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EPISODE 79: Militant Atheist Encounters God - Dave Glander's Story
Resources/authors recommended by Dave:
- Greg Laurie, Knowing Jesus Personally
- W. Warner Wallace, The Case for Christ
- Josh McDowell, He Walked Among Us
Former skeptic Dave Glander grew up in difficult circumstances, pushing him away from God. After years of self-destruction and militant atheism, he challenged God and found himself on the side of belief.
Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to Side B Stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record 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 Side B Stories website at www.sidebstories.com. We also welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page or through email at [email protected].
If you lived very long, it doesn't take long to figure out that life can be very difficult. When you experience unthinkable things, especially as a child, it can dramatically shape your view of the world around you and of yourself. The road can lead to self-destructive patterns and behaviors that can lead to hopelessness, and when hope is gone, life can become very dark. Yet even in the darkness somehow we push further into the abyss because it seems that there's nowhere else to go, that if God exists He doesn't seem anywhere to be found.
Former atheist Dave Glander pushed hard to find some sort of life and fame as an adult that would mask the pain of his childhood. He wasn't looking for God, but he was found by a loving God who gave him life and hope that had long eluded him. I hope you'll come along to listen to his fascinating journey from militant atheist to enthusiastic evangelist for Jesus.
Welcome to Side B Stories, Dave. It’s so great to have you with me today.
Oh, thank you. I'm excited.
Thank you for having me on.
Oh, fantastic. And, Dave, why don’t you talk to us a little bit about who you are now, your work, your interests, your passions, the things that you're doing these days.
Well, it's funny. If you would told me twenty something years ago what I'm about to tell you are my passions, I would have been like, “Lady, you're crazy.” You have walked off the deep end of that, because if you had told me that I would be studying biology or history or geology or paleontology, any of the -ologies, I would have said, “No, I'm not.” I was literally the worst student that had ever gone through school. So if you had told me that currently my passions are… I love… I'm leading a trip in the Wisconsin Dells, a geology trip, to go and look at the Great Unconformity, and I love studying biology to see the fingerprints of God. I love studying history, and not just studying it but teaching it. I love traveling the country, and I'm blessed to be on the road 200, 250 days a year, doing exactly what I'm longing to do, which is, again, another thing that, if you had told me that I would be making much of the name of Jesus twenty something years ago, I would have laughed you under the bridge. I mean that would have been the funny…. I probably would have had a gut just falling out laughing with that one.
But nowadays my true passion is just to go and tell everybody what I've learned, so that way maybe it'll help them understand, because I didn't understand, and there weren't a lot of people trying to tell me back in those days, and so I'm trying to change that by being the one that's very intentional about going out, telling people about the good news of the gospel, but doing it through a way that I think answers a lot of questions, because I think we're in that… at least for me, I'm in that generation where I’ve got a lot of questions, and if I can get answers, I'm good, but if I can't get answers, then I'm not buying it. So that's my passions nowadays, but that's funny that you started off that way because, like I said, that's been a drastic change.
Right! And I want to get to that journey of such a drastic change, but before we get there, tell us the name of the ministry with whom you are associated and you speak.
The ministry that I'm with is Reasons for Hope.
And it comes from 1 Peter 3:15, where it says, “Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that's within you.” And so that's where the name comes from. We've got four full-time speakers that travel the country. We’re really a content ministry, because like I said, I kind of want to put it in front of your face and let you see it. You know, don’t just take it from me. And we teach kids that. It's like, “Don’t just listen to what somebody's telling you. Go and challenge that. Be a Berean. Go and search the scripture, see if what they're saying is true. Go and search the evidence.
One of our most popular things that we have is called DeBunked Videos, and they are three- to five-minutes long. They're fully animated. I mean the text is flying in, and graphics are popping up, and it's fast paced, and it's really for a generation that is able to work a smartphone at the same time as cooking popcorn while watching a movie, talking on the phone, reading a book, doing their math homework… You know what I’m saying? This generation is so engaged. That’s why a lot of what we do are just very engaging things, but all of that can be found free if you'll go to our app.
It’s rforh, which is just short for Reasons for Hope, and the same thing with our website. Our website is rforh.com.
Wow! That sounds like an excellent resource, and we will include those links in our episode notes. So, if anybody’s is looking for that, we'll make it easy.
Thank you, ma’am.
That sounds impressive, Dave. Thank you for sharing all of that. So now let's get to your story, this dramatic story. Let's start back where you were born, your childhood, your home of origin, your parents. What exposure, if any, did you have to anything with regard to God or religion way back when?
None. I mean, when I say none…. I grew up in Connecticut, and the entire Northeast, that whole area is very underwhelming when it comes to Christianity. so I didn't grow up in an environment that was really rich with Christian history. And then didn't grow up in a household that was Christian. We just weren't. It wasn't that we denied it or accepted it. It just never came up. It just never came up. It was never a part of a conversation with any of my friends or their family. It just didn't come up.
