Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Own Road To Damascus - The Testimony of Timothy Hinze

It gives me a great deal of pleasure and blessing to be able to share with all of you, the personal testimony of Timothy Hinze about how he came to know Jesus Christ as His LORD and SAVIOR!

Tim is a brother that I met and befriended on Facebook and when he shared a bit of his testimony with me there, I thought it would be awesome for him to go over it with a bit more detail on FROM the MIND of FIRE.

And so, without further ado, here is his testimony - My OWN ROAD to DAMASCUS

It was 1:00 pm on a bitter cold January in 1983 that would change my life forever: I just burst out the back door of my home running for my life (literally) with my mothers’ second husband only steps behind me. He was half drunk and wanted to do me harm.

Any second I could be in the grasp of this raging violent drunk. I leaped down 5 cement steps and dove over our backyard fence that bordered our neighbor’s property. With nine years of these violent experiences to draw on, hesitation on my part was unthinkable and my reactions were honed to perfection.

I remember at age 13 once waking up at 3:00am to the sound of my weight lifting bar bell being thrown down on my bedroom floor, over and over, until a solid steel tube was shaped like a wet noodle. It landed just inches from my bed with each hurl. He did that almost 10 times. It was near 100 pounds of weight. I vividly recall even now at age 47 how one slip from his hands and I would have been a goner.

I was an 18 year old drop out, unemployed, unwanted, depressed, with no confidence, no direction, no guidance and no hope.

My life passed before me around 1:00 pm as I crashed safely on our neighbor’s side of the 5ft wooden fence that separated our properties. I survived another attack by 'Joe', my mom’s second husband. There’s no way he could negotiate that fence in his drunken state. I didn't seem to care about the bloody scrapes on my arms, from my skin just deposited on my neighbor’s property, after crashing abruptly on their cement. Nor the fact that it was around 5degrees outside; didn’t have the time to grab my winter jacket, as this half crazed man ran me out of my home once again: almost on a monthly basis.

It’s been 28 years now since that incident which would change my life forever. 'Joe' was drinking heavily the night before, into the early hours of the morning. Which meant the rest of the family was awake also. I was eating some cereal at our kitchen table. 'Joe' stumbled in still half drunk and ugly. He started demanding and threatening my mom like so many times before; that’s when I lost it. I listened to that for about 5 minutes and threw an open gallon of milk at him, hitting him in the neck and face.

This was the first and only time I ever attacked him. Looking back on it, I realized I just snapped. Nine years of verbal evil directed at my mother, triggered a reaction in me that was brewing for sometime. So 'Joe' leapt up off the kitchen chair socking me in the face; I jumped up and darted for the kitchen back door.

. . . To back track a little, my biological father was gone before I even knew him. My childhood pastor that married my biological parents told my mom not to marry him, because in the pastors words "he was evil", yet he married them anyhow! This always bothered me. They divorced 4 years later. Dad was a living nightmare, my only recollection of him was at about 7 years old seeing him lunging toward my mom with a butcher knife, my older sister Lori, 8 years old at the time, threw her body in between and saved my mom’s life.

They had already been divorced by this time, but he wormed his way in the house on the pretense he just wanted to talk to her and see us kids, when we came home from school. My mom survived that incident too by God’s amazing Grace.

The first nine years for us were quite happy and normal, except the first few years with my dad who we really never got to know. We grew up very poor, yet never lacked the essentials of life: food, shelter, clothes, education, friends etc...

We seemed quite content without our dad; you really don’t miss what you never had at that age. Not fully processing emotionally until adulthood, how two parents is the ideal family unit in God’s wisdom and offers the best chance in life for success, happiness and emotional health. We lived in a city of about 50,000. A safe community, secure, with very little crime, a warm city to grow up in. We were raised Lutheran and attended Lutheran grade school.

Most in our city were Lutheran or Catholic. Mom worked a second shift factory job to put a roof over our heads. Grama, on my mom‘s side, was a second mother and surrogate father to us. I give mom an immense amount of credit as a twenty something single mom in the 60’s, working full time to support her brood. She deserves more credit than she ever received. I love my mom very much. She made us feel as though we weren’t missing out on things that normal families had.

