Searching for Something More - Neil Placer's Story

Searching for Something More - Neil Placer's Story
Side B Stories
Searching for Something More - Neil Placer's Story

Jul 07 2023 | 01:00:30

Episode July 07, 2023 01:00:30

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Former skeptic Neil Placer was apathetic about the question of God until his own dissatisfaction in life led him to search for something more. Neil’s Resources: Podcast: A World in Tension -This podcast explores the universal struggles of life. Externally, we encounter conflict with others. Internally, we engage in a constant debate between our hearts […]
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:01 Christ talks about building upon a firm foundation, not on top of sand. And I think that's really real practically that, that no matter how, how tough life may be, um, in, you know, some, uh, sometimes I've felt like all areas are not working well, right? Like, my relationship with my wife, my work, my friendships, my church environment. I can feel like all those things are not working well for whatever reason at a given moment in time. Yet I always have this security to know, wait, but I'm, I'm sealed in Christ. Like, I know what my ultimate destiny is, and I know that he's, he is, um, seeking to, um, bring me comfort and peace and joy and, and that I, I can rest in the confidence of what he did. Like he is. It's not just experiential, but there's, there's historical validity and logical validity. It gives that rock matters for me to stand on to have that foundation. So I've realized that over time. Um, but I, to think about not having that and where I was before, that chaos is really scary and, and really sad and empty, and I would never wanna return there again. Speaker 2 00:01:24 Hello and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon and you're listening to Sy B Stories where we see how skeptics slip the record out of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic, but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of these stories at our sebe stories website as sidey b We welcome your comments on our Sibe Stories Facebook page about these episodes, and you can also email us directly at info sidey b We always love to hear your comments. As a reminder, our guests not only tell their stories, but at the end of each episode, these former atheists and skeptics give advice to curious seekers as to how they can best pursue the truth and reality of God. They also give advice to Christians as to how best to engage with those who don't believe. I hope you're listening to the end to hear them speak from their wisdom and experience as someone who has once been a skeptic, but who is now a believer. Also, please know that many of these former skeptics and atheists have made themselves available to talk with anyone who has questions about God or faith. If that's you, just please connect with us at our email at info ze be, and we'll get you connected. Speaker 2 00:02:44 If there's something common to us all, it's that we want a life of meaning and purpose to know and be known to love and be loved. We want a life that feels important because it is important, it is valuable. The inevitable question before us though, is how do we find that kind of love, that kind of life, that kind of meaning and value? Can it be found on our own in a world without God? Or do we need to look beyond ourselves to find what our heart's truly wrong for CS Lewis is a former atheist who recognized the important difference that it makes to live with and without God. He knew that if God was real and Christianity was true, that there was nothing more important than that saying Christianity, if false is of no importance, and if true of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important. In other words, God makes all the difference in the way that we can and do experience and see life for those who believe it should mean everything. In today's story, former atheist Neil Placer moved from being completely apathetic about the question of God to now holding him as of infinite importance. How in the world did that happen? I hope you'll come along to find out. Welcome to Side B stories. Neil, it's great to have you with me today. Speaker 1 00:04:23 Thanks, Janice. It's great to be here. Speaker 2 00:04:25 Wonderful. Tell us a little bit about yourselves so the listeners have an idea of who you are before we get into your story. Speaker 1 00:04:33 Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Neil Placer. I'm 46 years old. I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Um, I'm, you know, trained as an engineer, so I'm a mechanical engineer, but I would say that I'm probably an atypical engineer in the sense that, well, number one, I, you know, I, I like communication. I don't like, although I consider myself an introvert. I do like to communicate. I do like to, um, think deeply about things and really, um, communicate those truths to others. So, um, yeah, I, I I've just always been someone who, um, likes to consider topics and, you know, part of what we're gonna talk about is, um, how I came came to Faith and how that was, uh, a bit of a journey for me, very analytical, yet also leaps of faith. Speaker 2 00:05:21 That sounds intriguing. Neil, why don't you start us back at your story, uh, at the very beginning. Tell us about where you were raised. Were you always from Tennessee? Tell us about your family. Uh, was was religion or God or church, any part of your family life? Speaker 1 00:05:39 Yeah, so I think if people are tuning in from Tennessee, they'll, they'll pick me out instantly and say, that guy's not from Tennessee. So, um, I actually grew up in the DC area, um, which is kind of, you know, international, cosmo, cosmopolitan land where there really isn't an accent. So Northerners think I'm southerner and Southerners think I'm a Northerner, so I can't win. Um, but, uh, yeah, I grew up, um, in that, you know, the DC area. Um, my father, um, was Spanish, I say was he recently passed away, but, um, so his, his background being from Spain, um, if you're not familiar with that, um, you're basically born Catholic, right? It's, it's just part of the culture. Um, everyone kind of just connects them themselves to it, but, um, from a, you know, spiritual perspective that really didn't mean much. So they, they took us when we were kids to mass, um, and we participated. I think they wanted the influence of it, but, um, sooner or later, um, as my brother and I were getting older, we kind of became like, uh, Easter and Christmas Christians, if you will, right? So that's, we just showed up for like, the major events and they were, it was more like an event. So there wasn't really, um, a strong focus on that, even though there was a religious component, uh, to my life. Speaker 2 00:07:07 Okay. So it was just