And so I went to public school, and of course public school, the only thing that’s taught there is evolution. And so, when I learned that…. Basically, my take-away from it was Darwin had solved the issue as to whether or not a god, if any, was needed. And the public school system is telling you, as a matter of fact, that there's no need for God. We can establish how we got here, and we can make our own morals and ethics based on the physics of our brains, and just all this nonsense. But when you're taught that as fact and you're a kid and you're a sponge and you're trying to learn how to navigate life, what else are you to take away? Especially when you're in an environment where there's not a conversation going about Christianity or God. Islam wasn't brought up. Buddha. Nothing was brought up, and so I just grew up not really thinking about it at all.
And so that was… I didn't realize I was an atheist. I didn't put that term on myself, and really, considering who I had become by the time that I moved to Georgia when I was 18…. You go from an environment where there's no Christianity at all, it’s not even a thing, to you’re dumped in the middle of the Bible Belt, where everybody's got a Jesus sticker on their car, and I worked at Huddle House, and on Sunday mornings, it would just it overwhelmed with Christians who don't tip. Christians are the worst tippers in the world. And I just didn't like them. And that was when I discovered that I was, not just an atheist, but a militant atheist, because I found this chip on my shoulder, I guess, for these people who claimed to know God but yet they were some of the most rude people I had ever met. And they didn't have anything that I wanted.
But it wasn't till I was 18, 19, 20 years old, maybe, after getting here for just a little while, that I realized that, not only do I not believe what they believe, but I'm actually very opposed to what they believe, based on the standards in which they were living. And I'm not saying hypocrites. I didn't even know what a hypocrite would or would not have been at that time. I was just simply looking at somebody pulling out of the church—this is a true story. They pull out of the church parking lot on Sunday morning, cut me off, and then give me the number one sign, if you know what I'm saying. And I'm sitting there, and then they got their Jesus sticker on the back of their car, and, to me, I was just like, “I don't like these people at all. They're irritating to me.”
And so then I started really questioning them, like why do you believe that? And nobody could answer anything that I was asking. And so then I just began to think, “These people are the stupidest people I have ever met. They have no brains. They have no logic.” And I was always a very logical, philosophical person, trying to discover the meaning of life without a God, which… that's a whole ‘nother show. But I kept asking questions, and they couldn't answer anything that I was asking. And so that's when I realized that I was not just an atheist but a militant atheist at that point.
When you were asking questions, was that out of genuine curiosity? Or were you trying to stump the Christian?
No. Well, it became stumping the Christian because I found humor in it. I think it started out of a genuine…. I always want to know what….
… again, I went from an environment where there's really no Christianity at all to the Bible Belt, two completely different cultures, and I wanted to know, “Why does this culture down here believe this? Is there anything to this? Is there anything I need to know?” So I think I started off genuinely asking, but by the point in which I realized they couldn't answer, then it just became a game. It was easy to stump the Christian.
I'm on a rant. I’ve put my life on a rant right now. I’m on a rant to go and show people the truth of Christianity and train up, really. Most of what we're focused on at Reasons for Hope is giving people…. Equip Retreat, the summer camp, that's all about equipping them. That’s why the name is Equip. It’s equipping them to live, share, defend, and own their faith. And you’re right. I'm on a rant.
No! In a good way. And a necessary way. Through this time, it sounds like the first eighteen years of your life, maybe twenty or so, you were increasingly, I guess, secularized or believing that God did not exist. What would you say or how would you characterize your life during that time? Was there a sense of missing out or needing anything? Were you satisfied in your atheistic life?
No. Would I have answered that then? I probably would have said, “Sure, of course I am. What am I missing?” But I can answer that question with a very easy illustration that I've used many times. And let me back up and set a little bit of the stage for that.
I started doing drugs when I was six, and by the time I was seven, I was buying my own cigarettes. Life didn't really start off all that normal for me, if you will. Normal. What is normal when it comes to today's society, because it's so broken. I was molested by my uncle for the first 13 to 14 years of my life. My dad was around. It's funny. My brother has a really good memory of my dad's relationship with him. But I think that's because my brother always did everything right. In my dad's eyes, he was the one who always made the right decisions. I was a little hellion. I was the one running around just making trouble. I wasn’t burning houses down or anything, but I was just always into something, causing trouble, and so I think, because of that, my dad just really didn't have a lot to do with me. And so I've often said, “Sometimes I wish he wasn't around at all,” because having something within your line of sight but you can't grasp it is worse than not having it at all, and so anyways, all that to say everything wasn't exactly peaches and cream and rainbows and unicorns growing up.
So all that leads up to… I had already been introduced to the drug lifestyle, so that was nothing new to me. By the time I was 16, I was going to New York City, which was… I could get there in maybe an hour and a half tops by taking the train over to Grand Central Station, hop out, and go over to Central Park, and I could buy acid for $100 a sheet, and there was 100 hits on there. If you do the math, I'm paying a dollar a hit, and I was going home and selling them for five dollars, so I was making money hand over fist. But we were also eating as much as we were buying at some point. So it's just a…. When you don't have God or even the thought of God, there is no right or wrong. There is no line in the sand to be crossed or not crossed. There are some things morally and ethically that I never did. I tried to do right unto people as best as I could. I would give you the coat off my back. I was a nice person. But as far as limitations on drugs or sexuality or language or any of that stuff, I just didn't have a filter, mostly because my filter was broken at a very early age. But I also didn't have any reason to have a line in the sand, because there was no grand authority out there. It was make life is what you see it.
