The Howery Faith Journey
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My faith began shortly after birth. I was born to Christian parents, my father preparing to be a minister to the deaf community and so God was a part of our every-day conversations. My father worked for the Church of Christ, part of the original Disciples of Christ movement. This non-denominational denomination put a great deal of importance on knowing the Word of God as well as righteous living. With my father as a pastor, I grew up with the same values: study of God's Word and living a holy life. I am forever in their debt for this rock-solid foundation of God's Word. It was during this time I accepted Christ's sacrifice for me and was baptized.
At the age of eleven, I figured I had had enough study. I knew what the Bible said, at least in its general concepts. I had been attending church my whole life. I felt sufficient to coast on my past accomplishments. This proud and arrogant attitude resulted in a major downturn in my life which eventually ended with a run-in with the police. It was nothing serious to them, but to God, my life was a mess. I realized the depth of my own depravity and repented to God, vowing to gain back what I had lost. Little did I know how wonderful and futile that promise was.
A year later another event happened in my life: a new dedication. At a Teens For Christ (TFC) event I realized that God did not truly own me yet. I held final sway on decisions, rather than letting Him lead. That night I rededicated myself to the Lord. As it so happens, that very night I connected with my future wife for the first time: the two most important people in my life. It was an eventful night. At other TFC meetings I learned that God liked to have fun and it was okay. I found a relationship with the Father possible in your heart, not just your head. Here, I found my first freedom in Christ. These people loved God and let it show. They studied their Bibles and sought to live holy lives, but they knew that their connection with God was based on their faith and trust in Him, not in their success in holiness. Together, Kara and I attended TFC for several years until we both graduated and finally got married. I'll never forget the wonderful foundation of love they laid in my spiritual life. I am forever in their debt as well.
After our marriage, we left the Church of Christ for Kara's church, a Mennonite Brethren church, which was less formal and slightly more emotional. This church modeled and taught the values I learned at TFC. With that warm environment I grew in my relationship with Him. My wife and I began to serve as youth ministers with the 6-8th grade kids. It was there we learned our first lessons of how to minister to people through love, not programs. I'll forever be in their debt for such a great foundation of tools. In spite of this, I began to drift from God again. I began to seek excuses for not going to church, seldom studied my Bible thinking that, this time, I had learned it all. Eventually I found myself deep enough in sin to see the error of my ways. This time, though, I didn't know a way out.
After college we moved to Fredonia to take a teaching job at a local high school. We tried out a few churches, something I had never done. We stumbled across a mid-sized church deeply embroiled in fighting over building bathrooms. Naturally, we were not interested. However, God spoke clearly to us that this was our church, so we settled in. It was a Wesleyan church which believes in the theology of Entire Sanctification. They taught me that purity and holiness, which is a lack of desire for sin, is possible and should be attained. I had never heard of this before and it propelled me into the Word once more.
But study of the Word was not the only boon God gave us from this church. It was during this time that a preacher from out of town came to talk about the importance of prayer. He taught a several-day session on how to pray and what good prayer does for a church. My wife and the pastors wife caught the fire from him and decided to pray unceasing. My wife, being a very active person, decided to hold a prayer night at our house on Thursdays for people to come and pray with her. She waited for more than two months before anyone came on a regular basis. Finally, they started coming, and they started praying. We had no idea where this prayer would lead.
Shortly after this, God began to tug at my heart to start a Bible study with the intent on growing their knowledge of the Word. After all, this, to me, was the main purpose for being a believer in Christ. However, God had other plans. We started the study with no one for several weeks until a few started to come and it began to grow to about four couples. Around this time, we got a new associate pastor who began to attend our little group. We had begun reading a book which described chasing after God the person, not just God the idea. This book baffled me! I didn't understand what the author was talking about. This was our first foray into the wonderful world of the Holy Spirit. While our group was new to the Spirit, the associate pastor was not. He began to mentor us in how to pray and worship. I'll forever be in his debt for this foundation of God's Holy Spirit in my life. The group expanded into about six or seven a night for a long time. Then one day...
