So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.


(This is the part 1 of a 7 part series of posts on the vision of Gateway Church, which is to see people saved, healed, set free, discipled, equipped, empowered and serving.)

I remember vividly the day I was saved. I had no interest in going to church that night, but my friend Brian was persistent in inviting me. Plus – free hot dogs!

It was a Wednesday night – youth night – of a week long revival we had at our church. I didn’t generally go on Wednesday, and to be honest, I tried my best to get out of Sundays as well. Not that I didn’t like it – I loved my church! It’s just hard sometimes to get motivated when you’re 14 years old when there’s so much other stuff going on.

I was not really a good kid. I was a freshman in high school, failing most of my classes, in the principle’s office quite often. There are a plethora of reasons for this, but mostly I just didn’t know who I was or where I fit in. And I was so angry all the time!

Back to that night – the church bus showed up around 6 pm. The same bus I rode on Sunday, same old guy driving, with his wife taking roll, and same guy leading some singing. It was 7 miles from my house to the church, which equaled about 30 minutes with all the stops we had to make. I usually sat in the back where all the “bad” kids sat. And yes, we would do bad things, right there on the church bus.

The fellowship hall was packed with kids! Over a hundred I bet – crazy hungry, too. All I could think about was free hot dogs and all the Coke I could drink! I must have had seven hot dogs that night. My stomach hurt!

As that part of the evening drew to a close, I headed to the back of the line that was going up the steps into the church – my plan was to break away from the group and head out the back door and (to be real honest) go down town to a little place known as Danny’s Bar. They had hot dogs there, too, by the way. I went there a lot for lunch when I was in high school, and always wondered what went on there at night.

But I didn’t make it. I was intercepted by a very tall man named Mr. Childers. It made me so mad to get caught at anything I was doing! I huffed and puffed as I was going up the steps, his huge hand on my shoulder, making sure I ended up where I was supposed to be.

I sat in the back of the church by a friend named Tommy, and we dipped snuff during the service. We also tore up the offering envelopes and made spit balls and flicked them at people’s heads. And made up words to the hymns that were quite a bit unsavory.

You should be getting a picture at this point. I was lost as a goose in a downpour. I had no knowledge of who God was, who I was to Him, or what He had done for me. If I had known how completely different I would be by the end of that evening, I might not have gone. I hated who I was, hated everything about life – but at least I was consistent and I knew what to expect – nothing but trouble!

As the service drew to a close, we all stood up and sang, of course, Just As I Am. About 1000 times. And I was thinking, “OH MY LORD JUST LET IT END!” Then the revival preacher (my memory has him in a light blue polyester “preacher” suit, with brown patent leather, zipper on the side boots. And what looked like either a bad wig or a horrendous comb over) signaled for the music to stop and he came up and started preaching again!

But what he said this time – and this is important – what he said brought something to life in me. Actually it was God, but He used what that guy said. “Some of you here tonight have no idea who you are. You go from day to day to day and nothing changes, everything’s the same. It’s not life you’re living, you’re living in death and Jesus came to change that for you!”

And quite a few people went to the front of the church for some reason. I was not one of them. I just sat there. People mingled after the service, and I sat. People left. I sat. The custodian came to shut everything down and lock up. And still I was sitting there. He asked if I wanted him to get the pastor and I just nodded my head.

Pastor Forrest Sheffield came and sat down by me and we just talked. He took me home since I’d missed the bus. And in my room, sitting on my own bed, on that Wednesday night that I’d have rather stayed home, my whole life changed! I went into that room a dead man walking – and walked out overflowing with life!

I wish I could tell you that everything was all good from that day forward. But this is still life – filled with both wonderful and awful things. But one thing has never changed. I know who and whose I am! I met Jesus that night in my room, and He became real to me – and that thing that happened for me can happen for you!

Think about your life, who you are, what has driven you, what you have made life to be. Have you ever come to the point in your life where you know for sure that you can’t make it another day without some kind of radical change of direction? Have you ever wondered if there is something else? Something bigger? Someone who is watching over everything? There is, and He wants you to know who He is! Jesus said simply this, “Follow me!”

If you feel something right now, that maybe you have never felt before – something deep inside your heart and mind – it may just be that God is trying to make a connection with you! Don’t let the moment slip away – you can have everything that God promised right now! All you have to do, in your own way, is call out to Him and tell Him you need Him, that you can’t make it without Him. All you have to do is follow Him! Jesus also said that His burden is light and if we will come to Him, He will give us rest.

So it may be that now is your time to trust Him to be everything He says He is – will you take that step right now? If you do, please let me know!