Welcome to Songs of Salvation! Each Sunday I will feature a Christian author sharing a "Song of Salvation" to uplift and encourage believers and glorify God.
And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:11 NLT
Authors, find out how to share your Song of Salvation here.
In my youth, from the age of ten and onward, I felt a sense of dread because man only lived 80 or 90 years, and then he died. His life was over. He was gone. Nothing left but a grave. This seemed meaningless to me. The few things I had heard about heaven were so ephemeral that they did little to ease my fear. As I understood it—and people seemed to be teaching—folks in heaven were somewhere between ghosts and angels, kind of there and kind of not there. They were cursed to a bodiless existence in a boring place where there was nothing to do except float around as a spirit.
To take the edge off this fear, I used to daydream about finding a secret utopia with magic water that enabled men to live ten times longer—hundreds of years. But my dreamworld had its own bitterness. If a man could actually live to be 800 years old, then he would also have to endure the hardships of old age for a 100 years or more. That was an insufferable thought, so my daydream losts its gleam.
Prior to my junior year in high school, in the summer of 1977, my family moved from Helena, Montana to Langdon, North Dakota. Shortly after we moved, my best friend from Helena started sending me letters and literature talking about Jesus and being born again. This stirred in me an interest in spiritual things, so I dug out the Bible that I had been given when I was confirmed into the United Methodist Church as a child and started reading.
During the late fall of my senior year, my friend in Helena invited me to spend Christmas vacation with his family in Montana. I sensed that this was more than a vacation opportunity, that it was my spiritual destiny beckoning, so I asked my parents if it would be okay for me to go. To my surprise, they consented. The restaurant I worked at, however, wouldn’t give me a two-week vacation. No problem. I gave them my two-week notice. The draw of God was stronger than the draw of money or man’s opinion.
A few weeks later I was on a Greyhound bus headed for Helena with my heart full of anticipation. I was not disappointed. The evening after I arrived, my friend took me to a mid-week singing and teaching time in the basement of his church. It was the first time I had ever been in a church meeting where everyone was smiling and obviously glad to be there. It wasn’t merely social obligation that had them there. It was Jesus. They talked about him and sang about him with a joy and gusto that I had never seen. It drew me. Whatever they had, I wanted it. Sometime during the meeting a man came up to me and started preaching the gospel to me, telling me what Jesus did for me, telling me that Jesus offered me eternal life as an heir of God in a glorious eternity if I would only believe on Him. I didn’t need to be asked twice. I never hesitated. This was what I had been searching for.
I was changed—I was born again, but my life wasn’t changed as much as it should have been. The lack was traced to basic two shortcomings, two areas where I wasn’t plugged in like I should have been. One, I wasn’t reading the Bible regularly. And two, I wasn’t attending a strong Bible teaching church. The fact is, I didn’t understand at the time that churches are not the same, that some hew closely to the Bible and others depart from it widely. Because of this lack of input in my life from the Bible and the people of God, I made many of the mistakes that young Christians are prone to make.
After I graduated from high school, I spent the summer of 1979 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri going through Basic Training / Combat Engineer Training as a member of the North Dakota National Guard. While there, by the grace of God, I got more interested in the things of God. I attended a mid-week Bible study and chapel on Sundays, and I saw a close friend become a born-again Christian. He would later become a missionary to Bolivia. Something else changed that summer. I developed a strong desire to transfer to the Regular Army and join the Rangers.
That fall I was released from the National Guard and joined the Army on a Delayed Entry Program. In January I arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia where I did a combined Basic Training and Infantry course and then attended Airborne School.
The following May I wound up at Fort Lewis, Washington and reported to RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program) just in time for two-weeks of block leave, which I spent with my family in Montana. When I returned in early June, I went through three weeks of rugged training, designed to weed a high percentage out. While there, I met another born-again Christian who took me under his wing. Shortly after we graduated and were transferred to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, my friend—shocked that I didn’t have a Bible with me—took me to a Christian bookstore and bought me a King James study Bible. That book revolutionized my life. It captivated me, challenged me, and changed me. Since that day, I have been a man of the Bible—believing it to be the Word of God, and believing it to be the only rule of faith and practice.
During the following year, I saw several soldiers converted, including a fellow Ranger with the nickname Sergeant Killer, who is now a Baptist preacher—his testimony is more fun to tell than my own. I also became a serious reader of Christian books, spending the bulk of my monthly paychecks on them. Interestingly enough, the first Christian book I read was Pilgrim’s Progress.
But, as often happens in the believer’s life, troubles found me. About a year after I arrived at the 2nd Ranger Battalion, my platoon sergeant called me into his office and gave me a choice between my Bible or my beret. I was told that I had to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to stay. I wasn’t given the choice to tone it down or use more discretion. It was mouth shut or the door. With a choice like that, I had no option but to choose the Bible. I took my beret out of my pocket and put it on his desk. My world changed in a hurry. Within a few weeks I was shipped to a regular infantry unit where a kindly officer, himself a graduate from an evangelical seminary, saw my desire to be a preacher and helped me obtain an early exit from the Army—an honorable discharge, PTL!. God shut one door and opened another.
The year after my exit from the Ranger Battalion, my studies became more advanced, and I began laying a broad and deep foundation for a life devoted to the Word of God, doctrine, and Bible teaching. I tackled subjects like Greek, Hebrew, sytematic theology, prophecy, apologetics, and church history, To this day the Bible is my favorite book, books are a steady part of my diet, and teaching is my passion.