Tuesday 27 December 2016

45 Years on this side of the Cross - David Heisler's testimony

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On December 16, 1971 Jesus put His arms around me. He saved my life and gave me Life. Here is my Testimony:
I’m a Jewish guy, born in New York City and raised in Connecticut. Jews, if they believe in a Messiah [Christ] at all, will generally say that he has not arrived. Most won’t talk about “Messiah”. There is some notion, in the Old Testament, that when the Messiah arrives there will be “peace on Earth” and since there is not peace now, then, ipso facto, there is no Messiah, yet.
In Jewish tradition there are different beliefs as to exactly who or what the Messiah is. There is certainly no consensus that He is the Son of God. As a kid I did go to synagogue (Jewish church) to some extent, but I never did my bar mitzvah at age 13 as some of my friends and most of my cousins. I did not take the study of Hebrew seriously so my family decided not to spend the money on the bar mitzvah. Bar Mitzvahs can be very expensive.
Nonetheless, I always believed in God. To me it was fighting words if someone said that God did not exist. I never thought that life or anything for that matter could exist without God. Nothing made sense if there was no God. I remember lying in my bed at night, looking up at the ceiling and thinking, “I know You’re out there, somewhere, but I don’t know You.” I was speaking to and about God. I believed in Him, but didn’t know Him. Believe me, there is a difference between acknowledging existence and knowing.

In 1971 I enrolled at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas – it’s a long story how a Jewish kid from New York and Connecticut got to TCU – a story for another time. But, hint, hint, it had something to do with the Dallas Cowboys. It seemed as soon as I arrived on campus I immediately started meeting people who wanted to talk to me about Jesus. This all was shocking. I was a Jewish kid that grew up in a largely Italian-Catholic, African-American neighborhood. Back home no one tried to “convert” me. No one asked me if I was “saved”.
All the Jesus talk in Fort Worth was a different language to me. And, I never really considered “eternal” questions before. And, yes, I did hear a bit of “fire and brimstone”, but that neither persuaded me or truly concerned me. I never, and don’t now, consider God to be concerned with correct theology, only a correct heart. But, for the first time in my life I was confronted with the Jesus people. Previously I was convinced that Jesus was not the promised Messiah. But my new Texas friends said, to the contrary, that he was the Messiah. Now, not all these conversations were the afore-mentioned “fire and brimstone”, and at first this talk seemed amusing, but later disturbing and I eventually tried unsuccessfully to avoid it. But, I did not stop thinking, as the foundations of everything I knew and believed and thought about God were being shaken to the core. I guess He was up to something.

I can’t really picture Who God Is. But Jesus says, “… Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” [John 14.9] So, I’m thinking, Who is this Person Who so arranges my life that I get to Fort Worth, Texas at the precise moment in history? How can He take a personal interest in me and everyone? My human mind cannot really fathom or understand such a Person. But I can see Jesus, the Person as myself, yet the Creator and King, Who defines Himself as Love, “God is love” [1John 4.8], and knows exactly how many hairs are on my head. “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” [Luke 21.18] He knows everything about all the billions of us and is active in every life.
Over the course of my first semester in college I got mononucleosis and stayed in the TCU infirmary for two weeks. I met the head nurse Helen Williamson and I had previously met one of her four sons, Nathan, as he was also a freshman at TCU.
College life was not as I had hoped. My football career was in shambles with a torn up right knee needing surgery. I missed home and family. I felt very alone at times. The Jesus people were getting to me. I wanted to go home. So I decided that at the end of the semester I would go back to Stamford, Connecticut and enroll in a local college.

