Friday, September 28, 2007

A Testimony of Faith - Tony B.

UpbringingMy father was born in South Georgia, raised in a Southern Baptist church; however, after he finished high school, he joined the Air Force. He left the church, and to date has not been interested in returning. My mother was born and raised in Colorado, coming from a strong Lutheran background so after I was born, I was baptized as an infant in a Lutheran Church. From my earliest childhood memory, I remember being raised in a small Lutheran Church. My sister is eight years older, and my brother is six years older. My mother took my sister, brother, and me to church, but my father chose not to go. As my sister became a teenager, I remember her challenging my mother about going to church. My sister’s justification was that since my father didn’t have to go to church, she shouldn’t have to either (touché). So my sister stopped going. My brother liked attending the service at a different time, so I remember spending a lot of time with only my mother in church. As I became a teenager, I went through the Lutheran confirmation process. Confirmation, also known as an affirmation of baptism, required weekly learning on Sunday evenings, normally taking about two years to complete. I was confirmed at age 14, where I had to stand before the congregation and answer aloud in the affirmative to several questions. After being confirmed, I was accepted into the body of Christ as a member of the church and could partake in Holy Communion. Because the Lutheran Church services were liturgical and ritualistic, I often found myself reciting rather than worshipping.

Post-Confirmation Through CollegeI considered myself to be a Christian as a teenager, but I know that I did tremendous damage to Christianity. I engaged in promiscuous behaviors, drank alcohol to get intoxicated, and had a foul mouth.

[Jesus said,] “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Luke 6:46 NIV

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
James 1:21-22 NIV

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
1 John 1:6 NIV

I remember three specific occasions in college where God spoke to me to ruffle my feathers:
1) Freshman: A guy that I knew visited our dormitory hall looking for someone. I offered him a beer, and he said that he didn’t drink. I pressed him on it, but he didn’t waiver. I thought he was strange, and I said to myself, “What’s wrong with him? How on earth can you have a good time and party without drinking beer?”

2) Freshman: Another pitcher on the baseball team was always listening to Christian music, such as Amy Grant. Once I asked him if he listened to anything other than Christian music, and he said, “No.” I asked him why not, and he replied that he felt that everything, including music, should be to glorify God. I thought he was strange, and I said to myself, “This guy is whacked. What a nut!”

3) Sophomore: Driving home from college, which was in South Carolina, I had a one‑car accident. I hit a deer driving about 60 mph and lost control of my father’s small pickup truck. The truck struck the deer, and then I went down an embankment where the truck flipped several times, finally landing upside down. I was taken to the hospital and had nerve damage in my neck, right shoulder, and right arm. This wreck took care of any baseball career that I might have had.

However, I continued in my sinful lifestyle through college. While I gave God credit for sparing my life and sensed deeper purpose, I rarely gave God a second thought. He was up on the shelf. If someone were to ask me if I were a Christian, I would have said “Yes,” but it would have been in name only. I was a “party animal” type in college. Knowledge of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were in my head, but were far from my heart.

[Jesus said,] “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”Mark 4:18-19 NIV

Married Life
My wife grew up Southern Baptist, so we had a bit of a challenge figuring out where to get married. In 1991, we got married in a Methodist Church and tried to be Methodists for about three years. I was not interested in Sunday school at all, so we never really connected with folks there.

In July 1994, I felt a strong conviction to stop drinking alcohol, and I haven’t touched it since as I have no desire for it. At the time, I didn’t realize that the Holy Spirit was beginning to convict me and that alcohol was my doom.

A new non‑denominational church was built less than a mile from our house, so we decided to give it a try. It seemed to fit our needs, so we joined in 1994.

I have been blessed with a wonderful godly woman who kept encouraging me to come to church and try a Sunday school class. We tried one, but didn’t like it. A couple of years later, we tried another one, but didn’t like it either. So we (mainly I) gave up on Sunday school. I was content with going to church, listening to the preacher, and then heading home.

In 1997, we decided to move across town. The church was less convenient to get to, so the distance made a rather easy excuse, skipping a Sunday now and then.

Family Beginning
We wanted to start a family, but medical reasons delayed us. After two painful miscarriages, God blessed us with our daughter in 2001. She was our song of joy and thanksgiving. As our daughter grew into a toddler, my wife would lead prayers at appropriate times, such as bedtime and sing songs with my daughter. I found it difficult to pray aloud, and my wife knew my father didn’t pray. I think she knew I was uncomfortable praying aloud. Any excuse for me was good.