Grama filled in the gaps as well. Helping us with school work, prepared our suppers, played games, even whipping us now and again when we smarted off; which wasn’t very often let me tell you. Reflecting back on it now, we needed it, at least I did. She cared for us as we took turns having the flu, the measles, and every other natural side effect of living in a fallen world.

We had no money, yet the LORD always took care of us; as I already said, we were quite happy. This temporary happiness would all come to a grinding halt very soon after mom met and married a friend of my Uncle when I was 9. For privacy sake I’ll call my Uncle “Bob” and my mom’s second husband,“ Joe”. I don’t feel comfortable using their real names if you don’t mind. One reason “Joe” is still alive and is yet unsaved, and still drinks heavily.

My uncle Bob was a heavy drinker too, and he introduced his bar room buddy “Joe” to my mom. My mom regrets jumping into this marriage to this day. She was still a young 32 and had been a single mom to us 4 kids for 11 years.
She was no doubt just lonely.

She was a very attractive single mom. It didn’t take her too long to discover that she repeated another mistake in her selection for a husband. Us kids never took to him, not from day one. It may be we never had respect for the drunken Uncle that arranged the introduction in the first place. Soon the heavy drinking transformed our happy family into a bad dream of biblical proportions.

Every weekend started and ended the same. “Joe” getting violently drunk, and my mom giving her statement to the local police, and all the neighbors outside gawking at our house pretending to have some legitimate reason to be outside. We knew the police officers almost on a first name basis back then. This wasn’t like New York, so we were the main event each weekend. The police would say to mom “You need to divorce him” and “ma’am, we can’t make him leave the house, it’s his house”, or “he pays the bills”; wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that line over the years. Things were different in those days, police couldn’t do much, there wasn’t the gamut of support groups and agencies like there are now, and it was still taboo to be a ‘twice married’ – with 4 kids no less, and soon two more to join the brood.

So the police would leave and we would sift thru the broken furniture, knick knacks, plates, etc… and salvage what we could and try and put our crumbled weekend back together. Joe would head to his bedroom to sleep off yet another drunk. It would all start up again the following weekend. As you may guess weekends were the worst, the Holidays were the worst of the worst. I remember only one or two Holidays with no police presence in over 20 years living at the old house.

It’s only by God’s Grace no one was killed, and mom kept her sanity. This lifestyle took its toll on all of us, as I sadly recall the memories at 221 E. Park Avenue.

The happiest times through all these childhood years were grade school and church. I fondly recall sitting in church feeling safe and out of reach from monsters such as Joe. We were in our safe zone at church or school: this was our link to normalcy and sanity if even just for an hour or two. Grama would often sit with us in the 10:30 church service and give us suck candy to keep us content through the long liturgical service (Grama just passed away last week at age 96, April 5, 2011; one day before my 47th birthday).

Thinking back I believe someone in our local congregation must have been praying for our dysfunctional family on quite a regular basis. My favorite Sunday school teacher, Miss Klusendorf comes to mind; I’d cast my vote that she was the loyal one praying for us. She was a dear old saint who never married. She lived her entire life with her mom, only a few short blocks from us. I sadly lost touch with her during my rebellious, post confirmation years. Later when she died, I recall feeling very empty and sad.

They say children follow the pattern of their parents. Mom was brought up around this same disturbing alcohol abuse, like her mom was. Drunkenness was our family heritage of German ancestry living twenty miles west of Milwaukee, the beer capitol of the world. Beer and booze completely enslaved every uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother in my family.

As I grew older I was disillusioned by “organized religion” and everything it stood for. How could Christians, religious people, and church families relate to my family? We were outcasts, the family at school and church, people whispered about. My mom and grama on my mom’s side, were the only ones that were non drinkers. They kept us in Sunday school and church, even if it meant taking a cab when our car died.
Lutheran grade school also engraved the bible in our minds. We had bible instruction 6 out of 7 days a week. Saturday was our only day off. However when we turned 12, Saturday was added too, 9 am to 12 for two years leading up to our confirmation. At 14 I entered the public school system, I drifted from my Lutheran roots. “Once Confirmed” in this religion - that’s the pinnacle, though I didn’t know that then. Which leads me to another topic, the false spiritual security of Lutheran faith; that is a king size can of theological worms. I will crack the lid on that later.

