ANONYMOUSMy Testimony of Salvation by "Anonymous"
One of the first recollections I have in my life is sitting in a witness stand in a courtroom and testifying that I saw my mother receive another bone-breaking beating. I was 5 years old. The next year, when I was 6, I wet the bed…just once. As punishment, the man my mother was with made me put on a pair of my mother's panties and a dress, kicked me out the door, and sent me off to school. My mother stayed with this man until I was 16 years old. When I was 10, I used to sit in class and pull out clumps of my hair to make myself bleed until the teacher realized what I was doing and put a stop to it. I found other ways to hurt myself. I can recall moving 14 times by the time I was 10 years old. Three of those times were in the middle of the night.
I always knew my mother loved me. She was just very young herself, and a lousy judge of character. She was Catholic and from time to time she would talk to my brothers and me about God. When I was 17, it was suggested to my mother (for some obvious reasons), that I see a psychiatrist. We had no money, but we found one who would see me as a charity case. I told him I had thoughts of joining the Marine Corps. It was 1968. He told me I was too unstable, I would never make it, and that he could keep me out of doing any military service at all. August 13, 1968, was my first day in the Marine Corps. They sent me to Vietnam. June 8th, 1970, one day after my 20th birthday, I was honorably discharged. The next few years were a blur of alcohol and drug abuse, jail drunk tanks, and psych wards. I was a very angry young man. Up to this point in my life, I had never opened a Bible or was encouraged to do so. I was brought up in the Catholic “tradition.” Confessing my sins to a priest and feeling guilty is about all that I recall from my involvement with them.
I cleaned up my life, fell in love, got married, and eventually had a family. After 10 years, I started to drink intermittently again. The result: pancreatitis, alcohol poisoning, etc. The self-abuse continued.
Because of the children, my wife started to bother me about going to church. Other than weddings, the last time I had been to any religious ceremony that had any meaning to me was in 1969, in Vietnam. The make-shift chapel, during a rocket and mortar attack, was partially blown up during the service.
Fast forward to age 41. An acquaintance told me about an assembly where they studied the Bible. In no uncertain terms I told her what I thought about religion. She challenged me. I accepted the challenge. My wife and I went. First impression...not good. The week before we decided to leave, the pastor talked about the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” This caught my attention. Anybody who has ever been in a war and been responsible for some of the death and mayhem carries a certain amount of guilt…especially a person with a Catholic background. The pastor showed, through scripture, how that “thou shalt not kill” meant “thou shalt not murder.” (Ex.21:120-14; Hosea 6:9; Mat.19:18). Murder is premeditated. There are three Godly sanctioned ways of killing in the Bible: capital punishment, self-defense, and fighting for your country. This guilt-relieving message prompted me to start reading the Bible. I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. Salvation is a free gift obtained solely by my faith in what He did on the cross (Eph.2:8,9). I came to realize that in His infinite mercy, God has given us, in writing, His life-giving message of grace. He died to pay the penalty for all my sins. (Rom.5:8; 1Cor.15:3,4). As ambassadors for Christ, He exhorts us to bring this message to other people (2Cor.5:20,21). Religion and tradition will keep you confused (Col.2:8). The simplicity of God’s Word (2Cor.1:12; 11:3) brings an understanding that far surpasses anything religion or the world has to offer (Psalm118:8).
My testimony of how I came to know Christ:
About ten years ago, before I moved to Florida, a friend told me to join PalTalk, which is a live chat room site that has many chat rooms of all kinds. My friend said to click on "Christianity," which I did. I started to scroll down to read all the room names and said to myself, "Wow! So many rooms; which one should I click on?"
As I was scrolling, for some reason, something within me said to click on this room called, "Berean Bible Study." I clicked on the Berean Bible Study room, and as soon as I entered the room, the one-hour lesson on right division started. At the end of that hour, I understood right division and the gospel of my salvation.
Will add this one thing: As a child growing up, although knowing right from wrong, I was never taught about Christ. My parents were "everyday" Jews -- not religious at all. All they knew about their religion was the observance of the holy holidays.
I remember as a child sitting outside with my mom. I said, "Mother, how come our neighbors wear a cross around their neck and we wear a Jewish star?" The answer my mom gave was, "The cross shows that they are Christians and the star shows that we are Jews."
As I got older, I would say to myself, "Something is wrong. There are only a handful of Jews compared to millions of Gentiles that believe in Jesus Christ."
NEVER ONCE as a young child did I ever reject Jesus Christ.
Here's my You Tube video "SALVATION: BIKER TURNED PREACHER, ARTIE 'doc' KOFFER"
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
BEAU WHITESHORT BUT SWEET!
I recently received an email from a fellow grace believer in the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Saw your link on the 'Let's Roll' site. I came to understand the
TRUE meaning of 2 Timothy 2:15 nearly 2 years ago, via AM
1490, here in Chattanooga. I had been saved since a youngster,
but had spent about 40 years in various denominational systems.
It's a bit late in life (I'm 50) to finally get on the right track, but better
late than never as they say!
By the way, I have a room on PalTalk called Mystery Ephesians 3:9 GIFT of Grace 2Tim215 kjv."
The Testimony of Bill Jennings
In 1978, after honorable discharge from four years of active duty, while living in my hometown of Bear Lake, Michigan, well-meaning Baptists cornered me. These fine people attended my best friend's dad’s Baptist church and had been trying to visit with me on several occasions. I knew where they were from and had no interest in religion at the age of 22 years old. I had written several notes and left them on the door trying to discourage them from coming back. These notes were made-up lies of why I had missed our scheduled visit -- and on one occasion, the man came early as I was writng my note of why I had missed them. Caught and cornered, I politely invited them into my place.
This man and his wife were very kind but asked direct questions about the Bible. The man told me my name was in the Bible! Laughing, I said "Yeah, right." Mr. Cook asked me if he could show me my name, and if he could then show me why my name was in the Bible? I said sure, never hearing such in my life. The Bible was opened - and - Romans 3:23 was put in front of my eyes: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." I was asked if "all" meant ALL. Slowly, I answered yes and was then taken to various Bible scriptures known by many as the Romans road to salvation. With my head in a whirl and not realizing the Bible said such things, I sincerely followed Mr. Cook's commanding instructions about how to have the forgiveness of sins we had just looked at. After prayer at my table, the Cooks then told me that if I believed when I prayed, I was no longer a sinner, but saved. Wow! I had been verified by these biblical people as saved --- and believed it!
Before moving to Ohio, I went to the little Baptist church and told all the people one Sunday morning how I was saved and even had the date when the Cooks had visited with me recorded in my Bible! Arriving in Ohio and taking welding employment, I began attending a Baptist church. Having never been raised in a belief system the Bible became my fascination, and soon I had memorized more Bible than most of the folks in my Baptist church! Then, my kind Pastor asked me if I had ever been baptised like you read about in the Bible. Next, I was baptised in a tank of water after taking some classes with other folks brought to the same conclusion. Soon after this, I was made the adult Sunday school teacher -- and even filled in for our pastor when he had become sick the night before.
