MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY

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As Christians we are commanded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to "be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth". (Acts 1:8). Although we are not all called to be evangelists, we are all called to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ as well as His ambassadors (2Cor 5:20). It is my high honor and with my deepest humility that I tell you about my former life and the wonderful transformation that Jesus Christ has made in me. Some who are close to me today might very well say "Carrigan, there is still a whole lot more that needs to be changed about you". To them I simply say "Amen". I am Jesus' work-in-progress or "under construction" as a web page might state. These same people who know of my background, including my wife, are grateful that they didn't know me before my salvation

THE PAST LIFE

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. In the late sixties I reached "maturity". My father, in his wisdom, was looking at a very rebellious son who was raised a devout Catholic with some academic potential. However I was consistently getting into trouble with incidents of teen drinking. The group of friends I hung around with was referred to as a "gang", and we had absolutely no respect for authority of any kind.

When my father and I selected the college I would attend he told me that "not even you could get into trouble in this place". The school "we" chose was a Roman Catholic College that was a seminary for priests but had opened its doors to lay students. Located in the cornfields of Rensselaer, Indiana, the social life for a college kid was zero.


On one occasion, while several of us from Chicago were trying to drink peacefully in the middle of a cornfield, the boys from the New York area ran right through our encampment yelling. Since we were sober enough and astute enough to assume they were fleeing from cops, trouble or something valid, we joined them in a sprint back to the dormitories. They had encountered what they called a "nasty little cat" that we discovered later was a puma (something like a lynx). What a place! I left the lounges of Chicago, to sit in the middle of a cornfield and hope I didn't run into police or pumas. That left little to do but to study and drink in places that were entirely unacceptable to a person of my growing cosmopolitan tastes.


In the academia I studied political science, history, and philosophy which made me more of a rebel than I was before. In college I simply became an educated rebel, full of academic arguments, a serious drinking problem, a great big ego and a cynicism about life.
You can't teach a person like that much of anything since he already "knows all the answers".


I had no use for the Bible, evangelical churches (which I wrote off as "heretical"), authority figures and a social system that I regarded as contemptuously hypocritical. My relationship with Jesus Christ was a one hour mass on Sunday, weekly confessionals on Saturday and a very legalistic view of God as my Judge. My only hope of seeing heaven was to collect enough indulgences to get through "purgatory" or die some short time between confession and mass. I especially hated Baptists and Pentecostals who walked around quoting Scriptures. I wouldn't let that type near enough to me to listen to them. I was also not the kind of person that these "evangelicals" would want to approach anyway. In order to witness to me they would have to have caught me between work and the closest bar (preferably in the parking lot, or I would have run them down).


In 1974 I began to see that my life was beginning to deteriorate. I was in a marriage that was failing and ended in divorce in 1975. I was firmly resolved that I would not get remarried and would not bring children into a world that I viewed as a trash pit completely devoid of any meaning. My weekly confession of sins never changed except that the sins grew worse and more numerous. During this period I was living alone. I would stop at the food market to buy beer and occasionally I bought a book from the Christian book rack. At first I would start reading these books while drinking the beer. After awhile, I simply threw the book at the wall and finished the beer. However after reading The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, I read about something called the "Rapture" and checked my old Catholic Douay Rheims Bible to see if this man was really quoting from Scriptures (which I always knew deep in my heart was the Word of God as I was taught in Catholic schools over a period of 16 years of Catholic education). By now I completely read each book before finishing off the beer . Then, as I started to become really convicted, I drank more and read less.


The next book I picked up was They Speak with Other Tongues by John Sherrill. This book mentioned a phenomenon taking place in the Roman Catholic Church called the "Charismatic Renewal". As I read about these people, I was convinced that they sincerely desired to live each day of their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ. That was awfully radical to me, but it did sound like what the early Church was when I studied church history in college.



