TESTIMONY – Jesse McCarthy, Forsyth, MT – A broken relationship led to a real relationship with Jesus

TESTIMONY – Jesse McCarthy, Forsyth, MT – A broken relationship led to a real relationship with Jesus

Hello, I’m Jesse McCarthy. I competed as a bull rider for 10 years, first in a local state circuit then in the PRCA. Currently I work on a ranch in Southeastern Montana, my boss is a former elder of the church I attend and I am blessed to have the opportunity to build a cattle herd of my own. In October 2021 God blessed me with the opportunity to marry an amazing woman who has a heart for God and His Church.

I grew up in Wisconsin where I was raised going to church and reading the bible on a regular basis. I was baptized at the age of 13 and though I believed in God and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I didn’t develop a true relationship and start to mature in my faith till I was in my late 20s.

Even though I believed, called myself a Christian, and went to church, I still liked to drink, pursue women in an ungodly way and do the whole rodeo after party scene. One of the events God used to show me how much I needed to trust and obey him with my life happened in my late 20’s. I was praying about getting engaged to the girl I was dating at the time and God spoke to my heart telling me not to do it. Well, not liking His answer I went ahead and got engaged. Three months later the relationship ended. I was hurt by this but what hurt more was knowing that I purposefully disobeyed God. This was a huge turning point in my life and it pushed me to get me back into reading my bible for wisdom and direction so I would be able to discern His guidance and instruction for my life.

By reading the Bible more I realized I needed to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word like it says in James 1:22-25.

With the help of my brother Josh McCarthy and some other fellow Christians I have grown more in my faith, and understanding of what it means to be a doer and to live that out each day.

God has transformed me from a guy who hoped he didn’t reek to much like alcohol at church to someone who has asked to preach on occasion and who shares a devotion and leads the congregation in prayer each week.

I no longer look at women, or relationships from a “how can they please me”, to a “how can I glorify God and best serve my wife” view point.

As I look back over the years, I’m so humbled and grateful that God never turned His back on me, even when I turned mine on Him. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NAS) says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. This verse has been proven over and over in my life and I praise God for His grace and mercy.

Though I have grown a lot in my faith and walk with Christ I still do struggle with sin from time to time but now I’m convicted and don’t ignore it anymore or brush it off as “no big deal.” Instead, I take it to the cross and repent of my sins.

Being a Christian is so much more than just being saved by God’s grace. Yes that’s the crucial first step. But just like only putting one ride on a colt and not having it develop into a horse that can be used in everyday work on the ranch. If we don’t continue to grow in our walk with God, we will be missing out on the joy, and peace and plans He has to use us in the every day work of growing His kingdom. As I continue to grow, I’m excited to see how I will be used in the lives of others for God’s glory!

TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

It’s interesting how God has brought my life around to where I am now. I was never looking for Him, but I guess He was looking for me.

I wasn’t raised in the church. When I was little, my mom taught me to pray before I went to bed, so I guess I knew there was a God, but we didn’t go to church. I asked God for His help on exams when I hadn’t studied, and you can guess that my grades showed the influence of my own disregard for school, not God’s input. I suppose that left me disappointed, and I definitely didn’t know anything about Him.

As an Air Force brat, I got to move with the family when Dad got transferred every three years. We lived in Hawaii, Germany then Rantoul, Illinois, Laredo, Texas, and finally, as soon as I graduated from high school, the family moved to Austin, Texas, and I immediately joined the Navy.

All that time, I was a loner. It was hard to start with new friends, so I just had a very few, and I usually opted to hang out by myself. When I got out of the Navy, I returned to Austin, and met and married my wife Carol, I found that I love hanging out with her, but that was about it. She’s pretty much a loner, too. She was a Christian, but neither of us went to church.

So, until I was 29, I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t like mingling with people, especially those I hadn’t met. Not too long after we married, we moved to Denver, Colorado, and spent most of our Sunday’s skiing. Not that we were any good at it, and our feet froze. But we got to enjoy the mountains in the winter.

Meanwhile, God was arranging some details.

Carol’s best friend growing up, Stephanie, graduated from college and married a man named, Bob; then they became missionaries to Kenya. Carol hadn’t seen her friend in many years, so when Stephanie and Bob came to Colorado from Africa for a Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) conference, they invited us over for dinner.