part of the tradition or ritual, I suppose, of your family. It was something you did not necessarily, I presume, something you believed, or did you have any kind of a tacit belief in God because this was part of your life? Speaker 1 00:07:24 No, I mean, I didn't really, I didn't really think about it much. I, I, I kind of, I was thinking about this. Um, I didn't really have an, uh, uh, you know, growing up middle class, upper middle class, I didn't have a need for God, right? I had everything that I wanted materially. My parents were kind of let the rope out pretty long so I could, felt like I could do whatever I wanted. Um, I was an athlete, I played soccer, so I just felt like I didn't, you know, that was kind of for goody goodies. Uh, and, you know, I, I just didn't, I, I was d I was, you know, by definition, truly just agnostic. Like, I didn't, I didn't care. I didn't, I wasn't an atheist, right? I wasn't against it. Um, I just didn't care. I, I didn't, I didn't detect any need for it in my life. Speaker 2 00:08:17 Mm. Yeah. So just, uh, I guess what they might call atheism, right? You don't, yes. Yeah. Uh, you just don't care. Um, it wasn't important to you. You obviously didn't need it. So was this the case, um, throughout your growing up years? It sounds like you were very occupied, had a great family, great life, um, and did you have any touchpoints at all of what you would consider to be authentic Christianity in your world? Speaker 1 00:08:46 Yeah. It's funny how, um, when you reflect back, you know, in the past you kind of see where God was working. So I would think, I think the first moment was, um, my senior year of high school. I remember going back to the Catholic church on my own. So my parents weren't going, my brother wasn't going, but I went to just kind of explore instead of, you know, being the kid that just sat through it and said, when is this over? I, I went to actually seek, what, what are they talking about? What is this, um, a viable pathway of life? My parents didn't even understand it. They, they said, are you going to like impress some girl or like, to, you know, like, what are you, what are you going for? Um, but I just said, I, I just wanna find out what, what are they saying? Um, and I did that for a little while, and my conclusion, and I think it was a shallow search to be fair, um, was, yeah, this isn't really for me, you know, this now I've actually listened to it with open ears. Um, and yeah, this is not for me, but that was kind of the first moment of considering something, you know, outside of myself. Speaker 2 00:09:59 What made you just, I, I'm just curious what sparked that curiosity? Uh, it was, was it some kind of dissatisfaction in your life? Was it just some intellectual curiosity or something that your friends were doing, or it just kind of came from nowhere? Speaker 1 00:10:16 I, I honestly don't know. I mean, I, of the categories you just gave, I think probably intellectual curiosity was probably the answer. Other people were not doing it. Um, I didn't feel, I don't think it was some major gap. I think I was just curious. I, I've always been a curious type and, and willing to explore things even if the crowd's not doing it. Um, so I, I, I, I, again, I think looking back, I think God was working on me. I just didn't realize it that way. So I, I I don't really have a great answer. Speaker 2 00:10:48 Mm, no, that's fine. Sometimes we just do things without, you know, real deep, thoughtful considerations. It's just something we're, we're motivated to do. I, I'm also curious, you went to go see what it was and you felt like it wasn't for you. What did you think religion was at that point? You know, you knew it wasn't for you, but what was it, did you think some just kind of, was it just a place where people gathered they needed community? What, what was it, did you think? Speaker 1 00:11:20 I mean, and, and being that it was Catholic, I thought it was very ritualistic, right? So there was, it was just very, you know, up and down knees like, um, liturgies, like there was a lot of, um, formality to it. Um, but in the end, I just kind of thought it was empty. I, I, I just felt like people were going through the motions, checking the boxes for whatever reason, um, to make themselves feel good. I mean, it's kind of connected to my background, like why did we go as a family? I dunno. Um, uh, so it's just because that's what we did. That was the culture, right? Um, so it just, that was my conclusion. It just kind of felt a little bit empty. Although I, I will, again, I'll say my search was shallow. I don't know that I was on a truly deep search at that, that point. Speaker 2 00:12:11 Okay. Okay. So you, you tried it as a high schooler, which is admirable <laugh> before you went to college. And, uh, so, so walk us on from there. What, how did your life look then? You, you left high school, went on to university, and, and what happened? Speaker 1 00:12:29 Yeah, so, um, my first year of school, so I, I played soccer in college. I went to Virginia Tech. Um, and I would categorize my life, my first year of school as kind of living in the joy of sin. And now that, that sounds funny to say, but, um, like I really, I enjoyed the sin, right? Like I, I felt like I had all things going for me, right? Like I was studying engineering, so I was doing things hard with my mind. I was an athlete, so I was, I was working, you know, my physical self and I was also partying. So like, I had all elements I thought. Um, and so I enjoyed sin. But the thing is, is sin has a season. See, see, sin has an ending because sins pathway is alluring at first, but, um, it's like a scripture says it's sweetened the mouth, but then it's bitter in the stomach. Speaker 1 00:13:25 And sometimes that bitter takes a while to realize. So I, I would say I really, I'm not gonna say sin isn't fun, that's why people do it, right? Right, sure. But, but I think that whole freshman year was kind of like that. And then after that, I started to realize, like, I didn't, I, I didn't make the soccer team the next year. School was much first time I struggled with school. Like, maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am. Um, the whole partying scene became like, empty and old. What, what am I doing? What's the point? So I would say after that was really the journey of struggle, of what, what am I here for? Um, so God kind of pulled it apart. Um, but I, I'm, I'm kind of saying it that way because there's people that just don't want religion cuz they think it's oppressive or, or it's gonna wreck their lifestyle. But I would say, what is this lifestyle that feels free and sinful, really giving you, cuz at the end, it, it doesn't give you much. Speaker 2 00:14:28 Mm-hmm. So you were feeling empty and, and spent and challenged and life wasn't as pristine, I guess, as it had been prior. There