When I was a child, my family went to a Presbyterian church where my dad was a deacon. At six years old, we moved and I went to church a few times with my mom and sister. When I was eight years old, I received my first Bible from the Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, California. Several times we attended a Mormon church just because the missionaries would come to our house and convince my mom to go.
I remember hearing Psalm 23 as a child “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” and thought I was not to want this shepherd. So, I didn’t. I believed this interpretation of I shall not want this Shepherd until I was way into adulthood. Because of this I didn’t have many questions about God or who He was. I did know, however, He was not an old man with a long white beard sitting on a throne in heaven.
I didn’t have much spiritual training growing up, but I was taught as most people are, right from wrong. Moral issues, however, were blurred. In sixth grade every boy in my class got suspended from school for one reason or another except me. I earned the nickname Preacher.
My junior high and high school years were deeply influenced by the rebellion against establishment and all traditions of the 1960s. I grew up in liberal California near San Francisco and had an older sister who went to college at one of hot spots of hippie-dom, Berkeley. Another older sister took me to anti-Viet Nam war rallies in San Francisco.
In junior high school, I dated a girl who took me to Young Life, an evangelical Christian outreach for young people. I can’t say that I really learned anything spiritual because I only went to the meetings because they did fun things – like taking a trip to Catalina Island. In high school I got into smoking pot and getting high. I listened to music and played the drums. I loved to ski and would go to Squaw Valley with my oldest sister.
After graduating from high school, I hitchhiked from Danville, California to Breckenridge, Colorado with a relative from Denmark. Soon after our little adventure, he sent me a package of hash in the mail. Federal agents came to our front door. They searched my room and found pot, but not the letter my cousin had sent telling me he was sending the hash. If they had, I would have been arrested for drug traffiking. Instead, I spent the night in jail for possession of an illegal substance. My dad left me there to ‘learn a lesson.’
I attended Diablo Valley Junior College and in a psychology class, I was introduced to eastern religions. I read Carlos Castaneda’s books. His best known is The Teachings of Don Juan. These books taught about shamanism and the access to the world of good and evil spirits through divination and healing which led to further study into the native American culture.
At San Francisco State University, where I lived at Haight Ashbury Streets, I became involved in transcendental meditation because it offered to give positive energy and make my life better. I attended a meeting where I paid money, brought a flower and a piece of fruit to put on a table with a white cloth. I received a mantra for meditation that soon after I actually forgot and had to get a new one. I had no idea at the time that the mantra or word that I was to repeat was the name of a god, the table was an altar and I was offering a sacrifice.
I continued to do drugs mostly pot and LSD. I even did an experiment with my roommate to see the different effects the two had on everyday activities.
After graduating from college I moved with my roommate to Anchorage, Alaska. This was a more conservative place in which to live. I really enjoyed the outdoor activities Alaska offered and went camping, hiking and backpacking. I found solace in nature, but was still searching for the missing spiritual piece in my life. I continued to do drugs, but not as often.
In 1980 I decided to move to Breckenridge, Colorado and work at a ski area. My aunt lived there so I had some good connections. I rented a house that needed a few renovations and put all my belongings into the house for storage. After several weeks away, I came back to find everything I owned stolen from my skis to my kitchen utensils to a personally autographed coffee table book called Alaska. I had nothing except a few clothes.
I decided to move to Boulder. It was a beautiful place filled with young people doing all the things that I loved to do: ski, hike and backpack. I felt I would get a better job in Boulder as well. The spiritual climate of Boulder was pretty cool, too. It was very New Age and no matter what anyone believed, it was accepted. Even though there were also many cults in Boulder, I stayed away from them. I had a high school friend who got caught up in the Moonies (Unification Church) so I recognized a cult immediately and always refused invitations to join. I still continued to do drugs and added cocaine to the list.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a job in Boulder. I was living on unemployment and going nowhere. Finally, a year later I found a job and my life began to look up. I met my future wife, Julie, at this small company with only three employees. She was a Christian and she was so much more together than most of the women I had dated. Eventually we began living together, and in January of 1984 after I asked her to marry me, God began to work on my heart.
One night Julie was watching a movie. I was in the kitchen and I overheard the words of Peter when asked by Jesus, “Who do people say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”
I came out of the kitchen and stared at this Jesus on the TV screen. I had never heard such words before and they wouldn’t leave my mind. I had searched many religions looking for something substantial, but I had never heard anything like these words before. Mostly I wanted to see a miracle, experience something supernatural. I had always wondered, “If an angel came and spoke to me, how would I receive it?”
