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FinallyAlive

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  1. FinallyAlive

    Born again, a “real” birth.

    I do not scatter “secret meaning” in my words. They are meant to be transparent. I am sorry you took it that way. I called myself a Christian for years, but I never knew what that truly meant. I was double-minded. I cared about and gave my thoughts, efforts and attention to so many other things in this world above our Lord. And the kicker? I didn’t even realize it. When I write, it’s merely done so in an effort to share how fully God has changed me. But imagine a dot to dot drawing, and everyone having a different opinion about what order the lines should be drawn in. So many different people can look at the same set and see and understand something completely different, speculating about what the final drawing should be. It’s probably why we have so many different denominations today. We all read the same Bible, yet we each seem to understand the Word differently. I have no desire to be prideful nor arrogant, nor do I mean to come off in that respect. That said, I know how deeply and permanently I have been changed. I can’t deny Him who changed me fully.
  2. FinallyAlive

    Born again, a “real” birth.

    It is interesting that you omitted the verse in Galatians previous to the one posted, which is: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” Then you do however, quote one of the most uplifting and wonderful promise-filled verses: “In *all* circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish *all* the flaming darts of the evil one” Brother, believe me when I say this, I wish *all* of us brothers and sisters in Christ could live this way. The (seemingly) few of us who have had their eyes opened to these exact promises are treated like heretics, though we are merely sharing what is written. What a contented Christian might read as “a nice thought”, to me, personally, is such a glorious assurance. I have been forever changed, for the better, through no special piety or doing of my own. For I am nothing without Christ, but through Him, I can do all things. We may not see eye to eye on this matter, but I pray that someday, if God’s will, that might change. While we may not be able to achieve earthly “perfection” on the level of Jesus, let us all find ourselves truly endlessly walking in His Spirit, letting the endless noise and profanity and evil ways of this world not have any power over us at all, and let our own world-centric thoughts give way to the awesome power and glory of the Mind of Christ, focused squarely on what truly matters, His Will for us. Let us all see the world and its ways for what they are. Let us not care about what others may think of us, but instead hold fast to how we might be viewed in the sight of our Lord. Let us work together, uplifting one another, encouraging each other to always obey and follow His Spirit with unflinching faith. The New Testament is full of fantastic promises, if only our eyes can see.
  3. FinallyAlive

    Discovering the Second Half of the Gospel

    Hey frienduff... is there a possibility you’re confusing Staying Alive with me? I’m the one who is buddies with Gideon. I don’t post too often, but I do try to read these threads, even when sometimes they are a little more heated than I would like. I know that if our hearts are in the right place, we truly seek to please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... we want that in our own lives as well as ALL the brothers and sisters that are true believers. 1 Thessalonians 5. It’s a great chapter. It walks the full gamut of relative discussion to this and most threads on the forum. From admonishion of those who are in need, to loving and building up and encouraging each other, to not scoffing at prophecy, but testing all things. I think that there are a few on these forums who have been a little more anxious to find fault in others than to encourage, love and uplift those in need. We are all on the same team, though most of us probably were brought up in different denominations. But if you strip away all of the differences between those denominations, what are we left with? We all share in the Word of God. The words in the Bible. The Truth. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and was resurrected for our benefit. So that we who believe and trust in Him fully are no longer bound to death, no longer slaves to sins, but blessed with His Holy Spirit, able to walk free, having been born again, finally truly alive. Total victory. What an awesome, amazing glorious gift we have been given.
  4. FinallyAlive

