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Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Brett Eberle | 
Tech Assistant

For a good portion of my life, I have struggled with people asking me to share my testimony. Who wants to hear a story of some kid who has been in church his whole life? I certainly did not. For years I wondered what it would have been like to have found God on the side of the road when I was at rock bottom, to have had that complete life-altering shift that comes when you first begin to walk with God. It was not until I sat down to write this that I realized that my testimony is amazing, it is the story of how I took my first steps with God.

I have been blessed with many godly role models throughout my life, but my salvation is mainly because of three amazing people. The first comes as a pair, and it may be cliché, but it is my parents. As I sit here and write this, I am almost twenty-four years old, and I have never seen my parents fight. Throughout my life, they have shown me what a godly home and godly life is supposed to look like.

The third person that played a large part in my salvation is a lady by the name of Barb. Growing up both of my parents had full-time jobs, and that meant that my brother and I had to go to a babysitter, Barb was that babysitter. If we are honest, she was way more like a grandma to me than a babysitter. Barb was also my Sunday School teacher, and it was in a small windowless room in the basement of the church that we attended where Barb walked me through the Bible explaining what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

I am proud of my testimony, and I thank God everyday that I do not know what it means to hit rock bottom. I have stumbled and ran into what felt like brick walls along the way, but nothing can take away the memory of that lady kneeling down at a tiny kids table praying with me and for me.

Sharables – Testimony

Sharable – Testimony
Pastor Trevor Cole 

Nearly from the moment I was born, my parents began taking me to church. At that time, most churches had services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night and we were at each one, every week. I had three brothers and no matter how much we complained or gave excuses; we knew where would end up on those days, it might just hurt to sit down more if we complained too much. So you could say that I grew pretty familiar with the routine. 

Something changed in that routine one week when I was around five years old. Our pastor painted a vivid picture of the pain and separation from God that would happen to those who do not put their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. I still remember that fear and how it brought me to my dad that night. I went to him and asked him if our pastor was telling the truth, and he showed me in the Bible that he was not lying. My dad led me in a simple prayer where I told God I believed that Jesus died for my sins and I asked for God’s forgiveness.

I wish I could tell you that I never told another lie, never disobeyed my parents again, but that would be another lie on the list. I do believe that it started me on a journey of change, though. Throughout those formative years, I remember multiple times where I lost my way and started living for myself instead of God. It made me question whether I believed in this Jesus that I gave my life to and whether or not those memories of praying with my father were real. But every time I humbled myself and asked for His forgiveness, God drew me back to Him.

It is my belief that too many people want to point at a date when they prayed a prayer or walked down a church aisle as an assurance that they are all set in their relationship with God. In those times of struggle over the years I had to remind myself that even if my memory fails me and I ca not remember the details or the prayer I prayed, that is not what saves me. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It is not “do I remember if I prayed a prayer” but “do I believe, TODAY, which Jesus died on the cross and rose again victorious over death to cover my sin? Am I seeing God change me from the inside out? Not that I am perfect or never make mistakes, but can I look back and see the difference He is making in me?”

No matter your personal journey or how long you have been a follower of Jesus, it can become just a routine. Along the way, you will be tempted to leave the path. Don not just point at a date as a golden ticket to Heaven and go off on your way. I hope that you will regularly examine your life and ask God to make your faith living and real.

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Sierra Combs | 
Wife of Pastor Caleb

August 23, 1963, Southern California. It was my grandma’s 29th birthday. Her husband, an unsaved professional golfer, told her he would take her anywhere she wanted to go for her birthday. She just had to pick the place, and they would hop in the car and go. My grandpa was always a spoiler. I remember when I was growing up how he would take us on the most extravagant outings. We would shop all day, go to high tea at the Ritz, and he just loved to take us to the best steakhouses in town. Everything with him was so special, and he just loved to spoil the people that he loved. So my gram could have picked anywhere to go and anything to do, no questions asked. Now, my grandma has always been an avid prayer warrior – one of those amazing crazy people who wakes up at 4:30 in the morning to spend time in the Word and on her knees deep in prayer for every single person she loves (I am not a morning person and keep waiting for this gene to kick in, but so far no luck).

