Mark's Faith Journey
I did not really believe God existed until I was 20 years old. I grew up seeing mostly hypocrisy in the church. I remember hearing the gossip about a leading women in the church who everyone knew was committing adultery and the kids in the youth group weren't very friendly. I'd had enough of religion by the time I was a teenager.
But in college I met some friends who made me rethink my conclusions. They told me about God, but I maintained that only weak people needed a crutch to believe in something outside of themselves. I grew up as an only child and was bullied in grade school. As a result I did not trust many people. I learned to rely primarily on myself and kept my peers at a safe distance. But I did not want to be alone, I wanted friends. By college I learned how to blend in and get along with most people. Going to college parties was a very superficial scene that often left me feeling more alone afterwards and hung over. Yet the Christians I had met at college had great friendships and were enjoying life without drinking. So I began to spend my Friday nights hanging out with the Christian Fellowship group.
The more I saw the difference in my friends life, the more I wanted what they had. Their love, joy and peace was very real and Christians were experiencing these things much more than anybody else I knew. I took philosophy and ethics classes ... everybody had opinions but no real answers that helped people.
But when I finally decided to read the Bible with my friends, I found answers that worked and God spoke to me for the first time in my life. My friends and I were discussing Faith verses Positive Thinking. I had always considered myself the latter. I had just been home to visit my Dad. He had lost his job and was depressed. I loved him, but I had no answers. During this discussion with my friends, a quiet voice spoke in my thoughts saying that God could help my Dad if my Dad would trust in God. I realized I would have to believe God existed first and it scared me to think about changing everything I believed. Then a tremendous and unexplainable inner peace filled me. Later I realized that this was the first time I heard God speak to me and the first time I felt His presence. This began a seven month journey of thinking more seriously about God.
So at the beginning of my senior year of college, I decided to explore this more thoroughly. I visited church with my friends and was struck by the love and acceptance there. I heard that you don't get to heaven by being a good person but that God had come from heaven to earth as a man, Jesus Christ, in order to bring people who weren't good to heaven if they would simply enter into a relationship with him. The longer I watched, the more I found that was positive. People who were genuine in their love and were growing in their relationships with each other. I started to believe that God might really exist. So in September of 1988 I decided to ask God to come into my life. Once again, I experienced peace and God began to speak to me in a quiet but clear way in my mind and heart about things He wanted to change in my life. He began to show me the way to experience better relationships and a more fulfilling life. I began to understand that God is a Father who loves us and he wants what is best for us as His children.
I began going to the East Providence Christian Fellowship and reading the Bible for the first time in my life. I discovered that the Bible teaches people about what God has said and how relate to each other in the best way possible. Jesus said the greatest commandment was "To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus promised his followers he would send the Holy Spirit to be a Counselor and Comforter. Once I entered into a relationship with God, the Spirit of God came into my life and began to teach me in everyday practical ways on how to improve my relationships and overcome problems in my life. The Spirit of God has been with me every moment of the day, knowing the answers to every problem and giving me strength and encouragement when I got discouraged. Problems happen in life to everyone, the only difference is whether we facing them alone, or have God's strength, comfort and guidance helping us get through.
For over three decades I have been getting to know God. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, overflowing in love and forgiveness towards those who choose to be His children. He has helped me to overcome areas of fear and mistrust that I struggled with from my childhood. I now have many close friends. He has helped me find freedom from things that used to control me, and brought me into a growing community of people who help each other. He has helped me overcome selfishness in order to have a loving relationship with my wife and children. There have been many times when I have struggled in my relationship with God as I tried to do things my way, but in His mercy He has helped me learn from my mistakes and helped me recover from those failures.
I am amazed that things work out in ways I could never have expected in this journey through life with Jesus. In 1995 I asked God for direction in changing careers, and He lead me into web design the following year. I had no idea at the time how good a career that would be for the next 25 years of my life. I asked God to give me a soul mate who I could share the joys and sorrows of life, and in 1997 he brought my wife into my life. In the years we have been married, He has helped us overcome our selfish tendencies, learn to work through conflict, forgive, and grow in deeper trust when many of our friends who don't know God have experienced the pain of divorce. I have seen Gods hand of blessing in my career and personal life as I followed Him.
Because I have experienced Gods love in such life changing ways I want to share with everyone who Jesus is and help them encounter God in a real and personal way. It is a historical fact that he rose from the dead. He is alive today and leading millions of his followers through the Spirit to building the worldwide Kingdom of God where people love and serve others. I encourage anyone to read one of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) in the Bible to find out who Jesus is and what he is like. He is inviting all people to enter into a relationship with him and join his Kingdom.