    Discovering the Second Half of the Gospel

    Jude 1:9 is an interesting verse.
  5. FinallyAlive

    The Meaning of Lukewarmness Understood

    Ahhh... okay. I am asking if there was something specific that caused your call for alarm. You had mentioned “red flags”... but what were they? Something someone said that you didn’t agree with? And if so... what was it? Maybe I should just ask: Do you take issue with the thread and its posts just because of its author? All of us here (if for the right reasons,) are genuinely seeking the Truth, the same (One True) God, and have all been mercifully saved by the same Savior, Christ Jesus... If we took the time to adhere to James 1:19, we might benefit. Six months ago, I could probably quote nine scriptures, and had no working knowledge of what the Holy Spirit actually was. And yet, I called myself a believer. I still prayed, I still “believed”... but honestly, my understanding was entirely infantile. Then, after a miraculous conversion, I immediately was drawn to the New Testament. ALL OF IT. Over and over again, in as many different versions as I could handle. And the most amazing part? When I read the words, it was like I already knew them, and they were glorious, wonderful affirmations. When I had religious discussions (with anyone and everyone who would listen) when we had questions, I’d say something... then we would go to His Word, and amazingly, they were always the same. That’s by no power or virtue of mine. The Holy Spirit is awesome indeed... and sharing in the Mind of Christ is absolutely life changing. I knew what it meant to be truly “born again”. My ever-present desire to sin left me. I was compelled to “un-tell” all the lies and half truths that I had carried as an unneeded burden for so many decades. I was filled with love and patience where there was once angst and unforgiveness. (Have you ever asked God to truly help you grow and mature in specific areas? What a powerful and frightening, uplifting and mind-blowing week you’re in for.) Why am I mentioning all of this? Because while I sought every single Christian influence I had ever had in my life... when I spoke to them about my experience, they were all at a loss for a solid explanation. But they all agreed that God had fully changed me. So then... why me? And what was my purpose? I prayed every single night... out loud, seeking His answers. On one occasion, I was seeking someone else for fellowship... someone who could also have lengthy conversations about the Bible, Jesus, God’s promises... and through a very specific google search, I found a posting from Gideon....... from sometime in 2013. He had planted a seed five years before it sprouted before my eyes. In that thread, he was talking about the same things he does now. And was reaching the same levels of either disregard or resistance. But it was so similar to my own experience, I knew I needed to reach out. And so I did. And Gideon thoroughly and graciously talked to me. He prolifically and contextually quoted and shared Scripture with me to help me along my way (which is a main point here) and was genuinely uplifting and truly caring when I needed it. His walk with the Holy Spirit as a new creature was 11 years... mine was new, but regardless, it was profound. I had a great respect for him immediately, because I was literally crying out to God for other genuine “brothers and sisters in Christ” fellowship after mere weeks. If you find true fault in what he says, by all means, speak up. If you find fault in what I say, let me know. But please, I ask of you to not label or judge a fellow brother unfairly. (Likewise, if it seems that I’ve singled you out, it’s not out of spite, malice or vendetta or any other unrighteous reason. Instead, I truly hope and pray we one day are in complete and unrelenting agreement.) One of my most common prayers when speaking to others about what it means to be a Christian is that I never mislead or blaspheme, even in ignorance.
  6. FinallyAlive

    The Meaning of Lukewarmness Understood

    I’m having a difficult time seeing what you consider to be so egregious that has been said in this thread? I want to know because I’d either like to help... or get to the bottom of why you seem so opposed. Is it that you don’t think there are a majority of “lukewarm” Christians today... or something else?
  7. FinallyAlive

    The Meaning of Lukewarmness Understood

    Galatians 5:13-26. I always think of you when I read this. Both for the implications of life free from the desire for sin as well as the bickering aspect. (To which I will admit I’m not sure how to approach you about without also falling into that trap.) But beyond that, even the past quarrels that have taken place among the pages of these forums, I implore you to remember that prophecy is indeed a spiritual gift. Although Gideon (and most everyone else) are weary of those labels, (and rightfully so, given the modern company of those who actually have claimed that title for self gain) they nonetheless are possible through a his Spirit, spelled out explicitly in both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Gideon doesn’t claim to be a prophet, and yet... what would make you listen to someone, in this modern age, if they did indeed have a new message from God? Would you even consider it possible?
  8. FinallyAlive

    If I live, I sin.

