Briefly: I was born in 1943. I graduated high school then spent six years and four months in the Marines serving the Cuban Missile Crisis four month extension and two tours in Vietnam. I was honorably discharged, started vocational school in industrial electricity, got married, graduated and went to work: the American Dream.
I have three sons and six grandchildren. I experienced my salvation event in 1976 and I thought I was on "easy street" from then on. BUT: Jesus said; (Matt. 10:22) "He who endureth to the end shall be saved." Nobody had told me that scripture and I had no concept of the Christian experience.
I was not from a church family. In my Dad’s opinion he was more honest than the great majority of Christians so we didn’t need church and it didn't bother him to critically express his views about it in any company! Daddy surely dried on the rough side of the towel. Mom was the silent Christian; the anchor of the family because she loved us, fed us, doctored us and in some secret place she prayed for us.
Mom was saved at home and baptized in the creek when I was so small I can hardly focus the foggy memory. I have never heard her pray or testify and she very seldom got to go to Church until she finally learned to drive later in life. I am from rural, Bible Belt, Eastern Kentucky. At the beginning there was no TV and when it came it wasn't much. Real people and real events were much more exciting so our main entertainment was visiting.
Sometimes after school and work were done we'd gather up someplace to play ball or pitch horseshoes and we'd talk and visit. There was a skating rink and a movie in town and we always met people we knew and we'd visit. We'd gather at the old country store up my "holler" (mountain valley, the hollow between two ridges) during warm weather to pitch horseshoes and play marbles, adults too.
In cold weather we'd gather around the old, pot-bellied, cast iron, coal stove and, just like in the summer, I would listen to the adults tell stories and talk about people involved in church, school, coal mining, logging, hunting, fishing and farming while that old pot-bellied stove glowed a dull red. Lots of times on summer evenings a group of us would gather, visit and talk while sitting on somebody's front porch.
Entertainment is like poverty; if what you've got is all you have ever known its just fine. Life was good. From earliest memory until I was eighteen God, Jesus, church, some revival someplace, who got saved and baptized, who backslid; something about church, good, or bad, or in jest, usually came up if I was around a crowd for very long.
Even though we didn't go to church I was learning about God, Jesus and salvation. I am so thankful it was that way because you hardly ever hear Jesus' name mentioned in ordinary public conversation now. God was always there.
As a child, up until I joined the military at eighteen, it was so easy to see God in a hatching chick, suckling piglets, a double handful of seed, hard as gravel, that grew into a garden; the sunrise viewed from a mountain top while the below of men was hidden under a silver blanket of fog. Even as a child I saw God in the lightening that streaked on ahead of the rumble of its wheels. I saw God in the spring mornings dew laden still before the sun touched the trees with its golden fingers.
I knew God had made the ancient, soft blanket of night He spread across the earth to heal the wounds of the day while in the worn spots the brilliant blue light of heaven shined through. I saw God in the beautiful creek with its deep, blue-green pools and in its shoals. I saw the creek racing on to the sea in ripples of bright water rioting through the rocks, throwing endless platoons of happy sound into the air. God was everywhere.
Then yondering with the Marines and Vietnam: Endless dry-mouthed days and nights filled with frantic boredom shrouded in dread and sometimes the quick slashing of fire and steel, noise and fury, danger and sheer terror that could only be withstood with anger.
Our first big clash with the enemy: In my tiny eleven man unit most of us were wounded but only one was killed; the only Christian, the quiet one, the one who wouldn’t drink, didn’t smoke and never cursed. The only Christian; torn, bloody and dead there on the ripped, stinking, blood soaked dirt; John was the kind of man, 18 years old, who would have said; “Take me Lord, give them a chance to get saved”; maybe he did; that quiet one, the Christian. God was there too.
Later, much later, my sons were growing fast and I was realizing I was rearing little husbands and daddies, neighbors and citizens, workers and----. I had been to two funerals when I was a child, and forced to church once in boot camp. My buddy JR and I, while teenagers, were coming down the Lick Fork Road in an old beat-up car drinking beer. We saw people entering a Church. We started daring each other, turned the car around, came back, parked and went into the Church to see what was going on and maybe even pick up a girl.
