Testimonies of Christ's work in our congregation
As followers of Christ, each of us has a story of how God sought us out and drew us near to Him through His Son. We share these stories of God's work in the lives of our body so you might be encouraged and spurred onto greater works of faith in Christ.
I grew up in a broken home. Alcohol. Divorce. Fighting. Anger. Church was something we went to on Easter Sunday and maybe a few times in between. Because my home was out of control, I worked hard to be in control. I relied on my own strength and determination. I believed I was in control and would make my own way. That attitude of self reliance stayed with me as I grew up and entered adulthood.
I thought that was just silly evangelical talk, but it also made me uncomfortable, like I was missing out on something.
In 2003 my husband and I adopted our first two children from Russia. I knew the Bible had good moral lessons that seemed important to teach my boys. Our family started to go to church every week and my eyes started to be opened to who God is. For the next 12 years we went to church weekly. I participated in Bible study after Bible study. I served in the church. The pastor would speak of “giving your life to Christ”. I thought that was just silly evangelical talk, but it also made me uncomfortable, like I was missing out on something.
In January 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread into my lymph nodes. It rocked my world. I remember sitting on my bed and throwing open my Bible in confusion and hurt. The Bible opened to Philippians. I read “the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Those verses gave me peace and told me what to do. Pray.
On the third night in isolation, I broke. And the only person there was God. And He was enough.
In February, after my second round of chemo, I wound up in the hospital. The chemo had wiped out my white blood cells and I had a fever. Not a good combination. I was isolated. Isolated from my family, friends, and worldly distractions. I couldn’t be a mom to my 5 kids. I couldn’t be a wife. I couldn’t even lift my bald head of my pillow. On the third night in isolation, I broke. And the only person there was God. And He was enough.
Now I see that God graciously allowed all “stuff’” to be stripped away. He showed me that I had no strength of my own. I realized that although I had intellectually assented to Jesus, I had not submitted to his authority. I believed, Yes, Jesus, BUT, I also believed I brought something to the table. That night God gave me a verse, Psalm 9:9 ”The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”. God showed me that He alone is my stronghold, nothing else.
God showed me that He alone is my stronghold, nothing else.
I can actually say I am thankful for the cancer. God used that awful experience to bring me to the end of myself, to show me my need for Him, and that He is sufficient. I am not in control, nor do I need to be. Knowing this has released me from years of tense anger as I tried to manage everything on my own. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Not my strength, but Christ’s. He will carry me through. Now I have a passion for God and His word that I've never had before. I want to be in His word, I want to grow in my faith, and most importantly, I want to show and tell people the love of Jesus the way that He showed me.
I was raised here at Grace church. My dad was a deacon and my mom taught Sunday school. I listened to Bible stories, sang Bible songs, and memorized Bible verses starting at a very young age. I heard about the God of the Old Testament and understood that He was the righteous and holy judge. He smote Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, and He unleashed plagues upon Israel and Egypt for their disobedience. Despite the terrifying image, I appreciated that God had clearly outlined His expectations in the Books of the Law. I believed that if I followed this Law, I would go to heaven.
I could prove myself to my parents through my grades, my athletics, and my good behavior. But God could see my heart, and He knew my sinful thoughts.
Then I heard about Jesus. Jesus, quite frankly, did not fit with my understanding of God. How could a Just and Pure God extend forgive and save sinners even if they weren’t following His law? To me, Jesus was a cop-out for the people who wouldn’t follow God’s law but still wanted to claim that they were somehow righteous before God. I resolved to earn my right to heaven. So, I opened the Bible to the ten commandments, and figured I’d work my way up from there. I quickly realized that I could break all ten in moments, and it mortified me. I could prove myself to my parents through my grades, my athletics, and my good behavior. But God could see my heart, and He knew my sinful thoughts. I knew that the wages of sin are death. So, I became legalistic, hoping that if I proved that everyone else was worse than I, God would still let me into heaven. I attacked my Sunday School teachers and my parents for being happy in God when I was miserable.
After a brutal fight one night, I lay in my bedroom, weeping and utterly broken. I cried out to God earnestly and said, “God, if You’re there, prove it.”
