For the next five Thursdays, I’m going to be fleshing out the first five thanksgivings from my “top 10” list I posted last week, taking a deeper look into each and exploring them with you.
Starting with the first, I said…
1. God and his son, Jesus the Christ. I’m thankful for and to God for creating this beautiful world we live in, and for my life. For His immense love for His children, and for the salvation He provided to us through the sacrifice of His son. And I’m so thankful for and to Jesus who suffered so greatly and died for my sins so that I might have the hope of a heavenly afterlife. Before I was a Christian, John 3:16-17 was meaningless words to me, but now every one of them fills my soul with love and gratitude.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Hallelujah, praise Jehovah!
I recently got into a conversation with my friend, Jenna, about how she became a Christian and I ended up sharing the testimony I wrote on Myspace with her. Afterward, I thought I really should share it on this blog too! And this seems like the perfect time to do it. I warn you that this is long, and I know that not very many people will have the patience to read to the end, but I know it will reach those who it is meant to reach. To help reduce reading time, you can skip my uncle’s letter and go straight to the next bold heading to read my reply to him.
February 18, 2009
My Uncle Robert sent me the following email, and my response comes after. I started my testimony, intending only to share it with him in response to his request, but realized I needed to share it with all my family and friends. And I invite you to share your story as well.
From: Robert Walters
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:54:56 AM
Subject: What happened to you ?
“There’s A wideness in God’s mercy I cannot find in my heart. But He keeps His fire burn’n to melt this heart of mine. Keeps me aching with the yearning, keeps me glad to have been caught in the reckless raging fury , they call the Love of God.”
No. I didn’t write that. It is the 1st vrs. of Rich Mullin’s song ‘The Love of God.’ When I first heard it I related so well to it I played it over & over…But why did Rich describe the love of God as reckless , raging fury? A glance at his life revealed that it was A bit unusual for A top christian artist of the 80’s & 90’s…..Yet, my experience with God was more like ‘peace, comfort & guidance…I.was puzzled, so I set out on an investigative journey to see how others who knew God might describe His love.
I came across A man, A rancher & farmer, who in answering the call of God , moved his wife & workers from their homeland not knowing where they wre going. They lived in tents & roamed from place to place. A pretty uncertain life, huh. His wife had A baby in her old age. One day the father and his son went up on A mountain to worship God.What happened there was probably one of the most awesome & moving worship experiences.ever recorded in history….Then, there was this woman, who sold her body to pleasure seeking men.I thought, what could A woman like THAT teach ME about the love of God? None the less, I continued my research. Much to my surprise, I found that at A crucial moment in her life , She stood taller and with more faith than any man who had ever paid for her company. In A city of thousands she alone turned from idols and chose to serve the God of Israel. She laid her life on the line to protect and to further the mission of the God’s chosen people..How quick I had been to judge this woman. She had experienced God’s love in ways I probably never will……I followed A soldier through the snow as he chased A lion into A pit. Then he jumped into the pit & killed the lion. He lived his life beyond the call and became the chief bodyguard for A mighty king of Israel…………I discovered A teenage girl, single, who became pregnant. She & her fiancée chose to keep the baby and raised their son in A small town where the father taught the son his trade of carpentry. One day the son did A marvelous work with wood & nails that many have tried to equal but have found they cannot….I heard of A tent maker who lived his entire life with A thorn he could not remove. He became blind for A while and during that time he was able to see more than he had before. Regaining his sight, he spent the rest of his life helping people, teaching them and starting churches. Sadly he was mistreated by many……Then A fisherman ‘caught my eye’ .His life was A whirlwind of ups & downs.One moment he was literally walking on water and the next he was sitting around A campfire denying over & over that he had ever known his best friend… What kind of man would act that way, I thought. A quiet voice answered, ” A man not too different from you. “……….
