Salem Baptist Church

Located in Salem, India and is a work in progress, planted by a seed from Beulah Bapist Church in Germantown Maryland. It is being watered and nurtured by the churches of Camp Liberty in Pontotoc, Mississippi. That seed that was planted is the family of Britto and Viji and their daughters Jessica and Ivanna.

 

BrittoFamily2014

 

Cindy Robbins

  The Missing Piece 

I told the church one night during a service that I felt like our church was missing a piece of a puzzle, for some reason in my heart it seemed like we were missing something. Little did I know that it was ME that was missing God in my life, the peace that passes all understanding. There were many in the church that realized this, but I was clueless until several years later. Here is my testimony of how the Lord revealed himself to me and gave me my missing piece, and made my life whole.

I was raised by my mom who had been divorced 5 times, and a bitter grandmother that had raised 9 children alone after her husband had died of bone cancer. It was a very unstable environment, but it was all I knew, I thought it was normal for many years. I have never known what it was like to have a father, because I am an illegitimate child. My biological father denied that I was his. So I was raised with a bad attitude about men. I was taught they were all losers, and self centered. The discipline that was carried out was by my grandmother, who carried a switch and was just itching for a chance to use it, and unfortunately I gave her many chances. Growing up in this atmosphere, I learned to trust in myself and appeared that I did not need or have to have a man to depend on for anything.

School years were great and fun and I loved school and my friends. I was very independent and started working when I was 12. I made my own decisions and answered to no one at a very early age. Ironically, I was looking for love by the time I was 13 and thought I was ready for marriage by 15. Kenneth, my husband, and I were classmates in high school, we dated for about a year and were married  just 3 short months after we graduated high school.  My purpose for marriage was not for love solely, but to not have to live with my mother and change situations that that I was not satisfied with in life. I thought I would get to rule my own life after marriage, however, that was not the case.

Two years after we had been married, I had my first child, a son, Heath. Kenneth and I had such a good marriage relationship that I couldn’t even tell him I was pregnant for 3 months.  I was afraid he would be angry with me because I was supposedly taking the pill (when I would remember).  He wasn’t too upset with me, so we muddled through the process of adjusting to having a child.  Kenneth and I had very different ideas of parenting, I wanted him home helping me, and he wanted to not be at home, not helping me. So, most of the time he went his own way and I went mine. He loved to hunt, and fish, and run beagles. We both worked, so my new life was raising a son, and his was well the same as it was before Heath was born. We rarely went to church, we had no desire to. He was raised in church, but I only went to church when taken by a relative. I had no thoughts of God or spiritual matters growing up, life was just life and you rolled with the punches, taking all matters into your own hands and dealing with them the best way you knew how.

When Heath was 15 months old he had spinal meningitis, he was very sick and at the point of death. The doctors rushed him to a pediatric hospital to spare his life, at this point I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter Brittany. Needless to say this ordeal changed my complete thinking about life and brought my mind to thinking about God. I was in the waiting room attempting to sleep waiting to see if my son was going to make it through the night. I realized at this point in my life that there was a God and that he was in control of all life and situations. I started making deals with God in my mind, I said God if you will allow my child to live I will start going to church and live my life for you the best I know how. I dozed off to sleep, the next morning my son was much better and the prognosis was that he was going to be ok after a few weeks of meds and being in intensive care.

Now it was time for me to keep up my end of the bargain that I had made with God.  After the birth of my daughter, Brittany, I told Kenneth we were going to have to start going to church. We started going to New Oak Grove Baptist, because that is where Kenneth attended when he was growing up and his parents were still members there.  We attended on Sunday mornings only, for awhile, but then as our children were growing older and getting involved in sports and many other activities, church was not a priority again. Our children loved sports, so that became our God, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. Both of our children were very good in sports, Heath played all star baseball from the time he was 7 until he graduated, and Brittany played all star softball from 7 until she graduated high school, and basketball also. We were on a sports field or basketball court, every day, every weekend for 10 years.

As the years rocked along, we still attended New Oak Grove when we could fit it into our schedules. We had several preachers that came and went, which had become a norm for our church. The faithful people of the church had become weary of the searching for a new preacher process, because they would only stay for a year or two and then leave us.

In 1993, the pulpit committee decided to ask the Blue Mountain College Seminary to send some young men for trial sermons. Bro. Claude Mills came to our church with his wife and family of 3 young children. I don’t remember what he preached the very first time he came, but when they called him back for his second sermon, he preached a sermon titled “what are we passing to the next generation”. That sermon touched many of our church members, deep meaning for us shallow minded people. We had never thought about what we were passing to the next generation. He was preaching spiritually, asking were we teaching our children the ways of God? All we were teaching our children that I could see was how to play ball. Of course, this could mean scholarships we would tell ourselves.  We certainly didn’t know anything about the bible to teach them, even though we had been attending church for years. Little did we know that God was going to teach us what to pass on to the next generation in the years and sermons to come.

We elected Bro. Claude to be our new preacher, because we were all impressed with his sermons and his family. After he got settled in at our church and got the feel for what we believed or didn’t believe and realized where our hearts were, he started preaching what he called “truth”. Truth was what the bible really said about things and the standard by which we should live our lives, according to what God and the Bible said, not what we thought was right in our own minds, or vain traditions of the church.

When Bro Claude came to our church, we were well into our love for sports, and our children’s lives. Kenneth and I had grown apart over the years of our marriage because of it, he went one way with Heath and his games, and I went another way with Brittany. We had very little time for one another, and when we did it was usually arguing about money or who was right about what and you did or didn’t do this for me, or the usual marital fights and justifications of your feelings.

I got to the point that I hated sports, hated being at sports events every weekend, being in the hot sun, listening to parents whine about their kid not getting to play or the coach yelling at my kid because they didn’t play good enough. I worked hard and I deserved better I would think, if my family loved me they wouldn’t put me through this mess. I was very selfish, became very distraught, very strong willed and obnoxious to everyone, not only my family, but anyone that crossed my path. I got into financial messes, and Kenneth would have to borrow money to bail us out. I didn’t care about who it was affecting, I would turn around and do it again. I eventually was unfaithful in our marriage, so therefore I was an emotional wreck, and put my family through hell, but I hid it all inside, or in my mind I was. I was very deceitful, I pretended that nothing was wrong and trudged right along justifying all of my thoughts and actions. While all this was going on, I had to appear to be a good parent and wife and attend church, after all that’s what I told God I would do, my feeble promise earlier in life. I was living a double life, pretending nothing was wrong, living one way at home and work another way at church. It became a miserable life circle.

When Bro. Claude started preaching truth, one of the first things he preached about was that God expected husbands to love their wives and wives to love their husbands. Not only did he preach this, he lived it. Bro. Claude and his wife Becky were much in love. They held hands in public, would sit close to one another in church, and kiss in public, enough to sicken me. I would make fun of them and tell them to get a room or make other smirk remarks to them. But I could really see that they cared for one another and cared what the other thought about things, and had a relationship and respect for one another.  It was not good to compare our marriage to theirs, because it did not match up. Deep down in my heart, I was jealous of their relationship but I knew in my mind I could never love my husband like Becky loved Bro. Claude or the way God said it was supposed to be. It was at this point in my life that conviction started piercing my heart. I started hearing God speak through a preacher and it was about love, a type of love that I had not ever heard of before, a love from an almighty God that would forgive me and wanted a relationship with me. A type like a husband and wife are supposed to have, unconditional, forgiving love.