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BORN AGAIN IN JESUS CHRIST


Finally, after more several more bad events in my life (divorce, bad job situations, increased drinking), I awoke Saturday December 20, 1975 seriously hung over. I had a friend drive me to confession since I was too hung over and sick to drive myself. Normally the Catholic Priest would assign us a "penance" to perform to "take away the temporal punishment due to sin" as he pronounced absolution. These assignments in penance were usually repetitive prayers (e.g. 5 "Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys"). This priest, however, was different. He told me to focus my whole life around the Person of Jesus Christ and to dedicate my life to Him. I was stunned. That was exactly what those evangelical books were telling me to do. I left in a real quandary. I knew that I had to either surrender my life completely to Jesus Christ and personally receive Him as my Saviour and Lord or continue to walk in increasing sin, depression and unhappiness.

Since I didn't think much of my life or myself at that point, at 7:00pm I got on my knees and prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive me for all of my sins. I made a conscious decision to forgive everyone who ever hurt me, even those who didn't deserve it. I was taught through my entire life never to surrender and never give up. That night I did both, laying my life at Jesus' feet. I told the Lord that I was not fit to clean the sewers of His church but, if he would receive me as His own, forgive me for my sins and transform my life, He could do with me as He saw fit. Jesus heard my prayer that night. He forgave my sins and saved me. When I got up from the floor I felt an amazing peace and purity in my heart along with an indescribable desire to read the Word of God. I made an appointment with that priest and told him openly of how I received his counsel and given my life to Jesus Christ. I asked him what I should do next. He referred me to a Catholic Charismatic Prayer Group, and I attended my first prayer meeting.



The people that I met there were nice, but made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Especially when one of the lay leaders (the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been referred to as a "lay movement" by the Roman Curia) would embrace me and yell "Praise the Lord, brother. It's so good to see you." These people vocally expressed their faith and love for Jesus not only in their conversations but especially in worship. I was convinced that I was going in the right direction when I listened to house wives, engineers, skilled tradesmen and many other average, everyday people testify about the wonderful things that Jesus had done for them. These people were not clergy whom I viewed as having ulterior professional motives.

I was afraid to talk very much to the people because my language was very foul. At that time I was working in supervision in a foundry and honestly believed that I needed to communicate myself to subordinates on the plant floor with four letter words. An amazing thing occurred as I continued to attend the worship services. I felt very bad about using profanity. This was amazing to me since it had never bothered me before. Within two months my language was cleaned up, along with my thought life. I had come to regard impure thoughts and lust to be natural and very normal. I knew that this was sin that I never had any control over. Those thoughts vanished. I was almost afraid to look behind me for fear of seeing a large dirt cloud of this filth following behind me. The Holy Spirit was cleaning my life in small and miraculous ways.

During one of the prayer sessions, I went to lift my hands to praise the Lord in worship. As I did this, I noticed that I felt foolish and was concerned about what others would think. I realized that the other people were occupied with worshipping the Lord and certainly weren't paying attention to me. So I overcame the feeling of embarrassment and raised my hands in worship. With this small act the Holy Spirit began to teach me to

  • step out in faith
  • do not be concerned about what others think of me. In John 12:43 it is recorded that there were some of the Sanhedrin who believed in Jesus, but they valued the praise of men more than the praise of God. This attitude or fear contributed to Jesus' sufferings and death at the cross. It is also the major underlying reason why people, in difficult situations, might deny Jesus in order to be seen as more socially or politically acceptable. I know now that I can never give in to such false fears or shallow concerns.


    Each time I yielded to the Holy Spirit and ignored the opinions of others, the Lord honored these acts of faith.

