Last week, one of the most dreaded events in life happened to me. No, no one died, the car did not blow up, and hackers did not infiltrate my database. No, one of the scariest happenings for almost all people on the planet happened to me. Jehovahís Witness visited me.
What made it worse is the fact that they woke me up. I work nights, and I am not happy when I am awakened in the late morning hours. It is an unenviable task that my wife takes great care to do correctly. But there they stood, all dressed up and smiling. They looked at me, from what I could tell, with a look of great innocence and expectation.
Boy, were they in for a shock. The same sect visited me about five years ago. I think they woke me up then, too. I was not courteous. I was short, ill tempered, and basically very rude. I thought about it after I came to my senses, and determined that I had done a great disservice to those two. It started me on a quest of sorts. I knew my faith fairly well. Could I defend it? Could I defend it against those that believed differently?
I got to work in my usual fashion. I saw this as a military exercise, and it should be planned as such. I began by gathering information on the opposite side. (Be careful not to call them the ďenemy.Ē They are not. Their doctrine is.) I wanted to know what they knew and believed. I got as deep as I could. I even talked to a couple that I used to work with. It was quite the interesting debate, especially when the gentleman of the Assembly of God got into the mix.
One religion led me to another. Then that one would lead me to another. I passed through the Jehovahís Witness and went on to Mormonism, then to Buddha, over to Islam, witchcraft, and ended up around Catholicism. I learned a couple of things real quick. The first is that the doctrines are so vast that knowing them all is a task even for the ones that believe in it. Some of that stuff goes on for volumes, but it all circles around and confuses the point. One point backtracks another till no point has been made.
The one point that is made is my second contention. Every last one of these sects demands a work sacrifice from you for your salvation. The burden of your eternity is on your shoulders. Howís that for heavy? If you want to go to Heaven, a perfect Earth, the happy hunting grounds or whatever, then you have to be worthy in the Creatorís eyes to be accepted into the pearly gates.
Notice that I did not say Christianity. Thereís a reason for that. A look into the Christian Faith (not religion) details the fact that the sin debt that is put onto all mankind is a burden that cannot be paid by imperfect blood. By ourselves, we will never be good enough to enter into the presence of God. Did you catch that? In no way, shape or form will we ever be able to work off the price of admission to Heaven. It ainít gonna happen.
Then how do Christians see themselves as going to Heaven? A gift. Yes, I said a gift. A perfect gift from God Himself. God sent us the perfect Lamb to pay the debt of sin for us. Itís just that easy. When we accept Christ as our savior, God no longer sees the sinful man, but the perfected Christ that covers us. Jesus Christ is the perfect Lamb of God, and He lived, was crucified, died, was buried, and resurrected for us. He conquered Death and gave us all the opportunity to go to Heaven and live eternally with Him.
How then is it possible that every other religion demands that you work for your salvation? I think it boils down to the oldest trick in the book. Pride. Pride cometh before the fall, and itís a long way down to the bottomless pit. Pride tells us that we are good enough if we straighten up our act. Pride tells us that we deserve heaven if we are willing to work for it. Pride keeps us from believing that we are who we really are; sinful creatures that are helpless against the enemy of sin and the devil.
Pride is the oldest sin in the book. It was Satanís pride that got him cast from the walls of Heaven. It was pride that got Adam and Eve thrown out of the Garden. Pride has not failed the devil in 10,000 years, and he is not about to stop using it now. His greatest weapon is to convince you that you donít need a savior. You have all the power that you need in you. You are man. Youíre kind walked on the moon. Surely you will walk the streets of gold.
I understand pride better than most. I was a proud man at one time. I take that back; I was arrogant, and I admitted it. I was one of the best athletes my high school had ever seen. I wasnít smart; I was intelligent. I rarely studied and graduated with a 3.85 GPA. Whatever I did turned to silver (I donít like gold). I survived car wrecks with barely a scratch. I could work for hours on end and never need a break. Sleep was not a necessity. I read constantly. I had it all.
