My Journey Through This Mortal Time
Psalm 40:2-3, "[God] brought me [too] up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, [out of my own good life]. And He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…"
And so my story. And my story has two parts, as every story does of one's coming to faith in the Lord Jesus—the formative years and the transformative years. Or one way to put it perhaps, homiletically speaking, a “perfect three-point sermon”— (1) My Formative Pleasurable Years, (2) My Misstepped Years, and then (3) My Transformative Years.
My Formative Pleasurable Years: Birth thru Eight Grade
I was first born in Toledo, Ohio. And as Psalm 139 verse 16 reads, "[God] saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in his book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." And so, God has known all about me—my steps along my earthly way, even my missteps.
I, the youngest of four (I have a brother, a sister, and a second brother), was very young when the family moved east of Toledo to a rural area south of Cleveland and west of Akron—to the village of Chippewa Lake in Medina County.
I was quiet (a shy guy) through the years, speaking hardly a word to anybody.
In my youth, much of my time was spent watching television. A shy guy, perhaps my TV viewing could have been considered my "security blanket.” In considering it now, however, much of my time spent in front of the TV was my first misstep (even through those youthful pleasurable years).
My siblings and I were blessed to have been born to parents who took us to church and Sunday school every week. We attended a Nazarene Church primarily. Going to church, we learned of the Bible and of Jesus all our lives.
But then comes a prediction. At an amusement park—Chippewa Lake Park, as it was called— within walking distance from where we lived, I met a Native American who in noticing the "double crown" on my head with which I was born, predicted that I would see two worlds someday. I didn't give too much thought to that prediction through the years if it met anything. For some reason, I guess God wanted me to hear it anyway, and in His time, I had realized it again in my coming to an understanding of it all— a realization of the two realities: the temporal and the eternal.
Our church occasionally would have what was called "Revival Meetings." At such meetings, I recall hearing sermons of the world coming to an end. My young mind could not imagine such a thing. The world coming to an end—what would happen to all the trees, the tall buildings, and especially Disneyland?
My Misstepped Years: Ninth Grade thru Lackland AFB
I did reasonably well through school, for the most part, but then into high school, and my second misstep: I had to repeat the ninth grade. I believe, for one, my failing the ninth grade was due to my introverted temperament—my shyness.
On through high school, but I never determined what I wanted to do after I graduated.
My dad passed away when I was a junior in high school.
My senior year, and graduation, and then what? My Uncle Sam had that all figured out. I received a letter from Selective Service ordering me to report for my armed forces physical exam. Afterward, I contacted my friendly Air Force recruiter; one of my brothers was in the Navy, the other the Army Reserve, I wanted something different, and not the Marines.
Shortly after my physical exam, I received my draft notice to be inducted into the armed forces. And so, it was off to Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas—my introverted temperament followed me there as well. And also, there came my third misstep—I was set back to an earlier flight in basic training.
But a meningitis epidemic had broken out, and that returned me to my original unit and quarantined us. Having been set back and returned, I missed much of the activities of basic training.
The epidemic finally cleared; we were then PATS—that's personnel awaiting tech school. I was assigned to police tech school. And so, came my fourth misstep—I was "kicked out" of that school. After waiting again for my next assignment, it came—ground transportation at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
My Transformative Years: Patrick AFB to the Present
There at Patrick, I consider my spiritual birthplace.
Thanks to my church-going upbringing and my shyness even, I lived a "good" life through the years, not a raunchy lifestyle—one perhaps I believe I’m sure wouldn’t be aired on the Unshackled radio program. I desired no part of the carousing activities of others who live such a life—that “eat, drink, and be merry” life (consider Luke 12:18-20). I don't even recall ever uttering a foul word. The worse I ever said, I believe, was that word people would say when their dog got gone In time, a mentor shared with me that word is but a euphemism (a substitute) at cursing God—taking God’s name in vain; I never said it since.
Later, I also learned that such a "good" life doesn't make one good before God, as the Bible so declares. Thus, I was born a sinner (consider Romans 3:9-23; Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3), as was all humanity since Genesis chapter 3, and in need of Jesus (Yeshua), our help in this temporal time and our only hope for our eternal future (consider John 3:16-17; 14:6).
My second brother, who was in the Navy, had contact with a ministry called the Navigators. He had book one of their Bible study series—Studies in Christian Living—sent to me. A study on the person of Jesus. At the end of that study was an invitation to receive Jesus; I read, signed, and dated the invitation. I consider that my "second birth" (consider John 3:3). I continued that series on my own alone in my barracks room. I continued attending base chapel services as well.
A Navigator representative moved into the area to begin a ministry among those stationed at Patrick. My name on the Nav mailing list he looked me up. We met in a cafeteria on base. He shared with me the Steps to Peace with God by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. And again, I prayed the invitation gaining me assurance of my salvation, claiming John 1:12 as my being born again birth certificate.
For the remainder of my time in the military, I was involved with the Navigators—my then caring group—receiving help in my new/real life of faith, primarily through Bible study, prayer, and Scripture memory.
My first Navigator conference was an international happening, held over a Thanksgiving weekend in Estes Park, Colorado—the "Whing Ding" as it was called. The closing of the last message of the conference, the speaker gave an invitation to answer the call as Isaiah did, "Here I am! Send me,” Isaiah 6:8. I stood with several others in so responding. I had no idea then all that would mean.
