Arthur Vernon - 07/30/2009
My prayer is that this will show the Lord in His grace, how he keeps those who are His.
My story starts out similar to many. I was dead in sin, living a lifestyle full of self. I grew up in a Assembly of God church and have many good and bad memories from my childhood there. My father left my mother when I was about seven years old and left us pretty much to fend for ourselves. We lived in a pretty good neighborhood but my mom couldn't afford it, so we had to move to a housing project. Times were very tough but my mother was a woman of great faith. I witnessed the Lord provide for us. We always had all we needed.
When I was young, I always saw the hypocrisy in the church. Many of the members in our church treated us differently because we didn't have the money others did. I believe the pastor was the reason my mother stayed there. He was very loving and gave to my mother on several occasions and we never went without at Christmas and stuff like that. When I was very young, about 10 or 11, I started stealing from friends and even from the offering plate at church. I would go through women's purses in the choir and take the cash they had in their wallets. Looking back, I stole the money so I could go buy a new shirt or something so that I could look like all the other kids. I knew it was bad but I didn't care at the time, until I got busted.
A couple of years went by and I wanted to go live with my dad. It was because of selfish reasons because he had more than my mom and I didn't want to go to church anymore. My dad and mom battled it our in court and the court let me make my own decision. I moved in with my father and had a lot of family and lots of new friends. We lived in a very bad neighborhood but my dad wouldn't leave because of family and he grew up there. At the age of 12 I began drinking and using drugs under my father's nose. I hid it really well. My dad was good at keeping me in line when it came to grades in school and being home at curfew, but he spent little time with me. Since I was 13 years old, my dad let me get away with a lot, as long as he didn't see it. I was seeking to be accepted, so I joined a neighborhood gang. We called ourselves the Athens Park Bloods. A few people from Central, a town just north of were I lived, started the gang. Our rivals we called folks. We also had rivals called the Westsiders just east of us on the Missouri side of town.
My younger life was filled with lots of parties, sex, drugs -- all the snares the enemy puts out there for you. I witnessed many young people killed, with no remorse. I was nearly shot a few times but the Lord protects those who are His. My father saw the seriousness of the situation and we ended up moving into a better neighborhood away from the gangs when I was 16. I ended up graduating high school and getting a job right out of it. I ran with a bunch of fools just like me, going from party to party, girl to girl, etc. I met a girl with a child and they moved in at my dad's. We ended up getting married right away and we had a child together. My lifestyle did change some because of the responsibility of having a family, but I kept partying and running around on her.
There was a time I went to church and I responded to an altar call. God touched me and I turned from my life of sin. I ran around with an evangelist and watched him witness to prostitutes and drug dealers. I was impressed with the what he was doing. I got a good job and was going to church regularly, but I never read the Word or prayed. About two or three months after, an old friend came around and I ended up drinking and running around again. To make a long story short, I Left my wife and children and started dating another girl, who is now my wife. I went through seven years (notice the seven) of running from the Lord.
In 2006, I was living the normal life. I was working out at the same gym for a few years. I had a stepson and two new children with my wife and we had nice things: car, house, etc. The gym was where I spent much of my time. I was really into lifting and bodybuilding -- trying to be the biggest in the gym. I was always outwardly faithful to my wife but on the inside I struggled with being noticed and was full of lust. I was watching porn, etc.
I met a guy in the gym and we would only talk about Christ. We were not living for Him or anything -- just talking about the Bible and we both had a desire to understand Him. We really inwardly knew our need but we were still not willing to let go of our sin. He ended up introducing me to a pastor who worked out there. The Spirit was tugging.
I found myself wanting to go to church. My wife and I fought all the time and we couldn't agree on anything. One day, after an argument, I told my wife something needed to change. I told her we needed God in our lives. Surprisingly, she agreed. We had talked about going to church but never really talked about Jesus or anything else in the past. I was surprised.
So we did what most people do and we asked the Lord to come into our lives. We cried together. We had no direction, though. We started going to church and I told the Lord I would give Him 110%. The same way I lived in the world I would live for Him.. My wife tagged along to church and really didn't have much interest in fellowship and thought everyone was fake. We attended the same church for some time. I began to diligently seek the Lord in prayer and reading the Word. I remember weeping for hours in my closet. The Lord was purging me.
I had many supernatural experiences, including being filled with the Spirit and receiving the gift of tongues. God would give me dreams about things that were going to happen, warning me of horrible fights my wife and I would have -- preparing me. Even giving me the date and giving me hints. His hand upon me was amazing. I was completely changed. I would go to Walmart and just go up to anyone and everyone and tell them about Christ. People thought I was out of my mind but I saw many come to the Lord. I planted many seeds and continue to do so.
The Lord was working mightily, but my concern was my wife. So I began to pray for her to be saved and filled with the Spirit. The church I went to had weekend encounters. So she went to one. She came back totally changed. She was filled with the Spirit and preaching in front of the church. If you knew my wife you would understand the shock. God was blessing us.
We began taking the discipleship courses and got heavily involved in the church. But we struggled in our marriage. We gave the enemy a foothold. We asked several times for counsel from our pastor but he sent us to a younger couple. They helped in many areas but we just didn't get what we needed. It was a huge concern for us. Our children witnessed horrible fights and at the same time we kept our faith and began to hide our problems.
It seemed like no one cared. We both started to get really bitter because of things we saw in the church: many people not married, people struggling with money with no help, sin in the church. It seemed like our pastor began to preach more about money and boastfully showed off his new ride and new clothes, etc. The more we read the Word, the more we saw.
We went to a youth concert held at the church. They had pig squealers, heavy, heavy metal, no preaching, kids kissing in the corners of the basement. One kid even came up to me and threatened me because I broke up a mosh pit. It was ridiculous, to say the least. The pastor, the next morning, didn't even mention the outreach the night before. He knew many didn't approve. My testimony is so long and there has been so much we have seen and witnessed. Thank the Lord, He put a man in my life who loved truth. He brought real biblical truth about our marriage and brought restoration to a broken marriage and we continue in the faith, loving others and praying for mercy upon those who are still in the leaven. I hope this touches you and brings a revelation of God's absolute love for his sheep.