    I never said we were supposed to not walk in faith, but did not even the shadows of Peter heal the sick? And what of Eutychus? (And all of Acts, really...) If you have even the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Would that not also be miraculous? What is your goal here? Is it to spar with words? Are you seeking the truth? Or are you acting as the Pharisees did? I can only speak for myself, so please don't ever judge anyone else on behalf of my actions, (especially since I'm fairly new to a true conversion,) just because I've experienced similar things in my walk. I will always attempt to calmly answer your questions, but as I explained in my earlier post, I could hold back my tongue no longer, in an attempt to defend someone who I would consider innocent, and if I did so in a way that you or others were offended, I whole heartedly and humbly apologize, but I do not back down from the core content of that post. I don't know why you're being singled out in my heart and prayers, but you are. Are those you are in disagreement with also on your heart? Truthfully? All I am asking of you, either publicly or in your heart before God, reveal the motives surrounding Not me in your question. Were you trying to bait him? And if not, what was the purpose of that loaded question? I'd like to know, personally, because you're the most prolific poster this week, according to the forum scoreboard...
  9. FinallyAlive

    If I live, I sin.

    Brother, I can assure you that you have absolutely no groupie in me. But, no offense... my soul and sole allegiance is to Jesus Christ. I am genuinely concerned, however. Please, though, do proceed and explain what you meant regarding your "two small questions", as I found what you said to be truly egregious in any context. You proclaim: "Encouraging young and struggling Christians to become established in the Faith". Is this really a good example of how to accomplish that? And if miracles are just "baby food", what solids, may I ask, are you now attempting to choke down? If you are truly walking in faith, you find yourself surrounded by true, undeniable miracles every single day. When does the time to be defensive for your own ego's sake become the time to truly humble and better yourself for His sake, and for ours? I don't care what you think of me, only how I stand before Him. I don't care how many posts are liked or disliked by my peers, for that isn't my purpose or drive. And on that same note, I don't wish to fight with you, especially since we both claim the same faith and it sets a poor public example, but sir... who gives you authority to question the faith and walk of others when you're not willing to have the same done in return? You make sin sound like it's always inevitable, even once we're truly saved and freed from it. Yet, I was yanked from the throes of sin, and I haven't looked back. My sailor's tongue? Drowned at sea. My lustful eyes? They no longer desire sin, nor does my fleshy body wish to "take things into my own hands". I used to want a big house, a nice car, and the latest techno gadgets and "things", but what good are they? My eyes aren't fixed on this life anymore. We truly are just sitting in the waiting room. I've seen you quote out of context "anything that isn't done in faith is sin" as your justification for your unbelief in being free from sin, but how can you say that if you haven't experienced what some of us have? CAN we still sin? Yes. Absolutely. I find myself tempted constantly, but it's the ability that we are given through Him to find the way out that was promised to us that helps us not even attempt to give it a single thought. Total victory. Though I've probably sinned a thousand times by just holding my tongue and not responding to your forum posts in just this past week. You see, I am here not for myself, I have no agenda other than to help. When I was miraculously changed, no one in my life knew what happened. They didn't understand how someone who was so depressed, scared of the world, distraught, selfish and occasionally scheming could now be so full of truth, selflessness, joy and love. And spouting out Bible verses, having conversations about scripture and God and our salvation through Jesus that last for hours on end... ... and yet here I am. And while I did nothing to deserve this but fall on my knees and cry out for forgiveness and change in total unabashed faith, I wish for ALL of us to have this. We can. We have such a loving God, and His promises are true and complete. I don't wish for recognition, I don't wish to be proven "right", I really don't even wish to continue pressing you about your seemingly sinister motives towards Not me, but I *do* wish for you (and all of the other struggling brothers and sisters) to experience the absolute fall-on-your-face-in-tears-of-joy freedom that we absolutely can have in Christ.
  10. FinallyAlive

    If I live, I sin.

