Typically people follow wishful feelings toward or away from God based on their inescapable experiences and context of their culture. The resulting world view is based in theism or naturalism.
The phenomenon of belief perseverance articulates a biased worldview where adherents seek ways to rationalize their position. This bolstering looks backward to justify the already arrived at position. This is true for those who design god in their own image and for those who reject any notion of the supernatural, and thus become their own god.
My path to belief in a Creator has not been immune to this pattern of self-justification. When I was seven years old, I came to believe that my parents were bound for a paradise due to their choice to serve God. This was a choice which I had not made. There rose in me an emotional reach for this belonging and avoidance of hell. My younger brothers (who followed my example in a couple months) later came to call this our “fire insurance” conversions. We enjoyed the activities of our Baptist Church twice every Sunday and on Wednesday nights.
When I was thirteen I was overwhelmed by emptiness. The void that I had filled with the beliefs of my parents was shaken by the realization that they were going through a divorce. Was I also being abandoned by God? Who was God to have duped me into trusting in this Christian life?
I vividly remember leaving during the middle of a sermon, climbing the hill behind the church, and weeping bitterly. My emptiness shook me to the core of who I thought I was. Yet, God was. Could He still be? Eventually, silence uncovered a confidence in the security of God. God still is. I dedicated myself to read through the Bible to learn more about God.
For the next decade, my confidence in God was unshakable for it was based outside of the circumstances of my being. My faith in the existence of God was no longer dependent on my parents, my friends, indeed, even as a function of my faith and certainly not my feelings. Moving beyond knowing God exists, to knowing how He operates, will forever be the joy of contemplation. Time to read through the Bible again.
In public high school I developed from a timid boy who lacked any confidence with his peers to a young man that could lead cheers in front of the 1,000 strong student body. In the large Baptist Church I attended I grew to lead worship and even preach some sermons. Being known for my Christian stance brought some ridicule from my public school peers but earned respect from most.
At sixteen, I drove away to counter my denominational upbringing by visiting most of the other churches in town. Baptists were not the only holders of truth. My dad says most denominations may be like different flavors of ice-cream, but they are still ice-cream. However, there are a few cultic imitations which are cancerous to the spiritual body.
My first two years of college were at George Fox where I studied to be a youth pastor who would support himself by teaching high school choir and band. Chapel attendance was required at this Bible based college founded on Quaker traditions. However, the sense that I might be trapped in a Christian bubble apart from reality came to a head when I transferred to Hardin-Simmons, a Baptist University in Texas, and switched from majoring in music to Bible. “Cultural Christianity”, however, was so intense that I questioned whether I could see the forest for the trees. In other words, when a person is surrounded by only one certain species, it is easy to lose sight of the diversity of creation.
Out of money, I returned home and took classes in philosophy and world religions at a community college. This diversity slammed into my Christian complacency and forced me to reconsider the unique claims of Jesus as “The Way” to see God. The process of challenging the tenants of Christianity took about three years as I transferred to the University of Oregon to acquire a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Studying psychology at a secular university tested my understanding of my position as a worship leader. Acts of worship, prayer, and faith were confronted with tests of logic and awareness of physiological responses that were even common with pagan cults who had danced to the ritual sacrifice of children. The interaction of spirit, mind, and body brings about the delight of experiencing God but also the danger of attributing natural physical reactions to a spiritual causation.
My grades dropped as I became increasingly disgusted with the futility of courses based in secular humanism and mechanistic macro evolution. I dropped out of college and decided to visit my girlfriend during her spring break from the University of Munich, Germany. After a week spent driving around Italy with her (and her father who also came over during the break), I hitched down to Israel. Working at a YWAM base along the way (Cyprus) eventually connected me with Christians in Jerusalem who put me to work for a place to stay. To walk where Jesus had walked, and experience my Christian heritage in the historic places of Judaism, added even more confidence to the realities of God's interventions for historic and modern Israel.
My fiance' joined me for a tour of Israel and work on a turkey and banana farm. At one point we had selected a ring and pastor to marry us at Jerusalem’s garden tomb. Eloping, however, was not an option for her parents, as strong as promiscuity was not an option for mine. We endeavored to stay clean as we traveled home through Egypt and a month in India. (The constant dirt and struggle to survive actually helped in this endeavor.) Eight months of travel after leaving the futility of a secular education, I returned with a desire to learn more world history, and in turn, teach others aspects of global studies. We became Mr. and Mrs. N. and I acquired my teaching license for secondary social studies.
Over the next ten years we had three children. As musicians, we were active leading worship in Calvary Chapel type churches. I taught in high school, then middle school, then elementary school - all the while looking for opportunities to encourage Christian kids to live and share their faith.
A Fulbright teaching exchange placed me in the neighborhood of a school for missionary kids in Colombia. God was preparing us with a new purpose and career direction. I was granted another year leave from my USA public school to be a volunteer teacher. After returning to the states, my wife finished her masters to teach secondary Spanish and I began teaching online classes in conjunction with the development of the history web site. Teaching on line provided income for Mrs. N. and I to live in Europe while volunteer teaching the children of missionaries.
Jesus, by whom all things were created, has laid out a path that we should travel. This is a daily faith walk that provides peace that goes beyond understanding and joy in the midst of turmoil. Through the person of the Holy Spirit, faith is empowered and the Bible becomes the living Word of God. Our position in Christ results from His justification that has allowed us confidence to approach God in whose image we were created and are being renewed.
back to the brief bio of Mr. N.