Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Friend's Amazing Story!!

In my blog about the final sermon in the "Rethink Jesus" series, the fact that we all have a "Jesus lives" story was mentioned. All of us who have been saved have one...or even several!! So, I would like to share with you a very beautiful and amazing "Jesus lives" story. It comes from a good friend of ours, Rocky Myrtle. He is the husband of my good friend Myra and when I read his testimony in the prayer room at church, I was just like "wow!" So, I asked him if he would permit me to share it with all of you. So, here it is!! I pray it will bless your heart as much as it blessed mine!! It's so captivating!! Once you start reading, you won't be able to stop!! I know it looks long, but trust me, every word is worth reading!! Here is his his own words:

My name is Rocky Myrtle and I just turned 60. I had lived in Kansas all my life. I moved to Bluffton in December of 2007 with my wife Myra who grew up in Bluffton. This is my testimony of God’s amazing grace in my life.

Christmas Day 2003

I was five years away from retiring from the railroad where I had worked since I was 21 years old. I had four life insurance policies, a good 401 K and money in the bank. I had a nice house with a swimming pool in a nice neighborhood, a new truck, a Goldwing motorcycle and a snowmobile. Everything was paid off. I was 55 at the time. I had worked my whole life to get to this point.

I drove to my daughter’s house and had breakfast and opened presents with her family and children. They had to go to his parent’s house to open presents when we were done, and I found myself sitting back in my living room by eleven o’clock. I had mailed my son’s presents to his family in Wyoming the week before.

This day was different that the last 33 Christmas mornings. I had everything I had hoped for and more in the way of material things. But there was no Christmas tree, no presents, no kids or grandkids. My wife of 33 years had walked out a year ago and we were in the final stage of an ugly divorce.

I remember thinking how easy it would be to just cross the yellow center line on the highway into the path of a semi-truck and end it all when I went back to work on Monday. I hadn’t been to church since I was ten years old, but I looked up and thought, “Help me.”

Three days after Christmas I was invited to church. I said no. There was nothing there for me. I had no desire to go to church or be around those kinds of people. My life was a wreck waiting to happen, but I knew I didn’t need that.

The week wore on and things were getting worse as it went. By Saturday I called and asked if the invitation to church was still good. I was told to meet them in the lobby of the church Sunday morning.

The church was 32 miles away and the whole drive something in me kept saying why are you doing this—turn around—go back home. When I pulled into the church parking lot the feeling was almost screaming these thoughts in my head. I walked into the church and the person was nowhere to be seen. I turned to leave and this lady greeter asked if I was Rocky. I said yes and they said the person was making some copies and would be right back.

When church started people were singing and it went on for 35 minutes. I was in the last row and people in front of me were doing strange things like raising hands and stuff. That voice in my head said these people are crazy. The last time I was at church the minister would preach for awhile and then they would sing a song from the Hymn book and he’d go back to preaching again. This went on until the service was over.

Church finally ended and the hour and a half had seemed like a week. On the way out some people asked if we wanted to go eat pizza, so needing lunch anyway we agreed. There were about a dozen people at the long table from the church. A big man named Jerry was sitting across from me and he asked me what brought me to church today. I didn’t know what to say and said, “They just saw this old stray dog and drug him in.” That was the end of our conversation.

Not wanting to go back home I agreed to rent a video and watch it in the afternoon. By the time the movie was over they said you know they have an evening service and asked if I wanted to attend. That voice in my head was shouting no. I didn’t want to go, but I also didn’t want to go home and have those four walls close in on me either. I agreed to go.

The evening service was different. There were only about 75 people there and it was in the cafeteria part of the church. Six to seven people sat at each round table. I picked the farthest table away—the one closest to the door. If I’d been any closer I’d have been sitting in the parking lot.

The man who asked me what brought me to church at lunch was doing the preaching. The evening wore on and on the same as the morning service—I couldn’t tell you a word from either service that day. That voice was saying why are we here wasting all this time.