So here's how I can answer the question, now that I've kind of set that foundation for that:
Jana, here was my biggest fatal flaw when I was in the world, because, again, I was always logical, loved. Philosophical type stuff. I've always just been a thinker. And so I was trying to do my best to become a famous musician. I had this major flaw in my worldview, though, because everybody that was going before me, like Jimi Hendrix, or Janice Joplin, or John Lennon, or Kurt Cobain, or Jerry Garcia…. I could just keep on going down the list of famous musicians who either overdosed or committed suicide. And I’ll never forget Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon. Blind Melon was my favorite band for a time, and Shannon Hoon, I had tickets to see him the next night, and I was listening to the radio the day before, got the news that he had been found overdosed in his tour bus. And so my grand flaw was this: I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, look. These people have no clue what they're doing. Give me that, give me the fame, give me the fortune, give me the travel.” I was going to sleep with every girl I could find. I was going to do every drug I could. I was going to party like it was 1999 every night. Like, “Give me that, and I will prove to you that can buy happiness,” because ultimately I was living a life of depression, and I didn't necessarily know it. Sometimes when you're in depression and it's not diagnosed, but you keep…. That's why I was saying if you asked me twenty something years ago, I'd probably say, “Oh, yeah, I'm good.” But I wasn't. I didn't really know that I wasn’t.
And so what I was doing in my own life was the same that they were doing in their lives, except for they had more money to get more drugs and then, when they got everything they wanted, the fame, the fortune, the sponsorships, all that stuff, they still were empty inside. And that was the major flaw that I had. It was like, “Give it to me, and I'll show you it can work,” because all these people, and I didn't realize until I got saved that the same reason that they were committing suicide or overdosing was the same reason that I ended up on meth for about three years right at the end of my life before I met Christ.
I was like 110 pounds when I met the Lord. I was withered away. I had lost everything. I was basically living as a homeless guy in this house where the guy had died, but the estate hadn't closed yet. I had abandoned my wife and my son. And I had just, because I was trying to fill this spot that I kept thinking, if I had the fame, the fortune, and all that stuff, that was going to be the thing that filled that spot, but yet everybody going before me had that, and they were ended up where I was at, where I was borderline dead. I mean, by the time I met Christ, I was very suicidal. I couldn't release the meth. Like the meth had… out of all the drugs that I had ever done, I could have put them down and walked away from them at any point in time, but methamphetamine, crystal meth, ice, that one… In my humble opinion, that’s the one that the devil stopped what he was doing, messing with world leaders, and he went, and he found a guy in a white lab coat, and he said (whispering noise) and gave him the ingredients for that, because that one is unlike any other drug that I had ever done, and it grabbed a hold of me and did not let go.
And so that was where I was at before, and we’ll get to the transition when you want to get to the transition, but that was the fatal flaw in my worldview, as far as was I okay? Because I kept thinking everything that they had would fill me, and yet it never did.
Wow. That must have been a really horrible existence for years, losing your family, really losing everything, losing yourself, it sounds like.
I lost everything.
Down to 110 pounds.
Just for the record, my wife and I are still happily married. My son is… I'm about to be a granddad. He is married to a worship leader, and we're-
… three of us are in full-time ministry, so God has restored all that the locusts came to destroy, all that the enemy came to steal. God has completely restored all that. I always have to make sure I tell that part of the story.
That's the good news.
Yes. Praise God. So what happened, then? Was it in that state of despair that something changed? Did you consider that God may exist? Did you go to rehab? What happened?
So, every once in a while, I would go back home to visit, and my wife was reading this book called—I still have it. She was reading this book right here. I still have this book. This is the book, Knowing Jesus Personally. And this book, I would take, and I would throw it in the trash. I would hide it in the garage. Every time I'd come home, I'd pick it up and move it, because these words disturbed me, again because I thought, “Oh, my gosh! My wife is such an idiot. What is she doing with this Jesus thing.” I'm the one 110 pounds and moved out and abandoned them, living in a homeless situation, and yet I was picking on her because she's reading this stupid book. So the irony doesn't escape me, but nonetheless-
How did she get interested in that book to begin with?
So she... When she got saved is up for debate, as far as, like…. She wasn't living the Christian lifestyle, but she had gone to Christian school when she was a kid. And so your husband is hooked on meth. Your house is in foreclosure. They were still at the house, but the house was under foreclosure. My vehicle had already been repoed. My business was going under quickly. I had moved out for nine months, and she didn't know what else to do, except….
But she started praying, you know? And for those listening out there who have somebody that's either an atheist or agnostic, maybe they're on drugs, whatever the case may be, never underestimate prayer. Never underestimate prayer, because I am convinced to this day that it was her praying for me and our family for those months, that that's why we are where we are now. I think God heard the humble prayers of a broken wife who didn't know what else to do.
