by Julie Jaunese

As Christians, we often times may find ourselves being concerned about the salvation of our friends; of course we want our friends to be with us in heaven. I want to share with you some ways that I explain salvation to others as well as the story of how my daughter accepted Jesus as her Savior.

There are many ways to share and explain Gods love. When I was a teenager I carried the “Four Spiritual Laws”, so I could explain every inch of Gods love for us:

  1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. (John 3:16, John 10:10)
  2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23)
  3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. (Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, John 14:6)
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives. (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8,9, John 3:1~8, Revelation 3:20)

But, there are also other ways to explain salvation and to say that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Some say they are “saved”, some say they are ‘born again”, some say they are a “child of God”  and some just say they are “going to heaven.”  It is important to listen to the words people say and hear with the heart God gave you.

When my oldest daughter, Holly, was very young, she “accepted Jesus into her heart.” (Which is another way to say she became “saved”). When she was about 6 years old I took her to the dentist- who was Christian. My friend who reffered me to the doctor, told me that no one left his office without knowing about salvation. 

We arrived at the office early for the appointment so we could fill out paper work.  When the time came for Holly to be seen, they said it would be better if I waited in the waiting room and she go into the office alone.  I waited and waited and waited for her to be brought back to me, but she was gone a very long time.  When they finally brought her back out to me she had a certificate that said she was “born again” on that date.  I turned to her and said “Where does Jesus live?” Her reply was “Jesus lives in my heart.”  The terminology “born again” was different to me at that time, but the result was the same. 

Sometimes when trying to lead someone to the Lord, we may use our own words and terms, when in turn we should first find a commonground; find out some information about the person. One way you might begin is by asking about how old they were the first time they went to church, or even if they have gone to church.  Perhaps ask if they went to church all the time as a child. Or, maybe ask how they feel about God today! Or, you can always invite them to attend your small group.  One of my favorite questions to ask is what their favotire scripture is!

God’s word says we are to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15). If there is one thing I want to pray for, it is how we all can become a witness to those around us. I pray that God will give you a heart to listen to words, as well as see where you can plant a seed that will lead another sister to salvation.  Remember, it is your job to plant the seed, but it is God’s grace that makes the seeds flourish by His watering and His fertilizer.  

So ladies, I want to leave you with this question: How have you been a witness to those around you? 

Julie Jaunese has been married to her husband Michael for 41 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren. She works at Moffitt Cancer Center and hosts two women’s small groups, the Yada Book Club and the Fabulous Fems. Mike and Julie have been part of Grace Family Church since it began with 40 people in a house.

by Dani Catherine 

I was raised Catholic, and Catholicism was always a big part of my life when I was young. Attending Catholic school, Sunday mass, saying my prayers before meals and bed, attending religion class, and receiving my First Holy Communion was what I thought I “needed” to do in order to fulfill the portrait of a “good Catholic girl.” And, I did consider myself a “good Catholic girl.” I attended Catholic school until 8th grade and then continued my education in the public school system. Attending public school started a whole new ball game. I instantly rebelled to seek the approval of my peers and wanted to become “the popular girl.” So, I found myself giving into peer pressure, partaking in things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing, and losing my soul.

After high school, while in undergrad, I was still living the same life of seeking approval from society, except my need for approval increased. I was then partying, hanging out with the wrong types of men, and I forgot everything I was taught in Catholic School and the morals and values that were instilled in me as a young child. At this point, I didn’t even think there was a God. But, did I even truly KNOW The Lord when I was young? Or did I just memorize all the prayers and hymns that were on my Religion tests? I started to realize that I didn’t truly know The Lord, and because I didn’t know Him, I didn’t believe in Him anymore. 

Rock bottom was where I found The Lord. I can remember every detail, every smell and every sound that was made the moment I found Him. I woke up from a night of wanting to die-I didn’t think I was going to make it out alive-but I did, and I am blessed that the Lords hand of protection was on me. Because I was breathing, I knew that there was a God. His hand of protection, love and forgiveness was on me. I smelt fresh air, I heard myself breathing; I could hear the sound of my heartbeat beating so loudly. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw a new me. It was the first time in years that I kneeled on the floor and prayed. But it wasn’t a prayer I had ever prayed before. I recognized that I was living in sin and by that sin, I was broken. I asked Jesus to forgive me and to be the Lord and Savior of my life.

