I am a Christian. But what does that mean these days? To the world, this means you belong to a church, Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, etc. You fit into a nice neat little box, which under the heading ‘Christian’ are various other descriptive words such as ‘judgmental’ or ‘self-righteous’.
We all know this about the world, but what about us? What do WE have labeled on that box? What about message believers? There again we find a deeper layer to the onion. Smaller, not as well known, but still with layers.
Ironically there are various limbs which have sprouted from the teachings of our last age prophet. From those who believe we don’t need preachers, to those who believe we have moved beyond the tapes. From those who think Bro. Branham is no more than an enthusiastic preacher, with good teachings and revolutionary doctrine, to those who have prayed in his name.There are even those who have received their own separate box. ‘Branhamites’ some are called, ‘tape people’. There are those who say Bro. Joseph is the anti-Christ and those who pray in his name.
So where is it? Where is the middle of the road? Where is the balance? Who are the real Christians? Bro. Branham has talked many times of the different denominations. He said if the Catholics will be saved, which Catholics? You ask Christians which church is right and they all say their own church is right (63–0127 An Absolute, 176).
There are cities with multiple message churches, all within a few minutes of each other, and not a single one fully filled. Why? If we all fly under the banner of the message, why are we so adamant about who holds it and how it’s waved? Bro. Branham spoke about preachers in the Old Testament teaching theology and poisoning the people, all gathered around throwing ingredients into the pot, and saying ‘there’s death in the pot.’ And what fixed the death in the pot? A handful of meal. Bro. Branham said the handful of meal was Christ (53–0328 Israel and the Church #4, 136–139). That was it. LOVE.
But it seems we have forgotten that today. This was where Satan had planted his root of bitterness in me. I live a good drive from any message church, and a good long drive from one of any size. There are no young people within 500 miles of me who believe this message, let alone single girls my age. I’m a 21 year old boy in the middle of nowhere, feeling like I’ve lived the same year over and over again since 16. All those times, word keeps coming in; ‘did you hear? This church broke up because so and so did such and such. Did you hear? This church’s pastor was asked to step down because of such and such. Did you hear? So and so is starting his own church.’ Being raised with 95% of my church experiences being just tapes, and having only visited big churches, this news was a constant attack on my serenity, my patience, and my disgust.
I have two God-fearing, tape-believing parents, whom I could brag on all day. If the Lord would tarry and I could be so fortunate as to one day marry a woman with the strength and faith of my mother, if I could grow up to fill my father’s shoes, and if we could somehow raise our children as well as my parents have done, I would be incredibly blessed.
Bro. Branham talks about parent delinquency. In my home, there was no such thing. Any mistakes I have made, and make them I have, were of my own choice. Have my parents made mistakes? Of course. But they have constantly tried to do better and improve every day, and have constantly lead with a Bible in one hand, and message book in the other. As soon as I was old enough to see how things worked, I was put off by other churches. Why was there so much confusion? Why such different doctrines? Why were these people at each other’s throats, but the second you asked them what they thought of one another, they would say, if a little begrudgingly, ‘he’s my brother in Christ.’ I saw this as hypocrisy and it was wearing on me. As was this message’s version of dating. I’m a young man, this is something of importance to me, as I think it is to any young person. Bro. Branham said that he thought the best thing God can give a man outside of salvation is a wife (61–0216 The Mark of the Beast and the Seal of God #1, E–13). So we find again, Christianity seems more complicated than just love, and not able to all fit into one box.
What is dating? What is the proper way to date? Can you hold hands? Is it right to date more than one person in your life? How long should you know each other before you date? These and thousands of more questions akin to these have been asked, and answered in as many ways. Every country, every state, every church, every family has a different answer for every question it seems.
I’m a little old fashioned myself, and catch phrases like ‘we’re just talking’ or ‘we’re really good friends’ or ‘we’re just getting to know each other right now’ don’t help my growing annoyance. In my mind, the point of dating is all three of these things. Why is it so frowned on for young people to get to know each other on a personal, potentially romantic, level? The answer is obvious, and the fear of every Christian parent; it could go too far. They’re right, it could, and it has time and time again. Not only is it a battle as old as time, but it’s the battle that started time, for it was after that that our human lives became clocks that before a thousand years would reach zero.
Again, here we find polar opposites; those who have a list of rules for dating longer than the levitical law, and those who on dates forget that they are Christians. I am not pointing fingers at any one person, or group of people. This is simply what I have seen and experienced. Again the question, who is right? With recent failure in this area, Satan started whispering in my ear ‘everyone - except you.’ Of course at first it’s easy to ignore, but our enemy is patient, he knows how to wait and how to fight. He’s fought a million others exactly like you, in exactly your place, and won. He knows your cracks, your pressure points, how to throw you off his scent. He knows where to press, how hard to press, and for how long.
Work kept me busy. What’s more, my co-workers started liking me, and wanting me to hang out with them. I’m an outcast. I’ve never been popular, never been a big name spoken of in the circles of the young message crowd. I’m not saying ‘woe is me’ I’m simply stating a fact. We all want acceptance, and what’s more we all get desperate for it. So when people at work started liking me, naturally I started liking them back.
