Saturday, February 22, 2014

Aunt Norma's Letter

I read the entire New Testament for the first time when I was ten years old. I started preaching when I was 14, speaking to youth groups at first, and in my local Church. Also being a singer and a musician, I put together a trio with a couple of my friends, and as soon as I got my driver's license, the three of us went out several times each month to preach and sing in Churches around Texas and Louisiana. When I turned 16, I applied for and received my first Ministerial License, and at 18, I enrolled in an Assemblies of God Bible College in Missouri, and lived in one of the college dorms.

In January of 1970, while a student living in one of the Bible college dorms, I received a letter one day during mail call. It was from my Aunt Norma back home. She was my Father's sister. While I was growing up, she had been the organist in the Assembly of God Church where I attended, and she was the one who taught me how to play the piano and organ.

But when I was eight years old, and she was 19, she left the Church and started attending the United Pentecostal Church in Port Arthur, Texas. Her pastor was Rev. J.T. Pugh. She was baptized in Jesus' name, and had become the organist in that Church.

I will never forget that hand-written letter. I stood in the hallway on the fourth floor of Welch Hall as I opened the letter. There were several other young preacher-students standing in the hall too, opening their own mail.

It was a normal "How are you doing? Hope you are well..." kind of letter. But it was the last line of the letter that stunned me. She said, "Kenneth, I'm praying for you, because if you don't get baptized in Jesus' name, you're going to Hell. Love, Aunt Norma."

I was shocked. I laughed out loud. I said to all the preacher boys around me, "Hey! Look at this! You want to know what those Jesus' name people believe? My aunt just told me that if I don't get baptized in Jesus' name, I'm going to Hell!!"

I passed the letter around and they all looked at it and laughed and made fun of it.

I didn't hold it against my aunt, because I knew that she was a fine Christian. I just figured that's what she believed.

Over time, that letter disappeared, but I never forgot that last line. "If you don't get baptized in Jesus' name, you're going to Hell."

I didn't believe her, but I couldn't forget what she said.

Years went by. My entire life was about ministry. I preached and sang and traveled for several years with my wife, Dixie. We joined the Pastoral staff in a large Assemblies of God Church, and later moved to another city and started a new Church.

While I was Pastoring that new congregation of about 100 members, someone gave me a cassette tape of a preacher named Marvin Hicks, from Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a recording of a debate he participated in against a Church of Christ preacher. The subject was "Jesus' name Baptism."

At that time, a young preacher was staying in the parsonage with us, while conducting nightly services in our local Church. After service one night, he and I sat up late listening to Marvin Hicks explain the Biblical doctrine of Jesus' name baptism.

After we listened, he and I got our Bibles down, and had our own discussion on the matter. At 2:00 AM, he and I both decided that Jesus' name baptism was legitimate, and we both decided that we wanted to be baptized in Jesus' name. So, in the middle of the night, he and I went to the Church and baptized each other in Jesus' name.

That was in 1976. But I did not understand the urgency of it. I did not preach it or discuss it publicly. I didn't even baptize my wife in Jesus' name.

Not long after that, someone introduced me to the new Charismatic Movement. It's a long story that I won't get into here. It's in my book, LONG WINDING ROAD, if you're interested.

But several more years went by. The Charismatic Movement was very impressive to me at first, but it didn't take long before I decided that it was simply too ecumenical and heretical. I saw so many things going on that I knew beyond all question were unscriptural and not of God.  False teachings. false practices and phony lifestyles were everywhere. After a while, I became completely disillusioned with it all.

Within three years, my wife and I left the ministry and stopped going to Church altogether. In short order, at 29 years old, I had become a bitter atheist.

I hate to skip over so many details, but I want to make this as short as possible.

We tried to construct a new life without God, and for a while, it looked as if we would succeed. But many woes came upon us.

Finally, at a point of great distress in our lives, I recognized that I was a fool for denying God. I admitted that 30 months of atheism and godless living had been a tragic mistake.

For the first time in more than two years, Dixie and I decided to pray and read the Bible again. For several months, we fasted and prayed intensely, reading and prayerfully studying the Bible every day.

During that period, while studying the Bible quite intensely, I began to realize the errors of many things I had once believed, and at the same time, began to see how many things in the Bible called for a life of holiness unto the Lord.

One thing led to another. Through a long, convoluted, complicated and stressful chain of events, Dixie and I finally decided that we simply had to find a Church that preached and practiced holiness.

But in the long and short of it, the only people who preached and practiced real Biblical holiness were the Jesus' name people.

On a Wednesday night before Christmas Eve, 1982, we walked into a Jesus' name Church for the first time.

It was like walking through the gates of Heaven. I knew from the moment I stepped in the door that I had found something I had never had before. The prayer, the songs and the preaching were all so profoundly different from what I had known, I nudged my wife halfway through the service, and whispered, "I've got a hook in my jaw."

Shortly after Christmas, my wife, my eight-year-old young son, and myself were all baptized in Jesus' name in that Church.

A light turned on in my soul that night. I began to see and know things about God that had never occurred to me, despite the fact that I had spent thousands of hours in my day, searching the scriptures.

It was a threshold, a gateway into another world; the world of the Apostles' doctrines. I began to see things in the Bible that had I had never seen before. The Oneness of God. The essentiality of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. And "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

I cannot make you see what I see. I cannot force you to understand what I now see so clearly and so plainly. I can only pray that every person who reads this story will open your Bible to Acts 2:38, and read it, the entire chapter, and the entire Book of Acts. You will see - if you will.

Meanwhile, I invite you to study the matter with me.

P.S. Aunt Norma is 74 now. She was only 29 when she wrote that letter. That was a lifetime ago. Only eternity will reveal how important that letter was. It took 12 years for her letter to have its effect on me personally. But since that time, I've been a Jesus' name preacher for all it's worth. I have personally baptized more than 1800 people in Jesus' name, and have seen many thousands receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in other tongues. Now, because of my constant witness on the Internet, the Jesus' name message that I preach is being seen DAILY in over 200 nations and islands of the world. All my websites and web-posts combined make a total of about 100 million impressions per year.

If you don't think people should write letters like that, of if you don't think you should tell someone that they could go to Hell for not obeying the Gospel, maybe you should think again.


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