Work in the barn.
I was born and raised on a farm near Montevideo, Minnesota. We raised milk cows, pigs, chickens and hundreds of sheep. We also had many acres of farm land and a big garden. And as was typical of farmers, we always worked very hard. But, even as a boy, I didn’t mind the work so much. Feeding the animals, working in the field, and even the dirty jobs in the cow barn sort of gave me a sense of purpose. In fact, I have many fond memories of life on our farm.
I’m on the top to the right.
One of the best things I liked about our farm was the chance to explore. Sometimes, after the chores were done, I would spend all day walking along the creek and into the woods. These times of exploring helped me get my focus on God, where I could somehow sense Him speaking to me as He showed me Himself through nature. And even though I didn’t really know God, I remember speaking to Him, asking Him who He was, and asking Him to reveal Himself to me.
When I was about twelve years old my parents sent me to church camp. I think the whole point of the camp was to get kids saved. And that’s what happened to me. I remember it well. There was a series of tent meetings every night, where an evangelist would preach at us, and then at the end he would invite us to come forward to be saved. I never came forward, but I wanted to. At least I could strongly feel that I should, or that God was calling me to come forward.
Well, every day of the camp I could feel the tug of God’s Spirit on my heart. I definitely wanted to come forward in those tent meeting, but I just didn’t have the courage. Well, as it turned out, toward the end of the camp week, God reached out to me another way—through my camp counselor. This is what happened: my camp counselor gathered all the guys in our cabin together and he talked to us about heaven. He told us what heaven would be like—how it was going to be a wonderful place. Then he said that if any of us wanted to make sure that we would go to heaven and not go to hell, we should come and talk to him. And he had a list of everyone’s name on a sheet of paper with certain times when we could come and see him.
The next day on my appointed time I came. It wasn’t easy, I mean I was afraid, but it was easier than walking forward in the tent meeting. Looking back on it, I can see now that God was speaking to me, and I was ready, even eager. My counselor told me very simply how to be saved. I had to simply believe in God’s Son and trust Him as my Savior and Lord. And I had to believe that He died on a cross for me to pay the penalty for my sins. I remember praying, “Lord please come into my heart, forgive my sins and take control of my life.” And that’s all there was to it. I remember walking out of that cabin feeling different.
That day and for the next couple of days I felt clean and new, and everything seemed brighter. And I had a wonderful peace—an assurance that if I would die I would not go to hell, but to heaven. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell anyone about what I did that day, so no one, my parents nor my church helped me as a new Christian. In fact, the first few years of my young Christian life was a lonely struggle. I thank God that He continued to give me an assurance of my salvation, but yet I felt sort of lost.
A few years later, however, God used some people to guide me. A group called Campus Crusade for Christ was a great help to me during my high school years. Then I met another group while I was in the military—the Navigators. Both of these groups were helpful in showing me how to be a Spirit-filled Christian. My one-on-one-time with a couple of guys from the Navigators was especially helpful. They showed me how to have a daily quiet time as key to maintaining my relationship with Christ.
And there were other things along the way that God used to guide me and strengthen me in my walk with Him: such as my years of Bible College and Seminary, and also the various small groups I have been a part of. But I think my own obedience to the voice of God has proved to be especially rewarding. Whenever I have been obedient to His call and did the things He was calling me to do, He has prospered me and has shown me His will. Here is a verse I have leaned on over the years:
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.