MY TESTIMONY

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It’s odd, sometimes, how an off-hand comment made by someone can make you think. And eventually change your life!

Many years ago on a geology field trip, a friend made a strange comment to me when we were sitting near the top of the Mule Ear Diatreme in San Juan County, Utah.


My friend’s kind comment got me started on a quest that eventually led to an investigation of topics and issues that I had previously dismissed as being of no concern of mine.

I was a small town gal from Eastern Ontario. My companion was a graduate of Oxford University who at that time was writing his doctoral thesis at the University of Ottawa where I was working as a geology lab technician making Petrographic Thin Sections of the rock samples the geology students were studying.

Sitting close to the top of that spectacular fin, my friend discerned that I appeared to be somewhat troubled. He asked me what was on my mind. I told him that I was thinking about my engagement and upcoming wedding. I told my companion that although I loved my fiancé, I knew in my heart I could not marry him, and that was what was troubling me.

I knew I could not marry him because of our religious differences. However, I hadn’t figured out a way to tell him. Our wedding date had been set and plans were already underway.

The problem was, my fiancé was a devout Roman Catholic. I was devoutly nothing.

Although I had been raised in a church-going family and had attended Sunday School and church as a child; as a young adult I professed no belief in any religious system or thought.

However, in those days, in order to marry a Catholic I was required to sign a paper promising to raise any children born into that marriage in the Catholic church. I would not do that. I would have refused to sign anything that had the authority or potential to restrict the freedom of choice for myself or for any child born into that marriage.

That paper was given to me two days before I was to leave on the field trip. I had no previous knowledge of this requirement. Nor did I have a chance to discuss it with my finance, the United Church minister or the Priest.
 
My friend was sensitive to my dilemma and he said to me as gently as possible: “I will pray for you, Val.”

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That was the odd, unexpected comment that shook me to the depths of my being.

It shook me because to the best of my knowledge at that time of life, if someone offered to pray for you, you assumed  that they were praying to God, or some higher power than themselves.

I thought it rather odd that an Oxford Scholar would believe in God, and more so, that he believed his prayer would be answered.

That Oxford Scholar DID believe in God. And one day God DID answer his prayer.

That kind, gentle comment changed my life. The change was not instantaneous. Or easy.

Within hours after returning to Ottawa from the field trip I found the courage to call my fiancé and tell him, as gently as possible, that I could not go through with our wedding. What a difficult time that was for both of us and for our families and friends!

Despite the pain my decision caused for all concerned, I would not be coaxed or cajoled into changing my mind. Even though I was told it was only a formality, I simply could not sign that paper. I was twenty five years old when I broke my engagement, which was well past the marrying age for my generation. I felt totally alone and scared.

Starting life over at twenty five years of age was not an easy task for either of us. Especially since most of our friends were married, building new homes, having cuddly babies and settling nicely into careers and domestic life.

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Both of these experiences eventually blossomed into a quest to learn more about the Bible. Not so much because I wanted to know more about the Bible but because I wanted to impress my friend.

So I started with the New Testament and was doing quite nicely until I got to the part about being born again. I had no idea what being born again meant.

I started to ask questions and very quickly discovered that being “born again” is a contentious topic. It is a topic that divides those who believe the Bible teaches that man must be born again from those who do not.

However, the Bible clearly states that Jesus said: Except a man be born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

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When I first encountered those words I became angry. Very angry!

I was angry because I knew that I was certainly NOT born again. Nor did I want to be. Nor did I think I had to be. Nor did I even know how to be!

As a child, I loved going to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School where my parents so graciously arranged for me to attend. That is where I learned about Jesus. However, I really had no idea of who Jesus was or why I was learning about him. Or why he wore such funny clothes!

So my first reaction to hearing that Jesus was the one who said that you had to be born again was to say: The nerve! Who does this Jesus guy think he is and what gives him the right to tell me that I need to be born again? At this point, I only knew about Jesus as a teacher; not as Saviour or Lord!

As a child who regularly attended Sunday School and church, I don’t remember ever having been told that I had to be born again. As an adult, this news really got me riled!

The concept of being born again seemed ridiculous.