I sat back and pondered all that I had discovered on my journey when an alarming truth struck me. The kind that stings you in the heart… Could it be , that I would never understand God’s love in radical terms until I had first made A habit of giving His love away…. I have grown some, but still I find that I am reluctant to chase lions in the snow or to have the courage to stand up at A campfire and shout, “This is my best friend!” However, I can testify about the great things my friend has done for me, regardless of how I have treated Him. How about you ? I know God has done A mighty work in each of you, I have seen it and your story deserves to be told . When Christ delivers us, we become A song of redemption. I would love to read about your description of God’s Grace in your life. There is someone near you who needs to hear your story of redemption & deliverance——– so—– why not practice on me ? You & I….Are we so different from Abraham or Sarah, Rahab or Beniah, Mary or Joseph , Paul or Peter ? I don’t think so…..I love you all…….A A S G ……..Bob…………( anxiously awaiting your stories of Grace)
Here’s my reply to everyone. :)
My Mother raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness, but without Dad’s help, I didn’t flourish in it. He always was the more favorited parent b/c he was “nicer,” and I usually took his side in their arguments and agreed with him on most everything. So since he had no interest in religion, or at least Mom’s religion, neither did I.
I hated going to Church three times a week, hated being the only child who couldn’t eat birthday cake in school, hated having to sit through the National Anthem and endure curious stares. I didn’t want to miss TV shows that were on in the evening during the week and didn’t want to wake up on Sunday to get ready for Church. I disliked so many parts of being a Jehovah’s Witness that I lived eighteen years in “The Truth” as they call it and didn’t really know what the truth was.
Although they do have differences because of interpretations, a lot of what they teach is what other Christian churches teach, because they teach from the Bible. But I didn’t even know some of the most basic Bible stories after leaving the church (once I moved out of the house) and I didn’t know God. I knew he existed, but turned away from Him.
I immediately turned to another controversial “religion” and began worshiping my own power as a Scientologist. I didn’t need God, because I was the creator of the universe now. Scientology helped me come out of my shell and helped me with some fundamental problems like communication, but it wasn’t fulfilling, and what it mostly taught me was how to say “no.” Because I didn’t say it the entire time I was there and I was used and used and used. That left a scar that still hasn’t healed.
After escaping the Church of Scientology, for I really did have to run and hide for a while, I gave up on religion for many years. Little did I know, God was determined to finally find his way into my heart.
It started with a financial book I borrowed from the library that was written by a pastor. He told stories of how he helped couples with their finances and I was struck by his approach with them and how in using God’s word, he not only straightened them out financially but with their relationships as well. I was astounded by the changes in the couples and how loving they were to each other and the amount of respect they showed to one another. I wanted to know what he knew.
After reading a book by a man of God that had nothing to do with the Bible, I opened my eyes to the world around me, remembering a time when I recognized a creator. I realized that he was still there and had been all along. How could I have ignored it for so long? He was evident in all the green and all babies and all the living creatures. So I started praying to God, but still was a bit uneasy about going to church. I had never been to a “normal” Church and the prospect scared me, because I didn’t want to get trapped again, as I had felt in Scientology.
A year or so later, Dennis started listening to a Christian radio station while on his Krispy Kreme route (he is now in Quality at Convergys) and he got really fired up about God, realizing that after chasing after the secrets of the universe for so long (involving himself in witchcraft, new age religions, Dianetics & Scientology), he had finally found the same answer he had known as a child: God was the answer and He wasn’t such a secret.
At that point I had given up on God because I had prayed for a child and blamed Him when I never became pregnant. I knew this was silly and wrong (I didn’t realize it at the time, but I never had FAITH God would give me a child! Plus, I didn’t realize that God does everything in his OWN time but only if it is his will), and when I saw how excited Dennis was about what he was listening to, I suggested we start looking for a church. My separation from God was now something that I felt, and I didn’t like it. I had tried finding Him on my own but now knew that I would need some help.
A friend recommended I listen to Word of Promise, which is the New Testament on CD done with a full acting cast and with sound effects and music so you feel like you’re really there. As I sat at work with my ear buds in, listening to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, the tears began to flow.
“Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus, Matthew 7:1-5
Jesus has a way of pricking the heart, doesn’t he? I cried more and more, recognizing everything I needed to change about myself, and more importantly, recognizing how much I needed God and His word in my life.