We wanted to have another child, and God blessed us with our son in 2003. This is where my testimony of transformation begins. My son had to be taken a whole month early because my wife’s body was not cooperating. We knew that my son’s lungs would not be developed fully and that he would be at‑risk, meaning he would have to go immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after being born. We simply ran out of options and time, so we said a short prayer and scheduled my wife for induction. As predicted, my son was born and was taken immediately to NICU. He was struggling to breathe but was holding his own. The doctor informed us that he would probably get worse before he got better. The next day, the doctor informed us that my son was on oxygen. When I went to see my son, even though I knew the doctor’s strategy, I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

{Note: I remember when my father-in-law was on his death bed, and my wife was going to visit him often. I remember asking her if she was prepared for his ultimate death especially if she were there when it happened, and she said she was. When he died, she was at his bedside. While she cherishes being there, she was not prepared for the death of her father. She was crushed. My point is that our head knowledge is not the same as our heart knowledge. The head knows, but the heart feels. And God wants both your head and your heart.}

My son was fighting for his life. My wife and I knew that this was not just a doctor’s strategy; this was a life or death, grave situation. I had been bottling up my emotions the whole time I was at the hospital so my wife would see me strong.

But after seeing my son, I was unable to continue. I had to go find the chapel. When I got to the very small empty chapel, I saw several prepared prayers on the altar. I had to find something to verbalize what I was feeling inside. None of those prayers were what I was feeling, so I looked at the back of the chapel and saw a small book rack on the wall. The books in it offered nothing either, but as I was putting one of the books back in the rack, I noticed a crumpled up piece of paper in the rack. I looked at the paper, and as I started to read it, I knew that was the prayer that captured exactly what I was feeling. I dropped to my knees before God Almighty and prayed an exhausting, emotional prayer. I was so emotional that I was out of control. I dumped it all on Him. For a brief moment, I had a feeling of what God must have felt to give His only Son to die. What a sacrifice! And what Abraham felt when he went to sacrifice Isaac. I connected with God through the heart. I repented and asked God for a new beginning. I told God that I was devoting my life to Him, and to please heal my son. Even if my son didn’t make it through this, I was devoting my life to God. He is my number one from this day forth.

“Then he [Peter] began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don't know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Matthew 26:74-75 NIV

My son was my rooster. What is it going to take to bring you to your knees and emotionally drain you to repent and fully commit your life to Christ? Will it be a rooster? Will it be a sick child? Will it be the death of a loved one? Maybe it will be a car accident? What is it going to take for you? And what are you waiting for?

Conviction of the Holy SpiritMy son did make it through. But there’s a whole lot more to this story. You see, when you really commit your heart to God, you will be convicted by the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter, I told my wife that I had a strong draw to be baptized as an adult like Jesus was. Then I found out that Baptists require baptism by immersion to become a member. I told my wife that I wanted to visit some Baptist churches. We visited several churches before coming to the one we knew would be our church. We felt the presence of the Holy Spirit there when we visited. My wife and I knew we found our church home. We joined after a few weeks of visiting, and Praise God, I was baptized as an adult. That was in September 2005. But this was just the beginning.

We found a Sunday school class that my wife and I both love. For me, this was a miracle. Learning the Word of God in a small group setting where we can ask questions and offer supporting points is extremely effective for us. We pray for each other; we socialize in and out of church. If I ever have a personal or family issue, I know that I can go to one of my brothers in Sunday school class for help.

As the Holy Spirit convicted me, God revealed Himself to me. He shined His light into my heart. For the first time in my life, everything was crystal clear. God is real; God loves me; God can use me. I raised my hands to God Almighty and said in my heart, “Here I am; you are going to have to do all the work, but use me as you will.”

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Isaiah 6:8-9 NIV

I wanted to read the Bible all the time. I began having confidence in praying aloud, and took the Christian leadership in the home. What a miracle! This yearning for God’s Word grew stronger daily and continues to be a very strong priority in my life.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

I learned about tithing and how God wants us to be obedient with our finances. I had never tithed in my life; I couldn’t afford to. The Holy Spirit convicted me to get my finances in order. I heard about Crown Financial ministries on the radio since I started listening to Christian radio. So I went to the website to apply for free sessions with a financial coach. My wife and I prepared to meet with the financial coach, and he showed us how we should adjust our finances to make tithing a reality. I praise God for opening my eyes to being obedient with our finances. That was a miracle!

About the time we joined the church in 2005, God moved me to start a Masters Degree program. He basically took away my excuses. The company I worked for paid for it 100%. What a blessing! I completed that degree in February 2007.

