Written by David McManus, MDiv student at Shepherds Theological Seminary.
Today is a special day.
I was born on February 22, but I was born again on December 16. Thirteen years ago today the Lord violently and abruptly arrested my hell-bound path, and changed my life eternally. I didn’t grow up in the church. In fact, if my family owned a Bible, I don’t know where it was kept. I grew up an angry child of absentee and alcoholic parents, and I hated the world, and God (if He even existed) for it. The feelings of bitterness defined my behavior and my worldview for many years, and on that day thirteen years ago, the last thing that I was looking for was salvation.
And yet, He called me; He drew me; He justified me; He saved me.
As if that was not enough, less than a year later, He brought me my future wife, saved since six years old, raised in a Christian family, and attended Christian schools her entire life. She motivated me to grow in my new faith, and God used her to push me deep into His Word. He moved me into Christian education where I could not only do what I loved, coaching and teaching, but I could do it in a Christian environment, sharing my faith, and mentoring young people who shared some of my experiences. He has made me a father twice-over to two amazing sons, and it has been through this continual learning experience that I have come to a greater understanding of a loving, and yet demanding, heavenly Father. He called me into His service full time a little over three years ago, and I have been serving in ministry and pursuing a seminary education for His glory. It has been an earth-shattering thirteen years (at least in my little corner of the world), and I am so humbled and grateful to be serving my Savior and striving to bring Him glory for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do.
You may be asking by now: “Isn’t this supposed to be a blog about your Israel trip?” Well, let me see if I can tie this all together. On my thirteenth birthday in Christ, I stood overlooking Bethlehem, the earthly birthplace of my Lord and Savior. Dr. Bookman talked today of the application of Isaiah 53:1, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him,” to not only the cross but to the cradle as well. The king of glory was born in the most irregular of circumstances and the most humiliating beginnings, and yet, God had chosen this as the path to redemption and the realization of ultimate glory. I thought about King Jesus today and the craziness of improbable outcomes, in the sense that this Christ child lying in a lowly manger would one day conquer death and save the souls of so many.
The first words of the Lord spoken through Isaiah in 53:1 are, “Who has believed what we have heard?” It is a history that only the sovereign God of the universe could conceive and accomplish. I thought back to my own life and my less than ideal beginnings and all the things of this world that said I should have been a statistic, a cautionary tale of an angry and neglected kid, and a stereotypical case of one who ultimately fell prey to the sins of his father. Instead, beyond any reasonable explanation, the Lord elected me to salvation
In 1 Timothy 1, Paul explains that he was once a blasphemer, and persecutor, a violent man, and the chief of sinners. He then writes in 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” I stood in Israel today, in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, as a husband, a father, a seminary student, a pastor, a born-again believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Who has believed what we have heard?”