My name is Jules Winchester. I am studying at the Christian Leaders Institute to prepare for a men’s restoration ministry (Learn more about online Bible courses, Click Here). Currently, I live in Ocala, Florida, where it is mostly sunny and hot. We have over 600 miles of beaches within our state. Also, in the central Florida area, it serves as home to Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens. We also have plenty of freshwater springs and a diverse wildlife population. Tourism is the biggest source of income for the state.
My Early Years
While growing up in the 1960s, I had a very typical childhood. I was one of six siblings and the oldest of three boys. We enjoyed playing Cowboys and Indians, Army, and other games as growing children. We were not wealthy, and our family struggled to make ends meet. But the Lord still made way for us to make it on the little we had. Once I was finishing high school, I wanted to go to college. However, there was no money for that, so I joined the Navy. While there, I spent nine years in the submarine service, where I received a great education and years of life experience.
Marriage, Salvation, and Struggles
Although my testimony is one where I spent time in prison with physical bars, I was in my own prison of guilt and fear of my sin. Once I married, my wife and I made a profession of faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior in 1984. Yet, although I was saved, I held onto some of the sins of my past. They held back my spiritual growth, and I knew that these sins needed to be addressed. Yes, I understood that God had forgiven me, yet my wife was unaware of who I really was. She deserved to know the real me and the struggles I had within. This became a huge obstacle for myself, my wife, and God.
This issue prevented me from having a joyful and purposeful life serving the Lord. I held on to these secret offenses which I had committed. My pride, fear, and shame had me in a place where I refused to give them up. The Holy Spirit relentlessly pursued me in this matter for many years. Soon I began to doubt my salvation. This doubt made me worse. Finally, I understood that God wanted me to have a prosperous Christian life, but I was a coward and stubborn man set in my own sinful ways.
My Full Surrender
Consequently, God allowed me to go on my own. Like the prodigal son, I fell to the point of brokenness. It was a terrible time in my life. I was struggling and ultimately suffered a near-death illness and the death of my close loved ones. Finally, I saw how I was lost without the help of my Lord. Eventually, I surrendered to God’s will, which I knew was years in the making.
In Matthew 5:24, it says, “leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” And Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” It was then I realized that God had broken my pride and made me face my fear.
Restoration Ministry: Changed in the Lord
My wife and I finally came together one day and reconciled all of our problems. God’s grace was magnificent in the change that He made within my life. Our Lord answered my greatest prayer that I had been praying to make me the man he wanted me to be and restore His joy in my life. For the first time, God was the center of our marriage.
Originally, we ignored His rule and Lordship within our lives. All fear, guilt, and hopelessness went away and were replaced with real gratitude for what the Lord had done for us. To this day, I seek to love my wife as I know God loves me. I want God to see this by my actions and how much I am truly grateful for His grace. The changes in my life have led to changes in my wife and my relationship. I never asked her to change. However, because of my change, she responded to my love.
God was so faithful. He sent several of his servants to restore my relationship with Him and others. First, there was Andy, who had his own little church in a barn. And then, there was Mike, who was a light in the darkness of my place of employment. These two men were a blessing to me because they prayed for me, their churches prayed for me, and they never gave up on God making the changes in my life. I have great love and respect for these two men because they never looked down on me. Instead, they showed me godly love and grace and were lovers of souls whom I will always remember in my prayers.
Called to Serve in Restoration Ministry and Study at CLI
Today my vision is to serve God by being available to others in need of restoration ministry as these men were for me. This course at the Christian Leaders Institute has given me a better understanding of the people needing restoration. It has shown me in what ways I have been called to serve my Lord and his people. These lessons identified the basic principles in God’s Word that give us instructions on how to come to terms with our own offenses to Him, as well as to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I understand the importance of forgiveness and restoration with those we have offended.
It is more challenging to gain access to various facilities during this time. As time passes, we are isolated more and more due to the “Pandemic.” But, we must not give up and should continue to find ways to use technology and other means to reach the lost and help God’s people in need. Thank you for reading my story. May God continue to bless the ministry of Christian Leaders Institute as you train others to present the gospel message.