Available ebook formats: epub mobi pdf lrf pdb txt html
I was born at a very early age on a snowy winter day in 1944 in Hood River, Oregon – long before it became the premier kitesurfing area of the world. I joined two sisters who were four and five years old.
My father was a hardworking carpenter from the old school (Hard Knocks University). He had reached full adulthood by age three and thought I ought to follow in his footsteps. His view of a good day was to get up before breakfast and “work like you’re killing snakes” until the sun went down.
My family owned a 10 acre pear and cherry orchard that was too small to be profitable, so Dad supplemented his income by doing carpentry work while my sisters and I did the daily work on the orchard.
I didn’t like outdoor work. I enjoyed reading, daydreaming, and surprisingly, going to church. In an age before TV, I would ask Mom to turn on the radio so I could listen to the Sunday evening broadcast of a local church as I went to sleep.
One sermon illustration I remember from that era concerned the end of time. In the scene the preacher painted, all humanity was advancing toward the throne of God. They were assembled in three groups. The first group knew they were saved and would be accepted into heaven, so they were joyful, excited and hurrying to get in. The second group wasn’t too sure, so they were hesitant and hanging back. The third and final group knew they were lost and would spend eternity in hell so they were moving as slowly as possible.
I saw myself in the second group. I was pretty sure I didn’t belong in the first group, but I decided I would fake it and rush ahead to sneak into heaven with those that belonged there when my time came.
My interest in spiritual things was an indication that God was calling me to Himself, but I was too full of myself to respond, so I developed my own form of righteousness based on what I didn’t do -- the form of religion that says, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with the girls who do.”
There were several times in my teen years that I started to follow Jesus – God’s way of righteousness. I started, but I didn’t continue. Finally, when I was 19, God gave me one more chance.
I wasn’t concerned about my sin (which was mostly self-righteousness), but I was very much aware I was not a Christian... and I was going to attend a Christian college (Seattle Pacific College, now a university)! I thought that wasn’t right, so I prayed and said, “OK, Jesus, I hereby make you my boss.”
It wasn’t a profound beginning, but Jesus accepted my commitment and I officially and honestly joined “the first group” advancing toward the throne.
College life was OK, but my favorite classes were Bible and I couldn't get enough of them. So after my freshman year I transferred to Seattle Bible Training School (now Seattle Bible College) where I met and eventually married Diane, the girl of my dreams.
After four more years, we both graduated with our Bachelor degrees. What does one do with a degree in Theology? I had gone to school to study the Bible. I was called to follow Jesus. I had no interest in being a pastor or even doing full-time Christian work. What to do?
Well, how about mission work?
Diane had always been interested in being a missionary. Jesus was interested in missions. I was interested in both of them, so we tried to become missionaries. Over the next year and a half we tried several approaches to get to the mission field. Nothing happened. Nothing worked.
Hmmm. Let me think, I was once told the greatest needs on the mission field were for printers, teachers and carpenters, so….
Well, I had experience with my Dad as a carpenter and I was a Bible teacher in church, so I took a job as a printer for the Hood River News. Printing was boring, so during this time I served two terms as a part-time Hood River County Commissioner.
Politics wasn’t boring, but it was worse than printing. So, after seven years as a printer, I took a job with United Telephone Company of the Northwest (now Sprint Telecommunications). I was hired to develop, write and analyze rates and tariffs which I then filed with the Public Utility Commissions in Oregon, Washington and California.
We continued to look forward to missionary work. By 1979 we brought some of the mission field home when we adopted a sibling group of four children from Bombay, India. (Wow, am I getting old? It’s now Mumbai.) Three boys and a girl, ages 10 to 14, joined our perfect American family. We already had one boy (Jeff, age 10) and one girl (Heather, age 8). First we were four, then, overnight, we were eight. Then six of us became teenagers, and two of us became very old.
