Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story...

messianic jews
In Old Testament Black and White (Joanne’s Testimony)

I didn’t know much about Christianity as a kid.

Why should I? I was Jewish, Bat Mitzvahed at 13, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. Though my high school wasn’t closed for Jewish holidays, a quarter of the students were absent for the High Holy Days. My father was raised as an orthodox Jew; my maternal grandfather was a former cantor; my great aunt still kept kosher.

My Jewish roots ran deep.

I do remember my first church service, however. I was nine or so, and we were visiting my aunt and her family. I recall the pastor saying something disparaging about Jews during his sermon. I ran out. I still don’t remember what he said, but I did not enter a church again for ten years.

messianic jewsThe next one was Catholic. I was in college, dating a Catholic who brought me to Mass. I remember looking up at the front of the church, seeing the crucifix, and feeling more uncomfortable than I ever had before. I kept my eyes down for the rest of the service. That cross haunted me for quite a while.

I had other minor “encounters” with Christianity, but it wasn’t until I was married and living in the Midwest twelve years later that that cross grabbed my attention again.

My husband was nominally Jewish and we both followed our faith for a while. We soon stopped attending synagogue, however, neither of the local ones being to our liking. We still celebrated the major holidays, but nothing more.

I was working as a freelance writer for the local daily paper, and the religion editor had taken a liking to me, so I was writing for him. One day, he called and asked if I would cover a Christian women’s conference the following Saturday. I agreed skeptically, assuming it would be a bunch of fake, mushy women screaming “Hallelujah” and praising God for their wonderful lives.

I felt a camaraderie among the women there, and a peace I simply couldn’t explain.
Was I ever wrong.

The moment I walked into the arena, I felt a camaraderie among the women there, and a peace I simply couldn’t explain. The speakers, who I normally would have dismissed as hokey, resonated with me, and I felt myself filled with the same camaraderie and peace as those around me. I didn’t want to leave.

Unfortunately, I had no choice – I had a deadline to meet! And, as I left the building to walk the three blocks to the newspaper office, I felt that peace leave me just as suddenly as it arrived.

A myriad of questions ran through my mind.

  • What did those women have that I didn’t?
  • Could I find that kind of peace in Judaism if I was more devout, or was this a Christian phenomenon?

I decided I needed to start this quest of mine with my own faith. I found my English copy of the Hebrew Bible and read the entire Old Testament from beginning to end in two weeks. I also typed out about 20 pages of notes.

messianic jewsThat fortnight brought several things to light, including my lack of obedience to God’s laws, and the emphasis throughout the Old Testament on vengeance and justice.

I knew what I had to do next. I began reading the New Testament. And there, it seemed, were answers to all my questions, comfort from all my fears. I finished the NT in another week, and added another dozen pages of notes to my collection.

Yet, I had some serious misgivings. I saw Jesus as a wonderful man, someone to emulate, but as God? As Messiah? My Jewish background and teachings were digging at me – “God is One,” “Christ was a Jew-hater,” and other mantras reverberated in my mind. I MIGHT be able to accept Jesus as Lord, but Savior?

Still, I started attending a bible-believing church, and began reading the bible through again. I got many new revelations on the Old Testament the second time through, but none as monumental as the one I received about 5 months after the women’s conference, from Isaiah.

But he was wounded because of our sins,
Crushed because of our iniquities.
He bore the chastisement that made us whole,
And by his bruises we were healed.
Isaiah 53:5 JPS

There it was, in black and while – in the Hebrew Scriptures: Christ’s death on the cross as payment for my sins. At this point, I had no choice. I embraced the cross, and have never turned back.

Cross photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. via Flickr, cc.
seek and you shall find
Seek And You Shall Find (Darren’s Testimony)

I grew up without any religious education, and was agnostic. I never went to church growing up, and only knew as much about Christianity as I was able to pick up from culture and the media…ie, not much! When I was younger, I had some sort of vague belief in God, but I knew nothing of Christianity or any other faiths. As I got older, I started to adopt an atheistic attitude, mostly because my friends at the time were atheists, not due to any particular reason or life circumstance.

Something missing?

As I neared completion of my degree in Information Systems & Human Behavior (that is, computer science) at university, I started to feel that something was missing in my life. By all accounts I had things pretty good. I generally didn’t have to worry about money, I was doing well in school, and had a loving family. Yet, I felt depressed. I decided to make a list of things I wanted to try, in order to find out what that “missing part” of my life was. One of the items on the list was to investigate religion (and God) for the first time. I figured it was worth a shot and wouldn’t cost me anything. It’d be at least a good learning opportunity.

