A Personal Testimony of God’s Amazing Grace Monday, September 30, 2013, 6:11 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Jesus Paid It All” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 26 (ESV): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2026&version=ESV The Apostle Paul was under arrest for his testimony for Jesus Christ, and false accusations were being brought against him. Paul had come before Felix over the course of two years, then Festus replaced Felix, and then Paul was brought before him. Festus wanted to send Paul back to Jerusalem where the Jews were most certainly waiting to kill him, so Paul appealed to Caesar. Then King Agrippa arrived in town, so Paul appeared before him. Agrippa then gave Paul permission to speak for himself. So, Paul gave his testimony. And, I believe here that the Lord Jesus is prompting me to do the same, so this is my testimony. From My Youth My parents brought me up in the church – a strong evangelical denominational church at that time (in the 1950’s and ‘60’s). My father was a strong legalist. Yet, he was a bully. He was verbally and physically abusive to us all, and sexually abusive to me and to my two sisters. I also have two brothers who endured his abuse. The church and God were my refuge. We went to church all the time – Sunday morning and night, Wednesday night, and every night there were extra meetings, etc. Yet, all those meetings did not impact our home environment. I felt much unloved. I cried myself to sleep many nights. But, the church is where I met Jesus. Amen! I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was probably about seven years old. I cried out my sins to him, and I asked for his forgiveness, and he came within me in the person of his Holy Spirit, and he transformed my heart. I very much had a child-like faith that believed what God’s word taught, and that desired to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will, and I often did, though not always. Yet, I frequently faced rejection for that child-like faith, too. I began teaching Children’s Church, and then got involved with Child Evangelism Fellowship when I was a teenager. I was also involved with Youth For Christ on my Junior High and High School campuses. I was even voted in as president one year. So, I went to training camps for that. In college I got involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. My heart’s desire was to obey Jesus in all things. I talked with him often, spent time in his word, called upon him in my sorrow and suffering, and trusted in his divine mercy, comfort and healing for my broken heart. Early Adult Years I started dating in college. I had a strong conviction of the Holy Spirit that I should remain morally pure, so I entered dating with that belief. As time progressed, though, I gave into my flesh and I did not remain pure. I battled against that flesh, called upon God in repentance, determined I would not give in again, trusted in the strength of the Lord to remain morally pure, set appropriate boundaries, but eventually I would give in again. So, when my husband and I got married, it was very difficult for me to feel good and positive about our sexual relationship, for not only had I, due to the abuse of my father against me, been given an early lesson that sex was evil and sinful, which it is outside of marriage, but then I fell into a trap during my dating years where I willfully gave in to my own flesh, and so only reinforced in my own heart and mind that sex was dirty. So, we struggled with our sexual relationship. But, then I believed it improved with prayer and communication. In 1977 we housed a missionary in our home for about two weeks. She taught me much about God and trusting in him, listening to his voice and obeying him in all things. She helped me to know how to read the word of God in such a way as to where I could gain practical understanding from what I read as applied to my daily life. God’s word began coming alive to me as never before. I loved to sit at his feet each day, just drinking in his word, listening to him speak to my heart, and then stepping out in faith in obedience to him. We had (and still have) such sweet times of fellowship together. And, I began journaling that spiritual walk with my Lord, too. I was not perfect, and I can’t say I never failed my Lord, for that would be a lie, but I was walking now in his Spirit, following his lead, trusting in his promises, obeying what he taught me, and stepping out in faith. And, I was much involved in Christian service and ministry in teaching the Word and in singing. The Years of the Locusts In 1987, just ten years after I had really begun a serious time of walking with the Lord, I had my first moral failure. I bought into the lies of Satan, allowed myself to be persuaded and influenced by others, and I had an extra-marital sexual encounter with another man. I told my husband about it, confessing to him my sin, and I began my journey with the Lord Jesus again. Yet, other voices were telling me to do it again, and eventually I listened to those other voices and did it again, and again, and again. Each time I would repent of my sin, and I would begin walking with the Lord again, but it seemed like every time I began my spiritual journey again there were always people (in church) to push me back under again through their rejection of me and unjust mistreatment of me. So, I retreated to what I had been taught in my early childhood. I, not unlike the woman at the well whom Jesus spoke with, was looking to have my needs for love and acceptance met in the wrong ways. In 1993 I settled things with the Lord, he healed my broken heart, and I began walking in faith and obedience to him once again. This lasted seven years. And, then during a time of great suffering and emotional pain, and giving in once more to outside influences, I failed again. So, I humbled myself before the Lord once more, asking him to cleanse my heart. His grace still amazes me. He loves me so much. He picked me back up and he set me on my feet once more and he set me on the right path once again. And, two years later I went through a time of serious revival when he taught me something amazing. I asked him, “Lord, if I am not forgiving anyone, give me that name.” He gave me the name “Jesus.” What he taught me that day was that I was blaming him, i.e. not forgiving him – not only for the pain and suffering of my childhood, but also for all the pain and unjust suffering I had had to endure in my adult years, and from those within the church who were supposed to love me, but who didn’t. I realized that, as a child, if I had truly believed that God was absolutely sovereign over my entire life, I would have had to accept that he stood by and watched as I was sexually abused and yet did nothing to rescue me. So, in my mind I fashioned God/Jesus to be limited in power, though I had no idea I was doing that. I even told God one time, “But God, you don’t understand!” Wow! I believed very much that he loved me, that he was always there for me, that he comforted me with his love, and I turned to him continually, yet in order to believe that he was loving, I could not allow my mind to accept that he would allow me to go through that and do nothing. So, because I saw God as limited and thus unable to help me completely in my suffering, I did, at times, revert to what I learned as a child and I turned to what was evil to find “love”. He Shut the Door In 2004 the Lord Jesus did some amazing things in my life. For one, Rick and I were working toward ordination/consecration underneath the Christian & Missionary Alliance, so we were assigned books to read and we were asked to read the Bible through, beginning to end. So, I did what they assigned us to do. As well, I acquired my grandmother’s journals. I never met her. She died when I was 2, I believe. When I began reading her journals I wept. She was me in so many ways – her love for Jesus, her desire to do his will, the way in which she expressed herself, her favorite scripture verses, her understanding of God’s heart, etc. I felt connected to her in ways that I believe most people in my family would not, because we were alike in so many ways. I felt her heart. And, I knew her tears and the longings of her heart for revival in the church, and for people to be set free from slavery to sin. She even used many of the same phrases that I use. I had never met anyone else like this before. Then, I went to a prayer retreat with the C&MA pastors and church ministers. My husband was supposed to go, but he became ill, so I went without him, representing our small group of young adults with whom we had been ministering for six years in our home. God said some really profound and amazing things to me there through the various speakers and through his word. He said: So, God shut the door on my former life, and he put me on a new journey of faith and obedience. The call he gave me was similar to the one he gave Paul, and I have been following that call ever since. I am not perfect, and I am not sinless, but I am no longer walking in the flesh, but am walking in the Spirit of God, obeying his call upon my life, and doing what he says to do. For the past seven years he has been having me do just what he told me at that prayer conference in 2004. Yet, it is only by the grace of God that I am here and that I am doing what he has called me to do. There is nothing within my flesh that deserves such grace. Jesus Paid It All / Elvina M. Hall / John T. Grape … your sins… they shall be as white as snow… Isaiah 1:18 I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small; Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.” For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim, I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb. Lord, now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone, Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone. And when before the throne I stand in Him complete, I’ll lay my trophies down all down at Jesus’ feet. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.