were challenges coming in your path. Um, so it caused you to introspect, I guess it, and I think sometimes those difficulties are disruptors that, that cause us to step back and take a look at our own life, the way that we think, the way that we live. And so what did that disco or a tension or or challenge do for you in terms of what were your next steps? Speaker 1 00:15:05 Well, it just, it got me thinking and wrestling with things. I mean, I'm a I said earlier, I'm kind of an introvert and, um, in terms of like, to recharge, I need to go off to the side and I need to think, so I just thought about topics and like, what am I, what am I here for? I mean, college is just kind of a good season for of that. Cause there's a bunch of people around you also that are going through that. Um, and you know, I don't, I don't remember all the bumps and, and, and turns, but, um, I do remember concluding that it must be about love, right? Like, all this other stuff is superficial. Um, so it must be about love. And in the context of no God, then that means a human relationship, right? Like another person must be able to, that that must be the, the, the kind of the, you know, the holy grail of happiness. Speaker 1 00:16:09 Um, is is that, and which involves also kind of a, it's not just about you, it's to make a relationship work. You have to mutually kind of bring that, that joy and benefit to one another. So that, that's kind of where I landed after sort of years, years of struggling through it. Um, and guess what? Surprise, surprise, um, that pathway became empty too, right? I, I, I, you know, there were some relationships that, um, you, you thought would be going in a good way and they didn't. And so I, that it was at that moment, and this is just to kind of walk you through the timeline. So freshman year was all about fun. Then I would say it was, it was, it was closer to, I, I did five years of school cause I was an engineer and we did, uh, co-op. So it's just kind of built into, into the program. Speaker 1 00:17:01 But it was, it was right around kind of that, that senior year or right before it that I just kind of said, okay, relationships don't work either, <laugh>. So now, now I don't know. Now I'm like, I'm, I'm really lost. I'm really, I don't know what the answer is, and I'm about to graduate and I'm about to get some job. And I, I kind of for the first time maybe categorize it as, as hopeless in terms of a, a deep meaning of life, right? I could have gone and done the job and done what everyone else does, but that was the moment where it's just like, all right, I don't know what the answer is. Speaker 2 00:17:41 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So were you, I guess, you know, you knew that religion at the time wasn't for you prior to, you know, all of this, and you understood. Did you, did you, uh, I guess understand the logical implic, did you understand the logical implications of atheism? That it does not bring objective meaning? I mean, were you that thoughtful about it? Or was this just something you were experiencing because you were just doing life without God? Speaker 1 00:18:13 Yeah, no, I mean, I didn't, I wasn't thinking about sort of those apologetic arguments about atheism at all. It just, it really was like a godless picture. It was, it was trying to, it was more like a naturalistic viewpoint, like within the confines of living without a, a, you know, a, a larger beam or some, some form of spirituality. How, how can you make that work? Um, and it didn't work, right? Because the, the, the highest object in that then is people, right? Like we're the, we're the best thing. I wouldn't have called it creation then, but like, we're the best thing of it. So that must be the answer, right? And, and a selfless kind of connection to another person. Um, but I think that's where, kind of, to get to your point, I feel like that's where it maybe flipped the switch of maybe there is something bigger here to consider. Um, and that's where I think, I think that's where the story gets interesting about, that's where God's hand is. Like God's hand is always working maybe more subtly like, you know, we, we don't know how God works, but he kind of lets you get to a place where you're ready. And I feel like at that point I was ready and, and then he really started depressing. And again, I think the story becomes interesting there. Speaker 2 00:19:32 Mm, yes. I've heard it said, uh, I was gonna said actually, it, it, when someone becomes dissatisfied with their own worldview, then they become open towards another. And it sounds like you reached that point of dissatisfaction so that you became willing or open to see is there something more than this, you know, flat imminent frame, I guess as Charles Taylor would say, is there something more, or is there something more than I'm missing? I, I guess you, you felt that kind of earnest need or that angst in a sense. So, um, what did you do with that dissatisfaction? What did you, I mean, again, uh, uh, it sounds like you were willing to look for something more. What did you do? Speaker 1 00:20:19 Yeah, so like I was saying, it got interesting there, there were, um, there was kind of three distinct people in my life. So I, I, I had my friend John, who I went to high school with, that he actually was kind of a professing Christian in high school. And then once he got to college, he kind of fell away from it. So I, I got, I, I have him in the circle, this buddy who kind of knew faith and now doesn't know faith. So he, he kind of becomes more important at the end. But then there was, um, there was two other people, and they were both, um, ladies on the, on the soccer team. So, um, one was a, just a good friend of mine. And ironically her, believe it or not, her name was Trinity <laugh>. Um, now, now, now she wasn't a believer. Speaker 1 00:21:08 Um, but what was really interesting about our relationship is that we both reached this point that, you know, as friends, we were pushing each other towards faith and we didn't believe it. So like, I'll give you an example of just kind of one of these moments. I, I love these pause moments that God gives us to kind of just reflect. So we're out to breakfast, and again, I told you I studied engineering, it's a lot of work, a lot of reading, a lot of homework. And so we're talking about faith and religion and, and, um, she said, you know, maybe we should pick up the Bible every once in a while and read it. I said, look, I don't have time to read the Bible. I'm, you know, I have all these tests and like, I don't have, there's no space for it. And she said something that was profound. Speaker 1 00:21:54 Again, she's not a believer, she said, um, well if you think about it, if God is really true, then reading, there's nothing more important than knowing about him. And you do that by reading this