This is version of my testimony given as a sermon at the Chinese Church in Haifa where I also teach English, using the Bible as a textbook. I thought you might want to know my own account of how I came to know Jesus (Yesua) as my Savior and Messiah. May this be a blessing for you. If you would really like to know more about me, read my book, Connecting the Dots of a Disconnected Life: Hope for a Fractured Soul.
My father was a Jewish believer in Jesus. When he married my mother, my father’s father declared him dead. My mother was a gentile but she too believed in Jesus. Her mother hated Jews, and my mother was mentally ill.
Between the ages of 4 and 13, I had lived with at least five different families, been beaten and abused by my grandmother, repeatedly misunderstood by teachers in school, sexually molested by a neighbor, and then my father died. That is one way to look at my childhood.
There is another way to look at my childhood. Between the ages of 4 and 13, I was surrounded by angels keeping watch over me. I was beaten, yet not bruised, saved from being raped, sheltered from the instability of my mother’s darkest moments, and had (and have) an abiding assurance that my father had not really “died,” he had just changed locations. He is with Jesus, and someday I will see him again—whole, healthy, and happy.
I accepted Jesus as my savior during an evangelistic meeting with my parents. My child’s heart understood the teaching and I was crying. My mother asked if I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior. I nodded yes and she prayed with me. Later, we did special Bible studies together. As a family, we always had devotions together. It did not matter what had happened during the day, how naughty I’d been, how upset either of my parents had been with me, each other, or themselves, we always ended the day with a hymn, and reading scripture and praying together, and being reconciled to each other. That is pretty amazing!
I remember many times my mother telling me, “Debbie, people are going to tell you a lot of things, but there is only one thing you need to know: The Bible is absolutely true. Whatever is there, you must accept. You may not like it but you must accept it. And if it is not in the Bible, no matter who is telling you what to do or be, if it is not in the Bible, you do not have to accept it.”
That may sound pretty simplistic to some of you, but I have found this to be my solid foundation throughout life. I may not like it, I may not want to agree with it, but if it is in the Bible, it is there for a reason and I must accept it and believe it.
The problem was, I knew all this in my head, in my child’s heart, I readily accepted what was there, but I was still a normal kid. One thing I struggled with deeply, for years—was God’s love.
I remember as a teenager, every time we went to church and the preacher would ask who wanted to accept Jesus as their savior, up my hand would go. If he asked people who needed God to walk up the aisle, I was the first to walk up the aisle. I remember once being at a black Pentecostal church with my mother and grandmother—they were visiting friends. When the preacher asked people to come forward, of course I did—and everyone started shouting and praising God that the white child had accepted Jesus.
I just couldn’t feel God’s love for me, and I was so aware of how sinful I was. I was angry, sometimes bitter, I frequently had unkind thoughts. I remember once, lying to my parents, and stealing money from their small coin banks so I could buy candy. Once I would understand I was wrong, I would weep bitterly and beg forgiveness, promising to be different, but I didn’t change.
By the time I got into my college, I’d developed a sharp humor, could be quite sarcastic, and deep down inside, I hated myself and my life. There were two things that happened that started to change me.
One night, I was sitting in the dormitory, alone, and I just wanted to die. I pulled out a pocket knife, and seriously considered stabbing myself… but then someone knocked on the door of my room. It was my two best friends, Mark and Ann.
Mark had felt an urgency from God, to come immediately and tell me that God loved me, so he had picked up Ann and they had both come over to share with me.
Not long afterwards, I saw a movie premiere of a now famous movie, “The Hiding Place,” the story of Corrie ten Boom and her family, who suffered in World War 2 for protecting the Jews; Corrie survived being in Ravensbruk concentration camp—her sister did not. At the end of the movie, Corrie came on screen and shared, “There is no hell so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
And again I wept, but things I learned helped me to begin to change.
Time passed, I became a nurse, and as I sought the Lord, I became convinced He wanted me to go to Israel. I was fairly certain it would be too live, but He would have to work that out, since everyone said I could never live in Israel since my father was Jewish, and not my mother.
The first year in Israel was terribly difficult for me, and it was there that my faith reached a crisis point. Somehow, I had gotten my eyes off of my foundation, Jesus and His word as revealed in the Bible. I was looking at people, and I was confused. Now as an adult, I saw people doing the same thing I saw happen to my parents and myself as a child. People in the name of God— both Jews and Christians—hating each other, hurting each other, judging each other. At a certain point, I was fed up, and wanted to pack it all away. It just hurt too much to believe or to try to focus on a relationship with the God in whose name so much wrong was done.
Around that time there was a Rabbi staying at the immigrant absorption center with his family. He had been sent to work against Christians. However, we had, over time become friends. Now in my darkness, I was watching him. He seemed so happy all the time.
