This is the text of my testimony, which I gave at the Ithaca Women's Bible Study Valentine's brunch in 1997. 

     I would like to start with Psalm 40:  "I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a Rock making my footsteps firm.  And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the Lord" (Ps. 40:1-3)

     This is the Valentine brunch, a time when we think of romantic love.  If my testimony has any theme, it would have to be love--false love, worldly love, motherly love, and, ultimately, true love, God's love.  I can think of no better time to talk about the superiority of God's love than at Valentine's.
     As many of you know, I gave my testimony at a Bible Study brunch eight years ago.  God has taught me a lot in the past eight years, so I trust I won't be boring any of you who have already heard me speak.  In fact, I'd like to speak mostly about what He has taught me recently, so I'll try to be as brief as possible in bringing the rest of you up to date on who I am, where I come from, and how God brought me here.
     I grew up in Seattle, Washington, in a conservative Jewish family.  I was raised according to the traditions and customs of Judaism; but since my parents did not believe in God, our Jewishness was really only a cultural tradition to us.  It was an extremely important part of my family's life, but it held no spiritual significance, either for my parents or for myself.  In fact, by the time I reached high school, I had pretty much rejected Judaism and all other religions.  I believed science could answer all of man's questions, and thought only the ignorant needed God.
     Growing up as a rebellious but academically inclined teenager in the sixties, I did not remain in that state long.  I attended a college in Portland, Oregon, which had a reputation as being "a hotbed of beatniks and communists", and I soon began experimenting with drugs.  By the middle of my second year in college I had frequently taken LSD, shot methedrine, and was smoking marijuana daily.  Formal education no longer held any meaning for me, so I decided to follow Timothy Leary's advice; I had already "turned on and tuned in", it was time to "drop out".
     I spent the next year in the San Francisco bay area with my boyfriend, living the life of a flower child, making and selling jewelry, dealing drugs, and staying stoned as much as possible.  It was 1967, the infamous "summer of love", and according to the Beatles, love was all we needed.
    It was at this time that my spiritual life took a turn for the better.  I say the better, because up until then, I did not believe either in God or in the supernatural.  But LSD has the effect of making you aware of the supernatural, because you experience it firsthand.  I did not yet believe in God, but I knew that there was more to life than what I could experience with my five senses.  I knew the spirit world existed, and I spent the next ten years exploring it, using drugs, eastern religions, and even science.
     My boyfriend and I had decided to return to college, since we recognized we needed more education if we were to be able to get jobs we could stand working at.  We eventually ended up at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where we also decided to get married.  There was a brief side trip to jail, as we were arrested for growing marijuana in our basement; but that did not interfere with our college plans.
     My purpose in going back to college was to create a new a drug, one which would make people love each other.  One of the major effects of LSD is to make you feel love and acceptance for everyone, and it seemed to me that was what the world needed if we were ever to overcome the problems of intolerance, greed, war, and environmental destruction which I believed were destroying the planet.  The problem with LSD was that its effects were temporary--the feelings of love passed away as the drug wore off.  What I wanted was to synthesize a drug whose effects were permanent, one that would cause all people to love each other without reserve.
     So I went back to college to study biology and chemistry, with "love" as my goal.  By the time I got my degree, however, I recognized the impracticality of my plans.  Even if I could create such a drug, I could never get everyone in the world to take it, so I abandoned that dream and turned instead toward studying the neurobiological basis of the psychedelic experience.  I came to Cornell in 1971, as a graduate student in neurobiology, with the intention of proving to the scientific community that the altered state of consciousness induced by drugs like LSD, as well as by such techniques as sensory deprivation, transcendental meditation, yoga, and prolonged fasting, was not only a valid psychological experience but was in fact superior to normal conscious functioning.
     My religious orientation as I entered Cornell graduate school was firmly eastern.  I believed in meditation and yoga, as well as drug use, to produce the mental state which I considered essential for ultimate union with what I envisioned God to be, which was an impersonal Cosmic Consciousness.  I believed that all religions were merely different paths to this same state and that ultimately, after many turns at reincarnation, everyone would someday achieve this union with godhood.
     Fortunately, the lab technician in the vet school lab where I did my research had other ideas, and she didn't keep them to herself.  Evelyn was extroverted and talkative, and was so excited by events then occurring in the middle east that she talked to me constantly about the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  This was 1973, the time of the Yom Kippur War in Israel, and since she knew I was Jewish, she thought I would be interested in hearing about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, which I was.  Since I believed all religions to be true, I found no fault in what she said and, in fact, found it convincing and intriguing.
     Up until that point, although I had studied world religions in college and as a hobby, I had never read the New Testament.  For some reason, which I'm sure Satan has a lot to do with, it's very difficult for many Jewish people to read the New Testament, even out of intellectual curiosity.  But as I embarked on a summer with my husband and year-old son, doing research in the middle of the southeast Texas woods, Evelyn gave me a copy the New Testament to take with me; and when I finished reading my carton of science fiction novels, I decided to read the Bible.
