Immanuel

Immanuel

My Story of God’s Glory (Part 1): The Basics

I accepted Christ in a classroom; Kindergarten to be exact. I said a prayer and that was that, I was a Christian. I suppose I grabbed onto Jesus with all that I could as a 5 year old. I remember telling my parents and them being so excited.

Growing up, Christianity was always in the culture of my family. We went to church, we decorated our house with a light up nativity scene at Christmas time, we listened to Christian radio, and we prayed before meals. It was all I ever knew. I god baptized in grade school.

In high school I stayed a Christian. I was the kid who gave the biology teacher a hard time during the evolution unit. I tried to be a witness to those around me about Jesus, but I wasn’t very outgoing and my impact took on more of a moralist tone than anything. I thought I was doing a good job though. It’s around this time that the movie the “40 Year Old Virgin” came out…I used to tell people that I would be the 80 year old virgin.

There are those moments that define people, which change them, that play a significant role in who they are. The first one of these happened to me Junior year of high school. That summer a routine medical procedure revealed that my dad had cancer. That news would change everything. The long story is, well, too long. But, the short story is this. God healed my dad miraculously. There were 4 documented medical tests saying that my dad had cancer, my dad prayed accepting God’s healing, and when they went to cut it out, it was no longer there. It was a pure, unadulterated, not exaggerated, miracle.

In the days before dad’s diagnosis I would like to think that I knew God, I would like to think that I was a true Christian, and disciple of Christ. And to a degree I really believe I was. But when my dad got healed (and I got healed after him) my whole understanding of God changed. Before, I saw him as a cloud dwelling deity, who loved me, and desired good things for me, but was distant. After, God became not just God but daddy. God went from being far to being near. He was no longer just a framework for seeing my world, he was alive and he cared to be an intimate part of my daily life.

Between junior year and college, I didn’t grow a whole lot. I intellectualized what happened to my dad and would argue till days end that God is a God who heals. But somewhere in the argument I lost sight of God. In those days I believed in a God of miracles and had even been healed by Him, but had somehow lost sight of Him in the minutia.

Freshman year of college is another time in my life that I look back on as highly formative. My plan from the time I was little was to become an engineer. I was going to live in a big house and have a fancy car and have my wife and 2.5 kids. I was an American and I was going to live the American Dream. Through a long series of events that includes a break up and a secret sin, I became very lonely. For most of that year I would speak maybe 50 words a day, sometimes no words a day. I lost weight and became very sad. My world consisted of Class, work, sleep and TV. And then God started to work. I began to read my bible and for the first time began to pray. In that time God moved in me. After several months of prayer and a lot of work in my heart, God gave me a calling out of Romans 10 to carry the gospel. I went to CCU to pursue a degree in theology, which I earned in 2 years (graduating college in 3 years total).

After I transferred into CCU I had one thing on my mind, girls. I had been so lonely. All I wanted was a girlfriend. I just really didn’t want to be lonely again. So I flirted, and flirted, and flirted some more. And this girl gave me the cold shoulder and those three already had boyfriends, and that one was clearly not a fit. By the end of the first week I had probably talked to 15 girls (which was some kind of a record for me) and not a single one resulted in anything. I was not quite devastated but I was a little discouraged. All the while I was so hungry for intimacy.

It was probably the second or third week of school that I finally gave up trying to find a girlfriend. But something new was happening. I really don’t remember the details, but through some series of events I started to seek God in intimacy. Somehow I got inspired to take a step into my closet for prayer, and my life changed. Those days were like steroids and fertilizer on my relationship with God. My whole Christian experience was starting to make sense. Everything that every pastor ever said about reading your bible and prayer started to come together. I was experiencing the throne room of God on a daily basis. My heart was changing and my life was changing. Spending time with God became an insatiable hunger in me. I didn’t just “do my time” in the Bible or prayer, I longed for it and looked forward to it. I noticed that the way I treated people in my life began to change. I watched as God answered my prayers, I felt as God grew my understanding of him and deepened my passion for him. It was good. It was probably the most important thing that has happened to me, ever. Inauguration into God’s near presence flipped my world on its head.

And then slowly, I gave it all up… I gave it up for a girl and I got destroyed because of it. That story is not worth telling, but I will say with all I have in me, Do Not Trade Intimacy With God For Anything, Ever!

After that girl was no longer part of my life I looked back to God and looked back to my prayer closet and was broken. I had left behind Kingdom treasure, trading it for fleeting earthly trash (not saying the girl was trash, but that the relationship was nothing compared to my relationship with God. Also not saying earthly relationships are bad…only when they replace your relationship with God). I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to go back to how things were before. But something had changed. For some reason it just wasn’t the same. I wondered if I had lost my chance. I wondered if I would ever be close to God again. And for a year I worked to make things right. I was no longer hungry, no longer desired to be in the word. I was directionless. Other relationships in my life were not nearly as good as they had been when I was near to God. My time in the prayer closet felt fruitless. I was so lost, and lonely, and broken.

But God being God reached in. He showed me that when all this first began I was in my closet seeking him, and when the thing with the girl ended I was not there to seek him… I was there seeking me, seeking satisfaction, wholeness, an emotional experience. I had lost sight of what really mattered—HIM! And so we started again. But this time I was there because I wanted God. Because I deeply love the great I AM. And for no other reason.

The last several years, since these events, have been characterized by God being God and me not being God. As such we have had our ups and downs. But he has remained steadfast through all of it… never leaving me, never forsaking me, never giving up on me. He has simply been Immanuel, God with us, God with me…

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One thought on “Immanuel

  1. I’d like to encourage faithful parents out there ….from the position of Nathan’s Earthly dad, I watched all this happen in Nathan’s life…. interestingly from my outside of Nathan’s skin perspective, It looked like Nathan was as serious as a kid his age could be about his relationship with God….regularly God received from his mom and me prayers from birth that he would follow in the footsteps of Jesus…. I would pray “God you said that If I bring them up in a knowledge and understanding of what a relationship with Jesus looks like that when they are older they would not depart from it.(proverbs 22:6) …I would add to that prayer that I wanted more than just a “not departing from Him” but fruit for the kingdom 100 times what God was getting from me….In my look this account is an answer to a lifetime prayer declared for him and his brothers….I have seen God grow in each of them in fulfillment of that word He spoke that my wife and I agreed with (and even held in His face )…There is no greater blessing to parents who love Jesus than to watch how God grows them into a deep relationship with Himself.They will not depart because you are on the same page as the King of kings and Lord of lords and He never lies.
    Steve (Nathan’s dad)

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