“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
I love these last verses of the Old Testament and thought it would go well with this testimony from an incarcerated brother. He shares in his testimony about his need for the Heavenly Father to father him through His Word, but that the first step was for him to turn his heart towards the Father. Be encouraged as you read this incarcerated brothers account on how God changed him to who he is today!
I didn’t attend much church when I was on the street. I attended weddings, and funerals, in churches, but at a certain age, I lost the desire for attending church. My error here was not understanding the difference between having a relationship with a church family and needing a relationship with God.
In error, I accused preachers of taking money and using it inappropriately; although this may be true of some, I was unfair in my overall assumption. Besides, I knew nothing of how the Lord blesses His servants. Of course, my view changed, and now I realize that this was just one of my many excuses for not going to church. That being said, I could have never foreseen how this thinking would damage my relationship with God.
These days, I attend church regularly and participate where needed. In other words, I became one of those guys I was once so opinionated about. My point here is this…people change, and in many cases we are just simply wrong about things. Back then, I was wrong, and once I admitted that, I was in a position to start learning the truth. Here is a little of what took place between then and now.
When incarcerated in February of 2000, I was not a Bible reader. I believed there was a God, but that I only needed Him in times of trouble. I was not serving Him; in fact, by examining my seen and unseen life, one might say I was serving the darkness. I should mention that as a child, through my mom (a devout Christian woman), I had been churched and baptized, but had no idea what a Christian was. So clueless about God and Christianity, I found myself, physically, mentally, and spiritually, on what I call “Rock bottom.” It felt like I had nowhere to look but up.
I had come to the end of my rope; so like other times of trouble, I called on God, but this time was different. I didn’t just use my voice; I called on Him with my heart. In other words, I turned my heart to the Father and found that there was a loving God with His heart already turned towards me.
Here’s the deal. No matter how I felt about Church, Christians, or Preachers, in this life, there will always arise the need for a Father’s love. For me, once the distractions were gone, and rock bottom was a reality, I had to get raw and real with myself. While I was busy pointing fingers at others, the real problem was me…and I was overdue for a real change.
That change began with reading His Word. From beginning to end, for two months, I did little else. It was needful for the Father to father me through His Word. That process helped me to recognize His voice. As it turned out, I was not only blind and deaf, but I also had my back turned on God. God’s Word exposed my condition and healed me. He can do the same thing for you.
For me, the first step in getting to know my Father was having the courage to turn and face Him, while knowing exactly how lowdown and flawed I really was. We call this change in direction, “Repentance;” but if you choose to keep your back to Him it’s called, “Rebellion.”
Next, through His Word, I got into His presence, and while in His presence, His Word got into me. At that point, I was in position to make a choice based on His Word, and with joy, I chose the light.
On the day I was arrested back in 2000, I could have been killed, but God had mercy on me. Today, I believe there are two reasons He showed me mercy. 1. Because He loves me; and 2. So that I could one day stand before people and tell them how good He’s been to me.
See for me, coming out of darkness into His marvelous light was a wonderful thing. Trading in misguided lust for the real love of God was a wonderful thing
Setting aside my opinionated assumptions for the truth of God was a wonderful thing. Coming out of a cursed life into a blessed life, and life more abundantly, was a wonderful thing.
What I didn’t realize in my dark days, was that when His Word directs us to turn our hearts toward Him, it is to benefit us. From there, the decision can be made that places us in His grace and forever sustains us in the Son that He gave – out of a Father’s love.
I admit, I was a complicated mess, but He solved that with a simple turn of the heart. And I promise you…it is a wonderful thing.