Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Gospel Truth

Treasured friend,

A few months ago, our church (The Orchard Evangelical Free Church) hosted a Saturday morning seminar. Dad was doing well that day, so Mom and I were able to get away for the morning -- and we enjoyed the event together. One major chunk of the morning was dedicated to creating the "talking points" outline of our personal journeys of faith. The assignment was to go home and flesh out the outline into a brief story we could share when someone is open to hearing about how we came to trust Christ for ourselves.

We made it a mother/daughter project to complete our stories. And, once we shared them with each other, we realized that each of us was part of the other's faith story.

So often in the dailyness of caregiving responsibilities, it's tempting to lose sight of the bigger reality. We found this exercise to be one that helped us refocus on the main thing--the fact that we have come to know, individually, from years of experience that God loves us, Christ died for us and lives in heaven waiting for us, and the Holy Spirit of God is interceding for us every moment of our challenging journeys.

With that in mind, Mom gave me permission to share her story with you, alongside mine. We'll start with hers--since she's older (don't tell her I said that!).

Joy's Story

When I came to a real relationship with God –

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16 (ESV)

As a 7-year-old I came to Christ in a worship service; the children’s minister of the church where my father preached led me in a prayer of admitting my sins and asking Jesus to forgive me. But as I grew, I only had a "fear" of God -- of displeasing Him. I know I loved Him, but I showed it by making sure externally I did all the right things that my church said to do, and stayed away from all the wrong (worldly) things my church said a Christian shouldn’t do. Something was still missing from the vibrant relationship I somehow knew was available to me.

When I was a teen, our church held a revival series over several months. And as I attended night after night I felt somehow touched by Christ—closer to Him than I’d felt before. Having more of a desire to please Him than a fear of displeasing Him.

I continued to see evidence of God's hand over me throughout the years. When John and I married we were careful to live a godly life. He read the Bible to me each evening; over the course of the years, I can’t tell you how many times we went through the entire Bible together in that way. We shared our testimony of Jesus whenever we had the opportunity. But I always wished I had a more systematic and complete understanding of God’s Word.

Fast forward to when God blessed John and me with a child. I really got serious about spiritual things – read the Bible to Julie every morning in language she could understand. I got into the Word for myself now and I couldn't get enough of it. So I began attending three Bible studies each week, along with other Christian events where that hunger was being satisfied. Now my faith really began to grow. I began to realize the great privilege of prayer—of deep communication with the God Who loved me and gave His only Son for me. It began to be more about relationship with Him, getting to know everything I could about Him—rather than being motivated by fear. I started to see my daughter’s excitement about knowing Christ for herself—and we grew together. It amazed me how deepening relationship with Christ and His Word made a difference in my relationships with my husband and daughter, too.

During that time I became one of five women in a gospel singing group. We traveled the Midwest, singing and sharing our stories of faith in various churches and denominations, some of whom I know didn't understand why our faith was so important to us, and that Jesus meant everything to us. But once I found Christ for myself -- not my parents - not my husband - not my daughter -- BUT Jesus was for me, I couldn’t help but tell others what I’d found in Him. So, at many of our concerts I had the privilege of sharing this story of faith and of leading the audience in a prayer that could start each of them on their own personal journeys with the God of the Word.

More than a far-away God, Christ became my companion - Savior -Lord of my Life - I wouldn't have lived it any other way.


Jul's Story
Go Tell Jesus You're Sorry

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

One command from my mother became the initiator of my one-on-one relationship with God and His Son Jesus. The command came on one of many days when I had sassed back at her. (Come to think of it, she must have given that same command often during my childhood) I wasn't a particularly naughty child, rather compliant, actually, but my mouth was just a little quicker than my mind--and I wasn't able to edit it all back. So I sassed. Again. And Mom got that look on her face: "Go to your room. And don't come out until you've told Jesus you're sorry."

Now, I must tell you I was a churched kid. I knew all the stories about Jesus and His taking little children in His arms to bless them. I knew He was God's Son born on Christmas who died on Easter to pay for the sins and shortcomings of people. Yes, I knew enough about Him to do what she was asking me to.

So, I stormed off to my room. The door hadn't even closed yet when my tender little heart broke--because I knew I was guilty. I'd sassed. No doubt about it. And sassing made God sad--just like lying or disobeying my parents or any number of "little" sins my little heart had committed.

With that crushing sadness, I crunched up in a little ball on the floor, in the two-foot space between my bed and dresser. And I said, "Jesus, I'm sorry. I know I was wrong. I didn't mean to do it, but I did. Please forgive me. I want to be in Your family--so please make me like You--and in case I do it again in the future--I probably will!--I don't want it to keep me from heaven."

That tender-hearted moment was the kernel that started my life-long journey toward knowing Jesus as my forgiver and the One I've asked to be in charge of my life.

Five or six years later, when I was a totally mature 8 years old, I wanted to be sure I had it all lined up just right, so I walked down the aisle of a church in Florida when a preacher offered an invitation for anyone who wanted to be God's child. I knew I wanted that--so when he prayed, I agreed along with him. God, I'm a sinner (remember that sassing?). God I could never be good enough on my own to meet your perfect standard. But Jesus was perfect. And He loved me enough to lay down His perfect life as payment for my sin. I ask You to apply His payment to my account. And make me Your child. Take over my life and lead me."

Those may not have been the exact words, but they were the gist of it. When I went to college and my faith was tested by friends and even professors, I was still absolutely convinced that God exists and Jesus made this way for me to heaven--where I can know I'll be with Him one day.

In all the years between then and now (never mind how many there have been) I have done my best to learn to know Him better. He has called me to a full-time ministry of writing and speaking His truth to audiences I get to see face to face (in person, on TV, and listening by radio/internet) and readers in countless countries around the world—most of whom I may never meet. Through my books and articles, I get to share the good news of the gospel to those who don’t yet know my Jesus. And I get to encourage (even challenge) those who do know Him to deepen their relationships with Him through studying His Word in fresh ways.

But, ministry calling aside, He's been my friend, my confidante, my forgiver, and my life-planner (Lord) all these years. I knew way back then that He could be trusted with my little heart. So, now as a long-time believer, I can say along with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12; NASB).


Mom and I hope our sharing these stories with you accomplished two goals:

1) If you have been considering Christ's claims, we pray that our stories will show you the path to your own personal relationship with God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

2) If you have your own story of faith, we pray that you'll take the time to write it down, so you can both see how God has proven Himself faithful to you and then go tell others that amazing news.

Oh, and if either (or both) of those apply to you, drop us a line and let us know. We'll keep it to ourselves if you like. Or, even better, we'd love it if you'd post it here to encourage others to do the same.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron, Joy Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com