11/05/2009

J. K. Jones’ Slightly Irreverent Personal Testimony

I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church. That means several things, good and bad.

I can’t dance. At all.

I am horrible at poker. No practice. I’m pretty good at Rook, though.

When growing up an “adult beverage” meant coffee. After all, it was hot and you could burn yourself if you spilled it.

Gospel quartet music makes me smile. My heart sings! I like to pretend I am a bass like George Younce, but I’m really a baritone.

I placed my faith in Christ when I was seven. I did not yet know just how selfish my own heart was, but my faith was real. I turned from my sin to Christ. I understood that “Christ died for our sins…” God has never let me go. He has taught me to repent, forgive and love. He’s still teaching me today.

I’ve understood the meaning of “penal substitutionary atonement” since I was in the fifth grade. That was about the time I learned the meaning of omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, spirit, love, truth and some other attributes of God. I learned about what God was like. Of course, I wouldn’t learn the word sovereignty until college.

I can find any passage in the Bible in about three seconds. That is, except for the Minor Prophets. They never preached on those guys unless the topic was tithing or divorce.

I sometimes think all sermons should include ten or eleven main points that can be remembered with an acrostic.

I learned what it felt like to commit gluttony at church “potluck dinners.” Great food at those.

I got used to swimming in a t-shirt and long shorts at church functions, that is, after the youth director finally decided boys and girls could swim together.

I used “Thee” and “Thou” when I prayed silently until I went to college.

The first religious book I ever read outside the Bible was Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth.  I also went to see that movie at the theater.

Consequently, I learned to be more afraid of being left behind in the Rapture than I was of going to Hell. It was probably the combination of the movie and the hypnotic repetition of the chorus “We’ve been left behind.”

I renounced my sins and put a list of them in the fire at church camp once or twice. My resolve to never commit those sins again dissolved within two weeks of the event.

I ‘learned’ that, with respect to my salvation, God cast the first vote, Satan cast the second vote, and I cast the third and deciding vote. I was then told that God would save me even if my trust in Him came and went. That never really made sense. It seemed if it was up to me then, it was up to me now. Deep down I knew it was all up to God in the first place.

I know all of the verses to Just As I Am, Only Trust Him, and I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. For most other hymns, I only know the first, second and fourth verses.

I have participated in the sacred ritual of burning rock and roll music tapes in the church yard beside the activities building. It was like a sacrament.

I have heard what “Night Moves” by Bob Seger sounds like when it is played backwards. Something like “I Love the Devil.” I’ve often wondered if they ever listened to the song played forwards. It says:

Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy
Out in the back seat of my 60 Chevy
Workin’ on mysteries without any clues;
Workin’ on our night moves…

We weren’t in love, oh no, far from it.
We weren’t searchin’ for some pie in the sky summit.
We were just young and restless and bored,
Livin’ by the sword.

And we’d steal away every chance we could
To the backroom, alley or trusty woods.
I used her, she used me
But neither one cared.
We were getting’ our share.
Workin’ on our night moves.
Why do we have to listen to this song backwards in order to make a decision about it?

I actually thought Stryper was a good heavy metal band for a while. To bad Skillet was not on the radio, that would have been better.

I saw a church go through a horrible split when I was in the Seventh and Eight Grades. There were accusations that the pastor had committed multiple adultery. I won’t know whether those accusations were true until the judgment. I watched the people I had gone to church with and respected “tear at each other.”

On the bright side, those events lead me to discover the theology of St. Augustine. The pastor accused of adultery was the pastor who had baptized me. One of the things Augustine taught was that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism were good even if the pastor was a hypocrite (Donatist controversy, I think). Yeah, I know I was taught that baptism was only a symbol, but, once again, deep down I knew better.

On the dark side, I have several friends in that church who, after they moved out of their parent’s house, have never “darkened the doors” of a church since. I also used it as an excuse to turn to sin myself. I mean exactly what I said there, it was an excuse. I am responsible for my own actions.

I learned to channel my anger into football. I was pretty good. I played “weak side guard” on the offensive line. I loved to pull and trap block. The feel of my helmet hitting a person when I had a five or six step running start was absolutely exhilarating. Of course, that might explain why I have sort-term memory problems.

