Meet my good friend John Oliva Sr. From The Oliva Tobacco Family shares about his experience with God and spirituality.
A few days ago my friend, Victor Padilla, called to ask about a group of men he heard met at our building every week to study the word of God. He had spoken to Tim Paskert, the young man who leads and moderates our bible study and was impressed. He asked if I would write something for the Latin Times about my relationship with God. I initially turned him down and suggested that Tim was much more capable of this task but even before fully verbalizing this response I experienced the sensation one feels when consciously choosing the “easy” rather than the “right” course of action. I was coping out and knew it so I stopped mid-sentence, accepted his invitation and thanked him for the opportunity.
My preference would be to demonstrate what I believe in by how I live, but I believe God wants it heard as well as demonstrated that I have no problem stating my relationship with Him to anyone, and I don’t. It is simple. He is my Creator. He is the Being that proved his love by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for my wrongdoings so I can spend eternity with Him as I have chosen. He is the only Being to have resurrected Himself from the dead as prophesized. He is the Being that guides me on a daily basis to make the right choices. Admittedly, I have too often not followed His guidance but it was and remains always my decision. God is with me 24/7 from birth to eternal life and He is available to everyone who accepts Him as I have. That’s just about how my relationship with God has been since I can remember although there have been some subtle changes as I have aged. My prayers to and conversations with Him have taken a more direct form. The Holy Spirit is with me every day so I speak directly to Him in the same way I would speak to my best friend and, yes He speaks back, just not out loud yet. I mostly ask Him to remove the shadow from the cloud of doubt that seems to block his eternal light from time to time and He always complies.
It’s so simple and it’s just like He says; all you have to do ismost human relationships, little by little I started to take the one I had with God for granted and believed I was in control of just about everything in my life so…..about six years ago I got a real spiritual wake up call that let me know unequivocally that I was in control of nothing. I accepted this fact immediately and asked for His forgiveness. Again, He complied. At this point I decided to read the bible. Although I had attended Catholic school for 12 years I had never really read nor consciously studied the world’s number one bestseller. About six months later, The Holy Spirit, enlisted the services of my close friend, Mondy Flores, to start a bible study with only one simple rule: It was to be strictly non-denominational. We would focus only on the Word. Our first meetings consisted of four regular attendees: John Reaves, Wade Entzminger, Mondy, and myself. We met at John Reaves’s office and welcomed all who wanted to come. We began to grow and moved to our cigar factory in West Tampa a couple years ago. Everything fell into place perfectly. Tim Paskert, fresh out of Theology school, took over as our Moderator/referee (we have some energized discussions and tend to go off in tangents more often than not).
One of our most loyal attendees, Dave Brewer, named our group “The Cigar City Bible Study” and the name stuck. The study has grown to an average of about 25 to 30 guys ranging in age from the mid 20’s to the mid 70’s. We definitely have more serious fun than any group I have ever been a part of and, from every indication; this study has had a positive influence on every single participant in one form or another. For me it is my time to learn, open my mind and give serious thought on why I’m here, where I’m going, where are my priorities, where should they be and why. It’s just a happy time where I have seen what I would define as miracles and where I strengthen my personal relationship with God and am filled with the sincere desire to have everyone experience the same happiness and peace this relationship has given me.
John Oliva Sr.