Shortly after I finished the degree, my Sunday school teacher asked me to substitute teach when he was out. I accepted, and substitute taught my first Sunday school class ever. Folks, this is a major miracle in my life considering only a couple of years earlier I loathed Sunday school classes. I substituted many times and praise God that He has called my wife and me to be Sunday school teachers for another class.

I felt God calling me to take the FAITH evangelism class. While I thought this class was simply a classroom exercise, I realized quickly that it was a “learn as you go” weekly. The second week we were visiting people’s homes. Praise God for that class! I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to be effective at sharing the Gospel.

In June 2009, I was asked by the Church body to become a Deacon. How humbled and overwhelmed I was by that nomination! I went through the nomination process of Deacon interviews, and I was ordained in November 2009. God is amazing in His ability to transform and use a broken sinner like me. We serve a mighty God!

Self-Examination: Has There Been a Change in My Life?
There is a big difference between thinking you are saved and being born again. Someone who is truly born again identifies with the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for their sin ‑ the debt that they could not pay and an eternal gratitude exists that reprioritizes one's life.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV

True saving faith is followed by obedience to the Word of God. It's a dying to self and to sin to protect the new relationship with an Almighty God. A believer's testimony is more than recalling a prayer that was recited. It must recall the events that brought them to the realization of the sin in their life and that their greatest need is to be forgiven by repenting and turning from their old life and walking with Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 5 for additional information.)

To summarize:
Before Conviction
1) I grew up with a warped sense of Christianity.
2) My actions in high school and college damaged the image of Christianity.
3) I attended Church with no interest in Sunday school or other involvement.
4) I showed no Christian leadership in the home.

After Conviction
1) The birth experience of my son humbled me before God and changed my heart.
2) I am a new person from the inside out.
3) My goal in life is to bring glory to God in all that I do and to live for Him.
4) Please don’t waste 20+ years like I did doing damage to Christianity. Repent of everything and give your whole self to God now.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
Psalm 103:1 NIV

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”
John 14:23 NIV

In closing, I remember being a child and wanting to wrap around my parents’ legs while they were standing up so not to let them go or sit in my parents' lap when they were sitting. I remember telling my parents how much I loved them. What a feeling of security and joy! Now that I'm a parent, my children want to wrap around my legs and sit in my lap to be close to me, and I understand what they are feeling and how I make them feel. That is exactly how God, your Heavenly Father, feels about you and the relationship He wants with you. He is your security and joy! And He wants you to come sit in His lap.

[Jesus said,] "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne."
Revelation 3:21 NIV

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Aren't Christians All Hypocrites?

One of the many excuses to reject the message of the Lord Jesus includes the question: Why would I want to become a Christian when Christians are a bunch of hypocrites? What the person is really saying is that s/he sees no difference in the lives of Christians (Believers) versus non-Christians (Unbelievers). Sadly, many American Christian churches do not focus the Gospel message on repentance first and then acceptance of Christ Jesus.
[Jesus said,] ". . . But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Luke 13:3 NIV
God wants you to die of yourself first through repentance, casting all of your sins onto Jesus, whose blood was shed for you. No sin is too big for Jesus' blood to cover. Let's take a look at what Peter did when he sinned by rejecting Jesus.
Peter Wept Bitterly

“Then he [Peter] began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don't know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Matthew 26:74-75 NIV


Have you come before the LORD Jesus Christ and God the Father and wept bitterly of your sins? Have you ever been emotionally drained of yourself in repentance to the LORD? If not, then if I were you, I would re-evaluate my relationship with God and the LORD Jesus. You see, many "so-called" Christians acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, but so do the demons.


Demons Acknowledge Christ

"Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ."

Luke 4:41 NIV


By the way, for 20+ years, I was one of those "so-called" Christians and did enormous damage to Christianity. It is not enough to acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God. You have to repent of your sins and put your FAITH in Jesus Christ alone. This is a life-changing event that will be witnessed by all those around you. The Holy Spirit will enter you and fill you up. He will lead you to break the habits of your old self. We are too weak to do this on our own.


Become a Child of God

"Yet to all who received him, to those that believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

John 1:12 NIV


Once you have really accepted Christ and put your total trust in Him, you will want to be baptized through a Believer's Baptism.


Be Baptized and Obey Jesus

[Jesus said,] "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:19-20 NIV


You can tell if a person who claims to be a Christian is a True Christian. If a person claims to be a (True) Christian, you will see all sorts of evidence of Christianity in his/her life. Many "so-called" Christians will give the appearance of being a True Christian and might even attend church. But it's not about attending church, even though we should belong to a church. It's about the heart, whether the person has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of his/her life, and has put the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit first in his/her life.


