Being a Christian and a servant of Jesus Christ has always been the most important thing in my life; the path that I followed has been one of study and prayer. The highlights of it are detailed in the story and links below:
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I grew up Roman Catholic. Some of my earliest memories were attending church with my mom. And I was a good Catholic, one of the few high school students to make it through all 12 years of CCD.
But a funny thing happened to me in High School. I had some friends who were “Born Again Christians.” They did some strange things, like pray between classes at their lockers, and give me tracts on the “four spiritual laws” and things like that.
Now, that didn’t add up with me. I’d been taught that Matthew 16:18 said “Thou art Peter and on this rock I’ll build my Catholic Church.” So I argued with these friends, at lunch and in study halls, but I’d also read their tracts, and I learned a few things. I learned that the Bible said something different.
By the time I was in college, I was reading the Bible. One day, reading John 17, I had an undeniable encounter with God’s love for me, and I committed my life to Christ at that moment.
At that time, I left the Roman Catholic Church in phases. First I went to a Catholic Charismatic group. Then I found some Protestant Charismatic friends. And it didn’t take too long before I was out the door.
I graduated from college in 1981, right into the middle of a recession. So I ended up getting a job with Jeff Steinberg (www.tinygiant.com), a Christian singer who was a “Thalidomide Baby.” He had no arms and his legs were badly deformed. But he had a voice like Neil Diamond, and he used it to sing some of the best Christian songs you’ve ever heard.
He worked out of Memphis, Tennessee. I was his driver and sound man and personal assistant. We traveled thousands of miles every year, to churches all across the US and in a couple of foreign countries.
And I did two things. I became a part of a Reformed Baptist church, where I learned about the Reformation, about Reformation doctrines like “sola scriptura” and “justification by faith alone.”
And as we traveled, because Jeff was active in pro-life groups, I met some devout Catholic people, who encouraged me to give Catholicism another chance.
Well, I not only did that, but I went so far as to consider that I might want to become a priest. I had started going on retreats, and I loved the worshipful atmosphere. But the Lord rescued me from that; I married and eventually had six kids.
About 15 years ago, I was still a devout Catholic, and attending Evenings of Recollection through Opus Dei , a “lay apostolate,” sort of like the new Jesuits. They’re devout, they’re conservative.
Now, they say that it’s the conservatives of various denominations who ideally will get along the best. Some people will tell you that Catholics and Protestants really aren’t that far apart. But the more I looked into it, the more I found that wasn’t the case. I found that, the closer I got to Catholicism as it’s practiced “by the book,” the more uncomfortable I became.
I understood that discomfort to be the inner leading of the Holy Spirit. That brief couple of years I’d spent in a Reformed Baptist church came back to the front of my mind.
I was in confession one day, with a priest, who was telling me, “we’ve got to do our part,” and I said, “No, we’re justified by faith alone. It is totally an act of God.” And I walked out of the confessional and haven’t been back to a Catholic Church since.