Francis Drake, Privateer

A privateer was a private warship authorized by his country to attack foreign shipping

Finding God without church — 30 Jan 2009

Until I was eleven, my family did not go to church. My parents believed in God, of that there was no doubt, but there was no evidence other than our nightly prayers asking God to, “Please God bless……” .

I was away from school quite a lot because of illness and this, out of boredom, caused me to read a lot. I must have read every book in the house.

Somewhere along the line, my older brother was given a picture book of bible stories. I don’t know if it interested him at all, but I read it on one of my days off school. I liked the hero stories in the Old Testament such as Samuel, Gideon or David. However the New Testament didn’t have the same grip because the hero, that Jesus guy, ended up being  killed, and that left me feeling bad. I liked stories with happy endings!

At this point, don’t forget that I was not in a professing Christian family, nor was I going to church. I was reading Old Testament stories in a children’s picture book, and what little I had read of the New Testament I did not like or understand. To me Jesus was nothing more than one of the characters of the nativity scene.

From my later experience with the Lord, I can use the right language to describe what happened to me next, when I read the story of Samuel being called by God.

In my book, the third time God called out to Samuel, the picture alongside the story showed him on his knees, looking up to heaven as he responded to God with the words, “Speak Lord for thy servant heareth.” 

As I read it, the Holy Spirit came upon me. In my heart, I WANTED WHAT SAMUEL HAD GOT. I got out of bed, onto my knees and said, “Don’t forget me God”. That’s all.

I knew in my heart that it was for real, the burning feeling inside was like something had happened, but I got back into bed and continued reading the story, telling no one of the experience. I only recalled it much later in life when I heard the gospel for the first time.

When I was about eleven years old, my parents started taking us all to the local Anglican church for the first time.  I can’t remember much of what was taught, except that the sermons were exceptionally boring to a young boy. However I did enjoy singing old fashioned hymns.

One sermon, however, stands out above all others. It is the only one I remember and was all about the crucifixion. The vicar explained at great length why the particular death of Jesus was more significant than any one else’s death.  According to the vicar, crucifixion was the most barbarious and cruel torture invented by man, therefore Jesus’s  death was set apart and high above all other deaths, (presumably giving him power to take the punishment for ALL sin).

I listened to this and totally rejected it. Even in my young naivety I knew that the likes of Hitler’s Gestapo torturers enjoyed the ability to keep their victims alive for weeks or months, refreshing their torture daily, whereas Jesus was dead in a few hours. I therefore dismissed the Easter story as irrelevant.

One day, a little older, I was hanging around across the road from the church with a bunch of church children, when, out loud, someone voiced the question, “Ok then, who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?”

For me, the memory of that brief event is like one of those times in a film when it suddenly starts to run very slow, deliberately making a very poignant moment. As soon as he finished the question, everyone turned towards Tony, who was the altar boy and a little older than the rest. He always stood at the altar nearer the vicar, and handed him the wine chalice and was therefore closer God. Tony would know the answer!

His answer was straightforward. “That’s easy, good people go to heaven, and bad people go to hell!”

As he was answering, I was turning around in what seemed incredibly slow motion to face him.  As I did so my eyes panned over the church building. It was as if something descended upon me, an understanding which did not come from within, but from above.

With that descending presence came the words, “He is totally wrong, everybody is bad, I am bad, but GOD has made a way.”

And as I gazed at the buildings of church, “and I do not live in that church, I live in your heart”

These few but significant words became an integral part of me as I grew up. I continued with my parents attending church but was aware of God within me, rather than in the church. However I was still proud and arrogant, knowing nothing of repentance or humility.

Later, in my mid twenties, after working for eight years in engineering, I decided to go to college to learn to be a teacher. I only did this because I wanted the long school holidays for the purpose of going mountaineering and rock climbing, my passion at the time.

Shortly after arriving at college I was, to my irritation, harrassed by over-enthusiastic members of the college God Squad.  On the pretext of a cup of coffee for a newcomer I was tempted into their lair. Over a period of a few weeks there ensued many heated discussions, but there was no way I was willing to let go of my freedom and join this crowd of wierdos.

I had a special resistance within. This was because God had said quite clearly to me that He did not live in the church, but in my heart. I showed no outward evidence of such truth, but in no way was I going follow this Christianity stuff. I didn’t need church. Besides God had clearly said to me that he did not dwell in the church. To me that meant any church, any denomination, even any religion!

However, they didn’t play fair, they prayed. In the course of conversations, one of them told me that God had shown her that I had given my life to the Lord as a child!  That finally got my attention. It was slowly dawning on me that the God they were talking about was the one I had already known for years. Even if I had backed Him into a corner in my life, and certainly didn’t heed Him much, I still knew Him!

