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Testimonies

A Real Touch with the Lord and the Church - James Kennedy

I grew up in a Christian family, received the Lord when I was eight, and heard a lot about God and Jesus Christ and God's purpose. But until I was about sixteen or seventeen years of age these were just words to me. Sure, I believed what I was taught, but I didn't really experience anything or understand much in a personal way. My Dad always told me that no matter how much he talked about Jesus Christ and taught me things from the Bible, I still needed to come in contact with God in Christ for myself in a real and personal way. I didn't really understand this at that time, and as I was growing up things around me - my friends at school, mainly - started drawing me to other things. I started to make a name for myself at school. I was the short kid that always got in fights and hung around with the tough "stoners" (these were guys that listened to Heavy Metal music and took drugs). I was really starting to go downhill.

At fifteen, I ran away from home and left a note to my parents saying: "you said if I wanted the world then to go and get it. Well, I'm going to get it." My mom was ready to call the police the moment I left, but my dad wouldn't let her. I got kicked out of a couple of friends' houses and then eventually a friend's mom said I could stay with them. I was smart enough to continue going to school, although I think I made F's and D's. I was gone for about four months. The interesting thing was that unlike a lot of kids who leave home because their parents are mean or are abusing them and so on, my parents were actually very good to me and my brothers and sisters. I just didn't want to hear so much about God and I didn't like the restrictions put on me. I wanted to "party" with my friends and have an image at school. Then one day my friend and I were talking in his room and he brought up the subject of God because he was in the same predicament as I was. I didn't know how to answer him, so I went and saw my dad. My dad took me out for coffee and helped me to understand some things. I went back and told my friend what my dad had said. Then my friend had more questions that I didn't know how to answer, so I went back to my dad and he helped me again. This happened quite a few times. Eventually, this and some other circumstances helped me to come back home. My friend was also helped and believed in the Lord Jesus. This was a beginning for me.

After that I had a lot of questions and I wasn't concerned so much with my old friends; I even dropped out of school. That may not sound so good, but because of the image that I had made for myself and because of the influences around me, it was probably the best thing I could have done. I went to work full-time and started going out to restaurants with my dad for coffee and reading the Bible with him. Something was beginning to change within me, but I still remembered my dad telling me that I needed to touch the Lord Jesus in a personal way, not just in a doctrinal way. One night I went out about midnight and took a walk. I stopped under a bridge and climbed up it until I was just under the freeway. I sat down and started calling on the name of the Lord as it says in Romans 10:9-13 in the Bible. As I called, tears came running down my face and I called louder. At that time, although I had known that there was a God, I came into personal contact with Him. From that moment no one could tell me that there was no God, for I had met Him.

After this, although I was still reading the Bible, I started to slip back into the world, though not as before. When I was seventeen, I met my wife who was not a believer in Jesus Christ. I realized that if we were to get married and have two different views, our marriage wouldn't last, so I started to speak with her about Jesus. Eventually she wanted to experience Him also. She was saved by calling on the name of the Lord about three months after we met. About five months later we married, and three months after that followed my parents to move to Moscow, Idaho. Up to this point I knew there was a God and that I could experience Him in a real way by calling on His name and talking with Him, but I didn't really know what God's purpose for me was on earth.

When I was about nineteen, I met a brother who loved the Lord and seemed concerned for me. He would visit me and bring me to some Christians on Campus bible study meetings at the University of Idaho campus and a Saturday night college meeting with other Christians where we would sing and fellowship together. I slowly started to realize that God's purpose wasn't just to save me from my sins and to come into me as life, but God also wanted to build me up in a spiritual way with other Christians. God's purpose is with the church, which is just an enlargement of Himself (Ephesians 1:22-23). I also realized that the church wasn't a building where believers went. Nor was it just a kind of a group of people who had the same doctrine such as the Presbyterian, the Baptists, and so on. Nor was it based upon the name of spiritual leaders in history such as the Lutherans (Martin Luther) or the Wesleyans (John Wesley). These are just divisions--people meeting according to their likes and dislikes. Although to our minds this doesn't seem like anything bad, according to God's mind it is. He wants all his believers to be joined together in unity, based not on personal likes or preferences, nor as a social thing, but based upon His life within them, so that He can have a corporate expression on this earth.

I really started to see this purpose of God when I was invited on a Christians on Campus college spring break tour with about fifteen Christian college students through Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. We visited the Christians meeting as the local church in each of the cities we stopped at. It was during this time that the Lord gave me a vision of Christ and the church, and the practical way to meet as the church in each locality. It became clear to me that in every church we visited the believers were all the same, having the same life within them, and expressing the same Christ. May the Lord continue to grow within me and build me up with the other members of His Body so that He may have His heart's desire on the earth today.

 

 
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