I had read all this before at the Kingdom Hall (the Jehovah’s Witness church) but had never really READ it. As I listened to the story of Jesus and listened to him preach, I realized how wrong I had been to separate myself from a God that would do something so incredible to save me. To sacrifice his son so that I might have the chance for salvation. For said son to go so willingly, even while he was “deeply grieved, to the point of death,” (Matthew 16:38) because of it. Jesus had prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done,” (Matthew 27: 42), and then when Peter cut the ear from one of the soldiers that came to get Jesus before his crucifixion, he said, “Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that is must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54) Jesus had a choice, and he chose to follow the will of his father, so that we might be saved.
I finally fully understood the deep love both God and Jesus had for us, and how could I turn away from that?
After making a New Year’s Resolution in 2008 to find a Church, we set out on our journey. We knew we wanted a church that was nondenominational (although at that point, I didn’t even realize WHY that’s what I wanted but am now so pleased that God planted that desire in my heart), and that taught directly from the Bible with lots of Bible reading and references. Strangely enough, we didn’t find a Church that fit the bill until April–after four months of searching. But when we found it, I knew I was home. I still struggled with myself, scared that if I went to this church every week that I would become trapped again but I reasoned with myself, knowing it wouldn’t be a such a tragedy to be trapped in THIS place. :) I felt God’s presence for the first time in a long time. And I knew He had seen the desire in my heart and had led me here. Despite my fear of becoming trapped, the feeling I got being in the church of Christ was so much different than the feeling I got in the other churches. I learned from the Bible and felt love and harmony, understanding and forgiveness. I felt relief.
After starting a home Bible study with our minister, Jerry Blount, Dennis and I confessed Jesus, repented of our sins, and were baptized on June 10, 2008–six days after our eighth wedding anniversary. I cried, not understanding why at the time and feeling kind of silly, but I was overwhelmed with joy and knew that this was the biggest and best decision I had ever made in my life.
God has helped me through many things in just the short time I’ve come to know Him. He was with me through a difficult half-marathon, through financial trials and comforted me as no other could when my Dad was in the hospital. When I heard the news that he’d had a stroke, my world collapsed and I sobbed and cried out to God, praying for my father’s survival and for the strength to bear whatever was to come. After a good hour-long cry, I found the strength that I had asked for and was able to go to the hospital and be with my father, facing the wretchedness of his condition without breaking down again.
My sister was absolutely beside herself, unable to be comforted and though I was grief-stricken and bereft, I knew the reason I was holding it together was that I had someone more powerful than me to turn to and I was leaning on His strength. I knew that God would help me through whatever happened, and I prayed fervently for Dad along with the rest of our congregation and family and friends. And Dad has come out of it so much better than he had a right to. Without any permanent physical setbacks and only a minor speech impediment (his only deficit being the inability to read), those that do not know he had a stroke don’t notice anything different about him. And that is a miracle, especially considering that he had the stroke–a major one–seven hours before he was taken to the hospital.
Nothing I’ve ever done could make me deserve all the blessings God has given me–particularly the peace of mind amidst so much turmoil in this world. (Don’t get me wrong, I get upset just like everybody else, but I have now built a foundation on a rock instead of sand (Matthew 7:24-27), and God keeps me grounded.) And nothing I could do could earn a place his kingdom. Nevertheless, he sent His son as a sacrifice so that I might do so. It is incredible and astounding that He loves us THAT much. And I am determined to take advantage of the opportunity He provided for salvation by following His word, which includes sharing my personal story of His grace with you. (“Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32)
I’ve defied and denied God, I’ve blamed Him for my troubles. I have done terrible things to people I love that will likely haunt me until I die. And yet He still forgave me and I feel His mercy and love throughout my days. He will always forgive us if we only seek Him and repent. His grace is an incredible thing.
If you are not a child of God, I know that He wants you so dearly, and we both hope you will become one. His love for you is written all over His word, which is the place to start if you are interested in learning about Him, and what you must do to become His child. Are you ready to accept God’s grace? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if there is any way I can help you in finding your way to God.