Our parents were high school sweethearts who lived in San Diego, California. Our mother’s family joined the Message while in California and then proceeded to move to Arizona due to Branham's prophesy of California sinking. Our father was an atheist at the time but loved our mother like no other and moved to Tucson to pursue the relationship. Our dad was soon converted to the Message and to this day our parents faithfully believe in Branham.
We were born into the Message. Our parents attended a few Message churches during our life including Tucson Tabernacle (Rev. Pearry Greene) and Charity Tabernacle (Rev. David Musgrove). It was pretty shocking to see the differences in doctrine that each Message church carries. Tucson tabernacle was a more standard church (some pastoral messages and some tape recordings of the prophet) while Charity Tabernacle was more of a modern church (where Message tapes were not played often and every sermon was typically the pastor preaching or the “apostle” Rev Coleman preaching). The majority of our memories are with Charity Tabernacle, and we remember the church really believed most other Message churches were “dead and legalistic.” They hated that other Message churches would often sit in silence during the tape playing and had no liveliness during worship. Our parents' church was quite different in the way that regular outpourings of the Holy Spirit (screaming, crying, jumping) and standing/clapping occurred during most of the pastor’s sermon. We were different from the other Message churches, and this separated us from mainstream Branhamism. We still remember going to events like “Harmony in the Desert” and seeing cute boys, then sadly thinking that it would never work because he wasn’t a part of “our” church's version of the Message. Branhamism claims denominations of the Protestant church are the harlots, birthed by the mark of the beast, the “antichrist” who is the Catholic Church. However, they fail to realize Branhamism in itself has become a smaller sized denomination chain where there is not one true unified Message church but many different “true” churches that each claim to hold the correct translation of the Message.
(Susanna): Growing up I had a very cold view of God. I felt like God’s love was conditional and that He was constantly disappointed over my lack of faith and dedication to the Message. I felt this tremendous burden to achieve the "Doctrine of Perfection" (Branham's "Statue of a Perfect Man") and that if I was not constantly dedicating myself to God and the Message then I was in a state of back-sliding. When I was 17 I made the decision to pretend to be sick on a Wednesday night and go to a non-denominational mainstream church’s Bible study. Bible studies in itself were so foreign to me... you mean to tell me groups of Christians actually meet to talk about the Bible and ask questions about God’s Word without fear? To this day, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Message churches don’t typically hold Bible studies. Ministry leaders in the Message really control the thoughts and opinions of the members and questions are not encouraged. I truly believe a Bible study would be a Message pastor’s nightmare because it's an atmosphere that encourages questions and looks at the purpose of the text with a body of believers; not the pastor interpreting on a pulpit and the congregation just accepting. I could ask questions with people who understood that someone can love Jesus with all their heart and still ask questions and hunger for truth and righteousness. Over the next few months I grasped for the first time the true essence of the Gospel. The Gospel is this: Humanity is broken and full of depravity. God loved us so much he sent Jesus as a perfect atonement for our sins. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are no longer slaves to our sin but sons and daughters of God. Nothing can tear us from His grasp, you are His for all eternity. Later on in my journey, I went to college and was blessed with both an Associates and Bachelor degrees, and the greatest gift ever- meeting my husband Dylan. We reside in Tucson and attend a wonderful church where we are a part of children’s ministry! My days are filled with joy, hardships, good lessons, raw and intimate conversations, and laughter. Praise be to God, from who all blessings and goodness flows.
(Ruth): Growing up I have a very similar story to my older sister, Susanna. Susanna chose to leave a year before I decided to. I remember feeling extremely embarrassed that I had a sister that was leaving the Message because I felt that people in the congregation were judging my sister and my family for her decision. I even remember being upset at my sister because she had put me and the rest of our family in this situation. At our church a seer was introduced to the congregation. He claimed that he could prophesy and read God’s invisible handwriting on the wall. He put the congregation in a constant state of fear. He blamed the congregation’s sin and lack of faith for the hinderance of the healing of our apostle who was very sick at the time. He would routinely “blast” and rebuke the congregation for our failures and would often heighten the emotions in the service by personally calling out names and sins of different people in the church. The seer also would reference the Biblical story of Ananias and Sapphira and threaten that people who came against the Message and him were going to have a similar ending. During this time I developed anxiety that would manifest itself in anxiety attacks due to the tremendous pressure I felt. The seer said “Thus Saith the Lord” that our apostle would be healed and when our apostle died, it shook the me to the core. When he left the church, the fear somewhat lifted (I still struggle with anxiety) and I finally allowed myself to question the Message. I came to a heartfelt decision that if “church” and “God” meant being constantly anxious, fearful, and inadequate of God’s love, then I emotionally and physically would not be able to continue believing that way. Two main reasons I maintained a strong anchor in Christ during this storm was seeing my sister’s life and watching various “normal” mainstream church services. The Message had always painted people who left the Message as living in complete darkness, claiming their lives were headed down a path of total destruction. My sister was a great example that someone can leave the Message, live a healthy (happy) life, and still love Jesus. I remember being amazed that I observed my sister having an even stronger and more solid relationship with God after she left vs. before in the Message. I loved her freedom and fearlessness in understanding God, the Gospel, and her openness in asking questions and seeking answers. The second anchor while I was transitioning to leave the Message was watching mainstream Christian services. I felt like in the Message I got a constant theme of “you are sinful, God will not love you in your state of sin, and you need to constantly be in a state of attaining perfection to be right with God.” When I watched mainstream Christian services, I received an unwavering theme of “I am sinful, however, God’s grace is greater than my sin. I work on myself and my sin/shortcomings because I love God, not because I feel like God doesn’t love me.” I have separated from the Message for over 7 years now and attend a local mainstream nondenominational church with my sister. I work part time while going to college for occupational therapy. I have a lot of homework and studying to balance, but God is with me and helping me day by day accomplish and obtain my future dream career!
God’s love is unwavering and unconditional. He fiercely loves us on our good days and on our bad days. We’ve learned true relationship; no longer feeling this pressure to always be on a high with God, but instead our relationship with God ebbs and flows. We have seasons where we feel God and happiness every second of the day and then seasons where we cry out to God with feelings of hurt, anger, and sadness asking to hear His voice and feel His comfort. We understand the sheer Grace of God so much more. God is absolutely perfect, and we are absolutely imperfect. What a mind blowing scandal of Grace that God deeply and intimately loves humanity. We think the "Doctrine of Perfection" is so detrimental to the Christian because it forces humans to lower the standard of what sin is. No human meets God's standards. Every day, every hour, every MINUTE we fall short of the goodness of God. It is in that realization where beauty and gratefulness is found! Like Martin Luther: I see my sin, I see every failing and crack and how much I do not measure up to His standard and in seeing the state of my depravity and brokenness- I see God’s amazing sovereignty, glory, and grace. We understand Luther's plea: through grace ALONE are we to obtain salvation. Not through a prophet, not through good works, not through a theology of perfectionism. His power is truly made perfect in our weakness. We no longer see Christianity as this checklist towards perfection. We now proceed in the process of making ourselves more like Jesus (sanctification) because of how much we adore Him. It is such a joyful and fruitful lifestyle! Dear readers hearing our story; living your life for Jesus should not feel like a constant race, it’s a lifestyle that breathes and exhales grace. It’s freedom knowing the race has already been WON as soon as you accepted Jesus into your heart.
But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
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