My name is Jerry Bartholomew. The story of my life is a story of the Lord’s leading. Through His foreknowledge, He knew of the heart I would have to follow Him, and as a result, His hand was always on me. Every good gift I have was bestowed on me by Him.
All wisdom, writing talent, musical talent, technical ability and craftsmanship flow from Him. Not to mention my lightning wit and extreme good looks. But seriously, it is that ear to hear His voice and a heart to follow Him for which I thank Him most.
I was born in 1951, smack dab in the heart of America; in Wichita, Kansas. Flat as a pancake, the only place to go sledding in town was a man-made hill near the park, known in my memory as the “Big W”, for the landscaping that in summer displayed a large “W”, for Wichita. If you didn’t arrive early on a morning after a good snow, most of the snow would be worn off the hill by the time you arrived.
Even in my birth, I believe God positioned me for the influences and experiences that would eventually serve His purposes. There is validity in the saying ‘it takes one to know one’, and someone who has been delivered from certain chains is best-qualified to lead others out of that same bondage.
I was born to Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) parents; humble, hard-working people that took their religion seriously. This is important to the story because my tale chronicles my walk with the Lord from my modest Pharisaic origin to a life of freedom and joy, eternally secure in the promises of God.
I attended SDA schools from first grade to college. There, I received an excellent education, far superior to anything that existed either then or now in the public schools of the nation; despite us having neither a gymnasium or computers. It is stunning that despite perceived advances in technology such a large percentage of today’s graduates are functionally illiterate, but I digress.
An endless, tedious blow by blow account of my life would be counterproductive, but I do want to talk about the late 1960s. It is significant in that while the rest of the culture was drinking in and engaging in the rise of immorality personified in the ‘free love’ and growing drug culture, God did something amazing in Southern California where my family had moved in 1959.
God poured out His Spirit, and though I am no expert on the scope of this blessing, I can tell you how I experienced it personally. The appearance of “Jesus People”; Christians joyously sharing their faith, became a phenomenon in society. Several diabolical religious cults like the “Moonies” arose to enslave those receptive to their leading, but for those with an ear to hear the voice of the Lord, it was a time of freedom for the captives, and an outpouring of His Spirit on true believers. For my hungry heart, it was a wondrous call to freedom from the legalism that had bound me all my life.
The entire summer following my sophomore year in high school, in 1968,was spent as a colporteur, selling the books of Ellen G. White door-to-door. Ellen White, a sickly girl who claimed to have visions from God, was a founder of the SDA cult that emerged following “The Great Disappointment” of 1844, when date-setters of the era had calculated the second coming of Jesus.
She wrote prolifically, recording her visions and plagiarizing numerous other authors to push her legalistic agenda. For an Adventist, the writings of EG White are the truth, supported by scripture, not the other way around. She stated unequivocally more than once that belief in the saving power of Christ’s blood was inadequate to save you; that you must also keep the ten commandments.
Adventists don’t believe in what they refer to as ‘the secret rapture’. They apply all of God’s promises that He made to Israel to themselves. Their understanding of end-time events hangs on a ludicrous mythology cooked up to explain their monumental miscalculation about the end of the world in 1844.
As someone trying to lead souls to Christ in my door-to-door ministry, I rejected the manipulative salesman techniques I had been indoctrinated with, and as a result, was a meteoric failure as a colporteur. I didn’t even leave a crater. That entire summer, spent going door to door, dressed in a suit seemed to be a flop, but nothing done with a heart to serve the Lord is ever futile. It always returns eternal dividends; golden works that are tried in fire.
“each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. 14 If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward.” 1 Cor 3:13
During this period of the outpouring of the Spirit in the late 60s, I learned to play the string bass. Folk music was very popular around the world, and God used that medium to draw many to Him. I don’t know if Calvary Chapel had existed before that time, but it became the focus of evangelism in Southern California. Several excellent albums of praise were released; music that we played in our home and aspired to share. Programs put on by Calvary Chapel easily filled the huge Long Beach Arena several times.
I became a part of a small Adventist folk group called Orion; two guys who played guitar and sang, and two girl-singers. I played bass. Guitar players in that era were ubiquitous, but very few people invested money in a string bass or knew how to play one. The driving bass gave our music an appeal that most other groups lacked. I was in demand!
I never aspired to play a violin, viola or string bass, but unwittingly stumbled into the will of God for my life. I had been recruited by the school’s music director to play string bass in the orchestra. It was only in looking back that God’s purpose and His leading became apparent.
Serious groups at that time also shared their testimony. God had recently shown me the simple path to salvation through Romans 10:9 & 10.
“…if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Righteousness by faith became the message of our group, and with my string bass, I had the leverage to persuade the others to focus on that message, which was a rebuke to the legalism we had been reared with. That message set me on a path that eventually led me away from the SDA church to a Spirit-filled little New Testament church where I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and learned to worship God in a whole new way.
Thinking back, I believe the Holy Spirit had indwelled me when I first accepted salvation, but it was in that environment of worship that He became manifested.
Jumping forward fifty years, I look back in awe as I review the path that the Lord has led me along as He provided a helpmeet and taught us both to walk with Him. No good thing has He withheld from us in His love. As His children, we have also been chastened; undergoing the purifying and refining work of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. We count it all gain as we draw closer to Him.
Now we watch and wait, with some impatience, for His soon return. In our little corner of North Idaho, we marvel as we see Israel restored as a nation; the single most significant indication that the wait is nearly over. We are waiting to be snatched away in the Rapture when God turns His focus back from the Church to Israel.
Though eager to be with Him, we are content to wait patiently as His plan for Israel and the Church plays out. If what I have written resonates in your heart, come share in our joy as we wait and walk with Him.