The Doubts Are Settled

The Personal Testimony of Dale Owen

On February 19, 1995, around 11:10 a.m., God settled the doubts I had about my salvation. Actually, my doubts were settled on Sunday, January 29, 1995, when I finally admitted I was lost. On February the 19th, God saved me and now I know whose I am.

It all started back when I was born into the family of Tom and Christine Owen, on October 26, 1935. I was the baby of the family, with a brother 12 years older, and a sister 6 years my elder. I was not a spoiled child. My sister and I had the usual brother-sister fights. I do not know if I was dumb or just strong-willed, but Mother had to be unusually strict with me.

From birth to age 10, we attended church at Caddo Heights Baptist in Shreveport, Louisiana, where my Dad was a deacon and Mother taught Sunday School. One Sunday morning some of my friends went to the front during the invitation. It upset me and I cried, because I wanted to go with them but was afraid. We went home from church, and that afternoon, Mother and I talked. I remember being upset and crying, but from that point I do not remember what happened. That Sunday night I went down during the invitation and told the preacher I was saved and wanted to be baptized. I remember the baptism because the water was so cold it took my breath and I gasped for air as I walked across to the pastor.

The next big event was at the age of 12 when I surrendered to preach. Obviously this was not a call to preach, or I would be doing that today. I did read a couple of sermons my Mother helped me write, but I quickly found out that preaching was not for me. My talents, however, were art and music. As a teenager, I witnessed a man giving a chalk drawing on "When They Ring Those Golden Bells." I still remember it as if it were yesterday. I was so impressed with this that I told my Mother I wanted to learn to do those drawings. We shopped for books and chalk and thus began my self-taught lessons in religious chalk drawings.

At age 14 I met Patsy Coleman, and at age 16 she was my first date. Patsy and I dated off and on for several years. We were married March 16, 1956, after I graduated from business school and was employed by the Texas & Pacific Railway. Three months after we were married, we were transferred to Kansas City, Missouri, where I worked as the Chief Clerk to the General Agent of The Texas & Pacific Railway. On October 24, 1957, God blessed us with a small miracle, Thomas Elvin, or Tom as he is known by his family and friends. Work was difficult. Weather, and heavy snows were a problem. We had trouble managing our money and on top of this Patsy was lost and did not know it. We attended Broadmore Baptist Church in Kansas City. They ran approximately 250 in Sunday School. The one thing they had going for them was an excellent music program. This is where I learned about church choir music and how to direct a choir. Before moving to Kansas City, I sang with my sister and the Shreveport Civic Chorus and played Tuba in our high school band. Music was something I loved doing. Also during this time I was tinkering with chalk drawings.

I was elected Brotherhood President while at Broadmore and held the honor of being the youngest Brotherhood President in the State of Missouri. I was also privileged to participate in the drama ministry at Broadmore. In 1958, Patsy was saved and baptized and she has not been the same since. Her conversion was not too exciting for me because of doubts about my relationship with God. Looking back now, I was confused by the call to full time service that I had rejected earlier. I did not realize it might be a salvation problem.

In 1960, sick of the snow and my boss in Kansas City, Patsy, Tom, and I moved back to Shreveport, and I bid into a union job in the yard at the railroad. When we returned to Shreveport, we joined Emmanuel Baptist Church where our parents attended. I sang in the choir, and lead the choir on an interim basis between music directors. I also began to sing solo's and was still developing my chalk drawing. God gave us another son, Terry Dale, born August 2, 1960.

I transferred from the yard job at the railroad into the sales office and began to learn tariffs and rates. During this time my brother, who worked for the same railroad, was transferred to Shreveport and became my boss. In 1963 Patsy and I were transferred to Monroe, Louisiana., where I worked as Chief Clerk to the General Agent. We also joined Calvary Baptist Church, and I became their music and youth director. We served there for about a year and a half, at which time I resigned from the railroad and accepted a job as Traffic Manager of Red Barn Chemicals in Shreveport, Louisiana. We moved back there in 1966. I remember my brother telling me I would be better off working in industry than for the railroad, because I did not drink. He said he didn't drink either, but it was becoming more difficult for a Christian to go anywhere with the railroad if you did not drink. To this day I have never tasted a drink.

Upon our return to Shreveport, I was called as part time music and youth director of Blanchard Baptist Church, in Blanchard, Louisiana. In 1967, God gave us a girl, Tammy Lynn. We had a difficult year during Patsy's pregnancy, as I was burning the candle at both ends. I was never home because of my dedication to church. Our marriage was strained almost to the breaking point. It was during this time I began smoking again. I had originally started smoking while in high school and quit when Terry was born. I started back when Tammy was born and hid it for a long time until one day Terry saw me smoking. I was forced to confess. However, I did not stop until six years later.