Sitting here, remembering what JR and I did, I am deeply ashamed, I know I am bright red and I can feel sweat on my forehead and upper lip, under my arms. It just goes to show what extreme ignorance and hard-heartedness God can overcome. Those four visits were my entire church experience. I had always believed in God. I was thirty one years old. I knew there was salvation but I couldn’t teach my beautiful little boys about that; I didn’t know how. I knew where those answers were though.
I was a hard headed, hard hearted, hard drinking hillbilly but I loved my boys and we became a church going family. God was in that too; He had been drawing me nearly all my life and I had been unaware of it. (John 6:44-47) God was drawing me harder but I still didn’t understand.
I was thirty three years old. It had been nearly two years of every Sunday in church. Sometimes an unutterable sorrow would threaten to engulf me and my soul would writhe in forlorn regret and longing. For several Sundays tears would come unbidden and unwanted and I was ashamed of them. Coal miners aren't supposed to cry but I did and for some reason I kept coming back to church.
I was somehow drawn to something good and sweet and fine but I was so cringing and unworthy I dared not approach too close. I didn’t know it but the old Christians would smile knowing smiles at each other, nod their white haired heads and whisper behind their fingers; “That boy’s under conviction bad” and they'd pray for me.
The preacher preached about Jesus that particular Sunday and I didn’t hear a word he was saying; I was living it and the Roman soldiers were torturing Jesus to death. I saw Him struck with their fists and spit on; they yanked out His beard and called Him filthy names, soldiers always do. He didn’t fight back; He didn’t ever hurt anybody. I hated them for humiliating and hurting Jesus. He was so alone. They laughed coarse laughter and made crude comments while they humiliated and battered Jesus.
They jammed a crown of cruel, razor sharp thorns on His head then they tied Him to a post and whipped Him until His flesh was in shreds and His blood was splattered around Him. I was outraged. Jesus hadn’t done anything but good, He loved, He cared. I watched Jesus carry His cross and saw the rough wood scrape and peel the whip mangled flesh on His shoulders and back. I saw the flies drawn to the blood; they always are; and the ants always scurry to the droplets of crimson bounty.
I was horrified and I didn’t realize a rage was rising in me. I saw them stretch Him in bruised, bloody, whip cut, naked, humiliation upon the cross on the ground. I heard the hammer's thumping, muted ring on the nails and I saw Jesus’ pain twisted face while they spiked His hands and feet to the rough, hard wood. They grunted and strained when they lifted Him up and dropped the cross into its place. When Jesus’ full weight hit the nails I saw His fist beaten, swollen, bloody, discolored face twist in a hideous grimace of shattering agony.
I was on my feet, there in the church, hot tears and sweat were pouring, my hands hurt because my fists were so clenched and I shouted in fury; “I would have taken Him down!” I could almost feel the M-60 machine gun bucking and slashing lethal finality into them. I would have killed them all that mistreated Jesus so, every last one! There was a shocked, dead still silence in the church and I realized what I’d done; I had interrupted the preacher.
I realized later that, in my ignorance, I had completely missed the spiritual purpose and reason for Jesus' treatment. I understand now that was when I fell in love with Jesus but the Vietnam rage was the only way I could express it at that time. I sat in angry, embarrassed, sweating silence until church was finally over; I stomped out of the church house and flung myself into the car; when my family caught up and got in I spun out of the parking lot and roared down the road.
All that afternoon and into the early autumn evening I struggled. Some strange, bitter-sweet sorrow was tearing me apart. I could not be still. I sat in the house, in the yard and down by the creek. I walked the yard, the creek bank and back to the house. I was hurting and angry; sometimes crying, in the house, out of the house, in the yard, out of the yard, pacing, stomping and kicking at grass and twigs; over, and over, and over; on into the twilighting darkness as the storm raged within me.
Then it hit me like a diamond hard, white hot bolt of thunder storm lightening that almost shattered my skull and did blast my heart to bits. I had misunderstood! It wasn’t the Roman soldiers! I was the one! I killed Jesus!
"Oh God, No!" I killed Him with my sins! I did it! I was the lost man! I was the sinner! I deserved to die like He did! It should have been me! But He took it for me! He loved me that much! He did it so I could be saved! I was the sin guilty man; not Him! The Innocent traded His life for the guilty so I might live! The essence of me, my soul, shattered into a million bright pieces of regret, shame and sorrow and I was broken beyond measure.
