From Death to Life, Part 5: A New Dream


Four weeks after Neil Armstrong made “one giant leap for mankind”, Woodstock was winding down its last night, and I was attending my third evening service with real people.

Real people, as in genuine, caring individuals who appeared to accept me as someone searching for something I didn’t have, but couldn’t define or explain. Just 17, full of anger, fear,-and resentment towards women, based in part on my relationship with my mother, now out of the house. For which I was glad.

Pastor K. Led us in a few songs, took the offering, and gave the evening message. I don’t remember one word of what he preached. What I do remember was him doing something at the end of his sermon: he hadn’t done the previous two Sunday evenings: he gave an invitation for anyone wanting to invite Christ into their lives to raise their hand.

One fear that I had was that if I raised my hand and came forward I didn’t know what people would do do me. My heart was open to God, just not to people I didn’t know.

God’s pretty smart about a lot of things. Actually God is omniscient-all knowing-and knew this about me. I was reluctant to raise my hand because I thought this girl from high school would see it (embarrassing). To this day I have no doubt that an angel helped me to raise my hand, because all of sudden it was in the air.

Instead of having me come forward (whew) Pastor K. acknowledged the raised hand and said “if that person would come see me after service, I’d like to talk with you.” With service ended I told the family I sat with “I think Pastor K. wants to talk to me.” 

After folks had cleared out the pastor and I went into the side room I mentioned in my previous post. Pastor K. briefly explained that everyone needs to be what he called born again, having Christ in their heart. This meant we turn from our old life to receive the life that God offers through Jesus Christ, His Son. 

Pastor K. led me in a prayer in which I asked Jesus to come into my life. At a little after 9:00 pm, on Sunday, August 17, 1969 I passed from spiritual death to a new life as a child of God. I was the same physically and mentally, but something had happened in my heart. Not the physical one but in my spirit, that now had the very life and nature of God in it. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17 I was a new person in Christ. There was a new me in me.

Natural babies have no past. In the eyes of God, neither does a spiritual baby. God sees new Christians with no past-only a bright future. That’s the life that I entered into, now exactly 50 years ago.

By God’s grace and mercy-and the patient assistance of many people over these 50 years-I am growing. Am I fully developed, spiritually? No. Am I satisfied with where I am in my walk with God? Certainly not. But, in the words of the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am..” (1 Corinthians 15:10.).

Thank you for taking the time to “hear” my story. This is only the beginning of many such stories of God’s workings in people’s lives. This one happened to be mine. I hope you were blessed.

© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

From Death to Life, Part 4: New Dream

Attending a new church is one thing; going to an evening service-other than Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve-was, for me, another matter entirely. By myself, not knowing what to expect, I drove across town to a building not much bigger than where I lived.

I cautiously approached the front, where I was greeted by folks who seemed genuinely glad to see me. So far, so good. To my left were a few classrooms, followed by the all-important bathroom. Inside the small sanctuary were pews, a small platform, and a side room that became significant later on.

I sat with this family who had opened up their home and, more importantly, their hearts to a lost young man with no direction. Loving someone who cannot love you back is true love.

The pastor of this church doubled as song leader, accompanied by a woman on the piano. She certainly knew how to play. None of the hymns we sang were familiar. I was used to singing out of a hymnal, just not the one this church used. Different church. Different people. Different songs. Different for sure.

I don’t remember the sermon, only that there was no invitation to become a Christian. That was fine with me; I wasn’t ready. The small turnout of around 50 were real people. They seemed to also have what the family I was with had: genuine interest in me as a person. And no one was trying to get anything from me.

Service over, back to the house. Another week of questions, more questions, and some arguing as my visits continued. Another invitation to attend Sunday service, which I accepted.

The second Sunday evening service was, as I recall, pretty much the same as the first. Same nice people, same hymnal with different songs. Just a different message, with no invitation.

Around this time I asked this now-familiar family for prayer for a job. Young men then-as now- needed their own spending money. A few days later I was hired at a local drug store, a real answer to prayer. This store had a lunch counter and, interesting to me, underground storage bins for overstock. Going below the main floor to store/access merchandise was a space saver-and kind of fun at the same time. 

Getting this job after prayer was an attention getter to someone looking for answers It also caused me to do a better job of managing my time. My part-time income eliminated outside assistance from Dad.

Being turned down by two colleges meant I was going to the local junior-now community-college. I could go to school and work part time. With Mom working there, no tuition, just books. Nice.

Once again I was invited to Sunday evening service with this family. The date was August 17, 1969, the last night of some music festival called Woodstock. For me this night was to be beyond anything I had ever dreamed before before-a new dream.

