Path to Now

“Being a Christian is not a burden; it is not a penalty, but rather it is a pleasure.”

By James Oppedal
The Flame Volunteer Writer

While serving together on No Greater Love mission trips, Fred Bishop taught me that each of us should be able to give our testimony. We should be able to give a long version when we have ample time for sharing, and we should have a version of only a few words when time is precious. Each of us has a story of what Christ has done in our lives. Those who don’t know Christ need to know that being a Christian is not a burden; it is not a penalty, but rather it is a pleasure — yes, it is an enjoyable experience to live a Christian life. This is my story.

I met Christ at a fairly young age, being raised as an American Lutheran. This denomination is heavy on tradition. I was an acolyte — I lit the candles and put them out and I sang in the choir. I spent three years in catechism and was confirmed in front of the congregation, saying the appropriate number of “I do’s” and “I will’s.” I fully intended to live a life close to Christ, but I allowed the world to get in the way. I pursued excitement and good times as I started my career in the Air Force and allowed alcohol to play too big a role in my entertainment; allowed career obligations to play too big a role in my time management; and allowed patriotism to be too big of an excuse for absenteeism, allowing my wife to carry the main burden of raising our two sons and our daughter.

As the kids became old enough to understand what church was all about, we decided we needed to be regular church attenders and get involved, so that they would know who Jesus is. This was the beginning of my return to the Jesus I had known in my youth. This journey eventually brought us to Christ United Methodist Church, through a process of events that could only be God orchestrated.

We joined this church while it was still on Highway 50, across from the Burger King. We participated in the vote that relocated us to Frank Scott Parkway, and we supported our growth in the size of the building and the congregation. We changed from a church with one traditional service with hymns and candles on an altar lit at the beginning of the service, along with a choir and ministers who wore traditional robes, into a church where we drink frozen lattes in the sanctuary, encourage the pastor with an “Amen” while he preaches, and worship to modern music.

My growth was tied primarily to Disciple Bible studies which I taught, and to No Greater Love Ministries mission trips to New Orleans, the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby. One such trip led us to a late-night prayer meeting — held well after midnight — where a young man who was a stranger to me prophesied over me saying, “Your faith is about to take a strong change from academic to much more spiritual.” You see, I studied the Bible and publications about the Bible to get a better understanding about God in His three persons and what He would want of me. I never expected Him to touch me in a very special and personal way. His Holy Spirit has nudged me, and has at times taken hold of me in a tight grip, convincing me not only of His reality and His immediate presence, but of His desire for me to take specific and at times immediate action. God has become so very much more real than the God I had read about.

My journey is not over, just as Christ Church’s story is not over. Rev. Shane often reminds us that he is confident that the “best is yet to come.” I currently serve as the prayer leader for Scott Campus, and continue to participate in missions and discipleship classes.  Sometimes in our prayer meetings, we feel the Spirit in a very special way. Sometimes we weep and sometimes we laugh; sometimes we leave still yearning for more intimate time with the Lord. Sometimes I feel like we had a mountaintop experience, and often I realize that even when the Lord shows up in a powerful way, life must go on and we don’t get to stay on top of that mountain; we have to live the life for which God put us here.

This is my story; it is not over. Perhaps the best is yet to come. I can’t wait.

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