Working daily with men who attended other churches, I soon realized that we all did not all believe the same things; and during this time, I read my Bible through for the first time. Many in my Baptist church had never read their Bible through; and soon the men I worked with who believed they could lose their salvation made me wonder about the people in my Baptist church. So realizing the Bible talks about people who had become cold, and thinking my Baptist friends were deluded and had become unsaved through willfull sin, I found a Church of Christ (Campbellite) where I could lose my salvation! Now I began really performing --- we all lived in fear that God was seeing us when we were sleeping, knew when we were awake, knew who was bad and good, so now I was good for Jesus' sake! Yet the Church of Christ folk had about as many that never read their Bible through as the Baptists did -- and they were just as bad-acting as the Baptists, yet more discreet, I have to say. Soon I was what is called "church hopping" back in the early 1980’s, and listening to what is called "Christian radio and TV." What caught my ear was a recently-paroled man that owned several Christian bookstores in and around Dayton, Ohio that sold only the King James Bible. His exciting firsthand stories about the prison system and how the King James Bible had changed his life were fascinating to listen to! Soon I became convinced of the preservation of the King James Bible and it’s ability to transform hard-core convicts into outstanding citizens!
I had hopped back into the Baptist church and heard a preacher use a verse from Matthew 7:23, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." There it was! A memory verse of mine, yet I had missed that people were never really saved that worked iniquity -- ye haw! My new Baptist preacher had the answers! After several years, I realized these Baptists had not read their Bibles through, and they didn’t like my King James Bible, or my King James Bible stickers from my King James bookstore radio personality either! I became concerned that my Baptist friends were not saved as taught by Matthew 7:23. My very sincere King James radio personality had been having problems finding spiritual folks also, so he started a church in a Grange hall with several families intrigued with living for God. Soon I was meeting with these folks: being convicted, walking the aisle to the altar often, and being told to walk in the light I had. Whew it was hard! The spirituality of these King James Bible folks was almost impossible to do! Soon I was consumed with my new church family and even became the well-paid maintenance man for our spiritual leaders! Not many people could handle being saved like we were -- they came and went; came and went. We even had to correct other preachers that were King James users coming to preach in our pulpit! Many times, we concluded, "They must not be saved..."
During this time, I met a man and his family that worked at the religious bookstore of one of our religious leaders and began watching him continually talk to people about Christ. The men in our church were allowed to bring messages on Sunday nights at the Grange hall, and one night Brother Gerald Allen took the opportunity to speak. Sitting alone and spiritual in 1987 in my folding chair in the same place near the front with good altar access, I began to listen. Brother Gerald lovingly told us that what he was speaking about was the gospel -- or good news -- in place today, standing all by itself and not mixed or part of any other Bible scripture. I had never heard anyone say such a thing as he turned us to 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. Seeing that Paul said that we stand and are saved in this good news of how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures, never was shown to me before -- not even in a King James Bible butt-kicking contest! Then Brother Gerald took us to Ephesians 1:13,14, 4:30 and showed us Christ through Paul explaining being sealed with the Holy Spirit the moment we believe the gospel containing the reconciliation we just read in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 and sealed unto the day of redemption! Wow!
For the first time in my life, the sin problem that the well-meaning Cooks introduced me to back in 1978 was completely dealt with! No more straightening people out but simply trusting what God said he did for us. No more acting good or having to walk in the light we have but simply trusting Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. No altar call -- just simply believing!!!
By: Bill Jennings
New Carlisle, Ohio
How I Found Peace with God
I was driving down a rural highway in north central Wisconsin that Autumn night in 1977, thoughts running wildly through my mind. "Why wasn't I dead?" I thought unbelievingly. I had fully intended to overdose on drugs and end my life just hours before. But after swallowing some one hundred assorted pills that I thought were pretty potent, I woke up surprised not only to find myself alive, but my head clear also. Didn't even catch a buzz!
As a senior in high school, I was hanging around with the wrong crowd, and heavily into the drug culture. My parents being divorced when I was young, I had tried living with both sets of parents and couldn't get along with either one. I didn't strike it off too well with girls either, so with one failed relationship after another, I had decided that death was preferable to life, thinking that somehow it would be a gateway to a better life.
But now I was confused, off balance. Overdosing on drugs seemed like the easiest most painless way of ending my life, and when I decided to finally go through with it, there was no turning back. The thought never occurred to me that I would not succeed. So there I was back in my car driving down a rural highway pondering what to do next. I remembered a junior high teacher once reading an article to our class about a guy who killed himself instantly by driving his car 55 mph into a telephone pole. That was it! It would be instantaneous; painless.
There was one problem, however. As I drove down this unfamiliar rural road somewhere north of Appleton (about 2 hours north of my home in Milwaukee), there were drainage ditches between the edge of the road and where the telephone poles were. I feared my car would never make it over the ditch.
Finally the road led through a small country town consisting of not much more than a bar and grocery store. But it was lit up with a few light poles on the gravel shoulder of the main highway. This was it. I backed the car up several hundred yards, and then floored it, racing towards one of the light poles. A glance at the speedometer read 85 mph just before impact. And then total darkness…… for maybe 10-15 seconds.
The sound of my car horn blaring woke me up…. again. Again I had failed. With nothing better to do, I decided to try and crawl out of the wreckage. The car was now upside down, but my driver-side window was missing, so I began to climb out. The people who were in the bar across the street rushed over and helped me the rest of the way out. One guy exclaimed to his buddies, "Wow! Check it out! He knocked down the light pole!" It was probably the most excitement that little town had seen in years. They called an ambulance and took me to a nearby hospital.
At the hospital they did some routine checks on me, but other than a few bruises, I had driven my car into a light pole 85 mph and walked away from it. The police were able to contact my father through my licenses plates. I was kept in the hospital overnight for observations, mostly out of concern for the drugs I had taken.
So I laid there in the hospital bed staring at the ceiling and wondering why I was alive. The thought had never occurred to me that I would not succeed in ending my life. Then it hit me. I did not have control over my own life. God did. It was not mine to take. This was not some tremendous revelation or anything like that, it was just something I had learned that day through practical experience. And it gave me comfort. I felt as if God was saying to me: "I have a purpose for your life, just wait." From that night on I never again had the desire to take my own life.
The next day confirmed my suspicions that God had been in control the whole time. First the sheriff's report from the "accident" came in. I learned that my car had gone right through the light pole shearing it out of the ground, and then continued up the road, veered off into a drainage ditch, hit a culvert that went underneath a driveway which upended the car and flipped it over three times finally coming to rest upside down. Wow! And I walked away from that! But wait, it gets better….
My dad says to me, "Let's go to the crash site on the way home." Ok I thought, why not? As we drive down the rural highway heading north out of Appleton, we come to the small town where I crashed the car. The name of the town: Freedom. We drive over to the place where the car finally came to rest: right in front of a big country church. As I look at that church and reflect on God's control over my life, my Dad says to me: "Hey, look at the name of that bar across the street." I turn around and look at it: The Crash Inn. My Dad chuckles, and I feel like I'm in the twilight zone or something.
It's time to drive back to Milwaukee, but we decide to stop at the junk yard where they hauled my car. We ask the guy where the Torino is that they brought in this morning. The guy takes us to the car. He looks at the car, looks at me, and then asks, "Were you driving that car??" I nod in affirmant. The guy shakes his head in disbelief. "You see that car over there?" he says, pointing to a large wrecked car, "It's not half as smashed up as yours, but the guy driving that car didn't make it."