I didn’t care about meeting Bob and Stephanie. You’re right, I didn’t want to go to supper at all. Especially with missionaries. After much discussion, Carol convinced me to go, insisting that all she wanted to do was visit her forever friend, and that Stephanie and Bob should meet me, too.

Steering the car northbound on I-25 from Denver to Bob and Stephanie’s room in Fort Collins, I kept repeating (loudly), “Don’t you dare bring up anything about God!”

Carol promised she wouldn’t.

So, Carol didn’t bring up the subject of God. However, swallowing the first bite of Stephanie’s apple cobbler, she nearly fell over. I must have asked Bob what missionaries do. He told me. And suddenly I was asking him dozens of questions about God!

The amazing thing is that, of all the people I could have met, Bob knew the Bible’s answers and was patiently explaining about God’s creation, His love, His plan, how Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. That evening I tearfully accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior!

Because most of what Bob had said made me think that God loves me, would forgive me if I prayed a prayer, and has a great plan for my life, it didn’t occur to me that God also wanted to change me.

So, we still didn’t go to church, except to watch a few televangelist from time to time. And they didn’t really teach me anything useful. Then, a few years later, Bob and Stephanie reentered the picture. They were home from the mission field, and they asked us over for supper again. This time I did want to talk about God, and Bob answered more of my hard questions for hours. When we were leaving, almost as an afterthought, they gave us Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Carol and I sat on the couch, and I read the whole book aloud, discounting any chapters that mentioned stuff I didn’t really want to do. Like going to church.

But God was still working on me. For one thing, Carol occasionally mentioned going to church. I declined. One day I parked the car outside the bookstore at the local mall. While I was inside, someone put a flier on my windshield. It said, “LIFE Fellowship: The Church for People Who Hate Church.” And the location was at the movie theater just across the parking lot. While the theater wasn’t in use on Sunday mornings, LIFE Fellowship set up everything and held worship meetings.

I can’t explain it, because it was God’s idea, but I told Carol we were going to church on Sunday. She nearly fell over.

That’s how we became regulars at LIFE Fellowship, and we got excellent, Bible-based teaching from pastors and Sunday school teachers. We both grew a lot. By this time, I was in my mid-30s. When we would go to a dinner of some kind, the host, not realizing that I knew nothing about praying, would ask me to pray for the meal. But God dredged a nice prayer out of me anyway. We also got involved with the youth group and even went on a mission trip and spent time doing gospel outreach at that mall. Who would have thought!

One Sunday, only God knows why, I signed up for a men’s retreat in the mountains. A few weekends later, I went to the weekend event. I’m sure there was good teaching, but all I remember is my impression that the men already knew each other and seemed to gather in their own circles to fish, play games, eat meals, etc. I seemed to end up outside the circles.

However, when I got home, I couldn’t stop crying. I can cry. But not like that. And it had nothing to do with being left out. At the end of about two weeks, I asked Carol to find somewhere where I could visit men in jail!

She nearly fell over. But she did it. The chaplain at a nearby jail needed a volunteer assistant who would deliver Bibles to inmates who asked for them. Because of God, I had discovered my kind of work. As long as an officer could see me, I could go right in the cells with the inmates. We laughed, cried, and hugged, and I exhorted them and introduced them to Jesus, too. I did that for several years.

Then Carol and I moved back and forth from Colorado to California, following my dreams of being an artist. Maybe 25 years later, when we eventually ended up back in Austin to be near our families, we hadn’t found a church, and we were stagnating. However, while Carol went out to the trail to train for a half marathon, I started watching TV broadcasts from Great Hills Baptist Church. Hearing Preacher O’Chester “shoot from the belt,” telling the Bible like it is, I realized that I had found our church.

However, the first time we visited the church, “Preacher” retired and turned the church over to Michael Lewis. Thank God, this young man also turned out to be a dynamo of a Bible-preaching pastor. His first step was to get almost 700 people involved in door-to-door gospel outreach visits. And, believe it or not, Carol and I joined the groups of three for several years, driving out to housing areas, praying with people on porches and in living rooms, and telling them about Jesus. Carol and I, the loners, loved doing that!