     The Holy Spirit was with me as I read God's Word, and although I did not even know He existed, He opened my eyes and my heart to God's truth.  I saw that Y'shua clearly stated He was the only way to God, and that did not allow for many paths.  Either I was wrong or Evelyn was wrong, and God revealed to me as I read His Word that I had been wrong--Y'shua was the Messiah of Israel, and the only way to salvation.
     It took another year for God to fully reach me.  Although I knew intellectually that Y'shua was the only way to God, I still did not see my need of a Savior.  I was still involved in the sixties mentality of "If it feels good, and it doesn't hurt anyone, do it".  I did my best to live by that motto, and believed I succeeded pretty well, so I did not see myself as a sinner; and until I did, I could not see my need of salvation.
     So during the following year God allowed me to get involved in undeniable sin.  I was living on a communal farm with several other science grad students, one of whom, Rick, I had been having an affair with.  Rick was not a believer either at that time, and my husband said he didn't mind, so I rationalized my behavior as polygamy, a very Biblical practice.
     But I had become pregnant, and not knowing who the father was, I felt I had to have an abortion.  My marriage was falling apart anyway, and my husband, being a radical ecologist, felt it was immoral to have more than one child; so abortion seemed the only way out.
     By this point I had realized that I was indeed a sinner in need of salvation.  Although I had no intellectual objections to abortion at that time, I knew that if I became a Christian, I could not go ahead with it.  Since I felt my future depended on having the abortion, I decided to go ahead with it and then give my life to God afterwards.
     The spiritual turmoil which followed the abortion was devastating.  A frightening supernatural encounter that night, while I was stoned, convinced me that God had abandoned me, so I decided to abandon Him.  For several months I tried to forget about Y'shua and continue my life as a graduate student.
     But as Francis Thompson says in his poem, "The Hound of Heaven", God pursues those He chooses, and He pursued me relentlessly.  Though "I fled Him down the nights and down the days; I fled Him down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him," still He pursued me and called out, "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou (drove out) love from thee, who (drove out) Me".
     One day, while riding the campus bus, God gave me a mental picture of my life as a bus route, one that had crossed His route and was now traveling away from Him.  I saw that if I continued on my current route, I would lose sight of Him forever.  I realized I needed to change direction, and soon; so I went to Bob, a Christian I knew in the Veterinary College, and asked him how I could become a Christian.
     With my background in Judaism and Eastern religions, I had no idea what faith meant.  I was educated in traditions and techniques, but I had no idea how to simply talk to God.  To me, prayer was the recitation of a memorized formula, not an intimate conversation with my Maker.  Moreover, in both Judaism and Eastern religions, our ultimate destiny depends on what we have done in our lives.  I knew from reading the Bible that Christianity was not like this, that it was simply a matter of faith.  But I did not know how to have faith.  I knew that Y'shua was the Messiah, but I did not know how to make Him my Messiah.
     Bob explained to me my need to confess my sin before God, to accept Y'shua' blood shed on the cross as payment for my sin, and to ask Him to come into my life as Savior and Lord. Then he prayed with me as I turned my life over to God; and there in the Veterinary College of Cornell University, I was born into the family of God.
     One of the first changes that took place in my life was in my attitude toward my childhood religion--Judaism.  It now took on new meaning for me, as I realized the Old Testament was not just a bunch of stories, but was the actual history of my people.  No longer was my Jewish background a dead relic, an archaic expression of an abandoned belief.  It had become vital and important, for it was God's gift to me.  Through no merit of my own, He had chosen me to be part of His ancient people, and all the glories and failings of the Old Testament story were part of my heritage.  Although I had not known Him as a child, I had finally come home to the God of my childhood and the faith of my fathers.
     I also realized that my research with psychedelic drugs, both at Cornell and at home, was dishonoring to God.  The true danger of drug use is not in its physical or emotional effects, real though those may be; but in the spiritual state into which it puts the user.  That state, which I had been studying and even glorifying in my research, was actually a dangerous opening of one's defenses to spiritual invasion.  The supernatural is always there, all around us, but God in His wisdom has designed us so that we cannot perceive it.  Any attempt to do so is fraught with danger, because we are ill equipped to handle direct Satanic attack.  It is for our protection that we normally see neither angels nor demons, and when we use mind-altering drugs, that is what we are opening ourselves up to.  With all my defenses and arguments, God had to show me this directly through another frightening encounter while I was stoned, before I would give up the carnal pleasure of drugs and abandon my graduate research.
     Since that experience, over twenty years ago, I have had no desire to smoke marijuana or use any other mind-altering drug, despite my previous ten years of daily marijuana use.  God removed the desire entirely, and replaced it with a longing to know Him better and tell others about His love for them.
     Towards that end, my husband and I joined B'rit Olam Fellowship, a Messianic Jewish group, which we led in our home for several years.  And for the past several years I have been a Co-Laborer in Messiah, a part-time volunteer missionary with Jews for Jesus, the international Jewish missions organization whose goal is to spread the message that Y'shua, Jesus, is the Messiah of Israel, and that everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, needs to have a personal relationship with Him.  If any of you want any information about Jewish evangelism, you can ask me anytime.
     Since I had realized my research at Cornell was not in God's will, I decided to leave graduate school.  By that time my first marriage had ended, so Rick and I got married, and I decided to stay home, spend my time writing, which I preferred to biology anyway, and be a full-time mother to my son, Loden, who was then five years old and suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