I was having trouble counting the cost of commitment.  For me, my mountaineering was like a god. Now The One True God was challenging me to the core of my being. WHO was going to reign in me? I knew that the cost of surrender would be the dropping of my first love of the mountains and also of the company I was keeping. I knew that my old climbing friends were  heading entirely in the opposite direction, and I could not have both. 

Finally, after much soul searching, I relented, I repented, and surrendered my life back to the Lord, the prodigal effectively coming home. My climbing equipment went into store, and I turned to face the opposite direction, much to the disgust of all those who knew me before. There were many things I knew I could not continue.

Since that time, in the mid seventies, much water has passed under the bridge, but looking back several things can be noted about my little saga.

Firstly, I came to know the Lord long before anyone preached Jesus to me.

Secondly, and more amazingly, when the church I attended as a teenager had totally abdicated its call to spread the word of truth, God gave me a direct heavenly download of the very basics of life.

God’s message was that we are all fallen/bad, that man’s efforts at goodness are futile (good people also go to hell!), that God himself has made a way, that he dwells in our hearts.

All this is confirmed in scripture.

My cry for eternity was simply, “GOD DON’T FORGET ME”. For me, this is where it all started.

It must have been ten or twelve years later that I heard that it was Jesus who did it for me, even though I did not know his name!

Work your church theology around that!

I write this because I know that there are many Christians who meet the Lord well before Gospel theology hits them. Sometimes the preacher of that gospel does his utmost to trash what has happened before, because it simply threatens their production-line evangelism.

Also, if someone can receive the Gospel without being told by an evangelistic christian, what is the point of evangelism, or churches for that matter.

The answer to these last points I will try to post in the future. In the mean time I would welcome comments from those who have had similar experiences of meeting God well before they hear the Gospel.

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January 30, 2009 - Posted by | Bible, Eternity, Gospel, Kingdom life, Knowing God, Uncategorized

10 Comments »

  1. I was perhaps a little younger than you when I first met God. Because of other events in my life at the time, I have narrowed it down to when I was three and a half years old.

    Several times I was taken up to heaven, accompanied by someone I felt totally at ease with. I knew it was God. First of all, I was shown around the heavenly city with walls of precious stones. There were dwellings within the walls themselves.

    I would also fight the “bad boy” (Satan!) – I understood that it was my job to do that.

    On one occasion, I remember looking down to a lower level between heaven and earth where the “bad boy” was keeping people captive. I told him off and he had to let the people go.

    When I told people, these were dismissed as childish fantasies (although where could I have got them from? My parents were not Christians and I had never been to church). Although I learned not to mention them, they were as vivid as ever years later.

    When I was around 17 or 18 I started to attend a church youth group and it was at this time I first looked at the Bible. I was totally stunned when I read Revelation because there was a description of the heavenly city – just as I remembered it. I had been there!! This is what made me start taking things seriously. Now that I knew the Bible was talking about real things, I started asking more questions about God.

    There’s a lot more to all this, but I shouldn’t take over your blog 🙂

    Country Lass

    Comment by countrytales | January 30, 2009

  2. Country Lass
    Welcome to my blog!

    You have got me intrigued, and I would love you to come back and reveal more of your journey.

    Comment by francisdrakeprivateer | January 30, 2009

  3. Reveal more of my journey? Oh my…
    Well, you asked for it 🙂

    I guess I grew up accepting that God existed. But that’s probably because of the visions/visits to heaven I had when I was 3 1/2.

    Also, in those days ‘morning assembly’ in school was more like a church service. We sang a hymn, and someone read a passage from the Bible before anything else happened. Before meals we would sing a grace.

    My parents divorced when I was 4 and my brother was 12 months. My mum asked a neighbour to look after some belongings until we got a flat. When we got our stuff back, it included a box of Christian books. Mum told the neighbour that the books weren’t hers. The neighbour said they weren’t hers either, so we ended up with them.

    One of the books was bedtime stories from the Bible and I remember Mum reading them to us. Funnily enough the only story I actually have a memory of is the one about Samuel. How strange!

    So I grew up knowing God was there, but not realising He was that important! I had no evidence that He had any interest in earth, or in me (except to do the odd bit of fighting when I was small!!!)

    When I was about 7 or 8 (I think) I had my first contact with a church. I don’t remember the service itself, but part-way through it was time for the children to go out to Sunday School.

    We were given pictures to colour. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at keeping the colouring inside the lines, so the Sunday School teacher rapped my knuckles hard with a ruler.

