By: Norm Rasmussen
What a joy it is to know beyond all shadow of a doubt that there really is a God. Not just to believe there is a God and leave it at that, but to have personally experienced His presence in my room. That was the morning my doubts about God and Jesus Christ changed forever!
It is my hope that if you are somehow doubting the reality of God, God will use this testimony to help begin to change that. After all, to believe that Jesus Christ is merely the Son of God is one thing, but to know by the Holy Spirit to the depths of your soul that Jesus Christ is also God Himself — knowing that He is co-equal with God the Father (though He submits His will to the Father) and God the Holy Spirit – One God in three distinct persons . . . that’s when Christianity takes on a whole new meaning and importance! Why is that? Because Christianity was never meant to be a “religion” in the first place. It is a relationship — an intimate, personal relationship with our Creator.
Early in my childhood, around 1955, at about age nine, I accepted Christ as my Savior, when a traveling evangelist came to the little logging community of Bates, Oregon (which no longer appears on recent maps; located near Austin) where our family lived. With a child’s mentality, I’m sure I did it to hopefully make God happy with me, and so I wouldn’t go to hell, which was an understandable motive, but I just didn’t follow up on associating myself with other dedicated Christians after that who could help me grow in my relationship with God, sadly.
There was a lot of turbulence in my home-life in my adolescent years. Because of the turbulence, I was attracted to whatever seemed to make me happy, rather than channeling that hurt and pain through God and letting Him help me. Wherever alcohol was available, I sought after it. Drugs were not readily available like they are today, so drugs were not an option, thank goodness, otherwise I’m sure I would have gotten hooked on them like so many youth do today because of their lack of happiness. Nor was sexual promiscuity as open and available as it is today.
After high school, in 1967, I enlisted in the Army, being promised Alaska as my assignment. Through a quirk of events, I was “volunteered” to become a prisoner-of-war interrogator through little choice of my own and was sent to Vietnam. Experiencing first-hand the horrors and injustices of that war (as there are in all wars to one degree or another), my concept of an “all loving, all merciful, all compassionate God being in control of this planet drastically began to alter my belief about Him. Seeing all the pain the Vietnam conflict was bringing to the lives of so many people . . . I wasn’t sure I wanted to put my trust in any supposed God any longer who allowed such things to happen. [It should be noted that I did not believe at the time that the devil has any ability to influence the affairs of mankind. In fact, I wasn’t even convinced there was a devil like the Bible talks about at that time in my life. How blind I was.]
Before going to Vietnam, I met a special lady while in the military. I ended up marrying her instead of a special high school sweetheart that I had one day planned to marry. I was probably not suitable marriage material for any women at the time, though I didn’t realize it then. My desire to have someone to give my love to and receive love in return from, and be faithful to me, was all that mattered at the time. I didn’t know how to seek God’s will at the time as to what He had to say about the marriage, let alone who I was to marry, simply because I wasn’t walking in proper relationship with Him.
Though thankful to be alive, I left Vietnam feeling emotionally raped – wanting to forget everything that Vietnam was about in one sense, because of the anti-war critics stateside (wondering who my enemy really was), who didn’t seem to care that Communists were attempting to take over the world, and feeling like I had let the very people down I had been sent to help liberate, the South Vietnamese people. Part of me grew so angry at times at American anti-war protestors that I became frightened at what I might do if caught in a confrontational situation with them, thus I avoided confrontation as much as possible.
To forget, and to try to put the whole nightmare behind me and get on with my life, I came back from Vietnam a hard-core alcoholic with a heart as cold as steel. My wife had a very angry, bitter, resentful and emotionally unstable husband to deal with, though I certainly was into denial to it at the time.
Most marriages suffer conflict at one time or another. When conflict rose in ours, I tried to bury most of my feelings with alcohol rather than seek professional advice to help work them out. Like many others have done, in weak moments I began to think that an intimate relationship with another woman might bring a little happiness to drown out the hollowness and pain inside me. Sad to say, adultery followed, and the “happiness” was short-lived, because the guilt ate at me constantly. To bury my guilt, I drank more alcohol and smoked more cigarettes and sought out whatever means was at my disposal to fill the ache in my soul that I now realize only God was capable of mending and filling through Christ.
