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Emily Thomes

Girl in the Picture

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Recently I came across the photo on the left and did a double take. The girl in that photo, with her hollow eyes and hopeless heart, no longer bears any resemblance to me. She was dead in her sin (Eph. 2:1). (To be clear, I am not saying everyone who looks like the girl on the left is dead in sin, or that everyone who looks like the girl on the right is not. Spiritual reality runs far deeper.)

I was always the type to push boundaries. Even as a child, I never really had a moderate pace. I tried everything once but most things at least twice for my own curiosity. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to do, and I acted out often. In high school, I met my need for attention by constantly “going against the grain,” but in a way that maintained my popularity. I partied, slept around, and by 15 I came out as a lesbian to some friends.

By the time I was a young adult, I fully embraced the LGBT label. I cut my hair short, wore boy clothes, and used men’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. I enjoyed the thrill of doing and being what was outside the norm—trying harder drugs, exploring even more taboo sexual acts, and getting a couple of regrettable tattoos.

By 22, I had settled down a little. Shock value, though still something I enjoyed, was a lower priority. While still smoking weed and having sex with women, I maintained an outward appearance of morality. I considered myself a good person; I worked full-time, loved my friends, and usually balanced my budget. Family relationships were improving, and I was finally attempting to lead a relatively respectable life.

SURPRISED BY ATTRIBUTES

In March 2014, a group of coworkers started a Bible study and invited me to join. Because my aunt was part of the group, I agreed to participate. I actually considered myself a Christian at that point, though I had no desire to read God’s Word, let alone conform my life to his will. I told myself that at the first mention of my “lifestyle” I’d quit the study, and I felt pretty confident that moment would come.

The book we studied was on the attributes of God. For the first time I was confronted by the justice, holiness, and sovereignty of God. The more I read and understood, the bigger God became and the smaller I felt. I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and other things, but I hadn’t cared before. I had little understanding of the God I was sinning against.

This study was slowly shifting my perspective. I would catch myself, just before falling asleep, questioning who I was and why I made these choices. I asked myself, Am I sure that gay behavior is as much of my identity as my gender or my race? But I’d wake up and laugh and say, Of course you can embrace your homosexuality—that’s who you are! It felt like I was almost convincing myself it was okay to continue on that way.

Two weeks later, a friend (also a lesbian) waited for me at my apartment after work to smoke marijuana and hang out as usual. After we smoked, I asked her, “What if they’re right?” She knew I was doing the study and understood immediately what I meant and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I pushed further. “We have to. If this is true, we need to talk now and not later.” She left soon after, so I picked up my book and read.

That evening, I read a chapter describing a “salad bar religion,” where you pick and choose parts of different religions, combine them into one, and call that your belief system. The book made clear that such an approach isn’t following Jesus at all; that’s following yourself and calling it some other name. I realized I was doing just that. I believed the parts of the Bible that suited me but rejected the parts that didn’t. His Word wasn’t my guide or a light to my path; I merely claimed Christianity because I had grown up in the South and prayed occasionally.

‘SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU’

This realization was like being struck by lightning. I searched for verses on homosexuality and found 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. I’d read these and other verses like them before. I’d argued against them to those who opposed me, but suddenly I could no longer argue. It was clear. I was in the “will not enter the kingdom of God” lineup. I was lost, wretched, and blatantly opposed to him. But the next verse said, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Clearly, the Lord could save me. He’d extended his hand to me, the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I grasped his hand by faith, and I felt overwhelmingly awful and grateful. Although I’d ignored him and lived foolishly, he showed me mercy when I deserved nothing but justice.

My whole life changed that day. Homosexual practice and drug use were my most obvious sins, but there are many others he revealed and—continues to reveal—to me. I still battle same-sex attraction, pride, anger, and a slew of sins, but I trust he’ll complete the work he’s begun (Phil. 1:6). He’s also allowed me to be a wife, and one day, Lord willing, a mother. Two months ago—on the two-year anniversary of my conversion—I married the most Christlike man I’ve ever known.

The Lord has been so gracious to me. I’m grateful that he opened my eyes and saved me from the temporal and eternal consequences of my sins. He takes the worst of the worst and redeems them for his glory.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Originally posted as “Girl in the Picture” by The Gospel Coalition

Belfast Outreach Testimony

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‘I became a follower of Jesus Christ April of 2014. Before I became a Christian, my life was very different from the one I’m living today. God definitely had His hand on my life and the paths I went down. He made sure that I got to this point. I was always a very rebellious kid. I partied a lot; I acted out in school and towards my family. When I was fifteen, I started dating girls. 

This involved me sneaking around a lot and getting into all kinds of other trouble. I lived in the homosexual lifestyle almost exclusively until I was 22, all the while still rebelling against most types of authority. I remember my grandmother watching church on TV Sunday mornings, and I’d hear him preach. I would bash him for being outspoken on the major parts of my life at the time. I didn’t believe a word of what he said when it came to anything beyond the historical account of Jesus, but I certainly heard the message of the cross. God had many figures, aside from my family, placed in my life to help direct and share the truth with me about God and His design. However, I consistently rejected all of it, and I allowed my feelings to guide the decisions I made. Some women at my work started up a Bible study last April, and my aunt invited me to go with her. I didn’t want to make her go back and tell them I’d turned her down, so I agreed to participate. I told myself initially, that the second anyone said a word about my lifestyle, I’d quit going. No one ever said a word. I was only into the second week of the study when at night, just before falling asleep, I’d catch myself questioning my decisions and the choices I was making. It was almost like I had to convince myself that I was doing the right thing, by living like I was. 