A small revival broke out in the church sending several members reeling and the rest fervently praying to God. That next night there were 25 people at the meeting, the poor house bursting at the seams. We were seeking God's face, His Holy Spirit, something I had never done before. By now we prayed and worshiped for nearly thirty minutes before we got into the Word. I was experiencing something that I never had: a powerful passion for God.
A group of members began to drive to Wichita to go street witnessing and my wife and I joined them. These were those crazy charismatics and boy were they crazy! I saw things of which I had never even heard. But, there was a fire and devotion in their eyes I could not deny. There was an obedience in their actions I couldn't ignore. I wrote off our theological differences as a lack of Word knowledge, something on which I still prided myself.
Finally, God called Kara and I back to Western Kansas to become staff at TFC, the very place I met both God and Kara. TFC is support based like missionaries and that support never came in. We got quite a bit of support, but not enough for our growing family. Then my old boss at the radio station KPRD called and asked if I wanted a full-time job working for them. I accepted and we moved.
The next year was a living hell. We never had enough money, everyone kept getting sick, hospital bills from several surgeries were not getting paid by the insurance company and we were attending an annoying church. It seemed by all outward signs that we had made a horrible mistake. However, if I had learned anything so far, it was that God knew where we should go and so I reluctantly obeyed. Due to our encounter with the Holy Spirit in Fredonia, we were anxious to attend a church that worshiped God like that! But the only ones we could find were those crazy charismatics. Health and wealth. Name it and claim it. Blab it and grab it. These people were always talking about how God wanted us blessed, healed and prosperous in the midst of a time when we were cursed, sick and poor. It was not fun.
But, there was truth in the pastor's words, even if I didn't agree with his conclusions. So, reverting back to my earliest training, I got out my dusty Bible again, this time, with a vengeance. I was certain they were wrong, but I needed to prove it. So I read the Bible. I read books. I listened to sermons. I pondered, meditated, discussed and debated until I couldn't prove them wrong anymore. That went on for at least a year. I had always assumed that if anyone disagreed with me theologically, it was because they didn't know their Bible. But this church, Liberty Fellowship, constantly talked about the Bible. In fact, they constantly talked the Bible. Quoting scriptures was one of their greatest strengths. In the end, I had to reluctantly, if cheerfully, relent and admit defeat. I will forever be in their debt for this foundation of rock-solid faith.
Through our new understanding of scripture God began to prosper us until we went from no money to several thousand in savings. From sick to healthy and winning the battle over illness. From worried to at peace. From dead and dying in our closeness with God to a vibrant, warm, intimate relationship with our Father. Then something unexpected happened. What else is new?
I had been filling in for pastors all over KPRD's listening area when I got a call from a small church in a small town called Hoxie. They didn't have a pastor so I got to preach there several times. Each time I returned home with a whimsical glow that Kara even laughed at occasionally. God was pulling my heart from TFC to being a full time pastor.
While I had always wanted to preach, I never really thought I could be a pastor. Pastors have to be nice, gentle, loving, kind, and all those hard fruits of the Spirit. My pastor at Liberty began to take me under his wing and show me a path of peace, trust, love and faith that empowered me to become the loving person God wanted me to be. I'll forever be in his debt for this foundation of ministry.
Eventually the church confirmed our call and we moved to Hoxie, ready to serve God with the power of His Spirit. Looking back, I'm glad God didn't call us earlier. We were not ready. We didn't know patience, healing, grace, authority, gentleness, prosperity or power. We didn't even know the truth about God's Word yet. And now, for the first time in my life, I am willing to admit that I still don't know all of it. I never will. NOW God can work through me to teach His people. I wonder what unexpected turn the future holds for us next.
Hoxie Christian Fellowship Church God's Living Stones
RR2 Box 22J, Hoxie, KS 67740