The story of my life- My first resurrection
I wrote this 4 years ago, but If you want to know my life story, and how God made me who I am today, here it is:
What I am today and what I was yesterday is always changing or progressing with what I believe and know about the glory of God, in my Lord Jesus, at least in the deeper and more personal understanding of Him. It has been a journey of learning and knowing God more deeply.The fundamental truths of Jesus are always the same and never change, but sometimes our full understanding of them does grow and evolve over time. Just like Scripture says in Romans 12:1-2 “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. This has been the experience of my life, as I’ve traveled along sometimes submitting myself as a sacrifice, and sometimes holding back. God has taught me from both living in fellowship and from running from Him, since my life is all about His work of salvation in my life and HIS faithfulness even in spite of my natural desire to live in sin and rebellion from Him.
God has done some amazing transforming in my life from my childhood to now at age 46. Although I was rescued by Jesus Christ at the age of 11, when he saved me, I have since gone through a few mountain top highs and dark valleys along the way with Him. God allows us to sometimes wander and follow wrong paths, to experience pain and suffering in our lives to teach us and mold into us character that we could otherwise learn no other way. This certainly has been true in my life. Even so, I have found that all along the way God is unchanging. The only thing that has changed is my life and my understanding of him as I have more deeply explored his Word, found in the Bible. Here’s my story.
As a child I had a pretty typical life for an American boy in the 1960’s. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was a 4 years old back when we lived in Coco Beach, Florida. My Dad had to live out his fantasies, so he abandoned my Mom, my 6 year old sister and myself and moved to California. My mother soon found another love in her life after she moved back to Macon Georgia, and by the time I was 6 she had remarried an Air Force Pilot and Officer she met from the nearby military base. My natural father was more than willing to give up his obligation to support my sister and me, and allowed us to be adopted by my new father. This turned out to be a blessing by God, little did I know at the time. My new father loved me like I was his own flesh and blood, so he has really been the only Dad I have ever known. My sister being a little older struggled for years over bitterness from our natural father leaving us, and still feels the scars of that rejection even to this day. We had a fairly stable life with my new Dad since he turned out to be a loving and faithful provider for us all. Being in the Air Force we moved often, but we had a good American family life as it seemed to me.
In 1974 we lived in Charleston AFB, South Carolina and my life really began to change. As a youngster, I felt my life was normal, no major trauma like some have experienced. But I often had thoughts of what was my purpose in life, even as a child. I don’t know if I really was all that different than other kids of my time, but I do know that I felt a certain loneliness and blackness to my life. I felt like one grain in an ocean of sand. I often had dreams of being drowned and sucked out to sea by the waves and riptides, since I grew up around the beaches in my childhood. This made me think about what would happen to me after my death. I felt hopeless and dark especially after I did things that I knew were wrong. You know, typical things like lying, trying out cigarettes, sins of disobedience to my parents and other things I knew were wrong as a kid. I believe this hopelessness is the natural conscience we have of sin that God puts in all men to compel us to seek Him. The Apostle Paul tells us “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” ( Romans 1:18-21) This really was the condition of my heart even up to the age of 11.
During this time, my mother fell into the hands of God. She repented for her sins, and turned to Jesus. Her life changed dramatically with her new love for God. She told me and my sister about this great forgiveness of sins and the lifting of our burdens that Jesus Christ brought into her life and how she prayed for us to know this personal God of hers also. We could see that what she had we wanted, and God pricked my conscience to follow her in turning to Jesus. So within a few short weeks after she came to faith in Christ, I and my sister also followed her and accepted the invitation from our Chaplin at the AFB Chapel to come to faith in Jesus. This was the beginning of my life. My life prior is now but a faint shadow as a dead man who was brought to life. My faith in Jesus was sincere and so Jesus poured out his salvation and life into me. My life changed, my desire then became to please my God and Savior, so the things I used to do, like swearing, living for myself, or in disobedience of my parents and God were swept away by the new love I had for Jesus.
