I Thought I Was Serving God, But in REality, I Was fulfilling Myself
My name is Izzy Vasquez, and this is my story.
I grew up in a poor family in the Bronx, then moved to New York City, then back to the Bronx. My dad and mom left each other when I was around 6 years old. My five siblings and I lived with our mom in very rough conditions. At the age of 11, my sister and I were teamed up with the Big Brother and Big Sister organization. Shortly after that, my mom could no longer care for us, and so we were placed in a large group home with many other children. Before long, we were placed in a foster home with about 12 children. I never could get used to being away from my mom and always looked for the opportunity to run away, hoping that mom would take me back. I saved my allowances, and one night climbed out the second floor bedroom window and down a tree and ran away. There were many times I would run away, only to be brought back.
Eventually, I ran away and managed to get to New York City. I roamed the streets of New York City, afraid of going to my mother because I knew they would only take me back to the group home. That day, I spent the night in an emergency room trying to stay warm. The next day, I went into a telephone booth, again trying to stay warm, when a couple saw me in the booth crying and approached me and asked where my parents were. Well, I knew it was time for me to go before they turned me over to the police. So, I managed to get away and decided I could not stay in the streets one more night. So, I went to the address where we were originally taken from, only to find that my mom was evicted, and no one was in the apartment. I took the elevator back down to the lobby, and that’s when a friend saw me and asked,” What you are doing here?” and then eventually took me to where my mom was in a temporary apartment.
"Though our family was not at all religious, I had always had this spiritual being about myself."
While living in the Bronx, I used to walk the streets at night, and I noticed that there were Pentecostal churches which left their doors open so their music and light spilled out onto the dark streets. I was curious and began standing at the door listening, then I got up the courage to go inside. It wasn’t long before I had joined the Pentecostal church and began serving as a youth director and Sunday School teacher for about 15 years.
I met my wife there in the Pentecostal church in the Bronx, and we later moved to the Lehigh Valley where I tried to find a Pentecostal church where we would feel at home. My wife noticed that a Calvary (American Baptist) Church was advertising for a youth director, so I applied and was hired. I loved working with the teens, often opening my home to them on weekends, planning activities, and leading Bible studies. On the surface, everything seemed to be going great. But I was oblivious to the fact that all those years I had been building my life and family on a faulty foundation. The Bible talks about the foolish man building his life on “sand” and when the storms of life come, the house collapses. Looking back now, I see that the Pentecostal church was full of deception, emotionalism, entertainment, hypocrisy in the leadership, and self-centeredness. I was following the denominational doctrine. The main line denomination church where I served as youth director for 8 years was even more liberal and worldly. They did not have preaching and standards and policies based on God’s Word, (The Truth), but were more concerned about being politically correct and welcoming to all.
"But then realized I was reaping what I had been sowing. It’s taken a long time, but God has been humbling me and showing me where I made mistakes, including serving God my way and for my advantage. "
I took it home and put it on my dresser and thought, someday I’ll look at it. Months later, I picked it up and decided to visit on a Sunday night. That’s when I met Joe who sat behind me and started talking and getting to know me after the service. Joe began reaching out to me regularly and did a Bible study with me, explaining what true Bible salvation was all about. Though blinded by pride, self- pity, and self-righteousness, I began to understand that I had never been truly born again. I was just religious. I realized that not everyone who stands behind a pulpit is telling the truth, and many are actually deceivers. I had been trusting my good works and heavy involvement in the church for my salvation.
On Wednesday night, December 16, 2015, after the service, I said to Joe, “I’m ready to admit I’m lost and accept the gift of salvation that God offers!” I knelt right there, and I prayed. I surrendered my life to God, confessed my sin, and asked Him to please save me and use me. I got up a different man, from the inside out. He is still changing me, and I am still learning so much. I am beginning to “renew my mind” by thinking more Biblically as I take in the good Bible preaching and teaching at Lehigh Valley Baptist Church.
I look back at so many of the people I had tried to care for and the many young people who had grown up in the church through the years, and today they are totally immersed in the world and pursuing the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life. It breaks my heart. I regret that I did not know the Truth of the Gospel to give them. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
What are YOU seeking for? I want to urge you to forsake the world and all it has to offer as it will only bring destruction and death. Seek the Lord in His Word, the Bible. The answer is in a personal relationship with Christ, not in religion and good works. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Titus 3:5