Is There Really A God?
Through all those trying years, I still wondered if there really was a God. Part of me wanted to believe there was, yet there was another part of me that had difficulty believing unless I could “prove” there was a God. I had read a number of “positive thinking” books that the devil had used to convince me that if a person can believe hard enough, you can create your own reality. I had experimented with hypnotism at an early age, and had experienced manifestations that many have not. Reading about and experimenting with hypnosis, I was an ardent student of “mind over matter.” Meaning . . . God can become real to you . . . but that doesn’t mean He really exists. Little did I realize how strong the sin of independent pride was that had been operating in my life that caused this deception. Worse yet, little did I know that I was addicted to the MOST LETHAL KIND of drugs known to fallen mankind: The demonic, spiritual drugs of doubt and unbelief. As I look back at my life then, I essentially was tied to a gurney with needles in every vein of my body taking in the two drugs of doubt and unbelief seven days a week, 24 hours a day. [Fear is the drug that often accompanies these other two, but I was so filled with the sin of angry pride, I feared nothing . . . (until I was about to pass over into eternity that fateful weekend that God made Himself real to me)].
I was quick to find fault in Christians and organized religion as well; totally unaware of the devil’s influence over my thinking — totally unaware of how much influence Satan has been allowed to have over the human race . . . including Christians. Like many others, I felt all churches wanted was to control you and con you out of your money. After all, if one believes there probably is no God unless it can be “proven,” how can that person possibly believe there could be a devil or Satan who also has great influence over the affairs of mankind? My belief about the devil or Satan or demons was that it was just something early Christians had come up with to try to put fear into people to get them to believe the way they wanted them to believe.
The classic overflow of my doubt and unbelief-addicted mind was that I also felt a person was stupid to believe that they could trust the Bible. I had taken the belief that man screws everything up and you couldn’t convince me that that modern-day accepted translations of the Bible have been preserved by God to be trusted to know what God wants mankind to know about Him and properly relate to Him and others. And another question I had: why would God allow so many different translations of the Bible to be printed anyway? And why would He allow so many different denominations and different religions? Why couldn’t it just be kept simple in black and white? It just made no sense to me whatsoever, thus I came to the conclusion that there was no sense to be made of it period.
Fortunately though, there were people God used along life’s way to influence me positively about God. An older sister and her husband were two of those people. Flora and her husband, Jerry Cheadle, had become “born again,” and their enthusiasm and devotion about their relationship with Jesus Christ captured my attention.
My youngest brother, Dale Rasmussen, the black sheep of the family as far as I was concerned growing up, (really because of some very lacking parenting), also had a powerful born again experience in his twenties. It was seeing the incredible change in his life for the better that began to make me take a more serious look at my comprehension of “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” Christianity. When I would talk with Dale, all he would tell me was to forget about my hang-ups about Christianity and organized religion, and just fall in love with Jesus Christ. He said the rest of it would all fall into place in due time. But I didn’t know who Jesus Christ was, or should I say, IS. That’s because I refused to believe what the Bible says about Him is true (from Chapter 1 of the Book of John in the Bible; Colossians 1:13-20, as well as a few other places in scripture). I believed the lie that the Bible cannot be trusted. If you allow the devil to convince you of that you’ll have a very difficult time coming to know truly who Jesus Christ really is. When you don’t realize who He really is, you don’t realize GOD died on the cross for you — taking full punishment for your sins … not just a “good man” who did some very incredible things.
Walking Time Bomb
Alcoholism and stress continued to take its ugly toll, as well as the other affects of sin in my life. At mid-life, I was told unexpectedly by a nurse that my heart was like a walking time bomb, ready to explode. My heart was ready to quit any minute due to extreme high blood pressure. I was sleeping very little, smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and drinking close to three-quarters of a fifth of hard liquor a day most of the time, not to mention various amounts of beer and wine.
When I was told that I had to quit smoking and drinking or else suffer a heart attack, part of me didn’t care if I died. In my mind, it was a way out of my pain and misery. After all, it would be death through “natural causes.” Who would ever know the real reason?
