I was born into a Seventh-day Adventist family. My father was a pastor and later became an editor for the SDA Church when I was eight years old. He first worked at the Review & Herald Publishing Association then was asked to head up the editorial department at our publishing house in the Philippines and later in India. So I was not only a pastor's kid but also a missionary's kid with all the expectations that came with that. After ten years he was asked to return to the editorial staff at the Review & Harold Publishing Association again and stayed there until he retired. So I rubbed shoulders with a lot of church leaders.
My parents were good, legalistic* Christians and did their best to teach me to be a good Christian. Everyone taught me, as I was growing up, that if I were good I would be able to go to heaven when Jesus came back for His followers. I was basically a good boy, I wanted to do the right thing but I had a hard time doing it. I was dyslexic, so had a hard time learning to read, write and spell. I was told that I was lazy, good for nothing, and would never amount to anything. One teacher commented to someone in my hearing, "Arlen looks so handsome and intelligent, it is too bad that he is so dumb." I experienced a lot of rejection through the years. Due to this, I tended to look at things that people said or did to me as rejection, even when it may not have been.
I desperately wanted to go to Heaven but very quickly found that I was considered anything but good. I was punished in school because I had a difficult time learning. My dad, for the same reason, rejected me and I could never please him. It seemed that no matter what I did it was always the wrong thing. It seemed that it was impossible to please anyone. There were times when I would cry myself to sleep at night because I knew I could never be good enough to get to Heaven. I believed that I would never be able to please God.
I came to the conclusion that others had whatever it was that enabled them to be good enough to be saved but I simply didn't have what it took. It, whatever IT was, had not been given to me, even though I desperately wanted it. As time went on I began to use the coping mechanism "I don't care!" I knew I was lost but I felt powerless to do anything about it. Even though I knew I was lost, I still did my best to be as good as I could because I didn't want to have to burn a long time when I finally ended up in Hell.
When I was 21 years of age, my mom began to really study God's word so she could help others get to know God and experience a saving relationship with Him. In doing so, she discovered that she herself didn't have a saving relationship, but was simply a good legalist. John in the book of Revelation calls them Laodiceans. When I was 23 she began to share what she was finding and I began to see that maybe, just maybe, there was hope for me.
When I turned 26 I began studying for myself. I began to find a God who did not ask me to be good (which I had already discovered was impossible, through many years of experience), but who empowered me to be good, if I would surrender to Him. In other words, I was not doing it, but God through His Holy Spirit living in me and empowering me, would act out good works in me. So, I would be acting out the right, acceptable things but, in fact, it would not be me, but Jesus living in me! How freeing is that!?
This was GOOD NEWS and I have been learning ever since how to live by the indwelling power of God in me and not by my own strength. It is incredible how freeing it is to live like this--depending on God to work in me and through me, rather than me trying to do the good works in my own strength.
This website is dedicated to sharing what I have learned through my journey with God.
*legalistic, Legalist - I have used this word as it is commonly used in Christian circles today. For a different perspective, based on the dictionary definition, read the thought entitled "Are You a Legalist?" under the heading "Thoughts".