Mark Stevenson

In 2014 the events I had vividly dreamed of in 1990, as an 18 year old, came into reality. The realisation of this catapulted me into a sharp wake up call. The experience was like being abruptly woken from slumber in the middle of the night, and sitting up fully alert. That dream from 24 years earlier was about the blood red moons that we see today (2014-2015). This is a story in itself, that I will share with you in another post. But first let me take you back to my childhood, to show what events took place that led up my vivid dream.

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My childhood in the 70s and 80s in New Zealand was a good one. I grew up playing sports with my brother and the other kids in our neighbourhood at the local school fields, riding our bikes all over the place, building go-karts and tree huts, doing daredevil stunts, walking to the local dairy to play spacies and get a refund on returned soft drink bottles so we could buy lollies. My dad made video games for a living, so we got to test them out. We lived near the beach as many people do in New Zealand. It meant growing up with beach picnics, playgrounds, swimming, snorkeling and diving off rafts. We drank L&P (a NZ drink) and ate Tip Top hokey pokey icecream (a NZ flavour). I can't think of a better place to grow up than God's Own (NZ).

All Was Not Well

When I was young my parents sent my brother and I to the local Baptist church in Long Bay to Sunday School for a couple of years. I think the intention was to instill some moral fibre. Apart from my nose running every time we prayed, I only really remember one thing. It was when the Sunday School teacher took the kids outside to look at a car in the carpark. He proceeded to say that "it does not matter how good this car looks on the outside". Then he opened the hood revealing the engine, saying "if what is on the inside is in poor condition, the car will not work at it's best". I was young but I understood what it meant. It was my heart and soul that mattered.

I just wanted to run outside to escape.

Many years passed in my childhood with no church, until when I was 12, a church group had a youth sports evening every Friday during summer at the school next to where I lived. I loved walking down each Friday evening and having lots of fun there. After some time I noticed that after the sports the group would then go inside the hall and sing and so on. I usually went home at this point. But one night I hung around and one of the group invited me in. They sung some church songs and then someone spoke about Jesus. At the end the speaker asked if anyone would like to receive Jesus and know God. I had no idea what he was talking about. Someone next to me explained what it meant and I still had no idea what it was all about. But my heart was beating out of my chest. I did not really know what was going on. I just wanted to run outside to escape. But I sat there with my eyes closed saying to myself "please be over soon, please be over soon". It seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably less than a minute. The evening finished and I returned home. The following Friday evening I went back keen to meet up again. But no one was there, and I then remembered that they had told me earlier that they were only there during the summer months. Summer had ended.

I had developed a somewhat vile mouth...

Years continued to pass and by this time I was well established by many, including myself, as a very shy boy. So much so, I later found out, that my neighbour was unsure whether I could speak at all. I hated speeches, drama, or anything that put me in front of a crowd to speak. At college, lunchtimes were the worst as I didn't know what to do with myself. I just wanted that time to pass. Perhaps ironically, during primary, intermediate and college I had developed a somewhat vile mouth which perhaps landed me with a like-minded crowd in college to pass lunchtimes by. At age 16 I was a bit of a recluse socially, spending much of my time on the computer.

The Tides Changed

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In 1987, my older brother had started going to church with a friend. I can't say I paid much attention to it at the time. But after a while I saw noticeable changes in him. He had been into the various teenager troubles but all that stopped. He had gone from bring frustrated and angry to peaceful and happy. And perhaps what I noticed the most was the genuine change in the way he treated me. I could not figure out what had happened to him. He started asking me if I would like to go along to church with him on Sunday night. I said "No". But he kept asking every week for quite a few months, until I relented just to get him off my back. I was so shy, that I was quite anxious not knowing what to expect. After church the youth stayed around and talked and then headed off to someones house for food and more socialising. I was as quiet as a mouse, but a remember a friendly girl coming up to me and talking to me. I continued going to church and some church youth social events with my brother as weeks rolled on. The same friendly girl went out of her way to always come and talk to me. I was still so shy and not at all used to socialising like this. I really can't remember much if any of what was spoken about in church during that time.

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As the end of 1987 approached my brother invited me to a 6 day camp called Summer Harvest over New Years. I really fought hard not to go, but he did not relent. And I remember even after deciding to go there was a battle as to whether I would change my mind. 1500 youth piled into buses and headed up to some farmland in the Bay of Islands in the heat of Summer. We were tenting with the people from the church I had been going to (Murrays Bay Baptist), so I knew a few people, but I was still as shy as ever, barely speaking. Each night there would be singing and a speaker in a big wool shed, where we all sat on hay bails. On the 30th December the speaker spoke many words that cut right to my soul. Up until that point I do not remember experiencing that conviction in my heart. I was overwhelmed with the reality that I was lost. Something I had been somewhat naive of prior. It was like I realised I had been lied to by the world and all its pretenses. I was having an epiphany that life was something more than what I had been used to. I cannot remember much of what was said that night, but there was an opportunity to make things right. And all I could see in my mind was Jesus being the way. In the midst of 1500 people I stood and accepted Jesus into my life. People gathered around and prayed for me. This moment still remains with me today. My brother was in tears. And now I know why.

That night was different. My whole view of the world changed overnight. It was like the curtain was pulled back and I could see backstage. As if I had taken the red pill (Matrix reference) I felt I could see the world, the universe as it really was. And the next morning at breakfast I began to speak. Everyone in my church group nearly fell over. New Years Eve was the best ever. I was so full of joy. I felt an amazing freedom in my soul. And my vile mouth was gone from that moment literally. I literally found it impossible to swear after that point. Something that still amazes me today.

On New Years Day we all went to Marsden Cross, the place that 200 years ago the good news of God's salvation plan was first preached. I will never forget this place or this time, where I first fell in love with my Lord. It was the beginning of true security, knowledge and freedom for me.

I am ever so grateful to my brother for his persistence, and to that friendly girl that simply cared enough. But most of all I am eternally grateful to the lover of my soul, my redeemer and God, Jesus.

My Journey Began

When I returned home from camp I was so excited to tell everyone about Jesus and myself becoming a Christian. I thought they would be as excited as me. Admittedly I was a bit nervous telling my parents as they were into all sorts of New Age philosophies. It was still the school holidays, so I rode my bike around to my friends place to announce my news. He thought I had lost it, or been brainwashed or was on drugs. Needless to say he was not very receptive to my news.

A few months later in April I shared my testimony on stage in church to my friends, family and the youth group before being baptised (fully immersed). I remember it felt like I was underwater for a long time, and then when I rose up out of the water feeling so clean. It was a very precious moment in my life, and to this day I feel so blessed to see others get baptised.

Following my baptism came a time of testing, where the door knockers started coming to my house. First the Mormons came for a period of time, followed by the Jehovah's Witnesses. This quickly threw me into reading God's Word intently that I may be able to discern false and deceptive doctrine from the truth. Looking back on this time I see the Lord was preparing me for future events.

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Shortly after this I formed friendships with a number of Christians guys (Andrew Greening, Mark Picard, Mark Grace and Scott Horwood). We were all zealous for the Lord and over a number of years we all grew in friendship with each other and with the Lord. I am so grateful for these guys who I am still best friends with today for their unconditional friendship, love and support over the decades.

As I matured in my walk with Jesus I found myself leading home groups for the youth, at 5:00am prayer meetings before school, preaching at church a few times, and leading a beach mission for several years in the Far North. I couldn't imagine any of these things prior to me becoming a Christian as I was so shy and did not like speaking to crowds.

I am eternally grateful for these beginnings in my walk. They laid a crucial foundation. The Lord is so good.

May the Lord bless you.