In October of 1967, my employer was bought by Sunray DX Oil Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In October of 1968, we were told to move to Tulsa, or we would be out of a job. We moved in December of 1968. It was a good move for us, for I was not pleased with myself. I was living life on the edge; working hard at church and living like the devil outside of church.

We joined Memorial Baptist Church in Tulsa, where I became involved in youth drama, directing a small drama group. Later we moved to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a short distance East of Tulsa. Not long after arriving at First Baptist, I was asked to lead the music on an interim basis. I also became the director of the Puppet Ministry, and worked with RA's. I came in disfavor with the pastor after a few years so God moved me over to Faith Baptist Church in Tulsa for a year as their music director. I went back to First Baptist after the pastor had moved to another church.

Our church begin to grow and I served on the building committee, sang solos, worked with puppets, drama groups, and lead the music program on an interim basis. Revivals would come and go, and I would have doubts about my salvation and about my call to full time service. Then in 1965, our church had been in revival, and while I was at home one evening, God through the Holy Spirit began to deal with me. Patsy and I began to pray and I was broken and confused. I was confused because I thought God was trying to get me to go into full time service. I had felt this in a lot of revivals, but this time the pressure was even greater. Therefore, to get relief, I promised God I would be a full time layman. By that, I meant I would not participate in any activities outside of church. I have lived up to that commitment. "Relief at last," I thought. God let me go on my merry way, doing what "I" thought was right.

In 1974, God surprised us with another opportunity to move. The company I worked for was sold to W. R. Grace Agricultural Chemicals Group, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Out of 52 people in the Tulsa office, I was the only one transferred to Memphis. Through all of our lives, God has been leading, but never was it more evident than in this move. We joined Bartlett Baptist Church where I became involved in the music program, and again lead the music for a short time between directors. During our 20 years at Bartlett, I served as a deacon, helped establish a widow's ministry, and was a Sunday School director and teacher. I was president of the Baptist Men, a worker and leader of the Bartlett Builders Mission Team, the drama director, and worked with the music director on special programs like Easter and Christmas. I served on numerous committees such as the Building Committee, Building and Grounds, and Vision 2,000.

All this time, revival meetings would come and go and doubt plagued me. I saw all three of our children make, what appeared to be, professions of faith. Tom, once when he was little, and again when he was a teenager. Terry, made a profession when he was six, and Tammy made two; one as a child, and the other as a teenager.

Terry accepted God's call into the ministry during is freshman year at Memphis State. He decided to go to a Baptist school, so we enrolled him at Blue Mountain Baptist College and he began anew his college education. During his senior year, he came home one week-end and announced to us that he was LOST. It was like a death in the family. He could not remember the experience we thought he had at age six. We spent many hours talking. He asked if I remembered my salvation. I quickly said "No" and in self-defense I made some feeble excuse about not remembering. When in fact, I could not give him a straight answer. I could only remember parts of it; the part I related earlier. That's when God really began to deal with me about my so-called salvation experience. For six or seven years, Terry and I would talk about his salvation experience. I would listen to him, then check mine out. I usually would come up empty. But then again I would think "I must be saved, look at what I do for the Lord." I would look back at how he had used me and protected me over the years by providing a good job and moving us around the country. I even had people tell me I had the gift of service. I now realize that was "God's grace."

In 1993, Terry's church began a tape ministry. They started mailing them to us. I would listen to every one I could get my hands on. Sometimes two and three times, because God was dealing with me about this matter of salvation. I wanted to know what salvation was and whether or not I was saved. 'Why can't I recall any of the details,' I wondered?

Patsy and I would talk on long trips to and from Shreveport. I would share with her that I was having trouble. We would listen to Terry's sermons and wonder where he got so much wisdom. God was using him to help me understand how God works and to teach me how God saves a person. It is what God does and not what man does, for man cannot save himself.

Terry told me one day in September, "Dad you have to attend one of our Festivals and see how all this works." I said, "Okay," and thought to myself, "It can't be much different from some of the meetings I have been involved in before." They scheduled a Festival in October of 1994. I made plans to attend and we went down on Friday evening. Patsy and I attended the service where they honored a pastor and his wife with gifts and treated them like royalty. On Saturday morning, the men had a prayer breakfast. After breakfast, about 15 of us got down to praying. I say us, but I was not ready to pray with these fellows, because when they prayed, the Holy Spirit filled the room. They had a relationship with God that I was lacking. During the prayer time, I saw a young preacher saved. Never had I seen it this way before. I remember Patsy being saved, but that was years ago, and the memory had faded. Then on Sunday morning I saw another man saved, during the song service. He crawled to the front, broken, weeping and pleading with God to save him. When God did save him, we all felt peace and the presence of the Lord. Well, that confirmed to me my salvation experience was not like that, so I wondered and doubted even more. We think Satan is the one causing the doubt, but in my case it was the Holy Spirit. If you think about it, Satan does not want us to doubt our salvation, for we might do something about it and really get saved as I did.

