Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Life Saved. .Mine

This post is a little different from most of the things I put up for all to read. This post is deeper. .more thought provoking. .with sensitive information. I have actually been working on this story for months. Twice since early December. .I have started. .and finished. .a 28 week (hours actually) bible study on the book of Revelation by James McDonald during my travel time to the health department. I have heard him say in several of his studies. ."If you don't have a conversion story (to Christianity). .you don't have a conversion."

That concept nagged in my head for years. .since the first time I heard him say it. .and has continued to perplex me as I have listened to his commentaries again over the last 4 months. .it has provoked a lot of thought for me. .as to what MY story (also known as a "testimony")REALLY was. You see. .I have always believed in God. .always gone to church. .and always considered myself a Christian. .but since I couldn't ever look to a time when I made a drastic change in my life to follow God. .I could never decide where my "conversion" took place. .until recently. .when I came upon a scripture that nailed it for me. The tradition of our church on Easter Sunday over the years has been to listen to the resurrecting "new life" testimonies of others. I always felt uncomfortable that I couldn't describe mine in words. As I have searched my heart and soul over the last several months I have been feeling the need to write down MY personal testimony of faith. .for myself. .for my kids. .and for anyone else that just might be interested.

I was raised in a Catholic family and we went to church every weekend. We attended every special "holy day" mass. My siblings and I attended Sunday school and Wednesday night CYO meetings. .I even taught Sunday school to a group of 5 year olds a year or two.  As is the Catholic custom. .I was baptized shortly after my birth. That was where my difficulty began. I assumed that because I was baptized. .that all was good. Somewhere in my high school years, all the kids of the right age take a "confirmation class." To remind us that we are followers of Christ. I truly didn't remember what that was all about. .but assumed that is accomplished the repent of my sins command and "confirm" what took place at baptism. Not until I did some research on a Catholic website recently did I understand what confirmation was all about. As it seemed, that sacrament was so God would allow me a deeper understanding about what He was all about. .but somewhere I missed the point about needing to read the Bible to "see" what He was about. .and pray enough to develop a relationship with Him. Needless to say, I didn't know anymore about God. .His character. .His love. .or His expectations after confirmation than I did before. .my own fault?? Possibly!

So . .as a young woman in her early 20's did I ever find myself confused. Jeremy and I had gotten married. We had fallen away from attending any kind of church. He didn't agree with some of the things that we recited in the Catholic masses that I faithfully attended. And I was committed to my selfishness. .that I had given up a lot of hopes, dreams, and good shopping to get married and move, as far as I was concerned, to the "end of the earth". .and I wasn't ABOUT to be the one who would change my religion.  I didn't find much comfort in going to mass here by myself. .and I wasn't exactly embraced with open arms. .so I just stopped going to church too. I still believed in God. .but no relationship existed there.
As we were expecting our first child. .I decided that we needed to bring up our child in a church. By this time, I was willing to compromise my "religion". .if it meant that we could go to church as a family. We tried several different churches before we ended up attending the one that Jeremy attended as a child. A little country community church. .I had NO idea WHAT a community church was. For those of you like me, it is a Bible-teaching. .no affiliation type of church. It doesn't have higher ups deciding what you believe with a bunch of rules. .It has one preacher. .and one board. .both accountable to God. .and they encourage people to open up the pages of their bibles to confirm what they teach. .which. .at that point, was a whole new concept to me. I had never opened up a bible. .because I didn't need to, they read parts of the bible every week in the Catholic mass, and it was printed out for us in a little book. I really didn't have any idea what I was missing!

I don't remember a lot from those early years in our church, probably because of the overwhelming task of being a new mom. .and the fact that it was easy to mentally check out, once I was in the pew. I didn't really attend Sunday school because there was no nursery for our little ones. I did, however go with a good girlfriend to a Women of Faith Conference in Wichita when Tristan was just over a year old. That was when some change happened.

From the point of hearing Jeremy tell me that "just because I had been baptized as a baby DIDN'T mean I would go to heaven if it hadn't been my willful choice" to the point of this conference. .I know I prayed the "sinner's prayer" a hundred times. .wondering if it was THEN that He would hear. I never really "got" the "gift" part. .always thinking that I had to be "good enough" to go. .you know. .always be nice. .do good things. .go to church every Sunday. .and say enough Hail Mary's to count! By now, I was also feeling the guilt from the sin of disbelief. .knowing that I had prayed the prayer. .but still wondering if I would go to heaven.

At the Women of Faith conference, I prayed that prayer again and filled out a paper admitting that I had made that choice. After the Women of Faith Conference I recieved a New Testament with a letter. It talked of the need to confess my role as a sinner and ask God to take over my life. .and congratulated me for my decision to become a true FOLLOWER of Christ. I finally understood. .and in September of 1997. .I prayed that prayer for the last time.