I’ll tell you about it in my next post, on August 17th.

© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

From Death to Life, Part 3: Searching Questions

Having previously shared about meeting a Christian in high school, the summer after graduation became a time of searching. Searching for something-or someone-to live for. A purpose.

What I was searching for wasn’t in drugs, alcohol, or sex. The effects those things were having on participants-people I personally knew-was reason enough to avoid them, though all were available. Someone, somewhere, was surely praying for me.

One reason to avoid the drugs and alcohol was to be in the best physical condition possible, to live out my dream of being a major-league baseball player. My previous post stated that I didn’t make my high school baseball team because I was a senior, with no experience. Having no meaningful purpose in life, I held onto my dream. A dream that was soon to end.

Seeing a major-league tryout invitation in the paper, I responded by attending, along with dozens of others my age. Baseball is more than running, which I did well, resulting in me failing the tryout. My dream was ended. Over. What now?

As it was an opportunity to share the love of God with me, I kept getting invited over to this family’s house nearly every weekday throughout the summer. Despite the father later claiming that I was an atheist, I wasn’t. An atheist denies the existence of any God, whereas I certainly believed in God, even to the point of serving as an acolyte for one year in the church I attended. I’m further proof that just going to church doesn’t make one a Christian. Religious? Perhaps. Christian? No.

June became July, turning into August, consisting of more visits, more questions about God and the Bible, arguing on my part, and a growing hunger for what this family had. Interestingly, not once did they invite me to church throughout June and July. 

In either late July or early August, I was invited to come to this family’s church, to attend their evening service. I was attending morning services at a denominational church in a nearby city. Agreeing to attend, I prepared for Sunday, August 3, 1969.

Having never attended this kind of church, I had no idea what I was getting into. Join me as I come face to face with a group of people with something I didn’t have: love and peace. Not the love and peace being shouted and sung by my generation. A different kind of love and peace, for sure.

Next: Part 4: New Dream. Enjoy this journey with me.


© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

From Death to Life, Part 2: Searching Summer

With high school over my future lay before me, requiring some decisions on my part. Life is made up of decisions, the results of which determine our direction and, ultimately, our destiny.

Being expected to go to college I had applied to a handful of schools, including a few in-state. Mom being on staff at the local junior college (now community college) meant that my tuition would be free. If acceptances from schools included those far away would I leave the area, or choose the convenience of a 10-minute commute to  classes at the junior college? 

Something besides high school ended that year: my days of playing amateur baseball. To some this would be just part of life. To me, however, baseball was more: it WAS my life. I lived for baseball. The ending of football season meant baseball season was right around the corner. In one sense, baseball was my god.

In the spring of my senior year of high school I had tried out for our baseball team. Things were going well until the coach took me aside to advise me that if he played me he’d have me for one year, but taking a junior meant playing for two years. At that moment, being too old to play another summer season, my playing days with/against guys I knew were officially no more. 

Done. Finished. Over.

Aside from the most important thing in my life, baseball was a means of escape. An escape from the deteriorating family life that resulted in my mother leaving our home, just six weeks prior to my graduation. Coming home from school one day I found half of our furniture gone with my mother, who had moved near the junior college she worked at. With my older brother-and only sibling-already gone, it was just Dad, Casper (our dog), and me.

There was one shining light in my darkness. In my previous post I mentioned the family whose (as it turned out, youngest) daughter was in our school choir. Those summer days at their house was a difference maker. Peace vs strife. Rest vs. agitation. Unconditional love vs the emptiness in my heart, even though I knew nothing about unconditional love at the time.

Something needed to change, whether I could define it or not.

If you’ve just joined me on this journey from death to life, go back and read my previous post. Then continue with the next post, coming soon. Hint: sometimes what seems to be a closed door forces us to focus on the open door before us, that leads to life. 


© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

From Death to Life: High School Senior

            From Death to Life: High School Senior

 

Everyone has a story. Whether yours is told to millions or a few, it’s still your story. And important.

My coming to receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior accelerated during my senior year of high school. A young lady in the soprano section of our school choir didn’t talk much, which stood out. Eventually I met her, noticing she was different, having something I did not have. At the time I didn’t know what it was.

I met this girl’s family when I picked her up to drive to our choir teacher’s house for a picnic. Her family had a something about them that I couldn’t fathom, but found myself liking. 

This girl and her family were Christians. Growing up in a denominational church I knew the term, just not the experience. I attended a church where, outside of singing and the pastor’s 20-minute sermon, the loudest sound was the lady a few rows  behind us unwrapping her candy. 