Yet another part of me wanted what my sister, Flora Cheadle, and her husband Jerry, and my younger brother Dale Rasmussen and His wife Karil had found, which was a peace with whom they believed to be the Creator of the universe — no substitutes. They weren’t propagating a religion, a denomination, or a teacher. What they were propagating was a relationship with the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and I liked the exciting fruits, or results you might say, that they were getting. They had joy in their life that I didn’t have. They had purpose for living that I didn’t have. No – their lives were not spared from conflict. In fact, conflict actually increased (due to demonic attacks constantly coming against them, which I’ve come to realize is quite typical). Even so, their lives had become centered on helping others grow in their relationship with God, instead of being self-consumed with pain, bitterness and confusion like mine was.
So near age 35 (around 1980), I was a wreck. I was facing death by essentially my own choosing, and I wasn’t convinced in my heart that I would go to heaven (if there was such a place: my doubt expressing itself at the time). My marriage had essentially dissolved; my life was in shambles. I had two precious children who did not have a suitable father and an emotionally strained wife who did not have a suitable husband. I had reached a place in my life where I felt like the first 35 years of my life had pretty much been mental hell, and I didn’t look forward to spending the last 35 years of my life experiencing the same. Death seemed the only way out, yet I really didn’t want to die either. All I really wanted was to have a purpose for living that I just wasn’t able to find, no matter how hard I tried, and a little happiness that lasted longer than another alcohol high.
Is there really a Heaven and a Hell?
Despair descended upon me, and fear of dying began to suddenly plague my thoughts. What if there really WAS a heaven and a hell? How could I actually prove there wasn’t? Furthermore, if there actually was a heaven and a hell, once on the other side, what assurance did I have of having a second chance to get right with God? All I had ever done was live for myself. What would God find in me that would make Him want to let me be in heaven with Him? I had no valid reasons I could come up with. My despair eventually turned to desperation.
Though I had cried out to God all night long starting on a Thursday night with nothing happening, everything culminated two mornings later.
Backing up — I went to bed that Friday evening, like I had done the night before, and started crying out to Jesus Christ . . . if there was a Jesus Christ who could hear me, or wanted to hear me. “Let me know you are real! I do want to serve the real God, but I’ve got to know you are real! I’ve got to know that what the Bible says about you is true! I’ve got to know if you really care for me!” I cried and agonized to God until the wee hours of dawn, but all I heard was silence. “God . . . do you even hear me?” More silence.
I finally gave up. What a fool I had been to cry out like this all night long, I rationalized – thinking that maybe – just maybe – God would have compassion on me and somehow reveal His reality to me in a way that I wasn’t so doubtful and confused about Him.
It was just starting to break day that early Saturday morning and then it happened! The bedroom instantly became about 30% brighter. I looked for a light to be on but none was! I thought maybe the sun was now up and I had fallen asleep and had wakened hours later, but the clock said differently. No – I wasn’t imagining it nor was I dreaming it. The light was real! It was of equal intensity throughout the room. An invisible presence was in my room. The reason I know so was because an indescribable love was so strong in that room that it seemed there was not enough room to contain it all! I felt like I was being shoved back by a big hand into my bed, the love was so strong. And I knew – don’t ask me how I knew – I just knew that I knew that it was the presence of Jesus Christ in my room!
God Is Real!
At that moment He spoke very powerfully to me. Not audibly, I don’t think, but powerfully to my inner being. The intensity of it was so strong though that it might just have well of been audible. He told me what I had to do to make my relationship work with Him. Then instantly all the anguish and pain and misery and confusion and doubt of a lifetime was sucked out of me. And all that was left was peace. Sweet beautiful peace . . . and knowing that God is real. I had what many have experienced before in one way or another: “A cross experience.”
