• Welcome to Talk Jesus Christian Forums

    Celebrating 20 Years!

    A bible based, Jesus Christ centered community.

    Register Log In

My Personal Story (part 2)

-Part Three: Growing Pains-

I was shortly released, but it only moved me from one trial into another. This one being to now adjust to newfound faith and learn how to grow and fellowship in the body with other believers; and it had some early obstacles. The travel companions that I had arrived with, obviously did not stay for two months; but to make things worse, they had left with all my clothing and my wallet. So I had nothing, and not even an ID to get work. I had no friends, I knew nobody there, had no money, no job, no home, and no family that still claimed any kinship to me I could ask for help. As a matter of fact; upon release the only clothing I had was the two month old, unwashed, completely blood-caked outfit I was arrested in.

Imagine the sight: a 20-year-old guy with an unruly beard, hair past my shoulders, wearing a thoroughly blood covered t-shirt and jogging pants. It's likely that I looked close to what Charles Manson looked like in his darkest hours. So I'm dancing down the sidewalk in unbridled worship and appreciation of who God is and what He has done-I'm belting out "Your love O Lord," in song, spirit of worship and of praise, and I'm almost completely lost in His presence. Meanwhile; folks a block down around the corner, take one look at me and almost literally run back the way they came. They probably thought they were seeing a mass murderer, given the blood on my clothing and generally rough appearance. They may have thought I was the devil himself...all the while I'm carried away in a spirit of praise and adoration, just in love with Jesus! Irony at its greatest. After a few blocks I saw this place called "Oasis," which is an outreach center to aid those with no place to go, no food to eat, and generally there to serve those in crisis. So of course I went in, and of course the entire room went dead silent as everyone stared openly at this blood covered stranger. I was about to attempt to explain when a man came from another room and told me he was expecting me. Apparently he was also told to help me in any way he could.

When I asked how he knew I was coming; if someone at the jail told him, he looked baffled. " Jail?? " he asked. " No not at all, I've no clue about that. God has been preparing me for days and insisting I'm to help the one he sends. He is now confirming to me that YOU are the one He has been telling me about." Keep in mind that I'm still new to the kingdom at this stage, and didn't even yet realize that the things I had learned, the things I knew, the scriptural insight I'd developed-were all God talking to me. I guess I took it as simply having come by these things based on bible study and prayer alone. So I didn't really believe what the man was saying, and a part of me even thought, " Well this guy is certainly off his rocker, but I do need help so I'd best just go with it." In short order the man had secured shelter, promise of clothing, a potential job for me and a home church; and I began my early days of kingdom living.

The following Sunday I attended the first church service I had since about the age of 7. All I recalled from the childhood experience was a dusty Methodist church and a pastor that could bore rocks to death. Truly, watching mold grow was a preferable enterprise. (Mind you, this is not to say that the pastor from my childhood wasn't a good man, or dedicated leader; it was simply all I recalled from a limited child's perspective.) I had no idea at all what it was to be in a truly vibrant, Spirit filled and living Body; but that is exactly what this church was. To add to the special and powerful experience, there was a special service this week; a famous violinist, known for the powerful anointing in her music was there. She had played for Popes, Prime Ministers, the Queen of England, former presidents, the Dalhi Lhama...among others, and we will revisit her role in just a moment. Anyhow, I cannot even tell you what the Pastor's sermon was on, because I wasn't there at all. To me, it was like the clouds had rolled back and all I saw was heaven; many, many angels; the cross, and a smiling Father. I heard His voice as though a loudspeaker were attached to my ear, saying: "Son I have always been here, and I will never...EVER leave you. " I could even feel His warm, loving embrace as He simply held me.

