What I forgot to mention in Part 1 is I had applied for a spot on my church’s prayer team in October. I was told I was accepted for ministry on Christmas Eve. While this was also a volunteer position, it didn’t have the time constraints the other positions had. I had also joined the writing team. This form of volunteering could be done offsite at home with my laptop. These two things made me very happy, and the members of each team was a great group of people, very loving and Christ-like. They loved God and it was clear. I felt it. And they loved me too. Things were looking up. I was relieved. This was the one area of my life I really needed to work well, and it was finally coming together.
I was still looking for work but didn’t have a clue as to what was right for me and my family. I did NOT want to quit another job or be so stressed out. I just kept applying blindly hoping something would turn up. (It still hasn’t, three months later.)
The following Saturday after the diary entry in Part 1, I was invited to hear a word (aka a sermon, or preaching, to you non-churchy church folk). It was a small, cozy church in a strip mall. I had never been to a strip mall to do anything other than shop or take my mom to the doctor, so this was a culture shock for me. Don’t ask me why I thought having a church service in a strip mall was so unheard of. Religious much? Anyhoo, the Hub and I arrived at 10am when service was to begin. The praise and worship got off to a rocky start, but pretty soon, the Lord made His entrance. As an adult, I couldn’t remember sitting in a church service for longer than two hours without getting uber annoyed and crabby, even if I was serving. Before any of us knew it, four hours had passed. The service was long over, and I didn’t want to leave. Another hour later (for a total of five hours) the Spirit of the Lord was STILL in the building, strongly.
The owner of the church, Pastor Steve, was there teaching in a less formal way, although the service had officially ended. There was a Q & A, share your testimony, get to know one another type vibe going on. I wish I could really capture how things went, and the love present in the room. I had never ever felt so at home with a group of total strangers. Slowly, people trickled out because the day was waning and some people had other engagements. However, there remained a small group of us and we were STARVING!!!!
Approximately eight or nine other people left over from the group, and my hubby, myself and Six agreed to go to Olive Garden to eat. Pastor Steve couldn’t attend with us, and I think it was meant to be that way. We sat at Olive Garden and ate and talked for another four hours. We were talking about the Lord so much that the server realized she needed us to pray for her, so she asked. And even after that was over, we had exchanged phone numbers, Messenger names, etc and had decided to keep in touch. We even talked LONGER on the phone and Messenger later that evening. We were family. In ONE day.
The following morning, my hubby had to work but I still went to my church. There was still church going on at the strip mall church (called The Well in case I didn’t mention it before), but I didn’t go there. I went to my home church. When I walked through the doors, it still felt like home, but again, that feeling of something different lingered. I went through the motions of praise and worship, and even though a good message was preached that morning, my mind and heart were still on the prior evening. I was simply awestruck by the Lord and how He moved. I’d never before experienced anything like it. I was also a bit disappointed that I’d never experienced this move of God at my current church. I began to want more. I was trying to figure out how to attend both churches. I knew my husband loved our current church just as much as I did, and he wasn’t about to switch churches.
One of the things that happened is Pastor Steve shared the Lord had impressed on his heart that he should pray without ceasing for revival to come to America. One of the ladies in our group was looking for a place to host Awakening Blaze Prayer Spoke gatherings. It didn’t take long to figure out The Well was the solution for the gatherings, and that the prayer spoke leader and a few others from the ‘Olive Garden’ group would and could fulfill the call to pray daily. It was decided The Well would host prayer every evening (or days on weekends) until revival came to St. Louis. I loved that. It would give us an opportunity to attend a few more services and learn more about God. The Hub agreed to go one night a week. He said we weren’t going to be going every single night and he needed one night to rest. He said at the very beginning we were NOT leaving our church. I agreed.
On my husband’s next day off, we went back to The Well. And it wasn’t a fluke, the message was legit and fiery. He and I again were at service for four hours. On a weeknight. With Six. Who was running around like a madman. I felt awful because my so-called special needs kid didn’t seem to fit in with the other children. He was inappropriately loud, wouldn’t be still and there was no children’s church to place him in. I spent most of the night ear hustling the message, and fussing at Six to get him to quiet himself. I was sincerely upset I couldn’t hear as much as I wanted. However, I was hooked. I knew I had to return to The Well regardless of whether or not my husband came or not. I returned three out of the four days I was able to that week. My husband, returned when he could. It was all good. We had fallen in love in less than a week. Hub was stubbornly stating we were not leaving our church, although he was feeling a strong tug (it took about three weeks for us to join, but that’s another testimony within itself).
In the meantime, we were in daily communication with at least one of the members of the Olive Garden group. I hadn’t really experienced this level of spiritual cohesiveness and outright unpretentious friendliness, ever. One lady and I became fast friends, and once I was around her, I was able to forgive the other person who had hurt my heart. I saw the friendship ending for what it was – a means of letting go of an attachment I didn’t need to have. I did ask the Lord for forgiveness on my part. But still, to this day, have not had a good opportunity to sit with the other lady and ask for her forgiveness in person (as opposed to Messenger. Angry and confused apologies don’t seem to go over well).