We walk over to what used to be my car. Totally demolished. The engine was pushed off its block, and half of it was in the passenger side front seat. The car basically crumpled when it took out the light pole. The guy said he couldn't even tow it, because the wheels and axles were bent. He had to use a flat-bed truck and lift it up there with a crane. After hauling it to the junk yard, he had to return a second time to pick up all the pieces. But the driver seat was still in tact. It was almost as if a protective bubble had been placed around it. I left there feeling like my life was worth something to God, and that he had me on this earth for some reason.
Going back to school, my whole outlook on life changed. I now had hope, believing that God had some purpose for my life. I had been brought up in church, and had been taught the Bible and the creeds of my Protestant denomination, but my faith was very "creedal" also: it didn't have much of an impact on my day to day life. So I went back to my old friends and my partying way of life.
But my attitude in school changed. I was enrolled in a specialty program in my senior year of high school majoring in business and marketing. With my new found self confidence, I excelled in the program, especially in demonstrating sales abilities. I won some awards in some city and state wide competitions, and purposed to graduate from high school and make a lot of money in sales. After graduating from high school, I quickly got certified and began to sell accident and health insurance door-to-door. I was doing great, and even sold a policy my first day on the field. But there was something missing, and I often felt guilty having "conned" someone to buy a policy that they probably didn't need and wasn't quite what they expected it to be.
So I got a job in a factory working a graveyard shift from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. three days on and three days off. It was a good hourly rate, and a lot of my buddies from high school were working there. It was boring work, and we all "got high" to help us make it through the long shifts. But I always saw it as temporary work, until I found a good sales job that I really liked. It allowed me some financial freedom, and I was able to rent a condominium with another friend. I was also able to buy a nice sports car. Life was great in many ways, I could now party as much as I wanted. But I was still empty and unsatisfied with my life. I knew there had to be more, and I just thought that if I could get a good job with the potential to advance in a career, that I would be happy.
After about a year out of high school and having worked at the factory for several months, I decided to get back into sales. This time I got a job selling educational books. It seemed like a more "worthy" product to be selling. But something inside of me said that I would not be happy doing this either if I didn't have God's blessing. So facing discouragement again, and having no where to go but forward, because I had already tried running away from my problems, and I had already tried exiting life and God wouldn't let me, I decided to try not getting high for a few days and just read the Bible, to try and understand what God's will was for my life.
This was July of 1979, and at that point I had been getting high on drugs every day for almost 4 years straight. As I read the Bible, and I don't even remember what exactly I was reading, I became acutely aware of my sins. I had always considered myself a Christian, and a good person. Even though I got high on drugs, I was no junkie. I rationalized my behavior as being no different than the casual social drinker of alcohol. It was just that one was legal and the other wasn't. But I thought the laws were wrong, not me.
But now two major sins in my life were staring me right in the face: one was my drug usage, and the other one was planning my life without considering what God wanted me to do with my life. Without even really understanding what the word "repentance" means, I saw myself in a different light, and knew that my sins were keeping me from knowing God's will. I immediately confessed my sins to God, and told him that I was not going to make any more decisions about my life until He told me what He wanted me to do.
What happened next is truly the miracle in my life, and words cannot come close to describing the inner transformation that occurred in me that summer day in 1979. First of all, a joy and peace flooded my being, such that I had never known could even exist in this life. It was the ultimate high, and it was from the Holy Spirit. It was so wonderful, that I took all my paraphernalia that I used to smoke pot and threw it into the dumpster outside our building. What I had found was so much better than drugs, that I never had a desire to get high on drugs again.
Secondly, the words in the Bible now came alive. It was as if God was speaking directly to me through them, and indeed He was. The facts I had studied for years as a kid growing up in church now became part of a vibrant relationship with the living God, and with the Savior of the world Jesus Christ. Having never doubted the facts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, they now came alive with fresh meaning. I read the entire New Testament in about two weeks: I just couldn't get enough of it. When I read verses like Romans 5:7-8 "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us," I would just fall down and weep over the incredible love God was showing me through Christ.
I now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had saved me, not just from a suicide attempt, but He had truly saved me from my sins, and that I was now going to be with Him in eternity: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
Since I had dedicated my life to God, I decided to go back to school and study the Bible. I studied the Bible for a number of years, and then served in full-time ministries in various parts of the world. But I have also learned that one does not have to be professional Christian minister to be serving God. You can serve God as a minister wherever you are in many different ways. Today my business is providing healthy food, and I seek to serve God in that task to the best of my ability. The Bible says, and science now confirms, that a "joyful heart is good medicine." The Bible has much to say about good health, and not all of it is physical. Our spiritual and emotional state has more to do with our health than our modern rationalistic society and medical system would care to admit. So if you are seeking better health, don't just look at your physical symptoms. Look to the Great Physician, and healer of your soul, and give your heart to Christ for true peace with God. Then you will discover true health and life! Everything else on this website, and any product I have to offer you, is worthless if you don't know God and His incredible love for you, and understand His will for your life. The best part is that His offer of eternal life is free for you, because he already paid the price of your sins through the blood of his Son. I have nothing here to offer you that can beat that!
BILL WITTPENNCLARITY IS A WONDERFUL AND AWESOME THING
Clarity is a wonderful and awesome thing. In March 2008, I was given an opportunity to study
God’s word with a group of believers who were studying the book of Hebrews via a DVD
from the Shorewood Bible Church in Chicago, IL. The teacher was Alex Kurz. From the start
he introduced II Timothy 2:15. He briefly explained “rightly dividing” with a visual aid that
showed three divisions; times past, but now, and ages to come. I was already equipped with a
King James Bible and had recently made a decision to follow my spiritual mentor of 15 years
into a counseling ministry which utilized Pauline “truths” to lead believers into the knowledge of
their identity IN CHRIST. Over the next couple of months, I eagerly received this teaching without any
hindrance. It was amazing! “Rightly dividing” the word of truth made the Bible come alive!
This was such a coincidence because the message of the “Exchanged Life” was introduced to
me 15 years earlier by my mentor – the first person in my life to show me “grace." He didn’t
show me grace the way Alex Kurz did in the DVD study I attended faithfully, but he showed
me “grace” by accepting me without a performance and mentored me through my “Montana
Brokenness”. God had led me to this brother IN CHRIST who taught me TRUTH. “Rightly
dividing” that TRUTH was “icing on the cake.”
My mentor’s ministry incorporated the message of grace I had never heard prior to 1993. I had
been “saved” in the Lutheran Church by infant baptism and confirmation into that denomination.
I had heard of what Jesus did on the cross for my sins. I had come to believe He paid for my sins
and by believing that I was going to heaven when I died. I had asked Him to be my “Savior.”
Life, however, was not lived in the way of grace. I was a “performance–based acceptance”
first-born male. My life in my birth family was “dysfunctional” spiritually, psychologically,
and physically. I went into my adult life with a unique version of the flesh which dominated
everything. Failures in many areas of life led to me recreating myself to get approval and
acceptance … “love”. I found that in the woman. This pattern of living continued and the
consequences were precise. Through sexual immorality, infidelity, financial ruin, divorce, job
losses and depression, the “self-life” thrived. However, slowly but surely, the outcomes were
wearing me out. Finally the blessing of brokenness had its way. It was then that I “received”
God’s free gift of grace by faith. In this I knew God was leading me into ministry. In June and
July of 2008 I attended an advanced training in the “Exchanged Life” and there worked through
some tremendous bondage issues, habits and hurts. I returned to Montana recognizing that the
LIFE OF CHRIST must be what operated in and through me to those in my life. Paul’s epistles
became my focus. The “Exchanged Life” was found there. My passion for ministry grew
because I was convinced that all men needed to know about this grace.