Somehow I made it to my bedside and sweating, shrinking, shaking, crying, on my knees, I apologized and begged forgiveness for the awful things I had done and I promised I’d do anything if God would just save me. I didn't realize it right then but that was the exact moment I gave God my whole heart. There was a timelessness and that was when I touched the forever of God’s boundless, endless, loving soul. I had never felt so loved in my life. Then He saved me, the sin burden was gone and I was saved, saved, saved; ME! It was Sunday night, September 19, 1976.
The mine superintendent where I worked was a preacher. I got saved on a Sunday night. Nobody knew it but my wife. The next day, Monday afternoon, I went to the underground coal mine where I worked afternoon shift, went into the mine office, a beat up, dirty, smelly, ancient trailer filled with tools, tracked in mine mud, oil and grease stains, equipment parts and supplies, the battered superintendent's desk and a couple of rusty file cabinets.
He was a pastor, I admired him and I couldn't wait to tell him. So, I told him about me getting saved. He stared coldly into my eyes for probably 15 seconds, his expression never changed, then he gruffly said; "Git yer stuff 'n git underground".
Well, so much for a miserable first outing! I got my stuff and headed underground to crawl around (low coal, a 32" thick seam, you have to lay on your side to drink water) and work for at least 8 1/2 hrs. I never told anyone else about me getting saved until I announced it in church the next Sunday and arranged for my baptism the following Sunday.
I didn't admire that pastor very much anymore. Even then I figured a Christian should be happy when he heard someone got saved. It wouldn't hurt anything to show a little Christian love too! All the love in the world locked up in your heart isn't worth a hill of beans in the garden if you don't show it and give it.
I was standing thigh deep in the creek beside the church, just above the old wooden bridge. A preacher was on each side of me, a little behind me, there in the creek and they were holding me by the arms and shoulders. It appeared several people had not come into the church, they knew we dismissed around 1PM, they had gotten there just before church was over and had waited outside in their cars.
My two cousins were among them. Daddy and my Brother had also come to see. I guess they had to see it to believe it. I looked up and down both sides of the creek bank. People were standing there eight or ten feet above me because the creek had cut deep in the millennia it had run its course.
Mom was there and she was crying. Dad watched with burning, fascinated eyes; he was tight faced and he seemed to be straining. My lovely boys were round eyed and still faced as they marveled at the enormity of what was happening to Daddy. My wife's white face seemed pinched with doubt. My only brother, sixteen years younger than me; he knew what a Heller I had been; he had seen me at my worst and his face was a study of shifting emotions.
They had all come to see it; some out of relief, some out of love, some out of disbelief and surely some out of mockery; friends, relatives, shirttail kin, old people who’d watched me grow up, a few curious strangers, a lot of people I simply knew and maybe one or two I'd had problems with in the past. I wondered how so many people had found out about it? The Church was singing “Shall we gather at the River".
I looked on past the crowd to my friends the mountains; bold shouldered points, dark brooding hollows and proud ridges thrusting into the endless blue sky; God was dressing them like royalty in the scarlet and gold of a 'coming early' autumn and they were beautiful. The people were beautiful and the singing was beautiful. I had never seen so much beauty, everything was different.
I was filled with gladness that I had chosen to accept God's salvation. The Preacher's rich baritone voice with its flat voweled mountain talk boomed out; “We baptize this, our Brother, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost! Amen!” and I went under for MY Lord. I came up to shouts of “Amen!” and “Praise the Lord!” and happy laughter, chatter and what seemed like a thousand warm hugs; and me dripping wet too!
I was at peace; finally, finally, finally at peace. And God was in every bit of that; and, you know, He always is. It was Sunday, October 3, 1976.
When I came down from the initial spiritual high of salvation somebody told me there were around two hundred translations of the Bible. Maybe that’s what brought me down; I don’t remember. I do remember the knife like slashing when that knowledge ripped through my soul. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt I was saved but now what? I didn’t trust anybody with the precious and wonderful thing that had happened to me.
