A Testimony Of The Loving Kindness Of Our Heavenly Father
A Bit About My Childhood
I was born in Alaska when my father was stationed there as an army infantry lieutenant. I spend most of my early childhood in southern Louisiana and most of my school years in central South Carolina. I was raised in Roman-Catholic/Episcopalian home. I often heard the Scriptures in Sunday services and other places but I don't ever remember hearing the Gospel until years later. However, there was a point late in elementary school that I was taught the Ten Commandments. It was about then that I realized that I was not (to use my childish terms at the time) a "good person." So, I tried to become a "good" person through the power of my own flesh. The older I got the worse I got. Finally, I stopped trying to be good and began actively rebelling against God. By the time I was college, I was a drunk, a drug user, a sex-monger, and all-around immoral. My parents divorced when I was ten and while we were still all living in South Carolina. Afterwards, my dad moved back to his home in Covington, Louisiana. After I graduated high school, I also moved to Covington to live with my dad. At the time, I saw my dad as being very libertarian in his views while I saw my mom as being more strict. I must admit that the 18-year-old drinking law and living thirty minutes away from New Orleans also had a large affect on my decision.
Rebel Without a Clue
I soon was working a full time job, enrolled in a community college, in between visiting many of the local barrooms. In these settings, I met several people of like minds and we soon began spurring each other in our carousing, debauchery, and worse. I soon found that most of my pleasures were not only immoral but often illegal as well. I don't think it would minister to list them but I think the picture is clear. In just over a year of "freedom," I was headed for jail or for an empty grave. On the morning of November 16, 1988, both nearly happened. I had been drinking heavily the night before and that morning I was sporting a nasty hangover. I was driving down an unfamiliar road in a company van with my coworker. I failed to see a stop sign when I allowed myself to be distracted but my coworker. As I crossed through the intersection, a light blue Chevy pickup collided into the passenger side of the van at around 55 miles per hour. It was only by the power and grace of God that everyone survived. I was thrown out of the van and landed fifteen feet away onto the back of my neck. I suffered three or four fractured vertebrae in my upper back and neck area. And through all of this, even though I was crying out for mercy in the hospital and I knew God had rescued all of us, I grew in my resentment toward Him. What a merciful God we serve!
Down and Out in Baton Rouge
When I mostly recovered, I was without a job; a place to live; and deep in debt from medical and legal bills. Wanting to get the past behind me, I moved in with my dad who was then living in Baton Rouge. I worked several low paying jobs that did not require heavy lifting and began very slowly to return to my old ways. However, I never could get ahead. With ever success, it seems something was just around the corner to ruin it. I said back then that I had the "reverse Midas touch;" everything I touched fell apart. At the time, I truly believed that every event that I didn't like was a punishment from God and I hated Him for that. But every time I failed, my dad would be there to help me back on my feet. Until that fateful day, Dad told me that it was time for me to find someplace else to live. It was the spring of 1993 and I had until the beginning of summer to move out. However, I had difficulty finding a place to live and begrudgingly had to accepted a room in a house full of young Christian men.
One of those men, Konan Marino, befriended me. Early on, I told him I just couldn't figure out why I had to move into a house that others disparagingly nicknamed "The Church." He told me that he knew God had lead him to that house (but at that time, he didn't tell me that it was to be my friend). That summer, I carefully watched Konan and my other roommates. Well, when five bachelors live in the same house, you quickly discover how they're put together. I had lived with roommates before but there was something different about these guys: they didn't fight with one another; they didn't party; they almost always were in a good mood; and they always talked about a most uncomfortable topic, God. You know, it wasn't the fear of death or hell that brought me to Christ (although, it was a starting point, for sure). It was seeing those Christians live out a life that I knew I should be living but somehow couldn't. They had an intimacy with God that I couldn't even fathom ... or care to fathom at the time because I still saw God as a vengeful, punishing judge. They also could say "no" to doing things that I was drawn to do. And when you asked them how they did it they would give the same irritating type of answer; "It's not me; it's Christ living though me." I quickly wanted to know exactly how these guys were different. I began visiting their church, New Covenant Church in Denham Springs. I began secretly reading the Gospel of John in a small New Testament that I had reluctantly received from Bob Stiles, a family friend, only a few weeks before. And, I began asking Konan and others every single question that would come in my head about Christ. In many ways, I was becoming a menace with my bombardment of questions, which usually came late at night. Konan later told me that it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit was he able to answer my questions without pinning me down to the floor in frustration until I accepted Christ. <grin>