book. Like nothing else matters. Nothing else is worth as much devotion from your time. And I just kind of thought about that and said, it's kind of weird that you're saying that cuz you don't really believe this, but number two, you're right. Like, just from a logical perspective, if that's true, you're absolutely right about that. So it was kind of moments like that where God was working. Um, or like other times when, and we were, we were, we started to go to church. And so mornings where like, you know, I'd call and say, Hey, are you going to church? No, no, no, I'm not going, come on, let's go, let's go. Speaker 1 00:22:43 We we're pushing each other. And so like I was saying, God was really working. So wow. That, that was, that was a key element. Um, and then the third person with is another girl named Cara, which I was more of an acquaintance with, but she was actually a firm believer in faith. And so what was unique about her is, um, she, you, you could see something different. So there was a, a smile on the face, there was a joy, but not only that, there was, we've gone and play soccer together and her work ethic was different. Like she, I I remember going, why is everyone not, why is no one else trying except for her? Like, um, and it was just kind of a fun gig, but like, she demonstrated something different about Christ. So you have this, think about that. You have this guy that kind of fell away involved. Speaker 1 00:23:33 You have someone who's challenging you, who's not a believer, and then someone who really is a believer all kind of in the picture together, kind of working at the same time. Um, and I remember going to a church service and my eyes were still blind. They kind of gave this, this, this, that classic, you know, picture of like, you have the two cliffs and the only thing that can split the divide is the cross splitting in between. You've probably heard that at some point, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and so they're like giving this clear gospel message. I remember Kara looking over at me and going, this is, doesn't get more clear than this. And I, they're like, what do you think about the message? And I was like, oh, it was great. Loved it, you know, but I had no clue. It went over my head. Like I had no clue what actually was going on. So the, it was really interesting. My eyes were starting to open, but they had not been fully opened at that point. Speaker 2 00:24:24 I'd like to take a break to let you know about some additions we've been making to these side B stories episodes that give you more than one way to benefit from them. First of all, we've been recording these podcasts on video as well as audio. So if you're interested in seeing, as well as hearing these amazing stories of atheists and skeptic conversions, hop on over to our Sibi Stories YouTube channel. We have been posting the last few episodes in video and plan to continue doing that for all new episodes, as well as working our way backward through our SBI stories catalog as well. Just go on over to YouTube and search for SBI stories and you should find the stories and videos there. Secondly, for those of you who would like to read these SBI conversion stories, we have also been transcribing each episode to make it easier to look back on their journeys in print. Speaker 2 00:25:22 If you're interested in this, most of the episode transcripts, except for the most recent few, are now available on the CS Lewis Institute website. That's Again, we are a podcast of the CS Lewis Institute and that's why this connection. So once you go to the CS Lewis website, look for resources, select podcasts, and there you'll find side B stories under each story, find and select where it says more info. And there you'll find the transcripts. We hope to have all of these up on our side be stories website soon as well. Now back to our story. Mm. So for those who are listening who may not be familiar with that reference that you're speaking of, the sermon reference, can you explain that a little bit more on what that means, what the gospel means? Speaker 1 00:26:25 Yeah, so it's, uh, imagine, um, you know, there's kind of two big cliffs and basically what it's trying to say is that our sin separates us, uh, from God and we can't ever cross that chasm. Um, there's nothing we can do on our own power, but, but that there's a clear separation and, and the only thing that can split that divide or really fill that divide and it they drop a cross in there, is the cross of Christ, which it's not about the cross, it's about the fact that, um, that the cross itself, it's, it's Jesus, it's the fact that Jesus paid the, the, the cost, um, for our sins and basically became a mediator for us to God the Father who is, is gonna judge us for our sins. So that cross allows you that pathway. So it's basically saying you need, you need Jesus to be become your Lord and Savior, and he is the way, way to get there. Um, so again, it's a very clear like, hey, you know, in that service you Neil need to need to, you know, surrender to Christ. But I, I thought it was a great message, but didn't get that I needed to do that Speaker 2 00:27:36 <laugh>, um, that it wasn't for you, but evidently Trinity was being taken in by this message. Was it something she responded to at the time? Speaker 1 00:27:47 So, well, let's let her and I, we actually let, let me, let, let, let me finish the story, okay. And I'll tell you about her, her and I actually came to faith at the same, same time. And so, okay, where, where this all led to was, um, actually a moment in time where I gave my life to Christ. And, um, so let me just give you the buildup. It was, I, it was like an exam week. And so I was really busy and, um, Kara was actually, and, and my buddy John were actually gonna go, uh, to this, uh, fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat. It was a few hours up the road, um, and they said, Hey, do you wanna come? And I was like, eh, I, I, look, I can't, I just can't think about this. I I need to focus on my test, da da da. Speaker 1 00:28:31 So it's literally Friday I've finished my last exam and I'm driving home, driving to my, my apartment at school and I'm thinking, well, I could spend another week here and kind of just go downtown and drink and do whatever else I was gonna do that I'd done all over and over and I was getting old, or I could go hang out with like these wacky Christians. And I thought they were kind of wacky. I mean, at that point I'm like, and I was always up for a new experience. I was like, you know what, what, what do I have to lose? Right? So I, I called them and they were literally about to go. I said, look, do you still have room for me to come tag along with you guys? And they're like, yes, absolutely. Especially Carra, who was the firm believer, right? She's like, yes, yes. Speaker 1 00:29:16 