2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Where it started.
My new life story began sometime late May 1974. I had met a girl at a high school street dance in Sterling, Illinois in 1973 and she moved to Blytheville, Arkansas. So I decided to follow her. As is the case in many young infatuations, it did not work out between us. Unfortunately, since I didn't have a very good job and didn't know anyone here to help me, I ended up sleeping in my car.
I had been born and raised as a Roman Catholic, attending church and school at St Mary’s Catholic Church and school in Sterling. In 1973, I graduated from Newman Central Catholic High School there in Sterling. That year, at the age of 18, I felt like I didn't need church anymore; so I quit. So, while my experience with Christianity was at a standstill, God was about to use a new job I found here in Blytheville to change my life. A man that I had been working with, a God-changed alcoholic, kept inviting me to his church, the First United Pentecostal Church. One night, I finally decided to attend with him.
My first Apostolic experience
What a shock it was to me when I got to his church as the church services were definitely different than the Catholic services I was used to. At this church they praised the Lord vocally, clapped their hands, and sang the songs with all their heart as if, well, as if Jesus really meant something to them. Come to find out He really did. Needless to say this was pretty unsettling to me since church for me was far more quiet that what I was experiencing at this church; but I felt something there that I had never felt in church before. Later, I learned that what I felt was the Spirit of God. I never knew you could feel the presence of God so strong. They invited me to the altar to pray at the end of the church service, and even though I was not used to this type of church service, I went forward to pray. When I got to the altar, the pastor asked me if I wanted to pray with them and I told them that I did not know how to pray. All my life I just repeated memorized prayers which weren't heartfelt like what the people in this church were doing. The pastor then explained to me that praying is simply telling the Lord what I felt on my heart. That night, I asked the Lord to forgive me of my sins and I still remember to this day the load that was lifted off of me that very first prayer.
A first-century baptism
Despite the shoulder length hair, the cigarettes in my pocket, and the very obvious odor of not having taken a bath in a few days, the church showed they really cared for me. They looked past what they saw on the outside and saw a heart that so desperately needed God. But they didn't stop at just caring for me in a physical sense. They knew I needed something deeper. They explained to me that I needed to be baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. This was just following what Peter said on the day of Pentecost, the very first day of the church. Until this point in my life, I had only been baptized as a baby 18 years earlier by sprinkling. I was not baptized by immersion (fully under the water) as the Bible records it to be done. They also showed me something else that surprised me about baptism. In the Bible, the only method the Bible records is water baptism in the name of Jesus and not in the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost as most churches teach today. I definitely did not understand all of this at this time as I honestly had no idea what the Bible taught. I grew up not reading the Bible because my parents were not taught to read the Bible either. But something happened to me at that altar that changed my life. So I heeded to God's call and was baptized by immersion having the name of Jesus called over me.
The greatest experience known to man
They also explained to me how I could receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost just like the people did on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. They said that it was a promise to all believers as recorded in Acts 2:39. One Sunday evening, in May 1974, I did receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was just like they did the very first day of the church, with the evidence of speaking in tongues. I was laughing and joyously crying all at the same time. I could hardly believe God really loved someone like me so much that He allowed me to have the very same experience the apostles and Mary the mother of Jesus had. God gave me this experience even though I had no idea what was in the Bible. But I knew I had to try to understand this experience. The people of this incredible church started teaching me a home bible study where they showed me what the Bible taught.
Since that very first year, I have done the very same thing that they did for me by continuing to teach home bible studies. I have continued to verify that what I received that day was truly what the Bible does say. Even today I am in awe that, not only do I understand the Bible, but I can teach it to others. I knew absolutely nothing about the Bible before I received His Spirit in my life. In my Bible studies I teach that there are so many more things that God is trying to reveal to us and these things are not taught in most churches. Acts 17:11 speaks of a people “more noble” because they 1) received the word of God with an open mind and, 2) just as importantly, they searched the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so. 2 Timothy 2:15 says to study (the scriptures) so you can "rightly divide the word of truth (God’s word, the Bible)." I like to emphasize to folks that what I still teach today is the apostles' doctrine (Ephesians 2:20) which was first taught at Pentecost: water baptism only in the name of Jesus like on the first day of the church and receiving the power (Acts 1:8) and promise (Acts 2:39) of the Holy Ghost.