Do you know someone who has a foul mouth that claims to be a Christian?

Do you know someone who is involved in promiscuous behavior that claims to be a Christian?

Do you know someone who is involved in alcohol/drugs that claims to be a Christian?

Do you know someone that is engaged in any other type of sinful lifestyle that claims to be a Christian?


My suggestion is if you know someone who claims to be a Christian and is engaging in any of the above behaviors that are inconsistent with Christianity, bring the issue before the person in private. Watch how the person reacts. If s/he asks for forgiveness and changes his/her ways, then you might have helped a True Christian see the error of his/her way. Thank you for helping to stop the damage of that message to unbelievers. But if the person says something silly such as, "Oh, I'll just ask for forgiveness on Sunday," that person is definitely a "so-called" Christian (or Christian in Name Only). Someone who has Jesus as the priority in his/her life will not want to sin ever, and will be open to correction. 


Jesus Called Them Hypocrites

[Jesus said,] "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?"

Luke 6:46 NIV


James Says Do Not Deceive Yourselves - Do What the Word Says

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

James 1:21-22 NIV


John Says "So-Called" Christians or Christians In Name Only Lie

"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth."

1 John 1:6 NIV


The "so-called" Christians or Christians in Name Only are the ones that the world sees and claims that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. While all of us fall short of the glory of God and cannot cast stones at others, the True Christian's heart with the priority of Jesus Christ in the core of his/her being is what separates him/her from the "so-called" Christian.


So what is it a person must do to be a True Christian?

First, you must acknowledge the sin in you life. Don't attempt to mask it or justify your actions. Admit that you are a sinner and confess your sins (all of them) to God. If you are engaged in any behavior that is sinful, you must be willing to end it. This repentance should be a very emotional (and possibly lengthy) process. One who is truly sorry will weep as Peter did. Beg forgiveness of God Almighty.


Second, ask Jesus to intercede in your life. Ask Him to be your Savior. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ are our sins able to be forgiven. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and live inside of you. When you do this, you will become a child of God.


Third, be obedient to the Lord Jesus by being baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Fourth, obey Jesus' commands and teachings. Love God with all your heart, all your might, and all your soul. And love your neighbor as yourself. Keep yourself pure in heart, and do God's work here on earth. Learn the Ten Commandments, and put them into practice. And share your testimony with others. 


I personally know many, many True Christians that walk the walk of Christianity. They praise their Savior Jesus Christ and live a life with Him as their #1 priority. I can assure you that no one would call any of them hypocrites with any justification. Surround yourself with True Christians, and you will witness the light of Jesus Christ in their lives.


I pray for your salvation. Come to the feet of God today and repent. Jesus is waiting on your call. He loves you so much that He died for you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is My Sin Too Big For God To Forgive?

Come as you are to the cross of Jesus Christ. His perfect blood sacrifice on the cross was the payment for the sins of mankind for the past, present, and future. No sin is too big for God to forgive; otherwise, Christ died in vain.
Christ Paid the Price For Us
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6 NIV
Transgressions Removed
"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."
Psalm 103:11-13 NIV
Jesus' Blood Purifies
". . . the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
1 John 1:7 NIV
Redemption Through Jesus' Blood
"In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . ."
Ephesians 1:7 NIV
Saul (Paul) in the New Testament had been persecuting those who believed in Jesus. Saul (Paul) is introduced in Acts 7:58, where he was approving of the stoning death of Stephen, the first to give his life for the gospel. Prior to Saul's conversion, we are reminded in Acts 9:1 that "Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples." What greater sin can one be involved in than murdering Christians? Saul, who was also called Paul, was confronted on his journey to Damascus by Jesus Himself. Paul repented, accepted Christ, got baptized, and learned the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Paul chose to follow Christ and became one of the most dynamic preachers and writers of the New Testament through his missionary journeys and letters to the various churches. If God can use Paul, who was murdering Christians, to reach many people for Christ, He can certainly use you.
Give your life to Christ today. Place your faith and trust in Him alone. Then pray for God to reveal His will for your life. You have special gifts that God has given to you to use for His Kingdom. Don't delay. There are people out there that only you can reach. Remember, God is real; God loves you; and God can use you!

{Also see Will God Take Me Back?}

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Who Were the Nephilim Described in Genesis 6?

This video seems to cover the mystery of the Nephilim.