The Personal Testimony of Jeremy Thorne

Saved June 23, 2005

I remember being a small child growing up in Alabama.  On Sundays, my mom would carry my sister and me to church.  My dad would stay home.  When I was still very young, my parents divorced.  We moved to Mississippi to live next to my mom’s parents.  I started first grade that fall.

My mom has always been faithful to go to church every time the doors were open.  Our church was a small church that consisted mostly of our family and the local neighbors.  We had several pastors during the years I was there.  One night the pastor that was there at the time came to our house with one of the men from church.  We all sat and talked for a while, and then he told me he wanted to talk to me in private.  My mom said we could use her bedroom.  He and I sat on the foot of the bed and he started showing me verses in the bible.  I don’t remember now which verses he pointed out, but they were all verses that I had heard before.  He asked me if I understood them, and I told him I did (I genuinely thought that I did).  He asked me to explain a couple of them to him, so I did.  He told me I was right and that he was surprised that I wasn’t saved already, because it seemed to him that I knew everything that I needed to know to get saved.  He then asked me to kneel with him and told me he wanted me to pray.  He gave me a few words as an example to get me started, and then told me he wanted to hear me pray out loud.  I started praying using some of the thoughts he gave me.  I changed them up enough to satisfy me that it was my prayer being said, and not someone else telling me exactly what to say.  Even then, it didn’t seem like repeating exactly what someone else said was the right thing to do.  I was genuinely crying while I was praying, because I could thing of many things that I had done that I knew were wrong.  When I finished, he asked me how I felt.  I don’t think I said anything at all.  Inside of me I didn’t feel any different.  We then went back to the living room and I sat on the opposite end of the sofa from my mom.  He told me that I should tell her what happened, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.  I just sat there staring at the floor.  After what seemed like forever with everyone looking at me, he told her I had just gotten saved.  I don’t remember anyone’s reaction to that statement, just that I didn’t feel right about it.  I found out after they left that they had been to see one of my friends earlier that night.  They told my mom that he got saved too.

I was always a “good” kid growing up.  I never got into too much trouble at home and NEVER at school.  I didn’t even really mind going to Church as often as we did because that was what everyone expected and I knew it was the right thing to do.  That doesn’t mean that I paid attention while I was there.  I tried to stay awake during Sunday school and the preaching service, but I had a hard time doing that most of the time.

I moved out of the house to attend college for a couple of years.  When I moved back home, the same routine that had been in place before I left for college came back almost instantly.  My mom had gotten re-married before I left to go to school.  While I was at school, she was going to church on Sunday night and Wednesday night by herself.  I know that she was happy just to have someone else go with her on these nights, but that was all I was doing.  I was just going.  I still had no real desire to listen or learn anything while I was there.

After I moved back home, I started looking for a job.  I had a couple of interviews while I was in college, but nothing ever came of them.  They were places that I really would have like to work, but God had different plans for my life.  I had gotten discouraged because I graduated in December and it was now September and I still didn’t even have any job leads.  I was helping my mom at work one day when my grandmother called.  She had seen an ad in the paper for a company called Ashley Furniture.  They had a position open that was very similar to my major.  I thought it couldn’t hurt to try so I sent them my resume.  I didn’t think anything would come out of it, but a couple of weeks later I got a phone call for an interview.  I still didn’t have very high hopes of actually getting the job, but it was nice to have a real interview.  After a couple more weeks had passed, they called me back for a second interview.  Now I was excited. 

I still wasn’t going to take any chances on not getting a job, and I had heard that a car dealership in Alabama was looking for a salesman.  The week after I went for the second interview with Ashley, I went there to talk to the sales manager.  After about 15 or 20 minutes, he told me he would like to hire me.  I knew that I would be good at it and thought I would enjoy it, but I told him that I was still waiting to hear from Ashley.  He told me that was fine and to let him know something as soon as I could.  I heard from Ashley a few days later.  They told me I could start in a couple of weeks.  I thanked them and told them I would let them know that afternoon.  I knew I could make more money selling cars and could also live at home, which would save even more money.  I would have to move if I worked for Ashley.  I didn’t know why at the time, but I thought I would be better off if I went to work for Ashley.  I called both Ashley and the car dealership back and told them my decision.  Looking back, I can see that this was the first step in God really guiding my life.  He moved me within a few miles of where he really wanted me to be.

A few months after I started at Ashley, I met Sandra Bramlitt.  She was working in the cutting room and she was putting together information for the project I had been assigned.  She stayed in our office most of the day for a couple of weeks, and during this time we got to know each other.  She even brought me a picture of her 17 year old twins.  I was 23 at the time, and she made the comment that if I was younger or they were older, she might have to get me a date.  I laughed it all off at the time, but about two and a half years later, that is exactly what happened.

After I had been at Ashley about a year, they gave me what I thought was the opportunity of a lifetime.  They had opened a plant in China, and were still trying to get it running the way they wanted to.  I was asked if I wanted to go for a month and help.  Of course, I said yes without even thinking about it.  After 3 trips, I thought it would be great to live over there, and had they asked me, I might have said yes.  But political conditions in China worsened and then came the outbreak of SARS, and all of the planning that involved me came to an end. 

