Four Years - A Moment of Thanksgiving:
Four years. It's hard to imagine how far we have come in just four years. Five years ago, I was a "Collins," with all that the last name stood for in the "Message." I was not simply part of William Branham's "Chosen Bride," I was a sincere follower above all else. I believed what William Branham said on recorded sermon, and I felt that everyone should know. We were the "last remnant" of "saints" living in a lost and dying world, and held ownership of esoteric "mysteries" that had been lost over centuries of time. We were the "light" shining through the bitter darkness of this world. To be a "Collins" meant to be a recognized part of this light. Five years ago, I was under the undue influence of a mind control cult.
I had something that others did not have. My grandfather stood with William Branham, the central figure for a Pentecostal-style religious cult, who we believed to be the "prophet" for our "age." As I spread the "good news" about his message, I had a pillar to lean on. My grandfather was there! He knew! He was a witness! I used this to my advantage for every ounce it was worth.
I will never forget four years ago. It was a fundamental milestone in my life. The road that led up to this moment in time was very painful, and if not for the grace of God, I would not be alive today. At the time, I could not see past it. I saw no way out, and there was no future for me here on earth or in the world to come. Life had lost meaning. But then, just four years ago, a tiny bead of light started shining through this dark, painful tunnel where I laid broken. And a Hand started reaching through that light to pick me back up from where I lay.
Though I never did, there was a time when it would have felt "spiritual" to say that four years ago a "Voice spoke to me." And through indoctrination of a Pentecostal-style cult theology, that would be the programmed response I would be giving you right now had I been intent on gaining a following. Any change in one's life this significant must come from a "Voice," as said our central figure of the cult. But if we are honest with ourselves, there was no "voice." There were no signs and wonders in a supernatural experience that could be written in books and sold around the globe to itching ears. The light shining through the window was nothing more than that it seemed: a light, from the sun, shining through panes of glass. The light above my head came from a light bulb that I bought at the local hardware store. The cloud in the sky was formed naturally. The dream I had came from a tired day, and the daydreams I had was no vision â€“ it was imagination.
I came from a religious cult that excited themselves by taking natural occurrences and claiming that they were supernatural. And the problem with this type of philosophy is that other people, not knowing better, believe it. Through time, very human men become more than human in the minds of the people. Men with all of the flaws that humanity has to offer become extraordinary men who present themselves as chosen to be singled out by God for some unknown purpose. Those same men, or at least those with evil hearts, create followings. And over time, those followings repeat stories regarding these experiences until they become myths and legends. After their death, they become mythologies, and hoards of people become enslaved to them. To a historian, it sounds very much like the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman worlds from over two thousand years ago.
If we are to believe that the Bible is our means to understand more about God, we are not to follow those dangerous pathways. If we are to believe that the Holy Spirit was sent after the death of Jesus Christ to lead us and guide us into all truth, we cannot allow itching ears to follow the experiences of others instead of following a leading that comes directly from He who is within us. And if I am to be honest, there was no "Voice" that spoke to me, outside of the still, small voice that changed me from a prideful "Collins" to a flawed human who is just like any one of you.
But from where I once was, I can truly say that I had to be led. My grandfather was a pillar in the "Message," a pastor who loved and was loved by William Branham. My father was his son Joseph Branham's best friend and childhood playmate. My aunts were close to his daughters Sarah and Rebekah. And we were "special" at one time. I was once under Branham's blessing to my grandfather, "All your children and your grandchildren would be saved." My aunt, who has not been in the "Message" since age sixteen was "saved" because of this "blessing" â€“ even though she neither lives, follows, or even agrees with most of the teaching. And four years ago, my mind was programmed to believe that all of these conflicts somehow made perfect sense.
But they did not make sense. How could a man tell another man that God would favor his children above others, and that they had a "free pass"? And how could a grandchild be anything more than a relative? How could ministers in the religion claim that "God has no grandchildren," when "special" blessings were given to myself and others I knew from Indiana, Kentucky, and Arizona?
It was four years ago that I gained the courage to examine what it is that I "said" I believed. And I emphasize the word "said," because I no longer feel that a person can blindly believe anything. And I firmly believe that anyone who does not have the courage to study opposing viewpoints to their faith system does not believe at all. They simply claim that they do, as if that claim can somehow have greater power than actually believing.
Four years ago, I chose to live. I barely had the courage nor the strength to pick myself back up, but God gave me strength. I lived in almost unbearable fear as I examined the "Message," having been programmed to believe that to question your faith is to choose eternal separation. At that time, there were very few willing to help. This was a fear that I conquered mostly alone, save the handful of people who I encountered on the journey. But as I began to examine, the fear was exchanged with determination. And the handful of people who helped were like librarians, pointing to amazing shelves filled with information.