    Oh my. You're officially first and foremost locked on my praydar. Why would you even attempt to lay a trap or ensnare another brother in Christ who is simply trying to share the joys of his walk with our Lord Jesus? Is it jealousy? Piety? This behavior sure doesn't look like it's coming from a place of love or anything even close. Take some time to reflect on the whole process you took before you posted that. Maybe this is an area in your life that needs to be offered up to our Lord, and learn and love and grow. Right. Because all the times that God spoke to people directly IN THE BIBLE, that was all mysticism, right? Or your own personal experience, stated right there in your post? Are you forgetting that our God is capable of doing whatever He wants, whenever He wants, to anyone at any time? I have never directly heard the voice of God, but I've been touched by heavenly hosts, and was transformed in an instant. My mother recently told me that my grandmother used to have a friend, and from what I understand, to say she was spirit-filled would be an understatement. I wish either of them were still around, because apparently she was the kind of lady who got in her car and without maps or anything else, would solely rely on faith, and managed to accomplish her tasks, time and time again through her unwavering faith in Jesus... without fail. Oh to live that way, yes? Is that mysticism? Or what we all strive towards? My grandfather claimed to have seen fingers grow back on the hand of someone their church was praying over, decades ago... and you know what? I have no reason not to believe them. Our God is amazing, wonderful, all-capable, all powerful, and the same as ever. The Alpha and Omega. The disbelief in modern day miracles, or the notion that somehow we are no longer capable of receiving these as spiritual gifts is absolutely painful. Show me where it says "Dear brothers and sisters, enjoy your spiritual gifts while they last! Your grandkids' kids' aren't getting them!" Who are WE to diminish the power of God? Why has the modern man stripped God of His amazing glory? I've been chasing your posts for a week now. I've been praying hard... and have controlled my tongue until now, but as the tone of my message probably conveys, I had to jump out and finally say something. I don't mean to call you out specifically, but in a week where I was hoping to find some nice, quiet, calm fellowship and true uplifting of brothers and sisters in Christ, it's been marred with dissention and bickering. Yes, my post probably also qualifies now, but just know that I truly do love all of you here and wish for you to grow daily in faith and love through the strength of our Lord Jesus. And you're in my prayers. And yes, they're prayers to God, made available by the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It saddens me that some (in recent threads) would even question that, and I have to add that as a disclaimer. So that said... I do agree with you that anyone who says that God has spoken to them, when He hasn't... well............ that's a different matter entirely. I would be scared to death to do that. Truth truly does set us free. There's such a glorious rest in knowing that your own actions and interactions need no second thought, nor can they be used against you. ("web of lies" vs. the "clarity of truth")
  11. I don’t often post, and when I do, I pray beforehand. But please tell me why you think the Pharisees believed Jesus to be the Son of God, the Messiah? As someone who has experienced without a doubt, first hand, the knowledge of truth, Hebrews first scared me, because I realized just how serious our position in Christ is. But I can be overjoyed in knowing that the same grace, the beautiful sacrifice that our lord and savior Jesus Christ made for us, for me, which truly washed me clean and changed my whole reality, my whole life, in such a profound way, can keep me from falling. Let me explain that... This may not be a popular opinion, but I am absolutely a beneficiary of “instant sanctification”, no longer was my focus on this life, but the next. My struggles and anxieties and depressions and addictions and lusts of the flesh, fear and insecurities were left from me, completely vanished, all in a glorious instant. I do not take that lightly. Imagine my surprise when I found out that not everyone, no, very, very few, have experienced this in the modern age. Me, Lord? A guy who didn’t even realize that John 3:16 was a “red letter” verse. I raced through the New Testament in several different versions (and actually take offense at the