by Mike Ratliff
3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6 (NASB)
I will be 70 years old in October this year (2021). God had mercy on me in January 1986 when I was 34 years old. I remember it well. I was religious. I was a church member. I took my wife and small family to church every Sunday. I even ushered when asked. We attended Sunday morning services, Sunday evening services, Wednesday evening services, whatever was going on at that church we were part of it. However, I was just being religious. I was just going through the motions like I had done my whole life. I grew up going to church. The pastor of that church and I were friends from High School. However, there was something missing.
What was it? I was a very fleshly person just as I had always been. I had anger issues. I had one foot in church while the rest of me was in the world. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of people like that haven’t you? Everything changed one very cold day in January 1986. We drove to church. Our Sunday School class met in the Choir practice room. I took our 4 year old son to his class while my wife took our 8 year old daughter to her’s. We met back in our class room. What happened next is hard to explain. Everyone was milling around in the room. Our class room had several levels of seating because the Choir practiced in there. While most everyone was milling around fellowshipping I did my normal thing, which was “fellowship avoidance.” I got a donut or some sort of snack, I don’t remember now what it was. I climbed up to the top row of seats to get as far from the crowd as I could. I found two seats and motioned to my wife that we were going to sit there. Then I sat down.
Just as the seat of my pants hit that chair it was like I was alone in the room. Oh, I could still see everyone, but it no longer mattered because I suddenly became fully aware that I was lost. I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was a sinner and there was no hope for me to escape God’s judgment by simply going through the motions of being religious. This voice or whatever it was hammered me all through Sunday School and afterwards in Church. I don’t remember anything about either. I remember driving home, but I don’t remember anything about lunch. I couldn’t tell you who played in the NFL playoffs that day. All I remember was that I was at that point where it was time to obey the Lord, right now!
I prayed all afternoon quietly. As we drove back to Church that evening I was full of joy because I knew God had done something miraculous in me. I didn’t fully understand it. I just knew that I had woke up that morning as a phony christian and now I was brand new. I was Born Again. When my friend, my pastor, gave that altar call at the end of the service I was right there. I told him that I thought I was a Christian when we joined his church, but I wasn’t, but I was now and was certain. I was Baptized the following Sunday.
Nothing has changed except God has definitely matured me over the years and taken me through some very severe tests and trials. I am sure He is not done yet. In light of this I would like to share a devotion from Tabletalk Magazine from a few days ago. I do a devotion daily from Tabletalk Magazine as part of morning quiet time. I highly recommend it.