I can go on forever expounding on what I have learned through “rightly dividing” the word of
truth. I am a grace believer. The word of truth is clear and exciting! I consume it daily and
look forward to that experience more than anything in my life. It is where my relationship with
and my growth IN CHRIST thrives! I no longer desire acceptance from the world. I live with
an anticipation of being with Jesus Christ forever in heavenly places. The word of truth is so wonderful. Understanding what is written on those pages is marvelous. Prophecy and mystery
are fascinating! With the clarity that has come through studying with Richard Jordan of the
Shorewood Bible Church and the Grace School of the Bible and most importantly the tutoring of
the Holy Spirit, the King James Bible that was written for me has become a partner in ministry to
the lost of this world and the saints who have not yet embraced the fullness of the gospel of the
grace of God. I have been saved from my sins and saved from my self through (THE CROSS)
the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery which was not known
before the world began. Thank you Lord Jesus, my Savior and MY VERY LIFE!
Montana Christian Counseling Ministry
& Ambassador Bible Conferences of the Northwest
3285 Canyon Dr. #54
Billings, Montana 59102
How did I get to understand Acts 28 and The Mystery? Longish story, but it was over 40 years ago. I was young sitting in the Sunday school anniversary meeting and the kids knew more than I who had just recommitted after a few years of trying the broken cisterns. I went outside angry at the time I had wasted, wrote a note to the Lord that I wanted to know the Bible, and then lifted the note out the vehicle window so He could see if, LOL. A few weeks later, the Sunday school leader asked me to arrange mid-week Bible study meetings. I met some right dividers after a couple of years in Gideons.
Stuart Allen was coming to Australia. He came to the mid-week Bible meeting where I met him at least twice and started hearing logical presentations; but it took time for me to fully understand; but I did by His grace.
About 1976, I wrote another note in anger to the Lord about the rapture vs. "the appearing;" it didn't fit. Twenty-five years later, I was listening to an audio given by one of my students in right division. I heard three things in a verse – not two; and the dominoes all fell into place. I was alone at the time – broken marriage, very sad – deserted by nearly all my friends and had absolutely no one to share the thrilling discovery. Twenty-five years before, I had accused the Lord of leaving critical information in an earthenware jug at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea at Paul's shipwreck and that stupid thought crossed my mind as I sat with all the Scriptures falling into place in my head.
I love the Lord and his word; and in 2004, I left Australia having ministered more than 27 years beforehand in right division. I believe the Lord brought me here to help those in the Mid Acts position see more clearly; and I have had lots to do with them over the years. For the twenty-seven years I taught in Australia at conferences, starting groups, and home groups, I would think about America every now and then, not realizing that I was coming here eventually in the Lord's good timing.
DEBORAH COLLINSDebbie Collin's Grace Testimony
My name is Debbie, and I grew up in a family that was Roman Catholic to its core. We lived a block from our church, St. Mary's; and we all attended Catholic grade school there. My mother's brother was a priest, a high-ranking one, at that. In 1974, I did marry a Lutheran man who signed a paper promising to raise our children Catholic, and who later joined the Catholic Church himself.
While he was in the process of conversion, in the early 1990's, an evangelical Christian co-worker of his lent him a book on Bible prophecy by John Walvoord; and I just happened to pick it up and read it. Having been taught by the nuns that the Bible was mostly just a collection of allegories and object lessons, I was shocked to find that some Christians actually believe that all of it was inspired by God to be true and accurate. I was also shocked to learn that when taken literally, the Bible predicts future events which include a catching away of those who've trusted Christ for their salvation before God deals with the rest of the world in wrath. I was so tempted to believe that Christ might come back in the air to rescue me from this evil world, but I just wasn't ready.
In the meantime, a Catholic co-worker of my husband's also lent him reading material, but on the Mary apparitions alleged to be occurring at Medjugorje, Yugoslavia and other places in recent history. I had been brought up to believe in the more publicized appearances of “Mary,” like Lourdes and Fatima, so this was something already ingrained in my belief system. For awhile, I tried to fit the idea of the rapture and the predictions made by the Mary figure together into some sort of confusing hybrid prophecy. I also became caught up in the myth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, appearing here on earth.
At the same time, however, I was still hungry to know more of what the Bible said about end-time events; but like many Catholics, the idea of actually opening a Bible to find out never crossed my mind. Instead, I went to the public library to find more books on Bible prophecy and came away with a book by Dave Hunt of the Berean Call Ministry in Bend, Oregon. In that book, Dave Hunt not only told me more about the “blessed hope” of the rapture, he told me in no uncertain terms that the alleged apparitions of “Mary” are supernatural deceptions straight from Satan! Most important of all, he quoted from Paul's letter to the Romans that, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28). In addition, he quoted other important gospel passages from Paul's letters, like Ephesians 2: 8 and 9, and showed me from Scripture that we are saved and sealed by simply trusting that the Lord Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for our sins at Calvary, was buried, and rose again for our justification. This was news so good and so welcome that I grabbed it and made it mine in an instant! The burden the Catholic Church laid on its members' shoulders in order to win God's favor had always been too heavy for me to bear without despairing of hope. I knew I just wasn't good enough!
I was so filled with joy at my salvation and so concerned for those who were still caught in the Mary deception that I wrote a letter to the local paper to warn people against it. (Among the hate mail I received was only one letter from a believer.)
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14). Now that I was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I could finally open God's word and read it and understand it for myself. An old King James Bible was at hand from my husband's Lutheran confirmation. I read through the New Testament for myself, looking for the good news of the free gift of salvation without any performance strings attached. This I found in many places in Paul's letters; but, alas, I could not say with confidence that I found salvation for simply trusting Jesus Christ in the other books, such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Hebrew epistles. In these I found certain works being required and also warnings of what would happen if they weren't performed (see Acts 5).
I became discouraged and confused. I felt like Paul's letters were some kind of fantastic loophole that maybe didn't even belong in the Bible! Although I was tempted to just give up and cling to the verses that had saved me and ignore the rest, I decided to make an effort to figure out if there was some progression or formula to the Scriptures that explained the discrepancy. I returned to the public library and began lugging huge systematic theology books home to pore over in an attempt to find an answer. One such book proposed the idea that the Scriptures needed to be understood in the light of to whom they were addressed and at what time in biblical history. That made sense but the author was still applying legalism to those saved by grace and that made me wince. Then a statement he made caught my eye! He wrote of a book, Things That Differ by C. R. Stam; and he warned his readers not to read it, saying it was too radical a departure from mainstream theological thinking. My first thought was, “I have to read that book; that's what I'm trying to find out – why things differ!” Of course, it wasn't to be found at our local library, but the librarian kindly ordered it for me through inter-library loan. I received the book and began reading. When I got to the chapter where Pastor Stam explains that Peter was addressing only Israel at Pentecost, and NOT the body of Christ, the fact of that shot through me like a bolt of lightning! The rest, as they say, is history. I let Pastor Stam teach me that God interrupted his dealings with his chosen nation of Israel after their refusal to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their prophesied messiah, and he began something completely new with the world at large through a brand-new apostle named Paul. Israel was under a performance-based acceptance system with God and will be again during their time of tribulation to come. The body of Christ, on the other hand, is saved completely by God's grace by simply taking God at his word that he was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).