During Christmas of 1994, Terry asked if I listened to his sermon on Naaman, "and He Was a Leper?" We began to look at the tapes I had, and he found it in the stack of tapes that I had listened to. I thought I had heard it, but I said I would listen to it again.

The next day after everyone left, and Patsy had gone shopping, I was painting one of the bed- rooms. God would not leave me alone about this salvation matter, so I put Terry's sermon in the tape player and began to listen. I would paint and listen. I would paint some more, trying to deal with what God was doing to me. When he finished preaching, I sat down and begin to weep. I said out loud, "Okay God, I have to settle this matter once and for all. I must know the truth. I cannot go into eternity like this, please God help me." It seemed as though God said "Here is your problem. You have served me all these years, thinking you were saved. Service is not salvation. Give it all up and seek me with all your heart. You want answers, then go to Terry." I thought, "Go to my own son?" The answer can back "Yes, he will help you." "But God, he's my son, surely I can find a place near-by," I reasoned. The answer came back "No, go if you want to know the truth."

I decided to leave Bartlett and drive to Pontotoc, two hours away, each Sunday for church. Patsy agreed to follow because she knew I was having trouble. We notified our friends and then the Bartlett staff that we would be leaving. They tried to understand and wished me the best, and promised to pray for me. But I could feel and see in their faces, sorrow and confusion, because I acted and looked Christian. I decided the real test would be what Terry said when I told him what I felt God was telling me to do. I called him and explained everything to him and his immediate reaction was "Come on down Dad, everything will be okay." I begin to cry with joy for he confirmed in my heart I was doing the right thing.

January 8, 1995 was our first Sunday at Pontotoc. I must admit, I had a peace about all of this. I even had a peace when I admitted to the people at Pontotoc, that I was lost. However, that peace did not last long. God began to work me over, bringing me under conviction about my unbelief and drawing me to Himself. I began to seek God with all my heart. We attended Arlington Baptist Church on Wednesday nights to hear Brother Greg Moffitt preach on salvation. I wanted the truth. I got copies of all the testimonies from Terry's church. I read the salvation stories and experiences of other people. I would read the Bible and listen to Terry's sermons going to and from work. I wanted to be saved, but I wanted it done my way and in my timing. I did not want to be embarrassed. However, God had different plans.

Terry announced they were to have another Festival. This time they would honor an evangelist, Brother Tim Rutherford and his wife. Brother Tim was to begin preaching on Wednesday, February 15th, and would preach each evening through Sunday night, February 19th. I could not go to the week-day services because of my work. However, I did go on Saturday the 18th, leaving early Saturday morning with a friend of mine, Jim Blanchard. We arrived in time for the men's prayer breakfast. Much to my surprise I discovered that several of the members were sick including Terry. The flu had taken its toll on the people. However, the men that were able to attend seemed in good spirits, enjoying each other's company. All week long I expected and planned on God to save me during the prayer breakfast as I had seen Mark Fuqua saved back in October. I really felt left out during the prayer meeting. They prayed mostly for the evangelist, Brother Tim, and thanked God for the services. Only one person, Brother Billy Graham, prayed for me, and I still felt awful and lonely. We started the Saturday evening service about 6 p.m. Terry had been in bed most of the day, but came over for the meal and the giving of gifts to the evangelist's wife. After Tim started preaching, Terry had to go back to bed. The service went along as usual and again God did not move on me. By now I was beginning to feel very disappointed. What was wrong? Jim and I drove back home and shared together as we rode. I told him I was devastated, and he reassured me God was still in the business of saving people.