Um, and I think Trinity had already decided she was gonna go. Um, so anyway, we, we get there and that was the moment where I had really never exposed myself. It was like a world of a little world of Christianity, right? Like everyone, there was a Christian, there was no one, like, it was just a, I was surrounded by something I had never been surrounded in. So I was just kind of like this foreigner right in, in, in, in this town of Christianity. Like I was an outsider. And I I So you participate in all these Bible studies and I'm just listening the whole time. Cause I have nothing to add. I have no clue what they're talking about. Um, but I'm, Speaker 2 00:29:59 Can I, yeah, go ahead. Interrupt you for a moment, obviously. So Bible studies, and you had mentioned that Trinity thought that reading the Bible would be the most important thing if, if it, if God was real or true. Had you read the Bible prior to coming to the retreat? Did you take that in as an invitation and start reading with Trinity before any of Speaker 1 00:30:23 This? Um, maybe, maybe we were reading a little bit, but not, not too intently. Speaker 2 00:30:29 Okay. Um, so, so the whole thing with the Bible was a little bit intimidating or, you know, you hadn't really gone there yet. Okay. Speaker 1 00:30:38 Yeah. And I remember I was carrying around now that you mentioned that like, some, some old like seventies Bible and then like the people at the retreat were like, what, what? They didn't know like what my ba what my story was, right? I think they just assumed that I was some Christian too, right? Um, and cuz I wasn't sharing anything, I was just listening to what they had to say. And it really just kind of blew my mind that to see something different, um, that people were living for something purposeful. Um, and again, God was then really, really working on me. And, and so the end of the story is like at the end of the weekend, and in the speaker was some like a fellowship of Christian athlete, so they usually have some sort of athlete, but he was actually some kickboxer professional kickboxer. Speaker 1 00:31:38 Um, and at the end of the, the weekend he said, you know, does anyone want to give their life to Christ? You know, the, the classic, um, sort of altar call if you will, but, um, I remember that moment like, you know, everyone's eyes are closed and it's like, just raise your hand. And I remember that there was like this war inside me like, no, you can't do this. You can't do, you're gonna give up all the things you like, the, the the, you know, there was this war, but at the end I just, you know, I stuck my hand up. And that was the moment. Like I really did give my life to Christ. Um, and what's cool is, so it's just, it's just so funny. Like, I think God has this kind of cool, humorous, awesome way of working. Like, that was Valentine's Day weekend, so my, my search for love, right? Speaker 1 00:32:27 Like, he gave me love on Valentine's Day weekend. Yes. Um, so I'll, I'll always have this marker there, um, of that conversion. Um, and I remember at the end they're kind of sitting in the circles and they're like, so what'd you think about the weekend? And everyone's kinda like, eh, you know, normal weekend. Okay. And I'm like, the first time I spoke I'm like, I just, I think I just gave my life to Christ. I'm not even sure what this really means, but like, I, I just, I just did it. And one, one guy there who I'm actually still friends with today, said, had the wisdom to say that, number one, that's awesome. Number two, come get plugged in. Like come, he was the fca, I think president or soon to be president at that time. He said, come get plugged in, come join the community. Um, very, very wise and good advice. Speaker 2 00:33:24 Wow. So I'm sitting here thinking, you, you were someone who didn't care about God growing up. You, it became an issue that you actually started caring about, that there had to be something more in life. And then you found that something more in the person of God and Jesus and that he's worth it. And you found in a sense the love that you had been longing for and searching for, and I presume the meaning that comes along with that. Um, was there, uh, it sounds like you felt, you know, there was this internal wrestling and this battle of kind of laying down your own life for being part of a grander story. Um, at at any point did you question or doubt is this really true? Or is, does it just sound like a good story, something that I can give my life to? Speaker 1 00:34:28 Yeah, so I, what was really cool about my conversion experience is that I think it was really outta character. What I mean by that is I'm a pretty analytical person. I, I don't like, I think when I was giving my testimony at college, I'm just remembering this now, um, when I actually got baptized at, at, at, at, at the church, at school, I said, you know, as an engineer you kind of like have these, these, there's these, um, graph paper, green graph paper that we used, and it's like given find assumptions, and then it's like at the end you double underline the answer. And so I wanted that sequence with Jesus Christ double underlined, but I kind of just like jumped right to the right to the end. And so it was a very much a leap of faith for a very analytical person. And, um, I think the impact of that is that I describe it as kind of Jesus, or like being held by a father, like a baby being held because I literally had no real Christian knowledge, no Christian experience to lean on. Speaker 1 00:35:39 Not even like people that I was just getting, like, there was nothing. And so, like, I think God really, I, I I view it like I was being held like a baby. Like, you know, you do everything for the baby. Like I, I, I was just on cloud nine, like I, I, I was loving it. So there wasn't really a period up front, um, of me kind of doubting what did I just do? Because I was experiencing something amazing. And, and, um, the people around me, even they, they said stuff like, your face looks different. Which, you know, like the bible talks that about like your countenance, right? Like I, I, they're like, you literally look different. Like you have instead of like a grimace or like weight, you have a smile, you, so people even saw what I was experiencing. So what's cool about that Jana is that, you know, not everyone has different, I don't think everyone needs to have that story. Speaker 1 00:36:38 Like I, I, I'd rather like for my kids, I'm like, you don't have to go through a lot of like chaos. You don't, you really don't have to. But the good thing about that is like, I'll always know pointing back what happened, and no matter what argument anyone throws at me, if there's ever seasons of doubt, something miraculous happened and I cannot deny it. It's undeniable. And, and others saw it too. I didn't just make it up in my