It’s a sorry word to use about a man, but I was distraught. I desperately needed a Bible, but which one? "Somehow" for some "unknown reason" I was reading an unrevised King James Bible while I struggled. I passionately prayed over and over for God to show me the way. I don’t remember where I obtained the information but I learned copies of the original scrolls could be obtained for a price. When mine came I was stunned; useless scribbles, there was no chapter and verse, they were written in a foreign language! Duhhh! I was that ignorant.
I learned there were dictionaries that translated those languages letter by letter and word by word. I somehow discovered Greek and Hebrew scholars could be contacted and they would help. They would accommodatingly locate and highlight certain identified scriptures such as John 3:16, Rom. 12:1-3, Gal. 5:17-26, Eph. 2:1-10 and other key scriptures. Many times I wept in vexation because of my ignorance. I prayed and fasted many times while I floundered and struggled with God’s Holy Word.
It took more than two years for me to be convinced the unrevised King James Holy Bible, with all its difficult thee, thou and shalt, it’s strange phrasing; it’s double meaning statements; the negative statements with their hidden positive side; the positive statements with their hidden negative side; Jesus' beautiful puns, metaphors and allegories that seemed endless with their depth of many meanings; the parables, mysteries, prophesy and all the rest of it was the Bible I would hang my forever upon.
I was free, finally free and secure from my doubts and I could try to satisfy my hunger for God’s Word. I didn’t realize God was sending me to school the hard way. I didn’t know His plans for me; I never dreamed He would tell me to make a website and I’m glad I didn’t know because I might have fled screaming back into the darkness from which He had brought me. I didn't know there would be a thing called a personal computer! Typing! A website; what's that? You are kidding?
The burden to create a website started in 2007; that was the year I turned sixty four years old. When those first "thoughts" came to create a website I immediately thought; "Well, this is the devil trying to trick me into making the biggest fool I've ever made of myself." But I didn't dare say it out loud because, just in case it was God, that would have been blasphemy against the Holy Spirit who was communicating God's thoughts to me and no Christian in their right mind wants to do that. Weeks went by and the burden got worse and I knew it was God. I was amazed, burdened and deeply troubled and I started praying about it.
Fool that I am, I started telling God about all my un-qualifications! Of course He knows every atom, molecule and cell of my body and all about my soul too. I suppose I was like an earthworm on the pavement when the hot sun comes out; I felt like I was wiggling for my life in the heat. "Lord, look at me; I'm an old man. I don't know how to really use a computer. I have to look at every letter on the keyboard to make sure I'm hitting the right one. I don't know how to write! I don't have much education, just high school and that was almost fifty years ago."
"I don't know anything about theology. Lord, I'm stupid!" I knew, in the deepest depths of my soul, a time of choice was coming at me like a freight train and I was scared to death, a little rabbit caught, motionless in the headlights of a speeding car. More days went by, the burden kept getting worse and my prayers grew more desperate but somehow a thread of gladness was getting all mixed up with it too.
"Lord, what if I tell somebody the wrong thing? What are You going to do to me if I cause somebody to go to hell? The people I know will laugh at me; they'll laugh me right out of the county!"
More time went by and the burden got even heavier and then He took me to (2Cor. 12:9); "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." God gave me a vision of the back of His right shoulder, His right arm and hand. He reached out and pulled a drawer open and I saw God's hand sort, rattling, through His tool drawer and He pulled out an old wore out tool; the dullest, rustiest, most useless tool in the drawer and held it up to examine it and that tool was me and it broke my heart!
But I understood; even with a useless tool a Master Craftsman can create something beautiful! The fear of people who knew me laughing at me was forgotten; there was only Jesus and He could never be forgotten.
The Master Craftsman held useless me in His hand but with His matchless talent and endless grace He would take care of me and create something beautiful with me. When I reached that point there was no doubt the work was for God and God would always be there to inspire, guide and protect me.
That's how God shows His strength. He picks a person to do a task who has no way or hope of accomplishing that task then He enables that person to do it. ALL THE CREDIT GOES TO GOD because I'm still the same old tool; wore out, rusty, dull and useless.
I held out a few more days but I knew, oh how I knew, I was past disappointing Him to the point of disobedience and I felt my salvation was in the balance. The time of choice was here; obey or disobey. The simple fact is I trust God and I don't trust me. Sure, I had to struggle; there was a price for me to pay.
