This is a witness given by a seeker of the truth - We call it:

"A Testimony of Forgiving"

Good Morning

Happy Sabbath to you all:

I would like to start by thanking this whole church, for being a welcoming group, who have answered my questions, or corrected me when I needed it.

We are very blessed to have such a place, where we can meet to worship together. ---And it is still legal. We donít want to take that for granted. And I would like to say a special thank you, to those who come here each week and share of their musical talents, whether on the piano, or with another musical instrument. I feel the worship in our music here.

This is definitely out of my comfort zone to be up here, but I have felt the Holy Spirit leading me to do this for some time now, and I am stepping out in obedience to this leading; so please bear with me.

Have you heard the phrase Iron Sharpens Iron? I believe we are called to help sharpen one another, by sharing not only our faith, but our struggles and our learning. Our Bible says we are to be ready to share our testimony with our brethren. That is why I would like to share my personal testimony with you today.

I was raised in Michigan, in a family with two parents and five of us kids. I am the second to the youngest. We were raised strict Christian reformed; we attended church twice on Sunday and had catechism classes on Wednesday nights.

Sundayís were not my favorite day, we were not allowed to go swimming, ride our bikes, or have much fun. I had a fairly normal childhood, where we moved about every three years. I first gave my life to God, when I was seven, and living in Indiana. I meant it at the time, but life has a way of changing things.

We moved back to Michigan, where I grew into a rebellious teenager. I started smoking, getting into trouble and doing drugs. In ninth grade I got into trouble for selling drugs to a classmate in my Christian school. We moved soon after that.

I met my future husband in eleventh grade, and we got married a few years after high school. My parents were worried about me marrying a Catholic, but they got over it.

I grew up, and started calming down, especially after my first son was born. I was blessed to be able to stay at home to raise my son. I started doing a Bible study with a couple of my sisters. The Bible study was from the Worldwide Church of God, though at the time I never knew about them. We enjoyed it until we got to lesson 12, which was about the Sabbath. We discovered that Sunday is the first day of the week, and we were supposed to be keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day, from Friday evening to Saturday evening.

God doesnít change, and His word didnít change either. We learned that Jesus kept the Sabbath, and we were supposed to also. This may sound strange to those of you who grew up in this church, but it really was a shock to find this out. We had been told that it had been changed to Sunday, because Jesus was resurrected on Sunday. I have since learned, that we can trust Godís word, but not much else we were taught.

We stopped the lessons, we couldnít go on. We were kind of stuck. We continued to do some studying, learning about the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter and such. We tried changing, but it was very hard. I knew that this kind of change, would take a whole life style change. I didnít know what to do with all this information. Changing our whole lives seemed way too difficult. I think that must be how it was for the Pharisees too. They were in a comfortable place, and they didnít want to change. What! You want ME to change? They didnít want to lose their job, and their place in the synagogue, and I didnít want to seem "weird" to my family and at odds with my church either. I just wanted to live a good easy life, like the Pharisee.

It was soon after this, that I was forced to face the skeleton in the family closet. One of my sisters told me, that she had been sexually abused by a family member. I knew right away that this was true; it made all the puzzle pieces FIT. Another sister had shared, that she had been sexually abused also. This was terribly upsetting and confusing, and difficult to deal with. I was ANGRY. It changed the whole way I looked at my family. I felt like giving up. My whole life felt like a sham. First Sundays Öand now this? I didnít handle it very well. I made a very bad choice. I made a conscious decision NOT to forgive my family member. My thinking at the time, was somewhere along the line of ÖHow dare they hurt my sisters! This caused a huge problem for me, though I didnít understand it until many years later. It caused a huge separation, between God and me. The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness, but I had stopped listening. I really felt like MY sins were way better then their sins. I didnít want anything to do with this family member; I kept our contact on the civil --but chilly side.

Many years went by, I had two more sons and we attended a Sunday keeping church, where I helped out teaching on Wednesday nights. I still studied my Bible some, but I didnít know how to keep Passover, and giving up Christmas was not an option yet. The one time I tried the seventh day Adventist church, I felt very out of place. I basically put all that information on a back burner, and just left it there.

A few years ago, after buying my parents house, and moving back to town, we started going to a new church. It was a nice little Sunday keeping church. My younger sister talked me into doing a Beth Moore Bible study through church where you actually had homework. The study was on forgiveness. We know from the Lordís Prayer that we are to ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. I learned in Eph 4 (30-32), that unforgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit. And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.

