possessed boy and his father.
The father said to Jesus: “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
From this message the Holy Spirit convicted me and made me realize that I was a lot like that father. I believed but I still had a lot of unbelief and doubts to tackle. They played a worship song at the end of the service and I felt the Spirit of God rain down on me. He let me know that I was His and He had never left me. I was home! I was filled with the Spirit and burst into tears. Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This is what happened to me that day. Thank you Lord for never leaving me and never giving up on me!