Our team had the second winning season in the history of the program my senior year. We were the first team from Central to play in the state football tournament. We got put out in the first round, and our accomplishment was rightly over-shadowed when the basketball team won the state championship.

I was the lightest man on the 1985 All-District Offensive Line at 180 Ibs. Everybody looked at me real funny when I stood up to get the trophy at the ceremony. The other players on the stage were all looking down.

I earned Eagle Scout with the BSA, and the Boy Scouts help me to grow up. If I had to give back what I learned from my Master’s Degree or what I learned in becoming an Eagle Scout, I’d give back the Master’s in a heart-beat. Thankfully I don’t have to.

That’s pretty much it up to high school. In high school I learned to do some things I am not proud of. God let me see the selfishness of my own heart.

My miss-behavior continued when I went to U. T. Knoxville. My hometown had a population of 1,000 when I was growing up. My dorm at U. T. housed more people than that.

From my dorm-room window I could see four or five bars. I went often.

I was rebellious. Beyond that I am going to leave it where the Apostle Paul did when he said “it is shameful to even speak of what the disobedient do in secret” (Ep. 5:12).

I was a member of the U. T. Concert Choir during most of my college years. That was a great time. We sang Meldelson’s “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob.” We did “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Community Chorus. The director was a strong Christian, and at was my primary form of worship for a number of years.

I guess you could say that in high school I was a football hero, but in college I was a choir boy. The big guys hit hard at the SEC school.

My rebellion continued. I may be the only person in the history of the Christian church who rededicated his life to Christ in part because of a Jimmy Buffet song. In 1990, I was drinking alone in my dorm when I heard Buffet sing, “Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friends, if I knew I just might pull up my anchor.” A verse I had read in junior high came flashing into my mind:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecc. 12:13-14, KJV).
I poured the fine Kentucky bourbon in my shot glass down the toilet along with the remaining content of the bottle. I read my dusty copy of the Bible for a few hours. Then I went to sleep. I went to church the next day for the first time in a few years.

I wish I could tell you that I laid aside all of my sins that night never to return to them, but I can’t. Like Paul, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23, ESV).

The Baptist Church, where I attended and joined, was pastored by a humble man with whom I could disagree without fear of reprisal. That was very important to me because of my experiences after the church split.

In 1990 I attended a Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) Christmas Conference in Atlanta. Awesome experience. Sermons were on the Psalms. We prayed in the New Year together. Praying together with thousands of people strengthen my faith. I read through the Bible from cover to cover for the first time that next year.

They also had a book store at the conference. I bought Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler and Pleasing God by R. C. Sproul. These books opened the worlds of philosophical and polemic theology to me.

I completed D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion course in 1991. I memorized a ton of Scripture and learned intellectual reasons to hold the Christian faith. EE changed my life and gave me confidence to share the goods news of what Christ has done for me.

I bought The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul about that time. I read that book all at one setting in an all-night marathon. I just could not put it down. The chapter “The Insanity of Luther” was worth the price of the book several times over. One paragraph of the book converted me to Five-point Calvinism on the spot.

Calvinism was one of the things I disagreed with the aforementioned pastor about. But he did not hold it against me. He disagreed, but he understood and respected my new position. I told you he was humble.

Our Baptist church youth group went to the Navaho Reservation in Arizona each year with the youth from a large Presbyterian church in West Knoxville. We were there in part to support a church started by a Mission to the World missionary (Mission to the World is the PCA denominational missions organization). Baptists will partner with anyone with remotely similar beliefs for missions work. That’s usually a good thing.

Somewhere in all of this I married and divorced. My ex-wife and I grew to be in very different places spiritually. I did not initiate the divorce, and tried to get the help of the church where my ex-wife and I had started to attend, but there was nothing I could do.

I also earned a BS and an MS in Industrial Engineering along the way. Good, practical degrees to have.  I went back to school to earn an MBA in 2011.

I went back to the Baptist church after my divorce. I began to date the pastor’s daughter about two years later. We grew close. We loved to talk to each other, and still do today. We married in 1997.