Having to get up for work at 5 am, and generally working 12 hour days, I’m ashamed to admit it became increasingly easy to shrug my prayer life to the next day. And when that happens every day, you’re sure to be in a bad situation spiritually.
I started listening to the kinds of music I shouldn’t listen to. I started hanging out with the kinds of people I shouldn’t have been hanging out with. I had found people who had given me a chance to be in their group, to fit in their box as it were, and I wanted to impress them by talking about the things that they were talking about. I’m not proud to say, I even got to the point where I was telling dirty jokes, and occasionally cursing. I never took the name of my Lord in vain, however. And the devil is incredibly patient.
I’m not sure just how long this slow decline went on for, but I’m fairly certain I became aware of it and it started manifesting in such things as taste in music and prayer life some 2 years ago. I however, was still a good Christian, or so I thought. I read my bible - sometimes. I tried to pray. But the devil can hypnotize you to where you’re not even sure what’s right or wrong anymore. The danger with me was everyone in the message that I knew still thought I was an ideal Christian. I still listened to the tapes, which was probably the thing I did most as far as my spiritual strengthening goes. I had a 10–15 minute drive to work, and I would listen to a tape every morning.
Again though, the devil is patient, and he’ll wait till the perfect time to strike. It turns out mine was November of 2011. I had just went through the most heart wrenching experience of my life, having a girl I deeply cared about tell me we could never talk again. I won’t go into the details, as I wish to respect her privacy, but my heart was shattered and I did not think it could ever be rebuilt again. Of course I prayed for her back, and of course I finished the prayer with ‘not my will Father, but Thine be done.’ It wasn’t until later that I realized I was praying the words but wasn’t truly wanting them or meaning them. I didn’t blame her, but I did blame certain people. I blamed people who called themselves message but didn’t live the life. People who would praise God and cry in meetings and then go back to the same way they were living before. I blamed the awkward complicated world of dating within the message. Lord forgive me, I didn’t realize what a hypocrite I was. I was a pharisee. Someone who lived the life in public that had people admire him and wish their own children could be like him, or their boyfriends would be like him, their husbands and fathers. Yet in the secret of my own life I was living wrong. God forgive me, I was as self-righteous as they came and didn’t know it.
That’s when the devil whispered in my ear, ‘why are you bothering with these people? They can’t agree on the color of grass. Why don’t you go to these friends of yours? Sure they might not live the way that’s right, but at least they’re not pretending.’ And slowly without knowing it, I started listening.
Now, I never committed any wrong acts. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I didn’t run around or go dancing or anything like that. But the ideas of doing them were getting easier and easier to entertain. The devil would describe them with phrases like ‘they’re not so bad’ or ‘is that what brother Branham really meant when he was talking about it?’ What a slippery slope. Do not underestimate the mind. Our body is vessel, or more specifically a train, destined to follow the very tracks set by your mind. Do not fool yourself to think you act without thought; if you are doing it, it is because your mind has already made the decision to do it.
And there I was, shocked, angry, hurt, disgusted, betrayed, forgotten, standing on the cliff of reason looking down on sin, wondering what a rush it would be to jump. Wondering what it would be like. Thinking how exciting and free it would feel, if only for a little while. Besides, God would catch me if I asked Him to, right? What a horrible thing to think. I’m sure we’ve all thought it at one point or another. Go out, get a taste of the world, just enough to have some fun, and then come back to the message. No harm done right? God will forgive me, I’ll be wiser because I know how empty the world really is, everyone will be happy that I’ve come back to God, and I can spend the rest of my life telling other people not to do it. How dangerous reason is, and how far we will go to justify our own iniquity. God forgive me, but I entertained these thoughts, and the more I thought them, the more logical and tempting they sounded. And to think, I considered myself next to blameless and angry at others for their strayed walk with God. How the Devil can twist you around.
Where was God in all of this you might ask? That still small Voice spoke to me every day, warning me against the reason, warning me against the logic, going specifically through everything I knew to be true to fight the devil at every turn. The devil would suggest something to me, and I could hear that Voice say ‘it is written, it is written…’ If I would have gone down that path, I would have had no excuse. There is no way I could have said ‘I didn’t know; I wasn’t warned.’ I had plenty of each, God made sure of that. But every time that still small Voice came up, I treated it as suggestion instead of warning. I put it up there in the category as ‘option’ the same as the sin laid before me. Both of those things have no business in the option category. Satan’s way is not an option. God’s way is not an option. You follow God’s way and shun the very appearance of evil.
All the still small Voice had to say, I had thrust aside, except for one thing. Let this encourage every parent out there who doesn’t think their kids listen to them or aren’t watching them. I was thinking how easy it would be to fall. But I think a lot, and this thought came up. What would be the extent of the fall? What would it represent? The ripples from this pebble, the spider crack through the glass. When a message believer falls, his parents and all they have taught him apparently have failed. With me, people would be whispering behind my family’s back saying ‘it’s always the quiet ones’. His family, his friends, his brothers, his sisters, everyone who hated him or loved him, those who had respect for him for the life he lived and the way he was changes. Everything and everyone he has ever touched in any way changes. Nobody understands the change, even though they all think they do. If he fails, everything he believed in and stood for has failed.