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    BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

    On February 19, 1976 I was prayed over to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. After the prayer, it didn't "feel like anything happened". Since we are to walk by faith and not by sight 2Cor 5:7) or by feelings, I believed that Jesus heard my prayer and had answered it. The following evening my prayer time didn't begin until late in the evening. I had a desire to praise God in a language other than English. The only problem with that was that I am not bi-lingual. So I praised the Lord in Latin hymns that I had learned in my Catholic training. I didn't remember much Latin and when what little Latin I could remember was exhausted, I began to praise Jesus in words that were beautiful but certainly weren't from the Latin language. That night I just kept praising and thanking Jesus in English and in this other unknown language. As I did this I was filled with an ecstatic joy that I couldn't explain. That night was the first time that I really knew that God was my loving Father and not my far-distant Judge. I knew in my heart that God, my Father, loved me deeply. I was awake until 4am consumed in worshipping the Lord. I wanted to run out and tell everyone about the wonderful thing that Jesus had done for me. However, with the joy and the ecstasy I realized that, if I called anyone who knew me, they would assume that I was drunk again considering my past track record. Then the words of Acts 2 became alive to me. Only then did I understand why observers thought the Apostles were drunk on Pentecost Sunday. Now this was part of my life too.


    After this experience I noticed a new boldness and desire in me to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I was basically committed to driving alcoholics to AA meetings and sometimes to detox centers. I never "bible-thumped" people or preached to them. (Jesus is an attraction not a promotion. His salvation should never be forced on anyone because it just doesn't work that way. Jesus does not go where he is not wanted.) Some of these people came to me and asked what it was that I had that they lacked. That was my open door to tell them about Jesus. I was soon praying with people to receive Jesus as their Lord & Saviour. I never felt adequate or worthy to do this and often wondered why the Lord just didn't use better qualified people than me to do this. In each case where I was blessed with an opportunity to lead someone to Jesus, I always realized that the Lord didn't need me to do this. He wanted me to do this so I could participate in His work.


    There were two very special incidents where a man asked me to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ. I was a friend of one and a relative of the other. After praying with the first man, the Lord Jesus saved his soul. I could see the change in his countenance as the fear left him. He died two hours later. The second man was very close to me. He asked me to pray with him and I saw our faithful Lord Jesus Christ save him also. This dear relative and friend died two days later. I know that these two are with Jesus now. After each experience I was struck with awe and fear of the Lord that Almightly God would entrust such a honor and service to a person like me. In each case there were godly ministers in the hospitals who could have ministered to these friends better than I could. Why would Jesus choose me to do this with so little time left in each man's life?

    The answer was made clear to me by an analogy of a father mowing the lawn while his little son follows him with a toy lawn mower. That father knows that his kid is not cutting one blade of grass. He is doing it all. However that same father is a very proud dad when he sees his little son emulating him and following after him.

    THE FEVER & THE FIRE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


    One day at work I received a call from a friend whose daughter had taken ill. His daughter would periodically experience times when she ran a high fever and her throat closed through swelling which incapacitated her from eating. He asked if I could help. This family was very poor and could not afford to take the girl to the hospital. I agreed to go over even though I didn't know what I could do to help. On my way over I began trying to plan or "connive" a solution. I couldn't get her admitted under my medical coverage since she was not a dependent. Perhaps I could get her admitted for treatment as a welfare case. In any event, I didn't think of what Jesus would have me do in this situation until after I arrived. Suzie was nine years old and I had looked upon her as a little sister. It grieved me to see her stricken like this. When I took her temperature, she was running 104 degrees. At that point I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do. After praying I received in my heart the Scripture about Jesus rebuking the fever from Peter's mother-in-law (Matt 8:14-15). Since I didn't know what else to do, I verbally rebuked the fever from the girl in Jesus' Name. Right after that, I could feel the fever leave her. I was so astonished that I just began praising the Lord with the family in the kitchen. At that point the Lord reminded me that Suzie's throat was still closed, and she couldn't eat. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my ignorance and haste and returned to the room with her family. I prayed in Jesus' Name that her throat would be opened and healed. Just after that Suzie awakened. I asked her mother to get some milk, crackers and potato chips. Her mother told me that she couldn't possibly eat that kind of food in her condition but got the milk, crackers and chips anyway. When the food arrived, Suzie ate and drank it all, just smiled at us and thanked me. I explained to Suzie that it was the Lord Jesus Christ who had done this for her. All of us rejoiced that night, and I left in absolute astonishment that the Lord would use me to do something like that. I was discovering that, being a Christian was exciting, busy and rewarding.


