Grapevine Ecclesia

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing"  John 15:5 [NCV]

Off the Vine

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Pastor Sam Kahn   

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November 2nd, 2014

Pastor Semal "Sam" Kahn

~ I was Ordained on Aug 7th 2010 by United New Testament Church, International

~ My Wife, Kathy Jo, and I both received a call to start a church in our community ~ Grapevine Ecclesia

~ I was called to be a Pastor in 2008

It took over 2 years of stretching to accept that call (think of Jonah)

~ I started studying Religion at Liberty University in 2005 and plan on finishing my B.S. by the end of 2011

~ I became a believer in Christ in April 2002

Steps God Took In My Life

My Story ~ How I became a Believer in April 2002

I became a born again on fire believer in Jesus Christ in April 2002.

Up to that point, I had moved from Agnostic to Atheist and back again. . .

I had many exposures to Christ throughout my life and in spite of me, I was affected by these moments. Unfortunately for me, I ran and ducked and dodged as best I could and by the time April 2002 fast approached, I wouldn't have anything to do with Church, let alone Christ.

My mother came from a mixed background. Her father was Jewish and her mom was Catholic. My mom spent the first 8 grades in a Catholic Sister of Something environment which strangely enough reached into my life after I was born.

There are many stories I could share that expand on my positive and negative experiences with Church and Jesus. Some of them will come out in my blogs, but for now I will only touch on a few.

My mom read to me often when I was very young. What she read to me varied, but more than not I would hear the stories from the Old Testament as I drifted off to sleep. I specifically remember asking what "begat" meant and having mom explain that "begat" was like her and me - mother and son. For a 4 year old, it was enough.

A little later in life (around 6 years old), my mom took me to a church. After the service she asked me a very important question: would I like to go to church or to stay home? I answered immediately - with all my 6 year old convictions -with a firm 'I want to stay home.' In reflection, I believe that it was either a Catholic or Lutheran church. . .I just remember it being very stuffy and in a large stone building.

Middle School

Two specific things happened during that time that influenced me

(there were more but these two were the biggies).

I was introduced to evolution and that idea that millions of years ago, the continents were one large landmass. For whatever reason, evolution just didn't sound right - I was more willing to believe that aliens from my science fiction reading had planted us here than that we came from a pool of chemicals. And one large landmass was way cool and that I could see how the west coast of Africa could very easily fit up against the edge of Brazil.

I met up with some other kids in the neighborhood playing baseball one day. I was quickly invited to join them for a bible study. As a motivator for finishing the course of study they would give me a baseball cap. At the time, I thought that was cool, so I tried it. To this day I do not remember what I studied or what Scripture I looked at. All I do know is that when I finished up the study weeks later and turned in the study, that baseball cap was not rewarded for deeds done. That, plus a couple other items, was enough to pull out and start looking at church in a different light.

High School - Discovery and Realizations

This period of time was pretty uneventful - though this was the last school I'd attend, made some great friends (unfortunately friendships fade) and kept a Honors grade point average. There where a few first during this time too. First girlfriend, first failing of my drivers test, and so on

Except that I was introduced to "Petra" and as much as I enjoyed the music and the words it didn't really dawn on me that it was completely Christian, but a seed was planted. I also made the decision in my senior year to join the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps
Marine Corps

Marine Corps

Leaving Home

There are many things that influenced my journey to Christ during this time. 2 of the 3 items I will talk about here happened in Boot camp the third item happened shortly after Boot camp when I was going through my school in Millington.

Having zero interest in religion/church I took advantage of our limited free time in Boot camp. On Sunday's we were afforded about a 4 hour period of time to go to church and take care of a few personal things like letter writing or getting ready for the next week. There was about 20 or so of us that skipped church time. That didn't sit very well with those higher in command. One Saturday night when we were coming out of a field exercise our Senior Drill Instructor gave us a little pep talk. He stated how important church was and that he expected us to make time to go to church. At the end of this, he asked if we had a problem with what he asked and that we'd take the time to go to church. The only real response we could give was a very loud "Sir, No Sir" and "Sir, Yes Sir." The very next day I, along with most of the other 20 stayed in the barracks. That afternoon the Senior showed up, rushed us to the nearest sandpit (a large area with a lot of sand) and proceed to express how disappointed he was with us. Unfortunately for me (height was my downfall - other than the squad leaders the tallest people are in the front and I was third tallest in the platoon) he zeroed in on me and started expressing all his anger about my failures and lack of religious godliness. There was a couple other church going recruits near me that started in on me also. A counterpoint to the Senior's yelling. I pretty much started straight ahead, threw sand on myself and yelled "Sir, No Sir" every time I was asked a question. It was a very formative religious experience. There is more to it, but for now the point is made.