Everyone who has been watching you, your co-workers, your boss, your friends, all the world that knows you will say ‘I knew he wasn’t any different than us. I knew nobody could be that perfect. What kind of God does he serve anyways? Look, he’s doing the very things he said he would never do. I knew there was no God.’ Other Christians will say ‘I knew his parents were doing it wrong. See that? That’s what happens when you raise them that way.’
Again others will say ‘What happened to him? He was such a sweet boy. I had such respect for him, I truly thought he was an ideal young Christian.’ And at the back of everyone’s mind will be the question, ‘if he fell to the world and none of us saw it coming, who else is that close?’.
And perhaps the strongest thing that kept me was this thought; if I fell my parents would never forgive themselves. My parents would cry to the Lord ‘Lord where did we go wrong? What should we have done differently? We tried to our best ability to raise him right, why did he do this?’ The thought of bringing that pain and shame on my parents who I knew to be Godly people was more than I could bear. I could not stand the thought of my parents having a blackened name and thinking ill of themselves on my account. God forgive me, at the very whisper of the temptation the thought of blackening God’s Name should have been enough to put me on my knees and ask forgiveness and pray through till that spirit was gone.
God showed me all that would result, how everything that I had said, all the advice I had given, the statements I had made, would all be tossed aside, people saying how could we trust a man who would do those things. It would cause everyone to whom I was significant in any way to re-evaluate Christianity and their own beliefs as they knew it, the closer I was to the people, the greater the teetering. Was this enough to keep me from sin? No. But it was enough to keep me from it just long enough.
Then I went to Still Waters. And you know what? I can’t explain what happened there.
Perhaps it was the Quiet Time where God blew the pages of my bible to the very story I had on my heart. Perhaps it was the realization that not only do I need to pray for people I had grudges against, but I needed to pray that I would mean my prayers sincerely and that my grudges would be removed. Maybe it was so many warm people, that reminded me there are those with that sincere love and burning desire to life for Christ, and there was positive to the negative I had heard. Maybe it was the sermon ‘That Day on Calvary’ where at the end, I felt the tingle of the Holy Spirit as it moved. But I had felt that before. What was different this time? You can call it psychology, you can call it whatever you like. But as I stood there with my hands up, praising the Lord, that tingle put every hair on my body straight up, and then like a funnel, I felt it gather up underneath my rib centering on my heart. Like sand passed through a funnel, I felt God refill me with his Holy Spirit for a while. A minute? An hour? I don’t know. You can say what you want, but I know what I felt. I know who was there. I know my life was changed. Could it have been the special moments I had with Brother Joseph, just the two of us, or the testimony by Brother Billy Paul where he told things I had never heard him tell before? I don’t know. But I do know that from the moment I passed that Still Waters banner, something was different. There was a stillness in my heart that had not been there for a long time. The cares and worries? I left them in the car with my cellphone, and I don’t think that was a coincidence. I have been baptized in water, but at this camp God baptized me with His sweet Holy Spirit. Brother Joseph typed it perfectly when he said that this camp was our juniper tree. Get quiet, get Holy. God will find you.
And you know something? The same problems that this old world had before I went into camp were still there when I came out. The same arguments were happening between the same churches, the same issues with dating, theaters, bowling alleys and make-up. The same people were put into the same boxes. But you know, I didn’t care.
Those issues, instead of clinging to me, and sapping my blood and strength like a swarm of mosquitoes simply rolled off of me like water off a duck’s back. Instead of being angry, now I pray that God will help them to set those things aside. Instead of getting defensive when I hear someone thought something I did was wrong, I listen to them, and try to talk to them about it, and pray to see if it’s wrong. Just like that song, ‘oh, what a difference since Jesus passed by’. It’s funny, but when God fills you, there just seems no room for those negative troubling feelings anymore.
Am I living the life I should? No. Do I still make mistakes? Yes. Do I have a long way to go? I’ll be the first to tell you I do. But praise God, I’m on the right road, and every step is one step closer to Him.
I can’t explain what the difference is, I can’t tell you the rules to follow, I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong. All I can say is, There’s been a change in my life, and Jesus is the reason why.
If I can leave you with one thought, let it be this; Brother Branham and Jesus said the greatest thing we could do is love one another. Brother Branham said he’d rather have the love of God than all the gifts in the Bible (51–0413 The Works That I Do Bear Witness Of Me E–22). Everything is Love, love, love, and I see why now more clearly than ever. If we love each other, and want to help each other, and want others to help us, and we all had that attitude, and all had that love in us, would that not be the rapturing faith? How powerful that would be. Lord I pray that you would grant that Love to me, that that Love would be granted to those who don’t have it and those that have it would share it with all as a candle burning for all to see. This is my Still Waters Testimony.