diminishing of spiritual things in “The Message” version) so happy with each new chapter and verse I was led to read. The verses I was familiar with, I sought the surrounding context... I wanted to know who it was written to, and why. I am humbly thankful and blessed in such a way I wish and hope we all can (or do) feel. So strong the change in me, it changed my political views... and not in the traditional direction. It made me realize that the first century church was practicing socialism, and while I don’t think it works at the government level, it sure changed my heart personally, when it came to what was truly “mine” on this earth, and I know you all already know this, but it’s absolutely nothing. My miraculous change was January 1st of this year. About two weeks in, my wife sent me a text, asking if I was on the way home yet. I said “yes”, when in actuality, I wasn’t on the road headed back home, though I was “on the way out the door”. It was close, a matter of minutes, but misleading nonetheless. For the next day and a half, it was ALL I could think of. I felt like I had squandered my whole eternal future for one half truth. So I told her. She laughed it off as silly, but it was THAT important to me. And I learned my lesson. Being truthful, 100% of the time is an amazing place to be. Even everyday relationships you have with others are strengthened beyond your wildest dreams. But getting back to the point. I fear sin, from a distance. My “several times daily” sins have left from me, but along the way, God has taught me other valuable lessons. Patience? I no longer have any selfish feelings about my own lack of sleep when my young son wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night. Forgiveness? My own memories now show me that in certain situations I wasn’t as innocent as I believed I once was. The people in my life who had “wronged” me, truly deeply, I would now say hello and shake their hands as if nothing had taken place. As He grows within me, I am thankful and am open to learning and growing each day. I am filled with excited humbleness as I approach each new day, earnestly praying for new and frequent opportunities to advance His kingdom. I have often wondered if we are all not called to different standards. Obviously what I can be convicted of, someone else may not be, but even when I watch movies that are seemingly innocuous, I wonder if my time would not have been better spent in His word. Where is my focus? Where do I want (and desire) my focus to truly be? Are they the same? Not always, and I feel a change inside of me, so I desperately ask for forgiveness, give up what it was that was keeping me from Him, refocus on the eternal, and rejoice in the glory of our God. I count it all joy, even in my failures, because I am able to learn and grow. I even thank God when things don’t go my way, because my own reactions have been forever changed. But back to my original question, and this is maybe to my own benefit as well, especially if other can chime in, but what makes you think that was referring to the Pharisees? Both in the Hebrews verse context, as well as the overall sense. I mean, when I read the gospels of Jesus, I see them as just not understanding Jesus... or who He was. He offered a better and far more perfect and easy way to salvation, and yet... it was flat out rejected across the board. Even Saul, before his own miraculous encounter, didn’t know who Jesus really was. I am not looking to engage in fruitless battles here, that is not my intent. I truly love you all as brothers and sisters in Christ, and I pray that we all seek Him before, after and during our forum activity. It matters not who “wins” a forum debate, it matters how we present ourselves and love one another as His children.
  12. For me, when I was younger, (and in truth, even up to the end of last year,) I understood “sin no more” as something I was going to have to be responsible for. I was, unfortunately, up until that point, perfectly contented with the way I was living my sinful life, thinking that my actions or secret sins “weren’t really hurting anyone”, and that task sounded daunting. Incredibly so. I was selfish. I cared about how *I* was going to feel in each moment of *my* life. How wrong was I? But the beautiful and glorious reality for me was... when I truly repented, when I cried out to God as someone who was broken, ready to change, and more importantly, in my heart fully claimed that forgiveness and the promises He offers us through Jesus... the desire to sin left from me. With no effort on my part.
  13. FinallyAlive

