I grew up in an upper middle class family in Napa California. I was the youngest of four kids, each about two years apart. My family were never church type people, in fact, as a child, I do not even remember having a single discussion about God, Faith, Heaven or hell. That does not mean it never happened, just not within my memories. There was one exception: When I was just a boy, around 6 to 8 years of age, my mother took me to a church and tried to leave me in Sunday School. That did not go well for either of us. I cried my little eyes out and would not let go of her purse strap. She tugged so hard that the purse strap finally broke. She did leave me in Sunday school for that one day. I do not know where she went. Maybe to church, or maybe just to get some peace and quiet. Other than maybe a wedding or funeral, that was the sum of my church experience as a child.
When I was eighteen and finishing my senior year of high school, a friend of mine sitting next to me in class was so wound up, I could tell something weird was going on with her. I asked her what was going on. She proceeded to tell me how excited she was about something she heard at church the night before. I was surprised that church could get anyone excited, and yet I was curious. So I asked her to tell me about it. She could not talk much in class, so we picked up the conversation later. She convinced me to come to church with her one Sunday morning. I was not impressed, as the Pastor seemed liked he did not care if he offended people. He said something like: he was teaching God's word and makes no apologies if it offends anyone. It was God's words not his (the pastor), so if you have an issue with any of it, you would have to take it up with God. Well that seemed a bit rude to me, so I was not very interested in coming back for more. The girl from school could see I was losing interest quickly, so she said that I could not judge someone (the pastor) on only hearing them one time. She insisted I had to come at least three times first. I reluctantly agreed to come back. After coming a few more times, oddly I wanted to keep coming. I did not know what it was, but I liked listening to this guy, and I developed an insatiable appetite to hear more. I began going to the church (Calvary Chapel of the Napa Valley) three times a week whether that girl went or not. I just had to have more of what that guy was talking about.
After about four months of regular attendance, I (mistakenly) considered myself a Christian. I knew the gospel message like my own name by then. If anyone would have asked me how to "get saved" I probably would have given a text book answer. If they asked, I would have probably led them in the "sinner's prayer". Problem was, I had never asked for God's forgiveness myself.
The turn: So one night at church, they were playing this movie. It was called "A Thief in the Night". The movie clearly depicted four groups of people. 1) Genuine followers of Christ. 2) People that just attended church, sort of pretend Christians. 3) People who did not care one way or the other. 4) People who were totally against God and real Christians. Now once the movie established which characters belonged to which group, the Rapture of the church occurs as described in 1 Corinthians 15:52 where God miraculously removes true followers of Christ off the earth, and into heaven. Of course chaos ensues as planes fall from the sky, vehicles collide, people all over the world just disappear. Then the movie checks in with each of the character groups. The anti-God people were making all kinds of ridiculous explanations for what happened. The group that did not care one way or the other about God was mostly bewildered and did not know what to think. The group that pretended to be Christians was still here, but they knew enough Bible to know what really happened and why they were still here. The true followers of Christ were gone. Just gone! They had been taken off the earth by the miraculous hand of God.
At that moment, I realized I was not a real follower of Christ, but just a church goer. It was like the light just came on all at once. I knew and understood what that guy (the pastor) had been saying for the last four months. It was like getting hit with lightning!!! The excitement was almost overwhelming. I had been to church enough now to know what was going to happen next. When the movie was over the pastor would speak for a bit, and then ask if anyone wanted to ask Christ into their heart. Man I could not wait for that movie to get over. I had my feet in the starting blocks so to speak. As soon as the movie was over, I did not even need to be told what to do. I went forward to ask God's forgiveness of my sin and ask Christ to come into my life. I found my way to the front. I met up with one of the church elders, that dear saint Mike Huffman. I hope I never forget his name or face till the day I die. He was beaming almost as much as I was. We spoke briefly, and he led me in the sinner's prayer.
That was over thirty years ago. While life has brought me the extremes of both good times and bad. Both great joy, and almost unbearable heartache. The one constant: No matter where I find myself, my God is right there with me to see me through, EXACTLY like it says in Psalm 139: 7-12. In short, there is nowhere in heaven or on earth that God is not with us. And in Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
I am grateful that many of my family also know Jesus as their savior, and I continue to love and pray for those who don't yet.
Lance B. Stevenson
Owner - Extreme Electronics