A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 1

A personal testimony of the reality of God’s grace….in three parts…

But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

2 Peter 2:22 

A Pig and His Mud

These words came to mind and knocked the wind of me.  How could I ever find my way back to God?  It had been 10 years of riotous living and discouragement.  Having read these verses before, I took a deep breath and indulged in my hopelessness:

“…for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:19-22

Peter’s words described me perfectly.  Like knives they jumped off the page into my heart:

a slave being mastered…

escaped corruption by knowing Jesus…

entangled and overcome…

worse off at the end than at the beginning….

better to not have know the way of righteousness…

turned my back on the sacred command passed on to me.

a sow washed and going back to the mud and getting dirty again.

How had I gotten to this point in my earthly experience? This passage was clear.  It needed no interpretation from the Greek or some fanciful twisting of its words to make it say something else.

I had also heard the phrase or idea in another passage saying my situation was worse at the end than at the beginning:

And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.

Matthew 12: 45

The very words of Jesus Himself!  He talks about a house (a person’s life) that is swept clean of the evil, but 7 spirits more evil than the first one occupy the empty house (life).

That was me! I left God and had indulged in sin including alcohol, women, and poor judgment. I WAS more evil now than ever before in my life.  It was not always so. In this Part 1 I will describe my conversion from Atheism to a full-blown believer in Jesus.  In part 2, I will talk about my falling away and the hopelessness I felt, but how God cleaned up the pig yet one more time. Part 3 is my second conversion and the strength I gained from the experience.

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Divorce and a Grandmother’s Influence

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old and I remember crying many nights because I missed my dad.  Once, while looking at the big pictures in my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a photograph of dad between its pages.  He was with friends and had a big smile on his face.

Dad was like John Wayne to me.  Big and tough, but a very likable person.  When I saw the photo of him playing cards with friends, I began to feel the pain of being lonely for his presence in my life and the tears flowed freely.  My dear grandmother saw me with my head down and sobbing.  She gently took the old photo from me.  I never saw it again.

My Mom worked hard and even as a young boy I knew money must have been tight  because we moved in with my grandmother. When I started first grade, it was my grandmother who walked me to school and returned for me when school let out.  I slept in her bedroom on a little cot next to a unused fireplace.  She made my meals, gave me a bath, and talked to me about God.

My Mom was working hard making a living for her two boys.  I clung to her and my grandmother or mamaw, as we called her,…hoping they would never leave my brother and me like dad had done.

At night, mamaw knelt beside her bed and prayed for me.  It was her habit to say her prayers softly, but if anyone was close by  they could hear her in the quietness and darkness of bedtime.  As I lay there listening, I remember her prayers being like a conversation.  In my mind, I was sure that if I looked in her part of the room, I would see her and Jesus having a cup of tea and talking there on the floor. I could see Jesus sitting with His legs bent and arms around his knees looking at my grandmother.

She prayed for everyone in the family and saved my name for last…the oldest grandchild.  As she spoke my name, I could see it floating like vapor to the very throne room of God where His eyes and  attention would quickly shift to me.  It was a good and awesome feeling.  I felt secure.

Mamaw was my Sunday school teacher. She taught me about God in those early years. She based her feelings and practical living on the words of her beloved Bible.

We lived in a mixed neighborhood and my best friend next door was black.  I didn’t even think about his color until I heard someone else mention it.  I knew he was different, but different like bigger, older, and more smart.

Later as I became more aware of color and culture differences, I asked mamaw about a mixed couple I had seen.   “What does God think about a black person and a white person being married?” I asked.

Her response was very simple.  “Well, Moses married an Ethiopian.” Now, I didn’t know much about Moses or Ethiopians, but I knew by the way she answered that she was saying God was OK with it.

From that time on and to this day, I have viewed people….”yellow, black, and white” as “precious in his sight.”  People are good or bad, not based on their color, but by the choices they make and the influences in their life. None of us on planet earth made a decision about our birth place, our color, or our sex.  We all came into this world the same way, but we didn’t choose to be poor, rich, black, or white, or anything else that is unique to who we are. My grandmother taught me that all of us are built the same and have the same value in God’s eyes.