    We are all being awakened...but to what?

    I do know Gideon. But there’s no conspiracy here. I met him after my miraculous awakening, after a night of crying out to God, desperate to seek potential answers for a new nature in me that seemed so foreign and unknown to even the most seemingly devoted Christians I knew. There isn’t anything for me to gain here by sharing, personally. I have no agenda to push, I am merely here to share my own experiences with being truly born again, and what that means to me... as a witness to the true promises our God grants us, if only we submit fully to Him.
  14. FinallyAlive

    We are all being awakened...but to what?

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing this. It’s so true. When I was awakened, I was at the lowest point in my life. Whatever house I had built had long since been washed away, left only with a small plot from which to call a foundation. I found fault with myself. I knew I had sinned and really made a mess of everything in my life. When I truly cried out to God, He answered, changed me, and gave me His beautiful foundation on which i could now build. The change in me was just as you have described. A shift in thinking so profound, you can’t hold back the joy. NOTHING else on this earth matters. Not the opinions of others, (including those you love and respect,) not whether you have the perfect career or not. God accepted me when I cried out to Him... when I was broke and laying in a pile of my own sin. But He changed me, in an instant. Gone were the lusts of my flesh, the unforgiveness and resentment towards those I could not forgive on my own. Vanquished were the vile and profane words that once flowed so easily off my tongue. Though I still had more work to be done, (and still do,) His true sense of peace was now inside of me. Fear, anxiety, depression, all seem like foreign concepts, though they once ruled over me. In an instant, my views changed. I was filled with His truth. I used to read every political and science news story I could find... but then they became noise. My mind was set on Him, and the life beyond this temporary space we now dwell. Death is gain. That isn’t a weird suicidal wish, it’s a glorious promise. We are merely here to find His true purpose for our lives as He sees fit. What once may have been painful memories are now seen through His glorious and perfect perception, and even instances where we once may have thought we were wronged by others, even greatly so, there is only forgiveness. For when we live in Him, and He in us, there truly is nothing in this world that can affect us. I long so hard to be a vessel of truth and love in His name... for the promise of His dwelling within us as *truly* born again sons, is real. We are able to live without the fear of condemnation and guilt for our old deeds we committed before we were truly His. We see sin so evidently and clearly, that it is easily avoided. You know how they say it’s more effort to frown than to smile? Walking with Him in our new natures, it is far easier to avoid sin than to fall victim to it. Because once you feel the realness of what it means to truly be made new, NOTHING else will stand in the way of you wanting to keep that. I’m not saying it’s not possible to sin in this awakened state. It just takes a conscious effort to cross that “line” between living in the Spirit... and living in the flesh. And if we sin (not when we do,) we are hopefully open to His Fatherly discipline, and given an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to find out what it truly means to be repentant... and forgiven. To find yourself longing to be in constant prayer, with new (and old) songs of praise to Him on your heart is the most wonderful and joyous space I know.
  15. Greetings to all the brothers and sisters in Christ. This is my first post, and boy... what a start. My entire life, I've been aware of God. Even when I wasn't able to see it, He was working in my life. From a young age, my faith seemed cemented. Son of an AG pastor who had moved on to different things in His name before I was even born, I grew up in various churches, denominations and practices. For me, faith was never a choice, it was a fact of life. And when I was just three years old, I was given a $20 bill for Christmas by one of my out of state paternal grandmother, of course to be used at a toy store. I didn't use it immediately. Then one day in church, with the young understanding I had of faith, the offering plate was passed around. "Give and it will be given to you" was on my heart. I pleaded with my mother to drop it into the plate, who, having a more "adult" understanding of finances than I did, almost didn't let it happen. But I was unwavering. A few weeks later, my maternal grandfather was having his retirement party. (And I should mention that throughout his life, he was a coupon-cutter, notorious for being a stickler.) He had given all of the grandkids a box of Cracker Jacks. But wouldn't you know it? He had cut a slit in the outer paper, and placed a $20 bill inside each box. My heart swelled as much as it could at that young age. God had blessed not only me, but all of my favorite buddies as well. Praise His name! That faith stayed with me until my teen years, but something was happening to me I didn't fully understand. My faith wasn't in question, but my understanding of God had never grown. I wanted to "skip" church as much as I could, to sleep in and play videogames. To live my life on my own terms. In high school, I earned the name "Bible Boy", because I would bring and read my bible at lunch. Unfortunately, I was a punk kid, one who was only reading the Bible to say that I did, start to finish. (And in all of my annual attempts, I only ever made it as far as Daniel. That is important later.) And in hindsight, yes, I'm being harder on myself, because there was certainly a desire for a closeness with God, but I didn't have it, nor did I