Bro. Claude often preached about how to love God was to love him and love each other, not only your spouse, but people in the church. I was so in love with myself at that time in my life, I had no desire to love anyone in the church, or get close to them. If I were to get to close to anyone or open up to anyone, they might find out about my sins and my terrible attitude.  Another thing Bro. Claude preached about often was repentance, a form of humility and showing obedience toward God, I was not ready to do that. I remember sitting in church and wondering to myself and asking the Lord what I needed to repent of. Bro. Claude would say that repenting is a change of mind? I had no intentions of changing my mind about anything, because I was determined and convinced that I was right in all of my thinking. The Lord needed to straighten Kenneth out, and have him treat me better and take better care of me, but unknowingly to me Kenneth was thinking the same thing about me.  Somehow the Lord started showing me through many sermons that I needed to start seeking him, asking for forgiveness, and repentance. My heart was very hard and cold and I did not want to admit that what I was hearing about love toward my husband and others was the right thing to do.

I finally just ask the Lord what must I do to be right? He told me to get right with my husband, and love him. I did not like that answer and rejected the idea that was what I needed to do in order to be saved. However God started a work in my heart and life and convinced me differently. He sent not only Bro. Claude but other preachers, like Bro. Greg Moffitt, Bro. Tim Rutherford, and Bro. Terry Owen to help convince me of God’s teachings about love, mercy and forgiveness.

Bro. Greg Moffit preached a sermon at Grace Baptist Church that pierced my heart, it was out of Luke 18 and talked about how we trust in ourselves and have no need of the Lord. It talks about thinking yourself as righteous, and despising others. That was exactly how I felt. I thought I had everything under control and I didn’t want the spirit of the Lord showing me how sinful and what a mess I had made of things. I despised others that loved God and I thought everybody sins and I am as good as they are.

By this time, Kenneth and I were on the verge of divorce, I was at the point where I was ready to divorce and leave my kids. I wanted my own way and do my own things. The only thing that kept me from leaving already was I didn’t want someone else to raise my kids, I did not want them to be in a broken home situation.  I had no feelings for Kenneth, no love, I told him I wanted a divorce. Kenneth went to Bro. Claude and talked to him and told him what was going on. Bro. Claude started counseling with us individually.  He told me that my thinking was wrong and this is not what the Lord would want, and he felt like we could reconcile our marriage.

I had to get to know my preacher and trust someone besides myself. All this was a work of God in both mine and Kenneth’s life, drawing us to our man of God and teaching us to trust him. I was not in the right attitude about any of this to start with, I was still rebellious and really wanted my own way , but I wanted to do what was right for my kids and God eventually.  As I started hearing and obeying what Bro. Claude was saying about reconciling our marriage, the Lord opened my ears to what he was saying about reconciling to Christ. I started doing whatever Bro. Claude said to do. Kenneth and I separated and started all over, we started dating and trying to relearn each other, listening to each other and trying to sort things out. As I started to lower my guard and quit finding all the negative things about Kenneth and looking for positive, I saw that he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. The Lord showed me how he had really taken good care of me over the years and provided all the things I needed, I was just not appreciative of it, a type of Christ in a sense.

Bro. Greg Moffitt preached a revival service for us and one night he preached about giving your problems to the Lord, he used the words throwing up or puking up our sins. I went to the alter that night and tried to do just that, I cried and puked up every distasteful sin I could think of that I had ever done, but I did not get saved that night, but I was doing some serious repenting. Some people were confused because it seemed I was broken and looked like maybe salvation had occurred, Bro. Terry Owen came to the alter and asked me could he talk to me and I said yes. He asked me did I not know that God was there for me, I said no, I don’t see him or feel him. He said you might as well go back to your seat, because God was there for me, but I missed him. I did what he said, I was not upset, I didn’t even know that salvation was near, I was just trying to get rid of my guilt and sin on my own once again.

A few weeks after that, I awoke in the middle of the night and the Lord told me to walk away and sin no more. It was so vivid and real, not like a dream. I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t tell anyone for a few days, but it was constantly on my mind. So finally I told Bro. Claude what happened, and what the Lord had told me. Immediately he said do you not know what story that phrase comes from. I told him no.  He told me that was from the story of the adulterous woman in John 8, how the woman was caught in the very act of adultery, and the people brought her before the Lord and wanted her stoned, and the Lord told them whoever was without sin to cast the first stone and the Lord looked down and drew in the sand, and when he looked up, the people that brought her before the Lord were gone. He asked her where her condemners were, she said they are not here Lord. The Lord told her he condemned her not but to walk away and sin no more. I was like WHAT?! I said so you are saying the Lord does not condemn me and I can walk away and sin no more, forgiven by the Lord of Heaven. He said evidently, if that’s what the Lord told me. I just could not believe my ears. Why in the world would the Lord not condemn me, after all the things I had done to him? Well I just couldn’t believe it.

On August 27th, 2003, I went to church and Bro. Claude got up to preach and he read a verse out of the bible, I don’t even remember the specific verse, but he made the statement, that somebody in the service was a God hater, and we closed the service. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I thought I do not want to be a God hater, somehow through all the things that had happened in my life, I had learned to hate God, but at the same time it brought me to God and showed me how God had provided and taken care of me all of my life. I started to the back of the church to stack the chairs and put up the songbooks with all of these thoughts on my heart and mind. When I turned around to get another chair, the spirit of the Lord just sat down on me, I could not even stand up straight. Somehow I made my way to the pulpit where Bro. Claude was standing, by this time I was crying and I told Bro. Claude I could not leave the building that night without God and knowing that I was not a God hater. I was crying so hard I could hardly talk. Bro. Claude told me I just needed to get thankful, and thank the Lord for what he had done.  I was puzzled by this answer, I was like thank the Lord? I was not feeling thankful at that very moment.

Bro. Claude convinced me that I had already repented and it was time to be thankful, so I just started saying thank you Lord, and then the next thing I knew I was really thanking the Lord, for everything, for showing me myself, for sending me a preacher that taught me truth, for my husband, for my kids, for my church, for everything that he had taught me in the last 10 years, showing mercy to an unworthy sinner, for not killing me, grace and forgiveness of my sins and not condemning me, just on and on, I just couldn’t quit. I thanked the Lord for deliverance and salvation….SALVATION, yes the Lord had redeemed and saved me that night.  I worshipped for over an hour, it was unbelievable. I told the Lord that he was right about everything and I was wrong about everything. The spirit of the Lord not only moved on me that night but also my brother in Christ, Ralph Knighton, a birth of twins in the church.

The great physician had healed my heart, made me a new creature, gave me peace. I found the missing piece of the puzzle I had looked for. A great transformation had occurred that night.

My life has not been the same since, I love church, I love learning what the Lord wants and desires from me. Kenneth and I have a wonderful marriage now, he got saved 6 years later, and the Lord is still blessing both of us. When the Lord changed my life, it also changed the life of my family, our priorities changed, our decisions about where we go changed, everything is different, but better. Life for the Lord is wonderful, and he is still teaching us many things through the leadership of Bro. Claude and Faith Baptist Church. I would not trade my life with anyone.

Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.  

    Sheila Culver

           

           

AMAZING GRACE

Personal Testimony of Sheila (Gibson) Culver

I was raised up in church all my life.  I went to Calvary Baptist Church in Arkansas where Bro. Charles Shipman was Pastor.  I considered myself a good kid, because I was always in church.  My parents made sure we were in church.  We were taught right from wrong. 

          I guess I was about 14 years old when God first started dealing with me.  I thought at that time God had saved me.  I did not realize that He hadn’t until I was older.  When I turned 18, my life fell apart.  In my mind I was grown, and no one was going to tell me what to do.  I didn’t like rules, so I moved out of my parents’ home.  I thought once I was on my own things would be better.  I thought I was missing out on a lot of things of the world, and  I made some bad decisions. 

At the time I thought I was having fun and not thinking about the consequences of my sin. I messed up and jumped into a marriage, got pregnant, and then left shortly after.  I went back home, because I wanted to go through the pregnancy with my Mom.  I started going back to church at Calvary.  I felt that I was where I was supposed to be. Then in February of 1998, I thought I got saved again, and it was great for a while. 

My daughter, Abbie, was born in April, and I was determined to raise her in church and around the things of God.  Things were going good for awhile and then I went back to my old ways and wanted to do my own thing again.  I started doing things a saved person wasn’t suppose to do.  I would go to bars and drink thinking things were good.  That’s when I met James (my husband now).   I continued to live a life of sin.  We went out for a while and then decided we would live together instead of getting married.  I was afraid of marriage, having already had one that failed, plus he was a lot older than me.  I wanted to make sure that it would work between us before I took such a serious step as marriage.   I knew I was doing wrong, but I didn’t care.  I was thinking only of myself.  I was trying to make myself happy. 

I remember going to Bro. Claude Mills’ church a few times, but I couldn’t make myself keep going.  I knew I was lost.  I knew if I didn’t do something, I was going to hell, but that still didn’t make me want to go.

James and I had a lot of problems, so I moved back to Arkansas instead of dealing with my problems.  I decided we were not living together anymore.  We were either going to get married or we were through.  I was tired of living like that, and I wanted to make it right.  We got married in 2001, and I moved back to Mississippi.  We still had the same problems - nothing changed. I moved back to Arkansas in 2003, because I thought I couldn’t take anymore. 

During that time, my Mom found out she had cancer.  That was devastating news!  Nine months later, she was gone, and I didn’t know what to do.  Things were so hard; my life was crazy.   My Mom always knew how to pick up the pieces and make me feel better, and now she was gone.  I was so upset.  I hated and blamed God for taking her.  I couldn’t understand why he would do that to me.  I needed her and I felt so alone.  I couldn’t get along with anybody.  I was just miserable. 

I decided I needed to get away from Arkansas, so I went back to James.  I couldn’t live in Arkansas anymore.  I was determined I was going to make my marriage work.  I loved him, and our marriage had to be fixed.  I was tired of running.  Things were going good, but I was still in a lot of pain, and I still blamed God.  I knew I needed to be in church, but I didn’t want anything from God.  I had a lot of issues.  I also knew if I started going to church I would have to change my life and I didn’t want to.  I would try going to churches around my house, but I got nothing.  I knew where I was supposed to be, but I kept using the excuse that James wouldn’t go so I wasn’t going either. 

Around August or September of 2008, out of the blue James suggested we go to Bro. Claude’s church.  I agreed I would go with him.  This time when we went I looked at things differently.  I saw what God was doing among that group of people.  Tia and Jeremy Hall were expecting little Abbey Grace. In the womb, she had serious medical problems diagnosed and it was uncertain if she would even make it to term.  I needed to stay and see God’s work accomplished in her.   I knew then I had to quit blaming God for taking my Mom.  I had to quit hating Him and realize He didn’t take her to hurt me.  He was doing a miracle right in front of me with Abbey Grace. 

We started going regularly. The more I saw the more I wanted.  I was hoping it was not too late.  He used the miracle of Abbey Grace to keep me coming.  She was born absolutely perfect.  I started doing whatever it took to get saved.  I couldn’t understand why it was so hard.  I went and talked to Bro. Claude, and he kept telling me I was trying to save myself.  He said I needed to just do what God wants me to do like being the wife and mother I’m supposed to be and leave the rest up to God.  I started doing that.  Then Bro. Claude said “I” was what was standing in the way.  I didn’t want to give myself up to God, and I loved myself more than God.  I thought he was crazy. 

On December 28, 2008, Bro. Claude was preaching on the gifts that God gives us.  That night he brought beautifully wrapped gifts for each one of the lost to open up.  Each gift contained a special verse from the Bible.  As each box was opened and the verse read, God would stir my heart.  The one that I opened is the one that really got to me.  It said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...” (Eph. 2:8).   When I read that verse, I knew God gave me that one for a reason. 

When I got home, I put the verse on the table next to my bed so I could see it.  I kept looking at it and started thinking “all this time I’ve been trying to save myself.”  I couldn’t go to sleep, so I went to the bath tub.  That is where I go to  relax.  Well, God was there.  God showed me the real reason of why He came on this earth, and why He died on the cross.  It was so weird, because I had never seen it like that before.  I knew the story in my head, but when I saw it through my heart, it was like I was actually there.  I started crying and praying.  Then God started showing me myself, and I couldn’t believe that was me.  Everything Bro. Claude had told me, God was showing me, too.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed.  I couldn’t understand why God would love somebody like me.  I told God if He wanted me, He could have me, but I didn’t know why He would.  I told God there was nothing I could do; He had to do the rest.  I shut up and didn’t do anything.  The next thing I knew the words, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, I once was lost but now I’m found” came across my heart.  All I could do was sit there.  I didn’t know really what happened.   I was thinking surely it wasn’t this easy.  All I had to do was “nothing.”  

It was around 12 o’clock at night, but I had to talk to Bro. Claude.  I called him and woke him up.  He was half asleep, but he said it sounded good and we would just have to sit back and see what happens.  I wanted him to say more than that. 

I couldn’t go to sleep.  I wanted to run around the house shouting, but everybody else was in bed asleep.  I kept thinking this is too good to be true, and it was so easy.  All I had to do was shut up and listen.  I had decided I wasn’t going to tell anybody just in case it didn’t really happen.  Wednesday night I asked Bro. Claude if we could sing, “Amazing Grace.”  He had Tia sing, “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone.”  I never heard that song before, and it really stirred me up.  I almost exploded, but I still wasn’t ready for anyone else to know.  I was afraid things would change if I said it out loud. 

Sunday came and Bro. Claude had everybody tell what they had gotten out of church that year.  I had memorized what I was going to say.  I was not going to say anything about getting saved.  When it came to my turn, God took over and I told everyone everything.  I was shocked and excited.  I realized there was a big difference in what happened to me this time than what had happened in the past. I went by feeling before, and this time it was all about Christ and what He did for me.  I had always imagined getting saved at church not in a bath tub.  Everything that happened was nothing like I had imagined it would be.    I know God knew that’s the way it had to be for me. 