July 21st , 1997, was my first warning. I was at work and started to feel a twinge in my back. I ignored it. Two hours later, it got worse. I ignored it. Two hours later, I couldnít straighten up, and I couldnít ignore it. I spent the next three weeks in rehab trying to walk upright. I started to feel better, and my pride started to come back.
August 21st , 1997, was my second warning. I was driving along with my wife and daughter on a road I knew well. I approached an intersection as I always did, giving a glance to each side and rolling through. I couldnít see to the right because of the tall grass. I never saw him coming.
An í89 Cadillac Seville ran the stop sign at about 60 miles per hour. I never even hit the brake. I hit him square between the two driverís doors and started to spin. Itís hard to control a car with an airbag in your face. I stopped when I hit the power pole in the ditch. I got out of the car and ran to the other side to check on my family. My daughter was nine months old and covered in glass, but she didnít have a scratch on her. My wife had a torn ligament in her ankle and some bruises, but that was it. I felt my back flare up, and knew I was in trouble. I was stiff, but I walked out of the hospital to many peopleís surprise. After about three weeks, I started to heal again. So did my pride. I was starting to feel like the builders of the Titanic, and we all know how that story ended.
September 21st, 1997, was my final warning. I had driven all night and decided to get some sleep at a hotel twenty-five miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee. I got up early the next morning and started to head back to Florida. My wife had just settled down into her sleeping position in the passenger seat. I was starting to get through Knoxville when I noticed a car doing a lot of swerving and going really fast coming up behind me. I was in the middle lane, and moved over and started to figure out how I was going to miss this drunk.
He got in front of me and was a lane to my left. He had settled down and I figured on slowing down to give my self some reaction time. Too late. He made a hard right turn and gave about thirty feet to do something. I did. I hit him. Right between the passenger side doors. I was able to control the spin this time. Air bag never went off. I kept the slide at 180 degrees and slammed into a rail. The car stopped and so did my memory for about ten seconds.
I felt a great pain in my back and in my side and in my head. I looked over and didnít remember opening the window. Turns out thatís why my head hurt. I leaned forward to unbuckle my seat belt and found that my left arm wouldnít move. It hurt real bad, and so did my ribs. I reached up and felt this huge knot between my shoulder and neck. I guessed it was a bone and it was broken.
By the time they got the x-rays back, I had broken my collarbone, cracked three ribs and had a slight concussion. I was 700 miles from home, and I had no car. I had twenty dollars on me and a gas card. I was stuck. I had always been able to figure my way out of any situation. For the first time in my life, I had no answers. I was in way over my head, and I had to get my wife home and me somehow. If I had to, I could have driven, but it would not have been fun.
I ended up having to call my mother. Nothing stings the pride like that. She was great. She arranged for a hotel for the night and a plane ride home. She even picked me up at the airport with my mother-in-law. I donít recommend flying with a broken bone, but it got us home.
My pride was shattered. I had nothing left. I couldnít hold my daughter, even with my good arm. I wouldnít drive anymore. I wouldnít even leave the house on the 21st of any month. My mind betrayed me. I started having nightmares so graphic that my wife refused to even listen to them. I finally went to a shrink, but that lasted two sessions.
I am back to being me again, sort of. Iím no longer the man I was, and maybe thatís a good thing. I was a real mess before God put me back together. I wish I had listened to the first two warnings. Maybe then I wouldnít identify with Paul and the thorn in the flesh thing so much.
The two guys at my door that morning? They got more than what they bargained for. I was prepared for battle, and they were not going to get away without hearing the truth. We went at it for about thirty minutes. They asked me to come to their temple. I asked them to come to my church. They left having had all they wanted to hear. I was sorry to see them go. Iím not sure if what I said did any good, but they now know the truth. What they do with it is up to them.
Mark A. Bradley
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