    BELIEVER'S BAPTISM & FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS BONDAGE

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    Through the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I was becoming convinced that I needed to be obedient to the Lord and receive Believer's Baptism. This is an extremely difficult issue for a Roman Catholic. We were taught from early childhood that, if we ever let another church baptize us "again" (after infant baptism), we would automatically be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and have no hope of salvation (The doctrine of Extra Ecclesium Nulla Salus (outside the Roman Catholic Church, there is no salvation - a doctrine that was never renounced in Vatican II). For this reason, I struggled with this conviction for about 18 months. Finally I decided to act according to God's Word and lay aside this "tradition of men"(MATT 15:3-9). I decided that I should go to a large Southern Baptist Church since they held water baptism every Sunday night and must be very good at it with all of that experience. Therefore, I went to one of the Sunday evening Services of Temple Baptist Church in September, 1977 and requested Believer's Baptism. I had several elders and the head of a large Sunday School (a Pastor with a Th.D. in Divinity) question me regarding my testimony. I told them that I didn't come to join the church but to be obedient to Jesus in the ordinance of water baptism. They asked me when "I had come forward". I turned to a friendly elder and asked what they were talking about. He told me that they wanted to know when I gave my life to Jesus Christ and became born-again. I thanked him and told the group that I had received Jesus on December 20, 1975. The minister chided me sternly about why I had waited one and a half years to be baptized. I then explained my Roman Catholic background and coming to Jesus in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The Minister and elders went into a conference over this. (I had no idea what they thought about the Charismatic Renewal. Only later did I learn that they opposed it). I finally told the friendly elder that I had not come there to give them a problem. I just wanted to be baptized. I offered to leave and go seek another church for assistance. He asked me not to do that and told me that he believed the sincerity of my testimony because "no one would come into this church with a story like mine if they weren't sincere. I really appreciated his warm reception of me. The Board of elders had to vote on whether I should be baptized. They decided that they would honor my request. When the minister went to baptize me, he asked me "do you trust in Jesus and in Jesus alone for your salvation?" I responded that I did then went into the baptismal waters. When I emerged I felt joy fill my heart and a new freedom. For me as with any Roman Catholic, that act was "bridge-burning". No longer could I cling to old church traditions of my past. I now had Jesus Christ as my Lord & Saviour and the Author and Finisher of my faith. I had the Holy Spirit in my heart and the Word of God in my hand. This would be all I would need in the future to guide my paths. After my baptism I quietly left the Roman Catholic Church peacefully with no bitterness and no regrets.

    This departure did cause some strain and misunderstanding in my family. There were Catholics by the many thousands who left the Church of Rome during and after the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Unfortunately critics of the renewal know nothing of the mass exodus out of the Roman Church since there are no official figures on it and such departures are not discussed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Instead, these critics choose to quote from only a couple of sources such as Kevin Ranaghan, a leader in the Catholic Renewal, in order to prove that this movement was simply a manipulative attempt at ecumenism by the Roman Catholic Church. While I admit that certain Roman Catholic authorities wanted to use the Renewal for their own ecumenical objectives, the Charismatic Renewal was the sovereign act of the Awesome God who wanted to reach the hearts of those, like myself, who had been in a religious bondage of tradition and ritual and were blind to the true Gospel of Grace. I praise my Lord Jesus Christ that he invited me to participate in this sacred sovereign act of His great mercy.