So I decided to investigate various religions to see whether any of them were credible. I can’t recall all of the faiths that I looked at, but I definitely spent some time with Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism and Christianity. I wanted a faith that was true. Something that made me feel good but was not grounded in reality was not worth considering.

First steps

As far as I can recall, the first religion I looked at was Buddhism. I had a positive impression of Buddhism, probably from the positive way Buddhism is usually portrayed in the media. I never heard Buddhism being criticized. It seemed to be the most “socially acceptable” religion. (Social acceptance is hardly the best test for truth! But such was my thinking at the time.)

Seek and you shall findBuddhism is atheistic; at least, the question of God’s existence is said to be peripheral to Buddhist faith. Some Buddhists believe God exists, but many don’t. To me, any religion that is atheistic is not a religion at all, it is merely a philosophy, invented by humankind and therefore no better or worse than any other philosophy (at least in terms of potential for error). If a religion differs within itself so widely on the most central topic of faith (whether or not God exists) it’s difficult to even call it one faith at all. How could Buddha have been so misunderstood that his followers could not agree on the most basic question of whether God exists or not, and whether that matters? (I would say yes God does exist, and yes it does matter…but we haven’t quite come to that point yet!)

I read about the various leaders of religions; for example, Muhammad of Islam, Joseph Smith of Mormonism and Jesus of Christianity. I was somewhat surprised by what I discovered. All claimed to have the right answer, the “only way”, but Jesus was the only one who claimed to BE the only way: he claimed to BE God! Why follow mere men, who would be filled with error, instead of God himself, in whom there would be no error? The gospel story really spoke to me in a way that the stories of Islam and Mormonism (and others) didn’t. If any of these stories were true, I wanted Christianity to be true, but the question was whether it really was true or not, so I figured I’d spend more time investigating it.

The person of Jesus Christ struck me as being authentic, in a way that the others didn’t. And I knew that it was quite impossible for ALL of these faiths to be true. (Clearly I’m not a “postmodernist”.) If I accepted Jesus, I could not accept the rest.

What’s this “Christianity”?

I needed to carefully investigate the Christian faith before accepting it. I had some Christian friends at the time, but I didn’t tell any of them that I was reading about Christianity because if I decided that Christianity wasn’t true, I didn’t want to have to tell them that their religion is a fairytale!

I was still wary of the church, so I bought myself a copy of the Bible (from Amazon.com…hey, it’s a book, that’s where you buy books right?) and started to read it for myself. Not knowing much about the Bible, I started reading at the beginning like any other book I’d read. I wondered when Jesus came into the story, and after flipping around a bit I figured out the difference between the Old and New Testaments.  (Roughly speaking the Old Testament is before Jesus, the New Testament is about Jesus and the early church.)

That’s nice, but is it true?
If this book were true (that is, historically accurate) it certainly would be the “greatest story ever told”.
I continued reading over the next few weeks, and although pretty skeptical about the miracle stories, I was still interested enough to continue. (I also knew that if God exists, miracles are at least possible; though I had never had much confidence in them being actual before.) Over the course of three months I read most of the New Testament and a large portion of the Old Testament. During that time I started to question the historical reliability of the Bible. If this book were true (that is, historically accurate) it certainly would be the “greatest story ever told”. But if it weren’t, it’d be no better than J.R.R Tolkien or Douglas Adams: fine fiction, but in no sense “holy”, nor “history”.

I finally admitted to a close Christian friend that I had been reading the Bible, and had questions about its reliability. She gave me a book called The Case for Christ by Yale law school graduate and former Chicago Times legal editor Lee Strobel, which examines hard questions about the reliability of the Bible. I learned to my surprise that yes, there are good reasons for believing that the Bible is reliable in what it records! My later reading has only confirmed this. The New Testament is the most scrutinized literature in the history of the world, and its reliability is unparalleled compared to all other documents from its time!

Now I really began to struggle! In a way, I wanted this amazing message to be true. But in another way, I really didn’t. As unhappy as I was with my life, becoming a follower of Jesus would mean I’d have to make some changes and give up some of the sin that, frankly, I enjoyed. After about four months of daily reading and study I had come to something like an intellectual acceptance, but not an acceptance in my heart. It’s one thing to make a mental assent and say “Yes, I believe that this is likely to be true”, but it’s quite another to make the more real life altering decision to change my life course and admit that for the first 20 years of my life that I had been wrong!