The God of my grandmother was approachable and understanding, but my mind and thoughts about God were soon to  change as I learned of the God  taught by an elder of the church.

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Childhood and Hell

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my grandmother sent me to Vacation Bible School.  It was a wonderful time with songs, food, and Bible stories.  But, my favorite part of the day was craft time, where we made things.  I made a jewelry box for my sweet mother who I didn’t see often because she was always working or out on a date.

I carefully painted a cigar box an elegant color and after it dried I placed decals of butterflies on it and pasted shells on the top.  I just knew my Mom would love it and she did.  Our last day at VBS was Friday and that is when the parents would come visit us.  We would give them our creations.  I was excited.

But, early Friday morning, the teachers invited a church elder to talk with us about the Sunday service and how we would be part of it.  The man’s name was appropriately called Mr. Hale.

His stern demeanor made me nervous and afraid. He began to tell us about Jesus and what He had done for us.  He also mentioned that there would be a baptism  on Sunday for any of us who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior.

All of this sounded good and I thought it would be good to be baptized so I could be saved.  It would please my grandmother.

Then Mr. Hale began to tell us what would happen to us if we were not baptized.

He said, when we died we would go to hell where our flesh would burn forever without stop.  He went on to describe how our blood would boil like hot water.  It was at this point that my mind went blank and I could not hear any more.  This was not the God who I heard my grandmother talk to every night.

That night, I told my grandmother,  I wanted to be baptized so I would not go to hell.  I thought she would smile and tell me how happy she was about my decision, but I saw a different expression of concern on her sweet face.

She told me I was too young to understand about sin and repentance.  Her words were often short and to the point, but very powerful and understandable.  So when Sunday came, I did not go forward when the altar call was made and I was not baptized because I trusted my grandmother and her God.

From the point Mr Hale describe hell to me, I began to be confused about God.  Over time, I viewed God as angry at me.  With arms crossed and looking down from heaven, I was certain he was waiting for me to make a big enough mistake so He could condemn me to an eternity in stinging, melting, suffocating flames and smoke. I imagined him keeping me alive so I could suffer more.

When I entered college, I took a freshman history class taught by a professor who was an Atheist.  He blended into the course of history the idea of how stupid people were to believe in a supreme being.  I was an easy target to accept these ideas because of my youth and suspicion about religion.  I knew little of the Bible and little of history to think otherwise.

Despite all this, there were times when I felt convicted about how I thought as an Atheist.  Sometimes, I would listen to Billy Graham on TV with the idea of making fun of him and Christians, but I would feel like crying for some reason.

Somewhere I knew that my little grandmother was praying there on her floor with Jesus.  To me, Jesus was a good character, but God the Father was an angry vindictive old man.

My experience in college with the professor and “higher education” left me an unbeliever.  While I was not a card-carrying militant Atheist, I was nevertheless a committed unbeliever and a seeker of pleasure and good times. It seemed logical that God was man’s creation used to both control and comfort people. Evolution made sense to me and Genesis did not.  We were just one big cosmic accident evolving into more complex life forms.  Life had little meaning or purpose to me.  My wish was to enjoy what I could, while I could.

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Atheism and Life

I got married early.  I was only a few weeks from my 19th birthday.  I worked full-time and went to college at night.  For two years I endured this routine and finally burned out.

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles where I intended to pursue an acting career.  But, after a year of enjoying a different environment, we moved back home in the south and I went back to school and my routine.

My wife and I separated for a short time.  We were so young and didn’t have any direction in our lives.  I had no purpose except for athletics.  Basketball was my game and I began to run and bike to get in shape.  After a few weeks, it became obvious that I had a talent for running and cycling.

Over the next several years, I ran 8 marathons including two trips to Boston and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington. It was fairly easy for me to keep up a sub-7 minute mile for 26.2 miles.