    MARRIAGE & FAMILY

    Several months after my Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I met a wonderful girl named Linda at the prayer meetings.  During the visit of an evangelist, Linda gave her life to Jesus Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit in one evening. This might upset those Pentecostals who insist upon "second experiences". I guess God hadn't read their theology books when He had mercy on Linda, received her as His daughter and flooded her with His Holy Spirit. Her life, formerly filled with sorrows, was dramatically changed. Her family saw the joy of the Lord in her and knew that she was now different. When I first met Linda I wasn't looking for a wife and was adamant about not getting into marriage. After our first meeting when I looked into her eyes I fell in love with her like a silly schoolboy with a "crush". Now I faced a real dilemma. For about a year I took Linda to prayer meetings which we called dates. I even told her that I had no intention of getting married. She just looked at me with her pretty blue eyes and smiled. The Lord had impressed Hebrews 11:1 on her heart and had given her the gift of faith that was unshakeable. After wrestling with the idea of marriage (and an instant family), I knew that I needed Linda in my life very much. I also know that she was the one whom the Lord had chosen for me. We sought the counsel of the pastor of a church we had joined together.  For my part I knew that I had to look at her children as though they were my own. Because of the need for a hysterectomy, Linda couldn't have any more children. Therefore when we were married I made a conscious decision that I would never have natural children of my own. I have never regretted this decision in my life. I praise God that I met this wonderful person and knew that I would have never met Linda in the environments of my past life.

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    "The Wedding Song" sung in honor of Jesus on our Wedding Day -MIDI



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    Getting Settled in the BODY OF CHRIST


    Some of the critics of the Charismatic Renewal rightly said of us that we were ignorant of the Scriptures. That criticism was valid. Because of the nature of the Renewal, we were all encouraged to return to our churches and touch others with the message of God's salvation and the promise of a personal relationship with Jesus. I knew that I wasn't going to learn the Word of God by attending Catholic Charismatic prayer meetings or conferences where only Scriptural topics are taught. In order to learn the Word of God I had to be willing to seek, and the Lord was faithful in directing me. During our initial experiences in deliverance, the Lord provided to us the teachings of Reverend Derek Prince. Brother Prince and his teachings had a profound impact on how I was being formed in the Charismatic Renewal. After the renewal, I sought out the teachers of Hal Lindsey, the teachers of Dallas Theological Seminary. Whether I read Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord or J. Vernon McGee I received great blessings in instruction in the Word of God from these great teachers. Since they were not Pentecostal, I made a conscious decision to study their work and teachings about the Word anyway. Through a brief curriculum in correspondence with Reverend Tyler's International Bible Institute, I was grounded in a basic dispensational theology that was pentecostal. This may all sound confusing to someone who has been raised Baptist or Pentecostal from their youth, however, it fed the spiritual longings of a former Roman Catholic who knew nothing about the Word of God that many evangelicals take for granted.


    Linda and I were graciously received into membership in a fundamental Baptist Church where the pastor knew all about our backgrounds, yet received us anyway. Today we count our friendship with this man and his wife as one of our many blessings.  I praise and thank God that He called us to be part of His family and that, as family members, we have always been received as part of the family of God whether in Baptist circles or in Pentecostal gatherings. I understand now the theological differences in each group and always make sure that I cause no offense to either. However, for me and Linda, this is merely confirmation that the Body of Christ is larger than some of our minds care to comprehend.



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    Lord Jesus, as I reflect on the wonderful things you have done in my life, this testimony is not sufficient to describe Your lovingkindness and the mercy that You have shown me over all of these years. Time and space wouldn't permit me to tell of my failures and backslidings nor of your merciful forgiveness of me and how You have raised me up from the depths of my sins. You have never forsaken me when I have drifted into sin or put other things in the center of my heart where only You belong. You have forgiven me, renewed me, restored me and blessed me abundantly when anyone else would have given up on me. You are my faithful and true Lord & Saviour, and I will praise you forever.


    Thank you, Lord, for allowing me the honor to give my poor testimony as an offering to You attesting to Your Majesty. I can now say from my heart "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:"Romans 7:18 and that my "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"Jeremiah 17:9. I know that You have never left me nor forsaken me (Hebrews 13:5) in any of my trials, temptations or sins and that You never will. I pray for Your grace that You strenghen me so that no power on earth or in hell will ever cause me to deny You. Please receive this testimony and continue to write Your love story on the tablets of my heart. To You be the power, the glory and the honor now and forever. AMEN. MARANATHA, Lord Jesus!



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    Bill Carrigan
    November 23, 2000
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