And so she's reading that book. One time, I just…. Jana, I was…. If I had owned a gun at that moment, I wouldn't be here right now. I kind of jokingly, through pain, say I was afraid to fail at failing, because I thought, “If I try and overdose, I'm just going to end up in the hospital, getting my stomach pumped. I’ll look like an idiot,” or, “If I try and jump in front of a truck, the truck's going to hit me, and it's not going to kill me. I'll end up as a paraplegic. I'm going to look like an idiot.” I was literally afraid to fail at committing suicide because that's how much of a failure that I felt like. And that's how deep the depression had set in, and the anxiety, and it had just taken over everything that I was, because I was trying… for about six months straight, I was trying to get off of meth, and I couldn’t do it. And so finally I just came to this point where I was like, “I'm stuck. I can't go anywhere. And life is spinning out of control. I've lost or I'm in the process of losing everything that I've ever dreamed of or had or thought I had, including my family.” And I just thought that was it.
And so I went home, where my wife and son were, at our house. And luckily it was after my son had gone to bed, and my wife was gracious enough to let me in that night. And here was that stupid book sitting there. I’ll never forget. It was sitting on the pass through between the kitchen and the living room, right there on that little shelf. And I looked over at that stupid book, and I started to mock the book. Then I started to mock her for reading the book. Then, my attention went from the book to her reading the book to God. And I just started to mock God. And I was just calling Him every name under the sun. I remember looking through the ceiling in my house, not thinking there was anybody listening.
At this stage, I wasn't calling out to God. I was trying to find blame for somewhere, because I wasn't accepting the decisions I had made in my life got me to this point. I was a victim. I’d been a victim since I was molested. I had been a victim since Audrey put coke in my Coca Cola, and I was a victim since Denise got me smoking cigarettes, and I was a victim…. My whole life, things had just happened to me, and even though I tried to make wise decisions, I always ended up… just things just kept… and I was a victim, I was a victim, I was a victim, and so in my victim mentality, I was trying to blame somebody or something, and so because she was reading that book, that led me to mocking this whole concept of God, and my argument was this: “Even if You were real, I wouldn't serve You.” I don't even know if I would use the word serve. That’s Christianese now, but…. “Even if You were real, I wouldn't follow You,” or whatever word I may have put on it at that time because…. I was yelling at…. This is almost my exact words. I said, “What kind of a God would You be to create me and then lead me to this mess?” My life is a complete mess. It's in complete turmoil, and there's no hope. Literally.
That’s why I love that I serve with Reasons for Hope Ministries, because it's just the irony. Again, it’s God bringing things full circle, because I had no hope whatsoever, and so finally, my altar call words, because people come down to the altar and say whatever words that somebody leads them to say, and then I tell people, “There’s no magic words. It's a heart thing,” and what I didn't realize is that my heart was so broken, just through life and emptiness and sadness and depression. And it took thirty years to get there. I was just shy of thirty years. I was twenty nine and a half years old or whatever when I met the Lord. So it took twenty nine and a half years to compile all this. It didn't just happen overnight, but it was a culmination of not growing up with God, believing there is no God, and if there is no God, there are no hopes, there is no morals, there is no ultimate plan for anything, and so my altar-call moment was this: I said, “If you're God, do something about it.” That was it. I don't know… it's a little foggy on the details, but here's the way I tell the story, and I'll tell it until the Lord tells me to tell it differently.
All I remember, Jana, is crying myself to sleep that night. My wife put me in bed, tucked me in, probably had a cold compress for my face, because I was the picture of the end. That was the end of myself. And I woke up the next morning, and I had this weird joy that I couldn't figure out what was going on. I had no desire at all for meth, which I could not fathom that. That had…. For the last three plus years, every day of my life, I was high as a kite until I would finally just fall asleep because your body can only take so much. And now, all of a sudden, I didn't even have it. To this day, I don't remember what drip tastes like, which drip is the after effect when you’re snorting it. And I don't remember. I had this weird peace. I remember, all of a sudden, I could like sit and drink a cup of coffee, and life was okay.
Well, I knew that something supernatural had happened. It had to. There was no other explanation. As an atheist, we don't allow for anything outside of natural. Everything has to have a natural explanation, no matter what. Even if it looks miraculous, somehow there's a natural explanation that takes away the miraculous from it, and it's not supernatural. There’s a natural explanation for it. Everything.
And so I had a major problem on my hands, because I was like, “There must be a God out there.” And I didn't know His Name. I didn't know Who did it. Now, if you're a theology major right now, I know you're wrestling with this, because what I'm saying is that somehow or another Christ set me free from myself and must have indwelled me with the Holy Spirit before I even knew Who did it, which theologically speaking doesn't make any sense. That's not what we're taught. That’s not…. So all I can say is this: When I was 12 years old, there was one family who took me to church for about three weeks, and during that three-week time, it just didn't interest me whatsoever, but at one time they had this person come in, and they said something, and then close your eyes and say this prayer, and so I just said the prayer because I thought you were supposed to say it. I didn't have any clue what was going on. And afterwards…. I’m kind of a sentimental person. Afterwards, this guy came and gave me this Bible. This brown, nothing fancy Bible. It's just… And he goes, “I saw you put your hand up.” This was given me when I was 12. Listen to me: I did not consciously pack this thing one time, and I had moved from Connecticut to Georgia. I had moved Georgia 12 times while I was here. We moved to Florida and back, and when I asked my wife, I said, “Don’t I have a Bible somewhere?” She goes (noise) and pulls this thing out. This thing followed me. This is the Bible, and it followed me. I have no clue.