[A “cross experience” is symbolism to describe a supernatural experience or moment in time with God when God (I hope you catch this) determines a person is willing to begin dying to their own personal selfish will — their own personal selfish demands upon God — to stop holding on to earthly, demonically-inspired lies masquerading as counterfeit “spiritual truth” wrapped up in the deceptive cloak of religion of do-good-works to get saved and stay saved (In other words, getting to the highest heaven in God the Father’s presence and staying there for eternity),” and “the only right denomination” . . . the “my church is the only right church” mindset — what the Bible calls “the doctrines and traditions of man” (which are all always demonically inspired) — deep-seated bitterness, resentment, anger, unforgiveness issues . . . just to name some of the more common barriers or hindrances that keeps one from truly becoming set free enough to begin surrendering to God’s will that is adequately expressed in New Testament Bible Truth. When a love and determination to please Jesus Christ becomes the number one goal in a person’s life, God the Father will make certain the Holy Spirit will be there to assist in making the path clear, though there may be and most likely will be many “bumps” and “challenges” along that path.]
Then the room instantly was darkened again as before. And the presence of Christ was now gone. The whole thing didn’t take more than a few brief moments to happen, but happen it did! I was now a believer! Moments later, I pulled the covers off from me, sat on the side of the bed, and made a solemn vow to God. I said, “Thank you, Lord, for revealing yourself to me in a way that I can believe in you. I know I don’t deserve what has just happened here, and I promise to serve you the rest of my life as best as I can.”
I’ve done my best to keep that promise, even though I’ve made many mistakes and fallen short often since then. Have I attained sinlessness? No way! Do I ever get angry at God? Many times! Do I ever tire of disappointment after disappointment? Like the plague! Do I ever grow weary of praying and feasting on God’s Word and doing ministry? Oh let me count the times! Are their times when my faith is weak and my hope is a distant, flickering flame, or so it would seem? More times than what I care to try to remember! Do I always “count it all joy” when trial after trial seems to be more frequent than not? Not nearly as much as God would like. Am I now the “perfect husband? Ha! Ask Kathleen, my wife! Am I the “perfect” father? Brian and Shawna, my two children from my first marriage, could write a book on how lacking I am! I’ll be the first to admit I’m not “super-saint — super-Christian.” Yet I serve a forgiving and patient God. (The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed in a day). He’s also a God of incredible love.
[However, least I portray myself as one of the most carnal Christians you can imagine, like my wife and I have discovered – and many other believers are discovering – the spiritual attacks upon Christians is growing more intense.
God also did some major surgery on me months after this fateful weekend regarding the hang-ups I had about the Bible, and who Jesus Christ actually is.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
Once the Holy Spirit breaks through your spiritual blindness and reveals to you who Jesus Christ really is, then you will understand why a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is everything. How can that be? Because the One who died for your sins some 2,000 years ago — He wasn’t just a mere man — He was all of God in human form. And He died especially for YOU. (You can discover this for yourself in John Chapter 1 and Colossians 1:13-19). In fact, if you were the only sinner on planet earth, He still would have died just for you! Why? Because His love is that unfathomable — that great!
Who REALLY is Jesus?
If you do not have peace, dear one, and the assurance of where you will go after you die (heaven or hell), I want to encourage you to seek answers about who created you and for what purpose . . . because He is the supreme PEACE GIVER (See: John 14:27). The first most important thing you can do in this life is to ask God to reveal to you who Jesus Christ really was . . . and is. He doesn’t want to keep it a secret from those who will truly turn their lives over to Him once He does, and remain a disciple of His, at whatever the cost — whatever the pain. The quote from the home page of Precious Testimonies says, “Your eternal spiritual well-being is God’s highest concern” means exactly what it says. Many people will refuse to take it at face value, because they want a state of “spiritual well-being” without any cost, without any pain [that’s ME!], without any demands on personal change . . . and they want it right now . . . poof . . . instantaneous! Jesus Christ didn’t qualify himself to be our High Priest through ease and personal pleasure. He became qualified through the things He suffered (See: Hebrews 5:8). Trial after trial after trial was the means God the Father used to qualify Him to be our highest of High Priests. Believers in Christ Jesus are also being made “kings” and “priests” unto God (See: Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6). If we are in Christ Jesus, the death, burial and resurrection has already qualified us for these two high positions in eternity . . . yet as long as we are alive here on this planet . . . God wants us to learn how to measure up to those very high positions we have been given in Jesus Christ. That almost always involves trials – emotional pressure – (gulp-spiritual stress).