To me, having to be born again reeked of a narrow-minded, fundamentalist view of God. If the God of the Bible was a God of love and mercy, why would he keep me out of heaven when I died unless I was born again?

Since this “born again” business had me riled and would not leave me alone, I knew that I had to come to terms with Jesus’s strange and unsettling dictum.

If you had asked me who I thought Jesus was, I would have said that I believed he was a religious leader from way-back times; a Jewish priest who did a lot of good and who lived and died so long ago that what he said or did was of no concern to me or for the world today.

I did not believe the Bible was the word of God, and I certainly did not believe that Jesus was God incarnate. Neither did I believe everything Jesus said; not that I knew much of anything that he actually did or did not say.

I believed that all religions led to God and that I was at liberty to pick and choose whatever I wanted to believe, or not believe, from any of them.

I most certainly believed that if God was a loving, caring God, he would never punish anyone, and especially not me. After all, I didn’t sin; I just made mistakes. (Or so I told myself!)

However, I remained puzzled, and oddly enough, concerned about this ‘born-again’ business. I was determined to find out more, mainly because I wanted to put this nonsense to rest once and for all.

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Because I can only answer for myself, I’m sharing this story of how I came to an understanding and personal experience of who Jesus is and what it means to be born again.

I started with the statement that had upset me.

That statement was made by Jesus when he answered Nicodemus in reply to the question Nicodemus had just asked him, which was:

How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?

Jesus answered Nicodemus by saying:

Truthfully I say to you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

Jesus completed his answer to Nicodemus by saying: That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

I had thus far in my 25 years of living managed to conclude that I had indeed been born of the flesh.

But born of the spirit?

Aren’t we born of the spirit at the same time we are born in the flesh? What did it mean to be ‘born of the spirit’ anyway?

Before I ever started thinking about believing in Jesus or being born of the Spirit, I realized that I had to come to grips with what the Bible said about Jesus, his death and his resurrection.

In fact, I had to come to grips with the Bible itself, a book I had designated as simply an archaic, boring and bloody book of which I definitely wanted no part.

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The first thing I discovered was that the Bible is not one book. It is a compilation of sixty six books covering 2000+ years of history, law, poetry, songs, letters, prophecy and so much more.

I then discovered that the Bible (and other historical books from that era) had documented almost identical stories about the life, crucifixion, death and purported resurrection of Jesus. That discovery made it difficult for me to discredit what the Biblical records state about this event!

If this story and the historical records are true, then the resurrection of Jesus is what gives Him the authority to state that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God.

Surprisingly, I discovered that the Bible states that if Jesus was not raised from the dead then Christians believe a lie and are of all people to be most pitied.

I am referring to an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he says:

“If Jesus is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus is not risen.”

If Jesus is not risen then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. We are found to be false witnesses of God because we have testified of God that He raised up Jesus, whom He did not raise up, if in fact, the dead do not rise.”

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the basis of the Christian faith.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead then Christianity and the teachings of the Bible are false. If He did rise from the dead, the consequences are eternal.

Each of us has the privilege of examining this well-documented historic event for ourselves. My hope is that if you are not a believer and are reading this, you will find something in my testimony that will encourage you to examine the teachings of the Bible for yourself.

Until I came to know Jesus, I did not know that there is great joy in heaven when someone repents and asks forgiveness for their sin.

I can hardly take it in, even today, almost 50 years later since I came to Jesus for forgiveness, cleansing and reconciliation with my heavenly father.

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The Bible clearly states that the wages of sin is death. (Wages: A fitting return; a recompense.)

Before I came to Jesus I wondered how a loving and kind God could condemn anyone to death who didn’t profess faith in Jesus. I didn’t think I or any of my family or friends ever sinned. I assumed that we simply made wrong choices or decisions.

Then I discovered that God doesn’t condemn me to death.

Sin does!

The Bible clearly states: The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Finding out that I deserved the death penalty for what I thought of as petty offences was not exactly a joyful experience. In fact, I was downright angry! Very, very angry at God for being so harsh. Where’s the love, the kindness, the forgiveness in all of this?

At this point I still had quite a limited concept of God—the God of the Bible whom I was earnestly seeking to understand.

Or to completely discredit!

I had no concept of God’s holiness, (or even what holiness was) his perfection, his justice, his mercy or even his love. Neither could I conceive of his wrath.