That's how God tests a Christian's loyalty. It was a strange time because I started work on this website with a mixture of fear, trembling, hope, sadness, relief, excitement and, astonishingly enough, with great joy.
As I worked I have never been so blessed in my life because, as God revealed Himself to me, I was sometimes blessed to speechless, sobbing praise for His goodness, love and mercy.
Sure, there were seemingly endless twelve, fourteen and sixteen hour days, the frenzy of research, frantic typing before I lost what He was telling me; the struggle with my electronic ignorance and waking up in the middle of the night with God's blessing roaring through me while I staggered to the computer to go at it again; but it was all pure joy too because I was serving my eternal Master, the Lord of glory who inhabits forever.
I confided in a couple of my closest, most trusted Christian friends about what was happening to me and they said I needed to write something about the author of this website. Me! That thought felt horribly dirty and somehow rotten like falling on my face in a pile of road-kill carrion! You’ve got to be kidding! I am not the author! I am the pencil. God authors, I write, and only by the inspiration of God through the Holy Spirit were these beautiful, penetrating, scriptural commentaries possible and all credit belongs to God.
I also understand God has only one requirement of qualification; that a Christian love Him with all of his or her heart AND just like you, especially during those times when God is blessing me with His brand of love, I wonder if I even know the meaning of love. But I do love Him with all of the little I am. There is only one requirement of service to Him and that is obedience to His word through the Holy Spirit AND, just like you, I sometimes create problems for myself with that. God has only one requirement of commitment which is that a Christian never stop trying to do his or her best AND, just like you, I sometimes wonder; "Good grief, is that the best I can do"?
With much prayer I finally got this website online in October of 2009. It had taken about two years. I did not put a way for you and me to communicate online through this website. I am tender hearted about Jesus. Bad things said to me about Jesus would hurt my feelings and I might cry. Good things said to me about this website might cause me to become exalted with pride and I surely fear that (Prov. 6:17) because God hates pride and He would hurt my feelings and I would cry; SO: I lose either way.
I may as well tell it all and show you just how stupid and useless I really am. My provider kept this website stored but not available to the public while I built it. It took around two years before I "felt like it was ready". I was excited to finally look at "my" website online. By that time I had learned enough to surf the web and I decided to see if there were other websites about Christianity.
I was profoundly shocked because there are millions of them! I figured nobody would ever find "mine" so I decided to ask questions such as; "Why is the Holy Spirit?" to see if I could find it by accident, I couldn't. My wife tried and she couldn't either. I flew red about it!
"Do you mean to tell me I have spent two years of my life constructing a website that probably nobody will ever look at?" I remembered two sites that had visible counters on them. One had 3 hits in twelve months and the other had 167 hits in the last sixteen months. "I'll just put a counter on the admin side of mine!" But God said a big emphatic "No!" and that scared me. It's always me that's wrong, not God! "What have I done this time?"
But God didn't answer and that terrified me. I started praying harder and it was two or three days before God answered; "If this website helps just one person get to heaven; is it worth two years of the life I have so generously given you?" I realized I had been acting out of pride and it broke my heart when I realized just how stupid, proud, selfish, ignorant, needy of His mercy, dirty, undeserving, useless and unprofitable I really am.
When God finished letting me think about it I felt deeply, deeply, deeply ashamed. When I repented of my sorry, shoddy, sickening sin of attitude God said; "Put your counter on it, I'm going to show you something." I was stunned.
He had just told me to not put a counter on it and I was suspicious; "Lord You know I'm stupid and I don't have much spiritual discernment. I don't want to offend You and please don't count blasphemy against me. But, You wouldn't let the devil in this would You?" "Put your counter on it, I'm going to show you something!" And He did, oh how He did!
At the beginning of October 2013 God told me to take the counter off. I had started paying too much attention to the counter, I'd look at it first thing even when my heart was burning up with His inspiration to write. I was getting stupid, stupid proud again! Pride is horrible because it sneaks right up on a person. My worst enemy is the feller I see in the mirror when I shave.