     Psalm 127 says, "Children are a gift of the Lord; happy is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Ps 127:3-5).  God has used my children to teach me much about Himself, and I am eternally grateful to Him, although the lessons have not been easy.
     When I last gave my testimony, its theme was God's sovereignty.  Throughout all the follies of my youth, God had protected me from harm and brought me to Himself.
     When my first child, Loden, was sixteen, he broke my heart.  Despite a genius level IQ, he dropped out of tenth grade, started using drugs, left home, lived on the streets and ate out of garbage dumpsters, hitchhiked around the country, and ended up in jail several times.  During this time my faith was severely tested, as I cried out to God to end the pain and rescue my son.
     I would like to be able to say that my church family stood behind me at this time, but that would not be entirely true.  Some of my Christian friends chided me for being depressed, questioning my faith; they quoted Bible verses which talked of God's being in control and working all things for good, but such reminders only made me feel worse.  It's not that I did not know or believe God's word, but a grieving person needs time to grieve.  The Bible also says, "Weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15); we seem to have little trouble "rejoicing with those who rejoice", but we should also remember that Psalm 30 says, before "joy comes in the morning", sorrow must first "endure for a night" (Ps. 30:5).
     God Himself brought me through that time of mourning by revealing to me His sovereign hand.  As I was writing out my testimony for that Bible study brunch eight years ago, I suddenly realized that everything my son was going through, I had gone through before.  I, too, had dropped out of school, although it was college and not high school; I had panhandled money for food, had hitchhiked up and down the west coast, had lived with my boyfriend unmarried, had smoked pot for ten years, and had even ended up in jail; and worse than my son, I had even committed adultery and the murder of my unborn child.  Yet God had brought me through all that, and had brought me to Himself.  If He could save me, He could surely save my son.
     God restored my joy as He revealed His sovereignty to me through these experiences.  I still ache for my son, who remains in spiritual darkness even today; but I know that God is in control, and is using these experiences to teach me patience and love.