Two months after the choir picnic our high school graduation was held at Cole Field House, on the campus of the University of Maryland, marking the end of my formal education. By now I had become more acquainted with the young lady and her family. Looking back it has occurred to me that this family saw me as a lost young man looking for reality. A one-person mission field.

Searches for reality came in many forms back in 1969, as they do today. Drugs, alcohol, sex-they were all available, but were never participated in. Well, there was a one-half can of stolen beer that, fortunately, I disliked. No regrets to this day about such activities.

This is part of my story, of me coming to experience Life. I invite you to join me as I recount portions of the steps taken, which lead from death to Life.

© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

FATHER

FATHER


F is for Faithful, firm but true

A is for Always,  there for you

T is for Teacher, the Word explained

H is for Helper (help her), so children are trained

E is Eternal,  Encourage,  Example

R is Right standing, in Christ he will trample

      over weapons that form and tongues that do rise;

      clothed by Satan in clever disguise

      to ruin, bring down-yes, even destroy

      the life of a family, through every girl and boy.

      But FATHER will see and say, “Enemy!”

      “In the Name of Jesus I command you to flee!”

And so, by the Word, Spirit, Name-yes these three,

The FATHER-FAMILY LIVES

      V I C T O R I O U S L Y


© 1989 Hubert Gardner Ministries

    Where’s Your Dependency?

There’s a lot of debate going on about government’s role in people’s lives. Many decry what they consider an over dependency on government in every area of life.

Sadly, I see a similar trend in Christian circles today: a growing dependency by Christians on what someone else says about the Bible. What someone else has written about how to ______________. You fill in the blank. 

While I certainly recognize ministry gifts in our midst, such as teachers and evangelists, they are not to take the place of our own personal time with God and His Word. 

The Bible says that the entrance of God’s Word gives light (Psalm 119:130). Light is knowledge. God’s knowledge is worth having.

Here are three suggestions for receiving the knowledge of God:

First, get alone with God. Talk to Him as you would to someone who knows everything about you, which God already does. 

Sometimes, talking to God is easier than hearing from Him. Just remember that God also has things He wants to say to us.

My second suggestion is get into God’s Word for yourself. Just you, God, and His Word. The more you do this the quieter your mind will become. With a quiet mind you’ll better hear from God.

While all Scripture is good, our main focus should be on the Epistles-letters written to fellow Christians, from Romans to Jude. It is in the Epistles that we learn why Jesus died, as well as our rights and responsibilities as sons and daughters of God.

Thirdly, Get a pad of paper and something to write with. God will share truths with anyone who’ll quieten his/her mind to hear what He saying to ones spirit, including yours. Simple, yet rewarding.

Again, God put good teachers and preachers in the Church universal to inform and inspire us. But not at the expense of us hearing from God for ourselves in times of prayer and study.

If you’re already doing these three things, good. Perhaps seeing these suggestions will help you-or someone you know-to hear from God for himself/herself. While still being blessed from the preaching and teaching of those gifted of God to do so.

© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019

Six and 76

For years the name Billy Graham has been a household word. Say his name to many and visions of stadiums still come. Stadiums where faith-not football-was preached, where thousands responded to a simple Gospel message given by, as he was often called, Mr. Graham.

There was another person named Billy who preached the Gospel. This Billy preached in the late 1800s and up unto 1935, the year after Billy Graham received salvation. The other Billy was Billy Sunday, a one-time professional baseball player who became the leading evangelist of his day.

Billy Sunday was influenced by J. Wilber Chapman whose ministry, in turn, was encouraged through that of one F.B. Meyer. Meyer’s own ministry grew under the tutelage of Dwight L. Moody who was won to Christ by his Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, in 1858. 

In Charlotte, North Carolina, one of Billy Sunday’s converts was a young man by the name of Mordecai Ham. I read that in 1934 Billy Sunday was invited to preach in Charlotte but couldn’t. Instead, Mordecai Ham, himself now a minister, came and ministered. In one of those services 16 year-old Billy Graham gave his life to Christ. 

Six individuals over 76 years. Each one obedient to go and speak life to multitudes, or the one. Too often we look at numbers for marking success. God’s markings may be more on the one, the seed of many to come. Your faithfulness to God’s plan for your life may be marked more by that one than those masses. 

Edward Kimball, Dwight L. Moody, F.B. Meyer, J. Wilber Chapman, Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham, and Billy Graham would, no doubt, agree.

© Hubert Gardner Ministries 2019