During this time, I had been thinking a lot about God and my life in general.  I had always heard that once a person was saved, they became a new creature.  I still lived a good outward life, but it was obvious that I wasn’t seeking God in any fashion.  I rationalized not being changed after I was saved by saying that I was not really that bad of a person to begin with.  It was at this time in my life that I was ready to make a change.  Not necessarily in a bad way or a good way, but just a change.

After I had been at Ashley for almost three years, a woman that worked in our department asked me if I would consider going on a date with one of Sandra’s daughters.  I told her I thought that they were too young, but was assured that they were about to turn 21.  In reality, she was mistaken and they were about to turn 20.  Had I known this, I would have said no because I was 26 at the time.  I told her I would, because at this point in my life, I felt like I was falling behind and seriously needed to find someone that I could marry.

When this woman went to Sandra’s house, Tina was in the yard and Gina was inside.  Because they were twins, she wasn’t sure who she was talking about.  She found out it was Tina, and asked her if it would be okay for me to call.  Tina didn’t really want to go on a blind date, but she said that it would be okay.  I found out later that the reason she said okay was to keep Gina (whom she loved very much) from having to go out on a bad blind date.  I was a pity date.  As it turns out, God had Tina in the yard for a reason.  He knew this was who I was supposed to marry and this is how He would get me to Grace Baptist Church.

Tina and I had been out on a couple of dates and hit it off very well.  As a matter of fact, I knew on the second or third date that this would be the person I would marry.  I called her one Wednesday after work to talk, and she asked me if I would like to go to Church with her.  Of course I said yes.  I actually had hope that she would ask me to go because I knew from people at work that Sandra was faithful to her church and was there every time the doors were open.  I had also heard enough about her to know that if her daughter was anything like her, then these were the kind of people I wanted to be around.

Tina told me that every man in the church would probably come and introduce themselves to me.  That is exactly what happened.  I can’t say that I remember talking to any particular person, but the gesture as a whole made me realize that this place was different than what I was used to.

I had been to Grace several times, and had several questions.  In the church where I was raised, we didn’t talk to our pastors, or at least I didn’t.  I had heard Bro. Terry say in one of his sermons that if we were in this church, then we would eventually talk to him.  I wasn’t ready for this, and I guess deep down didn’t think that I would need to.  One weeknight I was jogging near my apartment and going over in my head a lot of the things that I had heard.  I was a very skeptical person, and I didn’t know what to do about a lot of it, so I just prayed that God would give me some understanding about what I had heard.  I also questioned if Grace Baptist Church was where I needed to be.  I didn’t have to wait long to get answers.  In fact, it was the very next sermon that I heard.  Bro. Terry got up and started to preach.  The next words out of his mouth were, “We’ve got a few new people with us now, and I just want you to know what we believe at Grace Baptist Church.”  I could have been knocked over with a feather.  I was in such shock at this point that I could have gone home and been satisfied knowing that God answers prayers and that this was where I was supposed to be.

During the next few weeks, a lot of what was preached was about assurance of salvation.  Bro. Terry had mentioned several times that if you couldn’t remember the time and place where you were saved, then you weren’t saved.  I still thought I was okay because I remembered when I had knelt and prayed at the foot of my mom’s bed with my pastor when I was a child, but it was almost like I knew that experience was nothing.  I had suspicions that I was probably lost, but I couldn’t find definite proof.  Inside me, this message was almost reinforcing the thought that I was okay.  Then, Bro. Terry said something about remembering the time and place when Christ was manifested to you and you were saved.  I knew right then that I had never experienced anything like what he was preaching, so I must in fact be lost.  I didn’t tell anyone what was going on for a few weeks, but finally admitted it one night at men’s prayer meeting.  Not long after this, Bro. Terry preached a meeting at Faith Baptist Church.  One night while we were there, I went in the restroom and saw a verse hanging on the wall.  It said, “The father to the children shall make known thy truth.”  All of a sudden I heard God tell me that I was hearing the truth.  Then inside of me I believed that one day I would be a child of God.

After talking with Bro. Terry and getting his okay, I proposed to Tina in March.  She said yes and started planning the wedding for August of the same year.  Other than the addition of planning a wedding, things went on as normal for a while.

In April, Bro. Terry preached a message about Moses and the Rock.  This was about Moses wanting to see the glory of God.  God told Moses the following:  “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”  He also told Moses:  “Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:  And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:  And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”  The way that Bro. Terry explained this was that when a man wanted to see God, God gave instructions.  He also said that if you follow the instructions from God, then you live, if not, you die.  This was exactly what I needed to hear.  Some of the messages in the weeks before this were about being a witness.  But to be a witness, you have to have seen (or experienced) for yourself the thing that you are talking about.  I wanted so badly to see for myself the things that I saw in the people that were saved.  Bro. Terry went on to say in the same message that for him to be preaching the message that he was preaching someone must have asked to see God’s glory but needed instructions on how to do that.  I knew right then that it was me.  I didn’t know what to do with it at first, but I knew that if God was giving instructions on how to be saved, I needed to be listening harder than I had ever listened to anything before.

