For many years and generations, our society has been losing a most valuable ingredient. Why do we see so many perversions come to be accepted as "normal" and "natural?" I personally believe that men don't know how to be men and fathers don't know how to be fathers to their children. I believe women long to be women but men have run away from their responsibilities leaving the women to be both mother and father. This will never work. A child, whether a son or a daughter, gains his identity from his or her father. If the father is not there, either physically or emotionally, how can he instill any worth or identity upon the child? Our only hope is in learning how much our heavenly Father desires a close and intimate relationship with His children and becoming the children He says we are.
What you are about to read is a story of hope...and the reason we sing...the reason we will never stop praising the Lord Jesus Christ. The following is our personal witness of the love and power of Jesus Christ in our lives. As you read, we are asking the Lord to break your heart by the things that break His heart. And may you realize your Father's great love for you! You see, it's time for the Church to be honest. If we can't be honest then how can we be healed? And if we can't love one another enough to see healing in our own lives, how can we love a lost and dying world enough to see healing in their lives? No sin is too little or too big. They are all filthy before Him! All we know is we have been called to bring hope and healing to the lost and dying! How He loves you, child!
Dennis & Melinda Jernigan
We Have Believed A Lie!
Before I begin my story, you must know that I desire to bring honor to my earthly father and mother as well as to my heavenly Father. The reason I share the things I am about to share with you is because I believe many people will be able to identify with what I have "gone through." My greatest desire is that you would come to know the Father even more intimately than I have. Because we are all born sinners we all have some very basic needs. Yes, we have physical needs. But I'm referring to the many emotional and spiritual needs we are born with. Little children gain their identity through their father. I can remember being a little boy and desiring my daddy's approval and acceptance for every area of my life. Being a father of both boys and girls myself I can see not only how my sons need me to help them realize "who they are" but my daughters as well. One of my daughters may "do" her own hair and come to my wife, Melinda, and ask how it looks. But it takes dad's stamp of approval before she will really believe that it looks acceptable. And isn't that the way it should be with our heavenly Father? I desire to gain my worth and acceptance from my heavenly Father? I desire to gain my worth and acceptance from my heavenly Father and who He says I am. As a father, I desire to nurture my children in such a way that they do not become dependent upon me but are able to transfer their deep needs to their heavenly Father. I realize I will never be perfect as a father, husband, worship leader, or person. But my Father is perfect--in every way! My healing has come and will continue to come as I seek an intimate and life-giving relationship with Him.
I was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Soon after my birth, my parents moved to the farm my grandparents (Samuel Washington and Myrtle Mae Snyder) had built...the farm where my father was raised. We lived three miles from the small town of Boynton, Oklahoma (Pop. approx. 400) where my brothers and I attended school. The Lord gifted me from an early age to play the piano. By the time I was nine years old I was regularly playing for the worship times at First Baptist Church. This was also the church my grandfather Herman Everett Johnson had pastored. This was the church where my parents, Samuel Robert Jernigan and Peggy Yvonne Johnson, had met. My father had also "led singing" here from the earliest I can remember (as he presently does today). When I was about six or seven years old, my grandmother Jernigan moved back to the farm in a trailer next to the old farmhouse where we lived. And each day after school I could be found at my grandmother's house practicing piano conveniently forgetting about my chores.
It was through my grandmother Jernigan that the Lord taught me to play the piano. Since we lived so far from any town with a music teacher, I had to learn to play by ear. My grandma was very patient with me and taught me how to "chord" for "church playing!" It was also my grandma who told me there was more to a relationship with Jesus than getting saved. She once told me that she would know my grandpa Jernigan when she got to heaven because the Lord had told her his "new name in glory!" I was in awe! God spoke to my grandma...but I could never hear him speak to me. Needless to say, I grew very close to this godly woman. It would be many, many years before I would begin to realize the full impact that she was to have and is having on my life.