I can't read it anymore, because it's all just falling apart and stuff, so I had to get a new one, because I can't even pick this thing up without it falling apart because I started reading it. But nonetheless…. Here was the grand turning point: I started studying Buddhism, Islam. Christianity was the last thing on my mind. I've since become an expert in both those fields, so I can learn how to witness to them. But my mother-in-law gave me A Case for Christ, and it wasn't the totality of the book that did it. It was the one chapter where it talks about the historical evidence for Christ, for Jesus of Nazareth. Not Christ. The historical evidence for a man named Jesus who lived in Nazareth. And when I got to the end of that chapter, all of a sudden it hit me like a bag of bricks. I had always just… my thought of Jesus was just some mythological, legendary figure that maybe people want to emulate His character. Honestly, really, I didn't know a whole lot about the guy. My knowledge of Christ or Christianity was almost zero when I met the Lord, which is a good thing, but that's another thing for another story because that way you’re not tainted by American Christianity. I came in very, very naive to the whole thing. But when I connected the dots that there was a man who literally lived here, literally, because we're not looking at biblical testimony, we're looking at enemy testimony from first and second centuries, talking about who He was and where He lived and how He died, by whom, and that his people believe He raised from the dead and all that. Everything that you could possibly need to know was found in first century, second century history about this man named Jesus, who wasn't a political figure, because back then they didn't write about religious figures. The only people that were written about in first century history were political figures. So why is this religious figure even talked about? And yet, there's about forty eight clear references, historical references. Josh McDowell has a book called He Walked Among Us. It’s one of my favorite references for the historical. It's the most easy-to-read references, He Walked Among Us, but there's about four dozen clear references to the historical Jesus outside the Bible.
And that was the moment that I went, “Hold everything! So if He actually lived, I wonder if He’s the same guy that's talked about in this Bible,” and then that's when I picked up the Bible, and I started reading it, and once I got to the Gospels—I started in Revelation, but that's a whole ‘nother story. I went back to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and when I started reading the Gospels, remember I told you I had this weird peace and this weird joy that I just couldn't put a box around it. I didn't know where to file it. Once I started reading the Gospels, I was like, “Oh, okay. That makes total… He said, ‘I'm going to leave you peace. I'm going to give you joy unending.’” Like, “There's elements to salvation that I'm going to go ahead and get you in the mix with because you need a change in your life.” And all of a sudden, I was like, “Okay, well He….” So then I started challenging Christianity I said, “There’s no way this is true! There's just no way.” And here I am, twenty-something years later, a full-time apologist traveling the country, teaching on the defense of Christianity.
So you were pushing back, even saying, “No way this is true,” but yet you had a dramatic transformation, when you challenged God to do something, and He did!
And, experientially, it was hard to refute, that, “Okay, there is a God, and He exists, and I get it.” And then you went on a path to figure out who that was, but yet you were still fighting back in some regard? Was it because you had held such disdain for Christianity for so long, it was just hard to go there, even though you were reading this, about Jesus historically, and all that?
Well, I mean, if we're just being honest, because I love your show, the Side B Stories. There’s another element to this. If we just stop and think for a second, like, how could one being create the entire universe and everything that's within it? How can that one being have a relationship with people individually? Like when you stop and you just, if we're just being honest, and you just stop and you just think about it, the idea is kind of ridiculous, if I'm being honest. However, when you start to research geology, paleontology, history, biology, you start to…. That's why I love researching them now, because, when you research, you come to the conclusion, there can't be anything else.
Things can't exist without God. There's no possible way that biology can explain it, and there's no possible way that philosophy can explain it, apart from there being some sort of supernatural creator, and then… so you break that down, and you say, “Okay, well there has to be a God. How do you know Jesus is the one?”
You study the resurrection. I'm going to tell you there is no more provable event in history than the resurrection. Hands down. It is the most documented literal historical event. And you can't say that they were crazy people or there were drugs involved. It’s just not there. Like everything that you can try and throw at it to excuse it away…. Again, this is for another program altogether, but if you seriously challenge the validity of the resurrection, you can't come up with any other conclusion than He had to have come out of that grave. There's no if, ands, or buts about it. So how do we know He’s the one? He's the only one Who can claim to have come out of the grave.
So it begins to get a lot more simple once you do the research. But that's, I call it bridge faith. Like you're on this end, and God's on this end, and there's this chasm between you. Well, it takes a whole lot of faith, and it kind of seems ridiculous that a God can create a universe and He can know people and all that stuff. But then, all of a sudden, you realize, “Wait a second. Jesus was a man in history.” Well, you just built a portion of that bridge, right? Now it’s not requiring as much faith anymore to believe that He is Who He says He is. Then you start studying biology and realize we have to have a God. There's no way that we don't have an intelligent designer behind everything. You start filling that gap in by building this bridge across from one side to the other.
Now, my faith in God has to be this way now: Is He Who He says He is? Will He hold my back when He says He’s got my back? Will He come through when He says, “I'm not going to leave you or abandon you.” There’s faith in the character of God that I still have to have faith in. Just like we have to have faith in our spouses or our kids or anybody else that we align with life. We have to have faith that people are going to do what they're going to do. So we still have to have faith that God's going to do what He’s going to do.