One afternoon while sitting on a rock outside my house in Salina, Colorado, I began talking to God. I told him what I wanted, what I was looking for. He spoke to me, not in an audible voice, but in a way that I knew it was Him. He told me I didn’t need anything supernatural and that I didn’t need a miracle. He told me I could believe in Him without any of those things.
So on that afternoon in February 1984, I simply accepted Jesus with an ‘okay’. I finally had peace with God. I knew my search was over. I was able to discern good from evil and I quit smoking pot. I began reading my Bible. One day I came across 1 John 1:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
This verse validated everything that God was doing in my heart. Jesus was real and John confirmed it.
I began going to Little Church in the Pines. It was a tiny church in the foothills of Boulder. The fellowship was something I had never experienced before. I made friends not based on weed, but on the fact we all had faith in God and Jesus. These people showed me that my faith was compatible with a mountain lifestyle and I didn’t have to become something or someone I wasn’t. I loved that we all wore our Sorrels to church! My memories at this time of my spiritual walk is like the Psalms. I had a poetic-type relationship with the Lord. It was a joyful, peaceful time.
Eventually my wife and I decided to attend Rocky Mountain Christian Fellowship in Boulder. I was discipled by Richie Furay, Scott Selen and Bob Dusek during worship team practices. These were wonderful years of learning the new testament and becoming grounded in the Word of God. I also had the blessing of leading the children’s worship services.
It was during this time that my wife and I, along with two friends, went to Roeh Israel on a blustery winter night in January 1991. We had no idea what we were going to, but it was my first exposure to anything truly Messianic. It wasn’t American Christianity. It was Jewish. It was real. It was the roots of the faith that I had embraced, but didn’t know. I really loved the dancing, the music and the joy of the Lord. Without knowing or understanding the concept, I was grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel that night.
I met and talked with Joel Chernoff and helped him break down his equipment. We talked about his keyboard and how its digital electronics work. I told him how much I enjoyed their music and he sent me to the Judaica store to buy my first Messianic CD – Lamb’s Seer. While in the store, I also bought my wife a head covering. I had seen many other women wearing them and I wanted her to have one too.
I was very different after that night. There was an excitement and joy in my heart that I had never had before in worship or fellowship, but Roeh Israel was quite a distance from our home making it nearly impossible to attend regularly. We began to keep the Sabbath and went to our first celebrations of Passover, Feast of Trumpets and Purim at Roeh Israel. We felt the continued draw to learn more and over the next few years added Hanukkah, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
As a young believer, I would read my Bible and see that the church wasn’t doing the things written in the it. I didn’t know what to do or how to change that as going to church was the ‘thing to do’, and celebrating church holidays was just part of the whole religious system. I had preconceived ideas about Christianity that I didn’t like and I didn’t want to embrace, but found that I had.
The words ‘Jewish feasts’ written in the New Testament always made me feel like a foreigner to the words that were meant to bring me closer to Jesus and to God. Eating unclean foods at potlucks when God said they weren’t food repulsed me. Peter’s vision never seemed to say to me what it said to everyone else. It has always bugged me that Christians act like they have come up with their own religion that is so much better than every other, especially Judaism, that they become arrogant over everything Jewish. Knowing Christ is better than drugs and eastern religions, but Christians have become so disassociated from their historical roots that they have lost sight of who God really is and His complete plan of salvation that includes the Jews and Israel.
For a short time our family attended Calvary Chapel in Nederland, Colorado. I would describe our time there as good and bad. We were worshipping with mountain people with good praise music. We loved the people as family and felt very much a part of the fellowship there. However the teachings lacked depth, integrity and morality. It was difficult to rationalize the two and I didn’t know what to do. One Sunday morning as we were driving up Boulder Canyon, we heard Paul Wilbur’s CD Shalom Jerusalem on the radio. We found ourselves worshipping in a way we had not in a long time, a deeper spiritual worship. That morning I knew our spiritual ties had been cut from evangelical Christianity. I didn’t want to go to Nederland or any place else. Soon after, we moved to Nebraska and I realized that worshipping and learning about God in our home would be the best answer for my family. I wanted to grow in the way God had been directing us for many years. We were finally going to completely embrace the Messianic Jewish roots of our faith as Messianic gentiles.
Looking back over my life’s spiritual journey, I have found is that it’s more work searching for the Truth, than just believing the Truth and walking in it. I am convinced that being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel is where God wants all Christians to be. I am thankful that He is the One who brought me into this walk of faith in the Messiah of Israel. Yeshua changed my heart in a moment of time and showed me the blessing of doing what he did that I can actually find and read in my Bible.