My relationship with my parents, from talking with many others over the years, was quite typical for my generation. We were not an affectionate family. While I did feel affection from my mother, I never remember receiving physical affection from my father or among my brothers and myself. My daddy was very hard working. We were not poor...but we were not rich monetarily. In addition to working the farm, my dad was employed by a utility company and eventually worked as a mechanic for many years. Since I have gotten older, God has reminded me of many ways my father expressed affection and love for me as I was growing up. My problem was not my father. My problem was that I believed a lie. Once Satan got his foot in the door of my heart, any rejection - no matter how big or how small was perceived as a lack of love from my dad (or whomever I felt rejected by at the time).
Looking back, I realize that I was a very selfish child. From the earliest I can remember, I found it hard to believe anyone loved me. I felt worthless. Since I didn't believe anyone loved me, I couldn't really receive love. What I did discover, though, was that if I did something well, people would like me. So, I tried to be the best in whatever I did: schoolwork, basketball, music, etc....But I became so frustrated because no matter how well I performed, it never seemed to be good enough. I was very miserable and felt all alone (even though I wasn't alone!). Sports and grades weren't giving me any hope...neither was music. Because I made choices based upon how or what I perceived people thought of me, I became a very selfish person...usually at the expense of others and most often as the expense of my little brothers. What people thought was so good, my outward performance, soon began to hide the deepest hurts and failures of my heart. And I must add that my daddy and mama never missed one single event I was involved in while growing up, this should have spoken volumes to me. Still I chose to believe a lie.
Now I need to tell you about what I consider to be the most painful part of my life, a part I tried to hide. Since I felt so rejected, I allowed it to permeate every part of my life. What I didn't realize was that Satan was lying to me, all the while trying to keep me from God's plan for my life. This included the sexual part of my life. In this area I felt so ashamed and afraid of rejection that I became even more selfish and perverted in my way of thinking. As a boy I needed a role model to show me the way to manhood. But because I felt rejected by the main man in my life I, in turn, rejected him and began to yearn for intimacy with a man in perverse ways. Because of this wrong thinking I came to believe I was homosexual. It must have begun early in my life because I remember having those feelings for the same gender at a very early age. I hid this from others through high school and through my four years at Oklahoma Baptist University even though it wasn't hidden from those I had relations with. I might add that even though I was involved in homosexuality through my college days that I still regard that time with fondness. It is in looking back that I can see the awesome and mighty hand of God ministering His love to me in the midst of my sin and confusion. Because of my lack of musical training while growing up, my musical studies at OBU were like learning a whole new language. To be able to actually read and write the music I could see or hear was like a whole new world opening up to me. This would be very valuable later in my life as I began to express my heart and my feelings in song.
Upon my graduation from OBU in 1981, God began to move in supernatural ways that even I couldn't see! One of these instances was a simple music concert. A group called The Second Chapter of Acts was going to be in concert in Norman, Oklahoma, and I knew that I was supposed to go. By that time in my life I was looking for anybody who was real, someone who had a real walk with the Lord. Among Christian musicians, I was looking for more than entertainers. So, I went to their concert. I knew by the words they said and the music they sang that these people were genuine, and the message was born out of times of desperation in their own lives. I needed hope. As I listened to Annie Herring speak and sing I was overwhelmed by the love she spoke of. This was the love I had dreamed of but still couldn't believe was available to me! So I listened very intently with great expectation--until she came to the song *"Mansion Builder." This song caught my deepest attention because of the simple phrase, "Why should I worry? Why should I fret? I've got a Mansion Builder Who ain't through with me yet?" All of a sudden she just stopped in the middle of the song and said, "There are those of you here who are dealing with things that you have never told anyone and you are carrying those burdens and that's wrong--that's sin and you need to let those hurts go and give them to the Lord. We are going to sing the song again and I want you to lift your hands to the Lord--and all of those burdens that you are carrying, I want you to place them in your hands and lift your hurts to Him." This was all new to me--worship and praise. I had always thought before that this was just an emotional response that didn't really mean anything. But you know what it did for me? As I lifted my hands, God became more real to me than I had ever imagined! The lifting of my hands was more than a physical action. My hands were an extension of my heart! I realized that Jesus had lifted His hands for me--upon the cross. I realized that He truly was beside me a nd that He was willing to walk with me and carry me and just be honest with me. And I could be honest with Him! At that moment, I cried out to God and lifted those burdens to the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, I can't change me or the mess I've gotten myself into--but you can!" And you know what? He did change me!