She wanted nothing more for her husband than for him to accept that same wonderful gift of salvation that she had been given years past. So on her 29th birthday, she asked him to take her to the LA Coliseum to hear Billy Graham preach. Personally, I would have picked Disneyland, but I am not nearly as insightful as she is. Besides wanting to go and hear a good word from the famous preacher, she felt a tugging from the Holy Spirit to take my grandpa there that day. Long story short, God moved in his heart, he accepted Christ as His Savior from those Coliseum seats, retired from his golfing career, sold his golf course, moved his family across the country, and dove headfirst into full-time ministry at a tiny little Bible College in Grand Rapids, MI. It is the same tiny college my mom attended and met my dad, a basketball player from Ohio who loved Jesus. It is the same tiny college I attended and met my husband, a basketball player from Michigan who loves Jesus. I have always been so thankful to my grandma for taking my grandpa to that crusade. She always says it was the best birthday gift she could have ever been given – God’s grace given to the man she loved the most. What a beautiful testimony! What a beautiful legacy. A legacy that led to me.

Sometimes I wish I had a testimony like that. One of those amazing “come to Jesus” moments that moves people to tears and points to the amazing saving grace of the Savior. But that is not my story. I do remember sitting on my bed when I was 4, asking Jesus “into my heart,” but that is it. There was no night and day change in my little life, as far as I know. I do not remember a time when I did not love Jesus. There has never been a time that I was not in church several times a week, learning about Him, and worshiping Him. Summers were spent at church camp and VBS. Family meals were spent around the dinner table playing Bible trivia or talking about the things God was doing in our hearts. I knew no other life than the life of a super involved church kid. Because I did not have that “light bulb” moment and rapid heart change that so many people experience after they accept Christ at an older age, sometimes I would feel less legitimate than others or even question if I was truly saved. When it was testimony sharing time in youth group, I would sink in my chair or excuse myself to the bathroom because I felt like I had nothing extraordinary to say. But over the years, God has shown me that even though I did not experience a Saul to Paul-like conversion, I still have a story. There is no dull salvation. God loved me so much that He became flesh to die on a cross and pay the penalty for my sin. He saved me, changed my heart, and WILL continue to change my heart until my time on this earth is done. I am not who I was when I was 4, or 17, or even last year. Praise God for that! I yearn to be more like Jesus with each passing day, and while I fail so often, I still press towards that mark. Even though my story may not be the most exciting, I have 27 years of God’s grace over my life – grace that I need every single day.

My family said our final earthly goodbye to my grandpa on August 23, 2008 – my grandma’s 74th birthday and his 45th spiritual birthday. Instead of a funeral, we had a birthday party, and we celebrated the life of a godly man, his faithful wife, and most importantly the God who saved them both. My grams always says that no one could ever top that birthday gift God gave her back in 1963 – His grace given to the man she loved the most. I am so thankful for that legacy, and I pray it will be passed on to my children and their children and beyond.  And someday when my kids are asked to share their story, I hope that it turns out to be as amazing as mine.

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
John Carter | 
Director of Finance & HR

I have lots of favorite passages in the Bible, but the one that I think without a doubt I can always fall back on is Hebrews 11:1. This is the passage that challenged my life, and it forced me to dig into the reality of who Jesus Christ is.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

It is a simple passage with a lot of deep implications to consider.  The two underlined words, to me, are the most significant aspects of this passage. What are the things we hope for, but cannot see? How do we determine the substance of that hope and by what evidence are we challenging our faith? It was through the deep thinking and processing of this passage that I asked myself, “What substance did I have, that would give me hope?”

That is not an easy question to answer right off the cuff? I mean there were several things I had tried to fill in the blank spot called substance for hope. You can fill in the blank! “My faith is based on _________________ (fill in the blank), This is what my hope in life is based on!”

The “blank” can be anything: money, job/career, family, friends, self, good deeds, church, religion, girlfriend/boyfriend, a prayer, baptism, church attendance. It can go on and on with things we put in place of Jesus Christ. I was a missionary kid in Japan for nearly 17 years. I grew up in the church and was very much a part of the religious entity call “the church.”  I knew the rules, knew what to say, and how to act, had the list of “do” and “do not” down. I failed to find any substance in those things. One of the cool things about the book of Hebrews is that there is only one correct answer. You cannot have multiple right answers; you only get one! Take some time and reflect on what is the substance of your faith, is it Jesus Christ? There is nothing that will sustain your hope for the long run other than Jesus.   