Now that I’ve been saved, I can sit back and look at all the changes in my life.  The drinking and partying are gone.  I don’t even think about doing them anymore.  I stopped smoking.  I don’t hang around the people I used to anymore.  God has changed my life in so many ways.  God has been showing me a lot of things.  He has brought a lot of preachers in my life through the years to get me to the place where I am today.  He constantly reminds me where He brought me from, and I am so thankful that He never gave up on me.  He has given me a wonderful church and wonderful friends that I love very much.  I am so excited to see what else God has planned for my life.    

Andy Johnson

           

           

I’M FREE:  NO MORE CHAINS

The Testimony of Andy Johnson

          My life started out like most other people.  I grew up in a family where church was a top priority.  My parents taught me the importance of the church my whole life.  I loved our church, and I enjoyed all the activities and friendships that came with it.

          When I was ten years old, my great grandmother passed away.  It hit me hard, because she was a big part of my life.  I missed her always being there.  We had a revival at our church a few weeks later.  The preacher made a comment that if you ever want to see your family and friends again, who have died and gone to heaven you had to be saved.   I knew that I wanted to see my grandmother again, so I went and talked to the preacher after the service.  He took me back in a Sunday School room and led me through a prayer to receive Christ as my Savior.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  I just knew what the preacher said, so I did it.  I told my parents, and they were so happy and proud of me.  I thought everything was okay then.

          I started my teen years resting on the prayer I said when I was 10 years old, but I always had doubts.  I always wondered if it was real.  I never really had rest in it.  Sometimes when I doubted, I would just repeat the prayer again just to make sure.  I went through my teen years doing things I was not proud of.  I still thought I was okay though, because I was at church every Sunday, every Wednesday, and all the other church functions.  I felt as long as I was there, I was okay.  This whole time I was still banking on the prayer I said. 

          I was nearing graduation from high school when the church called a new preacher.  For the first time in my life I started hearing strong preaching on sin and repentance.  It blew me away, but I still figured I was okay, because I had asked Christ into my heart.  I still had my doubts, so I had to figure out why.  Bro Lou preached a sermon on if you are truly saved, you will serve God.  He talked about doing things for other people and telling other people about Christ.  I thought that was my problem.  I had those doubts, because I wasn’t serving God like I was supposed to.  I thought if I would do those things, the doubts and fears would go away.   I jumped into serving God.  I started driving a handicapped man to church.  I started leading devotions in Sunday school and at Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) functions at school.  I would also talk to people about Jesus whether on my own or during visitation at church.  I started impressing a lot of people, including myself.  When I was busy doing all these things, I wasn’t worried about if I was saved or not.  But all these things still did not change this one thing:  At night when I went to bed, and there was nobody there but me and God, the fears were still there.  I went to sleep each night with the same doubts,  the same unrest, and the same emptiness.  I would wake up the next morning determined to serve God better.  I would make it through the day okay, but each night I still felt like it wasn’t enough.  My mind was set on the fact that I could serve God even more, so I would try even harder.  But, no matter how hard I tried it, was never enough.  I was doing all I knew and all I had been taught.  Every night was the same.  At night when I couldn’t prop myself up by my service or hear someone else brag on all I was doing, I was miserable.  This was the common theme of my life.  Work, work, work during the day, and go home with no rest.  I was tired.  I just wanted to go to bed and not have all the doubts and unrest.

          Our church started having some division because of what was being preached and some other things that were going on in the church.  To make a really long story short, some of the big shots of the church got people together and voted out the Pastor.  In the middle of doing this, they also did some ungodly things to our Pastor and his family.  The men of the church that I grew up respecting were the ones right in the middle of all this.  This put a nasty taste in my mouth toward the church and only made the doubts I had greater.  For the first time in my life, I did not like church.  I remember telling God that if this was what church was about I wanted no part of it anymore.  I meant that.  I asked God if He was real to somehow show me. 

          All this was going on around the time I met Crystal (my future wife).  We talked on the phone a good bit.  All she ever wanted to talk about was God and the church.  The manner in which she spoke showed me that she truly loved the church and the people of God.  It made me very interested in what she had.  She finally talked me into coming one night to Faith Baptist Church in Myrtle, Mississippi, where her father, Bro. Claude Mills, was the Pastor.  The church was having a revival.   I didn’t expect much to be honest.  The same nasty taste of my old church still lingered.  The service started and some things immediately caught me off guard.  I saw people thanking God and weeping for what He had done for them, and it pricked my heart.  The worship of the people blindsided me.  I quickly realized these people were not like me…..at all.  Then Bro Greg Moffitt got up to preach.  He started preaching on the God of hope.  He mentioned how God was not a God to leave you with no hope and that He was the source of our hope.  In the sermon, he got to screaming, “God is real! God is real!”  For the first time in my life, I felt the presence of God in a way that I could not describe.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I am not kidding.  That is how strong God was.  God had made it known to me that He was real. 

          A couple weeks later Bro. Claude sat me down at his kitchen table for a talk.  It was about my relationship with his daughter, Crystal.  I was 20, and she was just 15.  He told me he did would not let me date her for a long time.  He said I could come to church and talk to her on the phone, but dating wasn’t going to be an option for a long while.  I didn’t take that too well.  I thought that since I was 20 years old I should be able to do what I wanted to do.  I left that night with the intentions of never coming back.  Even though I had felt God in that service, I was going to walk away.  I was angry on the way home.  I was even getting angry at God.  I was questioning everything when God pierced my heart and said, “Don’t walk away from this.”  It was so strong I had to pull over.  At the time I did not understand, but now I know it was the wonderful grace of God working in my life to not let me run away from Him.  I decided I would give it a try.  I knew God had dealt with me, and there was a curiosity and wondering in me if there was something more.

          I started going to church with Crystal some, as well as attending the church that split off from my old church.  I continued seeing a lot of praise from the people at Faith, as well as hearing some very powerful preaching.  The presence of God in the services almost scared me away.  I always wondered why I couldn’t thank God like they did or why I wasn’t grateful for what He had done for me. 

          One Sunday night Bro. Claude was preaching out of Genesis 3 on the fall of man.  He talked about Adam and Eve eating the fruit that God told them not to eat.  He dealt with how they covered themselves up, because they were ashamed of what they had done.  Even though God knew, He still asked them, “Where art thou?”  That phrase started ringing in my heart strongly.  I was starting to see myself in that scripture.  Bro. Claude talked about how we try to cover up who we are.  He would hide behind a plant, acting like Adam hiding, while screaming “Where art thou?  Where art thou?”  Those screams tore me up inside.  God’s word and His Spirit started revealing to me who I was.  I had spent years of my life covering up who I was by my religious acts and good deeds.  I thought I was covered, but God could see the depths of my heart.  Yet, God still asked me “Where art thou?”  I was revealed for who I was - a lost man.  My cover was blown.  From that point, there was no denying that I was not saved.  I was scared to death, but somehow relieved.  I finally understood why all those nights I went to bed doubting.  It was because I had nothing but my works. 

The next few months God really raked me over the coals about who I was and how prideful I was. All the religious acts I had performed were all done in pride to make me look better than I was.  Bro. Claude started preaching through Romans. He preached about being a slave to sin. I never thought of myself like that until God revealed it to me. Not only was I a slave to sin, but I loved it. I lived for it.  It was my master, and it had complete control of my body and soul. It was not in just what I had done.   It was who I was.  I had never heard such hard things preached to me, and God had never talked to me so specifically before as to who I was.  It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through.  I spent days and nights with the constant reminder of who I was. There were no props for me anymore. God persuaded me of who I was.

