I was ... Catholic and spiritually dry, that is. Also needing answers. I’d been a faithful altar boy and then had gone on to Catholic high school, college, and graduate school. But in my Christian faith I was just going through the motions, at best. Then in my mid-20’s I found the solution, and my personal faith level rose suddenly and meteorically and has remained at the center of my heart and my life for the past 50 years. Please allow me to share how this happened to me, and how it can also transform your faith and your life. And your eternity!
Now let me say right up front: this will not be an article where I’ll say, “Change churches.” That may or may not be something you are inclined to do. But the answer lies at a much deeper level.
I was age 9. My classmate and good buddy Chuck and I would walk over to Monday evening services at our Saint James Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia. No parents or siblings were with us. It was just two young boys feeling drawn to the spiritual atmosphere we experienced in church on those Monday evenings.
A year later, when I was 10, our family moved to Connecticut, where I lived until graduating from college. For a short time I was still an altar boy in Saint Cecilia’s parish. But I began a gradual decline into a prolonged spiritual drought. We studied Religion daily through 4 years of Catholic high school. And I took Theology courses every semester for 4 years at Boston College. But the spiritual decline had set in firmly, and by graduation at age 22, I found myself spiritually dry as a bone and had pretty much abandoned church. I was finding no “reality” in my faith, but was just going through the outward motions of the liturgy, the rituals, etc.
After graduate school at Santa Clara University (like BC, a Jesuit school), I found myself stationed as an Air Force officer in Anchorage, Alaska. My spiritual life remained inoperative. I had never abandoned my generalized belief in God and the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ. But there was no spark of inner life in my soul. Then my world changed!
In the summer of 1968 I met a young college girl, a Lutheran, who was home in Anchorage for the summer. She was very open with me about her Christian faith. I immediately saw in her a spiritual depth and excitement and joy that I didn’t have. Nor had I seen those things in those I grew up going to church with. My interest being piqued, I inquired. She would reply simply that what I saw in her was her personal relationship with Jesus. That was entirely new thinking to me. I had been raised and taught well to know about Jesus Christ. But as I listened to her share about her faith, it began to dawn on my that I did not know Him in any meaningful, personal, faith-based way.
Long story short, she encouraged me to buy a Bible, which I did. Night after night in my Air Force base quarters I would read that Bible. In fact, I could hardly put it down. As I did that, I began to experience inner excitement and what the theologians call “illumination.” God was being gracious to me in shedding His light upon the Scriptures. I found Psalm 105:130 having a deep inner effect on me: “The entrance of Your words [the Scriptures] gives light” (New King James version).
As I read the Bible avidly each evening, I began to be stirred in my spirit by Scriptures like these:
All these verses and more added up in my soul until one evening I had a remarkable faith encounter with Jesus. I was sitting on my bed, deeply convicted of my sinfulness and my need of God’s help. I called out in prayer to Jesus to forgive me my sins and to receive me and make me a forgiven, born-again child of God. Immediately I felt overwhelming joy to the point of tears. Deep in my spirit I felt the certainty of His love and forgiveness. And in my mind’s eye I saw a vision of Jesus at the foot of my bed holding His hands out to me. I knew in my heart what those outstretched hands meant: (1) He was accepting me into a personal, saving, family-of-God relationship with Him; and (2) with those outstretched hands He was saying, “Hold nothing back; I want all of you.”
That was 50 years ago last month as I write this. I have felt His loving presence in my life every day from that 1969 experience of life-changing personal salvation by “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21, NKJV). It is Jesus’ love for me and my personal faith relationship with Him that took away that spiritual dryness I wrote about above. And He will absolutely, without hesitation or condemnation, do the same for you! What does He ask? Simply that you look to Him as the Son of God who died on the cross and rose again for your sins. Repent directly to the Lord sincerely for those sins. Believe in Him as your Lord, your Savior, the Son of God who loves you so deeply that He died for you on the cross and rose again from the dead. He will instantly receive you into the family of God, will forgive you, and will cause you to be what the Bible calls “born again” (John 3:3). At the end of a life on this earth spent in the full measure of His love, He’ll take you to heaven to be with Him and God the Father forever.
In brief, a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ was and is both the temporal and eternal solution to my spiritual dryness. And Jesus offers the same to you today! Reach out to Him in repentance and faith. He will receive you. If you would like some guidance in praying for this saving relationship with Jesus Christ, please let the late, respected evangelist Billy Graham lead you in a sincere prayer that will reach and touch the heart of God and will bring you into a new and vibrant spiritual life within. God bless you.
Postscript: As promised, I am not writing this to you with any intent to say, “Change churches.” My desire has been to help you find the solution to your spiritual dryness. And that solution is a personal, saving relationship with the true and only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the record historically, let me add a personal anecdote. One of my favorite priests during my youth actually prophesied to my mother when I was a young altar boy. He said to Mom, “Jimmy is going to be a minister one day." Curiously, he did not say “priest,” but “minister” (the more common term back then for non-Catholic clergy). In brief, after finding my personal relationship with the Lord at age 25, I went on to serve the Lord in my Mom’s early Protestant heritage and spent several decades in Pentecostal churches as a pastor and Bible college teacher — accurately fulfilling my parish priest's long-ago prophecy. The ultimately important issue is not so much where you serve the Lord, but that you serve the Lord in a personal, faith-filled relationship with Jesus Christ your Savior. God bless! ~Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
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©2019, James H. Feeney.