A Drama at Boot Camp - An acting troop came in and performed for us

One night we had a reward and were taken to a Rec Center where a play was put on. The overall emotion was WOW. This troop came in to the center, some were dressed in white and some in black and the song "The Champion" by Carmen came through the speakers and the story of Jesus unfolded in front of me. It wasn't enough to convert me, but a seed was watered that night.

God knocks

An Almost Moment

In my time in Millington, I met a fellow marine. Not knowing why at the time, there was something about him that I needed. I talked to him many times over several weeks. Then one day I came out of our barracks and a sound caught my ears. It was a very familiar song that I listened to a lot when I was in High School. The song was from the group "Petra". I was drawn to it and sitting at a bench was the fellow marine and a girl friend. We started talking and I was invited to a weekend BBQ that her father was putting on. I didn't know it at the time, but her father was a pastor and it was their church that was putting on the event. I agreed to come and while I was there I was invited into a service. I don't remember the message, but I do remember the invitation. The pastor announced that "if anyone was feeling anything to stand and one or two people would come talk with you." I was in the front row and as a couple of people started standing, I knew that I wanted to stand. I also knew that if I stood I'd start crying and I remember a voice coming into my head and I told myself - "Don't stand - Marines don't cry." As much as my heart was pulled and as much as I wanted to stand, I listened to the "Marines don't cry" and grieved the Holy Spirit and remained seated.

Just a book series - Knee dropper

From that point on I avoided anything that had to do with religion and church.

That started changing a bit in that about 10 years later I started reading a series of books about people being left behind after the rapture. This is illustrated by two points. I was reading those books and telling myself "if this all starts happening, I'll drop to my knees immediately."

Anti Church - just a feeling

My wife and was asking a lot of questions and at one point the rest of my family went into a small church. I said I'd stay in the car (I would have nothing to do with church). During this time I tried to take a nap. But I needed to use the restroom!!! Instead of going into the church, I left a note and walked about 3 1/2 miles to use the facilities at my mother-in-laws cabin along Fisherman's Bay.

Fact - church and religion was just against the grain for me. I didn't want anything to do with it.


My Conversion

I was facing a pending layoff at my work. The company I worked for was downsizing due to the lack of orders and the aftermath of 9/11.

I joined the Army Reserves. In part from my sense of duty after 9/11, a need to be able to take care of my family by providing an income for my family.

One week after my wife came to accept Christ into her life, she got up the nerve to tell me. Knowing how I felt about church, it took a lot for her to tell me about it. Being the loving and understanding husband that I was at the time and with my history of anti religious feelings - I EXPLODED (not in a nice way) and by the end of the night we came to an agreement - She wouldn't try to change me, she wouldn't ask me to go to church, PERIOD! I agreed (because I loved her) not to leave (divorce her) as long as she honored those two "simple" requests. Like I said insert sarcasm "loving and understanding). So I went to bed that Saturday night angry at my wife, angry at the world and angry at a God I didn't want to believe in.

Then I woke up Sunday morning - the bed was empty on my wife's side. I bolted out of bed and rushed to the phone (for those of you that deny miracles - I am describing one right now). I had to call my wife. I had to go to church! Sitting on the edge of the bed, I called several times before she answered. I asked her where she was and she answered that she was on her way to another church (having gone to one already). I asked her where and she told me. I rushed out of the house and to the church were we met in the parking lot. We went into the church and found seats. I don't remember much of the service other than when the pastor gave the invitation. Particularly the statement ". . . don't leave this building until you talk to me" struck me in such a way that when my wife told me about going to the other building to look at the Christian school I whispered (rather loudly) that "I can't leave!"

I followed my wife to the other building and managed to look at to of the smaller classrooms before I just sort of collapsed into one of the very small kindergarten chairs and just stared off into space. Mostly I was overwhelmed with a peaceful feeling and the thought "I left the building" bouncing back in forth. Eventually my wife noticed that I was missing and tracked me down. I looked up at her when she asked if I was OK and all I could say was "I left the building." I think she was confused for a moment because I said it one more time and she let out a "Ohhh" and left to get the pastor's wife.

Christian Flag
Christian Flag

A New Belief

A New Journey

I was led through the Roman's road and having a deep understanding of my own sin and what Jesus did on the cross for me I became a born again believer.

The journey from there has led me through personal discipleship, a stint as a Jonah (walking away from my call) to becoming a Pastor.

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