Wow! What a transformation! It sounds like…. You know, what I really appreciate about your journey is that, maybe because you are the kind of guy who's willing to read the article below the headline, you really wanted to know, you were earnestly seeking, and so you were open. You were convinced enough that there was a God. You wanted to figure out for good reason which God it was. And it sounds like everything pointed to the person of Christ. And that you now have a lot of good reasons to trust that what the Bible is saying is true and that the person of Christ is Who He is and that He actually did die, was buried, was raised again, according to the scripture, and appeared, and that He is the One who interrupted your life when you said, “Do something!” And it was this God, that God, the God of Christianity.
Well, and I've studied
It increases your faith that you made the right decision to put your faith in Christ. Because when you research these other supposed worldviews of truth, you realize they just can't hold up. They hold up on some truths, but for the most part, they can't hold up, and so when you realize that…. For me, it's another stone in my foundation for my Christian faith, that I've made the right choice, because again, there has to be a God. Now, which one is it? And I have to honestly believe, especially now that I've been walking with him for this long, He’s a personal God. He doesn't want to hide in the shadows and go, “I hope you can find Me.”
He said, “If you look for Me and you seek Me with all of your heart,” not just, “Well, I wonder if He’s there. I'm going to go get a ham sandwich.” “If you seek Me with all of your heart, you will find Me.”
Yeah, I love that, especially considering again, when you entered into atheism, science and evolution were the explanatory paradigm through which you dismissed God, and now here you are, years later, saying, “No. Science is really only possible because of God-
… to creating an orderly, predictable universe in which you can study. I mean there's just so many things. Like you say, when you actually look at worldviews and which one has the best explanation for reality, which one makes the most sense of reality, whether it's reality in the physical world or who we are in terms of meaning, purpose, value. I’m presuming that… that emptiness that was inside of you at one point? I perceive that that's no longer there?
Well, so that was the key. I'm so glad you brought that back around, because that was the key that I found out. The thing that all of us, everybody who was before me that had killed themselves or died of overdose, and myself on the verge of suicide and overdose. All of us were doing the same thing. We were trying to fill the hole that only the Holy Spirit can fill. That's why Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Because when Adam sinned against God, that spirit inside of him ceased to exist in the way that it should have. And so all of us are born with this God-shaped hole right in our chest, trying to fill it.
Is life all unicorns and rainbows? Hmm. Not if you're alive. It's a tough environment out there. It's things aren’t always rainbows and unicorns. However, it just doesn't seem to hurt as bad, like when something happens, you know that God's still in control. You know He’s not going to let go of you. It’s okay. Even when you get really bad news. It's okay.
Before I met Christ, before I had God in my life, if I got bad news, it was only me, myself, and I that had to deal with it. Even if I tried to take it to my wife, I’m still just me, myself, and I trying to contend with this problem or this issue that was that. I don't have to do that anymore. When things come up, I literally have God saying, “Hey, let's walk this out together. Let's do this thing together. I've got your back.” And I don't have to carry it by myself. So part of where that void was filled was knowing that, if I've got a problem, I can literally lean on the Counselor Who takes up residence inside of me and say, “I need you right now.” Again, don't underestimate prayer. Don’t underestimate prayer.
You know, it's funny. I listen to so many stories, and I'm always amazed at how grand God but yet how personal He is, very intimately personal. He was there listening to you when you challenged Him you to do something, and He was-
I tell people, when they get saved later in life, late twenties to fifties, sixties, whatever. If you get saved later in life, I challenge them. I say, “Take up a notebook and begin to write down a journal on every time that you can look back on life, and go, “Oh, my gosh! He was right there the whole time.’” Because I wish I had done that. I didn't journal, but I remember after I got saved, I kept going, “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! He was right there the whole time! Oh, my God, He was right there the whole time.” God, whether you know it or not, He is trying to woo you. It's just so many of us have damage that’s in the way that we don't want to look. Or we've got some—and I say this politely. I don't mean to step on anybody, but I think I was there, too. We've got this god complex ourselves, like we have to be god. We have to play god. We’re the only ones who can also ultimately control anything. And some of the best news I ever got after I discovered my Christian walk was I don't have to be god for another second of my life. And that is fantastic news, because I was terrible at being god. So it's great having that weight off your shoulders that you never have to be god.
Yeah. It does, of course, make me think of that image of the prodigal son. No matter what you had done in your life, it just didn't matter. God was waiting there, running towards you with open arms when you were ready to come.
He was waiting on that moment for me to get out of the way. You don't have to get to the bottom to find Christ. He loves you enough to allow that to happen. He loved me enough to allow my life to get to the point where there was nothing left. However, the greatest thing I ever brought to God because of that was nothing. I didn't come to God and say, “Hey, look. We'll do this if You…” or, “If you do this,” or, “If you act like this,” or, “If you give me this,” or, “if you….” I literally was so empty handed when I came to God. That was probably one of the biggest blessings, and if I can be glad that I went through what I went through, it’s for that reason, because I didn't come into it with an agenda.
I just simply was like, “I'm done.” And so for the last twenty-something years, every day I wake up, and I’m like, “I'm an idiot. You’re God. Let’s do what You want to do, and I relinquish control, and You’re going to open doors, You’re going to close doors. Things are going to happen. We’re going to do what You want to do.” Because I just didn't bring an agenda.