My teenage years were quite unusual compared to other typical American kids because I was seeking Christ. He was my passion, instead of the usual teenager life of living for friends, girls, sex and other temporary pleasures of “finding oneself”. I knew who I was, a child of God, made for his pleasure. I wanted please God, so I did what I could to live out what I felt Jesus would have for me. I attended Church regularly, spent time studying the Bible and I shared my faith to others whenever I could. I was what a parent would consider the ideal teenager, I sought God and stayed out of trouble. God did use those years to teach me and give me considerable Bible knowledge and insight. The local Church I attended taught and encouraged biblical Christianity as good as any. Looking back I truly did have the heart of King David of the Israelites, Jesus was my first love. I was a young man after Gods own heart. This was something that I lived for so much. But sometime when I was 18 years old, I slipped down the wrong path. I became proud of the fact that I was “better” than most people my age. I developed the heart of the Pharisees that Christ Jesus preached against so often in his ministry on earth.
The Bible says that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) And also, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(James 4:6) I soon found that God began to oppose me in my haughty spirit, even though I was a redeemed child of God, He knew I needed to learn humility to be useful to him and to look more like the image of his Son, Jesus. God began to allow me to follow my own sinful desires and used them as a means of discipline to teach me his character. Hebrews 12:10 says “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” I began to find out that Gods discipline was something I did not want, but something I had to go through. I had to learn that any holiness in me was that of Jesus and not my own.
During my days arrogance, I began to date a young woman while in College, “fell in love” and decided that I wanted to marry her. Over the objections of my Mom and others I had respected up to that point in my life, I continued with my plans to make this girl my wife. I justified all the signs that this woman was not God’s plan for my life and I ended up marrying her at the age of 19. In my ignorance, I thought I was doing right by God in pushing through with my desires to marry her. As I soon found out, my sins caught up with me. Our relationship lacked peace and was full of arguments even during our 10 months of courting and engagement. Soon after our honeymoon, my wife decided we made a mistake, left me and went back home to her parents, then divorced me. I was devastated. I was the “holy kid” of God in my own mind. I couldn’t divorce, I didn’t believe in it. It was breaking God’s laws and plan for marriage. So I was brought low. God humbled me and broke me down. At the time, I didn’t understand how and why that terrible thing could happen to me. Instead of turning to God in repentance for my arrogance and obvious following of my desires instead of His, I fell away into state of pity for myself. I developed some bitterness in my heart over my situation. I continued to attend Church and halfheartedly follow God in a sort of religious sense, since I knew I was saved and one of Gods children. But I was a pitiful shell of what God had once built in me.
Soon after my divorce was final, God brought a wonderful young woman into my life. Angelica(who we call Angie), who rightly named means “angel like”. Even in my sinful state of existence, God continued to work with me by pouring out his mercy and protection on me. He lead me to marry this young lady in his divine guidance, even though I was not very attentive to Him. She was a true blessing and minister of mercy in my life. Even today, my wife Angie, is like an angel and is a minister of mercy to me and so many others she touches. My Wife turned out to be a tool of God to teach me the mercy heart of God. I, the arrogant one, fallen into my own sins, needed to learn Gods mercy and humility. We married back in 1985 and began our life together. We had 3 beautiful children together who all have now graduated from High School and are in college and beginning their lives as young adults. God has blessed us and I am so grateful for all his kindness he has poured out on me and my family even though I never deserved any of it.
I lived in a pitiful lukewarm relationship with God through most of my adulthood, neither seeking Gods will nor honoring him with my thoughts and actions. This stale point in my relationship with Jesus, became the darkest valley in my life. It left me vulnerable to the temptations of Satan, and so I fell prey to the lusts of my old sin nature and gradually became an addict of pornography…and all the dirty shamefulness that accompanies that evil. Women became objects of flesh to me and I grew colder and colder in my love for Christ, always looking for ways to justify my sinfulness. This put a great strain on my relationship with my wife and seriously undermined my relationship with her and my children. She has been emotionally scarred due to my horrible life choices during that time, and only by the mercy and grace of God, did she stay with me and is now finding healing from the damage that I caused to her. Even today I find it hard to completely understand how God forgave me for all that lust and idolatry of my heart. I praise God for sustaining my wife and keeping her with me even though she felt worthless before me during that time. I became bitter and angry at the simplest things, feeling so entrapped and hopelessly lost in my sin. I felt as though God had abandoned me and left me out to rot in my own stinking condition.