At some point, I came back down to earth enough to hear an altar call for those who truly wished to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Though I'd already taken this step in heart, I was moved-and literally ran down the aisle, skidding to a halt on my knees already in complete surrender. I prayed as directed, and meant it with a steel resolve that even death could not break; was prayed over, then we were sent back to our seats. I had barely sat down and wiped away the tears of joy from the beautiful and incomparable experience when another altar call was offered. This one was for those who were committed to living the life of discipleship, surrendering all in a willingness to serve and be a light to the lost; to help others find joy and peace in Christ.

Without a moment's hesitation; I again returned to the altar, closed my eyes and just let God minister. Eyes closed, hands raised, tears flowing freely; I felt a hand grab my arm gently and lead me. I didn't know then, but nobody saw anyone grab my arm; nor did they know why I was led directly to center stage. However, once there the violinist played an entire set directly over me. I know now that God was imparting a tremendous anointing and calling upon me, and the violinist did as she had never done before; but out of obedience to the movement of the Spirit played specifically over me. With each note, each moment; the Spirit of God hummed into me-more, and more.

I have no clue how long in earthly terms I stood there receiving of God, and my eyes remained shut tight. Regardless what others saw, I was communing directly and intimately with Father in the throne room. At some point a man, (an actual man, in the flesh this time,) came onstage and put a hand on my shoulder saying, "Son, you have never met your father, and it has long troubled you. But don't lose heart, for you will meet him someday." He could not have possibly known of the absence of my father, I'd told nobody in the entire state of Arkansas. But when he said I'd meet my father someday, I opened my eyes, looked over, and smiling; said simply, " I just did."

When that first service for me finally ended, I found myself surrounded by believers with a sincere and desperate plea in their eyes. They told me that the light shining from me was impossible to ignore, and they just knew if I were to pray for them; God would hear me. The sheep were looking to ME of all people to intercede for them with God! Here I was, barely 2 months into my walk; just released from jail, with little clue what was going on. Yet, here I was being asked to pray for them as though I had some great station or miraculous power.

(Again, please note: I did not ask for these things, I did not deserve these things, and I was scared to death at what was happening. Not one single movement was of any trait, ability or power of mine; but of God. Believe me; I was quite at a loss as to why God chose me.)

I was greatly disturbed, concerned that their faith in my faith and ability was far misguided; that if I prayed and no deliverance came, it could be a detriment to their faith. However, their desperate pleas, and the fragile hope in each pair of eyes caused me to try anyhow. I could not simply leave them empty and disheartened, so I prayed. Until the next Sunday I kept praying those prayers; I begged of God to work wonders, because it crushed my heart to think they might be deterred if my lack of faith prevented the receipt of fulfilled prayer.

I came to find the following week, that every person prayed for had experienced an almost immediate and miraculous movement of God in response! This was much to my surprise. I was humbled beyond measure, and yet guarded; because this now gave cause for others to similarly petition me to petition God. I was constantly reminded by the situation to completely be surrendered to God; even a single moment's lapse could prevent these souls in need from receiving of God, and I didn't want to be the cause of that.

The next few months were a season of unrivaled growth, incomparable blessing, divine favor, and perpetually answered prayer. Testimony after testimony was birthed by God as He ministered to me and through me. I always gave God the glory and He always gave me more opportunity. Folks, again I must adamantly assert this: not a single redeemable or miraculous outcome was from any power or quality of mine. Nothing I did was the catalyst to the outcome. The only part I played was having a sincere, willing heart, and a sober recognition of the significance and gravity of what was occurring.

Every morning I'd awake about 5 AM, I'd pray; then I'd read my daily bread, I'd read my daily Oswald Chambers, I'd read my daily proverb, my daily psalm, and I'd study at least one chapter in both the old and new testament. Then I'd pray some more, I'd listen to worship music and pour my own praise out to God; all the while meditating on everything I read. I didn't merely read the bible, or simply memorize verses, but constantly hungered for depth of understanding and constantly applied the principles to my life. After that, I'd grab my bible, put my headphones on and remain in a spirit of praise and worship everywhere I went. It's not so much about what we do but the intention and passion with which we do those things.