I started praying; "Lord please forgive me of my horrible pride. I'm sorry. Oh Lord God, beautiful God of glory You know I give You credit for everything on this website and You know I tell people You are the Author and I'm just the pencil. I couldn't even find Your website by accident and I always tell people that You lead people to find it and I glorify Your name because of it. Would it be alright if I write down the totals so I can tell people You really showed me something." God said it was alright but the counter had to go. I told my provider to remove it and he did.
I didn't know computers "recognize each other" by a numerical, binary code. When a person hits on this website his computer is never counted again regardless of how many times that viewer comes back to this website. The counter lists three things:
#1) is the total number of hits,
#2) if a person stays on each segment of each commentary for a predetermined time the counter counts that as a read. Once a person has "read" each segment of each commentary the counter removes a number from the number of hits list and lists it as having read the whole website AND:
#3) if a person encrypts a part of or the whole website and sends it to an individual in a country where Jesus and the Church are forbidden that gets counted separately. Example: you do international business with someone in Saudi Arabia, you become friendly over the internet and they ask you if you know anything about Christianity.
You tell them when their manifest arrives in thirty days they are to type in such and such code. You encrypt it and send, they type in the code, the encrypted message changes to a discernible language and they have the information from this website. Anybody who participates in this encrypted transfer of data cannot be traced through this website.
SO: As of October 7, 2013, a bit less than four years:
#1) The counter was moving too fast to arrive at a total because the hits were coming from 101 countries and they had to be added together to get a total so it wasn't worth trying.
#2) There were 116,015 visitors from those 101 countries who had "read" the whole website.
#3) There were 556 encrypted messages (emails) containing information from this website to countries where Christianity and Jesus are forbidden. God really showed me something! Thank You great and beautiful God of glory for leading so many people to this, Your website.
I am filled with astonishment and profound gratitude to God for His revealing power that guided so many people to this website. AND: You folks, you brave and wonderful ones, you persecuted ones, you, from those awful countries where Jesus and Christianity are forbidden, please understand that those of us you do not know are praying for you and please remember that (Matt. 18:10) your "special" angel does always behold God's face. You are not alone. (Psa. 110:3 & 149:4) You, the beauties of the Lord, shall rejoice with great wonder and joy when (Psa. 45:15 & 126:6) your time of rejoicing shall come.
And I personally thank you folks who found an encrypted way to send this forbidden information about Jesus and the salvation God offers to those wonderfully hungry for God's word people. I am sure God will bless you for your special efforts.
Through the years of my life as God's useless, nuisance of a servant God has permitted me the joy of seeing my hard case Dad saved and baptized when he was in his seventies. It was a wonder to see that hard, brittle shell of confidence in self, defiance, stubbornness and rebellion disappear to be replaced with gratitude, humility and kindness. Dad said to me with great humility through his tears; "Son, if I'da knowed it was a gonna feel like this, I'da done it a long time ago." and when he was in his early eighties Daddy took off with Jesus.
My precious boys are saved and the oldest went on to live, forever nineteen, with Jesus. My baby sister and Granny are with Jesus; as are Papaw and Martha my step-grandmother, and Grandpaw and Mollie my other step-grandmother. Mom is almost ninety and waiting her turn; as are I and my lovely wife.
Yes, I have failed God many times. I have sinned. I have become well acquainted with frustrated and lonely. Stupidity seems enamored with me and ignorance is my companion. But God has never let me down. Many times I would have cheerfully wrung my own stubborn neck or cut off my unruly tongue but God was always compassionate, kindly affectioned, forgiving and infinitely gracious with me.
When I was broken with unutterable sorrow God gently put me back together again. When I was sore wounded and defeated in my struggle God rescued me and tenderly gave me a drink from His own cup of blessing. When I crashed and burned in the frustration and shame of failure God picked me up at exactly the right time and raised my feeble hands in victory.
When I flew too high on the wings of pride God always brought me down and most of the time it was not a gentle landing. When I despised hateful, hot-tempered me God loved me. When I detested mean, sinful me God was always patient with me. Many times God has chastised and corrected useless me. That’s the way God is because God is love.
He is always there, nurturing me, burdening me, correcting me, gently revealing Himself to me and I love Him with all my heart. God gives me His inspiration and anointing to write. Please understand; it is all about God; that’s why I am only the pencil and not the Author and it would be prideful for me to put my name on this writing.