Let me begin our Ministry together by sharing who I am in Jesus. For, if He truly IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life then I am NOTHING apart from Him.
My Journey with Jesus:
I cannot remember a time when I did not know Jesus as my Savior! I was raised in a family for whom the church was the center of our existence. When I was 3 my parents moved us from Southern Wisconsin to Southern California. My dad became the West Coast distribution manager for the E.R. Moore Co. which sold Choir robes and rented graduation caps and gowns.
Because we were Midwest transplants with no local family, the people in our church became our family. At that time, the mid 1950’s, Lutherans in California mostly hailed from the upper Midwest, so we shared similar cultural heritage. Our church had a k-6 elementary school as well. As a 4th grader, I made the transition from public school to church school. It was wonderful to have the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions as a part of our day to day education. By the time I went back to public school in 7th grade I had a firm scriptural foundation.
However, while I certainly knew all about Jesus as Son of God and Savior, I did not know him as a friend or brother. He was a distant icon and example, not someone with whom I had a “personal relationship.”
All that changed the summer I turned 16. At a Luther League leadership training week in Long Beach, California, I met another young guitar player who had a friendship with Jesus that I envied. We played guitar together and he taught me songs he had written about the Lord! He seemed to know Jesus in a totally new way from anything I had ever seen before. By the end of that week, I had prayed to ask Jesus to show himself to me in the same way…and He did!
When I returned to my Youth group some friends immediately noticed a difference. One of them even took me aside and read me the riot act about taking the Bible too literally! Now, while I may have tempered my enthusiasm slightly while in his presence, I never have flagged in my zeal for Jesus from that time until the present.
About that same time a revival was beginning among the ex-hippies on the Pacific Coast. It eventually swept the entire nation and was dubbed “The Jesus Movement” by Look Magazine. I was right in the center of that flow for my last two years of High School and my first year of College. I had begun singing in Christian “Coffee house” settings. I also booked some gigs singing in churches for youth groups. These experiences gave me confidence to share my faith with others.
In the Fall of 1972, I left California for college in Iowa. My former pastor was the new president of Waldorf College in Forest City and 6 of us from my home church in California decided to attend there. Little did I realize that I would never return to California to live! Waldorf continued to afford me opportunities to grow in my faith. It so happened that two of the music faculty were deeply spirit-filled believers and their mentoring and friendship changed me profoundly!
From Waldorf I went to Augsburg College in Minneapolis. I grew to love the Twin Cities and spent much of the next 20 years of my life there. I began working at Redeemer Lutheran in Fridley, Minnesota immediately upon my graduation in 1976. Again, the Lord placed me among spirit-filled Christians and Biblical pastors. By the time I began Seminary in 1979/80 I was firmly rooted in the Word of God.
So, let me ask you…have you ever considered putting YOUR Journey with Jesus in writing? It’s one thing to ponder over a cup of coffee. It is entirely different when you try to articulate it for others to read!! It forces you to remember all the Saints of God who assisted you on the way. Previous pastors. Youth Leader. Friends. Your gratitude swells and you are humbled!
Likewise, each of us is “one of those people” to the young ones growing up around us. We owe it to them to reflect and share our testimony. I would love to read yours!! Would you write it down and share it with me?
Stepping backward for a bit, I had NO intention of ever becoming a pastor. My Dad had often thought he would like to have been a pastor…and he would have been a good one! But WW 2 had interrupted his college and by the time he truly sensed the call of God he was married with 2 children. Going to Seminary thus seemed impossible…therefore, he translated that call into grooming one of his sons for the ministry. He used to pray over my brother Paul and me every night as he asked God to confirm that call in our lives. I would silently pray that it would be my brother Paul who got the call!!
I had different plans!!! I wanted to work in the Thoroughbred racing industry! I had been horse crazy since the age of two. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were my constant companions. Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books were on my nightstand. I was determined to become a jockey!! While other kids idolized Sandy Koufax or Bart Starr…my heroes were Johnny Longdon, Willie Shoemaker, and Eddie Arcaro!! That dream died a hard death in 7th grade when I topped 100lbs for the first time! So, I switched my dream to becoming a trainer! All that mattered to me was being around horses!
However, my conversion at 16 began to open the vistas of ministry. I found that I could tell a good story and hold people’s attention. They liked my singing voice and asked for more! The more I craved the knowledge of God the more I began to attend church…any church!!! I soon discovered that there were different styles of preaching! I became a student of the pastors who best held my attention and I copied their cadences and techniques whenever I had the chance to speak.
As I started college my vocational goals changed from horse training to Equine Medicine and I planned to go to Iowa State to become a Veterinarian. But God had other plans. By the time I got to Waldorf College in Iowa I was pretty sure I was being called to ministry. Upon the advice of trusted pastors whom I admired, I tried to resist that call for as long as I could. Consequently, I didn’t start Seminary until I was 26. I had spent 3 years, post college, as the Youth Director of Redeemer Lutheran in Fridley, Minnesota. The ripples of that time in ministry are still catching up to me today. Over 100 of the kids from that program pursued some kind of ministry training. The Current Senior Pastor of Redeemer came to faith in that Youth group. Another teaches Church History at Gordon Conwell Seminary and has met with 3 Popes! Another is a leader in YWAM (Youth with a Mission).
Thus, I began Seminary in the Winter of 1979. It was very challenging, and I strung it out over 5 years so that I could pay as I go. The toughest part of that experience was maintaining my commitment to the integrity of Scripture! By the 1980’s, Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota had adopted the Historical Critical method of Scriptural interpretation. In a nutshell, this point of view holds that the Old Testament is a compilation of stories from an Oral Tradition and that they have been changed and enhanced through multiple retellings. As such, the Bible is not to be relied upon as either a historical or scientific document. It is merely a collection of moral folktales!! This point of view would ultimately lay the foundation upon which traditional Biblical teachings on ministry, sexuality, and forbidden lifestyles were laid aside …in the name of grace…despite clear Scriptural admonitions to the contrary.
I’m proud to say that I came out of Seminary with my commitment to the power of the Scriptures fully intact and even stronger than it was when I went in. I categorically reject the Historical Critical and Higher Critical methodology and have spent my life studying to refute them! I entered my first parish as an ordained pastor filled with a starry-eyed idealism of what life in ministry would be like.
I was about to discover what Jesus meant when he said…, “Take up YOUR cross and follow me!”