One Sunday morning, a few weeks later, Bro. Terry got up and started preaching.  I don’t remember what he was saying, but it was obvious (to me anyway) that God was near.  I was trying to read along as Bro. Terry read, but I couldn’t even hold my bible.  I felt a pressure on me that I had never felt before.  I knew I was about to break, even though I didn’t really want to.  I had often fought off similar thoughts and feelings, but this was greater than anything I had ever known.  I ran to the altar and just started crying out to God to save me.  At that moment, I didn’t care who was around or what they thought.  All I knew was that I needed to be saved.  I was listening to everything that was being said around me, because all of a sudden I had no idea what I needed to do.  At one point I cried out to God with something that I had heard in one of the previous messages.  Bro. Terry told me to keep believing that.  All of a sudden, everything was quiet.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I got up and went back to my seat.  Bro. Terry asked me after the service if I wanted to talk, and since I had no idea what had happened, I said yes.  It was only after talking for a while that we understood what had happened - I didn’t get saved.  When I heard Bro. Terry tell me to keep believing, I misunderstood what he meant.  He was trying to urge me to keep believing at that time, but I thought he meant I needed to keep believing over a period of time.  He told me that God had been there to save me, but as soon as I stopped believing, He had left.  I was grieved by this at first, but then I remembered something else that Bro. Terry had said in one of his sermons:  That God is longsuffering and if he passes by one time, he can pass by another time.  Now I had more of an idea what to expect next time God was around.  Even after just missing getting saved, I now had more hope than ever.

By this time, February camp meeting had come and gone, and it was now June festival.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday services came and went.  Most of Thursday went by as normal, and then Bro. Tim Rutherford started preaching during the evening service about drawing near to God and he will draw near to you.  After he finished, Bro. Terry got up to add to what Bro. Tim had said.  He could see that we were at our walls of Jericho.  He had been preaching this at our church in previous weeks.  He told us that we had so much unbelief that we couldn’t even believe what Bro. Tim had been preaching.  That was why no one was moving toward God.  At one point, Bro. Terry said, “It wouldn’t hurt anyone here to come down here and pray.”  I knew he was right, and again I didn’t care who was around.  There was no room at the altar, so I fell in the floor near the piano.

I cried out to God like I never had before.  I knew that God could save me, but I wasn’t sure that he would.  I decided that I wasn’t going to get up without getting saved.  I knew that it would take too much for me to break again if God didn’t save me now.  I laid in the floor for what seemed like forever, but was probably just a few minutes.  During that time, Bro. Greg had started preaching.  Things had quieted down some with me, and I couldn’t hear what was being preached, so I finally decided to get up and go back to my seat.  I told God that if my pride was what was keeping me from getting saved, then I wanted Him to take it from me.  If that meant falling in the floor many times over the next few weeks or months, then that was okay.  I knew by now that I needed God and I didn’t need anything to stand in the way.

When I got back to my seat, I could finally hear what Bro. Greg was saying.  He began to expound on how good God had been to all of us.  I began to really think back on how good God had been to me.  He had given me a family that always tried to do what was right, He had given me a job near Pontotoc so I could eventually hear the truth, He had put me and Tina together, and He had brought me as far as He had so that He could save me.  All of this finally overwhelmed me to the point that I fell out in the floor broken again.  This time, I only made it to the end of the row that I was sitting on, but that was far enough.  Again I tried everything I knew to do and said everything I knew to say.  I had heard Stephen Moffit mention that after he got saved (which was just the night before), he would remember some of his old sins to see if there was any guilt still associated with them.  Every time that Bro. Greg paused, I tried this.  And every time I tried this, I felt guilty.  I always knew that I was guilty, but now I actually felt guilty.  I had tried everything I could think of to get saved, and nothing worked.  Finally I just stopped trying.  At that very moment, I saw two arms stretched out and a light (where the face should have been) so bright that I couldn’t see the face.  The arms were reaching down to me.  I felt like all I had to do was reach out, so that is what I did.  It all happened so fast that it felt like it was just another thought that had run through my head.  Again, I thought back on some of the sins I had committed in my life, but this time there was no guilt at all.  All I could hear was someone saying, “It’s alright”.  I tried this over and over with the same result.  All I could hear was “It’s alright”.  I didn’t really know what that meant, but I felt like I couldn’t cry anymore.  I got back in my seat and made it through the rest of the message.

I talked to Bro. Terry as soon as everything had ended.  I told him some of what had happened, and he asked me what I thought.  I told him that I should probably just think about it for a while, and he agreed.  He told me that if it was nothing, then I didn’t want it anyway.  If it was something, I wouldn’t be able to get rid of it.  It took until the following Sunday morning for me to finally admit that God had actually saved me, but it was something that I just couldn’t deny.