Sadly, the weight of everything became heavy. I was still new in Christ, still struggling to understand what was going on, what God's purpose was for me, and how to simply be where I was at spiritually. Nonetheless, I was becoming quite overwhelmed as the expectations of me to “work miracles,” on God's behalf kept piling up. I loved to do these things that God would be glorified; I loved helping others; I loved experiencing the miraculous movement of God time and again. However, it is a heavy burden for even a seasoned believer much less a spiritual newborn; and since it required such constant dedication to spiritual preparation, I simply began to flag.

Part of my error was blindly letting zeal and the requests of others spur me to get ahead of God; ahead of my spiritual maturity, taking on more than a new believer should shoulder. Part of my error was being so obsessed with the kingdom and spiritual growth that my flesh became completely overwhelmed, worn out and exhausted. I didn't give myself room for any error, fearing that would impact and obstruct God's movement in response to the duties other believers seemed to expect of me. I needed to allow myself the freedom to be human now and then, but I didn't because I feared the consequences to others.

In the end, I eventually and inevitably fell away; returning home to the easy life of less responsibility. I could party when I wanted, do what I wanted, and nobody counted on me for anything. You see, when in Arkansas I felt that I could not allow myself any room for error, I could not afford to fail; because so many relied on me, trusted me, and needed me. Any failure of mine could cause them to lose hope, faith, and instigate potential blame towards God. Back home nobody relied on me, nobody expected anything of me; truly, for all intents and purposes-back home it was like I didn't even exist. This was a far less heavy burden, and I again ran from God; only this time I actually knew who I was running from, and why I was running.

For years I struggled to come to terms with myself, my past, my destiny and calling, and so much more. I did the "roller coaster," version of Christian living; on top of the mountain for a period, then falling away into the darkness of lower valleys. I attended several potential home churches, was restored and continued my walk; only to fall away again. When I was "In," I was "All in," just like the early days in Arkansas...but when I was out, I'd slowly fade away; until finally I'd hit a point where I couldn't recall the last time I'd been in church, read my bible, or even prayed. At one point I was even on payroll at one of the largest churches in my hometown; actually being paid for service to the kingdom, yet still I fell away.

Tragically it wasn't just me that contributed to my backsliding, and while I must be accountable for my role; it is critical that I not ignore the cancer that has been allowed and perpetuated within the Body of Christ. So many times as I struggled, I desperately fought to stay the course; but I would be so ashamed at any shortcoming, any sin, any error, that I would turn to self-condemnation without even realizing it. I would see all the other believers living these perfect lives, free from sin-free from struggle; and it made me feel as if my faith were an illusion. How could God have really accepted me and forgiven me? How can He truly love me and bless me? How...when my life doesn't match the reflection of perfect victory everyone else’s life shows? Was my salvation just a sham?

This led me to question everything that I'd experienced in the kingdom, and made it near impossible to have faith in my standing in Christ. In my self-imposed condemnation, I'd eventually be so overcome with guilt and shame that I felt too unworthy-too filthy to be in church; after all I would only be exposing these perfect believers to the cancer that was my life. So I'd turn away, pouring out tears of sorrow and shame; unable to even look to God in my horrible behavior and state. Then when I fell away I'd pray to the point that tears were almost blood; that God would send even one-anyone, just to show they care. To show that I wasn't as worthless as I felt, not as abandoned as it seemed. Nobody ever came. Not a single one; not even once. Not a phone call, not an email, nothing; complete abandonment.... just like my earthly dad had done before I was even born.

Yet, we have the nerve to blame backsliders when they never return; rather than be accountable for out part, or blame the enemy. We push them away and write them off; surrendering both ground and souls to Satan. We profess to be the Body of Christ, but Christ directed His body to those in need, those who were lost, those who stray; while we as a body, seemed to ignore these facts. HOWEVER, !!! Thank the LORD ALMIGHTY, for in recent years He has revealed the truth to this hurting heart.

