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Ray Gilbarte: My Spiritual Journey

In 1987, during my first year of college I went through a time of "soul searching", looking for answers to life's important questions like "who am I", "where am I going", and "what's life really about"? I eventually found the answers to these questions in a very unlikely place: the bible. I call it an unlikely place because I grew up going to church and had not found any real answers there. I realized that although I had experienced religion, I had not experienced a life changing, personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. When I made the choice to follow Jesus I immediately sensed that I had changed. I felt clean on the inside and the emptiness in my heart was replaced with an incredible joy and love for people. I learned later that this is what the Bible refers to as being born again or being made spiritually alive. This relationship completely changed my life (and continues to change it today).

As I mentioned, I grew up going to church and knew that God was the Creator, Jesus died on a cross, the devil was the "bad guy" and I certainly knew I was a sinner but I did not know how it all that fit together or how it affected me. I thought that because I went to church and was not "all that bad" I would probably make it to heaven when I died. I did not know that the bible said "broad is the road that leads to destruction and many people are on it but narrow is the road that leads to righteousness (a right relationship with God) and there are only a few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). I was surprised to learn that when it came to getting into heaven, there was not "safety in numbers".

I always sensed there was something missing in my life, an emptiness I could not explain. Others have described this as a God-shaped vacuum in the human heart that only God can fill. It has been said that God made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. I never considered that my problem was spiritual, so I thought that I would find peace once I finished school, or got the "right" girl friend or made enough money. Regardless of what I achieved the emptiness remained.

In 1986, my spiritual journey took a dramatic step forward when a friend encouraged me to read the bible and go to God directly for the answers I was looking for. Like the well-known bumper sticker says, "When all else fails read the directions" I had tried everything else so I opened up a New Testament bible and started reading the book of Matthew. I was amazed by what I read; rather than just reading a book it was like this book was reading me and replacing my confusion and darkness with light and clarity. I was a freshman in college and was thinking about "what I wanted to be when I grew up" and wondered how I was going to provide for a family. I got to chapter 6 and read that it was impossible to serve two masters. I could not serve both God and money. It said that if God provides for nature by feeding the birds and clothing the flowers then certainly He can take care of me. I read that people who don't know God are consumed with how they will get their material needs met but God knows what we need and will provide these things if we would give Him first place in our lives.

I made a decision that night to follow Christ and to give Him control of my life. That was almost 30 years ago and I can say without a doubt that God's word is true and He keeps His promises. He has provided for me and my family in much greater ways than I could have imaged but the greater blessing has been the joy, peace, and confidence that comes from learning who God made me to be and from getting to know Him more each day. Although it is an apparent contradiction, I have found that the more I surrender myself to God the freer I become. He exchanges my fear, doubt, insecurities, and sins with what the bible calls the fruit of the spirit (what is produced when a life is lived under God's control) which is love, joy, peace, patience, etc. I think that this is what everyone is looking for although not everyone realizes this. For a long time I thought that I could have these things by achieving some level of material success not realizing that they are a byproduct of a close relationship with God.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of relationship with God, please click here: How To Know Jesus

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