Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Personal Testimony: Part 1

My earliest memories are attending Maple Grove Christian Church on Jacktown Road near Hazelwood, Indiana. I was about four at the time. This was a rural and small church, but it was packed! Many of those were my own family because there were nine of us. I don't recall my brothers Joe and Rich going there regularly because they were ten and eleven years older, respectively, and certainly too old to be concerned with religious stuff!

Dad was dedicated to finding a "right" church, but right sometimes takes years and much church hopping. My family attended there for about a year or two. My memories there are few. I do remember sleeping under the pews as the adults paid attention. I do remember them drinking the wine, which Dad assured us was grape juice for he was a tee-totaller just as I have been all my adult life. Of course the little wafers and grape juice weren't for nourishment, but to be done "In Remembrance of Me". Most churches, that one inclusive, had that engraved on the "host" table where the elements of "The Last Supper" were kept until two men with piety removed the white linen from it and began to serve those who were "eligible".

In protestant churches there are two types of "communion" which has also the fancy name of the Eucharist. It's where Christians have spiritual union with God, but it's in remembrance of Jesus Christ who is God incarnate. There are closed communion where only members of the particular church can be served and open communion where any Christian can commune with God. Communion is not for unbelievers, and as a child I had yet to develop faith although I certainly believed because my parents believed!

However, Christianity is not inherited. Sin, unfortunately is! Therefore, I got my parents genetic propensity to sin, but failed to get their faith! It seems like a raw deal, but that's how it is. I learned at a young age that I'm a sinner because Adam sinned. That's tough to understand because reason would have us believe that we are merely responsible for our own devices. Here, as a three-year old, I was held accountable for what Adam did. At an early age Mom assured me that because of my age I was not accountable for my actions. That was a relief. It seems, according to Mom, that I got reprieved until I was twelve-years old.  That is not scriptural, by the way. It's a Jewish custom called bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls. It's when they are spiritual adults and sin they become responsible for their own spiritual condition.

Before I move on to take communion one must not do so :unworthily". This is from scripture, but who is "worthy"? No one DESERVES communion with God, but by grace he communes with those who claim him. Grace is getting things we don't deserve. Hence. unworthiness is endeavoring to commune with God when there is unpardoned sin. Before one takes the elements "bread and wine", they are to repent of sin in their life. Repentance is not a one time event, but is a continual process. Now back to "accountability".

I always dreaded becoming twelve! Because of my age I got to sin all I wanted until I was twelve and I tried to squeeze as much sinning in as possible. Why so? SIN IS PLEASURABLE and I wanted to enjoy myself. "Original Sin" is when Adam first sinned. Only years later did I realize that Eve was the first sinner, but Adam was accountable for her sins because he was the spiritual head of the family. His job was to make sure that Eve never fell into sin and God gave him directions for that. "Don't eat of that other tree!" Of course being a woman who hears, but doesn't listen, Eve added "or touch". Because she took on the role of spiritual head, she was disrespectful to God for doing so and of Adam for assuming his sole job assignment; to tend the Garden of God.

Sinning for a child is innocent sin. It's doing things natural. We are inclined to sin as our nature, and that I did! I took things which weren't mine. I stole from my brothers and neighbors. Mom had to question us when we left our cousins house; "Did you take anything?" She asked that because we didn't have toys of our own. I might have stolen a toy, but if I did it's long forgotten! I learned over time that if I forget a sin, it's not forgiven, so it's best to seek forgiveness lest one forgets!

I still have problem with "forgetting sin". That's not my place. That's what God does and I'm not God!

Hebrews 8:12 " For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
Even now as I "forget sins" I'm actually usurping God's authority just as Eve usurped Adam's. It wasn't her place to talk with the serpent because he misleads. It's not my place to forget my sins because that's a maneuver of the serpent even today!

Let me give an example. If I watch a television show, for instance, which I feel guilty that I'm watching, I would likely do that on Monday night because it's three days away until Wednesday service. Therefore, I have three days to "forget" my sin and not feel guilty about it. That's childish, but that's a remnant of my childhood. I'm not alone! Sinners sin the same.

So for twelve years I developed a pattern of sinning which has a drastic effect on my adult life. God tells parents to "Bring up a child in the way of the Lord, and he shall return to it." Unfortunately, if a parent does NOT bring up a child in the way of the Lord, there is nothing to which the child can return! Dad brought me up in the way of the Lord! I knew right from wrong at a tender age. I sinned, knowing it was sin, because I was not to be accountable for it for many years. That too is a maneuver of the serpent.