Expression of a deep inner need

In early January of 2003 I decided that I’d attend an on-campus “church” service. I figured this would be like going to church but not quite as weird, and I should at least see what church is like. The service wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be, although there was a lot of singing which I didn’t enjoy at the time. (I wasn’t quite sure that I agreed with what they were singing about!) But when the speaker gave his short message something that he said resonated with me. He talked about having a “wow moment” with God, an experience where God speaks to you personally. I realized that was what was stopping me from accepting Christ.

I had already rationally accepted Christian belief, but even then I knew that there was more to faith than simple intellectual ascent. I had never had a personal experience of God. So that same night, I prayed for God to personally come to me in some way. I didn’t know what, if anything, to expect.

January 14 2003, 3am

The next night I was up late and I picked up my Bible to read a bit. My Bible included some extra commentary and stories, and the story that I read involved a lonely farmer:

seek and you shall findOne raw winter night a farmer heard an irregular thumping sound against his kitchen storm door. He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass.

Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds. He turned on the lights and tossed some hay in the corner. But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness, afraid.

The man tried various tactics to get them into the barn. He laid down a trail of Saltine cracker crumbs to direct them. He tried circling behind the birds to drive them to the barn. Nothing worked. He, a huge, alien creature, had terrified them; the birds couldn’t comprehend that he actually desired to help. The farmer withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window. As he stared, a thought hit him like lightning from a clear blue sky: If only I could become a bird – one of them – just for a moment. Then I wouldn’t frighten them so. I could show them the way to warmth and safety.

At the same moment, another thought dawned on him. He grasped the reason Jesus was born.

(As told by Paul Harvey)

When I read this story this time, it was different than when I read it before. I felt emotion welling up inside of me, and by the time I’d read the last sentence, I was crying. Not tears of pain, but tears of profound joy.

I’m not someone who cries easily! But here I was, alone in my room at 3am, crying! I didn’t know what was going on, until I remembered my prayer from the previous night. “This is crazy!” I thought. “Is God really speaking to me this way?” But I kept on crying and couldn’t stop. It must’ve gone on for 20 minutes. During that time, I finally relented, and made a decision that would change my life. I said “Yes” to God.

I prayed, though I didn’t really know what to pray for. As best as I can remember, I prayed for forgiveness for my many sins, thanked God for coming near, and asked Him to never leave. And He still hasn’t to this day, despite all my missteps and failings along the way.

When I woke up the next day, I stared out my window for a long time, and wondered what would happen in my life. I have sometimes struggled with questions about my faith since then, but I haven’t doubted that something powerful has happened. Not everyone will have an experience like this, and my decision wasn’t based only on this emotional experience. This event just helped make my faith sufficient to overcome my fear.

I follow God: I follow Jesus

Upon further reflection, God chose to speak to me in exactly the way that I needed, at the perfect time. God may not always work on our timetable, but His timing is always perfect. And His promises to us always come true. One of those promises is that if you seek Him, you will find Him (Matthew 7:7-8).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8

It is today my humble prayer that you will know God via His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and thereby know the intense and life-changing love that God has waiting for you. My road to faith, and since, has not always been easy. But I have never been sorry that I asked God to come near, and He did. In fact, God came nearer than anyone ever expected. He came to us in person, in Jesus.

Sparrow photo by Hedera Baltica via Flickr, cc, Forest photo by Justin Kern (with modification) via Flickr, cc
hebrews 13:2
The Homeless Man and A Bottle of Tea

The first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of body odor. Every part of me resisted allowing this dirty, wretched, man into my home. Men were filing into my husband’s Thursday night bible study, Band of Brothers. But then here was THIS man. One of the regulars brought him in hopes of reaching the man with the gospel of grace and hope.

Good intentions.

Yikes, I hate when that happens. My good deed of opening our home as a refuge to those seeking more of Jesus just was hit with a curve ball.

“Well, Lord, I really meant for it to be to the normal people.

The clean people.

I mean, really, how much is this to ask of me. I already give up my comfort for all these men.”

The ones who don’t make me uncomfortable or smell up my house.

Oops, really feeling not so spiritual right now.

I started to get angry at the guy who brought him. This is my home. Wouldn’t he know better than bring an “unsafe” guy here? This dirty man. This destitute man. Does he have a disease?

What if he was a thief? What then?

He seemed nervous and quickly walked past me to the back of the house where the men met each week. He also seemed to know instinctively what I was feeling about him and averted direct eye contact. I remembered him from seeing him make his rounds from place to place in our little town. Actually, I am pretty sure he walked everywhere.

