Hi, my name is Stephen. I hope you’ve arrived at this page after a conversation with me, but regardless of how you got here or why you came, I’m glad you did. I’m humbled that you’d take the time to hear my story. I want to tell you why I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My deepest hope and desire is that if you haven’t yet encountered Jesus in his full transforming power, this story will nudge you in that direction. If you have already encountered Jesus and made him the final authority in your life, then I hope this story encourages you as you seek to follow Him.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of the first time I encountered Jesus. I can recall clearly sitting at the dinner table with my family. It was dark outside and purple curtains framed the windows. We were eating hamburgers (a favorite and fond meal to me to this day). I don’t know what led up to this moment, or why it happened exactly at this time, but I distinctly remember asking Mom during a lull in the conversation, “What does it mean to get saved?”
This led Mom to share both some scary news, and some really amazing, life changing, good news. I was a sinner. I was young, only 5 years old at this time, but even then I knew what that meant, and I knew it was true. I wanted to please myself. No one else, just me. If I did something for someone else like my parents or siblings it was to avoid punishment or get a reward for myself. I was selfish, self centered, stubborn, and disobedient, and that was bad news for me. I had already learned that God exists, and he’s perfect. He created us to be in a relationship with him, but that all went south a long time ago. Adam and Eve decided to do what they wanted, instead of obeying God. They sinned. And ever since then, we humans have been inclined towards sin. Sin separates us from the perfect God, and we have no desire to even be in a relationship with Him. We want our independence from God. We want Him to leave us alone, but that’s not how he designed us to work.
Providentially, this is where the good news begins. God loves us so much, he doesn’t want us to suffer in our sin and isolation from Him. There’s no way in our sinful human nature to reach God, so he reached out to us. While we were still sinners, God sent his only son Jesus into the world. God is the perfect judge. He can’t just sweep our sin, rebellion, and evil under the rug. It has to be paid for. So God paid the price. Jesus Christ lived on the earth as fully human and fully God. He lived the perfect life free from sin that we couldn’t, and when the time was right, Christ died for us. The one person in all of history who didn’t deserve punishment for his sin, took the full punishment from God and died an excruciating death. The best part of the story is that he didn’t stay dead! Three days later he walked out of his tomb alive! Now, because of this death and resurrection, if we accept Jesus as the living ruler of our life, then our sins are paid for by his sacrifice and we again have relationship and access to the maker of the universe, our maker.
So that night in 1996, with hamburgers on the table and purple curtains on the windows (my mind holds on to the weirdest things), I talked to God for the first real time in my life, and I told him that I knew everything my mom told me was true, and that I wanted to be rescued from my sins. That was the day I was saved from myself, and my life has never been the same. Nowhere near perfect, but no longer headed for eternal separation from God.
When I was about 10-years-old, I started doubting. Was I really saved? I remember purple curtains and hamburgers, but I don’t actually remember the exact words I used when I prayed. If I couldn’t even remember what I’d said, did it count? These doubts started when a guest evangelist came and spoke at our church. His sermon was all about two kinds of people: people who are saved and people who are lost. He made it very clear that you couldn’t be somewhere in the middle: either you were saved or you were lost. So I wondered: which was I? I left the church that day feeling pretty lost. I told my parents, and asked the same question I’d asked 5 years ago, but with a slight twist: how do I know for sure that I’m saved? Over several conversations, and with help from other trusted Christian friends, my parents explained that when someone was saved, there was a battle that began in the heart of that person. The Holy Spirit living in the believer convicts of sin and calls us to follow him. For me to be feeling conviction of sin and remorse when I did sin, I must have the Holy Spirit in me, and thus must be saved. I knew for sure that when I did wrong, I felt wrong. I recognized this as the voice of the Holy Spirit, and I remember feeling reassured and less doubtful.
Through my teenage years, I was very involved in church activities. I was homeschooled, so church was the greatest source of social engagement in my life. While there was no singular event or idea that represents a fundamental shift in my knowledge or actions through this time, I do think it was during my teenage years, that my faith really truly became my own. As I encountered new ideas and relationships, I discovered that the Bible, and Jesus really truly had something to say about every area of my life. I might not always like the answer, or even immediately choose to live out the principles I was learning, there were clear answers to life’s challenges that sunk deep into my heart.
My college years were incredibly formative and strengthened my relationship with Jesus. I started to learn what it meant for me to follow Jesus. It meant in every area of my life, Jesus came first. I don’t have time just now to tell of all the incredible “coincidences” in my life that I know are a result of God working in my life. I hope to update this story soon to include these, but for now I’ll just offer a teaser in hopes that you’ll ask me more in person if you know me, or using the link below to send me an email. Here’s what you should ask about:
- How I went to college when my parents barely made a combined income of $30k a year.
- Why I learned to speak a little Russian, ended up in Moscow, and later married my beautiful wife who was born in Russia.
- How I navigated the pain and losses of both my mom and brother within just a few years.
- What I’m doing at work to try and reach my workplace for Christ.
I hope I can talk to you soon about these and so much more! Get in touch!