My name is Andy Thomas and this is my story of my journey to Salvation in Christ …
I was from a broken home, my birth-parents split (long story), raised in foster care, and eventually the Thomas Family (Tom and Dorothy Thomas) adopted me.
I grew up in a very stable home, in the Thomas Home. My mom and dad (Dorothy and Tom Thomas) had a very loving and stable marriage and two older children of their own who were much older than I was when I came into their home. Of course, being just 2 and 1/2 years old, I guess I was very happy, because Tom and Dorothy became my dad and mom, very quickly in my heart and mind.
We were very a very dedicated and consistent Christian family, going to church, it seemed, whenever the doors were opened. The Church of the Nazarene was our church, in Lynwood and then in Bellflower, California. Growing up in Lynwood, everyone, and I mean everyone we knew went to some church. I never bumped into anyone that had parents who were divorced (or at least my neighborhood friends and school-mates, etc.) It was a very nice neighborhood and city (of course not all cities are perfect, which I found out later after I grew up). Literally a stones throw down the street from when where I grew up was Compton, full of gangs, drugs, and violence. The Watts riots took place not far from where I grew up, as well. When we moved from Lynwood to Lakewood Village in Long Beach when I was going into 5th grade, that was a huge transition in my life. As time went on, little bit, by little bit, school became less helpful in regards to my faith. As it was with the mixture of friends, as well. I had friends that had blended families or just one parent. By the time of the end of my time in Middle School (Hoover Junior High, Lakewood, CA), I was slightly introduced to “Evolution” in a couple of my classes, but not directly. Oh, and BTW – I started surfing by this time – cowabunga dude!
Things changed dramatically upon entering into High School. In our science-biology class – evolution was front and center and drove the entire freshman year of anything science. I remember asking, “But, what about God creating?” too some chuckles in the class … the teacher responded that we weren’t going to discuss religion, just “science” only. Well, we were shown films, and had to read the science text book and I started to believe it. Then I started to watch more and more of National Geographic, COSMOS (with Carl Sagan), and other PBS “Science” programs. The Evolution of the Universe from a Big Bang, the Evolution of Stars and Galaxies, the Evolution of our Solar System, and the Evolution of LIFE – I started to buy into it.
Back at church, during that same time – I asked questions about all this and never really got any answers. They basically were telling me you just got to believe the Bible and follow Jesus Christ. But, for me at the time – during my last two years of High School – I became a skeptic and then I would finally consider myself an atheist (but not like the militant ones today). I received no answers, no apologetic reasoning was attempted, etc. No one gave me a book by Josh McDowell, or Lee Strobel. If they did, I would’ve read them. But, the standard answer from those that I asked these things about at church was: “You just got to believe the Bible” … and I asked, “What makes it any different than what the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. have?” – crickets … no one was trained with apologetics to help me. So, I just kept drifting away from “my faith”, which I obviously didn’t really have.
Fast forward to October 1981, I’ve been in College for few months, and one day, the Youth Pastor (Jerry) from my parent’s church, which I was rarely going to, anymore, came over for a “talk.” As the conversation continued, we talked about sports, and other things… he asked me – “hey, what do you think about God?” And I said, “I don’t” At that point in time, God (the concept of God as Creator, etc.) was very as far from my mind as possible. I was into Surfing, girls, College (of course), and my part-time job, etc. I was not really interested in Church, God, Jesus, etc. I was fully atheistic and evolutionary in my beliefs and thinking. I was not vocal about it, at all. I loved my sin and wanted to stay there, as I look back at it. So, then Jerry, proceeded to ask me another question (I didn’t know that Youth Pastors knew this kind of stuff) – “Andy, so, what do you do with the Highly Structured, Mathematical Laws that Govern the entire Universe? Did they happen by Accident or … ?” … so there was this awkward pause . . . and then I thought of a specific episode of Star Trek in which something like that was asked, etc. So, I responded, “Well, maybe there is something out there, some sort of Intelligent Force that did all this, but I am not sure that we can know anything about it, maybe we can . . . but I’m not sure” … (looking back, I went from Atheist to Agnostic in a New York minute … ) – Jerry nailed me with something I’ve studied and knew about. Those Physical Laws are NOT a product of the Universe, but actually the Universe (the Physical components of the Universe) obey these Laws. That was not in dispute, but the origin of them was. So, Jerry left and the conversation we had was stuck in my mind. I was thinking about that conversation for many days, thereafter. Of course, behind the scenes, I found out later, lots of folks were praying for me.