So I would say, no matter if you're at the bottom or the top, as much as you can, don’t come to God with an agenda. Just lay your agenda down, and He’s got it, a whole lot better than we do.
It's easy to trust and love someone that you know loves you and has your best interest in mind. And it sounds like you have found that beautiful relationship.
So I'm thinking, Dave, about… Hopefully, there are those who are saying, “I would like what you have. I don't have what you have. I’m willing to seek. I’m willing to look.” What would you recommend as the first step or a next step or something that someone can do, or an attitude they can take? What would you recommend for someone who’s listening like that?
Well, I mean the first thing I would say is you’ve got to get out of the way. Like I said, don't bring some preconceived motion.
Each one of us, God's going to meet you where you're at, but don't bring some preconceived notion to it.
So my first advice is, get rid of that. Just come at it with an open mind and an open heart to see where God's going to meet you at. There's nothing like His word to start with. I mean, I would start just in the New Testament. The Old Testament is awesome. I teach from it all the time, but as a new seeker, I would start with the New Testament. I would just start with Matthew and read your way through. And nobody told me there were four Gospels, so I read Matthew, Mark, Luke…. I asked my wife, I said, “Why am I reading the same thing over and over again?” I didn't understand the nature of four Gospels. So there's four different narratives of the life of Jesus, contained in the four Gospels. The rest of them are just letters that are basically the epistles that are written to different churches and back and forth communications stuff. But it's through that that we get all of the information we could ever need. I mean, two thousand years later, we're still developing thirty thousand sermons every Sunday morning across America based off of these letters and the Gospels.
So that’s good stuff, but then I would say find that thing that just most strikes your curiosity because, for me, after I figured out that Christ was real, like He was a real man of history, that wasn't even what I thought would have been my trigger, but that turned out to be the trigger that made me have a decision. But my next question was biology, because I had grown up in evolution, and I wanted to know, like, “Hold on a second. Can biology explain our existence? Because don't tell me we came from common ancestors, like a chimpanzee and a human came from common ancestors. How did any of us get here at all?” That was what I wanted to know. And so it was through the study of biology that really began to pique my interest and really point to the existence of an intelligent designer that now I call God, who’s God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. And so I would say lay down your preconceived notions of what you think you're going to experience, because God's going to meet you where you need to be met, but you've got to seek Him your heart.
If you really want to find out if Christianity’s true, you can't just go, “Well, I think I'll read one sentence.” Submerge yourself in it for a moment to find out whether it's true or not. Find a good Christian mentor. Find a church to go to that you can just go sit and listen. You don't even have to do anything. Just go sit and observe. I'm a people watcher.
But you’ve got to really give it a shot with your heart, or else you're not going to find… you’re not going to find anything in life. You’re not going to find God. You’re not going to find anything you're looking for. If you just give a half attempt at anything in life, you're going to end up with a half attempt, and that's all you're going to get.
So I would say lay down your preconceived notions, pick up the Word, start reading that, find a church, find a Christian friend who you can ask questions to, and find that hot button issue. But everybody's got a hot button issue that, I think, once you dig into that, God's going to be like, “Oh, let me show off a little bit,” and once you get a taste of God showing off, it’s cool, man. I start giving Him other areas to show off in.
Wow. That’s excellent! Very, very wise advice there. Now, as we turn to your advice to Christians, I mean obviously, as someone who was an atheist for so long and you were really resistant against God and you didn't want to have anything to do with it, even from your wife. As Christians, sometimes it's hard to know, especially when we love someone and we want them to know life that's truly life. We want them to know the joy and peace of Christ, but they seem very resistant. How would you recommend, or even in your own experience—I’m sure you do this a lot. How do you encourage us to best engage with those who just seem very either not caring or resistant?
I always have a saying: Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Jesus. I don't think that's an original saying of mine. I don’t know where I got it from, but I've been using it for years, because that's the thing: Make a friend, and then be a friend. And I'll give you one example, and it's a tough one because there was a kid that I met who… he was singing in church, a young teenager, friended him on Facebook, and then unfortunately he just went way off and turned into a drag queen. And was doing drag queen shows all over Georgia, made a name for himself as whatever his stage name was, living just really just way out there… but then all of a sudden I get a friend request and then I kind of lost touch with him a little bit. Years later, I get a friend request, and it has his name and that little tiny thumbnail, you know, that you're looking at on your screen, especially on your phone it’s even smaller, you know. And I'm looking at it, and I'm like, “Is that?” And I click on it, and it's a picture of him with this girl. And he looks normal. And I was like, “What?” So then I click on his about, and it says he's married to this girl. And I’m like, “What?” So I send him a private message—and I'm going somewhere with this. I sent him a private message, and I said, “Hey, man. I’ve got to know what happened.” And he says, “Well, I was just sitting in my room one day, and the Lord just convicted me that I was in the wrong. The decisions I’d been making were all in the wrong. Everything I had done was in the wrong.” So he had this amazing, graceful God show up and not beat him over the head, not condemn him, but just convict him of, “Man, what are you doing with yourself?” And so he gave his life to the Lord. But here's where I'm going with this: He said the most shocking, sad thing that I'd ever heard before. He thanked me, and he goes, “You’re one of the only people I've sent a friend request to because you're the only person that continued to stay with me during that journey.” Because I would often reach out to him and just say, “Hey, man. How are you doing? How's things going? You okay? How’s your heart? How's your life?” He knew that I didn't support what he was doing. I never liked any of his posts. I never went to any of his shows. I didn't show up to condone what he was doing, but I did show up to just let him know, “Hey, man. If you ever need something, I'm here.” But the thing that made that sad: I'm the only one? He was in church before. Everybody else probably was like, “Oh, my gosh! He’s gone off the deep end. This is a lost cause. I’m writing this off.” And I don't think God sees us that way.
