I didn't believe in Christianity. Twenty-four years ago, (that's me to the left) I was of the opinion that religion was for the ignorant and the weak--not those who were educated and resourceful. So when my little brother came home one day and announced he was "saved" I didn't exactly celebrate. In fact, the rest of the family thought he might need to be deprogrammed from the Cult of Christianity he had obviously become entangled with.
Funny thing though. He was happy. In fact, I had to admit he was happier than I'd ever seen him before. He loved to sit and talk with all of us about his new best friend--Jesus. I listened politely and tried to talk things out logically in the hopes he would "see the light," not of God, but of reason. One Sunday, my sister and I decided to visit his church and check things out for ourselves--sort of a reconnaissance mission. We were nervous and a little scared, which annoyed me. Why should I be frightened of them? I was about to expose their deception. The church was probably after my brother's hard-earned money. Like that movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," they had stolen my real brother, the little brother I'd grown up with and replaced him with pew-jumpin' Howdy Doody. And my big sister sensibilities would never stand for that. Look out church!
Then something strange happened. Sitting there in church during the service. . .I felt something. So did my sister. Like a wind, but there was no wind. A peace warmer than any blanket. An electricity in the air. The presence of love. My sister and I sat in silence through the service. We could not speak--all we could do was feel.
That day, I knew when we left our pews that there was something more to my brother's conversion than smoke and mirrors. There was definitely something more. My sister felt it too.
Months went by. Life began to unravel in half a dozen ways. An eye exam revealed that the pressure in my eyes was high for some reason. The eye doctor was concerned about the possibility of glacoma. That same week, a routine pap smear came back positive and the op/gyn doctor called me in to talk about further tests. Then I was laid off from my job. All in all, not a good week.
I'd come out of a painful separation, had filed for divorce and was trying to make a new life for myself. I'd studied different philosophies and settled on the "we're all one Jung" collective spirit idea. Of course, meditation, reincarnation, new age and many other schools of thought seemed to fit right in. I was trying to use these techniques and beliefs to change my circumstances, help me quit smoking etc. But in the midst of my new crisis, not one of them offered me the comfort or peace I needed. Distraught, I decided to visit my parents and talk to them about it. While I was there I mentioned it to my brother, who to my surprise, immediately began to pray for me!
No one had ever prayed with me over a personal situation before. Sure I'd heard prayers or prayer templates before, but they were all-purpose kinds of prayers people repeated or recited half-heartedly. The prayer my brother prayed was for me and though I didn't believe it would truly do me any good, it somehow made me feel a little better. Before I left, my brother asked me a question. "If there is a heaven and a hell and you died today, where do you think you would go?"
While driving home I tried my best to answer it. Of course, my body would enrich the soil and my soul, mind or whatever you want to call it, would join the collective consciousness. Then, perhaps I would be reborn, incarnated into a different life form. Maybe even an insect. Wow. That was really something to look forward to. I had asked my brother where he thought he was going when he died. "I'll be with Jesus for all eternity, filled with His love--in heaven where there are no shadows, no tears and no more suffering." And he believed it with as strong a conviction as my own. But the truth shouted within me. Those old beliefs were crumbling under the weight of God's truth.
In the car that day, as I pulled into my driveway, I decided that as soon as I went through the door of my apartment, I was going to give Jesus a try. After all, I'd tried everything else! And what comfort had those beliefs brought me? What hope? My brother had told me about the sinner's prayer on more than one occasion and I tried hard to remember the words.
I couldn't wait to turn the key in the lock. As soon as the door shut behind me, I sank to my knees. Not knowing exactly what to say, I decided to talk to him instead. "Jesus, if you're out there and you're real, please hear me. I'm a sinner. . ." As soon as I said the word, I began to cry. "My brother told me that I should confess my sins and repent. So I'm a sinner and I've done a lot of things wrong in my life and I ask your forgiveness. Please, if you are real, please come into my heart right now. Amen"
When I said the final word, "Amen," I felt as though a heavy weight lifted from my body. I like to say it was the shackles of sin that fell off of me, but all I know is that I suddenly felt light as a feather and happy! So very happy! In fact, I was so happy, it took me two weeks to realize I hadn't touched a cigarette. My sister clued me in to it.
"Hey, I noticed you haven't been smoking lately." She'd always hated the smell of nicotine and tried to help me quit. I'd tried many times, but only managed to reduce the amount of cigarettes I smoked. Now I was free in more ways than one. Jesus gave me the free gift of eternal life and a bonus for signing on--he'd delivered me from a nicotine addiction. Just like that! No withdrawals. No cravings. No desire to ever smoke again.
I was set free! Born again! And the Lord healed my eyes. The pressure returned to normal at my next appointment. The next pap smear was perfect. And so was I.
Jesus saves, heals, protects and delivers!
It didn't take me long to dig into the bible my brother gave me to celebrate my new life in Christ. And I started telling everyone about MY new best friend, especially my family. My sister and her boyfriend (who later became her husband) were next to believe, then my mother and my father was last. I have a special story about his salvation testimony and it's in the Babes With A Beatitude book. If you're interested, I hope you'll read the february 14th page.
We began a whole new heritage in the Lord. Our family will never ever be the same. Our family tree is now rooted in Christ. Is yours? If you can relate to even part of what I shared from my testimony, then let me testify to you right now--it's all true! And if Jesus did all this for me, how much more will He do it for you! He loves you. He truly does. I wake up every morning knowing I am loved by God and I lay my head down on my pillow with the same truth. Do you? Well, what are you waiting for?
What I'm going to say next might sound a bit controversial, so bear with me. Smoking cigarettes isn't going to send anyone to hell. It may send them to their grave prematurely but not to hell. They will definitely SMELL like they've been there though. . .
Personally, I don't think Christians should smoke. It's a bad witness, not God-honoring and it destroys your body made in His image. So there.