At that time I acknowledged the fact that I was totally helpless and I turned everything in my life over to Jesus--my thoughts, my emotions, my physical body...and my past. Basically, I took responsibility for my own sins and yielded every right to Jesus--my right to be loved, my right even to life. Because of my choice to sin, I deserved death and hell--and that's where Jesus came in. At that point, something wonderful began to take place in my life...I began to hear the Lord speak to my heart--"Dennis, I love you. I have always loved you! Dennis, you are my child--I love you no matter what. Dennis, I will always love you!" It was then that I lost the need to be accepted or loved by others because I realized Jesus would love me and accept me no matter what, even when I was rejected by others! It was also at this same time that those sexually perverse thoughts and desires were changed...and He began to replace them with holy and pure thoughts about what sexual love was all about. You see, the sexual drive is a creative drive and Satan knows that if he can pervert that drive, he can kill and pervert God's creativity in us.
This all seems to fit in place for me now. For when I was about nine years old, I felt the Lord speak to me that I would someday have a large family of my own...with nine children! I thought, "Lord, You must be crazy. How can I have children if I have homosexual (unnatural) desires?" Do you see what Satan was trying to do? Not only is God blessing me with a wonderful marriage and many children, He continues to pour out His music in my heart. It is out of the gratefulness of my heart towards the Lord that I will have all the children He will bless me with and I will never stop singing praise to His name. The secret--the key for me is knowing that Jesus loves me and that I need Him desperately more every day...and realizing that He wants to change me--to change my heart--every day. My desire is to come into His presence (lay myself on the altar) that He might change me into His own image. You see, when I was nine years old, Jesus began calling me to Himself. On September8, 1968, I asked my mother how to be saved. She explained the plan of God's salvation--that we were all sinners and that we deserved to perish in hell. I was saved that Sunday afternoon and baptized that same evening. I believe that I was saved when I was nine years old, but because I looked and perceived my heavenly Father through my own perverted image of my earthly father, I couldn't fully receive all He had in store for me--like acceptance and forgiveness. It is so amazing to me that He loved me enough to preserve my life the way he has in this day and age of promiscuity, perversion, and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. One thing that kept me going during the early years of my life when I felt like giving up and living in sin, was the fact that Jesus kept calling me. If He was God then there was truly hope for me! The most precious thing of all is that He loves me with all His heart...and that's how I want to love Him. Because of this relationship with Jesus, my healing has been and will be a continual process...until the day I die and can see Him face to face!
Another major point of change for me came during this same time in 1981--yet another divine setup! A close friend found out about my past. I knew I would be disgraced and rejected now! When he confronted me, I ran from the house and continued to run until I could run no more. At that point, I simply cried out to God to speak to me. At the same, my eyes were directed to look into the darkness of the evening sky where I was drawn to a puffy white cloud floating above. This cloud looked like an old man with a beard and outstretched arms. Near this cloud was a smaller cloud in the shape of a lamb. As I watched, the bearded man engulfed the little lamb in His arms. I knew immediately that God was speaking to me...that this was what He wanted to do for me in this time of need. I then had the grace to return and "face the music." But that's not what happened! This friend was a true friend. He told me he loved me and was willing to stand with me as I walked through this time of deliverance in my life. And you know what else happened? God began to bring others into my life who were willing to love me unconditionally and to walk with me through the trials of my life--no matter what--for my complete healing.