If your life has little meaning and purpose, and you are searching for a reason to keep on living, I can’t encourage you enough to ask Jesus Christ to become the Lord and Savior of your life. He created you for an eternal, useful purpose, and until you know WHAT that purpose IS (of course, your spiritual well-being is the primary, ultimate purpose), nothing will fill the longing in your heart . . . like He has filled that longing in my heart with meaning and purpose. As God had done time after time with so many lives . . . he can take your “mess” and turn it into one “glorious message” that will be used to touch the lives of many others for His glory and your eternal reward. God didn’t die for us just to make it to heaven. He desires that we also seek Him to learn how to become “ministers.” A “minister” uses the gift/s God gives each of us to first learn how to minister to God, then secondly, learn how to minister to others. “Ministering to others” can be as uncomplicated as being a trusted listener to others who need someone they can trust to open up to — praying for others in need — or sowing a dollar to a ministry that God is using to help others come to Christ and grow spiritually. The list can take up pages!
If you can identify with many of the hang-ups I have experienced regarding Christianity, especially your need to have God “prove” His reality to you, like He did me, I want to ask you this question: what is holding you back from getting alone with God and seeking after Him until you can walk away a different person?
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
An expansion of this truth is found in Mark 8:35:
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Literally, sharing the Good News around the planet through the Internet and the other ways God is allowing us to share it: that God took your and my punishment . . . there is eternal forgiveness for our sins . . . that entrance into heaven is FREE and can be ASSURED . . . how glorious and exciting and rewarding this NEW spiritual life has become, regardless of the “challenges and trials” that come with it!
The Road to Happieness
My former life was lived to find a little happiness to keep on going. My new life is striving to live to be pleasing to my Lord, though the journey sometimes has been very “rocky.” Serving Him by being used to minister to others is what now makes me the happiest. It’s a happiness this world knows little of. (Actually, it is more joy than happiness, because I have discovered that though the afflictions of the righteous are many (see Psalms 34:19) devoted disciples of Jesus Christ have the assurance that God is working all of our afflictions for eternal good (See: Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17; 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:2-4) if we will trust Him through every storm — every demonic battle — even to the point of painful and perhaps unjust death. The best way I have found to do this is to give thanks to Him “in all things” and “for all things.” (See: 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20). As Calvin Bergsma, Senior Elder/Pastor of Grandville Christian Fellowship Church (Grandville, Michigan) church likes to say, “Praise and thanksgiving is the language of faith.”
Anyone can praise God and give thanks when things are going “well.” Only when we are under constant bombardment from the devil for the purpose of trying to get us to believe (through feelings and adverse circumstances) that God has betrayed us — totally let us down . . . does it become the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. (See: Psalms 107:22; 116:17; Hebrews 13:15). Determining to praise and thank God with our lips through all of life’s challenges and adversities is more precious to God than all of the wealth of this world (See: 1 Peter 1:7). That’s when the most priceless treasures get stored up in heaven for us, as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6:19-21. Offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of our trials and suffering is also a heavenly means by which Christ is being more fully formed in us day by day . . . which Colossians 2:27 and 3:1-4 addresses.
In my former life, I don’t remember hardly any prayers ever being answered. In my new born-again life (See: John 3:3), I’ve experienced so many answered prayers that it is abnormal to not have them answered (See: John 15:7-8), though sometimes my patience wears thin like most everyone else’s does at times at seeing prayers answered. Most born-again Christians can tell you the same, when they’ve learned to pray wisely, unselfishly and be patient with God. [I’ve learned that when God delays answering our prayers the way we would like Him to answer them — when we would like them answered, He has very good reason for it. Everything God does and/or allows to happen on our behalf has a very good reason for it. Through all the rat-maze of spiritual confusion and frustration life can hand us … we must always try to hold on to one simple fact: God is only good, and whatever He allows to happen in our lives and on this planet is working ultimately for His good — the good of the Church, the Body of Christ, (The Bride of Jesus Christ), and the good of all creation, ultimately. Remember . . . life does not center around you and I only. It centers around what God wants. The sooner we can get beyond what we want all the time and enter into what God wants for us, the greater emotional and spiritual peace will rest upon us. I personally haven’t mastered this priority, and if you have, please keep me near the top of your prayer list, okay?!).