know how to get it. I traded spiritual stories with others, as if they were ghost stories. In my wandering, I even took some of those stories and claimed them as my own. I wanted a miracle. So I took the experiences of others and attached them to my own lack of faith, in a vile and vain attempt to somehow gain favor in the sight of God, by spreading news of His good works to others. I moved from California to Minnesota with my family half way through my sophomore and junior years. That complete upheaval, during what some consider to be one of the foundations of social life, was difficult. So I went to See You At the Pole day, and I met two really on-fire people who invited me to their small church. And when I say small... we met at the tiny conference room in a Super 8 motel. I started to feel a sense of closeness. I went on a retreat with them, and really felt like I had finally found a place where I could grow my faith, genuinely. But then, one fateful weekend morning, I was handed the phone by my mother, on the other end was our pastor. He was (quite truly) yelling at me, telling me that I had ruined everyone's plans, because I didn't show when they were planning to feed the homeless. An "honest mistake" on my part... but that chastising, I just wasn't ready for. When I hung up, I would never hear from or see him again. And save one brief encounter four years later, I wouldn't ever see anyone from that church again, either. See, I already felt alone in Minnesota. I had no established, long-term friends. The ones I did know, the ones who also attended the same church, I couldn't bare to see again. So I dropped out of school and took a GED test and just finished it. See, I was hurt in a way I'd never been hurt before. In the soul. I felt like God's earthly mouthpiece was telling me that I'd ruined everything, and that my only "friends" within 2000 miles also felt that way. I was broken, and my family didn't seem to understand or care why. Even though I would still pray, acknowledge God exists, I wasn't doing anything on behalf of myself to give Him the praise or glory He deserved. I'd proclaim my "belief" to anyone who would ask, but I didn't go out of my way to make it known. I was lonely. I worked for a few religious organizations after that, most of which were probably just "sympathy hires" because they all knew my father in one capacity or another. I made mistakes. I was mad at the world when things didn't go my way. I had people who could (and would) help me in my times of need, and even just in my times of "want". I knew things about my father's secret sinful life, but just believed that we all struggle, and that God forgives sin. He was as close of an example of a "Godly man" as I had been exposed to. Then in 2003, my father divorced my mother. That changed my opinion of him further. Between my brothers and I, we just called him "that one guy who used to be our dad", then to "that one guy" and finally, "TOG" (an acronym, of course.) I held on to resentment, hate. But hey, everyone else did too, right? I had my ups and my downs. Career highs, poverty lows. Time passed. A lot of time. And if I had to guess, I probably only freely gave four Sundays to Him in the span of 14 years. But He never gave up on me, like it seemed I had done to Him. 2017 proved to be a difficult year for me. Two years into my second marriage (if you'd even count the first one, a troubled marriage to a "professional mermaid", childhood friend that was her third, and *longest* at only six months.) we were dealing with the sleepless nights of being parents of a one year old (a true wedding gift from God, a honeymoon baby). My wife has full custody of her daughter, from a previous relationship, and I was struggling with ways to connect with her on a deeper level, as her birth father only seemed to acknowledge her once a year. Couple this with my wife leaving her job, and the job I was working at dissolved, as the company I was working for was acquired, and my position truly redundant. My boss had made me so many promises, both at different companies we had worked together in the past, as well as the one that just went away, and I felt even more resentment. I couldn't understand "why all these bad things were happening to me". Boy was I about to find out. During this time, I was still struggling, financially and in every other possible way, fully ignoring texts from my own mother that contained Bible verses in them, because I didn't think that any of "that" would help me in my struggle at that exact moment. It was horrible. Truly horrible. See, along the way, I had fallen into depression. Hard. Then one day, after an extremely late night, our third alarm for school goes off. The one that reminds us to be out the door. My wife says "Well, I guess she's not going to school today." and rolls back over. I have no explanation for what happened next, but a voice inside me said "She needs to go." Now, I was tired. Extremely so. And depressed. Aching all over. And in the midst of the year that seemed to take everything away, we were lacking a car. I'd have to walk her about a mile to school. But I just thought "what's the right thing to do?" and when I removed myself from the equation, the solution was simple; get my step daughter to school. So I did. And when I got home, instead of crashing back asleep, I started cleaning. I felt more alive than I had in weeks. I was "proud" of myself, as I had managed to remove my own feelings and emotions and pains entirely from the situation at hand, instead doing what was "right". I was pleased, having thought I had truly started down a path of "self betterment". I applied this new philosophy to other aspects of my life, and slowly realized that I needed to make minor course corrections to my own personal moral compass. Things that for me, once fell into the "gray area" of morality, now were becoming solidly black or white. I wasn't actively seeking God, but He was definitely