I was raised up in church most of my life. As a child, my Mom took me to many different kinds of churches: Southern Methodist, Free Will Baptist, Pentecostal Holiness, Assemblies of God and a few others. As a child I was "saved" and baptized as a part of a Free Will Baptist church...old school style in Lynches River while everybody was singing "Shall We Gather at the River". It's a great memory, and I'm glad I had that experience.
The last time I went to church regularly was in the late 90's...maybe up until around 2000-2001 when I went to a Baptist church that my Aunt and Uncle attended. Somehow, I strayed away from God. I'm only 33 years old, but I've been through a lot in my life since I stopped attending that church regularly. Some good, some bad. Shortly after I quit attending church regularly I had turned 21 and not too long after that, I developed quite a drinking problem. I drank way too much. Outside of work, my life consisted of drinking and playing video games.
I beat that drinking problem though. I guess, it was around 2005. I'm proud of that. Also, as I blogged about here, I got my health and weight under control, I quit smoking and I went from being morbidly obese to being pretty physically fit.
I was back working at a company I love, with people I love doing stuff that I love to do every single day. I couldn't be more blessed when it comes to my career.
Through all of this however, many ups and downs, there was always something missing. Like I said, I hadn't been to church since at least 2001.
I recently moved into a new home I purchased back in June of this year. My new neighbors invited me to an event at a church they used to attend for a July 4th celebration. I made up all kinds of excuses for myself not to go...nothing was good enough, however and I went. When I got there, I started thinking of excuses to leave...it was an outside event...it was hot, it was going to rain, etc.
Thankfully, I stayed. I listened to a young man who is a youth leader at a local church deliver a message and something happened in my heart. I literally felt my heart change. I knew I had walked away from Christ a long time ago, and it was time to come back. The very next Sunday, I attended my first service at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Shortly after that I was given a big test from God. I have, over the past weeks, experienced the most challenging thing I've ever experienced in my life. My faith didn't waiver. I knew that God had a plan and would give me the strength to make it through it. Many would have said "Why would such a bad thing happen just as I started back going to church!". I didn't however. I persevered and I now know Christ, genuinely for the first time in my life.
I know this (and my last two Bible posts) are way off topic considering the topics I have traditionally written about here. I just felt the need to share, and let you know that God loves you. If you grew up in church and stepped away as I did, come back. Find a church where you fit in, where you can make friends and be happy worshiping the Lord together.
I want to thank everyone at EBC for making me feel loved and welcome. I love you all.
I'll leave you with these:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (ESV)