God has given me a purpose for living beyond anything I could have ever imagined. My number one purpose in life is to be a willing vessel God can use to minister through to others who are hurting, lost spiritually, or discouraged. In so doing, it forces me to seek for greater intimacy with God. To take someone as messed up as I was and give them not only a second chance at marriage, but to then watch God use us together through this Precious Christian Testimonies ministry outreach, the local fellowship we are a part of, (Currently: Grandville Christian Fellowship, Office number: 616-827-0449), and ministry in prisons (Currently through Alpha Prison Ministries and Prison Fellowship) — to impart hope, encouragement and spiritual insight to others across the Internet and on TV. . . that is something I am so thankful for.
Quoting again from John 14:6 where Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life,” — In my old life, before I was born-again, I would have said in regards to this scripture, “So – big deal.” AFTER I became born-again and grew in some understanding of the Holy Scriptures and how I’m to relate with God, I now say, “Biggest deal in all of creation and eternity!” Why? Because what is really being communicated in the above portion of scripture is either the most profound fact in all the universe, or either the biggest lie. Though I never totally believed it was the biggest lie in all the universe, it took God to bring me to the brink of eternity before I was willing to push through the demonic blindness the devil had over me and that didn’t happen until I was willing to first begin obeying from scripture the God who created me. In my trying as much as I could to obey Him … He began to reveal the treasures of the Bible that I had been so prideful stubborn about and so blind to before.
You’ve got to experience God’s peace
Dear Reader: Please forgive me for going so long here. You can hear about all the glorious things God has done (and continues to do) in my life and in the lives of others, and they can give you hope, comfort, and spiritual insight (and of course, this should never be minimized!), but they won’t bring you sustainable joy and peace with God. All they are are roadmaps and a compass to lead you to your final destiny: Him. You’ve got to experience God’s peace and joy for your life personally and that will only come through a personal relationship with the One who Co-Created you … Jesus Christ. Once you accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior by asking Him into your heart and life, a time will come when you will be as excited as I am to point OTHERS to Him as well. Yes – you’ll experience a lot of pain like all other Christian’s do. Satan will not let things be “easy” for you, because God will allow Him to put you through a lot of trials to bring spiritual growth and maturity in you. (After all, life is about being tested; about trust; yet it’s very temporary . . . in light of eternity. Rich Warren’s book: The Purpose Driven Life – explains this with simplicity yet with powerful impact). But nothing in life is easy that will matter in eternity. Those very painful things that we have to work hard at to overcome are the very things that will mean the most to us when we pass into eternity.
How true this saying will become once we’re on the other side: “Only one life will soon be past — only what’s done for Christ will last.” What is done “for Christ” is seeking Him for the purpose you were created for, and doing all you know to do as God opens doors and provides the means for you to fulfill that purpose.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, dear reader . . . He’s knocking on the door of your heart. He won’t break the door down – He is a gentleman. You have to invite Him in. (See: Revelation 3:20). You have to step over the line of fallible human reason that fallen man seeks to dwell in . . . into the realm of faith that releases God to do the impossible in you, and through you. It may seem scary at first, but once you step over, you’ll be like everyone else, thinking: “Why did I wait so long!?”
Thank you and God bless you for taking the time to read this part of my story. I’m so thankful God has given me one to tell. Had God not intervened that fateful early Saturday morning….I’m sure I would be in hell right now. I deserved to go there. Jesus Christ wants no one to go to hell. Anyone who will mean business with Him can have the assurance that eternal joy in heaven can be his or her everlasting destiny upon death in this life (See: John 17:1-26), if they want that assurance. Much of that joy can be experienced even here and now! It’s freely given by the Holy Spirit to those who hunger to be right with the Heavenly Father … that can only be found in and through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.