Remembering what I was when Jesus Christ came to me is overwhelming! I was a radically immature teenager. My language was gross and cheap. My habits were unclean and selfish. I was too immature to be bold with young ladies, but my thoughts were still dirty. Stealing what I wanted had become my lifestyle. Yet, nothing I had meant anything, so caring for a possession was beyond my comprehension. Reading or writing was non-existent. Listening to country songs on the old Victrola record player is the one pleasure I remember. I was on a road to nowhere.
The farm life was hard but the work never bothered me. It was the most secure thing in life. School was an absolute bore because I never learned how to read. I’m still not sure how I made it to the ninth grade, which was when my dad let me quit because the farm needed my labor. Dad’s drinking was the only sad thing I remember. It was like everything went into a spin when I saw him staggering in the door or trying to drive the car. My mother was a good woman and a great cook. I never remember being hugged even though it was reported that I was the spoiled one of the eight children. I certainly would never speak unkind of my parents or my family.
But something wonderful happened at the age of sixteen. A cousin that loved to drink and sell whiskey moved his family to our farm as a sharecropper. His wife had been wonderfully saved and loved to go to a church thirty miles away. Roby would drive us to church and then go sell his whiskey while we attended the service. I remember the old gunny sack that held his half gallons of peach brandy that my dad had made being under my feet as we rode to church. An evangelist preached the Gospel with power and I walked the aisle to surrender to Christ. The transformation was overwhelming and I have never wanted to turn back. On our way home that night, probably to deliver a half gallon of whiskey, I remember rolling down the window and yelling to someone that met the car, “I went to church tonight a goat but I am going home a sheep.” That was my total theology.
The pastor, Lanky Lambert, would come to the farm and stand on our tobacco wagon to preach the Holy Bible. I could not read but someone gave me a King James Bible and I fell in love with that book. I can remember holding it in my hand and thinking, “How will I ever learn this great story?” This is back when the unlearned were given the King James Version and the educated read the other versions. Out behind the old farm house was a single bush that became my hidden place to pray. I remember how every time the Lord seemed distant to me, I would hurry to pray until His presence would return. I have never gotten beyond that simple truth.
Falling in love with the Bible was the most important thing that happened to me. I knew I was opening the mouth of Jesus Christ every time I opened the Bible and closing His mouth when I closed the Bible. Preaching was the grandest part of church. I remember the old saints that would sing in the Holy Ghost as worship would fill the house. It was so orderly and yet so informal. Pentecost in those days was not controlled by men but was a sovereign sweetness in the bliss of power. It was like a little heaven on earth and never unruly or wild.
I will never forget the first time I saw wild emotions that made it all look so cheap. The contrast in those days could not be missed because pure Pentecost was so real that flesh was quickly hushed. Almost all of televised Pentecost today is nothing less than barbarian. I learned that a Sovereign move of the Holy Spirit is first pure, then it adheres to the Word of God spoken by Apostle Paul in I Corinthians Chapters 12 and 14, and it beautifully exalts Jesus Christ and Him alone. The carnal flesh has no place to be exalted when His Holy Spirit manifests true worship and ministry.
My life was led by the Spirit from the very beginning; otherwise, I would have fallen on my face. I could not have been more unwise in the early days. Alcohol had destroyed my dad’s body and he committed suicide when I was seventeen. I had already left home but returned to help my mother finish a large crop of tobacco and sell the farm when the year was over. When she was secure in a little house, I returned to Burlington where the Lord had brought Juanita into my life. We were married the following summer. How little then did I realize the purpose of God in mine and my Queen’s lives. She is the sweetest soul I have ever known.
I knew immediately after I was saved that I was called to preach. Although I could not read, I was slowly learning; but, I was horribly tongue-tied. However, I was completely confident that the Lord would be sufficient. I recall people begging me not to claim my calling because I could not pronounce words clearly and correctly. They even pressured me not to marry Juanita because she was a fragile diabetic since the age of eighteen. She is now seventy-five and a picture of health.
We are not satisfied with what we have accomplished to date. There is much we want to finish in our ministry. Our greatest burden is to see the fulfillment of Apostle Peter’s prophecy in Acts 2:17-21. The latter rain outpouring is on the horizon and when that is in full swing, I am ready to ascend the steps and fill heaven with my shouts. I saw Pentecost when it was real and I am going to see
Joseph R. Chambers, DD, DSL