From this point I had no hope that a Holy God would save me. I was too busy seeing myself and not God’s grace. Bro. Claude preached one morning out of Luke on loosening the colt.   He talked about God waiting for the right time to loosen the colt to be used. When they asked the Lord why he wanted the colt, He told them, “The Lord hath need of him.”   Through that God told me he wanted me.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around why God would want someone who was a slave to sin.  I couldn’t argue with what He said either. He wanted me.  I finally had some hope.

Bro. Claude continued preaching through Romans. I was reminded again how I was enslaved to sin. The hope I had somewhat diminished.  I knew who I was, and I would never merit salvation.  It was like the harder I tried, the farther I was from being saved.  I felt like I was chained down by sin and couldn’t break loose. The more I tried on my own, the tighter the chains got. What I saw as an impossible situation was just God getting me to the end of myself. He wanted me to see how I could not do it on my own.  How, no matter how hard I tried, I was still shackled.  I couldn’t move.  I had no strength to make the effort anymore.  Then Bro Claude started preaching on being free from sin.  He wasn’t dealing with who I was, but who Christ was. I had spent all this time shackled by chains, because I only saw me.  I wasn’t seeing my substitute.  I was not seeing my sacrifice.  He spent the next few sermons preaching on Christ, and how we receive Him not by our merits but by His.   God was just revealing to me over and over why I was chained.  He kept on mentioning being free.  The thought rung strongly in me, but I just didn’t believe it.  I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t forget it either.  The thought of “Could I possibly be free?” went over and over in my head.

The next Sunday he started preaching the same thing: Free from sin.  Free from sin were the words, But I still felt like I hadn’t done enough. I realized that a slave is a slave until someone greater than him grants him freedom.  The slave had no control over it. God was talking and working in me.

I went to my parents’ church that night. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen.  As the songs were sung, I felt the weight of my chains dragging me down again.  I felt like I was at the Mercy of God and, if he didn’t do something, I would die.  In the midst of all this, God reminded me of all that He had been saying to me about being free.  Out of nowhere I heard this sweet voice saying “You are free!”  Three simple words changed my life forever!  I believed God when He told me I was free.   All of the sudden I didn’t feel the chains anymore.   All I felt was liberty.  I was no longer worried if I had done enough.   I finally believed Christ for who He was.  I rested in His sacrifice.  All I could do was fall down and weep.  My heart was overwhelmed by the liberty I finally had.  I no longer had to try to prove myself.  Christ proved Himself for me. Sin was no longer my master.   I was blown away by how such an Almighty God could simplify His salvation for me.  God had made me free.  I was saved.  I had no more chains.  Thank you God!!!

Jim Knighton

           

           

Save me and I shall be saved

  My whole life I was taught to love God, church, men of God everything to do with it. I was either playing basketball or going to church. Even though I was going to church I don’t ever remember a lot about church or feeling God move on me. I was probaly 12 or 13 when we had youth revival, and at the time we had a lot of youth. One night several youth came down and said they got saved, after the service preacher asked me why I hadn’t went down I told him I didn’t feel anything. He started asking me if I wanted to be saved, was I not sorry for my sins the next thing I knew I was crying. Preacher told me if I was sorry for my sins I was saved so that was my first confession. Nothing really changed next 3 or 4 years.

  When I was 16 I got a job at Shoney’s restaurant, it was the first time I got out into what you call the real world. I got to hanging out with wrong crowd I tried drinking but just didn’t like it, tried drugs same thing just didn’t like them. I still hung around that crowd and church wasn’t that big deal. I still went but was just there. By my senior year I had quit basketball and working at Shoney’s was my life. At the same time I met Donna and we dated off and on.

  After I graduated from high school in 1982 shoney’s asked if I wanted to be a manager. I moved to Clarksdale was asst. manager. In Feburary 1983 Donna and I got married. I was promoted to executive manager. I should have been happy but I was home sick, Clarksdale is not myrtle so in 85 they transferred me back to new Albany. I lived down there for three years and the only time I ever went to church was the night I got married. If you had asked me I would have told you I was saved. Shoney’s was closing stores and I was getting tired of all the hours so I quit and went to work at futorian in shipping. Now that I was back home I still wasn’t back in church. To be honest had no desire for church but Donna wanted to go and matt was born I knew I was supposed to take him. We started going to Temple Baptist that’s where my dad and mom were going. We went for while everything was going good. We went to church and work. Richard Johnson was preacher and he started preaching on lost church members it shocked me. I didn’t know there were lost church members, I just thought they were backsliding. It shook me up but I didn’t tell anyone I just told Donna I would like to start going to new oak grove that’s the church I was raised in. We started going there and the preacher there preached stuff that didn’t bother me or convict me. As time went on he left and we got Bro. Charles Smith he was young and loud going to seminary. He came in preaching about lost church members. Here I was again but in my mind I had no where else to go. I went to him one wensday night after service and told him I was lost. We went to one of the back rooms and he said if I wanted to be saved I would have to pray to God and ask him to save me. I got in floor and started praying asking God to save me. He ask me what I was feeling I told him nothing he said if I meant it God would save me. I started crying and then it seemed like I got peace. He said I was saved. After that it did seem I had a desire for God and the church that I had never had before. Seemed like things were going good, church was growing we had visitation, workdays I was enjoying church. After I had been saved year the church voted me deacon, taught Sunday school men, RA leader my life revolved round the church. Then Bro. Charles left for another church. It hurt I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t keep preacher.

