by Douglas Jacoby
We would like to encourage you with the story of Michael Jacobs, 59, of Marietta, Georgia.
Mike was brought up Jewish (bar mitzvah, rich cultural heritage, values of education and hard work, and so on). He married Lori, a vivacious Methodist girl. A year or two after their second son was born, Lori was reached out to by their neighbors Stephen and Susan Adkins, and became a disciple in 2001. For the sake of family unity, Mike decided to accompany Lori and the boys to church.
Over the years, Mike was in and out of the church, generally in parallel with the ups and downs of personal life and marriage. Through the course of time he attended literally hundreds of church events. Some brothers offered to study the Bible with him, but he wasn't ready.
Fast forward 5 years, to 2006. After joining in two or three Bible discussions in our home, Mike approached me, requesting that we meet and see whether I could answer his questions. Several times in the last decade we started (and stopped) studying, especially focusing on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament scriptures. There were many early morning discussions, usually over breakfast at our favorite bagel place.
Yet it wasn’t until this year that things really came together. Mike shared his heart and grew in faith. Many other men had a hand in the process (Nino, Norman, Stephen, Jim, Jack), and after a few months we “counted the cost” (Luke 14:25-33). I was honored that Mike asked me to be present at his baptism. Standing near the family, taking in the occasion, I was also diligently taking notes on my iPhone during the extended time of heartfelt sharing.
Let’s continue the story through the eyes of the Atlanta brothers and sisters who were present at Michael Jacobs’ baptism, 6 August 2016. The assembly ranged from youngsters to some in their 70s, including a sister who, like Mike, was a Jew before becoming a Christian.
- “First Lori, then Daniel and Peter, and now you. What a beautiful thing to see your family complete!”
- “I guess you could have waited till Sunday, but you chose the Sabbath :-).” Actually, Mike chose Saturday to allow a more intimate setting than Sunday service (North River has over 1000 members) for personal sharing, knowing he had many people to thank. The Sabbath was only a nice coincidence.
- “It’s been so clear that the gospels were making an impact on your heart. Jesus was growing on you, winning your heart.”
- “I actually had no idea you were in the ‘red zone’! For the longest time, I thought you were a Christian! Guess that just shows how tied in you had become relationally.”
- “Isaiah 55 speaks of the power of God's word. No matter how long it’s taken, it’s really heartening to know that the word did not return empty.”
- “Because of you, those around the church, but only watching from the sidelines, will be encouraged to take a step of faith.”
- “For a young guy like me, it’s inspiring to see how you’ve already affected all these people!”
- “Of course we’re here today for you, to witness your baptism. But just listen to what everyone’s saying. The encouragement is really flowing the other way, from you to us!”
- “It's really amazing to see this kind of humility in an older person. You’ve been a great dad” (Peter Jacobs, 17).
- “I’ve learned so much from you as a father. You’re a hard worker and busy with your job, but you've always been there for me—playing Frisbee, doing fun things together, taking time to connect. I especially admire you for being a man of your word” (Daniel Jacobs, 21).
- "For 15 years I've rehearsed what I would say at this moment! I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those who've helped hold my arms up [Josh 17:12]. Mike, I’ve always believed you loved me – even through some really difficult times. I respect and admire you as a man of integrity” (Lori Jacobs).
“The Bible talks a lot about perseverance and struggle. I kept coming back for the sermons, the Word of God. They really kept me. So did allowing myself to be moved by positive examples of Christian living. Of course I noticed the quiet things – the lives of individuals, the way families lived in Christ, the selflessness of so many. Eventually I decided to stop using the negative examples [Christians doing poorly] as my excuse for not going forward. It was an attitude change.”
Mike then expressed sincere gratitude to many who had made an impact on him during the course of his journey. He thanked his wife for her perseverance and his sons, too, who had made the mature decision to give up so much—as teenagers.
Before making the good confession, "Jesus is Lord," Mike smiled and shared soberly. “People will evaluate Christianity by what they see in me. That makes becoming a Christian a serious decision! It’s taken a lot of time, but now I know I’m ready.”
His final words were especially memorable: “I've always been a control person. Now, I'm ready to give up that control… Jesus is Lord.”
The Long Journey to Faith
Mike’s sons, Daniel and Peter, immersed him in the baptistery in the presence of over 100 witnesses. The journey had begun with Lori’s own decision, followed by 15 years of prayer. Many had a hand in the process—though clearly it is God alone who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6).
Most people become Christians after a few weeks or months of studying the Bible with another disciple. (For me, this leg of the journey was 7 weeks.) A few give their lives to Christ well outside this time range—either very quickly (a few days) or slowly (years or decades). In Mike’s case, the process entailed many years. “Short time or long” (Acts 26:29-29), the important thing is that he has given control of his life to Jesus Christ. For that we rejoice!