As a Confirmant, in the churches eyes, you’re considered a spiritual adult. Like so many after confirmation, I became disinterested in religion. Looking back it was mostly ritual and ceremony, without a personal touch.
No commitment, no change, no power.

Just memorizing creeds, commandments, articles of faith, hymns, confessions, so on and so forth - never taught that entering God’s family and receiving His eternal blessings are a personal choice. We must make them individually, not just give the correct theological answers to the pastor’s questions; needing to repent of personal sins, turning and making Christ master and Lord of our lives. This can’t be decided by parents or anyone else. Yes we’re taught about sin and the cross, in Sunday school, but for Lutherans that sin was accounted for at our infant baptism. This is the travesty and false security of this faith. This is the lie of the Lutheran’s religion. This may be where most Lutherans lose their faith in religion. Young adults faced with life’s painful problems, not prepared mentally and doctrinally to process life’s pitfalls and temptations. Nor how to combat our flesh, and Satan, our main adversary! Instead we’re taught to confess our sins through creeds each Sunday, and receive absolution of sins twice a month at the Lord’s supper, as if Christ needs to die on the cross each Sunday!

We brush our week’s trials and sins under the carpet until next week, rather than learning victory in Grace, through practical steps outlined in scripture. Such as praying, reading, abstaining from people, places, and things that tempt the flesh. We weren’t taught about the Truths the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church” “To put on the whole amour of God”. We were basically told “you’re in God’s family as a infant, safe and secure”. All we can do is to get through another week, so we can receive another spiritual shower to make us clean another week. That’s the way it is year after year; how wrong is that? What’s so amazing about that type of Grace?

As a teenager I was confused and asked the question, “Why as a child of God, am I no better off than anyone else? I am just as miserable, sinful, confused, insecure, and clueless about how to handle life’s struggles. I’m like the rest of the poor sinners who never had water sprinkled on them at 6 weeks old. I’m no better off; there’s no special protection by God or working power in my life. I stumble, fall, and grope for answers just like everyone else. There’s no peace, victory, or fulfillment.”
This is when I began almost to hate my religion.

My church seemingly had no clue what my family’s was going through. Yet in the midst of all this doubt, God was working on my heart, and my conscience; poking me, trying to get my attention. I resisted Him year after year from age 14 to 18. I didn’t want to hear Him.

This is a marvelous thing you may ask: The God of the universe was speaking to you all this time, the one person who could give comfort, and you said ‘No’ to Him?

Now God’s voice wasn’t audible, but He spoke to my conscience using the scriptures I had learned, as well as just the mustard seed faith that was planted in me over the years. This is why I’m not opposed 100% to the Lutheran religion; it did (through the scriptures) plant the seed that became my salvation. So I reasoned in my heart that God knew what our family was going through, why should I humble myself and talk to Him? He knows I’m in pain, confused, lonely, angry, and bitter. So I closed my ears to God. I reasoned He really doesn’t love me or is powerless to do anything for me.

Otherwise, I concluded, He wouldn’t have allowed this pain in my family. I distinctly remember one afternoon only a few months before God changed my life forever. I was on the run from Joe again, angry, wondering how long I could go on. Never knowing when it was safe to go back home, and then go home to what? Tomorrow will just be the same! God was speaking really loud to me that afternoon as I was walking downtown toward the old Park theatre. I was going nowhere in particular just walking off my anger and scolding God for bringing me into this messed up world.

He said to my conscience “Talk to Me Tim”, I’m right here. Why won’t you talk to Me?” So I blurted out audibly and didn’t care who heard me on the street, “No! I hate you God the Father…I hate you Jesus (pause)…I hate you … (and I was just about to utter Holy Spirit), when my conscience said:

Tim, enough, God gets your point”, so I stopped at that instant. I said to myself, Yes I guess He does; but continued to stoke my anger towards God. I wasn’t quite ready for God; what I didn’t know at the time was God was ready for me, and only weeks away from changing me forever!

So back to January 1983

. . . here I am bloody, angry, cold, and scared as I headed up the street not knowing what lay ahead. I can’t go home and don’t even have a jacket. The temperature was barely above zero as I walked to Cutler Park, wearing only jeans and a tee shirt. I was freezing, and the wind was howling, the cold air cut me to the bone.
I literally desired death.