  Bro. Claude came and right away I could tell something was different he cried when he preached and you could tell he was sincere. He started preaching about what are you passing on to the next generation. It sounded good then he preached about tradition of men rendering the word of God to no effect. He also preached about examine yourself whether you be in the faith. People started leaving the church thought Bro. Claude was trying to run everything, but everything he preached was right in the word. I often wonder why I didn’t leave all I can tell you was it was the grace of God because I had run before. As time went on people started getting saved people that I thought was already saved. Bro. Claude started bring in other preachers Bro. Tim preached on getting things in you’re life out so God could work. Bro. Greg preached about tearing out the old, these are just some of the sermons God used to show me where I was at but at this time I still considered myself saved. Bro. Sandy and I worked together and one day at break he was talking about how God had showed him how deceitful his heart was and how he had lied to himself about his salvation. I can tell you that is the strongest I had ever felt God move it was like God was talking to me not Sandy and even though he was talking about himself it burned in my heart the truth about me. All this time Bro. Claude had been preaching about examine yourselves and I thought I had but God showed me I had just been looking at it lightly not really digging in to my salvation experience. But prideful as I was I tried to hang on to what I had. At this time we were meeting in the youth building while we remodeled the church. Bro. Terry came and preached a revival in October 2004. When we built our church we put these big pillars in the front and Bro. Terry came and he preached on being a pillar in the church and it was good but then he said their was some here that think you’re a pillar and you’re not. When he said that it was like God sat on me and told me that was me. It was the strongest I had ever felt God moved on me. Before I could always get the conviction to go away but this time I couldn’t  get away. I knew there was no denying it anymore I was lost. I will never forget thinking of how I could tell Bro. Claude I just knew he was gonna be disappointed in me. I had been with him for 11 years. I just knew he was going to be upset. The next mens prayer meeting after the revival I went in and I told Bro. Claude I was lost and when I was expecting disappointment he just started smiling. You may not believe this but I was releaved to know where I really was for the first time in my life I really knew where I stood with God. I wish I could tell you I got saved right there but it didn’t happen. The next three or four months I tried to figure out how I was gonna be saved. I remember laying in bed thinking of different ways I would be saved. I tried reading more praying more nothing. Bro. Claude asked me in mens prayer meeting one night what was going on and I told him things I was doing and reading and he told me I was working and as long as I was working God wouldn’t save me. Over the next few weeks it seemed he told me that a lot I just couldn’t see it. I had gotten to a place in my life where it seemed my life was turned upside down me and Donna were having trouble. I always prided my self in having everything together but it seemed it was all slipping away. God was showing me how my whole life I had depended on me, I had never depended on him for anything. I didn’t realize how much my pride was in control. My biggest thing was I couldn’t believe God would save me. There was services God was moving but I said if I went down he wouldn’t save me. In may2005 lighthouse had there birthday celebration and I drove up there with Bro. Claude and Becky and Bro. Brian Purdy got up and was giving his testimony and how he was saved and as he was talking he quoted a verse Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O Lord,  and I shall be healed save me and I shall be saved for thou art my praise. That phrase save me and I shall be saved just kept running in my head, I couldn’t tell you anything else about the night. The next morning as we were going back I couldn’t find that verse I had looked for it but just couldn’t find it. Becky found it and I just couldn’t get it off my mind all day that Saturday. Sunday morning came and Bro. Claude went around the church asking what we got out of the birthday celebration. As people went around telling what they got out of it I was thinking about telling them about the verse God had given me. When it came my turn God told me to go to the pulpit and read the verse, in my mind I was gonna read it tell them God helped me this weekend but as soon as I got up and started reading the verse God moved on me and when I read save me and I shall be saved it was like my eyes were opened and I really believed God would save me. I fell down behind the pulpit and told him I was sorry for not believing him. It was like I was in another place I had no idea what was going on around me just that I believed. The next thing I know is the church is singing it is well with my soul. The church was singing it but God was telling me.

Rachel (Rutherford) Gibson

           

           

RESTING IN MY SAVIOUR

Personal Testimony of Rachel (Rutherford) Gibson

The earliest memory I have is of being in church. My parents are Bro. Tim and Carol Rutherford.  They were both saved before I was born.  My dad was called to preach and later to be an evangelist.  In July of 1986, they sold everything we had and went on the road with dad as he started his ministry.  I was just two years old.  As I grew up, I remember times that I was touched and at times moved to tears but didn’t understand what was happening or why. 

          I had bad back problems growing up.  Finally, when I was 13, we were told I had scoliosis.  For those who don’t know what that is, scoliosis is an irregular curve in the spine.  I didn’t know then that 7 years later God would use my attitude towards the scoliosis as a major key point in my salvation.

          I entered a treatment program that required a change in my diet and life routine.  These changes made it impossible for our family to travel together.   Dad moved the family to a small town in Florida, which was close to my doctor, so I could have the treatments I needed.  Then Dad continued to travel on in evangelism, while Mom and we kids stayed in Florida.  I went through the treatment for nearly two years.  Since my back was continuing to curve and I wasn’t improving, the doctor dropped me from his program.  This allowed our family to all be back together again.  We went back on the road with my Dad in October of 1999. I saw a chiropractor off and on when I could, so the treatment was sporadic.  During this time, my oldest sister Denise married Steven Bach, and they remained in Florida. 

          In April of 2001, a friend of mine was killed in a vehicle accident.  He was only 16 and full of life.  I was very bothered by his death. For the first time, I was aware that my life was out of my control.  I always thought I would get saved when I was older, but when Jeremiah died, I realized that I may not have that long.  It may seem strange to some that read this how I had been raised in church and under the preaching of the truth but did not know that I had no promise of tomorrow.  I had heard the verse, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”, but until God opened my spiritual eyes to the understanding of it, I was completely oblivious.  I knew at that moment that I was accountable.  I knew the difference between good and evil and not just right and wrong. 

          A few weeks later, dad was preaching at Bro. Edgar Paschall’s in Kentucky.   There was another preacher there, Bro. Mike Bagwell, whom I had never heard preach before.  The only thing I remember about his message was him saying something about “trampling on the blood of Christ.”   He also preached about the Son pleading my case, even after I had trampled on Him.  His words made me feel like a dog.  I wanted to crawl under the pew and hide.  God told me then it was time to quit playing games and seek Him. 

A year or so later, we went to camp meeting in Pontotoc, Mississippi – Festival of Joy Cupbearers to the King.  I don’t recall who preached or what was said, but I felt God dealing with me.  I went to the altar crying but didn’t really know why.  My dad came down and asked what was going on.  I told him God was dealing with me.  He asked in what area, but I really didn’t know that either.  He left, and I didn’t know what to do, but he came back with Bro. Terry Owen to help me.  Bro. Terry asked me a few questions and then he asked if I had ever told God I loved him.  I told him that I hadn’t.   He told me to tell God that I loved Him.  I tried, but nothing would come out.  I couldn’t say the words, “I love you “to God, because I knew I didn’t.  At the same time, I didn’t want to admit how I felt to Bro. Terry.  Bro. Terry asked me if I had told God.   I said, “No.”  He then asked, “Why?”  I told him, “Because I don’t.”  He wanted to know why, but I really didn’t want to tell him the reason.  I finally told him I didn’t love God, because I hated Him (God).  Bro. Terry wouldn’t leave that alone either.  He had to know why.  I told him I hated God because of my back; I felt God had cursed me and didn’t love me.  Bro. Terry and my Dad looked at each other and said they thought that had been my problem all along.  I almost felt relieved to have finally admitted that I, Rachel Rutherford, was a God hater.  I knew that was a terrible thing, but at the same time I didn’t see myself all that bad

          Time passed.  I graduated from high school and decided to attend Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi.  In order to go to college, it meant that I would have to move away from my family.  I talked with my parents and Bro. Claude and Becky Mills about living with them.  They all agreed, so I moved to Myrtle, Mississippi and lived with the Mills family.  I stayed with them from February through May that year. 

While living in Myrtle with the Mills, I had been seeing a chiropractor in Memphis.  One particular day I saw him, and he gave me bad news.  He had taken x-rays and measured the curvature of my spine.  He came into the room and told me my back was very critical, and I needed to have surgery within the next year.  My spine was at a 100 degree curve.   This prompted my move to Memphis, Tennessee and is really what started into motion the events surrounding my salvation. 

I lived with a family from the church I was attending there.  I got a good job with insurance benefits, but when my benefits went into effect, I still had no doctor to perform the surgery.  While we prayed for guidance to find the right doctor, my sister Michelle moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  She got a job at a rehabilitation clinic.  In the meantime, I was still lost and had not gotten saved.