Until. .that doubt began to take over my mind again over the last year or two. Because by now, I had heard many bible teachers and preachers talk about that still-elusive concept to me. .the testimony. I wasn't a thief. .nor was I a murderer. I was a nice kid. .respected and obeyed my parents. .went to church regularly. .a good neighbor, nice friend. .blah. .blah. .blah. Yes, I knew that I was a sinner. .the same little 'ole sins everyone else had. .said some mean things, little white lies, curse words. .you know. .the usual.  I had always believed in a GOD. .THE God. .the same one that saved everyone else. I just couldn't believe that it was THAT easy. .what if my heart hadn't been right, what if I hadn't meant it. .what if, what if, what IF! Except that. .my heart had been right, I had meant it. .it was just Satan's way of keeping me confused.

And things continued from there. As I was able to start attending Sunday school, my learning and understanding really started to happen. I found myself more eager to read in the Bible. .and see for myself. .with my OWN eyes. .what God really wanted us to know. .The incredibly wise advice for life. .the demonstrations of what happens to people when they listen. .and when they don't. .the chance to read about people that were human. .just like us!! I learned so much from reading. .and from bible teachers like Beth Moore, James McDonald, Francis Chan. .and the other women in our Sunday studies.

I knew that I was learning and growing and comprehending and even shepherding others. But, I was still discouraged that I didn't have a big, fabulous story. .that one day I was, all of the sudden, a completely different person because I had asked Jesus into my life. So. .was I REALLY saved??
Mark 9:24b Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  
Finally, over the last year. .as great change has occurred in my mind and in my heart. .I have been able to stake claim on my place in heaven!  As I continued to study and learn. .I was finally able to get out from under my mis-information and misconceptions. .and accept the fact that Jesus accepted ME a long time ago.
The scripture that I came across was this one. .
Philippians 3:9
I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me.
 For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
AHA! Finally, a reprieve from the notion that if I missed church, or I screwed up, or if I didn't confess my sin of the day before I died I would burn in the fiery lake of Hell. Thank God that He didn't make things as difficult as I always thought they were!! God KNEW that I couldn't do it by myself. .and my faith in His ability was all I needed!!
Ephesians 2:8-9
God saved you (ME) by his special favor when you (I) believed. And you (I) can't take credit for this; it is a GIFT from God. Salvation is NOT a reward for the good things we have done, so NONE OF US can boast about it. (bolded and parethesis empasis mine)
I have finally accepted that I can't. .and shouldn't try to work for it. .it is mine to claim. .and I have accepted it.

There were a few concepts that I struggled with more than others. .and part of the reason that I just couldn't recognize my need to change. .and I share them as part of my testimony, because I believe the Bible is clear on them. .and until I personally read the words from the Book, I wasn't able to completely wrap my head around those concepts that I learned from an early age.

Concept #1.) God will not save us by SOMEONE else's choice. .it must be OUR willful choice. .We must be able to mindfully understand and acknowledge WHO God is. .and then we MUST be able to admit and repent of our personal sins!! That leaves babies and comatose or dead people out. While I believe that there are many people who were baptized as babies that have taken this second step of willful repentance. .I was not among them.
Brethren, what must we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

I was baptized a second time August 8, 2004. Tristan was baptized the same day.
I know now that I can't spit on a mortally injured person and baptize him and expect him to arrive in heaven because of my deed. .as much as I know I can't pray for someone who has already died to get their soul to heaven. I understand and realize that there is only a window of time for people to choose the road to heaven. .and I want to live in a way such that people who haven't chosen that road already. .may find my life different enough to want to pursue the heavenly road themselves.
Romans 3:23 says. .For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And even born-again Christians sin. .continually. .it's how we were made. .it's our sinful human nature. Repentance isn't something that you can really just do once. .Part of my Christian growth has been reading and studying God's word. .and continuously. .I find parts of myself that have fallen short of God's desire for me. .and I must confess to God again of my sin. .and ask forgiveness. .and then rely on Him to help me fix that particular problem area, and sometimes that takes a LONG time.

Concept #2.) That by believing in God, and Jesus as a Savior to the world automatically gets you into heaven. .Research articles show that many people "believe" in God. .but not everyone that believes in God, will find themselves in heaven. I don't believe (and the bible confirms my theory) that a person can pray the "sinner's prayer," ask for an eternal life in heaven. .and then go on about their lives as they did before. .never reading or studying God's word. .and praying once in a while, if they find time. .living their "saved life" on their own terms. .and feeling totally secure in their eternity. That question has haunted my soul for the last 5-6 years. I believe that our place in eternity is completely about a relationship with Jesus. And the more I read and learn. .the more this seems to be correct. .God speaks of the "lukewarm Christian" in Revelation 3:15-16. .
  I know all the things you do, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth.
And Jesus himself told us in Matthew 7:22-23
On judgement day many will tell me, Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. But I will reply, "I never knew you. Go away, the things you did were unauthorized."