Scripture has a lot to say about the wrath of God, which I found quite surprising.

God abhors all things evil, ugly, unrighteous and dishonourable. In other words, sin.

He hates sin because sin is what separates us from Him.

It is sin (and the perpetrators of sin) against which God’s wrath is directed.

God hates sin because of the consequences it inflicts on others.

Sin is the opposite of righteousness.

I was beginning to understand. I was beginning to comprehend that God is a just God.

Justice demands retribution.

A just, loving God must punish sin. It would not be fair to the victims who are wronged by sin if he did not.

The God of the Bible, as I was finding out, is also merciful. He does not want any precious person he created to be separated from Him because of the contamination of sin.

That is why Jesus, God the Son, could pay for mankind’s sin because he alone was sinless.

Was Jesus Really Sinless?

That is the first part of God’s provision for us.

The second part is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

The Resurrection; The Heart of Christianity

The third part is that Jesus intends to return.

God’s dwelling place will then be on earth along with all those who have been saved by the atoning work of Jesus. Those who believe and receive His offer of salvation will be His people and He will be our God forever and ever. How this can be is above comprehension. But then, so is human existence.

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Each of us has the privilege to search for God; to respond to God’s call and to choose to obey him and come to Him on His terms, or to do what we want on our terms.

Man, who is made in the image of God, is not free unless he has the freedom of choice. As the old saying goes: A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still!

God gave our first parents the freedom of choice. He also warned them of the consequences if they chose to disobey God’s commandments. They chose to disobey God’s command when they ate the fruit from the one and only tree that had been forbidden for them to eat from.

The consequences of the choice they made have been passed on to every single person who has ever been born into this world since that time.

That consequence is death!

Every person has the privilege to choose to obey or disobey God. We have been given the freedom of choice. If we couldn’t choose, we wouldn’t be free.

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God was honest. He fore-warned both Adam and Eve of the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of life, which is the knowledge of good and evil. However, despite this warning, they both wilfully chose to disregard God’s command and went ahead and ate the one and only fruit that had been denied to them.  

Consequently, sin entered the world.

When the last sinner on earth repents, then the end will come.

With the end of this world, God promises to make all things new. He will create a new heaven and a new earth for those who have repented of their sin and received Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and they will dwell with Him in the house of the Lord forever!

God said to the apostle John: “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

John Wrote:

“And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Rev. 21-2

Revelation 27 states: Nothing impure will ever enter the new Jerusalem, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Satan knows the full extent of God’s word. He was the highest Archangel in heaven before he sinned against God by saying: I will be like the most high God.

Satan also knows the power of partial truths. We must all be careful to not misquote or partially quote God’s word.

It is amazing that God so loved the world that He sent his Son to pay the price for our sin, which is death. He died in our place, that we might live, both now and for all eternity when the dead in Christ are resurrected at the end of this age. I can hardly take it all in.  

We are not left on earth to fight our own battles! Jesus, God the Son, who was himself sinless, came to cover our sinful, death-infected blood with His sinless, eternal, cleansing blood. God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us in our life’s journey until Jesus returns and God makes all things new! Including ourselves!

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One day I made the choice to believe and receive God’s word into my heart.

I repented of my sin and humbly asked God to forgive my sin and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

Although I didn’t deserve to be forgiven, God was faithful and just. He forgave my sin and cleansed me from all unrighteousness.

That didn’t mean that I was, or am, or ever will be perfect or sinless as long as I walk this earth. What it does mean is that I still need to daily come before God, repent of and confess my sin to Him and ask for forgiveness. This is not an easy task for me! I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a humble person. Just ask anyone who knows me!

However, when I come to the Lord and confess my sin and ask for forgiveness, He is faithful and just to forgive my sin and to cleanse me from unrighteousness; not because of anything I can do, but because Jesus did for me when he paid the price for my sin by taking it upon himself and nailing it to the cross.

Jesus wants to do that for you, as well. He wants to lead all of us on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.

That is not to say that there are no consequences for our sin. There are. In His gracious love, the Lord uses those consequences to teach us, cleanse us and to draw us closer to Him.  