head, right? Um, so I remember coming back to my roommates going, so unbelievers are like, so did you find Jesus like as a joke? And I'm like, I, I think I did. And then, then they got freaked out, like, oh my gosh, what does this mean, <laugh>? Speaker 2 00:37:17 Yeah, exactly. I mean, that is the question, what does that mean? What did that mean for your life? I mean, you were in a, a sense, a meaningless, empty existence. So what did knowing Jesus, having Jesus mean for your life? Speaker 1 00:37:38 I mean, it, it ultimately, you know, as over time, right? You, you realize what it does but or what the value of it is, or just kind of, um, you know, and, and you know, I got off cloud nine, right? I eventually, like you realize, oh wait, life is actually tough and this isn't as straightforward. Like, it's not just like, uh, Christianity is actually not an easy path. There's ac I mean, Christ says that we not when, not if we will face struggle, but when, right? Like we, there is um, there is struggle, there's tension, there's, um, it's just part of it. But I think to answer your question, um, it's, it's, you know, Christ talks about building upon a firm foundation not on top of sand. And I think that's really real practically that, that no matter how, how tough life may be, um, in, you know, I sometimes I felt like all areas are not working well, right? Speaker 1 00:38:37 Like, my relationship with my wife, my work, my friendships, my church environment, I can feel like all those things are not working well for whatever reason at a given moment in time. Yet I always have this security to know, wait, but I'm, I'm sealed in Christ. Like I know what my ultimate destiny is and I know that he's, he is, um, seeking to, um, bring me comfort and peace and joy and, and that I, I can rest in the confidence of what he did. Like he is, it's not just experiential, but there's, there's historical validity and logical validity. It gives that rock matters for me to stand on to have that foundation. So I've realized that over time. Um, but to think about not having that and where I was before, that chaos is really scary and, and really sad and empty and I would never wanna return there again. Speaker 2 00:39:38 Mm. So you went from this really miraculous experience, which I don't doubt at all, I know that so many people have had just a real touchpoint with God that is life transforming and they know it's true and real. Now you speak of building a foundation that's historical and logical. And as an analytical person, could you flesh that out a little bit? Have you found some, what does that foundation look like in terms of, even though your, your mind wasn't perhaps, you know, a deep part of the, the journeying of accepting Christ, but it sounds like there is a foundation where you love him with your mind as well as your life. Um, what does that look like? Speaker 1 00:40:28 Yeah, and that's actually, that's actually really important to me, Jana, that I think, um, Christianity cannot just be about the experience, obviously, God. So what I'd say is God created our, our brains and also our hearts. So the experience and the emotion matters, absolutely. But God also gave us brains to think. I think, I think sometimes as Christians, uh, we take an approach of just kind of acceptance of the truth without wrestling it. And so then when you're challenged, you don't know what to say. And I think that's a very bad, well, scripture hard urges us not to live that life that way. That you, in any season, you should be ready to defend your faith. I mean, um, and, and have an answer. But so I mean, I think there's just a few, like if I'm talking to someone who maybe is, you know, questioning what to believe, I mean there's kind of a, a few, I call 'em like high level apologetics cuz apologetics can get very deep and, and wrestling with specific issues. Speaker 1 00:41:27 But like, if you just first of all just look around, you look at, look at creation, look at the human body there, there's so many examples of just wonder and how you add have to, to think that that just kind of all kind of just came out of nothing is really illogical. It it, I mean it really, it doesn't, it doesn't make sense. Um, uh, I think that there, I mean Romans one tells us that, that that's proof enough that we are without excuse and just seeing creation and creation really, I like hiking, so that really does it for me. Like seeing and just, uh, you can't even take it in, right? Like, um, anyway, so that, that is a really, to me, solid argument in itself. But, um, beyond that, like the, you know, there the evidence of it, like the, if you go back and, and explore, um, I mean like the Case for Christ is a great book where, you know, that whole story of, of Lee Strobel as a journalist kind of exploring the facts, but the validity, um, the historical validity of the Bible is, is unquestioned compared to other historical texts. Speaker 1 00:42:37 The fact that Christ, um, came was a manned in miracles. He died, he was resurrected, um, is all like historically validated more than most any other source. Um, and, and there's, and the connection of all that, the history, what we see now, what I, what I experience, um, is just, it all makes sense. It logically touches all of the pieces of, of what we experience as as human beings. Um, and one, one interesting thought that I've had about that Jana is sort of like, you know, we, we have an enemy working against us, right? So, um, and if just kind as a, as a matter of another apologetic, if you compare Christianity to other, any other spiritual system, every other spiritual system is about works. Like you have to do something to be good in the eyes of that, that create, that God, um, Christianity offers, uh, flips it on its head and says, actually you're saved by grace. Speaker 1 00:43:49 You, you need a savior and there's nothing you can do on your own. And so the thought exercise I went down on that one is, is like, why has, why has our, you know, spiritual enemy not tried to throw at us a counterfeit kind of grace argument, right? Like a, a religion or something that was a grace alternative. Cuz there aren't really that many grace alternatives if you, if you study 'em. And what I think I concluded is that that's how it all comes together, is that, um, you can't create a duplicate for what Christ did. You can't duplicate a man coming, doing miracles, dying, resurrecting, seeing it again. You can't replicate the amazing story. So it's combining history, it's combining the emotion of what people saw in those miracles and the resurrection. Can you imagine seeing a resurrected man? Um, and, and, and how that create connects to the creator of the universe. You can't duplicate it. And so I think the enemy doesn't even try. Speaker 2 00:44:54 Mm. Yeah. So it sounds like it's just really fully orbed with you. It's