Testimony of Barrett Dilger
My I have always been content with my relationship with God. That includes when I did not believe He existed. I was not raised in a religious family. That is not to say that there was a great discrepancy between us and what a normal, middle class, Los Angeles suburban family should be. We were basically really good people and anybody who has come into contact with my family I think is blessed to know them. Of course that has nothing to do with my relationship with God.
Since I did not come from a family that knew God, it is no surprise that I didn't know Him myself. Most of my childhood I went around not even thinking or considering the concept of God. I was always ok with that too. Except that I always had this nagging pull from the inside telling me there was something bigger out there. When I was in high school I considered myself atheist most of the time, agnostic at my high moments. I figured that if there was a God then He would have made himself known to me by now or at least to the world so there would not be any grand debate over it. I mean, why can't God be proven if He's God? After all, we know everything through the proof of science, so why can't we prove God, too? So all I knew was what I was taught. That science does not support the God of the Bible, so therefore, it must be false, and therefore He must be false. But that doesn't mean that there is no God does it? Logically no, just not Jehovah as God. So my search began there.
Well I had some very interesting journeys to say the least. In my search, I meandered through all the religious options out there, lingering around the occultic and magical "arts." Mostly I studied the Order of the Golden Dawn, Wicca, crystals, tarot, and psychic and astral planes. All the concepts presented were independent of each other, but very similar in concept and idea. I picked and chose what suited me and before I knew it, I had a mish-mashed jumble of my own Gnostic religion.
A few years later my then girlfriend (now wife), who was raised in a "religious" household urged me to go to church with her. I was hesitant at first, but wanted to show support so I started attending with her. Boy was this church exactly what I thought it would be. They had this "organization" thing down to a T. They were nice and loving and inviting one minute, then judgmental once you opened up to them. Since I was not accepting of Christ, they blacklisted me and tried to separate me from my girlfriend. What horrible people these Christians are. Of course, this ended up being a cult that blasphemes Christ's name just by using it. I know now that this is not what a "true" Christian is. But I must hand it to them; it is because of them that I realized I needed to "arm" myself against these types of people. I picked up the Bible and began to read it. I was going to prove that little book wrong so much that their heads would spin. That was my first turning point.
I wish I could say that I read the book of John (that's the one I started with) and my eyes were opened and I could see and understand Gods way in my life. That didn't happen. My heart was so hard that it had no impact on me whatsoever. Well, except for the part that I couldn't prove it wrong. But I wasn't convinced. I just knew it was wrong, even if I couldn't prove it. It just wasn't worth my time any more (we stopped going to the cult church).
A few more years went by and my girlfriend again wanted to go to church. I was really hesitant this time, but again I went for support. That first sermon I sat in the back corner of a 5,000+ member church, as far removed as I could be. At the end of it I almost walked down the aisle when they gave the invitation to accept Christ. Again, I wish I could say I did it and my eyes were opened, but alas I thought the entire notion that entered my head stupid and I just sat there. But I felt the Lord start to work in me that day. I bought another Bible, one that was easier to read, and I began again. This time, with irregular church attendance and irregular Bible reading becoming regular church attendance and regular Bible reading there began to be an impact. But I still was not satisfied with the "proof" presented to me. That was until I got married.
Two nights before I walked down the aisle, my wife woke up in the middle of the night terrified. I really didn't want to get up at 1:00 in the morning because she got spooked in the hotel we were staying at, but after a few minutes I realized she wasn't going to let me go back to sleep. So I got up and heard her out, comforted her and let her pray. Then I got down on my knees and said my own little prayer, silently of course. We sat there in bed and both started to read the Bible. We were sharing some little things we came across and then I got curious. I wondered, what is exactly at the end of this book? If the book is so important, shouldn't the ending be important too, if not the most important part? So I flipped there, right to the last page. What was there? What did I see? I saw the words "The Spirit and the Bride say Come." The words seemed to be floating off the page, you know, like one of those tests the eye doctor gives you or one of those crazy 3-D comic books. Just like that. And when I read that, I could feel goose bumps run all over my body. It was such a strong feeling that I remarked at it and looked at my arm to see how big they were. Not one hair was on end. I looked up to tell my wife how crazy this was and she was standing at the window, looking at the sky. She kept saying one word over and over. "Come." I immediately tried to rationalize it all. I started coming up with excuses for why I can not believe what was happening to me. Then I stopped. I knew I was making excuses, but I still didn't have my "proof" either. I told God I wasn't ready to make a decision because I didn't know for sure. It seemed silly to me to commit my life to a God if I was not sure. But then I said that I had seen enough that I cannot just disregard it either. So I told him, "Ok you obviously want me to follow you. I will give it a shot. If you are not real I should be able to figure it out within a few weeks and I can stop. If you are real then I'm following you already." It sounded logical to me. I figured it would be only a week, two at most, if He was not real. Well, the next weekend I was convicted and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and I have never looked back.
Since then, I have found the greatest of all relationships with my Lord and Savior. I can love my wife the way she needs to be loved because I know the love of Christ. I can be trustworthy and faithful to my friends, family, and complete strangers because my God has chosen to be that way with me. I have seen another side to this whole "religion" thing. That it isn't about religion. It is about a personal relationship with my God and yours. He knows you. He wants you to know him too. Yeah, I am more than content with my relationship with God.
