The Pastor's Testimony
It’s amazing how quickly things can change. I’m still blown away at how God completely transformed my life the moment I made the choice to allow Him to. Whether good or bad, the decisions we make today can quickly change the direction of our lives.
While growing up, I never knew that God had a plan for me. In fact, I didn’t know anything about God. We went to church, but never on a consistent basis; mostly on holidays or when my dad would make us when we were at his house for the weekend. It was never something I wanted to do, but it was nice to be able to tell people when I did. Good people go to church, right? So, as long as people knew I went to church, everyone would assume that I was a good person. To this day I couldn’t tell you a single church sermon that I sat in. Nothing stuck. I had no idea that a relationship with God was an option. I just went to church when I had to and called myself a Christian.
Because I never actually knew who God was, I didn’t realize that He had a plan for my life. Senior year of high school was ending and I had no clue what I was going to do after graduation. I was tired of school so college wasn’t something I was looking forward to. One day, an Army recruiter came to our class and, needless to say, I signed up. I was going to be a Combat Medic in the United States Army! I finally had something to tell the people who asked me what my plans were after high school and I wasn’t looked down on for not going to college.
I ended up serving in the Army for seven years. My duty stations included South Korea, Fort Riley, and Fort Carson. Three months after I was relocated to Fort Carson, Colorado, I deployed to Iraq for fifteen months. I’m not claiming to have had the worst deployment of anyone, possibly someone reading this experienced things far worse than what I did, but it was far from easy.
Many people ask me if the casualties I saw affected me. To be honest, that wasn’t an issue. I was a medic and seeing casualties was part of the job. I was prepared to see casualties. What started to take its toll was the everyday job. Walking around the streets of Iraq, not knowing which day could be my last. It began to affect me. Experiences I had caused me to lose trust in certain members of my leadership. I felt alone. Yes, I had friends who were like brothers over there, but that can only carry you so far when your leadership is leading you into unnecessarily dangerous, potentially deadly, situations. It was taking a toll on me.
I didn’t realize how much I had changed until I got home. I was angry, paranoid, and completely stressed out. I couldn’t go to the store because large crowds bothered me. Driving was a chore because I was constantly on the lookout for something bad to happen. Eventually, I just stopped caring and my marriage was suffering because of it.
Alcohol became my true love. It was an escape and, honestly, I just enjoyed it. It got to a point where I needed some sort of alcohol in my system just to function normally. I would hide liquor bottles thought our house, so I could sneak in a few shots when I was feeling uncomfortable. As long as I maintained a certain level of toxicity, I was the life of the party. I thought this is just how life was going to be.
All the things I was going through caused my heart to go into atrial fibrillation. The doctors said it was brought on by stress. Our bodies just aren’t created to handle anger, PTSD, anxiety, or any of the other things I was going through. My heart would randomly start quivering in my chest throughout the day. I was told that I would have to take medication every morning and evening for the rest of my life. If I were to suddenly stop taking these meds, it could cause other serious problems. Then they began the process of medically discharging me from the Army. Right around that time, the best possible thing happened. Laura and I found out we were having a baby.
I knew that something needed to change. If I couldn’t handle the stress of going to Walmart, how could I handle a crying baby in the middle of the night? I made an appointment with a counselor. He thought it would be a good idea for me to go to anger management groups. He was wrong.
Anger management consisted of a group of us meeting once a week to discuss what made us angry. What could go wrong! (I hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm!) I would often leave the meetings angrier than when I arrived! I told the psychologist that the meetings weren’t working so he switched me over to the PTSD group. Now, instead of meeting once a week to talk about what made us angry, we’d meet once a week to talk about what made us crazy. Surprisingly, that didn’t work either! (There’s that sarcasm again!) Not only did I have my own issues to deal with, but I now had to deal with other people’s problems as well. Things were not getting better, they were getting worse.
I was losing control and I was willing try anything to get it back. My counselor even tried hypnosis! All that did was dig up some stuff from the sixth grade that I had completely forgotten about! There was one thing that helped my anger; medication. When I took the medication, the anger completely left…along with my personality. I felt nothing while on these medications. I was a robot.
Laura and I started getting ready for our new baby. We began discussing what kind of parents we wanted to be. We both agreed that our child would be raised in church. Remember, good people go to church and our child is going to be a good person! The new year was coming up and what a great resolution!
We attended our first service at Rocky Mountain Family Church in Pueblo, Colorado on January 3rd, 2010. I still remember Pastor Mike’s sermon. The delivery of it was different from anything I had ever heard before. God didn’t seem so far away anymore. Something began to change in me that I wasn’t prepared for. My intention was to just
check the church box off every week and now I found myself reading the Bible on my time. As I grew closer to God, things started to change. I didn’t realize it at the time, but 2 Peter 1:2 was happening in my life.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord
Grace and peace were being released in my body as I grew in my knowledge of God! All the things that I had been trying to fix on my own began to take care of themselves effortlessly as I grew in my relationship with God! One day I realized that it had been three days since I’d had a drink of alcohol. I wasn’t even trying to stop drinking! My marriage started to improve, the anger and anxiety began to leave, and I completely stopped going to counseling because I was experiencing something that was more powerful than anything they could offer! I was experiencing peace for the first time in years!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things
For someone who is diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety, a verse beginning with “Be anxious for nothing” stands out. The argument with God began
Me: How can I be anxious for nothing when I’ve been through the things I’ve been through? Of course I’m going to be anxious! It would be unnatural to not be affected by those things!”
God: “It’s the peace that surpasses all understanding, it doesn’t have to make sense. It just works.”
God: “Keep your mind on the things that are true, noble, just, lovely, and of good report and thank me for those things and this peace will guard your heart and mind from anything you have or will experience.”
And that’s exactly what happened. The things listed in Philippians 4:8 are all characteristics of God and the things He produces in your life. Once I switched my focus to those things, everything changed. I was even miraculously healed of my heart condition and completely off the medications!
Negative emotions cloud our hearts and minds from hearing God’s voice. Once the peace came, God’s voice became clear. I heard Him call me to the ministry. I heard Him call me to attend Charis Bible College. And I heard Him tell me to move to Houston, Texas and become the director of Charis Bible College Houston. And I continue to here Him calling me to greater and greater things.
God radically transformed my life in a short amount of time once I renewed my mind to who He truly is.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Transformation takes place through the renewing of our mind, but we can’t renew our mind until we acknowledge that a change needs to take place. Laura getting pregnant with our daughter was the moment I realized something needed to happen. Maybe this is your moment. Maybe you’ve experienced some of the things that I have and you think there’s no hope. I’m here to tell you there is hope. There is an answer. The answer is a relationship with Jesus.