Don’t you just hate the fact when you feel like you are really spiritual, and are busy patting yourself on the back, God comes on the scene and shows you exactly just how spiritual you really are?

I didn’t like myself right then; at all.

So many stories came to mind that I read in the bible.

The Samaritan man beaten and in a ditch and no one wanted to get “involved” in helping the poor soul, so those that walked by pretended they didn’t see him and kept right on going. And then there was that one guy who helped him. Jesus said he was the one who was the true neighbor. Luke 10:30-37

Then there are the stories of angels visiting us in the forms of people to see how we will react.

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
Hebrews 13:2 NLT

Uh oh! Am I in trouble?

It is so easy to do good when everything is clean and pretty and they rave about your hospitality and generosity. Then I feel rewarded.

But what about the unlovely people?

Ugh, I didn’t want to think about it.

I expressed my distaste to my husband when the study was over. He told me that the destitute man, though hard for him to sit still, sat there through the whole study and heard what was said. I felt a little convicted. But I still maintained that this was my home and off limits to open up to people on the street.

Just being honest with you.

A few days later I was home alone. I glanced out the front window and there was this homeless guy coming towards my house.

I thought, “Oh great, now he knows where I live and he has come back and he knows I am here alone.” I felt fear. I figured he had been living in the bushes in the front of my house watching for when I would be alone.

Then I heard a knock at my door.

“Now what do I do, Lord.”

“Answer it”, He said.

“Okay, but if he attacks me, it is in YOUR hands.”

No reply from the Lord.

I opened the door to the homeless guy. He stood way back because he knew I found him offensive. I didn’t indicate anything to that nature, but he just knew. He held in his hand a bottle of a name brand iced tea.

He reached out towards me with the bottle of tea, and with a gentle and grateful look on his face offered it to me. I took it with a puzzled look on my face.

hebrews 13:2He spoke sporadically, “Thank you for letting me come into your home.”

He had brought me a gift of gratitude that I did not turn him away. Who knows where he got the tea, but it was sealed and new.

I am crying right now as I share this story with you because of the compassion that flooded my heart at that moment and still does. This man was a soul that Jesus loves. He came to my house. I let him in with a resentful heart. He knew it, yet he reached out to me with his only understanding of love, which is to give something substantial.

I learned afterwards that he lived behind a dumpster about 5 miles from my house. I knew he had to walk a long way to find his way back here. Yet, he never expected me to do anything else for him. He wasn’t begging or asking to come in. Nor has he returned. He was just grateful.

My husband feeds people on the street all the time. He buys them food and shares the gospel. This was my test. I was made aware of parts of myself I am not proud of. I guess it is normal for us to freak out when we are faced with people we don’t want to see, and it makes us get out of our comfort zones, doesn’t it?

But let’s remember that Jesus said, when we feed the poor, we feed Him.

“For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Matthew 25:42-45

photo credit: Patrick Doheny via Flickr, cc
For God so loved
For God So Loved….me (Jeff’s Testimony)

Living in Van Nuys, California, my life was completely preoccupied with airplanes and flying. Working as a young flight instructor and charter pilot at the Van Nuys Airport, I would open the school’s doors at 6:00 a.m., and then I would close them at 10:00 p.m. I was thoroughly enjoying my life, and enjoying all that I was doing.

During this time, my younger brother, John, had just graduated from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, and due to his language skills, was promptly hired by the original Pan American World Airways as a flight attendant. His training classes were scheduled to take place in Hawaii, so on his way out to Hawaii he stopped in Los Angeles for a week to visit. He and I shared my apartment which allowed us to get acquainted again. During his four years at Syracuse he was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, and I noticed an incredible change in his life. Being only 14 months younger than me, he and I had been involved in plenty of childhood mischief together; then, loose and immoral lifestyles as young adults. I was expecting to see the good old John which I had known for years. As it turns out, I met a different John; one who had changed into an honorable, godly young man. He caught me off guard, and I wasn’t sure how to handle myself around him. All I could do was observe his lifestyle and watch him operate.

Within three days of arriving in Los Angeles, my brother had found a church, was attending a Bible study, had made dozens of friends, and his new Bible study was already praying for me.
For the previous five years I had been working every day at the airport, and my entire social network included three other pilots, one secretary, and a couple of my students. Within three days of arriving in Los Angeles, my brother had found a church, was attending a Bible study, had made dozens of friends, and his new Bible study was already praying for me. All I could do was sit back and observe this family of total strangers welcome my brother in and treat him with love and kindness as one of theirs, from day one. I can’t help but admit that I was impressed with everything I saw in his life, but the draw of my three times weekly trips to Las Vegas with my students was still far more interesting.