We attended Hazelwood Christian Church after that. We had begun our "church hopping", hunting the perfect church. Of course, as the saying goes, "The minute anyone steps into the church it's no longer a perfect church".  I went to Vacation Bible School (VBS) there. I insisted that I be in my sister Judy's class, although she is nine-years older. Judy was my surrogate Mom because Mom was spread too thin with seven kids. Judy's job was to mother me. I still call her my favorite sister, but she is the only one I have!

All the while we are church hopping Dad is reading the Bible most evenings. (To us younger children at any rate).  Dad always read the King James Version (KJV) and in those days people even prayed in King James English. I was impressed that it was the language of God he was speaking and to speak to God, one must speak as King James did. Some of the older people still do that, but it has no more efficacy than conversational English. I remember at a young age when I realized that it's not necessary to pray that way. God wants your heart! The words merely reflect the heart and speaking in a fake language isn't impressive. As such I started talking to God just as I would any other person. Later on I started talking to God as the day went by!

It is ritual that one save up a number of sins until the guilt is overwhelming and then release it all on God at the altar on Sunday. That's fine, but God's will is that you not sin, but if you do, ask forgiveness immediately lest you forget or minimize it later! The altar, I learned young, is where we submit ourselves to God as that "living sacrifice", but to stay alive in God requires a steady walk with him. It's amazing how much time one can spend each day asking God for forgiveness when we sin each day. Rather, I learned later, it's best to ask God to lead me from temptation! If I forget to do that, where is it I go? To the plain of Sin!

When Dad read the Bible and prayed, actually I didn't listen. Why not? Because it is boring I thought! Anything which is complex and requires attention can be boring to a child. I was sometimes resentful because I had to stop what I was doing and have home Bible Study. Dad didn't ask "Are you too busy?" He merely called us together and started his study. Dad was endeavoring to "bring us up in the way of the Lord". I must say without Godly parents it's possible that I would never turn to God. Their role is important! Some parents say "I'll let them grow up and decide for themselves," have likely just made the decision for them. Most of those children who have permissive parents are destined for hell. Love is when parents want their children to have eternal life. They must love them so that they MUST tell them about Jesus to provide the hope of salvation! Dad did that!

All the while I failed to listen, or so I thought! Dad's and God's words were filed away in dusty drawers in my brain. I didn't even know that they were there.... until; until I needed them, and out those thoughts came!

Digressing a bit, as an adult I was listening to Hillary speak when Bill Clinton was running for president. Of course because I'm a Christian, I am there to protest Bill in front of Hillary. I was right in front of her as she was speaking. Some older man stood alongside me and cursed me all the while. Shortly he slugged me on the right cheek. In  my mind and anger, I had a mental picture of me knocking him through the chain link fence where we were. God's word, came to me because of Dad. "Turn the other cheek!" I then said to the mean guy "Hit me here too," as I pointed at my left cheek! That verse was pulled from those dusty files where Dad had filed it so many years before!

Later on we moved to Cartersburg and went for a short time to the Methodist Church there. Then we moved on to Stilesville Christian Church. This may explain why my siblings attend that denomination and I do not. As young adults that's what they remember. Dad quit going to Stilesville Chiistian because the deacons smoked between Sunday School and Church. Although Dad was a smoker at that time, he was already convicted that it was wrong. His spirit was willing to quit, but his flesh was weak, just as was the Apostle Paul's. Because Dad smioked, as a young child of five, I took his cigarette butts from the ashtray and smoked them. Of course I got sick and coughed, but the desire to do as the adults do was another trick of the serpent. Satan put the smoking monkey on my back until I was 35. It was a new birth! I quit on  my birthday Feburary 15, 1984.

Cigarettes are not spiritually benign, at least not for me. When I sinned in other things I "justified" (rationalized) it in my mind by thinking "So why not sin this time. I smoke anyhow!". You see cigarettes were enablers for greater sins.  Some say that all sins are equal. They are not! The punishment for unpardoned sin is the same for any of them, but some sins are more grievous than others. Adultery, murder, homosexuality and hate are great sins. Hate is a cardinal sin! Why? Because the "Greatest Commandment" is to love. Therefore, the "Greatest Sin" is to hate. In fact the unpardonable sin is to deny Jesus and by hating others, contempt is shown to God!