We were reading a book about the attributes of God. I was at home by myself reading, and the book was talking about picking and choosing parts of different religions and combining them as your own. That’s essentially what I was doing; and the only thing that separated me from being a buddhist or an atheist was that I professed Christianity. I obeyed the Bible when it suited me, and I didn’t when it didn’t. It wasn’t my guide or my truth or the light to my path; Christianity was what I proclaimed because I grew up in Texas and assumed that because I prayed occasionally, I was His. It was like being hit with a lightening bolt. I realized that I was running my life. I grabbed my phone and searched for verses on homosexuality. I’d read them a hundred times and argued and twisted them anytime I’d heard them before, but suddenly I couldn’t. They were black and white, and I couldn’t bend them anymore. 

I knew then, I was going to leave my room either a Christian, fully surrendered to God because that’s what He calls us to do, or an atheist who refused the God of the Bible. I felt grateful, and I felt awful. I clung to Him. I believed Him, and although I had ignored Him and lived foolishly for the first 22 years of my life, He had brought me to this point. He showed me mercy when I deserved justice. Nothing has been the same since. Of course, that wasn’t the only sin in my life. It was just the most obvious manifestation of an unsurrendered life. God has carried me a long way since that day. He’s gently but effectively shown me more areas of my life that I need to give to Him. My pride, for example, is something I battle daily. God’s given me a heart for Him and His Word and His people. Currently, I’m working and speaking at churches and conferences and schools so I can reach as many people as He places in my path. I want to speak truth on some of the tougher issues we’re facing today. Sin is sin, and all of it requires repentance. We will always struggle with sin, but it has to be a struggle. It’s a daily laying down of our will and carrying His cross instead, whether that’s lying or sexual immorality, in any form. I am forever grateful for the mercy He’s shown me in pulling me off of that path and putting me on His instead. He showed me His truth, and it’s better. God is bigger, and He is better than any sinful behavior. He is enough. Not sure if you wanted any of this but it gives a more clear picture as to the girl I was before knowing Him in contrast to the girl I am today.

Let me never forget that I was, as all of man is naturally, a God-hater with the rest of this lost world.

We all want autonomy. We all disdain that there’s a God who calls Himself the Potter and us the clay. We all want to be our own gods and decide what’s right and wrong and which parts of the Bible are worth our attention and which parts can be dismissed. We have all fallen short and sinned against Him. The wages of sin is death; sinning even once puts us under His wrath. And on our own, we would remain there, slave to sin.

Our sin nature has us trapped; sin is who we are, sin is what we do, and we can’t fathom how a God would want to change that. We can’t fathom that if that God does not change that, we die with our debt on us to pay off eternally separated from Him in hell.

But it’s real. We are guilty. Naturally we don’t want God. We are born with a sin nature so deep that we are enemies of God and He’s an enemy of us.

Unless we are born again, we stay there. Some of us are more blatant in rebellion to God with more heinous sin showing outwardly but inwardly, we’re all dead inside until we surrender to Him.

Have you repented? Have you come to the end of yourself and said, “Your way, God. I’m done leading this life. I’m done living in sin and hostility towards you. I can see now that I am a wretch and that you still sent Jesus to die for me. This life is for your glory, not my own.”? If you are still the god of your life, the God of the Bible is angry with you everyday. You are storing up wrath for the day of wrath.

I plead with you. Repent. Stop right where you stand. Examine yourself. See that you are not submitted to God. You want Him to save you from hell but He is not your Lord. Surrender to Him. ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.’ This is a daily thing. We don’t “get saved” and that’s the end up of it. Either we follow Christ daily or we never have.

If you can read this, you’ve got time. Do not harden your heart. Turn to Him, forsaking all else, that He may have mercy on you. We deserve His wrath. He offers us His mercy. I pray you receive it.

Believers, let us remember that our role is to share the gospel. This time three years I was livid that someone at my work had the audacity to come to me about my lifestyle and my relationship with God. Today I’m enraging people left and right doing the very same thing. He is sovereign. He brings forth the growth; we need only be faithful. This is a reminder to me that I gave a lot of sincere people a lot of guilt and drama. Why would I expect this side of conversion to be without struggle? We obey Him because we love Him; if we do not, it’s because we don’t.’

Here is a great testimony of Emily, as she describes her life as in rebellion to God, there are at least 23 scriptures referring to rebellion, such as:

Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, For they are rebellious against You. Psalm 5:10
But having rebellion God uses  And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
1 Peter 2:8.

But the good news is that Emily is transformed, as she realized she would die in her sins, she accepted Jesus as her saviour. But also a personal saviour. Of all the religions there are in this world, you can base them into two camps. The 1st are those who believe they can attain their salvation through good works and merit. Scripture teaches  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9. The 2nd are those who realize the no matter what they do, they fall short of the glory of God because of their sin. Sin is “Missing the mark” and thats why Jesus became that mark, that our sin fell upon him. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Heb 9.22.

Emily has a great testimony, to share how a loving God showed mercy, giving her something that she did not deserve, and giving her a new life transformed.

Originally posted at Belfast Outreach.