Having received word from Uncle Sam that I could get out of the Air Force eight months early, I considered it. I could have re-upped, but I decided to get out. Having done so, I stayed in Florida for another year or so, still in fellowship with the Navigators. I did have a cool job for a time, working in an icehouse along U.S. Highway 1 in Melbourne, Florida.
In a room where I was then living, I recall a significant time in the Word one evening. Laying on the floor, I was reading from the book of Exodus. God shared with me about my shyness in speech, as He had with Moses at the burning bush. As Moses answered the LORD, and I quote, personalizing, "[So I too] am not very eloquent or fluent with words [spoken anyway]. I never have been … and my words get all tangled [at times]." (see Exodus 4:10-12; also consider Jeremiah 1:7-8; James 1:19).
Then, shortly after my discharge from the Air Force, and two semesters at the then Brevard Junior College (now Eastern Florida State College), the Nav rep suggested that I apply to a Bible College (now Columbia International University) in Columbia, South Carolina. Three of us in the Nav fellowship visited the campus. We all three applied, but only one other, and I was accepted.
And I realized why the Lord kept me in the military— for one, my expenses through Bible college were met via the G.I. bill. I don't know how I could have afforded college otherwise— I hadn’t been raised in a “well-to-do” family, that is, one of considerable wealth.
The summer before the start of my freshman year of college, I was home in Ohio with my mom and sister; I did have a job to put away money for the start of school. In the summer of my sophomore year, I served a few weeks with the Missions to Military Servicemen’s Christian Center in Norfolk, Virginia. I worked at temp employment during the day and served with the servicemen’s center each evening; that was my home that summer as well.
The year-end break of my junior year of college, I attended InterVarsity’s Urbana Conference, at the University of Illinois. Returning to school in January to continue my junior year, I learned of my mom's illness. I took some weeks off from school and returned home and visited her; she was in the hospital with leukemia. She had passed away a few days later.
After I graduated from Bible college in 1974, the Lord provided work for me with an office supply company in delivery and shipping. Going about that job, I was conscious of peoples' faces—my mind wondering if they knew Jesus. (As I believe should be the first concern of every Christ-follower.)
My job had me in and out of offices making deliveries. As I exited one office one day, for some reason, my eye caught a plaque on a wall. It displayed a quote by Oliver Wendall Holmes that's been "forever" etched in my memory: “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea will never return to its original dimension.” I have realized: my going-to-church upbringing, meeting the Navigators, and then on to Bible college, that my mind indeed has been stretched to the "new idea" of the immortal world—the eternal reality.
I was a candidate with International Missions (now Christar) then in Wayne, New Jersey. One take away from that experience is having learned of Open Air Campaigners’ means of relating Bible stories via sketch board drawing. I had the opportunity during those weeks with International Missions to do such myself, sharing the story of blind Bartimaeus (consider Mark 10:46-47) to neighborhood kids.
A few years later, I ventured out west to Pasadena, California, where I joined the then US Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures). There, I was pleasantly surprised to work as a staff writer for the then Global Prayer Digest (now a part of Joshua Project), writing short vignettes focused on unreached peoples. That work helped me in developing my writing skills. On little support, however, I left that job after about five years. Still in Pasadena, the Lord provided paid employment with William Carey Library Publishers. I continued there for about ten years. Those 15 years out west—having been employed in Kingdom work (as I like to think of it)—possibly I can consider that my "career" through this temporal time.
From Ohio, God brought me out of my old life (a wilderness without Jesus), and roundabout my transient life, God brought me to Columbia, South Carolina, particularly to Bible college where my life has been transformed (consider Romans 12:2). Perhaps I can consider my coming to Bible college my mortal “Promised Land,” and thus my continuing in Columbia through this temporal time. (Columbia has been my home since the summer of '73.) But then came my fifth misstep—my hasty move back to Ohio. Perhaps as the prophet Jonah, so for me, I’d considered those days back in Ohio had been as eight months in a fish belly. (The story of Jonah has been in my heart, for some reason, ever since a message I've heard when I was in Bible college.)
The coming of my unemployment, 07/11/2008, has been the "defining moment" of my life; the Lord had turned my focus more on the realization of the "greater cause” (consider Acts 1:8). And less on the things of this temporal time (consider Acts 20:24). I have realized that I had seen two worlds (two realities), as that Native American in my youth predicted I would see. Apart from the things of God, everything else here in this time has little or no meaning to me now, particularly, my TV viewing, the Hollywood craves, and sports fanaticism (consider Colossians 3:1-3.)
Here now, until my eternal home-going, continuing my trek along this temporal way, I desire my life be that of a light-bearer and salt-spreader of God’s eternal truth (consider Matthew 5:13-16), speaking the name of Jesus (Yeshua), sharing the Good News, I having been spewed out of the “fish belly” (consider Jonah 3:1-4).
Any other money-making job should the Lord yet have for me in this temporal time I pray that I won’t get hooked again that it’s primarily for the making of money—the supplying of my livelihood (or even fattening a financial portfolio)—but rather as any job or career should be, for the Christ-follower, as God's provision to enable us to carry on the more real work for this time, in so realizing God, our Provider (consider Matthew 6:25-34 cf Luke 12:22-34), and that’s the greater pleasure in this temporal time.
For some reason, having realized the “best life” is yet to come, there’s no more “fun” in this time now. No more striving for the best of the mortal wow. No more striving except for the immortal, that others too will realize the “best life” is yet to come.
As 1 John 2:16-17 (ESL) reads, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life [or pride of possessions]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
© 2019 Charles O Newcombe