Testimony of Bruce A Barker Jr.
15 May 2005
I am 40-plus years old and until February of 1996 I was a hell-bound sinner. I am still a sinner, just not hell-bound any longer. This is what happened to me.
My life had been one without God. I neither believed nor disbelieved, I just didn't care, I didn't think it mattered. I was wrong. I married my wife, Denyse in the summer of 1983. In the early years of our marriage everything seemed great. We were very much in love, and happy. Eventually, however, things started to spiral downward. Denyse would battle depression, and I would frequently be angry. We would start arguments with one another. She was thinking of divorce. I was in denial, thinking this is it, this is life, it's not too bad. We still would have moments of happiness, occasionally. We would at least pretend to be happy in front of others. It isn't that bad; I told myself, and managed to keep the truth sugar coated or very well hidden from myself. This continued.
One night in February 1996 as I was talking with my folks long-distance on the phone someone knocked on our door. After the phone call Denyse told me some people from Abilene Baptist Church had come by, wanting to meet us and talk with us. She invited them back and an appointment was made. They kept the appointment.
When they returned we invited them in and they told us of Jesus, that we are all sinners, that the price of our sins is death, that Jesus died for our sins, and only by asking Him to forgive us, thanking Him for dying for us, believing in our heart that He was raised from the dead, asking Him to be our Lord and Savior can we know that we'll go to heaven when we die. We did not do these things that night. We were not saved that night. Abilene Baptist Church did not give up on us that night either. They invited us to church that Sunday, and a youth activity the following Friday night. The kids wanted to go to the youth activity, these seemed like nice people, we had no plans, and as I thought then there are much worse ways to spend an evening, worse things we could be doing.
We decided to attend Abilene Baptist Church's Sunday morning service. That first morning we didn't even have a bible. Mrs. Peg gave me hers to use. That simple act of love and kindness hit me hard. At the end of the service an invitation to come to the alter and find the Lord was given. We were asked that if we didn't know Jesus, didn't know if we would go to heaven if we died that evening, to come to the alter and get it right with God. My heart pounded. I was extremely uncomfortable with this. These people are nuts I thought. I didn't go to the altar. I decided at this point that church was a good, wholesome activity, an inexpensive family activity. I am not proud of this. We also attended the Wednesday evening prayer service. Again an invitation to come to the altar was made. Again my heart pounded. I hated the feelings I was experiencing. I didn't go to the altar that night either.
That Friday night we met inside the church before the youth and family activity. Some singing and praying for the evening's activity then took place. Again an altar call was made and this time we walked the aisle. By now I was beginning to feel that I either had to go to the altar and get things right with God, or bolt for the door and never come back. I went first to the altar and didn't know until later that Denyse followed. Pastor John was the man that actually prayed with me for salvation, and helped me confess my sins, but it was the entire church that led me to Jesus, by their actions, the way they lived and treated one another and us. They were so full of love. I wanted what they had. Denyse was led to the Lord, and the following Sunday morning our children came forward and also were led to Jesus.
At this point in my life God started taking over. We were hungry for his word, we started attending all the services the church held. I read Genesis, part of Exodus, and Matthew in no time. We bought two bibles and my mother sent two more. I earlier had said I would not pray aloud in public, during a church service, or with the men during Wednesday night's prayer service. I was afraid I would make a fool out of myself. I didn't know how to pray. I was wrong. God wanted me to pray, it was and is His will. I prayed with the men, and later prayed before the church for the offering or closing. The Lord helped me do this. The church has had lessons on prayer, and how Jesus prayed to the Father. The Holy Spirit also helps me to pray. Sometimes, if I can get enough of me, Bruce, to close down, and just open my heart the words come on their own. Hearing the words echo in my ear, and knowing that the Holy Spirit is helping me express my prayer still amazes and delights me.
In this same short period of time, after being saved, I told my wife that the visitation program of the church was great. Great for someone else to do, but not for me. I was never going to do it, so I said. I was afraid to go out talking to people about Jesus. Again, my will mattered little, but God's will was done. I was invited by Brother Joel to go visiting with him, and I did. It's hard sometimes, but not as hard as I thought it would be. We do not go alone, the Lord goes with us if we will only let Him. The Lord has blessed me by using me to lead other people to Him. A small boy during our vacation bible school, and a young couple while Brother Joel and I where out visiting one evening, and others.
Also during this time Brother Steven invited Denyse and I to join him and his wife Lindsey for a weekly bible study. We accepted. It was hard at first, there was and still is a lot of sin in my life and in my home. I felt unworthy of being too close to these people sometimes. I didn't fully grasp that it's not them I need to fear, because we are all sinners, but the Lord and His will and desires for me that matter. The Lord used these people and this church to show me these things with the preaching of His word at services, during the Sunday school time, during our weekly bible study, and by motivating me to learn from His word on my own at home.
Since then I've been made aware that before this church knew me, they prayed for a family from Shady Brook Circle to join them. I lived on Shady Brook Circle. After meeting me and my family they prayed we would be saved. We were saved. Brother Steven prayed for a family he could bible study with and help train up. We became that family. Brother Joel prayed for someone new to join the church and go win souls to the Lord with him. I am that someone. Before they knew me and my family they prayed for us, and God answered. They never gave up on us. I can not thank the Lord, or His people of Abilene Baptist Church enough for what they have done. Jesus died for my sins. My sins were condemning me to hell. God raised Jesus from the dead, and when I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, I also was given the promise of eternal life in heaven with Him when I leave this world.
The Lord has blessed me in many ways since He saved me, both directly, and through the members of His church. There is not a single member that has not been a blessing to me and my family. I've been lent books, tapes, taken fishing, taught to pray, given study cards with memory verses on them to keep and use at work, given responsibility in the church, allowed to do the church printing. I consider it both a privilege and a blessing to be entrusted to help maintain the Lord's house, and to help win people to Him.
I look back to February 1996 and marvel at the change, and thank the Lord for it. No, things are not always perfect today, but the deep despair is gone. Constant fighting and despising one another is a thing of the past. We no longer pretend to be happy, we are happy. We find things in God's word and share them with each other with love and excitement. We didn't do that very much before. Talking about things of the world just wasn't very interesting, so we didn't talk much at all most of the time. My wife and children are a blessing.
We now have meaningful lives, the promise of eternal life with Jesus in heaven, and a life full of love and joy here in this time on this earth. Before we had very little to nothing. Little hope, nothing much to look forward to, dreading another day fearing it would be like the last one. We were lost. It's so much different now, so much better. Denyse and I have a love for each other that we didn't before. We help each other. We talk to each other. We have a Lord that loves us, a church family that loves us, we look forward to being with them, both on this earth and in heaven, being together. We desire, hope and pray that more will become believers and know the love of the Lord, have His gift of eternal life with Him in heaven, and allow themselves to be blessed by Him.