So WHY do we have to forgive??? Yahweh knows that it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit, and filled with unforgiveness.

Well, I did my homework, and by the time the year was up, I came to understand about forgiveness, and so I finally forgave my family member. Not for their sake, but because our Bible says in Matthew 6 (15) that if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. I had a lot of sins that needed to be forgiven. I also learned that I had moved away from God, and I wanted to reconnect. I repented of my unforgiveness. Forgiving others made it possible that I was able to feel forgiven, for MY own sins. This had the amazing effect, of reconnecting me, to the start of a real relationship with God. I gave up my steady diet of AC/DC kind of music, and I started listening to Christian music. Then I started waking up in the morning singing praises.

The next year our Bible study was on fruits of the Spirit. We came to one lesson which moved me like no other. It was the story of King David, trying to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to the city of David. He had given instructions to move the ark on a cart, pulled by oxen.

1 Chronicles 13 (1-10) David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, "If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our brothers throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us. Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul." The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people. So David assembled all the Israelites, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. David and all the Israelites with him went to Baalah to Kiriath Jearim, of Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubimóthe ark that is called by the Name. They moved the ark of God from Abinadabís house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets. When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lordís anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

Did you notice that they were trying to do what is right ~ they wanted to please God ~ their hearts were in the right place ~ so what went wrong??

I remember as a kid, thinking that God was kind of mean, since Uzzah was only trying to help. Now as an adult studying this, I was starting to look at this differently. King David had not looked up the instructions, on how to move the ark. They chose to do what SEEMED right, in their own heart. In 1Chronicles 15 we learn that "No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever." And they had to consecrate themselves before doing so.

So what was the proper way to carry the ark of God?? The instructions are found in Exodus 25 (13-15) Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
In I Chronicles 15 (14-15) David says "We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way."
So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.

Okay, so why did this impact me so much???

Apparently God cares about the little details. He left clear instructions to move the ark, with the poles of Acacia wood through the rings, and carried on the backs of men. If he cared so much about moving the Ark of the Covenant in a certain way, He would certainly care about the Sabbath commandment that He wrote out in stone. I started to have a bit of fear. As we know from the Bible, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I met later that week to go over the homework lesson, with my Bible study group which included the pastorís wife. I shared my belief that I thought I was supposed to be keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, and not on Sunday. I had NOT planned on doing this, it just sort of came out. I explained it the best I could, but I donít think anyone else got the connection about the details, and following the instructions.

I met with one of the pastors at my church, to ask why we kept Sundays, and his answer was that it didnít matter as long as we kept one day in seven. It took a month or so, to get off the refreshment committee, the nursery committee and the welcome committee, but I eventually quit going to that church. I sent the committee leaders an email trying to explain. I figured they might want to correct me, so I said they could correct me, but if they did, they should do it by way of scriptures. No one even tried.

Okay, so now I am going to keep the Sabbath, but I still didnít know how. I didnít know anyone who kept the Sabbath, my sister and her husband tried, but they werenít meeting with other believers. I had never even met a Sabbath keeper. I knew that I would have to give up Christmas and Easter too. I also knew that I would have to learn how to keep the Holy Days that were given in the instruction part of the Bible. I believe they stand or fall together.

Just as a Sunday keeper doesnít understand the richness of keeping the Sabbath, I believe that those who havenít kept Godís Holy Days do not yet understand their richness either. I had lots of questions. Not only did I not know how to keep the Holy Days, I didnít even know when they were.

So what did I do??? I went on facebook, and checked out a Sabbath site. I started asking questions like "Do you keep the Festivals?" A man named Dennis started answering my questions, and said that this site was a Seventh Day Adventist site, and no, they didnít keep them, but he did, and so do many other independent believers. He connected me to a group, called Church of God Fellowship, and to a lady nearby, where I went to my first official Sabbath service that met at her home.

I kept in contact with Dennis, I kept asking questions, and chatting often by way of facebook. I arranged to meet Dennis, his wife and the Church of God Fellowship in Illinois for the Feast of Tabernacles. I asked in advance to be baptized while we were there, and that was arranged for me too. This must have been a difficult time for my husband. Think about this from my husbandís point of view. I wanted to go to Illinois to keep some strange feast and meet up with some guy I met on the computer, and get baptized by total strangers. He must have been worried about me---because he came with me! We didnít get to stay the whole time since it was a last minute arrangement for our schedules, but we had a good experience.

