CHAPTER FOUR
"Bus Rides and Church"
(Early March 1982 to Early April 1982)

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On a particular Saturday in early March, Matt and I decided to go to the malls. We took one of the Grand Rapids area buses to Woodland Mall, as we had always done when Allen, Matt, and I used to go to the movies together. Before we caught the bus, we went into Hi-Lo, a small grocery store on the corner near the bus stop. When we came out of the store, an idea came into Matt's head.

"Hey!" he said. "Why don't we go to Allen's!" Allen lived one house away from the bus stop. "You two can work things out!" he continued.

"No," I said. "I don't want to."

"Come on!" he said. "As Christians we should!" At this point in time, it still looked as if Matt had chosen to follow Christ. Ten years later, Matt told me that his acting like a Christian around me was another one of his lies. He said that he told lies in order to make friends. This meant that he would act like a Christian around Don and I, but he would act another way around his other friends.

I ended up talking Matt out of going to Allen's, and we caught the bus. On the bus with us was someone who attended Newhall Reformed Church.

Matt spotted him and said, "Hey! How ya' doing?!"

"Who's that?" I asked.

"This is Jim," Matt told me. "He works at Chi-Chi's. He always used to talk to me about Christ and I'd laugh him off!" Then Matt turned to Jim and said, "Hey, I got saved!"

"All right!" he said.

All three of us sat down and started talking.

"How long have you been saved?" he asked me.

"About two months," I replied.

"Oh, so you're a new Christian, too, huh?"

"Yeah. A kid named Don won both Matt and me to the Lord," I said.

When we told Jim that neither of us was going to church, he said, "Maybe you'd like to come to church with me. We have a very exciting youth group."

I laughed, remembering Dan telling me the same thing about his church. I told Jim that I would think about it, but I was lying. I had no intention of going to church.

Jim then started talking about the fact that he was a "Faith Partner," which was a ministry of Jerry Fallwell. Then we somehow got to talking about modern versions of the Bible such as the New International Version and the Living Bible. I remembered Dan telling me that all Bibles except the King James Version, 1611 translation, were perverted, so I told Jim what Dan thought. Jim's eyes popped open in surprise. He couldn't believe that Dan would say something like that.

"Don't judge him on that," I said. "He's a very good Christian."

But a couple of weeks later when I told Dan that I had told this to Jim, Dan wasn't too happy. Dan had just changed his attitude on this issue, and would no longer say that Christians should only read the King James Version. Dan also said, "I should be glad that people are at least reading the Bible, no matter what version it is." I eventually regretted telling Jim about this. I said to myself, "I shouldn't go around telling somebody else's faults."

The conversation with Jim on the bus went on. "What do you think of rock music?" I asked Jim.

"Well," Jim said, "I really can't approve of it because of the perverse lyrics. And if you play a lot of those songs backwards, you hear Satanic messages." I remembered hearing about this "backwards masking" last November. There were those who said that artists were recording Satanic messages and then putting them on their records backwards, but I didn't believe that it was true.

Matt said, "Well, I listen to the more mellow rock, and so does Robert." This statement wasn't true.

"Well," Jim replied, "even that is bad. 'Stairway to Heaven' is really bad."

"What about Christian rock?" I asked, remembering Dan condemn even that (although it surprised me when Dan condemned it. It didn't make sense to me that someone could say that a style of music was wrong, even though I could understand why people would condemn songs with sinful lyrics. I sincerely believed that the Bible taught that God created all things, including all forms of music.)

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," he said in response to my question. "I think you can use it to glorify God."

I then started talking about bands such as U2 that expressed Christian-like concepts without necessarily being directly Christian. I also suspected that at least someone in the band Kansas was a Christian because of indications in the lyrics of one of their songs. I later found out that my suspicions about Kansas were accurate.

After a thirty-five minute ride, we arrived at the mall. Jim went his way, and Matt and I went ours. I never saw Jim again.

Dan kept asking me to go to church. On one particular Wednesday in the middle of March he called me on the phone and asked me to go. I promised him that I would go on the next Wednesday. Dan drove to my house on the following Wednesday evening, and he took me to the youth group meeting at his church. His church was a Baptist church. I liked it! It was exciting! I wanted to go again! I met a lot of people in the youth group, and I couldn't believe how friendly they were!

After going to the youth group meetings at Dan's church for two back-to-back Wednesdays, I said to Dan, "I hate your church."

"What?" he said surprised.

"I hate your church," I repeated. "It's too exciting. I don't want to go anymore." I don't know why I said that because I didn't mean it. Dan, however, talked me into giving it one more try.

The next Wednesday night, the youth pastor (who we called "Brother" Mark), preached that Satan will do everything he can to get us to "backslide" away from God, even if he has to use something subtle like getting us out of church. Then I remembered the conversation with Dan in which I had said that I hated the church and didn't want to go anymore. I suddenly became mad at the devil. "Why that dirty rat!" I thought. "I'm not going to let him win! I'm coming to church every week I can! He ain't gonna' get me!" I was determined not to let the devil get me.

On a Saturday in mid-March, Matt and I went to the mall again. On our way home on the bus, Allen happened to be riding the same bus. Matt went to talk to him while I sat in my seat and waited. While I waited, a couple of guys that I didn't know started to hassle me, although I don't know why. They threatened to hurt me. I told myself that they were "all mouth," but I got scared. As their threats and insults went on, I got more and more afraid even though I tried not to outwardly show it. I was so scared that I could actually feel my heart pounding in my chest. I turned to God by crying out in my mind, "God, give me strength!" The fear immediately left and, in a fraction of a second, my heart was back to beating almost normally. They soon got off the bus. I prayed for them.

Shortly after that, Matt came back. He told me what Allen said about me:

"He says that you always want your way. You never want to do what anyone else wants."

I was upset by that, but mainly because I knew that Allen was right. I was frequently a selfish person and wanted my way on everything. I asked God for help in changing.

In early April, a week long spring vacation from school started. I decided to read all four gospels over the course of that week. I made it through Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and I started on John; but I did it for the wrong reason. I did it to impress Dan. After a month, I quit reading the Bible.

For some reason, nobody picked me up for the youth group meeting on the Wednesday of spring break. By April, the youth meeting was almost the only thing that kept my faith strong. After I missed that meeting, I began to doubt the existence of God, which was something that I had never quite done, even before I gave my life to Christ. I hadn't learned yet that my relationship with God wasn't based on the situation I was in, or on how I was feeling.

After a week, school was back in session. One day during lunch, a few Seniors went around the cafeteria making fun of people. They came to our table and very sarcastically and mockingly said, "Hey, Don! Are you cool?"

Don started to ignore it, but then realized that he had an opportunity.

"Yes, I'm cool!" he said with a tone of authority. "Because I've got Jesus in my heart!" He held his Bible high in the air as he said this.

All three of them literally backed off speechless. They actually stepped three or four steps back, stared speechless, and then turned around and walked away. I turned to look at them. That was one of the most inspiring things I'd seen up to that time. I was excited by this boldness to stand for God! As I later said, "I'll bet all the angels rejoiced!"

"Isn't it a shame?" Don said after they were gone. "They'll listen to anything as long as it's not about Jesus."

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