Oh, and what about my proof? God told me to come to Him even with all my problems and doubts. Then he showed me His answer. I continued to read the Bible and got all the proof I needed. A funny thing about that book, a good chunk is prophecy (I think the statistic is 2/3). Of that prophecy, a whole lot has come true. As I read through scripture history unfolded in reverse. Things we know today fit completely with Biblical writings from 2, 3, and 4 thousand years ago. And as a skeptic I "knew" there was no proof for the Bible. I'm so glad God is patient.
Testimony of Vera Flannery
My family moved to California in the summer of 1986 after my parents decided they could no longer afford the house payments in Wisconsin That same year, I finished kindergarten at Faith Christian Academy - a private school that required uniforms, morning chapel, and discipline for students who received demerits. I had grown close to my teacher, Mrs. Hindrick's, and over the year had asked her to pray with me so that I could accept Jesus Christ into my heart. We prayed together on a bus during one our field trips. It was an amazing experience even at the age of six, and I remember crying and feeling an overwhelming sense of peace.
The day I accepted Christ is one of the few days I remember about kindergarten - well, that, and I had a crush on a boy named Timothy - so when it came time to move, I wasn't angry about leaving Wisconsin, I just knew we had to. Days of preparation ensued and when the time had come, a gutted, full-size school bus carried our belongings, our dog, a few cats, 4 kids, and 2 parents to California. It was a two-week vacation to me as we stopped off in various small towns to go sightseeing, hiking, or just relaxing in a park. By day, we played in the bus listening to The Beach Boys, and by night, we slept at rest stops.
First grade was only a minor adjustment for me as I changed my mid-western accent from "Oh my word!" to "Oh my gosh!" and from "bubbler" to "drinking fountain." Once I figured out the lingo, I made friends. Throughout elementary school I really only had two best friends. This simple fact was due to the close proximity of their houses - within walking distance - and I could hear the dinner bell my mom rang when it was time for supper. Each friend was so different that they couldn't stand each other, but that was fine by me since threesomes rarely work between girls.
When I was about 10-years old, my mom, sister, and friend drove out to the beach (over the summer, when the temperature stayed warmer longer, my mom took us to the beach after dinner). This would be a night that would turn out different from other nights.
High tide set in and my friend and I were riding the current from the slough out into the ocean. I was an experienced swimmer since I had been on the swim team two summers in a row and I had fun paddling out in the waves. It never occurred to me that the water would take me too far out into the ocean that I, being an expert swimmer, would not be able to swim back ashore.
As the current became more swift and strong, the sun had begun to set and it was getting dark. My friend started to swim back to shore and I began to follow her in. I was quite a few yards away from her when I began to swim in. When I looked up again and saw that she was standing next to my mom on the beach and I wondered how she had made it in so fast. I was determined to swim harder. I would swim as best I could and then take a breather and then swim again, but I was no match for the current and my strokes only took me so far.
When I looked up again, my mom was waist deep in water and waving at me. She looked scared, but I had confidence that I could make it back. After I said a short prayer for God to help me swim harder, I put my head down and began to swim. Just when I realized I wasn't swimming fast enough and fear had begun to set in, I saw a man swimming over toward me. He had dark hair and a kind face. He asked me, "Do you need help?" I told him how I was trying to swim to shore and that I just wasn't strong enough. He put one arm around my waist and we began to swim together. I felt as though he was doing most of the swimming and we were moving effortlessly through the water. I was close enough to the water's edge that he released his hold of me and I kept on swimming in. I never thought to thank him, I was just happy to be back on land. I got a ferocious hug from my mom!
It happened to be one year later that my mom, sister, and friend were sitting around the kitchen table talking and eating lunch. My mom began to reminisce about that day at the beach when I was pulled out into the ocean. She admitted that she was really scared and had felt helpless since she was not a very good swimmer, nor was there any other person on the beach that she could see to help me. She told me she had prayed for my safe return, for some way to bring me in. I responded by telling them how hard I struggled against the current and that for every ten strokes I took, I was swept out about five. Then I told them how the man had offered his help to swim back with me.
Three skeptical faces looked at me and then at each other. They started to smile and laugh. I was confused, so I asked them what was so funny. My mom said, "What man?" Not one of them had seen the man that rescued me that day, but his face remains engraved in my mind. I believe it was an angel, sent to give me another chance at life.
I often think back on that day and wonder what God had in store for me. Why did he give me another chance? What is my purpose in life? How I am supposed to be serving God? I still don't have answers for these questions, but I have not been idle. By the grace of God I have been on six mission trips with different churches to Mexico and also, just recently, to the Dominican Republic. Each trip is different but with a similar goal to share the gospel of Christ with the people of the country. Winning more lives for Christ will only help to spread the truth of His life, death, resurrection and also of His desire to be the Lord of your heart. I know being a servant of God is one of many purposes for my life. There are more purposes just waiting to be discovered. The more I surrender my life to Christ, the more He uses me to carryout His will, and with that understanding I can make a difference in this world one soul at a time.