So I decided to go home and my last day in Fort Worth was December 16, 1971. There is nothing random in the universe as the Designer Himself tells His-story as He sees fit. Yet, I can’t recall why, but for some reason, on that day, I wandered into the TCU Health Center. The head nurse, Helen Williamson spotted me immediately and asked me into her office. We sat and she asked me point blank, “are you happy David?” I said “no”. She said “you need Jesus”. I said, “no I don’t.” She said, “why don’t you come over my house for dinner tonight and meet my family”. I said, “If you make brownies you got a deal.” She said “yes” and I accepted the invitation to dinner.
I don’t recall for certain anything other than the brownies, but I think I ate fried chicken. A surprise guest showed up after dinner, Rocky Freeman, a Jewish evangelist. Rocky and I talked and mostly argued for about two hours about God, Judaism, salvation and mostly his opinion that I needed Jesus. I was not convinced by the time dinner was over. However, over the course of my conversation with Rocky I happened to get a glimpse of the Williamson boys who were trying to listen in to our conversation. Three of the four boys still lived at home: Nate, Rod and Clay. When I saw them they giggled and were quite playful with each other. That scene, which I will never forget, was what convinced me that there was something different about this family and that there was something, or really, Someone, behind all this Jesus talk I had heard for months.

So, all these months of listening to the spoken word regarding Jesus and the often repeated claim of my need for salvation was important but not what eventually convinced me. By December 16, 1971 I knew all the words and scriptures. But none of that clinched the deal. I had to see Him. I had to see Him in action and I did. I saw Him in the faces of Nate, Rod and Clay Williamson. I saw the living word. That night I saw the most loving and caring family I have ever seen – Helen, her husband, Charles, and Nate, Rod and Clay. Now, don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a family that loved each other also, but there was something different in the quality of love expressed in Williamson family.
At the conclusion of the evening I thanked Helen for dinner and then Nate gave me a ride back to my dorm room. Later Nate told me that he tried his best to say whatever he could to polish off the night’s discussion. I didn’t hear a word. I just thought and thought about how someone or something had made this family so warm and loving toward each other.
I knew when I got in my room that I would do something. What? I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough and ran into my dorm room and right to the small mirror above the sink.

The ride back to Tom Brown Dormitory at TCU was surreal. I didn’t and really couldn’t hear one word Nate said. Jesus has been called the “Hound of Heaven” and I know why. If He’s after you, He’ll get you, eventually. I think of so many people who spoke a word of faith to me along the way. They couldn’t close the deal. Did they feel frustrated or, perhaps, a failure? I don’t know. But the lesson on that is clear. Just speak a word of faith regardless. Encourage people. You may never see the “moment of faith”. The Williamson family didn’t know for many months what happened to me next.
I got out of the car. I don’t know if I said anything to Nate. I ran into my dorm room. My roommate was gone. I walked to the sink. I looked into the mirror and said, “Jesus Christ, if you’re the Son of God, I give you the opportunity to prove it to me right now.”
Well, He had been hounding me for some time. He was right there. Jesus was standing behind me and He put His arms around me. I did not see Him. But He was there and the experience was real. At age 18 He seemed to be a mature, older man at age 33. Now, He seems to be a young man. Regardless, that was the most real moment of my life. My eyes swell with tears every time I think about it. I have not doubted since then. That was December 16, 1971. From that moment forward I have known Him in a personal way - Jesus embraced me and came into my heart.

So, what exactly did happen on that night, December 16, 1971? It was my moment of faith. As I said He is the Hound of Heaven. He is after, really, everyone, no doubt. In Revelation He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” [Rev. 3.20] There are many ways to describe how He approaches each and every one. But He does. He can be subtle. Or He can pound on the door. But the situation always requires us to do something - an act of faith. The words that I used, “Jesus Christ, if You are the Son of God, I give You the opportunity to prove it to me right now”, was my personal act of faith. I really have no idea where those words came from. Maybe He gave them to me, but I had to voice them. I had to take action. And I did and He did.
Once I opened my heart, He provided the proof of His existence. That’s the key. You must open your heart, even a just crack. The assurance will come. For me, it was immediate. For others it may take time. Probably, no two experiences are alike. I have had any number of people say to me that they “tried” exactly what I did, saying what I said, and it “didn’t work”. I’m not shocked by that. My experience is mine and yours is yours. But He is the same and when the door of your heart is open, He will come in. And, either at that moment, or another moment that He chooses, you will know Him.
So where do I go from there? It’s been a long time, 45 years. Well, I’m not writing an autobiography. But I have a few more thoughts, so there will be a Part VIII.

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