In February of 2013, in searching out the answer to why Paul not only quotes the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel's kingdom in his dealings with Jews in the Acts account by Luke, but also in his letters to the churches he administered during that time – and he goes one step further in those letters by insisting his gospel was found in and "according to the scriptures of the prophets" – I was confronted with the claims of the Acts 28 position. Acts 28 dispensationalists claim that Israel was formally temporarily set aside by God in Acts 28:28 and the offer of the kingdom upon Israel's national repentance abruptly ceased at that time. I was looking for an answer to why some Mid Acts teachers were finding "our mystery gospel" in the Old Testament prophets, and Acts 28 is the only system that has the answer! The mystery hid in God since before the world began is found ONLY in Paul's prison epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, along with 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) because that is when it was revealed to him by the ascended Lord of Glory after Israel's prophecy program was set aside in Acts 28.
We are to tell others this good news so that they will also be found in Christ on the day that our head, Jesus Christ, appears in glory and we appear with him in our eternal home in the heavenly places. (Col. 3:4). Only Paul's post-Acts epistles are about the revelation of this mystery program for today (Ephesians 3:1-9). The rest of the Bible concerns God's plan to redeem and restore the earth to its divinely-appointed heirs, the Israel of God. Only when we recognize the divine boundary (Acts 28:28) that God has set in his word to divide these two programs from each other, will we be able to understand what God has done, is doing, and will do for the church which is Christ's body now and in the ages to come.
Eternal salvation is a free gift today for as long as this grace age continues. Won't you let God know that you agree with what he has written in his word through the Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, that the Lord Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary by his death, burial, and resurrection, to make it possible for God to unconditionally love us as if we ourselves were his only Son (because we are, “in him”).
The only verse in the Bible that tells believers to study God's word and rightly divide it, is in Paul's epistles:
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Studying is not a work; it's a pleasure, for in studying God's word we find ourselves rejoicing again and again in the grace he's offering to sinners undeserved in order to give us all of the love and spiritual treasure he has reserved for all who are in his only Son.
P.S. Years later, I quite by accident met the evangelical Christian who lent my then-husband the book on Bible prophecy and thanked him for the part he played in my eternal salvation. We sometimes don't realize how the little things we do may be working in the lives of others!
Debbie Collins, Wisconsinwww.cangodsaveme.webs.com
For a closer look at the story of how I came to trust the Lord Jesus Christ, please read: “Looking for Mary; Finding God.”
Here is my testimony...
Basically, I grew up in religion, became fed up with the hypocrisy, and stepped off into the world.
Ten years later, I began to seek out what God was really about and began both visiting assemblies and reading commentaries about the Bible by various writers, only to find most agree there is only one gospel yet all disagree as to what it is!
I ran across the verse, "These (Bereans) were more noble then those at Thessalonica, in that, they received the word with all readiness of mind, searching the Scriptures daily, whether those things [that Paul alleged] were so" (Acts 17:11), and decided to begin by applying it to what I heard and read.
Sometime later, someone loaned me the book, "Things That Differ," by C. R. Stam. I was stunned by the soundness of that book -- from cover to cover it made understanding the Bible clear!
At that point, I began to let anyone I had ever spoken with know about it only to find that, but for one single soul of the many, many individuals I had come in contact with during my search, not one person was honest enough to put their own prejudices aside, follow those Bereans in Acts 17 that the Scripture had referred to as "noble," and study that book's claims out from Scripture Itself.
The Body of Christ in general, is that wrapped up in what the Apostle Paul, in Romans 11:25, refers to as "wise in your own conceits"!
Pastor Stam, the author of the above book, would later point out in his own Romans commentary that "when the Gentile branches (the Body of Christ, Romans 11) cease to "continue in His goodness" and fail to fulfil their God-ordained function, they will be "broken off' and taken out of this world" (saved and thus raptured out, but in failure). (Page 244)
Few seem to consider, "One day, in the presence of the Lord, how great will the reward be to see just how much my God was able to glorify His Son in me through me all because I simply bothered to find out what this "Mystery" that His Word says He revealed through the Apostle Paul for us to follow, was all about??
Also from Dano:
True story, 'bout God's Glory:
I grew up in tradition.
Fed up, I took off, returned,
Found the same rendition.
Must confess, I felt burned.
One day I thought I'd found a key;
Could this be from heaven?
Right there, in God's Book.
This verse, Acts 17:11?
Applying it to"this Mystery,"
Some said was all it took to Scriptural clarity.
Sure enough, verse, after verse,
You know, that leave you for worse?
Became all of a sudden clear as day!
No need to twist, or rearrange.
Wow - God?s Word, His way!
I know, I know; it sounds strange,
That tradition's never had the key.
No problem, here it is; 1 Corinthians
Chapter 2; Ephesians also, chapter 3.
I know, I know, but why wait,
To find out on that glorious day.
You'd helped the devil in his hate!
For had he known it before Paul,
It might have spelled doom for us all.
Don't know about you, just me,
Glad God hid "this Mystery."
Derek and family actually live the life many of us only dream about -- they travel from Canada to the north all the way to Mexico to the south. Derek explains, "We travel with a V-6 truck and 21 foot travel trailer which includes Teresa, Cassia our daughter (2 years old) 5 cats and a Husky/wolf and me ...... The MID ACTS TRIBE, ha ha ha.
"My wife is trained as an Architect and does some freelance work including home design, graphic design and landscape design but right now we are working for B.C. Parks as park operators. My background is in Horticulture which includes landscaping and plant nursery work. We owned and operated an ornamental grass nursery and a sweet shoppe, we have owned and sold several homes but decided it was more important to travel so now we will work 6 months for BC parks which comes with a 2 bedroom cabin then live the other 6 months traveling south in our travel trailer."
Derek and Teresa seize every opportunity that comes their way to share the gospel of Christ with those with whom they come into contact. They have a zeal to help others understand the need to rightly divide the word of God between Israel's prophecy program and our mystery program administered by the Apostle Paul through his inspired scriptures.
"When I was a young child - up to the age of 5 - my parents attended the United Church, which is focused primarily on a social gospel (Sermon on the Mount, doing good, relationships, etc.). It left no real impact on my life; and if I had heard any message of the gospel, I don't recall - I was too young to remember such things.
May 9, 2011
"If you believe that Jesus died on the cross to take away your sins, then you need to ask Jesus to come into your heart right now to be saved."
That is the type of thing I heard every week in Sunday school as a child. The Sunday school teacher would give a lesson and then spout that off as the gospel. I imagine I prayed that "sinners prayer" every week, but I was not saved. (even after praying that, I honestly knew I was not saved and was going to hell)
Yeah, I believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God, I was always told that. Yes, I believed He died on a cross, was buried and rose again as payment for sins. I thought all that was true, but I thought all that was some side information I needed to accept before I could say a prayer to get saved. I thought that the "sinners prayer" was the gospel of grace.
