Today I attended a Full Gospel Business Men's International Fellowship Breakfast meeting and I was the guest speaker. Here is an updated testimony that I gave to all the people that attended.
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As I grew up, I always believed in God but this belief was in keeping God way in the back of my mind, never really having a relationship with Him. I’d periodically find myself in situations that challenged my faith but I’d just drive on under my own power and will. The Bible I owned gathered dust, my prayers were to only ask for help that I figured I’d never receive and never did it cross my mind to lift others in prayer. Never did I praise the Lord, nor had no idea what to praise for. Even during combat in Desert Storm I never prayed except for protection, not for all soldiers, just for myself.
In 1995 I met CPL Daniel Bush and he was recently saved and he was on fire for the Lord. He evangelized to just about everyone he met. From this drive in him he did speak to me many times. At first my desire was to just be left alone cause I already believed in God. Over time, Dan and I talked a lot about the Bible and Jesus. He even stepped back to allow the seeds to be ministered to by God and then to grow. He had challenged me to evaluate my faith with God. I wondered was my faith through His Son, Jesus Christ? In time, I began to understand the meaning of salvation and that just “saying” I believed in God was only an element of the faith I needed to have in Jesus.
At this time my wife also began to turn situations and problems she was having, over to God. She read her Bible more, prayed more, and in a short period of time her problems began to go away, as a couple we had less problems because of this. I could see how God was helping her and as a side effect, helping us. This caused me to question my faith even deeper.
I was saved in April of 1995, in Hohenfels Germany. Dan and I had been continuing our discussions. He talked about his life, now that he was a Christian and I wanted what he had with Jesus Christ and that was a relationship. I began to read the Bible, I began to pray and pray for more then just “me” and my problems but others as well.
Now, when I originally wrote this testimony I avoided the fact that as a child I was raised in an abusive family environment. I was both physically and emotionally abused by my mother. My father had divorced my mother when I was five years old and moved away. Short of a few visits each year for the next three years I then never saw my father until I was 26 years old.
Living with my mother until I was able to get away was an extremely difficult period of my life and brother’s life. Looking back it seemed my mother took all her frustrations out on us. She would lash out at us and if she wasn’t doing it in a physical manner, it was an unending barrage of screaming and verbal abuse.
The physical abuse slowly ended over the years as I grew older and I could defend myself but the emotional abuse really never ended, till I was able to get away from her by moving away once I was able. This however didn’t end the memories and all the damage that had been done over all those years.
Shortly after I moved out my mother was diagnosed as schizophrenic after being committed to a hospital. My brother was placed in foster care until he was old enough to move on.
At this point of my life I was still new to the Army. I was newly married and living in Germany and even though all this was happening to my mother my thoughts at the time was SO WHAT! The ocean between us kept me from having to deal with her and even if I could see her, my feelings for her would have remained just as distant. There was nothing that would ever get me to love my mother, let alone forgive her for all that she’d done to me and my brother when we were kids. The fact that she had been mentally unstable all those years fell on deaf ears and never entered my hardened heart.
Even as time passed over the years I avoided my mother to the best of my ability. Never called her, never wrote her, I could care less when Michelle bought Christmas cards for my mother. I would get angry with Michelle when she pressured me to call her, or remind me of the fact it was her birthday. I just did not care!
When I returned from Germany four years later, I did see my mother while she was still locked up in a facility that was treating her because she still wasn’t capable to be out on her own. I can’t recall if it was a promise to Michelle or my grandmother to go see her. After this visit I do remember that I still had no love to offer my mother. Any help I offered was due to the fact that it was my responsibility since I was her eldest son.
I eventually found God and was saved as I described in the first part of this testimony. As my relationship with God matured my relationship with my mother very slowly turned. I still never wanted to call her or write her but did it because that was the ‘right’ thing to do. Yes, I had to be pressured into doing it. She had been discharged from lockup and was living in a boarding house for people in her situation and to this day still works with them even though she’s been living on her own for the past several years.
I visited my grandmother every time I was home on leave from the Army so this was once every three years. To do the right thing I also went to go see my mother because she did desire to see me and my family. I left these visitations feeling confused because my mother was what I’d expect a mom to be but my feelings and my heart would not accept her love.
I wanted this confusion to end. It was actually starting to bother me how I couldn’t accept my mother. I’d say I loved her to her face, I’d call her periodically, send the holiday cards but in my heart there was no love, no desire to talk to her or send her those cards.
Here I was on one end of my life serving God, talking the talk and because of this hurt; I was stumbling and tripping along in my walk. I’d tell people that forgiveness isn’t for the person that did you wrong but for you. Unforgiveness tears you apart, never effects the person who did you wrong. Yet I wouldn’t follow my own advice.
When I finally prayed for God to remove the hardness I had in my heart toward my mother…it was gone. During my prayer to forgive my mother, God removed it all from my heart and left me healed of this. Today my relationship with my mother is what I’d imagine a normal relationship between a son and his mom would be.
Life in the military continued as normal until I was deployed to Iraq while assigned to 1/16 IN at Ft. Riley KS in 2003. Even though I felt I had a good relationship with Jesus, there was much lacking as well and what I lacked in, was causing much darkness to remain in my heart. This time in combat I continued to pray and lift all that I felt that needed to be lifted, I read the Bible daily and did my job. I returned a year later and PCSed to Ft. Drum.
I moved back home to finish out my career in the Army at Ft. Drum. Since we had attended a Nazarene church for about 1 ½ years near Ft. Riley, Kanas, we found the one located in Watertown and began to attend.