The next morning, Patsy and I started our drive to Pontotoc. She said she had a tape that our friend Judy Jackson wanted me to hear. Harold Hunter, an evangelist, had been preaching at Faith Baptist the previous week, and she wanted me to hear one of his messages. I did not really want to listen as I had heard Harold Hunter preach at Bartlett a couple of years ago. I did not agree with his method of evangelism and easy-believeism approach to salvation. However, Patsy insisted, so we listened as we drove. Harold used an illustration in his message that struck me rather hard. He told of a well-known evangelist, a man whom we would know if he told us his name, that was on his death bed. He had called for Harold to come to his bed side. Harold caught a plane and flew to the city where he was in the hospital. When he got to his bed side, the evangelist told him he was lost and going to hell. Harold was shocked, because this man had served the Lord all these years and had seen thousands saved. Harold asks him to pray the sinner's prayer with him and be saved and the man agreed. They prayed and the man said afterwards that the prayer did no good. It was too late for him. God was not going to save him. Was it too late for me too? Had I turned God down when I was 30 when the Holy Spirit broke me and I committed myself to be a full time layman? Was it too late? Tears came in my eyes and a lump in my throat. After the disastrous Saturday and feeling lost and deserted, I just knew God had turned his back on me. We arrived at Pontotoc to discover that Terry was too sick to get out of bed. Brother Mark Harding began the service at 10 o'clock. We sang a couple of songs, Brother Tim Tutor sang a special number, and then Brother Tim Rutherford began his message. He started with an old mountain song, "What Could A Beggar Give to a King." The words I remember were, "An old beggar could give nothing, for God gave His Son, His Son gave His life and the beggar goes free." I wanted to go free and I could see myself as the beggar. Then Tim preached on Mary Magdalene, and how she gave up her old life, took her precious perfume and gave it all to the master. After about twenty or thirty minutes into the sermon, I felt so much pressure I thought I was going to burst. Brother Tim told about his salvation, how he felt, and how he had to know he was saved, and that he could not live not knowing. Then, when he got down to business with God, he told him how sorry he was for all he had done, sorry for his unbelief. He said God is ready to forgive and he will forgive just as He forgave Mary Magdalene. I heard Brother Tim say, "Jesus said come unto me all you that are heavy laden." I was heavy laden and needed rest and peace.

I could not sit in my chair any longer. So I got up, took about three steps and I was on the floor in front of the pulpit. There I spilled out everything to God. I said I was sorry for the way I had treated him; sorry for my unbelief all these years, sorry for assuming I was saved. I pleaded for forgiveness. I wept and cried, tried to get as small as possible, which is difficult for a 200 pound 6'3" man. The pressure I felt was like what I expect a child feels when being pushed through the birth canal. I knew from hearing Terry preach what was happening. God was saving me. There was not any lightning, or thunder, or voices, just the Holy Spirit wrapping His arms around me and introducing me to a new life. After six or seven minutes on the floor, I began to hear Brother Tim singing again. This time it was "Jesus I come, Jesus I come." I echoed those words in my heart and Jesus welcomed me home. I stopped crying and immediately God gave me the faith to know and believe He had saved me. Brother Tim was trying to preach again now, so I stood up, and faced him behind the pulpit. He stopped preaching, looked at me, and I said, "Brother, God has just saved me."

The first person to me was Brother Jim Grapp, and he gave me a big bear hug and let out a shout. I went over and sat down. Patsy and I hugged and Brother Tim asked me if I wanted to say anything. I said, "The only thing I can say is I am overwhelmed, just simply overwhelmed." Someone said something about Terry missing this, and I said "I had better go tell him what happened." I practically ran over to the parsonage and burst into Terry's bed room. He knew without me saying anything what had happened. We embraced in his bed and praised the Lord together. I went back over to the service and Brother Tim was so overwhelmed that he could hardly finish his message. I sat there stunned and swimming in the love and peace I felt. When the service was over, I asked if I could sing "Amazing Grace." After all these years, I now know how truly amazing His grace is. He "led me through many dangers, toils, and snares, 'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." What a God!

In looking back at my salvation experience, God set it up so He could get all the glory. I have been a Southern Baptist all my life and have been taught that someone should be there to lead me to the Lord, to pray with me and show me the plan of salvation. It did not happen that way at all. God allowed Terry to be sick so he could not be there when He saved me and man could not take any credit. God wanted to illustrate that He alone does the saving. I remember thinking as I was struggling on the floor that morning, "Why isn't someone down here with me?" Then the Holy Spirit assured me that I did not need anyone. It was the power of the preached word that brought me to the light and it was God that had to do the rest. Man had done all he could, and that was to proclaim the TRUTH.

My heart aches for my friends who have not heard the truth about salvation. Satan has blinded so many pastors and church members into believing all they have to do is ask and they will be saved. I asked God to save me many times, but He didn't until I was broken, desperate, and at the end of myself. Just one touchis all it took to give me life.

Please, look at your own experience and be sure it was God that did the saving, and not some method you followed at someone's encouraging. Remember, it's what God does to you and not what you do to yourself. You can decide to follow Jesus and change you life style, like quiting smoking or drinking, and think you are saved. However, real change comes only through God performing something in you, not you performing something in yourself.

Speaking of change, music really sends my spirit heavenward now. Words in the old hymns jump off the pages into my heart with real meaning. The scriptures have come alive.

God has put in my heart a desire to tell what has happened to me, but it's difficult to get an audience. If you read this, you now have read the story of how God saved a religious man. It is my prayer that if you are doubting your salvation, seek God. Do what you have to, to find out the truth. Seek Him with all your heart. Eternity depends on it.