    I never went back.

    When I was aged about 11 or 12, there was a ‘mission’ in a hall down the road from our house. I wouldn’t have gone, but I was told they gave away sweets. I’d do anything for sweeties.

    I remember the mission hall. I remember the sweets. I even remember the girl who told me about it. I don’t remember ANYTHING about the spiritual content.

    We moved to the south of England when I was 13 and I don’t remember thinking of God much at all. However, my mum decided to go to church. She encouraged me to go to the youth group and, to be honest, the main reason I went was because I wanted friends and considered church people nicer and more trustworthy than others.

    Sigh.

    And that’s when I found out that the Bible described the heavenly city and that I’d been there.

    Country Lass

    PS – I’ve had my knuckles rapped in church several times since that first time, although not with a physical ruler.

    Comment by countrytales | January 31, 2009

  4. I always find it interesting on how the Lord builds His church. And often, it’s without much intervention by us humans.

    Great testimonies to the grace of Christ.

    Comment by Larry Who | February 1, 2009

  5. Hi FrancisDrakePrivateer

    I love the name, by the way. My dear friend lent my son a book by GA Henty called “Under Drake’s Flag.” We read it as a read aloud and it was our first encounter with Captain Drake. It has spurred our interest regarding the life of the pirate privateer. 😛

    My first personal encounter with the Lord occured as a 10 year old, who had lost her mother to cancer a year or so earlier, and was listening to her Dad and step-mother arguing.

    I had always been to church with my Mum since I could remember, but couldn’t say I had a relationship with Jesus at that point. I was lying in bed hearing the “discussion” going on downstairs when I prayed. It was the prayer of a 10 year old girl, alone, looking for God. “God if you’re there, please give me a sign, make it rain or something!” Silly, I know, but to my amazement, on a cloudless, starry night, the raindrops started to fall. I was frozen in my bed at the sound of them, but eventually got brave enough to go to the window. Looking up, I could see that no clouds were visible, and yet, sure enough it was raining. I shook and cried, greatful that God heard me.

    I have had periods since then, when I have wandered far from the Lord, but I have never doubted Him, His power or His love. He has shown more grace in my life than I deserve, and I am greatful for His patience with me. I earnestly long to serve Him for the rest of my days.

    Thank you for sharing with us, the story of your call from our Lord.

    Comment by fivepeasinapod | February 2, 2009

  6. P.S. I have placed your blog as a link on mine, I hope this is ok? I am new to the blogging arena also, but have a couple of regular visitors. 😀

    Comment by fivepeasinapod | February 2, 2009

  7. Hi 5ps
    I had already put you on my favourites to follow up, so you are now on the blogroll also. Keep on exploring the Lord, there are some deep wells to be dug still, we need fresh clean water.
    Francis D
    Sinker of ships he don’t like!

    Comment by francisdrakeprivateer | February 2, 2009

  8. Thanks for this post, I can identify with it as my experience was similar. I appreciate your comment on my blog and agree with your sentiments – glad I have found your blog. If you live in Drake’s ocunty, then I live in Trelawney land!

    Comment by wayfarerjon | February 23, 2009

  9. These stories are wonderful.

    I was raised in the Catholic Church, back when it was all rules and regulations. God to me was a Judge that stood watching over me, clipboard in hand, marking down my every wrong move. As a six year old, going to “confession” for the first time, I couldn’t think of any sins to confess, so made some up! It was a terrifying experience, going into that dark, curtained box.

    In spite of all these things, I had a love for Jesus. I used to daydream of when I would see Him in heaven. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually see His face, so told myself that when it was my turn to meet Him, I would keep my head bowed, and just stare at His feet.

    One time when I was a young girl (not sure what age) I had an experience. Kind of like an “out of body” experience. I remember “slipping” back into my bed from above. I still remember seeing the flowered quilt just before I “slid” back into myself. I couldn’t say where I had gone, but I just KNEW I had been with Jesus. Some things you just never forget.

    When I was 40, God brought me to a place of repentence. My whole world was changed, and I have never looked back.

    I like your blog.

    Comment by Maureen | February 26, 2009

  10. Maureen. Praise God for his goodness.
    You know, I reckon that their are countless believers out there, who have had this sort of thing happen. Unfortunately church usually drowns it.

    We need to turn our attention to things of the spirit. And I do not mean tongues in church. I am talking about listening to our spirit, not our heads, or anyone else’s head.
    This is how children work, they are too uneducated to get confused about whether it is spirit or world. Unfortunately, school AND CHURCH soon washes that out of them.

    Comment by francisdrakeprivateer | February 26, 2009


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