Within a few days of John moving in with me, Pan American called to tell him that his training class in Hawaii had been cancelled, and that there was no new date scheduled. They would get back to him. His heart sank. Unbeknownst to either one of us, the hand of God had just moved.

Rather than sit around my apartment and be depressed over this news, he decided to put pen to paper and document an incredible trip he took overland to India, resulting in his coming to know Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Even though his life was not going the way he had planned, the Lord was providing for his every need; church, Bible study, fellowship, task, transportation, and free housing. He accepted all of it, from the bad news from Pan Am to his predicament in Los Angeles with joy in his heart, a smile on his face, and total peace about everything. I observed it all.

Within a couple of weeks of his arrival, my brother invited me to attend his church, which I did. Conviction began to set in that very first Sunday. The pastor was standing behind his pulpit preaching away when he made a point during his sermon. Using his index finger, he pointed to the crowd and quoted 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many pangs.” I knew in my heart that the riches of this world were something that I wanted too; and that I was setting out to pursue.

My brother and I know each other very well. He knew that if he took his Bible and began waving it in my face and pointing his righteous finger at me condemning me of my rebellious ways, I would probably ask him to leave. So he didn’t; instead, he showed me his life. Every morning, before he began writing, he would read his Bible and pray while kneeling beside the cot I had rented him, and placed in the living room. I knew my brother, the old John, and that was not normal for him, something was different about him, something had changed – big time! I knew my brother well enough to know that he was not faking it, this was genuine.

For God so loved

For God So Loved…

A few weeks later, when my brother felt the time was right, he asked me to read one verse from the Bible with him. It was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

He didn’t stop there. He then asked me to personalize that same verse from the Bible, and he asked me read it again; For God so loved Jeff, that He gave His only begotten Son, that if Jeff believes in Him, then Jeff shall not perish, but Jeff shall have everlasting life.

Reading John 3:16 the second time while personalizing it was the first time in my life that I realized God was real, that He knew me, that He loved me, that He cared for me, and that He was willing to die for me; a total stranger who couldn’t care less about Him or His love for me. Guilt began to fill my heart.

My brother then asked me if I believed in Heaven. I said yes I did. He asked me if I knew who created heaven. I said that God created heaven. Then my brother asked me who determines the entrance requirements into my apartment. I said I did, because it is my apartment. Then he quietly said, “Doesn’t God have the right to determine the entrance requirements into His heaven?” Without knowing any theology, and without knowing anything about the Bible, I knew right then that if God owned the keys to heaven, and if He were considering me right now for entrance into His heaven, then I was in big trouble. My conscience told me, in no uncertain terms, based on my life, my eternity in God’s heaven was extremely doubtful.

An Awakening Conscience

John explained to me that before God could deal with my sin, I had to believe that I was a sinner. Well, that caused some resistance because I had never been a murderer, nor had I ever been a thief, nor a rapist. I had always been a nice, upstanding citizen with only two, or maybe three traffic violations on my entire record. I thought that was pretty good! That is when he explained to me that God has a standard for entrance into His heaven, and that standard is absolute perfection and obedience to His whole law. In fact, it is even a command. In Mathew 5:48 Jesus says,”Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect,” and James writes in his second chapter and tenth verse, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

I felt I was being let off the hook because the Law was in the Old Testament and must have been for people 3,500 years ago, not for people living in the twentieth century. Then my brother brought me right back to the reality of my sin: he asked me if I had ever lied before; not at some point this week, but at any time in my entire life. Well, I had to say yes. He told me that is a violation of God’s ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” making me a liar! Then he asked me if I have ever stolen anything in my entire life. Again, going all the way back to my childhood, I would have to say yes again. So, he explained that I was in violation of God’s seventh commandment, “You shall not steal,” making me a thief! John then asked me a third, and final question, “Have you ever looked upon a woman with a lustful thought in your mind?” Unfortunately I would have to say yes there as well, making me a violator of God’s tenth commandment, and therefore making me a fornicator!

In about 90 seconds, he established that in the Lord’s eyes I was a liar, a thief, and a fornicator. As he walked me through the rest of the commandments it was clear that I was in violation and guilty of all Ten Commandments and unable to reason my way out of any judgment that may bring. My heart began to quicken as I realized the world of hurt I was in should I have had to stand before the Lord and give an account then. My thoughts now began to turn to a simple question, “What do I do now to get myself out of this mess?”