In my mind, I began to imagine a balance scale between truth and error. As I would examine the claims made by William Branham, I began stacking them on either side of that scale. As a truth was found, I examined the weight that truth carried. And as an error was found, I measured its weight. But over time, I quickly ran into a huge problem. One single untruth seemed to unravel the positive things I could say about my cult faith. Like a small amount of leaven placed into a batch of bread affecting the entire mixture, one small lie made a thousand truths become untruthful. The little leaven truly leavened the whole lump of bread. Over time, as the scale tipped more and more on the side of error, I began to find courage.
Many of you right now are making this same evaluation of your faith. Many of you are wondering why this group who claims to have the "light of the world" prefers to contain that light. Many of you are comparing this "light" to the teachings of the Bible and wondering why we believed that it was in any way special at all. Some of you are asking why we believed we were "better" than other Christians, and why God would ignore other Christians' faith in Jesus Christ when salvation comes by faith. And all of you in this stage of the tunnel are going through the same painful fear that I myself went through, just four years ago.
But we have much to be thankful for. Many have now made this journey, and many have already conquered this fear. Many are helping others as they examine the problems with the "Message," giving them support as the foundation under them is pulled away. It feels like a part of your very existence is being removed, piece by piece. Without those who are helping to support, this can be a terrifying and painful experience.
Many of you have now moved past all of this. Some of you, having been born and raised under the mind control of the "Message" are having to find their authentic selves, their identities that were suppressed as the cult identity kept it bound. These are the most excited and thankful. Having been robbed of freedoms, some of you for over fifty years, these are the people that are experiencing life! No desire to put a second thought into this invisible prison, they are living life to the fullest. Each day is Thanksgiving for them; with every day that passes, there is another new experience in life to enjoy. And many of them are living this full and complete life in less than four years.
Those of you who are struggling now are thinking, "Four years?" It seems like a lifetime! And from that side of the tunnel, it does. I can remember back four years ago. As the foundation of the "Message" that I'd rested my soul upon began to crumble, it knocked the wind from me. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. My whole life no longer had any meaning. It felt like I had been living in a box, with all of the sides painted to look like a full and complete world, and had been told that there is nothing else beyond the cardboard walls. Suddenly, the paint had faded and I could see holes through the worn-out paper. There was life on the other side, good life with good people! But how could I be part of it? Some of you are asking yourselves, how can four years replace a lifetime? And you find yourselves getting angered, thinking about your life of forced solitude. How can we be thankful for anything?
But I cherish those four years. I'm thankful for them. Those four years have taught me to cherish life. Each day that I live, from now on until forever, I will be grateful for every single aspect of life. I can never take for granted the freedom that God has given us, and will never find myself in a place where I was. I've traded a life I wanted to end for a life I love living.
In just four years, I have found myself. No longer the prideful elitist created by my cult identity, I am a flawed human being. And I live in a world with other flawed human beings. And those other flawed human beings do not pretend that they are perfect or "special chosen ones." But they learn and they grow together. They do not separate themselves, isolate themselves, or condemn others for being flawed. Like others in this flawed world, I have learned to love. And I have learned that God had a greater purpose in creating life just as it is, where we need each other and depend on each other. To a Bible-believing Christian, one must be part of a flawed world in order to fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written in the Bible. God so loved this world â€“ even a world filled with flawed people â€“ that He sent His only Son in order to save them. There is only One who is NOT flawed, and that One is God.
Four years has been a wonderful journey for a large number of people. But it does not stop after these four years. There's much, much more. Though this religious cult thought it had taken away our freedom, and that we could never rebound from what they had taken away, they were wrong. Like coiled springs, we are bouncing back with years of bottled up energy! Our life was not taken from us, we just had to go through "boot camp." And this "boot camp" taught us to enjoy life even more. While the world around us may sometimes take for granted the freedoms given to them by God, we cherish and enjoy each and every one of them. We are thankful for our new life, saddened that it took many, many years of error to be thankful for it, and now excited to live it.
As you spend time with others during this holiday celebration, take a moment to be thankful for the journey. Be thankful that there are others who have gained the courage to start theirs. Be thankful that there are some willing to forfeit a portion of their newfound freedom to continue helping others gain strength. Be thankful that you have others to spend time with on this Thanksgiving holiday, remembering that there was a time when cult family and friends had cut you off. Some of you can be thankful that some of those same family and friends have mended relationships. Some of you can be thankful that a few of those same family and friends have started their journey to freedom. But all of you can be thankful that there is a way out, and that it is only four years.
From all of us who contribute, write, and create content for SeekYeTheTruth.com website, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
The video: https://youtu.be/gFqC1k2U_SY