Another thing happened not long after we joined the church. We met Don and Sue. They were dressed in leather vests covered with pins. When we asked them, “Why the leathers, and what are those pins,” they “We ride to church on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.” The pins came from motorcycle rallies (the wild ones) where they minister to the riders. Not for me. However, when they told us they also ride the motorcycle right into prisons and jails where a dozen inmates might gather around as they share the gospel, I immediately asked, “Where do we sign up for that?”

They explained that it’s through the Bill Glass Behind the Walls Prison Ministry. So, long story short, in the last 15 years, Carol and I have traveled to more than 60 prison events, from Florida to California, and from Texas to Kentucky. And we joined an affiliated ministry, Ring of Champions, that involves spending an hour a week mentoring kids, ages 10-17, who are in a juvenile detention unit south of Austin. At least we were getting to go to jail, until Covid19 came along. We pray that we’ll get to go back someday soon.

You might wonder what this has to do with cowboys and rodeos. Well, as an artist, I paint my childhood TV and movie cowboy heroes, mingled with other icons I grew up with. I take pictures of cowboys waiting around at rodeos, relaxing on fences and ready to ride. That’s the way I paint them. After all, cowboys may spend a lot of time riding bucking horses and bulls and taking down steers, and maybe out in on the range chasing cows, but they also spend a lot of time kicking back, hanging out. So, I paint them that way, kicking back, hanging out, usually including my own favorite things and images in compositions that might not happen in real life – but they could. And to all of that, I add splatters and spots, drips, and drops. As the finishing touches, I paint images of the brushes and other art tools that usually roll around on my paintings while I’m working.

I had a nice message from one of those excited fans the other day, and here’s how I replied:

“What I want viewers to get is something like the energy we get when we listen to a favorite oldie rock and roll song…you just gotta sing along, tap your foot, and get up and dance. I’m trying to create visually what music does audibly – energize people and get them visually stimulated and have a conniption fit!!!! Kinda like what those cowboys in the TV and movie Westerns did for me when I was a kid and what Beatlemania did for me back in those days!”

I give God all the glory for what’s happened in my life and for selling a lot of my paintings since I became a full-time gallery artist in 1992. And I’ve pledged most of the proceeds from my sales to His Kingdom work. That’s where Preacher Scott comes in.

(Here is a link to see his artwork www.chuckmiddlekauff.com)

TESTIMONY — Darvis McCoy, San Jose, CA — From atheist to Bible smuggler

TESTIMONY — Darvis McCoy, San Jose, CA — From atheist to Bible smuggler

 I lived nearly four decades as an atheist adrenaline junkie, looking for adventure wherever I could find it and pushing the envelope in every way.  I was an extreme motorcycle rider, Yosemite rock climber and wanderer of the world.

The early chapters describe how my life was miraculously saved time and again despite my complete arrogance toward to a God I didn’t believe in.

Then, faced with life-changing despair at the age of 47, and on the verge suicide, God showed himself to me, changing my life forever.  Using the nature God had gifted me with all along, I found a new calling: smuggling Bibles to the underground Christians living in restricted countries. 

There are 51 countries around the world in which Bibles are illegal.  In many of those countries, just owning a Bible will mean prison or execution, but the people are starving for God’s Word, and are willing to take that risk. 

I found my new calling at the age of 53, in supplying their need, eventually working in 15 exotic countries to get the job done. 

Now, at age 62, God said my traveling for Him was finished and told me it was time to write a book to tell of all He has done in me and through me.  I was obedient and my book is now on Amazon:

TESTIMONY — Cory Speh, Granite Falls, MN — Overcoming sin and building a faith-based marriage and custom knife business

TESTIMONY — Cory Speh, Granite Falls, MN — Overcoming sin and building a faith-based marriage and custom knife business

I was born and raised in the small Minnesota prairie town of Maynard. My family attended a local church and I grew up in a Christian home. I devoted my life to Christ when I was a child.

Unfortunately, I did not fully grasp what it meant to be a follower of Christ and quickly I had a very legalistic relationship with Christ, that hinged on my performance and avoiding a whole list of things that were not acceptable by the church.

As a teenager, I really struggled with my faith. It wasn’t until my early 20s and after experiencing a few of life’s lessons that I started to realize that my “religion” was my salvation, and that I needed a savior. An untimely death of one of the church elders’ daughter at my new church really woke me up! Witnessing the need for Christ in my own life really opened my eyes to seeing the need for Christ and for His love in other people’s lives.

