* Christchurch (NZ) Team Co-Leader
I was born into a loving Christian home. I went to church every week (Anglican), and learnt about God and the Bible in Sunday School. Yet, there are no grandchildren in heaven. I was not born a Christian, and this became evident in my late primary school years. We had a “Bible in Schools” teacher who would come every week to teach us about God and the Bible. My friend and I were the naughty kids in the class. One day, this teacher had had enough, and we were put on the spot when she sternly confronted us in our misbehaviour. And it was interesting seeing the reaction. My friend didn’t care, but I was struck, for some reason, with the seriousness of my wrong doing -- and I was repentant: I changed, in a way. I ended up getting the award at the end of the term for the most improved student! And, I even remember stopping this teacher as she was leaving one day, and saying that I had given my life to Jesus. I even remember repeating this to my mother. But I wasn’t right with God. My life hadn’t truly been changed.
In intermediate school, I remember a religious person coming to teach us about God. And I remember him talking about Jesus dying on the cross. I didn’t understand it - I remember challenging him, “why did Jesus have to die on the cross”? I don’t remember his answer, but I remember not being satisfied with it. And then a new kid joined my class. He was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And wow, did he show me up. He was “good”, and compared to that, I could see how bad I was. He seemed to know the Bible, and was able to quote stuff - something I couldn’t do. We were friends and stayed that way into high school, and I enjoyed our discussions, but I didn’t know what to think - what was the truth? I stayed committed to the Church through my high school years. I tried to read my Bible, as I should, but I don’t think I could fathom it.
In my high school years, I would hear testimonies about how Jesus had changed people’s lives. And I began wondering about my self. Was I saved? I remember reading the Bible in my room, and then saying the sinner's prayer - and feeling nothing. I remember saying the sinner's prayer 3 times or so in a row, and still nothing. I was really angry and frustrated, I think I even threw my Bible at my bedroom door! We had a missionary staying with us at the time, and hearing the bang, I remember her knocking at my door and asking if I was okay and if we could talk - but I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want her to know what I was struggling with!
And then, one Sunday night, my youth group decided to go to a church meeting held by one of the pentecostal churches in town. We were sitting in the back, and I remember listening the the preacher and being captivated. I’d never heard anyone preach like that before: with conviction, and authority! I don’t remember what he was preaching about, but I remember him saying something like “God is touching people in this room right now”. And I remember feeling very emotional. And then he said “I want those people to stand up”. And in tears, I did stand up! My youth group leader, who was sitting close to me whispered “Glen, what are you doing? Glen.... G L E N!”. Then the preacher said, “I want those who are standing to come up the front”. And crying, I did. The next thing I remember is a microphone and saying a sinners prayer. But something was happening! I was happy. But, you know, I wasn’t changed. I remember being taken out the back, and a guy giving me some literature and saying he would be in touch (but I didn’t want him to get in touch!). The drive home was awkward. My youth group leader dropped the others home, and then we parked up so we could talk. I don’t think he understood what was happening, and I don’t think I did - but I was happy - I had been “touched” by God - or so I thought.
You see one of the marks of my later high school years was rebellion to my father. I honestly hated his guts. I would talk to him as little as possible, and it would often lead to nasty confrontation. I knew it was wrong. I remember reading the Bible and being terrified of what it said about those who didn’t honour their parents.
I finished High School when I was 17, and moved to a city to do my tertiary training in business computing. And it’s then that the shackles came off, and I truly followed the evil desires of my heart. I very distinctly told people that I was an agnostic with a Christian bias, and that I was searching for the truth. But in hindsight, that was a lie. I wanted to live my life my way. My parents had placed me in the care of a hostel run by a wonderful Brethren man and his wife - who would regularly call gospel meetings for those staying in the hostel. He invited me to church, which I refused - much to his displeasure. I quickly moved out of the hostel and went flatting, but that Brethren man had an impact on me.
I kept pursuing my own way for the next 3 years of my life. But, God still weighed heavily upon my thoughts. One day, I remember walking to the computer lab on a dark cloudy day. Once inside, I sat down at a computer, and then there was an almighty loud bang. I remember saying out loud - “not yet Lord, I’m not ready!” And then I realised it was just a thunder clap as a storm started outside and felt sheepish. But it unsettled me. I had similar experiences through those 3 years. I even met a new Jehovah's Witness friend. He was like my friend from my teen years - he seemed to know his stuff. 1 day I nearly decided to join them - but I didn’t. I finally came to a point, as I was walking home 1 night, where I cried out to God: “I can’t find you, I can’t prove you, I give up. If you are real, you are going to have to come to me”.
And then 1 day, in my bed room, I was writing an email to my parents (email was very new in those days, but yes, both I and my parents had email!). All of a sudden, I started saying in this email. “Dad, I don’t fully understand why I treated you the way I did, but I’m sorry”. And tears were streaming down my face. All of a sudden, a change had occurred in my heart. And I was truly repenting. I remember coming out of my bedroom and saying to one of my flat mates, who was a Christian (and who I had been accusing of hypocrisy!) that I might join her for church on Sunday. I remember her later saying she nearly fell out of her chair! I went to church that Sunday, and I remember thinking: “this place is weird, get out”. But I stayed. And at the end of the service, the minister called for any willing to commit their lives to the Lord to do so. I willingly went up, without emotion, and made a commitment and started my journey with Christ. After that, I remember picking up my Bible and dusting it off, and starting to read from the book of Matthew. And I couldn’t stop. In no time flat I remember being up to Hebrews. That night, in my bedroom, Jesus regenerated me. He raised me from the dead (spiritually) to new life. I was born again. I was given a new heart. Moral teaching didn’t change me, the sinner's prayer didn’t change me, emotions didn’t change me. God, by His grace alone, changed me. I understood the seriousness of my sin, I understood the gospel of Jesus. And He regenerated me, and lead me in repentance and faith in Him. I know I am saved because I can look back and see the lasting change God is doing in my life - leading me in holiness. This is only something He could do, so only He gets the glory.
Christchurch (NZ) Team
Heads out to the streets of Christchurch for outreach usually 6 days a week to various locations.
Including Fridays in Cathedral Square from 12:30pm and in Cashel Mall after that till 3:30pm. Also Sundays in Cashel Mall 1:30pm till 3:30pm.
Contact Glen Richards for more information.