I was raised in the church. My father was an associate  pastor throughout my childhood and once he retired from his secular job he accepted a full pastoral position at an Assembly of God church.

So I was exposed to the Word in Sunday School and in services of all kinds continually, but I wrestled with confusion caused by the “traditional Sunday School stories” that didn’t always line up with the scriptures they were “derived” from, and especially the mixed communication I received about “God’s sovereignty”.  For instance, my mother died when I was a toddler, and eventually I began asking why it happened. My father or sisters would reply with something to the effect of “Well, we just can’t understand God’s will.” (They were hurt due to the loss as well, and had their own confusions), or when a natural disaster would devastate a place you could hear many people associated with churches or ministries comment something along the lines of “That’s God’s wrath against them for being sinners.” When a natural disaster would strike a church or kill some Christian families, then that was “satan attacking” – so they would attribute obviously bad things to both satan and our GOOD Father God.  The worst was the popular ambiguous expression “Everything happens for a reason” – which is of course technically true, just that the reason is often we were foolish and not obeying Christ’s Word or heeding the Holy Spirit’s warnings.

But thank God we can know His will – you can’t even have faith in Him without knowing His will about a given matter.

This ‘religious confusion’ coupled with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life made my rebellion seem justified in my eyes. I was very arrogant and wouldn’t receive correction from anyone, because after experiencing many, many years of reaping the results of my prideful, rebellious attitude and actions, I had grown very bitter and assumed that no one acted on altruism, that everyone’s motives were selfish, so they couldn’t be trusted, they could only be used\manipulated just like they were trying to do to me.  I was full of hate, and I was ANGRY.

Interestingly enough, I walked in absolute fear every day because I still knew deep down that God was real, and so was his wrath and “his totally confusing and random sovereignty”. I feared the rapture and I feared death because I knew I would go to hell, so I distracted my mind from the thought of it.  I also always paid tithes, because I didn’t dare steal from God, and I certainly wanted blessing on my money (greed) – I was confused, foolish… and VERY ANGRY.

Throughout all of this, I became addicted to media, computer games, movies, TV shows, just flooding me, washing over my mind constantly.  My reasoning\thinking\personality was influenced by unseen, unknown sitcom and sketch-comedy writers. I even spent some time in prison, I was with the wrong person at the wrong place, and got charged with attempted 1st degree murder of a police officer and illegal discharge of a firearm.

While in prison, I was going to be “initiated” into the block, which entailed being beaten with socks containing bars of soap.  However, it never happened, I was baffled as one of my cellmates had already been beaten, and had the horrific looking discoloration all over his chest and stomach to attest to it.  I only found out much later, after my case was miraculously “no-billed” and I was released from the Parish Prison, that a woman in my dad’s church had been woken up by God, at the time I was to receive my “initiation”, to pray for me.  She said God showed her a curtain and told her that I was on the other side and that she didn’t need to know the details, but that she should pray in the Spirit for me right then.

Eventually, in my pride and lack of wisdom, I went into business with a friend and shortly thereafter lost that business and ended up with a lot of debt.

I finally admitted I didn’t know everything (of course) and wasn’t owed anything (but death) – I finally stopped running from God.  I accepted Jesus as my savior, and began making him Lord over my life.

I dumped all my DVDs/CDs in the trash. I started reading the Bible, just eating it up, fasting constantly – skipping meals to read the Bible.  I changed my whole routine, even started going to bed at a decent time since I wasn’t glued to several monitors watching some TV show while playing some ludicrous computer game. I even dropped a massive amount of weight by working out every day.

I [re]met my beautiful wife, who says I used to make fun of her when we were children before parting ways, and now I am blessed by her forgiveness and friendship… and I get to see her become even more beautiful every day.  We have three wonderful daughters, who I am glad to see not suffering from the same confusions I did… who read and quote the Bible and often humble me when pride tries to sneak in.

I started to realize the truth of God’s Kingdom, and His will (as shown in scripture, and as He leads me). I now understand why Christ said, “[Father] let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In his example\template of a prayer for the disciples and ultimately us,  it makes sense that we are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom while we are in this foreign earthly kingdom.   I am now excited to know that “God is for [me]” thus “who can [successfully] be against [me]”.  I of course feel GREAT now, and I am no longer angry! laughing

Justin Dodd