Jerry started walking or weaving his way through and around the tables towards the back of the cafeteria. I didn’t think anything about it until he stopped right in front of me. I felt all those eyes on me. Jerry is 6’ 5” and he looked down at me and said, “Son, God has been talking to me all night, and He said you wouldn’t have the courage to come forward to give your life to God if I asked.” I remember thinking two things at that moment. First I was much older that Jerry and he was calling me son, and that voice was saying walk out of here—your only steps from the door. You don’t know how bad I wanted to listen to that voice, but I was more embarrassed to walk out than to just let Jerry go on. I said okay. Jerry took my hand and started in.

My mind was racing at this point and I can’t remember word for word what he had me repeat, but it went something like this. He asked if I believed Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day. I said yes. He asked if I was a sinner, and I said I was. He asked if I wanted to repent and be forgiven of my sins, I said yes. The last thing I remember Jerry saying was that I was now a new creature, and welcome to the family. That voice in my head was going nuts. Now there was also this physical pressure in my chest. Whatever this feeling was wanted out of this place, and so did I.

When we left I was mad. I told the person who invited me to church this night was a setup. What happened had been planned out ahead of time. In a calm voice I was told, “Rocky, we watched the video all afternoon and there were no phone calls. We were together the whole day. I had no idea you would go to the evening service. If Jerry said God was talking to him, he wasn’t lying.”

I thought about that the whole drive back home, and they were right. One thing the voice and I agreed with—we weren’t going back. The next week went on and that pressure in my chest didn’t go away. I felt like my body was in this fight with itself on the inside. Something was different, but I had no idea what was wrong. By Wednesday I was thinking about church, but the voice extinguished the thought as quick as a heart beat.
Sunday morning I found myself in the truck driving to church. That voice and pressure was worse than ever. Those same crazy people greeted me as I entered the church shaking hands with me and some wanted to hug me. The voice didn’t want to do any of this—it just wanted to be left alone. One woman told me about a ten-day mission down in Mexico. Two or three people were trying to give me books to read. Last Sunday night I had went home and tried to open the bible I received on my tenth birthday and the zipper was stuck, because it had been so long since it had been opened. The last time I tried to read the bible I got to the flood and that was the end of it. I was bored.

Another week went by and again on Sunday morning, and I found myself on the way to church. That voice and pressure never went away—it only got stronger. The same lady said something about Mexico, but this time she told me I’d need to get a passport to go with them. I knew she was surely nuts.

After church I was told about a group called Alpha that meet on Wednesday nights at 6:30. They were saying I needed to come. It was for new believers and people who didn’t know Jesus yet. The voice was about to say no when they explained a meal was served before the meeting started. I remember thinking they had me going to church on Sunday and now they were pushing a Wednesday night thing on me, but a home cooked meal sure sounded good. I said I’d think about it.

On Wednesday night I found myself eating at a table with 17 strangers. Alpha was watching a video and then talking after the video. This speaker on the video was kind of a cool guy. His name was Nicky Gumble. The meal was good, too.

The next few weeks were much the same. Sundays was church—the Mexico lady seemed to wait for me to hit me up every Sunday. Wednesday nights I had a home cooked meal and listened to the video. I found myself bonding with this Nicky dude in some strange way. An older couple led the group after the video. I, or the voice, was argumentative with them. They would say things about the Trinity and the Virgin Mary. This three in one thing and a virgin having a baby—I was having none of it. On the fifth week they were talking about “the son of David.” Now they had said that phrase before, but this time the voice blurted out, “Who is this son of David? The only David I remember from Sunday school was the little guy who killed the giant.” The lady probably felt like kicking me out of Alpha by this time, but her answer was, “One and the same, Rocky.” Now the other 17 people in the group knew I didn’t have a clue about anything about the bible.

The next Sunday I was told they were going to baptize some people on a Sunday in March and wanted to know if I wanted to attend the six classes to be baptized also. I told them to quit pressuring me about all this church stuff. I’d avoided the Mexico lady all morning, but she cornered me leaving the church. She informed that I’d need my birth certificate for the passport to go with them to Mexico.

The weeks went on and nothing changed. My body was fighting on the inside. The Mexico lady was like a pit bull that wouldn’t let go. Wednesdays I ate good and listened to this cool guy, Nicky.

After Jerry had cornered me that night at the round table, they gave me a little pocket bible of the New Testament. I had thrown it on the dash of my work truck and it had lain there since that night.