So advice to Christians: Make a friend. I think that's probably the most important thing I can say to Christians is you've got to genuinely love people. And when I say that, I mean it.
I’m compelled to love you because of the love that God has shown me. I can't help showing it forward.”
And stop being somebody you're not. Especially with youth, they can see through that from a mile away, and that wall goes straight up, and you have nothing to do with them anymore. “You’ve got to take time to love people, and when you love them, tell them, ‘Man, you’ve got a safe place with me. I'm here to pray with you. I'm not going to take what you’re telling me and run to the streets or anything like that.’”
To come full circle, that was probably what bothered me the most as an atheist when I moved to the Bible Belt was I just didn't see a genuineness in Christianity. I saw a bunch of show. You’ve got to wear this, and you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to say this, and your hair has to be combed this way, and you can't do this, you can't do that. There was no joy in people's faces. They just looked like they were a bunch of sourpusses who were told to go and stand here and do this. Nobody wants that. But I walk around, and I've got one speed. Whether I'm behind the pulpit or on an interview with you or sitting at the coffee table, I have one speed. And that's all I've got to offer, and that’s because that’s what God's called me to be, and I'm not going to be anything else, but it works, if you do that. Because you're different. If you just be you genuinely, people are going to be attracted to that, but it’s is when people feel like they’ve got to put on some sort of Christianese or something, it just doesn't work anymore. It worked for a while. It just doesn't work anymore.
That’s really, again, good and wise counsel for all of us. I think we can all be challenged and inspired by what you have brought to the table. I'm just amazed. The more this interview has gone on, the more amazed I am at Who God is and what He's done in your life-
… and your passion towards helping others find Who you have found. It’s an incredible story, truly, of severe brokenness, but incredible redemption.
And then now to see you just pouring forward, paying it forward and pouring it out through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's very, very evident to me that yours is a life that is different and a life that is making a difference.
I'm just so, so pleased and grateful for you coming on and telling your story with me today, Dave.
Well, I'm grateful to be…. You had asked me, before the interview, if I ever get a chance to share my story. You’ve given me a way to do it that has been probably the best way. And I'm not just saying that. We’ve talked about a lot of ministry stuff, as well. A lot of the time, people just want to hear about the turmoil, and, “Oh, my gosh! I was so terrible,” you know? And I like telling the other side of the story better. It's like, “Yes, all that was terrible. I had a lot of baggage, a lot of wounds, a lot of pain, thirty years of it nearly. But, boy, the last part of the story is really cool!”
I like that part! I like that part so much better. I’ve just gotten to do things that are just so exciting. That’s why I like telling that part of the story. Because, listen to me: None of those are because of anything I did. It’s all just me being like, “Okay, God. I'm done. Let’s do it your way, and He was like, ‘Let’s do this thing,’ and He told me that He’s made plans for me before He even spoke the world into existence, that He knew my name, He knew what year I'd be born, where I would be born, how I'd be born, and He planned things for me to do if I chose to walk in those, that I'm doing things now that I never dreamed.
If you told me I was going to be an author, I’d have been like, “I don't even read books. What do you mean write books?” Things like that. I can tell you story after story.
The Christian walk is exciting. I can’t even wrap words around how much I just want to be like, “Just follow God! Trust me! It's going to be so much better than what you thought!” But then people just, they just get stuck in their head, and they're like, “Ah, I don't know.” And I'm like, “Oh, gosh! I'm telling you, His plans are a thousand times better than what you have in mind.”
But, full circle, all of the passions that I had before I got saved, the only one that’s left is to become a pilot, to get my pilot's license. Every other passion that I had before I got saved… I don't even have the same passions anymore, because He’s replaced him with new passions, and they're so much better. And that’s the answer to your question.
Yes. Wow! Yes. You have found life that’s truly life, and it is a great adventure! I mean, I feel like I'm along for the ride, just kind of saddle up, and here we go! It is so much more than you could ever even ask for and imagine, even in this life, much less the life to come. So, thank you again, Dave. What a joy and a pleasure it has been.
Absolutely. Well, look us up, Reasons for Hope, rforh.com. And I travel and speak all over the place. We don't want to stop any church from being able to receive what we feel like God's given us to travel and talk about. So reach out to us and let us know.
What an incredible resource you are! And I'm sure your team. So thank you for that, and we'll exchange your contact information, just to make sure that someone can access you and your team there.
Thank you so very much for everything.
Thanks for tuning into Side B Stories to hear Dave Glander's story. You can find out more about his ministry, Reasons for Hope, his TV show, Glad You Asked, his books and recommended resources in the episode notes. For questions or feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email, [email protected].
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