The following Saturday, I invited another member from my church to visit. I needed to make sure I wasn’t being fleeced by the church, so the other person I brought was not new to church circles or their antics. I warned her that church lasted a long time. And that Saturday was NO different. It was longer. She wound up staying and had a great time. After that, she began attending The Well regularly too.
We returned to The Well the following week (this was week two). The night that changed my life was the explanation of the gospel that was theoretically sound. It was straight, with no chaser. It was raw, unadulterated truth. There was no sugar coating it, but it was also balanced with love. It was all directly, word for word from the Bible. There was no taking a scripture or two and expounding on it with personal opinions. Pastor Steve would take entire chunks of the Bible – chapters – and would explain them IN CONTEXT. Had I not come from the hellfire and brimstone background, I don’t know if I could have been open to hearing grace and truth in such a blunt manner. I had been on lollipop Jesus for a minute, and this Jesus was not saccharine sweet. He was love and beauty, but He was also the same Jesus coming back to bust His enemies kneecaps (and other parts) with an iron rod. This was the Jesus that didn’t get preached too much in popular circles.
Furthermore, not only was this Jesus preached, so was the true meaning of discipleship. The cost of salvation and what is truly required was preached also. It’s more than just saying a prayer of acceptance. It is accepting the gospel and agreeing to live the lifestyle of a Christian. It means true repentance and not just lip service. It means your life must change because you have turned away from it. It means you might be broke and not rich. It means you may have to give up family. It means you DO have to take up your cross and follow Jesus. It means this life is likely to get harder, much harder than you can bear so that you can depend on Jesus Christ. The good news is that Jesus died so you can be free – and identify with Him. You ain’t gonna get that with a cushy lifestyle. It means loss. Of all kinds. Even your own life. Christ did not love his own life …He gave it. He died. An awful, ugly death. Even though this is said, what is not required is religion. Religion will get you rejected and sent to hell also. What Jesus requires is acceptance of His grace. True acceptance will birth repentance and growth in righteousness. In this salvation, there is absolutely no room for your own selfish motives.
But that’s not all I learned. I learned the Lord had been divesting me of anything that caused me not to depend on Him alone: people, relationships, money, cars, titles, positions. I had also learned some of the practices I had participated in over the years…was me actually worshipping false gods. That part crushed me. The Word that brought that revelation truly pierced my heart. And for the first time in my life, period, I was undone. I finally understood what Isaiah meant when he said he was a man of unclean lips. This type of undoing can only come when the Word of God pierces your heart to bring you to repentance. The pastor had no idea how I felt. I knew way down deep in my spirit I had willingly served another god – the god of greed. I had sacrificed my children on its altar and almost my marriage. I had done horrible acts to appease this god in the name of keeping a roof over my head, in the name of ‘better’. While there’s nothing wrong with having things, the things had subtly become what I sought because I just wanted to stop working so hard without purpose. I always felt defeated and tired and overwhelmed. I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel that way as a Christian, but I was partially following what I had heard from various pulpits and from misapplying the Word of God out of context. the confirmation of this was when I looked back at a video I made on Facebook on December 31, 2017. My prayers had changed (for the better because God was changing me, even then). In 2014, 2015 and 2016, all of the goals and requests to God was for stuff: Bigger house, better car, comfort, comfort, comfort. However, December 31, 2017 I finally asked the Lord what was it He wanted me to have that I hadn’t thought to ask for myself. What was it I was going to need to make 2018 be the year He needed me to make it. And He faithfully answered me with Psalm 37.
I also learned I needed deliverance. That some of the habits I just couldn’t beat no matter how hard I tried were actually demonic strongholds. And I was delivered from them, that it’s a process daily to stay on the straight and narrow. That I have to ask for the Holy Spirit to dwell in me and fill me daily. This will be discussed in Part 3 (Unadulterated Truth).
This is the stuff we are not being taught…and more. Shamefully, all of this is in the Bible. It’s not hard to understand. It is there should we choose to actually read it as it is, and not what we want it to be. It is there if we ask for the Holy Spirit to help us understand. If we desire to be properly taught the Word of God, there are tools and people to assist. The truth of the matter is, many of us don’t want to know. I want other people to really know Christ and Him crucified. This is the only way we can claim to be His heirs. I would be a liar if I didn’t say this right now: I was genuinely ticked off when I began to learn, and go back to the truth of salvation. That it’s more than a prayer. There should be a demonstration of power in the life of a believer, and sadly, many Christians look just like the world.
Of course, this is a very brief overview of the last four months of my life. I had asked the Lord to help me become what it is He wants me to be around the time my brother died. I didn’t just want to make it into heaven. I want to hear Well Done thy good and faithful servant. The Lord is faithful and true to that. He didn’t allow me just to continue on in error and I’m thankful for that. I’m not bashing my previous churches, none of them. I am saying there’s more than a happy side to Jesus, and if we’re going to ask people to follow Him, they need to be told the entire truth, not just part of it. Partial truth is still a lie.
I know without a doubt, some people will give me flack for this post. They will say I am off my rocker and a bunch of other malarky. However, I will also begin to post the changes that have happened since the day my heart got pierced, and I’ll back it up with scripture. While 2018 is not the year I thought it was going to be, it’s certainly better than I could have ever imagined.
Stay tuned for the next entry. I promise I won’t jump around so much.