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Here’s how I came to know, believe and receive Jesus into my heart:

Not long after our Colorado field trip, my diatreme friend asked me if I wanted to go to church with him on a lovely Sunny morning. The church he was attending was the French Baptist Church on King Edward Avenue near the University of Ottawa. I said sure… not because I wanted to go to church, but because I wanted to learn to speak French and I thought that this might be an interesting way to do so. Not to mention that I had fallen in love with my friend and was trying to impress him!

So I cheerfully and cautiously accepted his invitation. I was being cautious because I was not about to let myself get converted or ‘dunked’ by any Baptist preacher! I simply wanted to learn French. And impress my friend!

However……

Little did I know that the Pastor was fluent in English, French and several other languages. So the first sermon I heard was in English. And I sure didn’t like it! So I told the Pastor exactly what I thought of his message on my way out the door. Instead of being miffed, or angry, the wise Pastor asked me if I would like to come in sometime to tell him more. I sure did want to tell him more. And so I did!

Consequently, through prayer, love, patience, solid biblical teaching and the gentle, but firm guidance of a caring pastor, my ‘diatreme’ friend and a caring congregation, that is exactly what I did. Slowly I came to understand and eventually received Jesus as my Saviour and Lord. What a joyful experience that was!
 
I then had to come to terms with the Biblical teaching about baptism. I had been baptized as a baby. However, as an adult that event meant nothing to me as I could not remember it. However, I appreciated very much that it did mean a lot to my parents. I am thankful they dedicated me to the Lord as an infant even though I did not remember or understand the significance of that event or even the meaning it held for them.

However, when I finally came to understand that Jesus, who was himself without sin, had paid the price for my sin, I was truly humbled. And very sorry for my wrong attitude and behaviour!

It has been a long journey since that time, with many twists in the road, but through it all the Lord has been faithful, even when I am not.

Thank you Martin, Pastor Dennis Pape and the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship Group at Ottawa University for your kindness, patience and long-suffering toward a very arrogant, obnoxious, opinionated and stubborn person! And yes, I still struggle with those attitudes to this very day.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your patience, love and the guidance of your Holy Spirit and to all who have helped and encouraged me along life’s many and varied pathways. Thank you for picking me up when I fall.

And a very heart-felt thank you to my kind and caring diatreme friend! Thank you for guiding me through a long journey from skepticism to understanding; from understanding to belief and from belief to faith.

My quest to discover the ‘something’ that my friend had turned out to be a ‘someone.’

That ‘someone’ is Jesus!

Being born again was, and ever will be, the most joyful experience of my life!

All these many years later I am still learning the implications of what all of this means! The process is called ‘sanctification.’ That process will never end as long as I walk this earth.

It will end when Jesus has put all enemies under his feet.

The last enemy is Death!

When the last unbeliever is saved, then comes the new heavens and the new earth, which believers will share with God in their midst.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God gave glimpses of this promise as He meted out judgment on sin and promised the Messiah. (Genesis 3)

The prophet Isaiah declares that salvation is found in God alone and that He will certainly judge sin. He also prophecies that there will be new heavens and a new earth: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered.” (Isaiah 65:17) This sinful, depraved world is not God’s ultimate destiny for those who trust in Him. We, like Paul, long for the time when God will “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10)

Amen! So let it be.

END NOTE

I was baptized by immersion with a group of friends at the French Baptist Church on King Edward Avenue in Lower Town, Ottawa in 1976. Rev. Denis Pape was our Pastor.

I’m the one on the far right. My diatreme friend is on the far left. All of us looked quite apprehensive. Pastor Dennis was the only one smiling confidently! You should have seen us afterwards. What a joyful celebration we had!

The much shorter follow up to my testimony to mid 2022 is here:

Follow Up 2022.

I am so thankful that the Lord has remained faithful, even when I have not. Each day brings new trials and temptations. Yet still the Lord guides me and leads me through whatever tangled web I find myself in as time goes on.

 

Thanks for taking time to read this long testimony. It covers a long journey. A journey that is still in progress…

My hope and prayer for you is that the Lord Jesus will bless you and touch your heart no matter where you are in this amazing journey we call life.

My heartfelt thanks to my wonderful, now retired ‘Diatreme Friend’ for your caring friendship those many long years ago! You are amazing!