Those "perfect," lives I thought I saw were no more than whitewashed vessels, hiding the struggles and sins in their walks. They were no more perfect than I was, but they hid their sin and shame beneath layer after layer of blissful ignorance; as they cast condemning stares and shrugged cold shoulders at we who plainly wore our stains. While they pharisaically pounded their chests in self-glory for their righteous seeming deeds; I was the sinner at the bottom of the temple stairs, scared to death of even touching a single step due to my unworthiness.

-Part Four: No More Condemnation-

A few years back, the Lord moved upon my heart; placing a burden for a ministry specifically intended to reach out and seek those who fall away-to break free of the cycle of condemnation, both from self and others. In Luke 15, Jesus uses parables to set forth a pattern to seek and restore those who stray. If we profess that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, then how is that we condemn ourselves for failure and shortcoming? How is it we condemn others for not being perfect, for sin-for struggle? If we feel we have to whitewash, it only proves that we know we are falling short; furthermore, the fact we must hide the struggle shows we have already judged and condemned ourselves as guilty. If we feel too ashamed, too unworthy, too guilty to seek God...to pray...to fellowship; it proves only that we have equally judged and condemned ourselves as guilty.

Both are equally condemnation; both are equally the wrong perspective in regards to our sins. The true cancer and detriment to the Body of Christ is not sin, it is not imperfection, and it is not struggle. It is the idea and pervasive sense that anything we do impacts our standing and worth in God's eyes. It is our heart that matters. What sin?? Truly, what sin?? Is the blood of Jesus any less capable of covering our sin now than when we first came to Christ? Folks: we have no sin, even in sin; once it is surrendered and turned from. The blood forever removed both the stain and penalty of sin; so WHO are we to make the claim that Jesus' blood simply isn't enough? That’s exactly what we do anytime we condemn self or others for their sins.

Don't we know that God knew we would be struggling, when we'd be struggling, and with what issues we'd be struggling- even when He accepted us?? Far too long have we created and perpetuated an environment where the shell is judged by the acts, and the soul condemned because of what the flesh by its nature is bound to do. We have painted this false perception that true faithfulness means a flawless life of victorious living, without sin or struggle. Like the Pharisees of Jesus' time; we have become entranced with politics, tradition, processes, and appearance; but have neglected the critical matters of love and forgiveness. Like the Pharisees we continue to whitewash, and from behind the illusion of righteousness, murder other believers in our hearts as we condemn them. We cast lofty and judgmental glances at those who fail to meet the status quo; those who fail to look as sparkly clean as our whitewashed exteriors. We offer smiles that are no more than skin deep, barely concealing the contempt hidden just below the surface.

Well I have been anointed, I have been called, I have been blessed, and I have been gifted, empowered, and authorized. The Spirit is grieved to the point of action, and in this season I am grateful to God for restoring me to grace, and returning me to the kingdom with an obedient heart and a passion that knows no fear or hesitation. The time for restoration is upon us, and as the first fruits it has been given me the task of sowing the seeds of Return to Grace: Restoration Ministry. Let there be no confusion, though I come with a message of hope, mercy, love, forgiveness and grace for those in need; I also come bearing manifestation of the gifts with little boundary, and a heavy rebuke for the hardened hearts that continue to destroy the Body and abandon God's children to the enemy-as though it is a casual affair. Do not be deceived; this is a matter so dear to Father's Heart-He is unwilling to allow the enemy to continue to steal, kill and destroy His children.

May Father show us all the truth, and redirect us into a new season of unity, wholeness and openness; May He show us how to be free to be weak...how to be willing to make mistakes...that we may always know it is never what we do...but what Jesus' blood does that matters. May we always keep a proper perspective and attitude in our approach towards both God....and to others. For it is and always will be in Jesus holy name we pray...AMEN!!!