Rick's Testimony

As I was growing up, I was a small child, and not really socially accepted by the "in crowd" among my peers. Needless to say, I was shy, lacked self-esteem, and felt inferior to others. I must have been in the fourth grade when I made the conscious decision to live my life in a way that gave me worth in my own eyes. I became the ultimate nonconformist, not succumbing to peer pressure, but rather, developed my own set of values, which I thought would make me a better person. I had many interests, and became a Jack-of-all-trades because I thought that the more skills I had the better a person I became. I didn't listen to the common stereotypes about how a guy should be, but rather pursued anything that I had a genuine interest. Every skill that I could acquire only made me that much better. I learned how to sew (mostly patches and hemming my pants), write poetry, and cook. On the other hand, I also began taking martial arts to learn how to fight. One thing led to another, and my quest for superiority over my peers let me down the road to the occult. In high school, I became heavily involved in the occult and witchcraft. Although I was never part of a coven, I had many books on the subject, and practiced by myself or with my friends. Finally, after all these years, I felt I had finally found the answer the one thing that finally gave me a power that my peers did not have: Magic. The magic arts had become my self-esteem, my security, and my life. Now despite all of this, I had actually been raised a Catholic. No, not a devout Catholic; I really only remember attending mass on Easter or Christmas, and even then only when I was very young. I never even considered myself Catholic, let alone a Christian. I kind of believed in God, but I invented my own philosophy about Him, although nothing that even remotely resembled the true God of Christianity. I think my view was a typical new age Unitarian view of God. Still, I had a morbid interest in anything spiritual (or demonic). I would read books like "The Exorcist" and "The Amityville Horror" even though they scared me to death I couldn't put them down. On the other hand, I would also watch movies like "The Ten Commandments" and "Jesus of Nazareth." I think that It must have been after watching Charlton Heston part the Red Sea one evening, that I decided to read about Moses in our huge family Catholic Bible. (You know, the one that if you accidentally dropped on your foot would put you in a cast for months? Yeah, that's the one!) Anyway, I thought that plagues were cool, and I decided to read about them. Will after reading the typical story, I began to wonder what happened to the Israelites AFTER they got to the Promised Land. So I began to read further, and accidentally stumbled upon (yeah right!) the following passage in Deuteronomy18:9-12, NIV: 9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. Believe it or not, but this was the first time that I'd ever heard that God was opposed to my lifestyle. Oh I knew that some people thought that witchcraft was evil, but I was never told that God himself disapproved. This truth hit me like a knife in the heart. For some reason I never disbelieved that a God existed (even if what I believed about him was all screwed up), and I reasoned that if the Bible is His Word, and His Word says that witchcraft is wrong, then He must think witchcraft is wrong. This truth so disturbed me, that I was a total basket case. I couldn't eat or sleep for three days. The Holy Spirit Himself began to speak to me, and I would argue with God. I would say stuff like: "I don't believe that is wrong." And He would say: "Well you read for yourself in My Word; I said it is wrong." And I would say: "No, magic is a natural law, like the laws of science; it's not evil; it's the intent that makes it evil." And he would say: "But it is evil, Rick. Where do you think the power comes from? The power comes from demons and not from Me." And we would go back and forth like this for days. I did not want to let go. The very thing that had become my strength, myself-esteem, my worth, my very life, God was now asking me to give up. I resisted as much as I could, but His conviction so tore at my heart, that I would cry myself to sleep. It wasn't some light weeping either; they were those full-body, convulsing sobs that emanated from deep within your very soul. I had no peace. For three days and three nights, I wrestled with God, and finally on the third evening, I gave in. It was then that I renounced the occult and made the decision to follow Him. Now, having been somewhat of a Catholic, I naturally assumed that I would go back to attending the Catholic Church. Apparently, God had other plans. That very weekend, my best friend Brian and I was riding the bus on the way home from the mall. We both turned to each other at the exact same time and asked: "Do you want to go to church?" After picking up our jaws of the floor, I discovered that he'd begun seeing and ex-girlfriend who was a Christian. He said that she attended this really neat church, and invited me to go with him. I agreed. Now this church was a nondenominational charismatic church, which needless to say, was a lot different from what I had remembered of the Catholic Church. I remember it was a Tuesday evening youth group Bible study, and there were probably about 25 kids in the room, all ranging from junior high to high school. Not only was I amazed that the Bible teaching actually made sense and was practical, and but it was the music that really touched me. The music was like nothing I'd ever heard before not some dry; monastic sounding hymns but deep, heartfelt love songs to God. No joke half the kids in the room were crying! I remember looking at the faces of the other kids in the room with tears running down their faces as they raised their hands in loving worship to God! I couldn't believe it! I thought to myself: they actually love this God who they can't see! Obviously this is not just some dead religion, but something living and very real. As the worship went on, I began to feel a presence in the room. It was as if the air started to get "heavy" and in some ways it was almost difficult to breathe kind of like the feeling you get in a hot tub or a sauna, but it wasnít hot or steamy. It also felt as if the air was energized, like there was static electricity in the air. You could physically feel it and I began getting a warm, tingling sensation in my chest. It felt almost like the "pins and needles" sensation that you get when your leg falls asleep, but it didn't hurt in fact, it felt very pleasurable. As I opened my eyes, I noticed that my vision was blurry. I could tell that there was actually nothing physical in the room. There was no discernible smoke or fog, but everything seemed fuzzy. It was the weirdest thing, and the best way that I can describe it is that what I was seeing was spiritual, not physical. I remember thinking to myself that this must be the presence of God. This was so much more real than anything I'd ever experienced in the occult.  That evening, someone explained the gospel to me, and I gave my life to Christ. That was August 21st, 1984,and it's been an adventure ever since! The funny thing is, that when I gave up the occult, I didn't know that God was going to replace it with something better. All I knew at the time was that I was giving up the most important thing in my life. Little did I know that life in the kingdom of God would be a million times better than my life in the world. I was giving up my identity something that gave me self-esteem, power, and control, yet God restored all that back to me and so much more! What better identity to have than to be a child of the living God? Where I lacked self-esteem because of rejection, I gained through Gods acceptance. The power of the occult could never match the power of God, and what control I thought I needed, I was able to relinquish knowing that the Almighty God Himself directed my life. Well, that's it. I'm curious to hear what you think, if you'd like to write me at my email address: rickc777@hotmail.com

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