Some people do have earth-shattering, complete life makeover type stories. .mine wasn't. I was a church goer. .who believed in God, and Jesus that died to save sinners. .I pursued God's word and a relationship with Him. .I acknowledged. .and still acknowledge my role as a sinner. .and I asked and accepted His gift of eternal life in heaven. And though my good work on earth will not get me into heaven. .it is my desire to DO good work, because God wants that from me. God wants me to pray. .go to church (as a way to remain strong in my faith and make our relationship a priority). .and to read His word. .I still do things wrong. .I still make mistakes and sin on a daily, even hourly basis. .but with the increased desire I have to do God's will. .the more He makes changes in my heart and mind. And the more like Christ I will become. .and that should be our whole goal. .
John the Baptist said of God in John 3:30
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

The season of Christ's death on the cross to bear the shame of the sin of the world has come to a close. .I am thankful for Christ's sacrifice. By now, all those with hardened hearts have checked out of this post. .which is fine. Those of you still reading. .are either part of the choir, intrigued to learn more about my deeper self, or curious about your own salvation--searching my words for some insight. If you have never asked Jesus to be YOUR savior. .or you did long ago, but find yourself NOT living your life for God. .please. .PLEASE take a minute to humble your heart, and profess with your mouth that you want Jesus to rule your life. .our time left to do so is severely limited. .don't wait until tomorrow. .for it may never come to you!!
When you are reborn. .you get a new spiritual nature. .but you don't get rid of the old nature. .
As you start understanding the Word of God, and it speaks to your heart and convicts you of your sins. .you can overcome that sinful nature as you grow in grace and knowledge of God.
And when you start looking for more of Jesus in your life. .you will start noticing less of yourself!
2 Peter 3:18
Grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and forever

He is Risen!!
Happy Easter and many blessings to you and yours!


  1. That was wonderfully written.
    When people tell me about their "moment" of finding Salvation, I've always thought, "I don't have a "moment." Do you have to have a "moment?"
    My favorite part of what your wrote is, "I want to live in a way such that people who haven't chosen that road already. .may find my life different enough to want to pursue the heavenly road themselves." When I read that, the hymn, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love" came to mind.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Our pastor spoke Sunday on the "A-Ha" moment that Peter had. The moment that you accept/realize/wake-up to the facts that you so eloquently describe. We have been "trained", but not yet had that true moment that we can describe as our awakening & re-birth. You've done a truly awesome job in describing the doubts & the Biblical route for answering the questions.

  3. Very well said! I too have grown up a Christian and don't have a fancy conversion story to tell. It can be frustrating at times, but I am so thankful that I grew up the way I did and I think that speaks volumes about my family and the values they instilled in us as kids. I can't imagine having gone through my "younger" years not knowing Christ and not deepening my relationship and knowledge of Him.

  4. Dear Melanie.... Scott and I were talking about this very thing yesterday, what is my story? I too was raised in a very nice Christian home, going to church every time the doors were open. In my later years I realized that being in church, saying the right things, being raised in a Christian home etc, did NOT make me a follower of Jesus Christ. I don't remember having an AHA moment when I realized my need for Christ. But I do have stories of being saved from myself, times of falling on my knees with the overwhelming conviction of my sins, the unmistakeable need for forgiveness, the moments of thinking "who am I that He should know my name". Praise Him for putting up with me and my selfishness and my self-reliance, Praise Him for sending His Son so the likes of people like me could one day dwell with HIM. I Praise Him for our little church that preaches the word and for our SS class filled with my best friends.... For James, Beth, Francis and all the other who have taught us to search the scriptures, God has been and will forever be faithful. Love you girl!!!

  5. It's so great that you shared this, Mel. I liked reading your perspective as someone growing up Catholic, since that's not something I know. I used to think I didn't have a story and I hated that time in church camp when they asked people up to give their testimony. But someone wisely told me later, that in itself IS a testimony, to have grown up in a Christian home learning the truth of scripture at a young age. It's a legacy. Now after that, I rebelled for years and then I really DID earn a "testimony" ha ha. But I still catch myself trying to work out my salvation, like you said. That grace thing - it's one crazy concept! So thankful for it, though. :)
    (Oh, and BTW, since you like to study the Word, you might like the Daily Audio Bible podcasts. My pastor is the creator of DAB and we like to listen to it in the mornings. It goes through the Bible in a year.)

  6. Out standing. I am very blessed to have read your story! What a beautiful life changing experience. Thanks for your powerful message. Dale

  7. Thanks for sharing your heart Melanie! It brings to mind a verse that is special to me Gal 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free..." YAAA! oxoxo Sal

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Melanie - God bless!