Bro. Mike Williams called me around this time.  I believe it was around two years after I realized I was lost.  It took 3 years for God to finish His work.  Bro. Mike said God had put it on his heart to remind me of a song I had been singing for years, “Let the Blood of Calvary Speak for Me.”  What he wanted me to know was that “there’s no work that I’ve accomplished” and no goodness in me for God to save me.  It was completely on the merits of His Son and only for His glory.    

While Bro. Greg Moffitt was my pastor, I had talked to him about some things going on in me.  Bro. Greg told me that I hadn’t been thankful for all the goodness God had put in my life.  One night I was out with some friends from church.   On my way home, I barely escaped a car accident.  It shook me up.  But what really got my attention even more, was when God told me I was driving my life the same destructive way.  It’s amazing the way God can use everyday circumstances to get your attention but even more amazing is that it would take a little longer before I finally realized what God was really saying to me. 

Dad came to Lighthouse Baptist Church, where Bro. Greg Moffitt was Pastor, to preach a week of meetings.  One of the nights, Dad preached out of Isaiah.  The particular verse he dealt with was, “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged….”  I remember Dad saying that over and over.  God was moving, and I knew He was there.  At one point, Dad came up to me and said that God wouldn’t fail me.   God wasn’t discouraged that I hadn’t believed Him yet.  That gave me hope to continue to seek.  It’s so easy to get discouraged when you’re lost and you’ve been seeking for a long time, and you haven’t gotten saved.  I know now if I had sought Him with all my heart, I would have found Him and been saved, because that’s what God says in His Word.  As I found out, “He shall not fail,” and He didn’t.  It was a couple of years before this truth became completely alive in me.

          During this time, life was going on, and God was continuing to move and save people around me. Camp time came around again in February, 2004.   Bro. Claude Mills started preaching to the lost.  I don’t remember his text.  I only remember he kept calling out to the lost and asking these questions:  “Are you lost?!?”  “Do we have anyone who’s lost, without God?  Is there anyone who is just genuinely LOST?!?”  I fell in the floor and started begging God to do whatever it would take to make me feel my lost condition.  I had never reached a point where I believed that I needed God.  I had been taught it, preached to about it, but had never felt it in me. I was self-sufficient.  My life was just fine.  What did I need God for? 

          That same week my parents gave me a “butterfly” magnet.  (If you come to camp, you know what that is.  If you don’t, come and see!)   The verse was from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you saith the Lord; thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  When they read that verse to me, it was just like God (Himself) was telling me that’s really how He felt towards me.  Even though I hated Him, His thoughts toward me were peaceful.  I was reminded of a time when I heard a message about Judas betraying Christ. Even though Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him, He  called Judas “friend.” 

          Bro. Greg Moffitt preached at our church about his Pearl of Great Price.  He talked about how precious this Pearl was to him.  He told of how he sold and gave up all for this one Pearl, because it meant that much to him.  He cupped his hands and walked around the room and asked people to look at his Pearl.  He preached how much he loved this Pearl.  I wanted what he had!  I wanted to be able to love God that much, but I didn’t know how to get there.  I had other witnesses to how great the Pearl was, such as my parents.  I had seen my dad cry and shout about what God had done for him.  I had watched my mother praise God for being her peace that passeth all understanding when listening to Mrs. Becky Mills sing, “I Give You Jesus.”  However, until God stirred in me, I thought that was just the way my parents were.  Hearing Bro. Greg stirred up a desire in me that I have never felt before. 

          God was still working behind the scenes to answer the prayer for my back.  I spoke earlier of my sister moving to Hattiesburg and working for a rehabilitation clinic and God was working through that.  Around January my sister, Michelle had eaten lunch with a nurse at the clinic where she worked.  She told Mrs. Margaret about me and the struggles I had with my back.  Mrs. Margaret in turn talked to the doctor she worked for about me, and he wanted to meet me.  We set up a consultation time with him for February 10, 2004, so my parents could be there too.  He took x-rays and talked with us about my history since the scoliosis had been diagnosed. He wanted to run more tests but before he would schedule them, he wanted to let me know how critical this issue was and that I had taken it too lightly.  He wanted to schedule surgery for some time that year, preferably in March or April.  He went over the pros and cons with us.  He made me realize that if I wanted to live a comfortable life, I had to get the surgery done as quickly as possible.  We set the surgery date for March 23, 2004. 

          There was a lot going on during this time.  My sister and her fiancé (Craig Routon) were married on February 13, 2004.  Exactly one month later, on March 13, my Grandpa Rutherford passed away.  When grandpa died, I became “really” mad at God.   I felt He had taken my grandfather too soon.  Here I was, mad at God, and my surgery was   scheduled for the next week.  

          The morning of my surgery arrived.  We had to be at the hospital at 6:30 that morning.  They took me back to start prepping me for surgery.  I was so afraid.   At this point, I really believed that God may just let me die.  I knew that if God let me die on that table, He would be just in doing so.  I laid in my bed that morning, while I waited for surgery, looked at my family, and thought to myself that this would be the last time I would ever see them.  Before they took me back, dad and Bro. Greg prayed for me.  That was the last thing I remembered. 

I woke up to a strange voice telling me to wiggle my toes.  I asked if I was going to be able to walk again and then I asked for my mom.  Every time I woke, the verse in Romans 2:4 about “the goodness of the Lord doth lead thee to repentance” came to my mind.  I wondered why that verse would even be on my mind, but more than that, why would God want to be good to me? 

          I stayed in the hospital for only a week and had almost no pain.  They released me from the hospital, and my Mom and I stayed with my sister, Michelle, at her house.   I had to be there for 6 weeks before I could travel a very far distance, so I couldn’t go home.  During the time I stayed with my sister, we went to her church.  The services were very dead.  I felt very desperate to feel God and have Him say something to me.

          After about 3 to 4 weeks of fearing that I would never feel or hear from God again, Denise called and asked mom if she would bring me to come and stay with her for a while.  She told my mom that they were having a meeting at their church with Bro. Larry Winkler.  We got permission from my doctor for me to travel, and we went to Denise’s house.  The meeting was good, but I didn’t feel God at all.  Thursday night, Bro. Winkler preached about Naaman and how he had to admit who and what he was:  just a leper who couldn’t do anything to make himself any better.  That night I told God that I missed his presence and that I just wanted to hear him one more time.

          The next week we went to Lighthouse’s birthday celebration.  God didn’t move on me there either.  I really thought I had said no too many times, and God wasn’t going to talk to me again. 

          I went back to stay with my sister, Denise.  Two weeks later there was a meeting not far from her house.  The week before the preacher arrived, I listened to preaching tapes at night when I went to bed.  I asked God every day and night to do whatever it took to bring me to the end of myself, so I could be saved at that meeting. 

          The meeting started and we went Monday night.  The preacher who was preaching that week was Bro. Fain Jordan.  I had never heard him before.  The first night he preached, “Has America Seen It’s Last Revival?”  Tuesday night, he preached out of Psalms, but I really don’t remember much about that message.  Thursday night, he preached a continuation of his message from Monday night; I didn’t get a thing out of it.  We went back Friday night.  When Bro. Jordan got up to preach and read his text, he said he was closing out the meeting with “Has America Seen It’s Last Revival?”  I was so upset!  I almost closed my Bible and set it next to me.  My first thought was that God must not want to save me.  But somewhere deep inside of me, there was still enough hope to pray.  I told God that I had prayed for a week that if He really wanted to save me, He would meet me at this meeting.  It was the last night, and He hadn’t.  I went on to pray and tell Him that right now, if He wanted to save me, He could change the preacher’s message. 