As I got stronger at cycling, my bikes became more expensive.  I raced often with the club or against myself through time trials to work.  I often ran to and from work as well.  I began to win races and was featured on the front page of the local newspaper for a 3-month competition of running at the YMCA.  I was also running to and from work at the bank every day…a round trip of 10 miles.  This was just a few months before I attempted a cross-country ride from Los Angeles to my home in the Southeast (Over 2,000 miles).

So I had found my niche in life and felt I could go faster and farther with the right diet and training.  All of this was the most important thing in my life.  More important than relationships including my wife and my family.

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Desert Encounter

It was on the desert between the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff that I began to use some logic about life and God. As I rode my bike in the cool of the summer morning and took in the magnificent view of the mountains in the distance, I was overcome with the beauty of the day, the strength in my legs, and the power of my lungs.  I began to connect the dots of life.

The logic seemed too simple.  Suppose, I had never seen a clock before and had not idea of its purpose. But, as I began to explore it closer, I could see that the wheels were precise and they moved the hands, which had numbers.  The movement of the hands across the  numbers corresponded to the length of a day.

 I could not dismiss the logic and the simple complexity of a clock. Then came the comparison of the clock to only one element of the human body i.e., the eye.  The human eye with its connection to the brain and the resulting actions was far more complex than a watch or clock.  This led me to conclude: the  simple clock must have a “clock maker.”  Someone with intelligence made it!  So, in turn, there must be a “human maker”….someone with intelligence who could make all the parts of the body work together.  To deny this was simply illogical.

 I said my first meaningful prayer as I cycled along the desert floor on that hot summer day.  “God, if you are out there, please reveal yourself to me.”

Later in the day, I peddled a loaded bike up the cool mountain and flew down the other side at over 50 mph.  My prayer was quickly forgotten.  But, only a few months later, God would show Himself to me in the most clear way possible.

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Making Fun of My Wife’s Beliefs

My trip was cut short by delays related to the sickness of one of the riders.  The dust storm in Two Guns Arizona was the final straw.  I was running out of time and felt like this whole trip was a waste of time. So I climbed off my bike and jumped in the van with one of the remaining riders that followed me each day and we drove back home….I was upset that I had quit, but I felt the pressure of getting back to work.

When I arrived back at my home, I discovered my wife was attending  evangelistic meetings which continued for several weeks.  This religious meeting was different from the tent meetings normally associated with such gatherings.  It was more like a big Bible study with a notebook.  The setting seemed to be more like a classroom than a church with all its emotion and loud preaching.

It sounded interesting, but I was a committed unbeliever and felt like my wife was being tricked by the teacher/preacher.  I made fun of her new-found faith and spiritual excitement.

My wife attended the meetings 5 nights a week.  I didn’t care if she went to them; it made no difference to me. I enjoyed being at home alone and watching TV or listening to my rock albums.  My life was all about getting in the best shape possible to compete and break records.  I wanted to live long. Exercise and diet was going to get me there!

But, God was about to answer my short desert prayer to reveal himself in an unusual way.  The prayers of my grandmother, mother, and wife were also soon to be answered in a powerful way.

One night, when my wife came home from the meetings, I continued to make fun of her.  She looked at me and said,

“If I am wrong, then take this material and tell me where I am not understanding.”

She handed me what appeared to be a notebook in question-and-answer format on different Bible topics; starting with the Jesus.  I told her,

“Sure! I will take look at it and let you know how stupid you are to believe this stuff. “

I was positive and confident I could dismantle the pastor’s material rather easily.

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Proving The Bible Wrong?

I was surprised to discover in the first study that Jesus was not just a new testament character.  He claimed to be in the Old Testament as well.

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24: 25-27

This was new to me.  Also new was that Jesus and his disciples claimed  He was God and He existed from the beginning even before Abraham. He even claimed the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush i.e. I AM.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:1-5

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

John 8:58

“Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”   Exodus 3:14

Everything I was reading began to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

But, when I started studying the prophecies about Jesus and the world starting in Daniel 2, I became more and more hungry to learn as much as I could about the Bible and Jesus.