During this period of my walk with Jesus I began to seek God more because another part of me was keeping me from serving God the way He wanted me to serve Him. God healed me of my unforgiveness and I wanted to serve Him, but I couldn’t fully cause satan still had his claws deep inside of me.
Active sin, hidden from the world but never hidden from God as He knows our hearts even better then we know it, ourselves. I was bound by a sin that was hurting me spiritually and hurting my marriage physically as I was bound with an addiction to masturbation and fantasy lust.
Even now as I write this I look back over the years and am grateful to our Lord for holding my wife and I together long enough to reach a day where I’d reach a point that I’d cry out to Him for help over this addiction. This addiction for me was more pleasurable then seeking any escape that the Lord placed in front of me. Even if I did see the escape, I wouldn’t take it, didn’t want to. All I thought about was the next time, the next moment alone, when my wife would leave to go food shopping or wherever for that matter and I’d be alone in the house.
Of course this led to secretly scouting for pornographic material of any sort and the internet provided an unlimited amount. I didn’t need this even, I wasn’t interested in viewing or reading pornographic stuff but it was fuel for fantasy. Didn’t matter though if I didn’t have anything to look at cause I’d close my eyes and in my mind allow the images and fantasy to develop and take over and sin, at the time I enjoy it and didn’t care about anything else.
Even while deployed to Iraq for the second time I’d be praying to God one moment and gave into temptation and would sin, the next. Upon returning from this deployment I was right back at my church, reading the Bible, praying, but not doing as God willed for my spiritual growth or my spiritual healing.
Even after experiencing what God can do concerning my healing of unforgiveness I did not seek Him to help me with this addiction. Then He pointed me to a task that made me open my eyes. I began to learn that God has purpose for those who believe in Him and have a desire to serve Him and have a relationship with Him even if we’re stumbling along. Of all ministries He placed me in, a Celebrate Recovery Ministry led by my very wife. People say the Lord doesn’t have a sense of humor… I wasn’t laughing though at that point in my life cause the word HYPOCRIT began to boom loud in my head. This was God’s plan though… didn’t see it then but it’s clear to me now cause God had to get me to a point in my life where all that was left, was for me to CRY OUT to Him. The Lord will begin to glorify Himself through our weakness the moment we give it to Him and He can work in us. For me, this was not possible to give all of it to Him
Now I was actively helping people to overcome their addictions, hurts, habits, hangups through faith. If you are unaware of Celebrate Recovery it’s a Bible based recovery program. My wife had been a leader in one at our church in Kansas and when we got to Watertown; our new church had a message in their bulletin about wanting to start a recovery program at the church and needing people to help. She mentioned to the pastor that she had a little experience with Celebrate Recovery and would like to help with the one up here. Even before she blinked the ball was moving and over the next 6 months we held classes with just volunteer leaders and then opened the program to the church.
Over the next year my enjoyment of serving God was constantly brought down by my addiction. I spoke through my mask, maintained my smile, had that concerned look and even though I genuinely did all I could to help those in the program; I operated in the flesh as my spirit, cried out constantly.
Until the day my flesh also cried out and I asked God to help me end this addiction cause I was powerless to stop myself.
Soon after this prayer, which was often voiced to God, usually several times a day… the prayer was answered. My wife and I decided to attend a service at a church that our friends were members at and they had told us that a guest speaker was going to speak one night. We decided to go and once we linked up with our friends we were introduced to the pastor. I vividly remember walking up to Pastor Torres for the very first time and looking at the smile on his face as I walked the 25 feet from the door to the alter. It was the smallest church I had ever been in. But the size of the building has nothing to do with the size of a church in the Kingdom of God. His smile comforted me and I didn’t know it at that moment but I was shaking the hand of the man who shepherded the church that would be used to deliver me of my addictions.
I experienced much that night, which showed me just what God can do in the lives of Christian’s who are free in their faith and to the movement of the Holy Spirit within them. At this point in my life I’d denied this freedom… which had been all my life.
After the service the pastor asked my friend Scott to bring me to him cause he had some questions for me. While praying over me during the alter call the Lord had showed him the darkness I had in my heart. He told me what the Lord showed him what it was and that the evil in my heart needed to be removed. I could not do anything but say yes, it’s true. Pastor Torres told me that the Lord wanted to heal me of this but I wasn’t allowing Him to work the healing in me and that he was to counsel me, I said OK.
So I began to attend both churches as we began to understand God’s will in the fact that we were to leave the Nazarene church and attend the present church I serve God in. This was one of those, “say WHAT??” moments when I asked God what He wanted us to do. Of course, Pastor Torres’ church is primarily Hispanic and all services are in Spanish and translated to English. Not a church I’d consciously decide to even try out but even though I wasn’t aware of it, we were being led by the Holy Spirit. It took about 5 months for the transition from one church to the other to happen due to transferring Celebrate Recovery into the hands of new leadership.
Making the decision to attend Pastor Torres’ church was just one of the first steps in obedience to the will of God in our lives. In very small events such as helping the move from W Lyndee St to Meade St into a slightly larger building and pastor handing me the keys cause I was helping with the interior remolding and never taking them back from me, should have been a clue. This was during the transition period from the Naz to SoJC.
Once fully a member, the Lord began to work in me. He taught me what service to Him was while I received the counsel and prayer that would deliver me of my addiction. I previously wrote this up, about a year ago as I finally put that part of my testimony onto paper and even onto the internet…