I was rescued. I was saved. I was made new.

I will forever be grateful for where I used to be, to where I am now. Looking back, God was there all along…I just had to seek and find Him.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

 


Dani Catherine is the Communications Coordinator for the Beautiful Ministry, as well as a full time Substance Abuse Therapist. Dani loves to bake, eat ice cream, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones. 

by Renee Scott 

Joy. Excitement. Eagerness.

That’s the way I should feel when asked to share my salvation story, however, it wasn’t.  I struggled with what to write about my journey to Christ and I thought about how my story would compare to the others.  I felt like I didn’t have a story, at least not a juicy one. 

Church is all I’ve known.  I don’t remember a time without Christ.  He’s always been a part of my life.  I grew up in a home with parents who love Him and they shared their love with us throughout our childhood.  Our Sunday’s were filled with Sunday school and church service.  We weren’t allowed to watch television before church and our weekly attendance in the house of the Lord was not an option.  During the week we would attend bible study.  Scriptures were spoken frequently in our home.  We took part in the Young People’s Department, played piano for the Sunday school, and attended youth conferences on a regular basis.  We were saturated in the love of Christ.  It was a mandate.  Our parents believe wholeheartedly in Joshua 24:15b (KJV) ”but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  I fully know that I would not be the woman of God I am today if I didn’t have the prayers and faith of my parents. 

So what is my story? 

God knows I’m not perfect.  Even with my upbringing, I made mistake after mistake after mistake.  I may not remember the journey to Christ like others but I definitely recall my return to Him my last year of college.  It was a pivotal time in my life.  I was getting ready to graduate and within a matter of a month I attended the funeral of three family members, one of which was my grandfather’s.  On top of that, my twin sister was heading south to marry her high school sweetheart, getting ready to start a new career and was driving a new shiny red Jetta. On the other hand, I was heading back home to live with my parents in the car we were given during college, with no job and not even a guy I dated on a regular basis. 

I felt lonely.

My mom told me to pray and embrace this time in my life.  God was writing a story and His purpose for this season would be fulfilled.  She suggested that I specifically ask God in detail for what I wanted.  Before I could ask for all the “stuff” though, I wanted and needed a stronger relationship with Him.  I was going to seek Him first and I figured everything else would fall into place.  I focused my energy on reading God’s word and learning more about His promises for my life.  I rededicated my life to Christ and I finally found joy and peace with all that God was doing in and through me.  It was a bumpy road, but each moment along the way served to mature me and my faith.  

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, http://doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com, where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

 

by Becca Christensen 

We will call my four years of college ‘the wilderness years’ of my faith.  I took an Israelite approach, forgot what the Lord had been doing in my life for the thirteen years of faith prior and spent four years serving myself.  I was the definition of lukewarm.  I was never fully in the world, but I wasn’t committed to or growing in my faith either. After losing a close childhood friend to suicide, I started to wake up.  My life felt empty and I realized that all the success I had achieved academically, socially, financially, and in my career journey wasn’t fulfilling.  The loss of my friend stole my feeling of being invincible and reminded me that life is fleeting.  I wasn’t sure how much time I had.  I had bought into the lie that I could always ‘return to my faith when I was ready’ but what if I didn’t have as much time as I thought?

As I neared the end of my senior year of college in the Midwest, I determined that what I needed to get my ‘fresh start’ was a clean break.  Over Christmas break I applied to jobs in Tampa, seventeen hours from where I was attending school at the time.  I spent spring break interviewing, and I eventually accepted a position, as well as setting up my future housing.  By the time May rolled around I was ready! I packed the last week of school and left 12 hours after finishing my last final exam, with strict instructions for them to mail my degree straight to Florida. Three days later, I was starting a job in a Christian non-profit.

For an entire year I turned down every leadership and serving opportunity, and honestly admitted I needed to fill my cup up. I was attending Grace (again), I plugged into a small group, and invested in Christian friendships.  I was honest about the journey that had brought me to this point and the wilderness I’d just been through.  I was met with acceptance, love, and a whole lot of truth.  I am grateful now that the Lord placed people in my life that weren’t afraid to push and challenge me.