Well, I knew I was not saved; I did not care about my sin as long as I did not get caught. If I sinned and I got a "switching" for it, then I was sorry I sinned. (real conviction, huh?) I did not read the Bible, I enjoyed sin, and I never prayed a prayer that was not all about me getting something. I cared only about myself, and after years of knowing I was going to hell, I figured church, the gospel, God, and the Bible must have been some kind of a joke. I did not care anything about those things and at times I wondered if they were even legitimate. (that is what trusting in a "sinners prayer" will get you)
I know I had to have heard the true gospel at some point, being in church all my life, but I did not pay attention in church and the only thing I looked forward to about church was the swing set after the service was over. I went my years from four years old to eleven saying some kind of prayer to myself that I thought would save me. At times I tried reciting the "Lord's prayer" to myself and sometimes I would flip through my Bible and find the shortest Psalm I could to read briefly in hopes of earning some kind of religious peace. However, I knew I was lost. Even though I knew I was a sinner, prayed for God to forgive me, I still knew I was going to hell. (that was the only thing I had assurance of)
On occasion, someone would ask me if I was saved. When this question came up, I got very nervous and just mumbled "Yes". (though I knew I wasn't) If someone asked me when I got saved, I would say something to the effect of "Well I don't know exactly....a few years ago now." (Though I had probably prayed the "sinners prayer" the night before.)
Well when I was eleven years old my family started attending a different church, (Landmark Baptist church in Locust Grove, Ga). I did not like it. It was thirty minutes away, compared to fifteen to twenty minutes away at the old churches my dad preached at. Also, I thought Landmark was a "mega church". It was huge, the first time I walked into the auditorium I thought we must have been at the wrong place. It had probably close to two hundred members, which is not very big. However, the last church I was at had only twenty members.
The Pastor preached the gospel every week, and I could not stand it. He was never afraid to point out that if you were not saved then you were going to hell for eternity. (which is where I knew I was going) In the early days of being at Landmark I still did not pay attention in the services and I still had lost hope in "church" (though I still have no hope in "church" itself.
It was after that Wednesday night when God really started to "deal with me". I started caring a little more about "church" stuff. I even wiped the dust off the Book and tried a little "reading" (something I had abhorred since I learned the ABC's). That Book was a King James Bible. I did not seriously read it, it was only a "chapter a day keeps the devil away" type deal.
It was some months after that my grandfather on my moms side passed away. A week or two after his death I was riding in the car with my grandmother and she was talking about how he was in heaven now. She then said, "You are saved aren't you?", I was unprepared for the question, but I mustered up a classic "Well I haven't been baptized yet". She then said, "Well you don't have to be baptized to be saved, but you have asked Jesus to take away your sins haven't you?", to which I said "Oh, yeah I have". (at the very least 416 times, once a week for eight years)
The next months I continued to half way read the Book. I got to Romans 10 and saw "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (without really studying out what was being said). I thought it was some kind of lie, because I knew I wasn't saved. (yet I had prayed the "sinners prayer" at least 416 times.) After that I started letting dust collect on the Book.
Some time after that my family took a trip to Prattville, Alabama to hear Dr. Peter S. Ruckman preach at Autauga Heights Baptist church. We heard Dr. Ruckman preach Saturday night, but before the service started the pastor of the church asked my dad where we were from etc., in which that pastor found out we were from Georgia, we went to church, and we had driven a two and a half hours to hear Dr. Ruckman.
I don't know what Dr. Ruckman preached that Saturday night, nor what he taught in Sunday school (this Sunday morning was my thirteenth birthday). After Sunday school, at least thirty or more rough, filthy, beer bellied, Alabama bubba's came in which were from some kind of a homeless shelter that gave them food if they would listen to preaching. There were at least thirty of them or more, but I couldn't count them since I was sitting on the second to the front row. When it was about time for the Sunday morning service to start, the pastor of the church was walking towards the front of the auditorium. He came up to me and looked me straight in the face and said "Are you saved?", and just like that, "are you saved". I was shocked and I paused for a moment before I mumbled out a, "Yes, sir".
"Well, praise God; and how old were you?", he replied. "Well, I was probably about eight or nine," I said. (I probably sounded none too confident). He had a look of displeasure on his face, and I don't remember what he said to me right off. (I think it was something along the lines of "Oh, okay".) He walked up to the platform and started the service and led the singing, though I did no singing that service. I was nervous and couldn't get out words easily to sing; I knew something was wrong with me.
Dr. Ruckman got up and preached on all the people who were going to hell. He drew a picture of a drunk, he drew a picture of a scholar carrying an NIV, and I don't remember all the people he drew, but one of them was a church-attending Christian who was trusting in something other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He had a big drawing of these people all walking towards hell, and Dr. Ruckman probably used that word a hundred times before that sermon was over, hell.
Dr. Ruckman said he did not care if you had been baptized, he didn't care what you had done, you can't save yourself. He quoted Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast". Dr. Ruckman said, "you can't earn a gift, someone gives it to you if you accept it". He then quoted 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day". He continued on and said "What are you trusting in? Salvation is through Jesus Christ and His finished work, nothing about you or what you have done. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, he paid for your sins and all you have to do is trust in him alone or you will be in hell sooner or later".
I then realized I needed to stop doing and start believing. I realized I was not believing on Christ but on my prayers. I had been believing in Christ but my trust was on my "sinners prayer". I then put my trust in Christ and what He did on the cross. I definitely did some praying that morning, but not for salvation.
When Dr. Ruckman got through, the pastor of the church came down and "gave the invitation" and said that he did not think you were saved if you didn't know an exact time, day, place, etc. that you were at when you got saved. He also talked about what color the chair was that he prayed in when he got saved and what day, month, year, etc. it was. Finally, "if you believe that Christ died for your sins you need to come down to this altar and ask Christ to come in your heart". Yep, he said that, but I thought "no man, I AM THROUGH WITH THAT".
Well since that day, I paid more attention in church and started reading the Book seriously. The Pastor at Landmark preached right division and I had already memorized II Timothy 2:15 just from hearing him quote it so much. I had learned what Paul wrote was the scripture that was written to me and so I first started reading through the Pauline epistles. Thus began me "pressing toward the mark" and studying to show myself approved unto God, a workman which needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
One thing I will never know is why that pastor stopped and asked me if I was saved. My family came from out of state to be there and he asked me if I was saved. There were all those rough looking Alabama bubbas in that church, but that pastor came up to me and asked if I was saved. He did not ask my whole family, just me. Now I don't want to sound superstitious, but I think God had something to do with that.
I would like to say: Never just give somebody the "sinners prayer." Rather, give them the Bible gospel of the grace of God.
1 Corinthians 15
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto
you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
I imagine there are a lot of "good Christians" that will go to hell for trusting a sinners prayer.
"I spent most of my life making fun of Christians. Who were these people who weren't able to get through life without a crutch to rely on? When I was a teen I attended a Bible study session and the man was telling me that it wasn't really God who does anything for you, but it was your faith in God. I asked him if I had faith in a houseplant, would that also work? He was not really able to explain the difference. It seemed to me that having faith in yourself and your own abilities might work too.