Your call to action
Dear reader, it is your duty to study the scriptures below to see if your experiences and beliefs line up with the word of God. It will be the word of God (The Bible) that we will be judged by at the judgment day. (See John 12:48 and Rev. 20:22.)
Water Baptism in Jesus' name:
Compare Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47. Look up also Acts 2:38, 8:16, 19:5, 22:16, Romans 6:3, 1 Corinthians 1:13-15, Galatians 3:27. Both are in red because they are spoken by Jesus. Most churches use the Father, Son, Holy Ghost baptism. Interestingly though, the only place that it is found in the entire Bible is Matt. 28:19. This doctrine is built on only one scripture and if you study the above scriptures, the apostles only baptized using the name of Jesus. In fact, they actually did everything “in His name”. (Reference Mark 16:17- 18, John 14:14, Acts 3:6 and 16, 4:7 and 10-12, 10:43, Colossians 3:17, Phillipians 2:9-10 and James 5:14.)
The Holy Ghost with speaking in tongues
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his disciples that they will receive power “after” the Holy Ghost comes upon them. It was fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4, and they knew it by the evidence of speaking in tongues much to the utter amazement of those that gathered to see what was going on. Acts 2:17 says He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and Acts 2:38 says if you will repent of your sins, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:39 says it is a promise to as many as the Lord will call; and that includes you, dear reader.
Some churches today say this promise is not for our day, but I have literally seen thousands receive this experience since I first received it. These churches also teach that it is not essential to have this experience. But, logically, why would anyone say they love God with all their heart and not want everything they can have from Him? Especially since God promised it to you!
Other scriptures: Isaiah 28:11-12, Joel 2:28-29, Matt. 3:11, Mark 16:17, Luke 24:49, John 7:38-39, Acts 1:5, 8, 2:1-17, 2:38, 8:14-17, 10:44-46, 19:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, all of 1 Corinthians chapter 14, James 3:2-8.
Our God is also interested in your physical well being. James 5:11-15. We pray and believe God for the healing, no matter what the sickness, even cancer.
Many may say you need to change your life before God will accept you. But Jesus really loves you just as you are and He died for you. If He did it for a long haired, lost hippie living in a car like me, then He can surely do the same for you. With His Spirit in your life you will be able to overcome the sins and problems that you face everyday. It all starts with Jesus. I have seen murderers, drug addicts, alcoholics, and homosexuals all changed because of Jesus. With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, and 10:27, Luke 18:27) But notice it says “with God.” You and God together can do so much. After you receive His Spirit, there is “power” to break the bondage of sin in your life and it will give you a “new life story” just like mine.
My life is so different now. Whereas I came to God a smoking, drinking, cussing, and partying hippie living in my car, I now have a wonderful Savior, a God-serving wife, and three children that love God as well. And, in these days, you know what a miracle it is for young people to be passionate about God. To this day, I still teach home bible studies and adult Sunday school classes. I'm also the owner of O’Neil Church Furnishing.
Eternity is forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Did I put enough evers in there? Because there are going to be a lot of them in eternity. You only have one life to live and you have no idea when it will end. Compared to eternity, the Bible says your life is as a vapor of smoke (James 4:14). Do not waste another day. Commit your life to Him. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins right now and He will lead and guide you into all truth (John 16:13).
Visit the Contact Me link and write me if my story has been a blessing to you, or if you need more information on these studies. Let me know if you need help in finding a church in your area. Thank you for reading and be sure and let others read “My New Life Story”.