 Daniel began to share his knowledge of a dream given to the king of Babylon. As he told the king of his dream and gave him the interpretation, my mind went back to the history I was taught from the atheistic professor.  Daniel described the four great powers that arose and were to arise in the ancient world before the events i.e., Babylon, Medio-Persia empire, Greece, and then Rome (the period in which Jesus lived.).  But then Daniel went further into the future in his description and described the 10 divisions of Rome and how they would never be united again.

But, it was his final words that really sent shivers up my spine:

And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.  As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. In as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

Daniel 2:44-45

The “stone” (Jesus ) was going to come again in the “days of these kings”  the 10 divisions of Rome.  That is modern Europe!  Many, including Hitler,  have tried to reunite those divisions, even through inter-marriage of the kings and queens (mingling of seed), but God’s word has stood the test of time.

For the next several weeks, I was like a thirsty man on the desert who could not get enough to drink.  Everything I read was new to me and most satisfying.  I studied everything about Jesus, the state of the dead, heaven, and finally I hit on the topic that the elder of the church described in detail to my Vacation Bible School class when I was 8 years old.  HELL

The pastor/teacher made a good case for the penalty of sin being eternal death and not some place in the corner of the universe where people are living in sun-hot fire, being blistered by the heat and the skin melting away.  To be alive in hell, he reasoned,  meant that the great “merciful” Creator God had to continue  to supply the nutrients of life so the person can suffer more and more….desiring the sleep of death, but not finding it.  So man had changed the penalty of sin as being death to being eternal life….in flames!

I have written extensively about HELL.  Click here for more information:

Hell Part 1

Hell Part 2

Did Jesus Teach More About Hell Than Heaven?

No!  A God of mercy would supply mercy not unquenchable anger.  As I read about death and the fate of the lost, I could see a loving God….the God that my grandmother talked with every night. The destruction of sin and sinner in the last days was described as His strange act.  In fact, God took no pleasure in even the death of the wicked.

‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

Exodus 33:11

God was calling to me to turn from my wicked ways and not die forever.  He wanted me to be part of the first resurrection so clearly taught in the Bible:

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power,

Revelation 20:6

 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18

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Inviting Him Into My Life

One weekend, I agreed to go to church with my wife.  This is the same church who had called in the evangelist/teacher.  I was impressed by the kindness and intelligence of the Bible class and the pastor’s sermon.

A few weeks later as I set in the pew, I felt the convicting power of God’s Spirit and I yielded to that familiar pull and tearful lump in my throat that I felt when I listened to Billy Graham years earlier.  Now the pull was a result of knowing what I knew and wanting others to know it too.

So, I had the second prayer of my life,

“Lord I invite you into my life. Please forgive me of my sins.  But, put me to work to help others know what I know.  I don’t want to be a pew warmer.”

Then peace came to my soul.  After the service, I told the pastor of my prayer and my desire to be baptized.  After Baptism, the Lord put me to work and the pew never got too warm.

I found myself involved in Prison Ministry,  the Billy Graham Crusade, Bible teaching, Sermons, and Radio Ministry (This blog site is named after the radio program presented by a friend and myself years ago i.e., Answers From Scripture)

For almost 20 years, I could not get enough of God’s word and  sharing it to all who would listen.  God had given me a gift to communicate what I read from the Bible into simple terms.  Many came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministries the Lord gave me.  The Lord sent many people in my path who needed to know what I knew.

During this time, I was blessed with three beautiful children.  I wanted them to know Jesus, so I continued the tradition of praying and talking with Jesus on my knees like my grandmother.

Answer to Grandmother’s Prayer and Her Prophecy

My dear grandmother died from Parkinson’s disease a few months after my conversion.

Before she died, my wife and I went to her house one night to tell her that her prayers had been answered.  My desire was to tell her every detail, but her mind would come and go. I didn’t know when would be the right moment to tell her.

As I sat next to her on the floor, she rocked back and forth sewing an imaginary piece of cloth. My wife and my aunt talked and joked while I was praying about how to talk to my beloved prayer partner.