We adopted our child in 2004 when she was three months old. We adopted through Family Life Services and the Liberty Godparent Home in Lynchburg, VA.

These ministries were started by the Rev. Jerry Faldwell. Dr. Faldwell was asked during a press-conference on the abortion issue where a girl could go if she found herself pregnant and in need of support. Faldwell answered in classic form, “I don’t know, but I will know tomorrow.”

I have often wished Faldwell’s mouth had a clutch and someone else’s foot was on the pedal, but the guy sure could raise money and start strong ministries. Dr. Faldwell did our daughter's baby dedication the day she was ceremonially placed into our home.

I have recently been ordained a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination I have now been a part of off and on since about 1993.

I still struggle with sin. I still need God’s grace each day. I live what C. John Miller called a “life of repentance.” But that life is truly worth living.

9 comments:

theoldadam said...

What an interesting life you have led so far!

A 180 lb. All-Star O-guard is one tough son of a gun(and smart).I played high school ball myself (at 155 lbs.), so I know of which I speak.

What a journey you have been on, on Lord knows where he will take you next!

It sure is exciting being a Christian! (not always fun - but exciting)

Thanks for sharing, J.K.!

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks.

What makes my life interesting, if anything, is what Christ has done for me. The rest is just my sin, in one form or another.

theoldadam said...

I know what you mean.

The wreckage strewn behind me from my sin is long and Lord knows how many lives I have affected adversely.

What an awesome Lord we have that forgives us this. But I still can't help but think about it now and then.

Greg Whaley said...

Hey John Kevin, I was strengthened by your irreverent personal testimony. I laughed out loud in a couple of spots (in a good way). And I join you in having Jimmy Buffet at the crux of a major movement of God in my life. Thanks for sharing with the world. I am glad you did.

Greg Whaley

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks, Greg.

Please tell me about your 'Buffet Moment.'

John D said...

so are you kin to Joel D. Jones the writer ?

if so we are cousins I think
enjoyed your writing
john dodd

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks , John D.

No, I am not kin to that Jones.

Hope to hear from you more.

John D said...

well was just checking .. there was a baptist minister by the same name back in the day .. they were in Linden/DixonMills ..
I must say I did enjoy your take on your religion .. can't say we agree on much .. as I am about as far from religion as you can get and still be on the planet ..I do applaud your ideas on the various sins as one is about as bad as the other ... and your attitude toward sinners is laudable ... however when one considers there are gay penguins, gay goats and various other animals on record I find the idea of gays being sinners kinda strange. I suspect its more a matter of genetics and screwed genes than some kind of sin ..
if you go back in the old testament you will find in Deuteronomy references to ways to preserve the human race ,, check it out and you will find something along the lines of if a man be wounded in his stones he and all his children for 10 generations will not be allowed in church .. this was done because they understood the possibility of genetic damage even if they didn't understand what really caused it ... I think this concept carried over into the new testiment as well ..

now lest you think I am some bleeding heart liberal ... I am adopted so my views on abortion would most likely follow right along to yours .. but for different reasons... in my view .. its quite simple .. I am and I would not be if my mother had exercised her "right to choose"

I find it strange that folks can rationalize this simple fact. Has nothing to do with morels .. God .. or any thing but pure logic .. I am here and if my mom aborted me I would not be .. I would have been killed .. dead .. murdered by definition of law

oh well .. I sometimes forget that logic has completely gone out the window .. and people are being manipulated by fear and greed .. now there's a couple of big sins for ya LOL

jd

J. K. Jones said...

John D,

I appreciate your comments. I am a very religious person, and I have good reasons to be.

Genetic pre-disposition to certain types of sins does not preclude responsibility. I am probably pre-disposed to taking financial risks by temperment; that doesn't mean I should spend myself into massive debt.

We do what we do because we want to do it. Nothing from outside stops us. That makes us responsible. We do what we do because we are the kind of people we are: sinners.

Your are right about the rest. Logic has gone out the window on the abortion issue. Fear and greed are big sins.

JK

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