My brother continued to explain to me that the penalty for sin is death; physical death which we are all suffering from, and spiritual death, eternal separation form God in hell. The Apostle Paul writes in the Book of Romans:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

He also writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” found in chapter 5, verse 8. My heart was now racing with the correlation between sin, death, and Jesus Christ. God demands perfection in thought, word, and deed. I had failed miserably on all counts and was deserving of death, both physical and spiritual. It was at this point that my brother explained to me the grace and mercy of God. Despite our continuous desire to turn from God and run the other way, He is still there, loving us, waiting for us, and willing to pay the penalty required of our sin for us. God has done that by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross as payment in full for our sin. He now offers this free gift of salvation to all people who are willing to repent of their sins, and believe in who Jesus is, and what He has done for us on the cross, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). At this point my brother stopped, knowing that I have heard the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the good news of Jesus Christ, that God has sent His Son Jesus Christ to save sinners who are destined to be punished for their sin. This gift of salvation is offered free, and is received by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Within a couple of days, Pan Am called John back and told him to report to Hawaii to resume training classes. He was ecstatic! On his day of departure I dropped him off at the airport, then drove back to my apartment, alone again. During my drive home I couldn’t stop thinking about everything he had told me and all the verses of scripture I had read. What pierced my heart to the quick was when I opened the door to my apartment, I saw his cot made, everything cleaned up perfectly, and a small gift left on his cot for me. I simply stood in the doorway and looked at that small gift. It was at that moment that I understood the love of Christ for a sinful and rebellious man. I was the rebellious sinner who longed for the lifestyle found in Las Vegas, and the like. Despite my sin, my brother had the love and compassion to keep praying for me, wait for the best time, then share the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ with me, and to also give me a gift, which he placed on the cot.

The next morning, March 14, 1980, the Lord opened my heart to the love and mercy of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and I have been walking with Him ever since.

This is my personal testimony of how the Lord Jesus Christ opened my heart, and transformed my heart to seek Him, rather than to flee Him. Testimonies such as this one happen every day, all around the world. The Lord calls men and women to Himself every day from every country, language, and culture. You may have read my testimony today and feel the Lord pulling on your heart. My prayer for you is that you would not resist his calling, but simply realize your sin, repent of your sin, and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord, as your Savior, as your Messiah.

conversion to christianity
Sarah’s Story

I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Canada. My parents were socialists and political activists who thought British Columbia would be a better place for us to live, since it had the only socialist government in North America at the time. My parents were also atheists, though they eschewed that label in favor of “agnostic.” They were kind, loving, and moral, but religion played no part in my life. Instead, my childhood revolved around education, particularly science. I remember how important it was to my parents that my brother and I did well in school.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when science fiction was enjoying a renaissance, thanks largely to the popularity of Star Wars. I remember how fascinated I was by the original Star Wars trilogy. It had almost nothing to do with science—it’s more properly characterized as space opera—but it got me thinking about space in a big way. I also loved the original Star Trek, which was more science fiction. The stoic and logical character of Mr. Spock was particularly appealing to me. Popular science was also experiencing a renaissance at that time, which had a lot to do with Carl Sagan’s television show, Cosmos, which I adored. The combination of these influences led to such an intense wonder about outer space and the universe, that by the time I was nine years old I knew I would be a space scientist someday.

I had come to believe that Christianity made people weak and foolish; I thought it was philosophically trivial.
Canada was already post-Christian by the 1970s, so I grew up with no religion. In retrospect, it’s amazing that for the first 25 years of my life, I met only three people who identified as Christian. My view of Christianity was negative from an early age, and by the time I was in my twenties, I was actively hostile toward Christianity. Looking back, I realized a lot of this was the unconscious absorption of the general hostility toward Christianity that is common in places like Canada and Europe; my hostility certainly wasn’t based on actually knowing anything about Christianity. I had come to believe that Christianity made people weak and foolish; I thought it was philosophically trivial. I was ignorant not only of the Bible, but also of the deep philosophy of Christianity and the scientific discoveries that shed new light on the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

As a young person struggling to understand the world without the aid of religion, I got involved in Objectivism. Objectivism is a philosophy built on the idea of rational selfishness. It is based on the work of the devoutly atheist philosopher, Ayn Rand, who lived in Soviet Russia before she immigrated to the United States. Unlike my parents, I had embraced capitalism by my early twenties instead of socialism. Objectivism appealed to me, because of the belief that my life was my own, and that I could make of it what I wanted. It seemed like a strong, logical philosophy.