It has been an incredible five years now of growing in knowledge and love of scripture and thriving in my  relationship with my Savior.  I have since made Tampa home and in recent weeks made Grace Family Church not just my church home but my employer!  Once I got that cup full I couldn’t wait to plug in leading a small group, sharing with others the joy I’ve found from forfeiting ‘my way’ for His.

God is so good. When I look back now on the driest season of my walk I still see His hand of protection and His quiet, constant pursuit of me in every moment.  What an amazing God we serve that even when we turn our backs on Him, He is constant.  His grace has been sufficient for all of my weaknesses and every mistake.  The ones that happened in that desert season and the ones I still make to this day.

I hope if you take anything away from my story it is this: we don’t have to ‘fix ourselves’ before we follow Christ.  He’s ready and willing to take us at our worst. He can handle it.  No sin is too great, no mistake too big, no desert season too long.  This is my prayer for you:

‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ – Ephesians 3:17-18

 

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her blog, Oh, the Places You’ll Go.


by Debbie Altman 

My religious upbringing consisted of going to a Catholic church, mostly on Christmas and Easter. My parents would drop me off to take the appropriate catechism classes to qualify me to participate in the Catholic ceremonies of First Communion and Confirmation.  Although I have since seen and become aware of many true and vital Catholic Christians, my initial experiences in the Catholic Church caused more doubt than faith. The form of worship appeared shallow and ritualistic, and I deduced that if this was all that God was, or required, then He either did not exist, or if He did; that our experience with Him would be more relevant, meaningful and constant.  I was unaware that other churches or approaches to God even existed.  

As a result, my teen years found me vacillating between agnosticism -doubting God, and atheism. My high school years were characterized by analysis and intellectualism. I could not accept even the basic premise that a God existed that was all-knowing and all-pervasive.  I remember when a friend had invited me to church and the message was about “God taking control of your life.”  I thought to myself, “ I can control my own life! I don’t need anyone else to control it!“  

My home life was becoming rather shaky with parents who had been married for nearly 28 years, and were on the verge of divorce. My mother, who although is a loving and beautiful person, was succumbing to alcoholism.  On the outside, I was the perfect child; I did everything right, and I was in control. I never did drugs, drank or lost my virginity.  I graduated Salutatorian of my high school.  Although everything seemed perfect on the outside, within me, there was a growing dissatisfaction.  I realize now, that my perfectionism was a way for me to cope with the instability in my home.  But there was also a sense of my own “falling short.”  Despite how “together” I looked on the outside, I knew my own thoughts and imperfections.

Late in my junior year, I met a girl who seemed so “good!” She always made me feel uncomfortable, but not because she did anything to try to make me feel that way. But, somehow we ended up becoming best friends.  We loved each other and had great times together until the subject of God came up. She tried to tell me how wonderful Jesus is, and I tried to tell her how naïve and simplistic she was to believe in Him! And we would both end up in tears.  

My friend would continue to invite me to church, but I refused to go. Finally, a year and a half later, due to a funny circumstance, I succumbed and went to church. I would not have gone back, but I met her really cute and friendly male cousin, and decided I would go back to see him! What I heard and read in the Bible over the next few months was that Jesus was a real and intimate God that desired to know me, love me, forgive me, and to work in my life and to help me become all that I wanted to be.  And I wanted that! At first I hesitated in accepting Him because I knew there were some parts of my life that were not perfect, and I did not want to be a hypocrite! The pastor visited me one day and explained that I did not have to clean myself up, that Jesus loved me as I was, and that He would take care of everything else.  I was skeptical, but I trusted Him, and he was right!  

I have been a Christian now for 36 years and there are not enough pages to describe how wonderful God is and how He has transformed my life!  I now understand what my friend meant when she shared with me, Psalm 34:8,”Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  He can’t be described…you have to “taste” Him.  

One last thought; my intellectual concerns were not tossed aside. Much reconciliation exists between science and the Bible, if only you will take the time to investigate.  If anything, the beauty, diversity, complexity and sophistication of all that exists, can only shout the probability of a Divine Creator!   

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious  granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.