20 Years a Christian: The Beginning

March 2, 2003 – March 2, 2023

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since God reached down into my soul and changed my heart forever. It seems like such a long time ago. I tried to write this blog post several times, each time erasing it and starting from scratch. First, I am not the one to thank or pat myself on the back. The Lord was gracious, kind, and merciful to save me that day. It wasn’t anything I have done or could do. It was purely His mercy on me. Second, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, paid the price I could not pay (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Titus 2:13-14) so that I could be set free from sin, guilt, and eternity in the lake of fire (hell). So, it would be weird if not, blasphemous to say that I did anything to even remotely to achieve where I am today.

Before Christ

Looking back before my salvation I could only describe it in one word — tired. In June, 2001 my fiancé and I moved to Iowa from New Jersey to start a new and less expensive life for us. It was exhausting. The job hunt was tiring. My relationship with my wife was tiring. Constant thoughts of guilt that I had completely messed up my relationship to my family was tiring. Add the constant thoughts of trying to be right with God on my own and in my own way was tiring. It seemed like no matter what I did it was never good enough, and I would fail constantly making wrong choices or doing bad things. My wife’s pastor from Illinois who married us, put a stone in my shoe about the Bible and that I should read it; that it wasn’t written by aliens or that Jesus, God, or angels weren’t aliens either. Every time I picked up a Bible and tried to read it; it was impossible. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Nothing made sense. I was tired.

Not only did nothing make sense, I had no one to help it make sense. The summer of 2002 I went alone to the Iowa State Fair and ran into a booth that displayed Noah’s Ark and people were talking about how it was all true and sharing stuff about the Bible. That poor man tried to help me understand for 45 minutes. None of it made sense. So, to ease this burden in my heart I would bounce from church to church, asking the Pastors or Priests the same three questions; never getting any straight answer. Even worse, they all gave me different answers. One Roman Catholic priest told me that if I didn’t give 25% of my money to the church I would go straight to hell. The Pastor at another church ordered three rounds of money collecting because the collection baskets weren’t full enough. I felt sick. I lost count at the number of places I went to find God. I was so tired.

I continued to pray the Rosary, go to Mass, and go to confession. I decided to give up drinking and smoking for lent. I thought that maybe my sacrificing and giving something up for God, maybe He would come down and tell me what I was doing wrong. Maybe He would give me an understanding of the Bible, or something. One night I was walking outside jonesing for a drink and a smoke on March 1st, stopped in the middle of the road, looked up and said, “God if you are real, I just want to know You.” I was so very tired.

If I told you what had happened in those moments, you wouldn’t believe it; and to be honest, I still have a hard time understanding. But God’s still, small voice spoke to my heart, and directed me to a church — Heartland Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel on the north side of Des Moines. “This is the last straw,” I said as I looked up and committed to go the next morning.


I found the church easily, and the directions from the map in the phonebook wasn’t difficult at all. It was a little white country church right in the middle of a neighborhood. Once inside after being greeted I sat down in the pew towards the back. As friendly people came up and said hello, I looked around. It couldn’t have been a plainer place to be. Long windows on the sides, a small stage in front, and a small balcony at the back. The walls and ceiling were white, the pews lightly stained, and the carpet, red. It was so much different than the Catholic Church, or other churches I had visited the past several months. It was refreshing.

Before sharing announcements Pastor, Wayne Goranson shared that they were not there to make money, but to save souls; and directed those who wanted to give, to a box in the back of the church. I thought that was the oddest thing. How in the world to do they make any money not making people give? The following audio is the entire service, and worth listening to. Please excuse the quality; I had to copy it from a cassette tape.

The message (Luke 6:1-11) was just what I needed — rest. Not physical rest, but spiritual rest. I needed the rest that could only come from Jesus.

“Find rest for your souls. Because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Religion will bind you. Freedom comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Wayne Goranson, Calvary Chapel Heartland Christian Fellowship

Wayne introduced himself to me and we talked in the middle of the isle way for a while. I asked him my questions, and without hesitation he picked up a Bible and read me the answer. It was the first time someone had shown me the answer in the Bible; everyone else’s answers were just — opinions. He shared the gospel to me that day; used the Ten Commandments to show me my sin, what sin was, how that offended God, and how Jesus Christ took the penalty and the punishment for that sin. That He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again on the third day, and seen by hundreds alive and ascended into heaven to be seated with the Father (1 Cor. 15:1-8). That if I by faith put my trust and faith in Him, I would not only have forgiveness, but I would be restored to a right relationship with God and saved from eternal punishment in hell.

I confessed sin, put my faith in Christ as the only way to go to heaven, broke down crying and knew that I had finally found the rest in Jesus Christ I was seeking for.

“What do I do now?” I asked. This was all new to me, and I knew I needed direction now more than ever.

“We have church on Sundays, Men’s Bible Study on Saturday mornings. Get a Bible and see you next week, ” Wayne said smiling as he put his hand on my shoulder. He prayed for me for strength and courage, to be filled with the Spirit, and to continue in the faith. As I left that day I felt the weight of the bricks of my sin fall off my back and the scales from my eyes. For the first time I could see clearly.

But, as you will see… faith in Christ comes at a cost. Would I be willing to pay it? (Luke 14:25-33)

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