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I thought that I would share my testimony.  It has taken me many years to work up the courage to share it, but I believe that God can use it to encourage all who hear or read it!

The summer of 2001 at 6 years old my friends and I attended a local VBS.  The last night of classes, the pastor at services simply asked…”Who wants Jesus in their hearts and to live with Him forever?”  Of course, as a 6 year old child, I instantly raised my hand and the pastor explained that if I would repeat a prayer and give my life to the Lord, I would live with Jesus forever; I was sold!  Who would not want to live forever in a place where there would be no more pain, streets are made of gold, and rainbows flood the sky?  I gleamed with joy that night as I left the service, but I did not fully comprehend what Jesus actually went through and did for me, or even why!

Throughout my early teen years I rested and was comfortable with what I knew of God and I sadly believed the lie that since my dad was a Pastor and that I read my bible everyday I had a free-pass into heaven.  However, I was empty, sad, and eventually lost purpose for life itself and took my life into my hands on several occasions.  Something was missing and it felt as though I had no heart at all and I was merely existing to please other people, and I always felt that I was failing.

The summer of 2010, my dad was asked to speak at a youth camp in Junction City for a week.  I went with him every night and listened to him tell stories that I heard hundreds of times before and sermons that he had preached at church; so nothing felt new, until Thursday night of that week.  Services started out the same; the worship team and dad and I held hands and prayed for the service.  Worship was the same; the first two songs were loud and the last two were slow and peaceful, but there was something different, I felt it.  I sat in the back of the room, expecting dad to open up his message with a couple of jokes and to jump on the pews…but he didn’t.  He quietly walked up onto the stage as all of the kids hollered and cheered…then dead silence.  I clearly remember as he walked up the stairs, stood at the pulpit, and gazed into every persons eyes for several minutes. Tears filled his eyes as He asked,“Who here knows Jesus?”  Naturally, everyone raised their hands. Dad clarified,“No, who here personally knows Jesus, not just about Him? I can ask you to tell me about someone in order to get to know them better and to get your opinion about them, or I can go to that person myself and get to know them personally. Who knows Jesus?”  I was shocked, not only because nearly half of the congregation lowered their hands, but I lowered mine as well!

Dad went on to share the story of Jesus, and then he played Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. I was horrified and could not breathe; I had never saw anything like that movie in my life!  I had seen countless bible movies of the crucifixion showing Jesus with a few drops of blood on His face, but still to this day I cannot fully describe the thoughts that ran through my mind at that moment. Simply put, it felt like veils that were once on my eyes were suddenly and abruptly removed and my heart melted.  I wept bitterly as I watched that portrayal of what Jesus did for me, but I could not help but to ask why? Why would Jesus do that for me? I knew that He loved me, but how could someone love me that much to go through what He did for me? Dad then asked the congregation,“Why does Jesus love you?”  No one answered and personally, I could not think of one satisfactory reason why Jesus would love me. Then my dad asked me to come up on stage with him and asked the congregation,“Why do you think that I love my daughter?”  In the midst of the deafening silence of the audience, yet again, no one answered. Then he turned to me and asked as he gazed into my eyes,“Hope, why do I love you?”  Tears poured from my eyes as I tried to think of possible reasons why, but I could not. I then asked,“Why?”  Dad smiled as a tear ran down his face,“Because you are mine!”

I then knew and understood the love that Jesus had and continues to have for me; God loves me because I am His!

This I believe: that God’s love for me is not based on any good things that I have done or even the bad things. He loves me because I am His!

Before this wonderful experience, I believed the lie the world told me of what a Christian was and what they do.  If I stayed out of trouble, said sorry, read my bible, went to church, and “looked good”, I was a Christian and I would go to heaven, but that is not how it works.  After I had this life changing revelation, I realized that Christianity is about relationship not religion; love and not works.  God changed my life and my heart, not to just keep it all to myself but to share it with others!