He would repeatedly ask me to study Bible with him. Finally, one day I asked what we would study. He suggested I pick the topic. I though a bit and then said, “I’d like to study this—why are you so happy all the time? Why should I love God?”
A brief look of surprise passed over his eyes, and then he answered, “We can do that. I’d be glad to. When do you want to start?”
I only remember one lesson that Moshe taught—it would be our last lesson—and it changed my life.
We read together Psalm 119:89
Your word, O LORD, stands firm in the heavens forever.
I would like to walk you through this same lesson that he gave me. I will ask you all some questions. Please give your answers, don’t worry about being right or wrong, this is part of the lesson!
Reread Psalm 119:89: “Your word, O LORD, stands firm in the heavens forever.”
My first question is: What is a word?
The answer I am looking for is: “The spoken expression of who we are”
Next: What are words made up of in English or in Hebrew?
I am looking for the answer: “Letters.”
Now, read Genesis 1:3.
And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
Now read Genesis 1:6
And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’
Look at verses 9, 11, 14. What do these all have in common?”
“And God said…”
What did God speak? When he said, “Let there be..” (I am looking for the answer, words)
Words are made up of letters, correct?
In English, if I write a word, and remove the vowels, we can most likely read it, but in Hebrew, this is not the case. If we remove a letter from a word, the word is literally changed, or doesn’t exist anymore. It essentially becomes a different word with a completely different meaning.
In the creation event, God used words, the spoken expression of Himself. And in Psalm 119, when we read that God’s word stands firm in the heavens, this means His word is perfect and unchangeable. Not one letter can be removed from what He spoke, the spoken expression of Himself bringing all things into existence. If we tried to change His word, which we can’t, but if we could, God would not be God!
The rabbi was very happy with his explanation. For him, this was enough reason to love God—His unchangeable nature. But as he spoke, God was showing me something else.
My dear brothers and Sisters, I want you to grasp what I grasped that day. Let’s look at some other verses in Scripture:
|John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.||I understood, suddenly, that Jesus is the spoken expression of who God is.|
|John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.||I realized that Jesus is the WORD that was spoken, resulting in creation.|
|John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.||I realized that if I wanted life and light in my life, it was only through Jesus.|
|John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.||I realized that Jesus was creator of the universe, and the world would never recognize Him|
|John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.||I had already knew this, but now it was deeper still, His people—the Jewish people—had rejected Him, so I could not expect them to understand what I believed unless God revealed it to them|
|John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.||I did believe in Him, I truly did. I had the RIGHT, the privilege of being HIS child—and no one could take that from me|
|John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.||God’s spoken expression of Himself, the essence of who God is, became flesh—Jesus was truly God in every way—God’s word in demonstrable, understandable flesh|
At that moment, I realized that I had been focusing on externals, what people had said and done, and on my feelings, rather than on WHO God is, and on the spoken expression of God, Jesus.
Jesus is God, and the Bible is His word, and it is a sure foundation for us. His promises are true. Like Amy shared last week, God loves each and every one of us deeply, eternally, uniquely, and sacrificially.
We humans, on the other hand, are damaged goods. The things that happened to me as a child? They affected how I think, my behavior, my ability to feel emotions, and my health. I recently found out that a certain physical problem I have is most likely due to something that happened when I was child. Some of you know that I was married in 2007 for the first time, and my husband died in 2010.
But because of Jesus, I am not a victim or a survivor—I am an overcomer. I learned, and am still learning, that God is faithful despite my wounds, despite my sin, and despite my flawed human character. My security and my foundation don’t come from a feeling, but from faith, and trust in the only one who is trustworthy—the living God.
And this is God’s promise: Rom. 8:37
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
You too can be more than a conqueror, despite all that has happened in your life.
One of the reasons I decided to share some of these details was so that you would know that I really am just like you.
I can look at all that happened to me in two ways: The way of the world would have me to grieve and mourn and perhaps complain and groan and ask why, focusing on the pain, unfairness, injustice, and loss.
Or I can choose God’s way: to be thankful for the good things I received throughout my life, to be thankful for the things I learned, and am still learning, and the blessings I have received. Am I sad at times? Sure—I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t. Am I lonely at times? Yes! But that is not the lens through which I interpret what has happened to me. I interpret it through the lens of God’s word and Jesus’ love for me. When I do this, I see that there is far more going on than I can possibly understand in this life. And I can be thankful that God is using this for my best good and His glory. (Romans 8)
I can tell you truthfully, growing up was not easy, being single was not easy—not in America and not in Israel; being married and a step mother wasn’t easy either, and it’s not easy being a widow.
Believing in Jesus is not about having it good, and things being easy, it’s about a relationship with the creator of the universe who loves you, who loves me, so much, that He sought to rescue me and bring me into a living relationship with Him. That relationship makes everything bearable, because no matter what, no one can take from us the truth of God’s word: As it is written in Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
I would like to close with these thoughts from Ephesians 3:20
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.