          Bro. Jordan continued to preach, but I was only half-heartedly listening.  He had my full attention though when he stopped and said he couldn’t preach on what he had planned on preaching.  He said that while he was praying, God told him to change his message, because there was one person there who was religious and lost and had been for a long time.  Then he said, “You know who you are.”  I began to shake and tremble all over.  It was almost like God himself had sat down right next to me and said, “There, I changed his message!”  I was in shock at the fact that God had even heard me, because for about a year, I had felt that God wasn’t hearing me when I prayed.  That night, there was no doubt in my mind that He had. 

          Bro. Jordan was preaching about people who had stepped over God’s day of Grace.  I had often wondered if I had, and if I had, would I know it.  It was very apparent to me that I hadn’t, because God was there and He was talking to me.  God had changed this man’s message for me!

          At the end of the service, Bro. Jordan asked for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes.  I knew what was coming next.  I heard him say that if you were the one who God changed my message for, why don’t you raise your hand and be honest with God about who you are?”  I couldn’t raise my hand.  I heard Bro. Jordan thank others around me for raising theirs, but I couldn’t do it.  I didn’t even know the majority of the people there; yet, my pride was so big and so strong that I couldn’t do it.

          Bro. Jordan started talking about some things and then asked again for the hand to be raised if you were that person.  I still couldn’t.  Then he told a story of an elderly lady, who was very active in her church.  On her death bed, she admitted to Bro. Jordan that she had never been saved.  When she died, Bro. Jordan said he asked God why she had never been saved.  God told him that when she was a young teenager He had come to her and asked her to give her life to Him, but she said not right now.  He came again when she was a young woman, and she told God there was too much going on in her life.  God came again when she was old, but she had turned Him away so many times she didn’t even recognize His voice.  When Bro. Jordan made that last statement, God told me that if I turned Him away this time, He would never deal with me again.  I shot my hand into the air as quick as I could.  Bro. Jordan never acknowledged me, so I thought he must not have seen me.  But then God said that He (God) had seen me, and I started weeping.  I began to beg God for mercy.  I knew I didn’t deserve it, but I wanted it. More than want, I desired it! 

They had everyone stand, but I couldn’t.  God was there, and I didn’t want to let Him go.  I stayed seated and continued to pray.  The hymn they were singing was “Why Not Tonight?”  A verse in it says “Tomorrow’s sun may never rise to bless thy long diluted sight.  This is the time. O then, be wise.  Be saved, O tonight.” 

          Teresa, my brother-in-law Steven’s sister, was sitting next to me.  She sat down and asked if everything was okay.  I told her that it wasn’t.  She asked what was wrong.  I told her I wasn’t saved, and I needed God.  She started praying for me and then got Shae, her pastor’s wife, to come talk to me.  Shae sat down and asked me a few questions and then she prayed for me.  They dismissed church and everyone, except for the people I was with, left.   

Bro. Jordan came and sat beside me.  He asked questions too, and then he asked me to read Isaiah 53:4-5.  He wanted me to put my name in the place of “our transgressions” and so on.  I looked at the verses and broke.  I couldn’t do it, so he read them to me.  He asked me a question before he left.  He wanted to know if I had ever seen myself as a sinner in need of a Savior.  I told him that I hadn’t.  He said I would never be saved until I did, because that was the reason Christ came – to save sinners

          After he left, Denise, Shae, Teresa and Joy Strickland were sitting around me.  They were trying to get me to admit that I was a sinner.  Denise told me that maybe all God wanted was for me to admit it, and He would be right there to save me.  I just couldn’t say it.  I couldn’t admit it, because I didn’t believe it.  Even though I had heard it all my life, the actuality of it wasn’t real to me.  Joy Strickland asked me if I would just say it.   She said I didn’t need to believe it; she just wanted to hear me say it.  So I said, “I’m a sinner.”  There was no emotion, no feeling, and definitely no believing.  Then they all started “preaching” at me.  It started making me mad, but I could still feel God; I knew He was there for me.  I didn’t understand why, since I couldn’t believe I was really a sinner, but I was glad that He lingered.  Joy said it was obvious, by the way I said it that I didn’t believe it, and she didn’t know why.  She pointed out the fact that if you’re not saved, you’re a sinner, so what was my problem?  My only answer was pride.  I was the “good little girl,” raised in church all my life.  I had sung in church and obeyed and respected my parents better than most kids.  How could I be a sinner, and how dare them for saying I was! 

          Shae was sitting next to me, and she did something that finally made me explode.  She got right up to my ear and said, “Rachel, just say, ‘God, I’m a sinner.”  I got right in her face and screamed at her, “I’M A SINNER!”  When I did, God said to me, “Yes, you are.”  It broke me and I said, “Oh, God, I really am!”  I started weeping and the others did too.  When God told me I was a sinner, His voice wasn’t mean or angry and that amazed me.  I sat up again, and they asked what was going on.  I told them God was still there, but He hadn’t saved me yet.  Denise started to sing, “What you need is Him. What He wants is you. What you need is the blood. Nothing else will ever do. So why do you hesitate? Why do you pause? What you need is Jesus. What He did at the cross.”  Denise asked what was holding me back.  What was I holding onto that I wouldn’t let go of?  I told her I didn’t know of anything. 

          I did the only thing I knew to do.  I started singing the chorus of a song I had known since a child, “Whatever It Takes.”  The chorus says, “For whatever it takes for my will to break, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.” Shae asked me to sing the whole song.  The first verse says, “There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree, and it whispers draw closer to me.”  At that phrase, it was the first time I had seen God as approachable.  When I started singing the next verse, God really sat down on me.  The words say, “Take my houses and lands.  Change my dreams and my plans, for I’m placing my whole life in our hands.”  When I sang that phrase God said so clearly, “You’ve never given me your life.”  I stopped singing and started crying.  Shae encouraged me to sing it again.  I began singing, but at those words, “I’m placing my whole life in your hands,” I couldn’t go any farther.  I had been asking God to show me what I was holding on to.  I had thought it was my love for music, so I gave all of it up for awhile.  When I didn’t get saved, I went back to it.  I had made a checklist in my mind.  That night, I saw at the bottom of the list was my life.  All the things on my checklist made up who I was, and God wanted ALL of it.  Denise and Shae told me not to stop now.  Tell God again, and keep singing.  I don’t know if I started singing, but my heart was being poured out to God.  I was telling Him how I didn’t care what He did with my life. I didn’t care if he allowed me to live or die, but if it was to live, I didn’t want to do it anymore without Him in it.  I told Him my life was His to do whatever He wanted with it.  At that moment, it was like He was standing in front of me with a huge, fluffy pillow, and all He said was “Rest.”  I fell into that pillow so thankful for REST!  I knew it was over! NO more battles, only peace.  I could truly sing for the first time, “Blessed assurance, all is at rest.  I in my Savior am happy and blessed.”  I came up thanking God, and then they all joined in.  As long as I live I will never be able to thank God enough for the “rest” I have in my Savior….and, oh, how sweet my rest is!!