But God had a plan to use all my shameful actions to bring me to a point of repentance and humility before Him. He gave me visions of the total destruction I was going to bring upon my wife and children if I remained stubborn and stuck in my ways. By his grace, He brought me low and showed me how to once again live in repentance and faith. He showed me in his Word, the Bible, and through reading the book “Every Mans Battle” that I did not have to remain trapped in my sins any longer. I found that the prison of my sin, I felt so hopelessly locked inside, was something of my own doing and that Christ Jesus set within me a key to unlock the door. The key was the same key I used when I walked down that isle when I was 11 years old. I just needed to hear God and Believe. This is the same Key talked about in in the seventh stage of Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan in which “Christian” the pilgrim captured By the Giant Despair and imprisoned in Doubting Castle found himself along with his traveling companion “Hopeful”. I’ll now quote from it. “Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out into this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news; good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom, and try. Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon-door, whose bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out.” ….So it was with me.
God calls us to believe, not by just magically willing things to happen, but rather he tells us the truth found in his Word, the Bible, and we simply must believe what he said is true. Belief like this is active and it responds in obedience to what he said, it’s not just something you do in your mind. I once believed a lie that said “Let Go and Let God do it all” so I waited and waited and God never rescued me from myself. No! He showed me that the truth is this,”Hear God and Believe” Galatians 3:5 says “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-“? I repeat that, “Hearing with faith”. Now my twisted view of belief (or faith) was such that it did not require any actions to follow it up. This is not true belief. True faith always responds in obedience to God. It lives what it believes. Otherwise it is mere words and not belief at all. God clearly was telling me to take out my key of Faith, based on his promises to make me whole and complete in Him, unlock the prison of my sins and step out into the freedom of knowing and living for Jesus Christ once more. I heard him speaking to me in Scriptures like Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” and Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” And Hebrews 12:7 “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Then I heard the these words of Jesus, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” ( Matt 5:29) and “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21).
God through his Spirit brought me to my senses, much like the prodigal son. I took the key of faith based on hearing his voice, unlocked the prison of my life and walked back into the light of my loving Lord. To do this required my repentance and a willingness to obey Jesus in doing the hard work of forsaking all my sinful desires, “tearing out my eye” as it were, and believing that God will be all my need, sustain me and heal my heart and mind. God tells us that acts of faith he sees in us, please him so much, that he will pour out his blessings on us because of it. You see, Faith, much like love, is not a feeling or something you say, it’s something you do. It was by the act of placing his son on the alter, trusting God all along, that Abraham was credited with righteousness. This kind of living belief is what pleases God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
So I found it true in my life I regained my lost faith. I repented, turned back to God, forsook my lusts of the flesh, and did practical things to transform my mind and life by presenting my body as a living sacrifice every day to God. Spending time reading and studying his word, avoiding the things that brought temptation in my mind, growing deeper into fellowship with other men of God and putting into practice practical tools to keep my life pure before our holy God, and finally learning once again how to love God in Worship and Adoration. This is living by the Spirit. Even today, my eyes wet with tears whenever I contemplate this great Wonderful and Loving, yet Holy God, who not only rescued me when I was 11, but protected me and again saved me from myself 4 years ago when I was 42. Jesus Christ, and he alone deserves all praise and glory for who I am today, left to myself, I would still be a mess of sin and despair. It is by the power of this great God and Lord Christ Jesus that I stand here today whole and healed. Today, He has called me to serve him by ministering to others who are lost and trapped by that giant “Despair”… the enemy of God, Satan. Today I get the privilege to partake in the ministry of the Holy Spirit as he flows through this once broken pot, now turned into a useful tool, in the hands of God. I communicate with men and women from Dallas to Pakistan every day, showing them the memorial of Gods love in my life and the power of his resurrection. Jesus has proven to me, as well as millions of saved souls around the globe that He still is in the business of bringing the dead back to life. Jesus said ” Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) Once again, Christ Jesus is my first love. For I was once dead. Now I am alive.
Living in the grace of Jesus, David Shelton
My life theme- Jesus Christ has taken the ashes of my past to build memorials of hope for those seeking His way
(inspired by Isaiah 61:1-3 and Pilgrims progress after Pilgrim got back on path once freed from the dungeon of despair)
My life verse- “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8