The second part of the passage talks about evidence. This evidence for me was a big deal! You might ask, Why? Well, when I was dealing with this passage, I was atheistic in my worldview, that means I openly claimed there was no God. I had abandoned the religion I had grown up with and decided that the opposite of religion must have more substance and evidence for a life of hope. I had a hard time believing in something that I could not see. Maybe, just maybe, you can relate to this struggle? It was not uncommon for me to speak of religion as a crutch, or a device created by the weak to deal with the harsh realities of life. I struggled with the aspect of there being evidence! I was able to understand that if there was evidence, and if there is substance to this “idea” called faith, then that would mean I could touch and feel it. It would be tangible. It forced me to look at what my faith, or lack of faith, had produced.  I had to go through and analyze what substance I had that gave me hope. The lifestyle I had chosen had led to very little by which I could say I was hopeful. The devil has a way of enticing us with the short term; it only distracts us from dealing with the truth.  In the short term, money, partying, women, all seemed sufficient to keep me full of hope. Then it was not enough! The party always came to an end, money never quite seemed to last, and the high never lasted. You always came down, and the lows were low, and the hangover almost always came the next day. We as humans have this innate ability to mask and numb our hopelessness with short-term fixes that do not fix anything. 

When I share my story of how a came to know Jesus, I will, without hesitation, quote this passage.  It does not matter which side of the proverbial aisle you come from, religious or irreligious, this passage can be a great passage to get you thinking. For me, I feel like I tried both ways. I lived for the longest time having prayed a prayer thinking that is all there was to it. I had my “fire insurance” so to speak, but no real evidence that I knew Christ personally. Church attendance, offerings, a magic prayer, and good deeds do not save you. I also tried the “do as I please” and disregarded the existence of God. Sin is a real thing, Hell is a real place, and God does exist. Just because we cannot see Him does not make Him anymore fake than the wind. Either lifestyle, religious or irreligious, leads to the same hopeless emptiness. There is only one way to have a hope that is both substantial and has the evidence of outlasting anything else, in fact, it is an eternal hope. If Jesus Christ is not the substance of your faith, let me encourage you to examine your faith, examine the evidence for Jesus Christ, and examine the substance in the Scripture for who He is. 

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Oralia Lindsey | Wife of Pastor Chuck

My childhood is full of so many ups and downs like most of you. Sadly, my biological father had a major drug and pornography problem. Our childhood was full of unpredictability because of it. My mom struggled to provide for us because we could not depend on my father. I was molested in elementary school by a close family friend, and that was a heavy burden I did not know how to handle. My parents made sure we never saw that man again, but the weight was on my shoulders for years to come.

My mom raised us as Jehovah Witness because she lost her third child to SIDS, (Nina was only two months old) and was looking for an answer to why God would allow her baby to die and they gave her a comforting enough answer. My parents divorced by the time we were in middle school and not too long after our stepdad came into the picture. Boy did we hate him. We did not have many rules before him and to be honest we kind of walked all over my mom. She worked a lot to provide for us and did not have the energy to fight with us. As time went on, we came to realize what a gift our stepdad was. He is a man that decided to love my mom and her three unruly kids. We love him dearly and thank the Lord for him.

A missionary family came back to the states and decided that their neighborhood was their new mission field. They began reaching out to all the kids and teaching us about Jesus Christ. My mom reluctantly allowed us to go. As I learned, I thought I was growing, but I did not realize that all that information was just going into my brain and not changing who I was. At 14 years old I had the opportunity to attend a math program at a college. It was my first taste of (almost) complete freedom. I met new friends and even told girls about Christianity. By the end of the program, I had begun to spend time with a girl that was smoking pot. A couple of nights before the program was done I had the opportunity to smoke pot with her…and I took it. Friends that I had made were so upset that they left and told our counselors. At 1:00 am my mom had to drive an hour to get me. She would not even speak to me. My stepdad was so disappointed that I would even consider doing drugs after knowing how it affected our lives from my biological father. That night I realized that if I did not surrender my life to Jesus, I would completely destroy my life. Everything changed that night. I wanted to please Jesus with my life. The Lord’s plan for my life was SO much better than ANYTHING I could have ever dreamed. I am married to my best friend, we have four amazing kids, and we get to serve Jesus and his people.

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