I put my arm on her shaking arm and the shaking stopped.  I took this as my opportunity to tell her of my experience, but could not find the words for the lump in my throat, so I made my words short, just like she would have done.

“Mamaw, I want you to know that I have decided to follow Jesus.  He is all that He has claimed to be.”

She looked at me and said some prophetical words.  “Eddie, don’t ever leave him.  He will sustain you.”  Somehow, she must have known there was danger and pain for me on the horizon, because I would indeed leave Him.  But, for now, we shared the joy and fruit of her many years of prayer.  I stood up, bent over and wrapped my arms around her as she sat.  We both began to weep which alarmed my aunt.

My wife calmed my aunt and told her I was telling Mamaw about my conversion.  We were left to cry together while my wife and aunt cried tears of joy too.

As we left the house and got in the car, the Lord gave me a quick vision or picture in my mind.  I saw Mamaw in a white robe sitting on a rock with Jesus standing beside her, also in a white robe.  His words brought comfort and immediate sobbing happy tears,  “Eddie, don’t worry about her. She is mine.”

Over the next several months, I was able to share more with her.  Her mind would come clear when we talked about Jesus and the Bible. She would quote verse after verse with me.  I told her about the second coming, the resurrection, and how Jesus taught about death being like a sleep. She said, “You know, that makes sense.”

Three months later on Christmas Eve, I sat with her in the hospital. She was dying and I was praying that God would let her sleep.  She fell asleep in Jesus while I was on my way home. These words came to my mind as I looked forward to seeing her again,

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

How I looked forward to that great reunion day when we all went to heaven at the same time!

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The Enemy and Me

But, here is another Bible truth that God warned me about through my grandmother. There is an enemy to the soul.  His name is Satan.  There is also another enemy to us…It is our own carnal nature.

We are warned and encouraged throughout scripture to “put on the whole Armour of God”   We are told to watch and to pray.  Why?

“…because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

It is the adversary that works hard especially on those who are active for him.  I was to be no different.  I once heard a man of God say that the enemy does not waste his time on those who are not active for God.  It is the ones who are following Christ sincerely and talking to others about Him that are the object of his wrath.

I would soon feel the wrath of both Satan and my own sinful nature. Many people do not understand that when someone receives Christ and is given the Spirit of God, the two natures (spiritual and carnal) exist together until we are changed when Christ returns.  Whichever of the two we feed the most daily becomes the one that grows the most.  Because many think that salvation is a one-time trip down the aisle of a church, many will fail Christ and move back to a lost state of following the flesh if they  choose to do so.  No one can pluck us out of  His hand, but we can choose to go back to our “wallowing in the mud.”

This was the verse I quoted at the start of this blog:

“…for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:19-22

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A Pig And His Mud…Again

In 1994 a series of events led me to shake my fist at God. That was my year of testing and I failed.  Like the prodigal son, I took my inheritance and left the Father.

My testimony is in three parts because my experience is in three parts.  You have just read how the Lord moved me from an unbeliever to an active tool in  His hand. I started by looking back from the end of my second experience. But, the second part is not about belief, it is about rebellion….and returning to the mud like a pig that was washed.

Next time, I will talk about how God saved me a second time.  Until then, stay close to the One who made you.  Grandmother was right.  He will never leave you. He is able to “save you to the uttermost.” But you CAN walk away and tell Him to go away. I did.  But, He won’t give up….only you can do that…

6 thoughts on “A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 1”

  1. Thank you, Eddie. I love hearing testimonies about the goodness of God and how He works to save us. What a wonderful day it will be when your eyes actually see your Grandmother on that rock with Jesus at her side! Looking forward to the continuation of your story.

  2. Thank you brother Armstrong for sharing your conversion. I hope, wish & pray that my 2 younger children will read your story. As I’be

  3. Thank you Eddie for sharing your testimony .
    Thank God for your godly grandmother .
    I can’t wait to read the next part of your history.

Your thoughts?