getting my attention. I prayed more. Granted, they were for selfish things, but it was a start. I inexplicably lost 60 lbs. in the course of less than three months. I thought I had colon cancer, as my paternal grandfather died of that, and I had all of the symptoms. (I didn't.) But faced with that possibility of death scared my wife more than it scared me. I felt more and more alive each day, and I saw that His blessings were working in my life. Even though neither my wife nor I had had a job for the past six months, we still had money to feed our children and pay rent. Just barely, though, and even then, only because of the kindness and generosity of family. Then came New Year's Eve, 2017. Our family was sick. My son was sick. My wife was sick. I was sick. My daughter was thankfully away from it at a friend's house. As I stood over my son's crib in the dark, I began to pray. It was a prayer like I'd never prayed before. Calling upon pieces of spiritual armor I didn't even know existed, individually praying for the things we lacked, not material or financial, but rather, the parts of ourselves that truly needed His work in us. My prayer flowed like a river of pure water from my tongue, never once ceases or pausing or stuttering. It felt like it didn't come from "me". I did, however, ask God to just give me a hug... because I was still struggling, even though I had believed that so much personal progress had been made within me. I was so excited about the prayer, I ran in and told my wife. She too, had been praying and seeking help from God. January 1, 2018. THE most important day of my life. I was in the shower when my wife bursts in, tears welling from both eyes, telling me she finally understands Jesus. For her, she understood Him as being "human" when He encountered the fig tree that bore no fruit for Him, and He withered it away. At that moment, I felt a lot of really horribly conflicting things. 1) I didn't understand how that could possibly do it for her. 2) How could she have "gotten it" before I did... when I was the one who had spent half a year trying to carry the family and better myself? 3) Both thoughts 1 and 2 were horrifying to me. Why could I feel so selfish at that moment when my wife had such joy? Why was I jealous of someone else's faith? I needed to permanently rid myself of that part of me. I ran out of the shower as fast as I could, fell to my knees in our bedroom floor, and literally cried out to God the salvation prayer that all of us know so well. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. In my mind's eye, I saw a dark block, horizontally opposed, with a small "V" shape in the center, with about 1 micron of light peaking through. I saw this crumble and melt away, and emanating from my stomach upwards, a glorious light, and a feeling of warmth. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look, saw nothing, then scared, turned back to my wife and asked if she could "hug me, too". In the moments afterwards, I called my father. Yes, he was my first call. Because when I had prayed and cried out to God and confessed Jesus Christ as my savior, and that I needed to (and wanted to, and was WILLING to) change, He made me truly born again. I finally knew what that meant. Gone were my errant lusts, remorse, hate, fear, anxiety, depression, grudges, any desire to sin... and my mind was changed so severely and so powerfully, I knew this gift had only been possible by His grace and love and mercy. And it wasn't just for an hour, a week, a month... it's been permanent. And while I know that He has made me new, what I didn't know was that this didn't happen immediately to everyone. No, I didn't speak in tongues, and I haven't yet discovered what my true spiritual gifts might be, but there is absolutely nothing I could have done in ten thousand years on my own to match the true sense of being forgiven and washed clean. I began to revisit thoughts in my mind, and saw them with a new clarity, a truth that I was never able to see before. I immediately felt led to read the 2nd chapter Acts. Then other New Testament books in random order, led by the Holy Spirit, each new word bringing such joy and affirmation to my heart. Remember when I said that I wanted to read the Bible cover to cover just to say that I had? Well I never made it to the New Testament back then. God had kept it from me until the time when I could (and would) actually benefit from it. Amazing. And another shocker? In all my years, I never even realized that John 3:16 was a "red letter" verse. Brothers and sisters, our God is an awesome God. And a very real one. One who loves us more than we can possibly fathom. He changed in me, absolutely everything. It's been an interesting journey, this year... and I look forward to sharing more, if it is His will. I am humbled and fully in awe at what He has done for me. The peace, calm, love and truly changed heart and mind that He has given me. And I am not anything without Christ, and I'm not claiming anything special that I have done to deserve this wonderful blessing. But I am oh so thankful. And while there are others here on this forum who have experienced this, who have been living fully illuminated in God's light for far longer than I have, (and some of whom I am grateful to know, and others I look forward to meeting,) I offer this testimony to those who were just like my "dead self", the "old me"... the ones who wanted so badly to believe, confessed with their tongues, but still had dark shadows in a heart they couldn't change on their own. And to those who may offer a differing theological point of view or stance, I welcome that conversation also. Nothing I have written here is to my benefit, and it is my sole hope that others who might be struggling as I was, similarly might find the same grace that I have, through belief in Christ Jesus, and the open and loving arms of Our Heavenly Father.
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