your emotion, it's experience, it's your spirituality, it's, it's your mind, it's, it's actually how you're living your life. I'm, I'm curious too, those, you said there were three key people in your life, in your story as God was really pointing you or bringing you to himself. And I, I'd love to tie a bow on some of those because you mentioned the, the, the, the friend who had was a Christian left Christianity came, but you said came back and we haven't heard that bit of it, nor have we heard, uh, Trinity, um, and how you, how she, um, became I guess a friend in Christ as well. So talk us about that. Speaker 1 00:45:43 Yeah, I'm, I'm glad you brought that up cuz uh, so John actually recommitted his life to Christ that same weekend, um, and really did, like, he, he really started walking a new path. And what's really neat about that is him and I are still friends today. Our, our wives actually were roommates at one point, which is even, it's even a funny like, connection. Our kids know each other and like each other, so we're, we're still, we actually visit 'em annually. Um, so it's, it's a really just kind of cool connection how, how he brought us together on that one. Um, Trinity, I I actually have lost touch with her, but I, I sadly enough, I I think she kind of walked away from the faith and I don't know if she ever returned. She did give her life to Christ and, and that's when you kinda asked yourself, did she really, did she, did she not? Speaker 1 00:46:37 Um, so I think she struggled to you was kind of your question earlier. I think after that experience, um, for her, I think she really started to, to question, I think it, it it was kind of in connection to her family and they didn't believe and what were the consequences of that. So I I I hope she's returned to faith. I hope it was a true conversion. Um, but I don't know. Um, and similarly with Kara, I've lost touch with her, but, um, God, yeah, God just used those different pieces together. Um, so it's just, it's just a really, really great, great story. Wow, Speaker 2 00:47:13 That that is great. It sounds like you've, your, your story has a such a beautiful kind of story arc in the sense that you, you were just dismissive of God, it was just not something you were interested in, not anything that you needed. And then you've had a felt need and an earnest search. I mean, it was, it was earnest in the sense that you were willing to actually go where God was leading you and then you found him, you found what you were looking for, and it sounds like it's made an enormous change in your life and for the better. Um, you, you mentioned something about coming out of chaos and I, I presume that you've moved towards shalom from disorder to order from, you know, restlessness to peace. I, you know, it reminds me of, you know, that our souls of Augustine, where our souls are restless until we find our rest in him. And it sounds like you have found that and then some. Um, and I just really appreciate that as we're, uh, thinking about those who may be like you were, um, maybe a little restless, maybe a little dissatisfied, unsure of where to go or look for something more, uh, how could you speak or to someone like that who might be willing to, to take a look at at what God has to offer, where would they go? What would you recommend? Speaker 1 00:48:48 Yeah, so I mean, the first thing I'd say is don't, don't discount, um, faith in Christ for some fuzzy, soft reason. Like not thought out reason. Like just because someone said, you know, Christians are losers and maybe you just held onto that simple or they're goody goodies. Like that's kind of what I held onto some simple, yeah, that's not for me, that's don't hold onto that. Or equally I think sometimes I've encountered people that have some hurt because of some Christian connection, someone did something and it's pushed them away and so now they will never go back because that hurt. Um, that, that I would encourage people to press through that because you, the hurt isn't the truth. Um, truth is truth. So, uh, and I believe Christ is it. And so if, if you are open to explore it, don't, don't, don't, basically don't push yourself away for either superficial reasons or even deep hurts, like press in anyway. Speaker 1 00:49:53 And, and I think if you are, Christ is faithful to, to kind of, you know, if you knock, he will, he will open it, he will answer. He will, he will show you the the pathway. Um, uh, the second thing I'd also say is like, I I, I kind of touched on, I think on some, again, some, uh, high level apologetics for people to consider, um, that I think are valid. But then I'd also say flip. Like instead of like pointing the finger at Christianity, why don't you point the finger at what you believe and say, is this really, does it have merit? Is it delivering in my practical life? Like to what you just said, like, is it really bringing peace? Like be honest with yourself. Don't, don't just cast stones, you know, and don't judge other systems that, especially ones you haven't explored, but ask yourself about yours because I think you will find that there's a, again, like you were talking about atheism, if you, if you're a true atheist, you have to believe that there is no sort of system of right or wrong of law and order of, of meaning for people. Speaker 1 00:51:05 Like, so we're basically, I could shoot you right now and that doesn't really mean much, right? Like cuz who says that that's right or wrong and you have no value and I don't have value, I like question the impact of what that does to your thinking and your emotions and how to live like that messes you up. That's not a, that's not a healthy place to live. So really question that and explore it and, you know, find, you know, obviously you can dig into this, this scripture whenever you want. And I think if you do that, honestly, God will work in you. But also just try to find, try praying for someone that God, some authentic Christian to come into your life that can help lovingly guide you through and, and answer your questions. Because again, I think if you pray, you start to knock and open that door, even though you feel uncomfortable, I think God, God will work. Speaker 2 00:52:06 Yeah, that's, that's all really, really wonderful. If someone does open scripture or the Bible, do you have a place that you would recommend them to start? Because I know that the Bible can be rather intimidating. It's 66 books, so where would one start? Speaker 1 00:52:24 Um, there's probably different answers for different people, uh, on types of wiring. But like, I would first of all say that the Old Testament is probably a hard place. There's some parts of that that seem dry or are hard to understand, although the exception to that is Genesis. I think the beginning, especially of Genesis is pretty, pretty awesome for kind of setting