University and the big questions of life

In my mid-twenties, I moved to the United States to go to university and to prepare for a life devoted to science. I enrolled in the physics program at Eastern Oregon University, located in the same little town where my brother and I had been born. As I began to experience life as an independent adult, I started to find Objectivism a barren and sterile philosophy.

It had failed to answer the big questions: What is the purpose of life? Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?

It also suffers from an ironic lack of internal consistency. For all its focus on objective truth, the philosophy of Objectivism had no source for that truth except human opinion. And, for all their focus on enjoying life, Objectivists didn’t seem to experience any joy at all. Instead, they seemed preoccupied with angrily guarding their independence from all outside pressures.

I had been indirectly supporting the Ayn Rand Institute with a subscription to an Objectivist magazine, but by this time was starting to regret it. Even though I still thought Christianity was silly, ARI’s relentless bashing of Christians was starting to grow tiresome. And when one of ARI’s most prominent public figures mounted a public defense of partial-birth abortion as being “pro-life,” I canceled my support and no longer identified myself with the philosophy. I realized I had outgrown Objectivism.

I began to focus all of my energy on my studies, and became very dedicated to my physics and math courses. I joined campus clubs, started to make friends, and, for the first time in my life, I was meeting Christians. They weren’t like Objectivists — they were joyous and content. And, they were smart, too. I was astonished to find that my physics professors, whom I admired, were Christian. Their personal example began to have an influence on me, and I found myself growing less hostile to Christianity.

In the summer after my sophomore year, I participated in a physics research internship at the University of California – San Diego. For the first time in my life, I was no longer in the center of mass of science—the realm of long-accepted scientific truths—but had moved to the frontier of science, where new discoveries were being made.

I had joined a group in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS) that was researching evidence for the big bang. The cosmic background radiation—the leftover radiation from the big bang—provides the strongest evidence for the theory, but cosmologists need other, independent lines of evidence to confirm it. My group was studying deuterium abundances in the early universe. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen, and its abundance in the early universe is sensitive to the amount of ordinary mass contained in the entire universe. Believe it or not, this one measurement tells us whether the big bang model is correct.

If anyone is interested in how this works, I’ll describe it, but for now I’ll spare you the gruesome details. Suffice it to say that an amazing convergence of physical properties is necessary in order to study deuterium abundances in the early universe, and yet this convergence is exactly what we get. I remember being astounded by this, blown away, completely and utterly awed. It seemed incredible to me that there was a way to find the answer to this question we had about the universe. In fact, it seems that every question we have about the universe is answerable. There’s no reason it has to be this way, and it made me think of Einstein’s observation that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it’s comprehensible. I started to sense an underlying order to the universe. Without knowing it, I was awakening to what Psalm 19 tells us so clearly:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

That summer, I’d picked up a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and was reading it in my off hours. Previous to this, I’d only known it as an exciting story of revenge, since that’s what the countless movie and TV adaptations always focused on. But it’s more than just a revenge story, it’s a philosophically deep examination of forgiveness and God’s role in giving justice. I was surprised by this, and was starting to realize that the concept of God and religion was not as philosophically trivial as I had thought.

Going from unbelief to belief

All of this culminated one day, as I was walking across that beautiful La Jolla campus. I stopped in my tracks when it hit me— I believed in God! I was so happy; it was like a weight had been lifted from my heart. I realized that most of the pain I’d experienced in my life was of my own making, but that God had used it to make me wiser and more compassionate. It was a great relief to discover that there was a reason for suffering, and that it was because God was loving and just. God could not be perfectly just unless I—just like everyone else—was made to suffer for the bad things I’d done.

For a while I was content to be a theist and didn’t pursue religion any further. I spent another very enjoyable summer with CASS, and then during my last year at EOU I met a man I liked very much, a computer science student from Finland. He’d been in the special forces in the Finnish Defense Force, and was just about the most off-the-wall character I’d ever met. But he was also a man of strength, honor, and deep integrity, and I found myself overwhelmingly drawn to those qualities. Like me, he’d grown up atheist in a secular country, but he’d come to embrace God and Jesus Christ as his personal savior in his early twenties through an intensely personal experience. We fell in love and got married. Somehow, even though I wasn’t religious myself, I was comforted to be marrying a Christian man.

I graduated with a degree in physics and math that year, and in the fall, I started graduate work in astrophysics at The University of Texas at Austin. My husband was a year behind me in his studies, so I moved to Austin by myself. The astrophysics program at UT was a much more rigorous and challenging environment than my little alma mater. The academic rigor, combined with the isolation I felt with my family and friends being so far away, left me feeling pretty discouraged.