At the end of 2007, my husband was having some issues he was not dealing with very well and a counselor recommended he "explore his spiritual side." I agreed to attend a large anonymous "mega-church" as a family in order to do whatever it took to fix him. After all, it was not like I needed God or that I needed to be fixed. We started going and for me the message began to resonate. It mostly went over my husband's head. He was so far into his downward spiral, I am not sure he really cared. When I suggested joining a Bible study group, he was not interested, so I joined a women's group. I started reading and studying; and later that year, I took the church's introductory class. At the end of 2008, I was baptized.
One of the main influences for me were the books written by Lee Strobel. I don't know if you are familiar with his work? He was an active atheist who became a Christian. In his books, he goes over the main reasons to reject Christianity and one by one pulls them apart. He goes over the reasons you can have faith that Jesus was the Messiah. He goes over just how impossible it is that this universe exists without divine intervention. I have a very strong science background and I had already come to that conclusion myself. You look at how improbable it is for the simplest of cells to exist, let alone something as complex as a plant, and you have to marvel at God's creation. The math to make it all happen is just so exquisitely perfect.
So then I threw myself into reading the Bible and going to Bible study. To say the least, the Bible keeps contradicting itself. Go forth and multiply...uh, no...let's not get married at all...uh, no...all the young widows should get married...What??? I finally decided Paul was psychotic. If I just kind of ignored him, then I liked the Bible a whole lot more. Then you bump into "Well, it looks like he is saying this, but what he really means is that;" and we interpret away what he was really trying to say. It seemed like you could pretty much interpret away the entire context of anything if you tried hard enough; and now the whole thing is becoming meaningless. So I was learning certainly more of the content of the Bible and where things were located within the Bible. I was also getting better at glossing over the inconsistencies, my main method being to just ignore anything written by Paul.
When I met my current husband, I started to read the new testament through the "Acts 28 prism." Things began to fall into place and make a lot more sense to me. You will be glad to know that I have officially taken Paul off the psychotic list.
I'm just a baby Christian – and definitely a baby Acts 28 person, but very willing and open to learning and glad to have my husband by my side for the journey."
Eternitee Smith, Florida
June 3, 2013
We've all heard that puzzle analogy. You know, the one about how when we learn to study the scriptures in the way that God intended, it's like putting all of the pieces of a puzzle together so that you can finally see the picture. I believe it is a very accurate description. However, to me, there is more to it than just the thought of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. So, here is my take on it:
I spent most of my entire life in the religious system, doing anything and everything that I could possibly think of to "please God." Although I was unsaved for the duration of my time in that system, one of the things that I thought was pleasing to my creator was reading my Bible, trying to make sense of it as best I could by explaining away contradictions and "difficult" passages. I thought I knew my Bible backwards and forwards, from cover to cover. I learned of the most "prominent characters" and memorized verses. I could often quote, word for word, whatever scripture the preacher was reading during his sermon. When the pastor said to turn to a particular passage in the Bible, I could usually get there before anyone else in the congregation did. (After all, I WAS the champion at "Bible drills" at "Children's Church" during my childhood years.) I always knew that my Bible was precious, and that it was to be cherished. I even fell into all of those cliche` superstitions about it, like you are always supposed to kiss your Bible if it falls to the floor; or that it is bad luck to set anything on top of it. I believed that if my house caught on fire, my Bible would not get burned. I also believed that if I slept with my Bible near me that no harm would come to me during the night. If it was a supernatural story about a Bible, chances were I would have believed it. I practically worshiped my Bible; and I thought that God was pleased with me for that far and above any other "good" thing that I might have done for Him.
During those 30+ years of my ignorance in thinking that I was making God happy and being a "good" Christian, I did retain a lot of knowledge of the scriptures. The problem was, I just didn't know where any of them fit. Hardly anything in the Bible made any sense to me, but you usually wouldn't know that by hearing me talk (or so I had convinced myself). While I probably "looked" pretty good to the outside world, toting my Bible under my arm and quoting scriptures, what my brain really looked like was a mess. I had all of those verses just scattered around like a million-piece jigsaw puzzle just strewn all over the table; and the bigger problem was this: I had no "picture" to look at to see how the pieces fit together.
It was an overwhelming task to even begin trying to make these pieces fit; but yet I would pound them together, trying my hardest to make the picture visible. Sometimes, I'd come across a couple of pieces that looked like they went together. They both would have some of the same colors, but they just wouldn't line up. So, I would push them to the side and go onto other pieces.
There were times when I would find new pieces that didn't match up to any of the pieces that I had already collected. I didn't know it at the time, but these pieces weren't even part of the picture that I was trying to put together; and they would never fit any of the pieces that I already had; but I tried my best to be content in the thought that they would all fit together in the end somehow . . . and that I just probably wouldn't know where some of the pieces fit during this lifetime. I would have to wait for God to explain it to me in heaven someday.
I came to a point in my life, just a few years ago, where I grew weary of trying to complete the puzzle; and I became too tired to search for any more pieces. So, I tried to become at peace with believing that I was as close to getting the puzzle completed as I would ever be, and that I probably would never see the full picture on this side of eternity. I was ready to say goodbye to my desire to look at the finished product, to see the artwork that the pieces would reveal. I decided that I must find a way to be content with just not knowing; and I was almost there, to my comfortable complacency, until. . .
I saw one puzzle piece, one that I had collected many years ago. I had swept it aside – it seemed to be quite benign, and I really thought that it matched up with no other pieces in my collection. It was a familiar piece, one that had been looked at several times, but it seemed to have no other ties to the others. It had no special features that would identify it with special features on the other pieces. It seemed to sit all by itself separated, and yet it must be connected to something. I looked hard at this piece. I studied it closely. I used a magnifying glass to examine every single detail. Suddenly, there was the answer. This single piece was the "guide" for the puzzle. It had been there, in my collection, the whole time. Overlooked, pushed aside, and minimized, in favor of the more "interesting" pieces. How arrogant I was to ignore it. How prideful I was to push it aside. How ignorant I was to minimize it. I had treated the very instructions for putting the puzzle together as if they were unimportant. The answer was there the entire time. I just wasn't looking for it. I was too busy trying to force puzzle pieces together that did not fit, causing the puzzle to look nothing like the work of art that it is.
With my new-found tool, I excitedly started putting the pieces in the correct categories,and then matching them together perfectly. My picture was becoming more and more beautiful with each matching piece. While in amazement at the ease in which the pieces snapped together perfectly, I began to ask, "Why didn't anyone ever tell me this during all of my years of collecting pieces?" The thought that so many people kept this vital information from me for all of this time angered me immensely. I could not imagine what kind of human being would withhold this from me. I sought for so long, and others that seemed to have their puzzle put together never told me how to do this. Why not? Why wouldn't they want me to know how to finally get to see the picture? Why would someone who is supposed to be helping me with the puzzle,keep this from me?
Then I realized something; it was a profound enlightenment. They never told me because they didn't know either. They had never completed the puzzle, although they acted as if they had. they had never seen the picture, but they claimed to know exactly what it looks like. They didn't know. they had never noticed the piece with the instructions. They had never recognized it as a guide for the puzzle. It is likely that they never will. I went from being immensely angry at them to immediately becoming sad. How many others will never complete the puzzle? How many others will never see the picture?