In 2010, I met and started to date my future wife, Sandra. Our life together has not been easy, but God has been at the center of our marriage and His grace and mercy have always been there for us. Sandra’s best friend died in a car accident in the summer of 2011, and it devastated both of us and pressured us to get our lives back on track. We struggled with sexual sin and with lies that came with it as we tried to hide our sins from our Christian families and our Church family. In the summer of 2011, we vowed to abstain from any sexual desire until we were married.

Unfortunately, we failed keeping this vow and broke it the night before we were wed, which lead to sexual tension within our marriage. I also struggled with an addiction to porn up to being engaged. Sandra refused to marry me if I could not break the addiction. It was not easy, but I praise God that I have been released from the hold of that addiction. By asking for forgiveness, and finally forgiving myself for my past sexual sins really closed the door on that issue in our marriage and it offered healing for both of us. 

Paul knew what he was preaching about when it came to sexual sin the toll that it takes on a person. Thankfully, Sandra and I have been able to keep our marriage pure and it is a praise of His grace and mercy for that!

In the fall of 2013, my daughter Charlie was born and in the winter of 2014 my father in law David died. His death was extremely difficult to grasp, especially with the addition of my daughter that fall. David is dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven and one day I will see him again!

In the winter of 2016 Sandra and I purchased our first house and we moved to Wood Lake, MN. Later that year, I moved my business to Wood Lake as well.

In fall of 2017, my son Zeke was born. After four months of bed rest, due to Zeke almost being miscarried and Sandra had to have a cervix stitch surgery to save the pregnancy. Sandra has infertility and had complications and had to receive a hormone regiment and we struggled to conceive for two years. We were very happy to see him, but something happened that we never expected. A couple of days after Zeke were born, Sandra was diagnosed with postpartum depression and she struggled to have a relationship with Zeke and even with Charlie at times. This lead to me taking extended time off of work at my full time job and stepping into a new role. All I can say, even in the worst of times, God is so good! That year was miserable, and watching my wife struggle with something that I couldn’t fix or quite understand just killed me inside.

God blessed us through friends and family and through my coworkers to help out where they could. I don’t know how many times I asked God to take it all away, to heal my wife, and the anger that I had from the effects of it. Sandra pushed through it and fought the depression the best she could, and one day it was gone… Thankfully we have our two kids, since we are not able to have anymore due the complications of the pregnancy Sandra had with Zeke.

This brings us to 2019. I am still making knives almost 12 years after the birth of Speh Custom Knives. Having this business has opened many doors for me to prompt Christ and to have contact with customers that have turned into very close friends. In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul tells us how to go about talking to others and I think its appropriate to share these verses as a new mission statement for myself.

Colossians 4:5-6 NIV – Be wisein the way you act toward outsiders;make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt,so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We never know who God is going to put in our lives and simply showing the love of Christ to them is essential. Being accurate and loving with the Gospel is the goal that I am currently striving for in my own relationship with Christ. We can’t show someone Christ if we do not know Him ourselves, or if we don’t know the scriptures about His character, promises, and the hope Christ offers in salvation for all!

TESTIMONY — Kody Rinehart, Rienzi, Mississippi — It isn’t about being worthy

TESTIMONY — Kody Rinehart, Rienzi, Mississippi — It isn’t about being worthy

I grew up in a Christian home with Godly parents; my mother and father were the youth leaders at our church at time.  Around five or six years old, my mind was wandering and I decided I wanted to get saved, I remember even standing at the top of my stairs and saying in my head “go ahead, you will get to be in water.”  I walked downstairs and talked to my daddy for about 30 minutes about being saved. After we talked and he explained several things that I did not understand, I said a prayer and went back to bed. 

A few weeks later a few of my cousins and I were baptized at Hinkle Baptist Church. I held on to that thought and prayer that I was saved and did not have to worry about a thing anymore. When I was in the 7th grade at the FCA Kick-off youth service, I “rededicated” my life, the very next year at the same event in 8th grade I did the same thing, “rededicate.”  While playing football and taking classes together, I became friends with a boy named Drew and he invited me to church at Oakland Baptist Church one Sunday.  I fell in love with it! Oakland had so many chances and openings for me to grow and learn. I was able to be involved with people my age that loved Christ, I did not have that at Hinkle because my brother, a couple of cousins, and I were the only youth and we did not do anything.  When it came to events or activities, I was signed in and ready for everything, even church camp.