When we got back, I started hunting online for a church to attend. I found a United Church of God, and went there a few times. Then I tried out a Messianic Jewish church, but I kept looking for where God wanted me. I found this church online, and at the first visit, felt welcomed right away, and happily settled in.

When I think of Godís plan of salvation, I see it as a big jigsaw puzzle. You connect parts from different areas of the Bible, to see the big picture. Most Christian churches that keep Sundays, do not know that they have a piece of the puzzle in there incorrectly. It sort of looks like it fits, but if you look very close, you will find that on one side of the puzzle piece, it is forced and too tight, and on the other side there is a little gap. When you take out this Sunday piece of the puzzle, and put in the correct Sabbath puzzle piece, you find that the piece fits perfectly, with no gaps or forced corners. With the correct piece of the puzzle in there, you can now add pieces that fit, giving a clearer picture. I believe that the Holy Days are like additional puzzle pieces, which will show us more of the picture that Yahweh laid out for us, if we study and incorporate them into our lives.

I am at odds with my family in my religion. They of course, were not happy with me for upsetting the family traditions. I try to be patient, knowing that we all learn at different times. We each need to examine our traditions, to see if they are Biblical, or just a man made tradition. I look up a lot of things on the internet. I know you cannot trust everything you read, but I also believe that someday not too far down the road, that we may not have access to all this information and I want to learn it now.

Thanksgiving is a man-made tradition. Its origins are not pagan, so I believe there is nothing wrong with it, but all of us, me included, need to check what we believe and why we believe it. Is there some tradition the family has always done? Are we sort of keeping Halloween or some other man made tradition? Check to see if it is Biblical, what are its origins, and would God approve of it? God does care about the details. When David wanted to move the ark on the cart, his heart was in the right place ~ but Yahweh was not pleased because he needs us to obey, FIRST.

I want to share with you today, this scripture passage in Zechariah 14 starting in verse 16. We are given information about the future day of the Lord when Yeshua returns as our King.

Zechariah 14:16-19 And it shall come to pass, that everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whosoever will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt goes not up, and comes not, they will have no rain; there shall be the plague, with which the LORD will smite the nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

This will be OUR future. We will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, when our King returns! We may have to correct, or learn some new things when Yeshua returns, but we can try now already, to capture the spirit of these Holy Days. I cannot share with you today, all the things I am learning about these Days. From Yeshua dying as our Passover lamb, removing the leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, symbolizing our efforts to remove our habitual sin. We can learn about His resurrection from the dead as the first of the First Fruits, pouring out His Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. Just as the spring feasts were prophetically fulfilled at the proper time, so the future fall feasts will be fulfilled, exactly as He said they would. The Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the return of our King. Then we have the solemn Day of Atonement. Yeshua will dwell with His people during the Millennium, which is pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. I want you to know that I have included them in my life, and the puzzle pieces fit perfectly.

I hope to encourage you, to be open to learning about these wonderful feast days. They are not Jewish feasts; the Bible says they are Yahwehís feast days. They have not been done away with. There are still more to be fulfilled. These feast days have a lot to tell us about Yahwehís plan of salvation. Like additional puzzle pieces, when we add them, we can now see more of the big picture. Our King is returning soon! We need to be open to learning what he has already shared in His instruction manual the Bible, and applying them to our lives. The instructions are in the front of the book, and repeated in the second half of the book, by way of example. If you look closely, you will find that Yeshua DID keep the feasts and He was, and still is our perfect example. The Holy Spirit can lead us, but first our heart must be softened, and we have to step out in faith and be willing to obey, and follow where we are led. Each of us has to examine our own beliefs, to make sure that they match up to the Bible. I include myself in this. I am still learning, there is much more that I want to understand. I am glad to be a part of this church, and glad to be here, learning with you. . I would like to hear your testimony someday too. Itís been two years since my baptism; my life is quite different than it used to be. If you asked me if I miss keeping Christmas, I would say NO! Christmas is just busy work, and it doesnít give any honor to our King.

There are consequences for waiting, and for not forgiving others. You may miss out on many blessings. My children do not know the difference between Yahweh and Allah. I have a lot of work to do. I may have to be patient, as my future grandchildren are brought up to keep Sundays, or to not keep any DAY holy. Donít wait to forgive othersÖ.Our world is changing quickly, and we need to prepare NOW for our Kingís return.

May Yahweh bless you, Gayle

 


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