Cutler Park is my stomping ground. Grama lived a block west of the park; we lived a block east of the park. As I approached this Park like a thousand times before, I was a mental and emotional train wreck. Nine years of anger at God, for allowing Joe to destroy any happiness our family had. Nine years of Joe verbally and physically abusing our family. I was tired of running from my home. Tired of witnessing everything of material value we ever owned damaged or obliterated at the hands of a raging drunken lunatic. Tired of hoping things would get better and never did. Tired of going to bed with my day clothes on, knowing there was a good chance we’d have to leave the house anytime in the am hours. Of watching my mom cry year after year.

I was at rock bottom, with zero hope, and had no ideas how to process these emotions or my immediate future. Nine years of pain, sorrow and frustration welled up to the surface.
Out of nowhere, without even planning it, I screamed out:


Tears streaming down my face, not knowing where those words came from, I was broken. I had no home, no future, no pride, no direction, nothing: not a dime in my pocket, no friends to call, and all on my own. Without any confidence that God would reply or even care I uttered those desperate pleas for help, He was my last hope.

What happened next is what forever changed my life. I get goose bumps even now as I’m writing this. Now immediately in the middle of my last plea, “GOD I NEED YOU”! and not even letting me finish the last line, Heaven opened up literally, on a cloudy day, and the most brilliant light beamed through the overcast winter sky and engulfed my entire body!

It blinded me for what seemed like minutes. In reality it was only seconds. Instantly my body was filled with warmth like it was a hot August day; now it was just a few degrees above zero. I have only a tee shirt on. Immediately I looked up above the trees and could only conclude that it wasn’t the sun I was seeing but GOD’S light, HIS GLORY.

HE didn’t say anything audibly but I knew instantly that moment that GOD had heard my prayer; the words HE was waiting for. HE filled me with HIS presence and secured my name in the book of Life that afternoon in a split second and I understood it!

I didn’t ever know He could speak with such clarity without words. HE penetrated my spirit with HIS, and helped me understand that it’s ok now! “I have heard your pleas, I will take care of you. I finally have your attention and you’re finally My child.”
Then I said out loud, “Wow, this is incredible! GOD is real, He does listen, He does care!”

In one minute my years of pain, suffering and loneliness were over! I understood GOD indeed was with me all those years, preparing me for this moment. I yelled “Thank you LORD!” and didn’t care who heard me.

I was overwhelmed and was on cloud nine for months. I wondered if it was like this for all those that become saved. Later on I discovered it’s not. Now I don’t know why my conversion was so dramatic (?), however the pain I went through was equally as dramatic and maybe that’s why. This experience changed my heart forever.

God planted His Spirit in me and renewed my interest in Him eternally. I soon was baptized and read the Bible three, four hours a day. The Word came alive like never before! I now had a reason to live, real hope, and a living GOD to guide me! No one would ever take this experience and joy away from me. Some 27 years later He’s just as real and alive as that day in Cutler Park and a few times a year I go back to the exact spot where I was saved. I stand by the same tree, and look up and recall the day salvation came to me personally.

This was just the beginning as I learned the mind and heart of GOD. Learning that the Baptist church was closer to my understanding of scripture, I soon changed churches. I was like a sponge as the Word penetrated day after day. A selfish, angry, frustrated 18 year old now became a servant to the LORD. I began to be available for all in need, and GOD has given me a servant’s heart, by HIS Grace.

I was able to forgive Joe, and invite him to church; even helped him repair his cars, and just being respectful and kind to this man. Only GOD’S Spirit could do this! I just praise GOD daily for saving me, and being patient with me. The difficult circumstances HE placed me in were for a reason; eternal blessing was HIS goal.

Now those hard long years made sense to me, much like what Joseph went through as he was betrayed and sold by his own brothers to the Ishmaelites. He languished in pain and loneliness, without a home, much like me. It amazes me how GOD’S Grace works and his immense love and patience. He put up with my harsh words, and waited until the time was right; HE broke me for HIS Glory and has placed me in the Lambs book of Life forever. My own road to Damascus.

By Timothy Allen Hinze

The LORD inspired me to include this song by Kutless, entitled: Promise You at the end of this marvelous message of mercy.

Now that you've heard brother Tim's testimony, have a listen to
Promise You by Kutless.

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