Conversion to Christianity

conversion to christianityWandering through a bookstore one day, I saw a book called The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder. I was intrigued by the title, but something else compelled me to read it. Maybe it was the loneliness, and I was longing for a deeper connection with God. All I know is that what I read changed my life forever.

Dr. Schroeder is a unique individual—he is an MIT-trained physicist and also an applied theologian. He understands modern science, has read the ancient and medieval biblical commentaries, and is capable of translating the Old Testament from the ancient Hebrew. He was thus able to give a scientific analysis of Genesis 1. His work proved to me that Genesis 1 was scientifically sound, and not just a “silly myth” as atheists believed. I realized that, remarkably, the Bible and science agree completely. (If you’re interested in the details of this, you can either go through my slideshow here or read Dr. Schroeder’s book.)

Schroeder’s great work convinced me that Genesis is the inspired word of God. But something told me to keep going. If Genesis is literally true, then why not the Gospels, too? I read the Gospels, and found the person of Jesus Christ to be extremely compelling. I felt as Einstein did when he said he was “enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.” And yet I struggled, because I did not feel one hundred percent convinced of the Gospels in my heart. I knew of the historical evidence for their truth. And, of course, I knew the Bible was reliable because of Genesis. Intellectually, I knew the Bible to be true, and as a person of intellect, I had to accept it as truth, even if I didn’t feel it. That’s what faith is. As C. S. Lewis said, it is accepting something you know to be true in spite of your emotions. So, I converted. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.

Trials that tested my faith

Maybe that sounds coldly logical. It did to me, and for that reason, I sometimes worried whether my faith was real. And then I had a chance to find out a couple of years ago. That year started with my cancer diagnosis and an unpleasant course of treatment. Not long after, my husband fell ill with meningitis and encephalitis, and it was not clear if he would recover; we didn’t know if he would be paralyzed or worse. It took him about a month, but, thankfully, he did recover. At that time, we were expecting our first child, a baby girl. All seemed well until about six months, when our baby stopped growing. We found out she had Trisomy 18, a fatal chromosomal abnormality. Our daughter, Ellinor, was stillborn soon after.

It was the most devastating loss of our lives. For a while I despaired, and didn’t know how I could go on after the death of our daughter. But I finally had a clear vision of our little girl in the loving arms of her heavenly Father, and it was then that I had peace. I reflected that, after all these trials in one year, my husband and I were not only closer to each other, but also felt closer to God. My faith was real.

I don’t know how I would’ve coped with such trials when I was an atheist. When you’re twenty years old and healthy, and you have your family around you, you feel immortal. I never thought about my own death or the potential deaths of loved ones. But there comes a time when the feeling of immortality wanes, and you’re forced to confront the inevitability of not only your own annihilation, but that of your loved ones.

My Calling

I love my career as an astrophysicist. I can’t think of anything I would rather do than study the workings of the universe, and I realize now that my lifelong fascination with space has really been an intense longing for a connection with God (“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” [Romans 1:20]). But I also feel a strong calling to minister to others through this same work.

I will never forget the student who got me started on this path. When I was a graduate student, not long after I had converted to Christianity, I was leading a help session for an astronomy course, and we were going over big bang cosmology. After the session, the student came to me and asked, very timidly, if it was okay to be a scientist and believe in God. I told her, of course; I was a scientist and believed in God. She was visibly relieved, and told me that one of her professors in another department had said she couldn’t be religious and believe in science, too. I was haunted by this, and wondered how many other young people were struggling with similar questions about science and faith. I decided to help others who are struggling with doubts. I also wanted to help people answer false atheist arguments confidently. I’ve struggled with this, because I know it will be a difficult road to travel. But the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice leaves no doubt about what I have to do.

…two things drew me to God—the overwhelming evidence of his involvement in the physical world and his perfect justice.
When I was in the process of becoming a believer, two things drew me to God—the overwhelming evidence of his involvement in the physical world and his perfect justice. I can help people to see God’s handiwork in the physical world, but I am not capable of perfect justice. None of us are. God’s perfect justice demanded atonement for sin, but because of our flawed nature, we aren’t capable of atonement. God sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to atone for us. Jesus was crucified, He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose. Perfect justice was achieved.

Jesus triumphed over temptation, sin, and death. If we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we are reconciled to God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whomsoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting.” (John 3:16)

I don’t know who you are, dear reader, or what your background is. Perhaps you are a believer; if so, you already know the power of those words. But if you are still seeking God, perhaps you will choose, as I did, to accept this great gift of salvation and be reconciled to God.