I was consumed with the task of completing the puzzle. I wanted so badly to see the picture that I had longed to see all of my life. How overjoyed I was to know that I could finally see that the completed puzzle would reveal, rather than believing that I would only spend the rest of my life wondering what to do with the pieces I had collected.
The image was coming together quickly. I could finally see what it was, and the more pieces that started coming together, the quicker the others found their place; until finally, it was done. The picture was in full view. The puzzle was complete. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I could do nothing but gaze. I could not take my eyes off of it. I felt as though I could look at it forever and never tire of it. The artist of the picture that was revealed to me had put all of His own heart into the masterpiece at which I was gazing; and to think: this beautiful picture was there the whole time, scattered among the puzzle pieces just waiting for me to see it.
For so long, I thought the artist wanted to keep the work of art a secret; but I was so wrong. He meant for me to see it. After all, He created it just for me.
This is why I see more to the simple puzzle analogy than just a mere jigsaw waiting to be solved. I've carried these pieces around with me all of my life, not knowing what to do with them, and longing to see the finished product. Finally, I see the picture and I get the joy of admiring the workmanship of the artist.
It's been a few years since I first caught a glimpse of the picture; but I still can't take my eyes off of it. I'm still amazed by it; and I don't want to look at anything else.
There are some who have learned to put the puzzle together, but they are no longer in admiration of the beautiful picture. I think some have grown bored with looking at it, while others my have never really wanted to look at it in the first place. There are some who only want the pride of saying that they were able to complete the puzzle. I think that there are others who are trying to put puzzles together that have no pictures; and there are some who try to create pictures that they have drawn up in their minds, while in reality, there are no pieces that make the picture that they are seeking.
Then there are the few of us who just can't get past that beautiful picture -- the one that we wanted to see completely for as long as we can remember. We don't WANT to get past it. We want to admire the wonderfully crafted work of art that it is. We gaze at it for hours with abundantly thankful hearts, in awe of its beauty, in amazement at its design, in humble adoration of its creator. We are enraptured by the careful detail of the artist. We see how every single stroke of the brush has meaning; and every hue is so carefully placed -- with intention, with direction, with conviction, and with passion. The picture that we are so content to gaze upon reveals to us the very heart of the artist; and the heart we see is full of a love so pure that we cannot comprehend it. So we can only gaze, full of awe and wonder, full of overwhelming appreciation, full of a peace that we have never known before, full of contentment in knowing that we will never be separated from the love in the heart of the artist. We cannot imagine ever taking our eyes off of this work of art; and so we gaze at it continually.
It's a picture of pure GRACE, painted by the hand of a loving, merciful God. He uses a brush that is made from the splintering wood of a cross. This masterpiece only has one color, and the color is red. The hues of red are painted with the blood of the artist's only begotten Son.
What makes the picture so beautiful is not what it contains; but rather, what is missing from it. In all of the details of the perfectly placed brush strokes on a canvas that is painted solid red, you will never see a trace of your own sins. The blood has been painted over them all, and they will never be seen again.
Have you ever seen the picture that the puzzle reveals?
Do you know what the picture means?
If so, do you still look at it? Do you still admire it?
Do you recognize the love that was put into it just for you?
Or does the memory of the glimpse you caught of that beautiful work of art just sit somewhere in the back of your mind, only to be referred to now and then as something you once viewed?
Fix your eyes upon the finished work of art, the completed puzzle.
Stand in awe of this picture of grace and never lose sight of it.
Relish its beauty.
Be amazed at its craftsmanship.
Rest in His peace.
See the love that the artist has for you.
By Hannah McMichael
December 20, 2010
I grew up in knowing the story of Jesus, attending Sunday school and
VBS (Vacation Bible School), and going to several different churches and Christian gatherings
during my childhood years. I remember hearing the salvation message
given many times over in church services, and praying a few times,
with my childish knowledge, for Christ to come into my heart. But I
never really felt sure if I was going to heaven or not. I knew that I
could know for sure, and not knowing really weighed on me. I used to
try to imagine what eternity would be like, and it would scare me,
because even if I was imagining heaven, it all seemed like an endless
void to me, with nothingness going on and on forever. There was no
When I was twelve years old, I finally got the little sister for whom I had
been praying for six years and experienced first hand what it was
like to have God answer a prayer according to His will. I felt keenly
aware of His love and caring for me in giving me what I’d wanted even
when I hadn’t necessarily been giving Him what He wanted. On March 29,
2002, I lay in bed, once again imagining eternity. This time, all I
could see was darkness. It surrounded me and frightened me, and I
thought that perhaps this was just a tiny taste of what hell was like.
I was completely scared. So right there, I officially and sincerely
accepted Christ’s beautiful gift of eternal life and asked Him to
enter in and live in my heart.
My heart was still so immature, as I can remember while thanking God
for His salvation and asking for help in witnessing to a cousin, I
prayed that somehow God would let me “get back at” a friend who had
hurt my feelings a few months before. About two years later, God
taught me the meaning of forgiveness through a song called “Peace,” by
Jim Brickman, and led me to truly forgiving that person.
One thing that particularly made me happy after that March 29th night
was that I could confidently say that I was a Christian. I had many
long distance pen pals growing up, and felt confident answering, “yes,”
to their question of whether I was a Christian or not. After that
night, I knew that I could.
My family started attending a grace church when I was five years old,
so I basically grew up knowing and studying the mystery. But it wasn’t
until just within the part five years that I started appreciating the
grace message for myself. I joined a home school alumni online
community when I was seventeen and began searching out fellow
dispensationalists amongst the home schoolers. I was quick to find out
that, in that particular circle, I was in a class of my own. Each time
I dared mention the words “dispensationalism,” “grace,” or any like
terms, I was tromped upon.
During my three years there, it’s safe to say I only made one rightly-
dividing friend. My faith in my doctrine was sorely tested. The
arguments I got myself into strengthened me, yes, but it was a hard
strengthening. And then when I was pursued by a young Calvinist
gentleman, I was faced with the decision of either fulfilling my dream
of getting married or staying strong to my convictions. You never
realize how important your beliefs are until they come between you and
what you most deeply desire.
The real test of my doctrine was just beginning. Over the next two
years, after refusing my Calvinist friend, a few other young men came
my way, and each relationship ended with my remaining single. And each time, I grew
more and more convinced that what I believed about the word of God
rightly divided was indeed right. In October 2010, after one heart-
rending experience, I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere in this
direction. The home school circles I was in were wonderful, but I was
getting nothing out of them. I was tired of getting heartbroken. So I
determined to seek out young people of like doctrine. I started a
group called GenerationNEXT (http://generationnext215.blogspot.com)
and began sending out letters of invitation to churches across the
country. I started a newsletter, a blog, and a Facebook group; and
within two months, the group numbered forty; and I had become close
friends with some of the most amazing people I’d ever encountered. In
our weekly chats, we began by treading so carefully around serious
issues. But we soon discovered just how like-minded we all were and
began standing in amazement at being able to express our convictions
to the group and getting a round of “Amens” instead of an argument.
Accepting Christ into my life and striving to live pleasing to Him is
a decision I have never and will never regret. Growing in the
knowledge of His word rightly divided has made living for Him even
better, if that’s possible; and I pray that I can share with others
the joy of knowing the Bible dispensationally minded and living fully
Saved By Grace - Kept By Grace!