up, um, how things originated and, and where we go. So I think that's important. I think if someone is kind of more emotionally inclined, like, uh, kind of that artistic, the singer like Psalms has a lot of emotional wrestling that is authentic and real that people could get into Proverbs if you're kind of intellectually wired, has a lot of good logical argument of how to live life and challenge yourself. Um, in fact, that's, that's what I actually prayed when I first became a believer was, God, I know nothing help make me wise. Speaker 1 00:53:22 I want wisdom. Like give me, I don't, I need something. And, and I spent some time, you know, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, I love the book of Ecclesiastes. Some people hate that book cuz cuz it feels too open-ended, but it just kind of tells you like life is a vapor. Everything you can pursue is kind of meaningless outside of God. It's a great, it's a great searching book. But I mean, then coming to the New Testaments, obviously I think a, a place where people lead people as natural as like the, the four gospel accounts or the first four books of the New Testament. Um, Matthew, mark, Luke, and John really helped to you to understand the story of Jesus, what happened. Um, you know, his, his work in with the disciples and then his, obviously his death and burial resurrection. Um, so I mean, there's so many, so many good places. Speaker 1 00:54:15 Um, but those are some, some things I'd say and, and look into it and just be, be patient with yourself. I mean, like there's, you're never gonna fully, you can't fully grasp God, you never will, but just be patient with your questions. Some questions I still don't have answers to, but I'm, I'm patient with it and, and believe in it. So just kind of trust the process. Don't try to get everything answered in, in the first day, first week. Um, but open yourself to what God can teach you and start trying to pray. Praying is just being authentic before God and having a conversation. It really is. It's not wor certain words or so just start doing those things. Don't be afraid to press in. Speaker 2 00:54:59 Well, that's just so rich. Um, and for those, uh, Christians who really want to, to meaningfully engage with those who don't believe, you mentioned Kara, of course, he had a evidently a beautiful and embodied picture of what being a Christian looked like and that in some ways was attractive to you that or at least piqued your curiosity as to why she's different. Um, how would you engage, uh, or how would you recommend that that Christians, um, you know, live or, or speak or what attitude should they have or whatever? Speaker 1 00:55:36 Well, so I, I think first it comes with like a heart posture of surrender. I've just become more and more convinced that, you know, life is really about surrendering yourself to Christ. And like, either, either, like we have, I think there's two options. We're either trying to control things to the way we want to or we surrender 'em to Christ. And surrendering feels like dying. But you're actually, that's where you're finding life. Um, when you're, when you're dying to yourself, you're finding real life. And and I say that because that's the answer to nonbelievers or that's the, the, the answer to the most seasoned believer who knows, you know, maybe is just a genius, is just has all the elements they still need to surrender. And, and I'm saying that because if you don't do that, then how you approach someone else is gonna be impacted in some way. Speaker 1 00:56:31 Maybe, maybe you start treating them like a project or you lack the compassion of maybe just to sit there and be silent. You're, you're trying to, you're trying to, and listen to them for a little bit, um, and just listen and then maybe later have a conversation. Um, I think if you're trying to strategize and do it in your own strength, I'm gonna walk 'em through this book, this six week study and then, you know, like really surrender yourself to what God wants you to do and, and, and in this person's life, I think is crucial because you can just mess things up like you can. I think that is how Christians mess things up. They start spouting off on social media or, and they're not surrender. They're just kind of taking their own approach to it. And that's very, I think people wanna see authenticity and you're not gonna be your true self the the person that God designed you to be until you surrender yourself. And so it's an, it's an ongoing day by day, minute by minute sort of exercise, but especially as you're gonna engage someone who really needs to focus on doing that. Speaker 2 00:57:38 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yes. I don't think there's probably any wiser counsel that you could give right there. It sounds like you have been listening to the word and, and reading, uh, books of, of scripture and proverbs and whatnot because you are a man of wisdom. I can hear that. And that, uh, it also sounds like you really have engaged in the larger story and God's story that you have surrendered your life, um, to his story, which is the best story of all right. You have found true love, you know, and I think that's what we all seek is to be fully known and fully loved. And it sounds like you have found that. Thank you so much Neil, for coming on to tell your story, for, for your insights, for your wisdom. We just so appreciate it. Thank you so much. Speaker 1 00:58:30 Uh, it's been a pleasure. I like I was telling you earlier, I really, um, enjoy what you're doing here. I think helping people hear stories, well Jesus taught in stories, um, like it's something about stories catches our attention. So I really appreciate what you're doing. I think this is very helpful to unbelievers and believers alike to kind of, um, just hear how God is really at work in, in real people's lives. Um, so, um, I hope this is an encouragement to someone to kind of take that next step, whatever that may be. Um, but keep, keep doing what you're doing and um, I think it's a big encouragement. Speaker 2 00:59:11 Ah, thank you Neil, for those kind words. It is a true encouragement. Thank you again, thanks for tuning into Sibe stories. To hear Neil's story. You can find out more about his podcast as well as other information in our episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me directly through our [email protected] or our email. Again, that is [email protected]. I'd like to take a moment to express my deep appreciation for our amazing audio engineer Mark Rose of the CS Lewis Institute and our producer Ashley Decker, also of the CS Lewis Institute here in Atlanta, both for their amazing and excellent ongoing work. I always appreciate them. I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you'll follow rate, review, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

Other Episodes