Well, wow, that stayed with me in my mind and about a week went by and I had a very dramatic, vivid Dream / Nightmare. This Nightmare was showing me where my life was heading – it was so beyond real – and how evil and my own sin were out to trap me and send me to the Lake of Fire … and as I was heading toward the Lake of Fire and evil hands were reaching out to grab me and voices were calling out my name – I knew I belonged there – I knew that my sin was the reason I was going there. While that was happening, while asleep, but vividly in that Dream/Nightmare – I cried out to Jesus Christ and asked Him to save me – to RESCUE Me – for Him to forgive me … and HE DID … in the Dream. Then that Nightmare turned into JOY … a Joyful Dream. I was walking with Jesus, everything was almost like the Garden of Eden (how I’d imagine it was) before sin ruined everything. Then I woke up. I was waiting for the Credits to roll up the screen in a Movie that I was in – but then I realized it was a Dream. I no longer felt that JOY I felt in the Dream. I felt just as sinful as I was the day before. I got on my knees and surrendered to Christ, repented of my sins, and Trusted in Christ – I cried out for Him to Save me. And He did – I felt a gazillion tons of bricks of weight physically lift off of me. Yes, the Burden of Sin was taken away – and I really felt that – it was as real and more real as anything else I’ve experienced in life.
When I got up from my knees beside my bed, I was a different person inside. I felt different. I could feel deep in my soul that was I changed. Suddenly, I had a desire to Thank God. I had desires to Read the Bible (really an insatiable hunger and thirst to read and study the Bible) so that I could find out more about Jesus Christ who just saved me. The day before this Nightmare occurred, I would never have thought that. On that day of my salvation, the day of My New Birth in Christ, I became Born Again, in Christ – God the Father, through His Son, Regenerated Me via His Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7; Eph. 1:13-14). Of course, at the time, I didn’t understand all that doctrinal, Biblical stuff (I did soon after, though). It was interesting that was on a Sunday Morning (when I awoke). So, I told my parents that I wanted to go to church with them. For a while I’ve just not gone anymore. So, I went to church and I felt so radically different with the folks I’ve met before, there. Some were as I used to be and some were as I just became. I noticed from that point forward how those older relationships I grew up with changed, as well. I could sense who the true believers in Christ were and I could sense those who were just going to church because they had to. I had a new Spiritual Dimension in my life – one that I never had before, and it was so very real.
Back on the College Campus, which was walking distance from our home (yes, I was still living with my parents, at the time), I started hanging out with other Christians. Some of whom were handing out Gospel Tracts and Sharing the Gospel, etc. Wow, I loved doing that. I shared how I came to Christ and shared the Gospel with my surf buddies whom I grew up with, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Baha’i, Buddhists, Shintoist, etc. … just anyone and everyone. I shared the Gospel, a lot (still do). Wow, I just love that … because, I remembered, I was just like them, before Christ saved me. It was the seed of the Gospel in my life that God used to Save me, in Christ. Yes, it is true, He went out of His way, as He did with Saul of Tarsus, with the Dream/Nightmare that He sent me – but He knew what it would take.
It has sometimes been a hindrance sharing how I came to Christ. I only mention this, because a few times, folks I shared the Gospel with said, “hey, I’ll believe, too, if I have a Dream/Nightmare like you did …” I told them, God only does that, as a last ditch effort for hard-nut cases like myself. I was literally almost in the Lake of Fire – the burning sulfur smell was still in my hair when I woke up (I was joking about the sulfur, but you get my drift). God doesn’t always do special, out of the way, things like that for everyone. I told folks, you now have more than enough evidence, proof, facts, and reasons to believe in Christ – much more than I ever did, to make a reasoned decision to trust in Christ, etc. Some did, but most did not.
Although I was raised in the church, in a Christian family, in a very loving, stable Christian home – I ended up becoming an atheist (a gentle, non-confrontive – surfing obsessed atheist). I was very libertarian in the way I treated Christians, or really anyone. I just didn’t want to talk about it. I kept these things to myself and hit the waves, chased girls, etc. I wanted to be moral and good, and keep my grades up, and get a good paying job some day. But then God intervened and answered other folks’ prayers for my salvation. That Nightmare that He sent was pivotal in my coming to Faith in Christ. It put the nail in the coffin of my atheism without any Apologetics. Christ did not try to prove His existence, or that He Created, etc. He did not use Scientific Evidence to prove that Evolution wasn’t true, etc. Christ used the MORAL High Ground – directly in my conscience – and broke my pride. But, also, understand, many folks were praying for me and I heard the Gospel and some reasons for faith while I was growing up, going to church, etc. God used all of that, and the Nightmare to drive home my ultimate destiny without Christ in my life – but with my sin fully punished in my life.
Thus, sharing the Gospel and providing Reasons for our Faith are what we are to do. We should always provide evidence, facts, proofs, and Reasons for our Faith (i.e.: Apologetics per 1 Peter 3:15) as we share the Gospel. And then we are to PRAY and Stand in the Gap for our lost loved ones and all those that we’ve shared the Gospel with, as other folks did for me. I wish I had Evidence the Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell when I was younger – God may have been able to use it and not needed to send me that Nightmare. Regardless, God saved me. He brought me to a place of Humility, Surrender, and Repentance before the Foot of the Bloodstained Cross … and enabled me to Trust in Christ. That is all His Miraculous Work.
Keep Praying … Never Give Up …
Pastor Andy Thomas