As I stated in the beginning, I worked for the railroad. My job was to patrol the tracks from Newton, Kansas to St. John, which was 70 miles of track. I had one of those trucks you see going down the rails. It was a Wednesday and the dispatcher had put me in the siding to let a train get by me before he’d let me go farther. He told me it was going to be about a 30 minute wait in the siding. I picked up that pocket-sized bible off the dash for the first time since that night at the round table. I opened it and started reading where my eyes landed. It was Luke 3:21. I read that one verse and my work truck start shaking on the track. I looked in the rearview mirror for the train. There was no train. I rolled down the window. Just for a few seconds, as I had read that verse, the wind blew so hard it shook the truck. I read the next verse.

It was like God had waited all this time for me to settle down and pick up the bible. The voice had kept telling me I wasn’t saved. Surely if I had been saved that first Sunday night God would have showed me a lighting storm with loud thunder, or heard His voice, or at least let me see a few angles. But all I got was this voice in my head shouting orders and internal fighting going on in my body.

I called the minister right there as I sat on the track waiting on the train and told him what had happened. I told him, like he’d never read the bible himself, how Jesus was baptized in those two verses and the heavens opened up. God was happy and a Holy Sprit came down like a dove. I asked if I could get baptized? He said it was this Sunday and I hadn’t attended one class, but he agreed to baptize me.

When I showed up that Sunday there were 13 teenagers and one 55-year-old man getting baptized. I didn’t know it, but you were expected to give a little talk also. The teenagers had their speeches written down. I quickly scribbled a few things on a 3*5 note card. The minister asked who wanted to go first—I said I’d go last.

Talking in front of people was going to be a nightmare. One by one the teenagers were baptized. They all had their families there, and they would get up and clap and cheer for each teen. The closer it got to my turn the more depressed I got—there was no one there for me. My family had been torn apart from the divorce.

Then there was no one left but me. My feet touched the water. I had a death grip on the 3*5 card. By the time I was waist deep a lot of people were standing and cheering. All this time I had felt so worthless and that voice kept reminding me of it. It had me convinced I was past the point of no return—God didn’t want me.

I looked out over those standing people—the same crazy people I saw that first Sunday. I was overwhelmed. I just stood there for the longest time. It was hard to breath. My eyes clouded over. I saw faces in the crowd. Jerry was smiling. Alpha people clapped. A tear ran down the Mexico lady’s cheek. Everything on my 3*5 card went out the window at that moment. Words starting pouring out--but it wasn’t me—something from inside was doing the talking. The speech ran on about how much easier those 13 teenagers life was going to be getting baptized now instead of waiting until they were 55 years old.

A short time after the baptism I had this dream. I was in a small rowboat. I was rowing as hard as I could, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. There was a chain shacked around my ankle and it was over the side of the rowboat attached to the anchor.
I knew the anchor was dragging on the bottom. I knew if I was to go forward I needed to pull up the anchor. I pulled it up as I have done my whole life. The anchor was covered with the murky mud from the pond.

I had struggled with three major things my whole life and was never able to break free from their hold. I had even tried professional help two different times. I was able to stop the addictions for short periods of time, but after about a three-month period they would creep back into my life again.

I knew these things were my bondage as the anchor held me back in the dream. I looked up the word bondage in my bible. It pointed me to a verse in 2 Timothy 2:26 that read--and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Reading that verse was like God was showing me the answer. These anchors were my snares. God was showing me a way to break this cycle.
That voice in my head and that battle in my body was Satan fighting what was now inside me. God was telling me to unlock the devil’s shackle around my ankle. God had given me the key. God did what I never had been able to do on my own—His key unlocked the devil’s shackle and threw it overboard.

From that day my life has changed. Satan had me for 55 years. My amazing grace started as I sat in my living room on that lonely Christmas morning thinking about ending the pain I felt. All it took was two silent words when I looked up and thought, “Help me.”

I went through Alpha four times, twice as a student, once as the leader, and the last time training the next leader. I couldn’t put the bible down from that day. I carried an old paperback bible in the work truck and was able to read it from beginning to end all in a year while waiting on trains. Later that same year I went to Mexico for ten days. It was like God had talked to the Mexico lady just like He had talked to Jerry that first night telling her I was going on the mission trip with them.

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