During the end of the summer, something unusual happened; everyone in the house except for myself left for a week's vacation. That left me by myself for almost a week with nothing to do except go to work and continue reading through the Gospel of John. I read in Chapter 21 when the disciples were explaining to Thomas that Jesus had appeared to them. Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." That was me, a doubting Thomas. I had to have some tangible proof from God that I should believe in Christ, in a way I had not believed in anyone before... completely. The next day, August 15, 1993 was a Sunday. Although I was not feeling well, I drove myself to the worship service anyway. When I arrived, I thought of every good reason why I should just turn around and go home; I entered the building anyway. Then, something unusual happened. The pastor at the time, Jerry White, announced, "A dear brother, Joe Arceneaux, has a message to share with you. I have looked over what he has written and prayed about it and I truly believe it comes from God." I had met Joe before (he invited Konan and I to his house for dinner one night) and I knew him to be an honest man and a friend of Konan. So, I was prepared to listen to him. Joe walked up to the podium and began his message with a simple phrase, "There is only two reasons you are not doing God's will; either you don't want to or you don't know how." To just see this man, speak almost directly to me about accepting God's will.... I didn't know what to think. The message actually was directed to encourage believers to share with those who were lost. But as he described how God sees those that were lost, I knew that he was talking about me. At the end of his message, he challenged the church to come to the altar to pick up a few tracks to give out during our week and even to bow before the altar if necessary. Before I knew it, I was walking to the front of the church. Even as I walked, I was trying to deceive myself that I was just going to pick up a few tracts and then sit down. But at the altar, I saw the front of the tracts entitled "Have you heard? There is Good News!" I had read that tract before and God brought the words inside to mind. God then opened my eyes to His character and the necessary work of Christ on cross. I was looking for tangible proof that the Gospel was for real; but I had been watching it lived out before me all summer. I knew I could not live the life I was living and I needed Christ. I fell before the altar and wept for forgiveness. Like the prodigal son, the only words that would come out were, "Lord, I'm not worthy." At the time, I didn't even understand fully what had happened; I just knew that my life was somehow wonderfully changed. Soon after, I began being discipled by Joe. I can not tell you how much it has improved my relationship with Christ by meeting weekly with an older brother who is not afraid to correct me. A few weeks later, I felt compelled through my studies and time in the Word to be baptized. I could not think of a better person to baptize me than Konan. I then publicly confessed Christ before the church body.
What Happened Next
During 1993, I was in a very romance relationship with a young lady. That fateful summer, she was away in Basic Training to become a medic for the National Reserves. When she left, she said goodbye to a very lustful, selfish, childish man. When she returned, she was greeted by a new creation in Christ. So soon after her return, she broke up with me for several unsupported reasons; ultimately it was because I became a Christian. What is ironic is that one of the things God used to draw me to Himself was the selfish way I was treating the woman I loved. Even though I had deep feelings for her, I was very much captive by my sinful flesh and it hurt to see that in myself. In a way, I became open to the Gospel in an attempt to be a better man for her. Sad story right? Well, not really. After one of our final break ups, she began seeking the Lord and now she shows the fruit of being a child of God. She is married to a dear brother in Christ named Brian. Last I heard, they are quite happy and have two wonderful children. Praise God!
What about Work
Soon after beginning my new life in Christ, I discovered I would be laid off by the end of the year. In one of my bible study I learned that I was to work my job as working for the Lord, not for men (Col 3:23) ... even if I was to be laid off. At the end of that year, I was rehired and even accepted a promotion only month's later for "my" diligent work.ï£° Of course for my beliefs, I was not well liked by everyone. In my new position, one woman in particular acted harshly towards me and another Christian in the department. Despite her behavior, God worked through me to love her with the love of Christ. A year later when she and her husband were moving to another town, she actually cried and hugged me before her departure. Since then, God has allowed me to prosper in a career in computers with very few setbacks. Today, I work full time in the information technology industry and have been able to use these same skills to minister to others in many ways. In America and now in Japan, I have been involved in youth and college ministry. And I am able to encourage youth and others with the Gospel because God has so graciously rescued me out of similar troubles that many of them face.
My whole story can be told in just a few brief sentences. In the eyes of some, it seems like I have given up so much. But in truth, I have gained a precious treasure in Christ that I can never pay back. Jesus once said, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you."(Luke 6:38) I have given my ruined life over to God and He in return has given me eternal life through Jesus Christ, His son. Before as a godless man, I truly believed and lived out Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Now as I look back on my life, what rings in my ears is: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) By God's promises, I am free to rejoice in any situation; all I must do is trust in Him. Well, there's the gruesome truth. I hope it wasn't too shocking....The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. (Pro 4:19) I'm not proud of a minute of my former life, but God was in it through the whole thing. Even in my disobedience, He was there to point me to Himself. There was no chance for me to escape His irresistible grace.
Founder of Rowzie.com
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