Eventually, we passed that phase of our life. Our kids moved out and on to make their mark on the world. Then the Father opened up more of Himself to me. I woke up with the thought stirring in my heart, "I'm tired of studying the Bible. I want to know Jesus.”
This wasn’t a new thought and didn’t occur in isolation, but it summarized what had been the unspoken desire of my heart for the past several years. The goal of my life was no longer to just follow Jesus, but to know Him, to know His ways and to make His ways mine.
Our life’s journey has taken us to some amazing places since then. In 1994, when I was 50 years old, Diane and I finally became missionaries. We served four years in the Philippines under the auspices of Ministries to Christian Nationals (MCN).
Then we followed Jesus to Seattle where I served as Academic Dean at the Bible College we had graduated from 33 years earlier. Then He led me to pastor a group of senior citizens for a couple of years, and then on to Arizona where we retired.
Even in retirement, we followed Jesus and have gotten to know Him better. I’ve been on several mission trips teaching in conferences in India, Kenya, China and again in the Philippines. (Imagine that! Me, a farm boy from Oregon!) And it has been in retirement that the most profound change has taken place in my relationship with God.
It is said that our view of God, our heavenly Father, is often determined by our relationship with our earthly father. I respected my Dad, but as my older sister said at his memorial service, “He was a slave driver.”
The way I related to God changed as my relationship with Him grew. When I was outside of His family, I related to Him as I had related to my earthly father, something like a demanding boss who insisted on perfection and demanded hard work at all times.
Then, when I entered His family (on His terms), Jesus became my Savior, and my relationship with God changed. I was no longer “the sinner;” I then became “the servant” working for Jesus.
In my experience as God’s servant, I didn’t really relate to Him directly. Because I didn’t recognize the voice of His Spirit, I related to His Word, the Bible. I would get my direction from the Scriptures or others, but not from God. I did not realize, in any practical sense, that God is a present reality in our lives and speaks to us intuitively through our spirits.
I saw the shortcomings of just being God’s servant when I was on a short-term mission trip to India. It was my “job” to pray for those who responded to the invitation for prayer at a city-wide crusade. There were five of us praying: there were thousands that responded to receive healing or a touch from God. I was utterly overwhelmed and began crying out to God for help to meet the incredible needs and longings of the people.
Over the next several days, I began to see that God was inviting me to a closer relationship with Him. I had become His servant years ago but found that it was not satisfying, either to me or to God. What God really wants is to be a loving Father to His family. He wanted me (and all His people) to become “a son” who is attentive to His heart, not just His Word.
I no longer see God as a demanding Father. I now see Him as He really is -- the loving Father who cares for me with all His heart, soul, mind and strength; just the way He wants me to love Him. He is the One I can safely trust regardless of circumstances.
I have experienced a life that greatly exceeded my highest expectations, but even if my life were to completely change, I know my Heavenly Father will use events and circumstances to accomplish ultimate good in my life.
There are now two absolutes in my life:
1. God’s Word, the Bible. It is absolutely true, accurate and dependable in all matters to which it speaks. I depend on it completely; and
2. An ever-present Father who loves me without reservation or condition. He is a Friend who walks and talks with me daily and is my ever-present Companion. I’m getting to know Him better, but an infinite God will be impossible to know fully even after we meet face to face. In spite of my failures and limitations, He is very gracious and is drawing me ever nearer to Himself.
This same Father is also inviting you as He did me. Will you join the first group, too, by making Jesus your Savior and Lord?
This life is just a temporary pit stop on the way to eternity, a sort of gestation period for our eternal destiny. Our bodies are just tents we live in for a season while we accomplish the ultimate purpose of this life – training to rule with Christ throughout all eternity.
We all choose our destiny. What will yours be?
If you’d like to discuss my story, this Study Guide for LIFE or your relationship with Christ, let’s talk about it. Simply send an email note to: StudyGuidesforLIFE@gmail.com.
I’d like to hear from you,
James K. Crews, B-Th, MA-Th