Being my first church camp, I was nervous, excited, and ready for the week! On the Monday that we left, something happened to me that, in my mind I thought, would ruin my first church camp.  I was depressed and upset, but tried to stay positive the best I could and open to what God had for me; little did I know that He was using it to soften my heart. God had already started working and on Tuesday night during church group time, our youth minister, Bro. Jerry, passed around pieces of paper and told us to write down what God had been talking to us about that week. 

As soon as he had those words out of his mouth, I knew what I had to write down, “salvation.” The next day after recreation and lunch, a friend and I sat and talked about his home life. After about thirty minutes of talking, we went to find Bro. Jerry so my friend could talk to him and get some counseling. I sat, listened, and started to cry because I had taken so much for granted with my family.  After they were done talking, Bro. Jerry excused my friend so now it would just be Bro. Jerry, me, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. He told me that he saw what I had wrote and asked what I had meant, I told him I do not know but I that I do not feel like I am saved. He led me down Romans road and after a little bit of thinking, crying, and talking, on June 13, 2007, at 12:40 pm, I gave my heart to Christ.  

Fast forward to two years later, to 16 years-old and being a leader at church camp instead of a student, God began working again. 

There were several small things He started showing me, but one of the biggest things was the door He shut for me to being a Veterinarian.  I love animals and being around them all the time, thus, I wanted to be a Veterinarian. I began working at a vet clinic in January of 2009, and I hated it with a passion so that opened up to the question of, “what am I going to do now?”  While at the church camp as a leader God started talking to me but I did not know what it was. One night I even questioned my salvation because I could not figure it out, but I could go back to the time, place, and event of my salvation so I knew that was not it.  One night during worship service, the camp showed a video of a student that went to Kenya for a summer before his senior year. He loved it and felt strongly about going back. He prayed, talked it over with family and his pastor, and read scripture. God showed him the verse of Matthew 10:39, and after He read that verse I felt God calling me. 

The guy went on to give up his freshman year of college to be a missionary in Kenya for a year, he answered God’s call. I found the verse in my Bible and read it time and time again. After service, I talked to the camp minister that week and we prayed it over. Later that night after church group time, I finally was able to talk to Bro. Jerry about what God had been talking to me about.  I began having second thoughts because I felt so unworthy to do this, but Bro. Jerry said that he had a teacher from Blue Mountain College to tell him, “If we feel worthy enough to do anything, we should just load up and go home.” Once he said this, I knew there was nothing holding me back to surrender. On June 5, 2009, I got down on my knees and prayed to God that I surrender my life to ministry.  Bro. Jerry had been there from my salvation to my surrender to me graduating, he has helped me so much in my growth and counseling me with decisions that I needed to make. By having a family that loved me, let me go to all the church events, and to move to a church where God was calling me to be at, they helped me to grow and answer His call. By having a minister that loved students and helped me when I needed him, helped me in leading me to Christ and counseling me about ministry.  By having a church that is in God’s will, showed me how to be involved and be in His will also. All three of these have had a spiritual influence in my life and I am thankful for each one.  

At the present time, I am trying to answer what Christ has for me and do what His word says.  Around June of 2013 He laid something on my heart about beginning a ministry to reach my fellow rodeo friends that I am around every weekend.  The first Thursday of August, Redeemed Riders made its debut at my house in front of my barn with 8 people. Redeemed Riders is a Bible study/Worship service and a practice for rough stock riders in rodeo.  We meet at 7 pm at my house; have the service, then get on bucking machines at my home. We have had as many as 24 rough stock riders and now having service in a corn crib at on our property. I have gotten to watch cowboy after cowboy come to Redeemed Riders, grow in Christ, and be so excited about the Lord and riding.  It encourages me to see the cowboys coming back every week and having feedback from several of them. I have also just recently took on a job at a Baptist church my area being the youth minister. I get to teach student about the Bible on Wednesday and Saturday nights. God is using me to reach the cowboys and the youth at that church.  I am so thankful He has chosen me to do this.

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