I eventually realized that I could not be perfect, and around 8 years old, I began battling depression. At 10, I had suicidal thoughts, because I knew I deserved to go to hell. But something—some force— always held me back from acting on those thoughts, and I see now that it was God. He gave me time to confront my parents about the gospel. Even though I would tell myself I’d won intellectually, I always left knowing that they were right about God, and it frustrated me. After a brutal fight one night, I lay in my bedroom, weeping and utterly broken. I cried out to God earnestly and said, “God, if You’re there, prove it.” Immediately, this peaceful presence beyond all understanding filled my room, and I was able to sleep. I don’t have a specific moment where I ‘converted’, but that night was when I met God. Shortly after that, my mom forced me into youth group, where several youth leaders came alongside me and discipled me in Christ and godly living.
God has continually torn away anything that I take pride in. I love to argue and fight, but God is the only person who has bested me in every argument, every time and in every way. I’ve discovered a balance and dichotomy in God’s character throughout the Old and New Testaments. God is both just and merciful; both righteous and forgiving. He has ultimate sovereignty, sees everything, and knows all. And yet, He desires to have a personal, intimate relationship with everyone, including me. I thought I was as perfect as a human could get; now as I pursue Christ, I see how broken I truly am. When God acts outside my control, I fight Him on it.
For example, when my family traveled overseas to visit my grandma, she died while we were there. I attacked God for making my family suffer. Yet, God showed me through His word that He is sovereign over death, and that He uses suffering to draw people closer to Himself. Yet, I challenged God’s love and sovereignty again when one of my acquaintances tragically died a couple years later. This time, God showed me the sufficiency of scripture, how it had everything I needed. Like Job, I was not even deserving of answers or explanations for God’s actions, and yet He has graciously let me glimpse into His nature through His word. I don’t claim to fully comprehend God because I never will, but I know that I will see Him in heaven by His grace alone, not because of anything I’ve done.
I am proof that you can never be too far from the mercy of God, and I am alive and here today by the grace of God alone.
Being a perfectionist, I would pursue arguments with others and point out flaws in their reasoning and in their character. That was my definition of evangelism. However, Jesus spoke with compassion towards the sinners. He didn’t endorse their actions, but He loved them as lost sheep. I am slowly learning to do the same. The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
I am proof that you can never be too far from the mercy of God, and I am alive and here today by the grace of God alone. Every objection I’ve had, He’s thoroughly conquered. Every alternative path to salvation that I’ve tried has proven itself futile. Contrary to the saying ‘all roads lead to God’, God has demonstrated to me that Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth, and the life. I am a critic captivated by the love of God, and He is the one thing that will never fade away. My grades, any awards, and every accomplishment will eventually become worthless, but He remains faithful. 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” As Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is not you who work, but God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
I was brought up in an agnostic home. My mom grew up in the Episcopal church but began to question God’s presence during her adulthood. My father was not religious. My childhood did not include faith in God.
Most of my behavior was self-centered and lasted into adulthood. As a young person, I was in the Boy Scouts. We went into the mountains and deserts on camping trips several times every year. Our adult leaders taught the scouts about God’s glory and how it can be seen in nature. These lessons helped me to want to learn more about God.
There were others during my adult years who helped open my mind to God. I believe these people were placed into my life at the right times by God.
My older sister found Christ as a young adult. We talked quite a lot about the bible and Jesus during our young adult years. We usually argued about biblical points. Because I lacked faith, I would take on a position opposite hers.
There were others during my adult years who helped open my mind to God. I believe these people were placed into my life at the right times by God. One of the most important things that was suggested to me, that I respond to, was asking God to come into my life and guide me.
Since I asked God to come into my life, He has blessed me in every step I have taken.
I met Judy at work and really liked her and we became friends. She was already strong in her faith. I was amazed by the peace she exhibited. When we were married, we regularly attended a local church. We both have been growing into Christ during our friendship and marriage. Since I asked God to come into my life, He has blessed me in every step I have taken. He has placed people, opportunities and events in front of my wife and me that give us the chance to glorify Him.
Before I turned to Christ, the choices I made were to glorify me. I would argue biblical points with others because I felt I was smarter than them and faith was stupid. Since coming into Christ, I realized that I am not smarter than everyone else and that I was wrong about faith. I learned that any talents I may have are God-given. Accomplishments I have made were because of and for God.
I have learned that Jesus tells us to have faith. I try to follow Jesus’ commands every day. Almost every day is good. Occasionally, I don’t do as well but I know that God has grace and that my transgressions will be forgiven. This knowledge helps me to be more gracious to those around me.