In 1983, God called me to marry my wife, Melinda. I assumed that since I considered myself to be healed that there was no need to share my past with her. But I soon realized that I was really still trying to hide--which meant I still carried a burden and that I was still more concurred with what man thought of me than what God thought of me. Soon after we were married, the babies started coming! And with the babies, the added pressure of responsibility to deal with the real issues of total healing in my life. Hiding the truth would keep me from the healing God wanted for me in my life.
Because I hid these things from others, my relationships could never truly be what God wanted them to be--because in true love there is no fear. I was always afraid to tell anyone because I thought no one would love me. Why am I telling you now? Well, on July 13, 1988, I realized God wanted to take the greatest failures and weaknesses of my life and make them my greatest strengths--and that Satan wanted me to keep them hidden so he could use them against me. But like the prostitute, Mary Magdalene, I realized that to hide those things kept me from fellowship and freely loving the One I loved the most--Jesus. Not only this, but if I confessed my past freely, Satan would have no ammunition against me. So here's what I did. In July of 1988, I shared what I just told you (in a much more brief way!) with my church...and something beautiful took place. People began to come out of the woodwork who had been hurting just like me and even more so, men and women who were involved in homosexuality (sodomy), women who were abused by their fathers, those who had been raped and never told anyone, and even those who had abortions, etc. As they confessed their sins and hurts, Jesus was able to begin healing all their past. On that day, I publicly laid down my life and my reputation to serve Jesus in an awesome way. However, I want my life to be broken and poured out life the perfume Mary Magdalene used to wash Jesus' feet even though they said she was foolish. I want to lay down my life and reputation for others just as my Lord Jesus did for me. Imagine that--the perfect King of the Universe humbled Himself and gave up all His power and glory because He loves me! I can do no less!
Since the day I first shared my past publicly, God has called me to tell others what He has done for me--to lead and call others into intimacy with Jesus through the avenue of music and worship. It was after such a time of sharing in my hometown of Boynton in 1989 that I began to realize the true depth and extent of God's great love for me and the calling upon my life and the role of my grandmother Jernigan's vision and prayer upon my ministry. After leading worship at the Boynton Community Center, one of my grandma's old prayer partners said to me, "Isn't it wonderful how your grandmother's prayers have been answered?" Amid feelings of shock and tears of joy, I asked, "What prayers?" And she answered, "Didn't you know? Your grandmother told me how she would stand behind you as you practiced the piano at her house each day and would ask god to use you mightily in His kingdom to lead in music and worship! And He has answered her prayers!"
Your circumstances, your sins, your wounds, etc., may all be different than mine, but the answer is still the same--Jesus.
Your circumstances, your sins, your wounds, etc., may all be different than mine, but the answer is still the same--Jesus. You may have been sinned against and wounded very deeply. For those times you are not guilty! If you have been used or abused in any way, you can be healed. Do not receive the false guilt that Satan would try to put on you because of circumstances that were beyond your control. I urge you to deal with your own heart and the things you were (and are) responsible for--like attitudes, actions, thoughts, and feelings! There is hope for the hurting. If you are like me, you may need radical surgery. Surgery may take more time than it takes to put a Band-Aid on a wound. But surgery generally gets to the cause and doesn't just cover up or pacify the symptoms of the wound. If you are willing, you can get to the root(s) of your sin(s). I urge you to get to the root of and deal with whatever you may be facing.
I've been there and found the way out, and I must share my story--the story of Jesus with those who are hurting. Aren't we all hurting in one-way or another?
The bottom line is this: I can't make it one day without the Lord. I ask Him to fill me with His spirit day-by-day and moment-by-moment and to lead me. You see, we are all helpless and in need of a Father to care for us. And He is the Father Who will never leave us or forsake us. He is the Father Who enjoys our presence more than we could ever enjoy His! I am no longer afraid of what others think of me (at least I'm asking the Lord to help me in that area!). Please pray for me and my family as we seek God's direction for our lives. I love you.
In His Love and Grace,