Another roadblock to righteous living was alcohol. My first impression of alcohol, because in my day civil people drank at home, was the drunks. They were the loud-mouth cursing bullies. The women were normally tattoed and low life, since at that time tattooing was not in vogue except for sailors and rough women. (I still despise tattoss, and God led me to that; Leviticus 19:28). I learned at a young age that obedience doesn't earn heaven, but it sure is a way to demonstrate love! Years later I noticed that scripture supported my opinion (John 14:15). I would bet that Dad's Bible Study planted that in my belief system! Thanks, Dad.

I drank a few beers as a teenager. I even picked up discsarded liquor bottles and tasted what remained. I even drank nearly a pint of mint vodka when I was a junior in high school (after the age of accountability). You see, I was trained to sin and when I matured, I was well trained! Sin is compounded as one sins routinely! Dad taught me that!

Well, on my twenty-first birthday my friends took me to"The Kings' Armor" in Flint, Michigan where I attended college. As I walked in I asked the waitress to bring me cokes (as a joke), but as the night wore on, others became drunk and stupid and I saw their stupidity. There are sins which go with drinking because drinking alcohol suppresses inhibitions. At this young age, I realized that these friends were as boistorus as the drunks from my childhood. I made the decision not to drink on February 5, 1970. It seems that God uses my birthday to remind me to grow up spiritually!

When my Dad worked second shift, we didn't go to church. Because most of my friends did, I too wanted to go. You see, those with whom one associates have a drasic influence on a person's life. I wanted to fit in. In those days kids from repectiable families went to church. I wanted to be respectable so I started attending Coatesvile Methodist Church at that time (before it united). At the age of about fourteen, I took the catechism class. Since I attended church without my parents, on Sunday people asked "Didn't your parents come today?" I wondered why! Unknown to me or God the Pastor Norris King announced "Larry got an 'A' in  catechism class. He's now a member of this church." It appears that I got "saved" and God nor I had any knowledge of it! That's a reason I'm so skeptical of salvation for those who fail to understand!

Later on I was baptized by sprinkling (affusion). I was now a damp sinner, not even wet!

Salvation is enlightenment. One must see the Light. To have light, it must shine in darkness. "Darkness" is the belief that God isn't needed for eternal life. "Light" is when one realizes that their own god of self is powerless to save anyone and salvation is only by Jesus Christ. With that light aglow to be born-again the person accepts Jesus' sacrifice because they have faith that he can save them!  Without that experience, me or any other person is jus a church-sitting sinner who feels secure in our false security!

Later on because my friend Gary Nance was going, I went to Baptist Church Camp run by the Missionary Baptist Preacher and his family. Malcolm Neier gave the sermon in a tent at the camp the last night. I never heard, but one thing he said "If you want to stay after and pray, do so." I opened one eye and the kid beside me stayed.. I did too. I day-dreamed while the preacher prayed. I learned that night in evening service at the conclusion that I had been "saved". Everyone thought I had been, I didn't want to spoil the party, so to speak, so I said nothing. I was still a sinner.I was fourteen at that time.

By the time I was fourteen I had been "saved" twice because that's what Baptists call it. As an adult I have learned that there is one salvation and that's when we "shall be saved" if we ""endure to the end". That's called conditional security, but it's a critical doctrine. I suppose that Dad filed that doctrine in my head and I certainly have always had a bias for that doctrine. However, it's not Dad's legacy which matters, but truth. As such in the 1990s as I was reading scripture I wrote down all the scripture on both eternal and conditional security and the outcome was heavily weighted toward "conditional security". Conditional security is the allowance that one can deny Jesus and relinquish the security in Jesus through a loss of faith. Faith is dimished if one doesn't follow Jesus with prayer, scripture and praise. If God loses his importance in one's life, then that's apostasy.  In effect one is not "saved", but has the "hope of salvation" as Paul called it. Salvation comes at the time of death if one "endures to the end" according to Paul.

Eternal Security is when free will is relinquished and a person who believed at one time is always "saved" "Shall be saved" is interpreted a "right now" even though it's a future event. Even the word sazo in the Greek means "safety".  Therfore, as a believer I have faith in Jesus Christ and am born-again. Therefore, I am made safe by God and have the hope of salvation! I can give up that faith anytime and that's what Satan tries to do to me through temptation. If he keeps my mind on pleasure, then I gradually lose interest in Jesus and "forget" the joy I once had!

Be patient if you will. So far in this spiritual autobiography my mind has been bent toward Jesus by my parents and friends. Satan has deceived others twice about my security and I have formed sinful habits which afterward became an obstacle, Tomorrow I will follow up with the "real deal" which sometimes Satan makes me doubt. Stay tuned for my further spiritual adventures!

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