     I have another child almost through her teenage years, and God has used her life to teach me more about Himself.  As Loden's life has taught me of God's sovereignty, Rachel's life has taught me of His faithfulness.
     As some of you know, I have been attending Ithaca Women's Bible Study for about ten years.  I did not attend last year, and this is why.
     Two years ago, when we used to have group prayer at Bible Study, I asked for prayer for Rachel, who at that time was in eleventh grade at Ithaca High School.  She was making some terribly destructive choices in her life, and was headed for disaster.  I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that she was involved in things that would have destroyed her life, had she continued on the path she was on.  She was immersed in emotional depression, spiritual confusion, and relational despair.  Many of you prayed for her at that time, and I want to thank you and share with you how God answered those prayers.
     I did not attend Bible Study last year because a week before the beginning of her senior year, Rachel decided she wanted to be home schooled.  She had finally realized how her friends were influencing her for evil, and she decided she would rather have no friends than ones who would only bring her down.  So I stayed home with her and taught her for her senior year, and I can honestly say it was the best year of my life.  I missed being at Bible Study, but I know I was in the center of God's will.
     Although she would not let me introduce her at the time, Rachel was my guest at the Christmas Bible study brunch.  She was home for Christmas break from the Christian college she now attends in Florida, where she has good Christian friends, among them one of Billy Graham's grandsons.  She is growing daily in her spiritual walk, and wants only to do what God wants her to do.  I continue to be overwhelmed by God's faithfulness, as He has kept His word and brought her into His will.  Through the long nights, as I was torn apart by tears and sobbing over Rachel's condition, I was assured of God's sovereignty because of what He had taught me in Loden's life.  But He did not leave it at that.  He did not leave me waiting long, struggling with uncertainty, but was faithful to renew Rachel's faith in Him, and to lift her up "out of the miry clay".  (Note:  Rachel is now married to a wonderful Christian man and, along with him, is living in a Christian commune where they serve God full time in outreach to the needy.)
     Not only did He rescue Rachel from the disastrous life she was running towards, He also gave me one of the greatest gifts a mother could receive:  a year at home with my teenage daughter, being not only her mother and teacher, but also her best friend.  As she now embarks on a new phase of her life, separate and independent, I have the past year to look back on and treasure as one of the sweetest gifts of love I could ever have received!
     I have another child, so I expect you'll be hearing from me again, in another five or ten years.  I have no idea what God will teach me through Sarah's life, but judging by the powerful lessons He's shown me with my first two children, I can only look forward with awe and anticipation to what He has in store for me as Sarah navigates her teenage years. I don't expect it to be pleasant, but I do know that God will use it to teach me to know Him more deeply, and I can only thank and praise Him for caring so much about each one of us that He fashions individual lessons, perfectly designed to fit each of our needs, so that we can grow to know Him better and love Him more.

     Psalm 40 again comes to my mind:  "Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.  Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:6-8)

      As we think of love at Valentine's Day, I can truly say God has taken me on a journey of love, and though I began with a false love, He has shown me true love.
     Do you remember that wonder drug I wanted so desperately to create, so that everyone would love each other?  I now know that only God can change a person's heart from self-centeredness to concern for others, only God can replace a human heart of stone with His heart of love.  God's love is real and eternal, not fading away as a drug disperses from our bloodstreams.  Yes, my dream of a love that would save mankind was correct, for only love can save mankind; but that love will not come out of a chemist's test tube, it must be a direct transfusion from God.  For as the Bible says, "love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God...for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

     And finally, again from Psalm 40:  "I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest.  I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation" (Ps. 40:9-10)


Copyright ©2000 by Nancy Silver Cochran


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