16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
Last week my brother and his wife joined 1st Baptist Church of Nowata. He said the pastor is great and that they teach good classes. In fact, the pastor just finished teaching “Masterlife” (a great discipleship course). So we decided to to try it out today, and glory to God, it was awesome!
I was really impressed. Yes, it’s a lot of older people, the music is traditional, but God is working there. I’m telling you, that pastor is on fire for Jesus. He’s apparently read a lot of books on prayer and discipleship and wants to emphasize those things more. Wednesday night will no longer just be a Bible study and prayer; it will just be a long prayer meeting. I also went this evening and he had us pray in groups. He said he wants to start using their prayer room more.
This evening’s message was great, too. He covered a lot and will go back over it, but it’s all about making Jesus the center of everything and how we were created to know God and let the Holy Spirit change us, but we have to obey Him and pass all the pop quizzes (hard times, temptations, etc.) and on and on. It was good stuff. They also have a prison ministry here in which 4 were recently saved. It’s not the perfect church, but I’m sure this is where God wants me. I’ll probably join next Sunday.
The church in Bartlesville is preparing for Y2K. They’ve passed out some info on how to prepare with food, water, propane heaters, etc. It’s scary. I think this is really gonna happen. What will the government do? Will it be anarchy or totalitarianism? Will the rest of the family make it here before martial law is imposed (if that’s what happens)? I don’t know.
Will we have everything we need? We’re still not ready. Then I remember that in the light of eternity this is like the blink of an eye. Maybe we won’t be okay, but Jesus has assured us of an eternity with Him and if we remember that, we can endure anything with the Spirit’s help. Praise God!
— August 15th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
Sorry I haven’t written in so long. Originally I wanted to respond to your entries exactly 16 years to the day after you wrote them, but you wrote in your journal so often that I just couldn’t keep up. Also, I got very busy when my second son was born. That’s right, someday your life is going to be very busy, very stressful, and very wonderful. But it’s a New Year, so I’m going to start writing every morning. Now let’s talk about this church you’re going to join…
You think God wants you to go to 1st Baptist Church of Nowata? Wait a minute, I thought you said God wanted you to go to Bartlesville Southern Baptist Church? God seems about as indecisive as you are. Coincidence? Think about it: Every time you change your mind about something, it turns out that’s what God wanted all along. The reason is simple: You are God. He only exists in your head, which is why you always agree with him no matter how often you change your mind.
I also want to talk about this prayer room. So it’s really just a regular room, right? No special tools or equipment required for prayer (except maybe kneelers). You all just sit there and think really hard. Meanwhile, there are people out there actually making a difference: building houses, giving to the poor, delivering medical aid to people who are suffering. If you and your fellow prayer warriors spent as much time volunteering as you do praying you might actually make the world a better place. But instead you just sit there with your eyes closed, talking to your imaginary friend and enjoying a false sense of accomplishment. You’re not making anybody feel better except yourselves.
So the sermon was about making Jesus the center of everything. How original. Imagine if atheists had a similar goal. Imagine if they all got together, and someone got up and spoke for 30 minutes about how atheism needs to be the center of everything. Imagine if every time something bad happened, they reminded themselves that there is no god. If atheists did that, you’d shake your head and call them hopelessly biased (and therefore unable to see the truth).
Fortunately, atheists don’t do anything like that. You know who does? You and your church friends. You make Jesus the center of everything and constantly remind yourselves that God exists. So how come you don’t view yourselves as hopelessly biased? If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re right, how will you ever know if you’re wrong?
Last but not least, let’s talk about your fear of Y2K. There’s only a few months left and you guys still aren’t ready? It makes me wonder whether you actually believe it’s going to be a disaster. I don’t think so. If you thought it was “really gonna happen,” you’d make sure you were ready to survive instead of making excuses about how your time on Earth is the blink of an eye compared to eternity.
— Matt, January 5th, 2016
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.