The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion–
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61: 1-3 (NIV)
For many years of my Christian life, I was a prisoner. A prisoner of fear, a prisoner of rules, a prisoner of religion, a prisoner of darkness.
Where the Trinity was concerned, I loved Jesus; avoided the Father; and found it easiest to pray to the Holy Spirit. Why? Because in my mind, the Holy Spirit had no face, which meant I couldn’t see Him frown at me, glower at me, or be disappointed in me. He was simply Spirit – a billowy light, a shining presence.
Whenever I’m asked how I came to know Jesus Christ, I answer, The Hard Way. You’d never think it to see the battalion of statues of Jesus, Mary, and the Catholic saints that stood guard over our family home.
Piety was our middle name. We took all the sacraments regularly like Communion and Confession, and fasted and abstained from meat on holy days. Dad dutifully attended daily Mass. And every Wednesday, Mom joined 100,000 other devotees piously praying, as she progressed, on her knees, down the 95-metre-long nave of the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Every night, we knelt in front of the family altar to see how many speed records we could break while saying the rosary.
Mom would not buy me Nancy Drew detective stories, but she would buy me stories of the saints, so I devoured stories from the Bible, the lives of saints, missionaries, and martyrs, which, naturally, led me to conclude that, if you served God, your life expectancy would be short!
I have two brothers and two sisters, and we all went to Catholic schools in Manila. The nuns at my convent school taught us about God. He’s your Heavenly Father, they lovingly intoned. But God was invisible, so, to understand what “Father” meant, I had to look to my own father. Well, if I did anything wrong, displeasure would flash across his face followed by several lashes of his bamboo cane. If I really blew it and Mom complained about me, Dad would make me kneel bare-legged on sharp mung beans, carrying weights on outstretched arms, crucifixion-style, while fat red ants crawled up my legs, for “discipline”.
If I came home proud of the A’s in my report card, Dad would be happy, but Mom would say, “Just because you got those medals and honours, you think you’re somebody?” So, when it came to approaching God as Parent, the note to myself was: Proceed with Caution. God was a tyrant who had to be both pleased and appeased.
So I grew up being the good girl, SO good that, upon graduating from High School at age 16, TWO religious orders of nuns invited me to join them as a novice! Inconceivable, I know! 🙂 After giving it serious consideration, I concluded that I would not be able to keep the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience 24/7. Plus, I had just been accepted to read Philosophy at the country’s leading Jesuit university. There was so much of the world I was eager to discover.
At this university I met a young American missionary from Campus Crusade for Christ. Her name was Kathy van Antwerp, and she shared with me the four spiritual laws, telling me why I needed to be saved.
“Why do I need to be saved, and saved from what,” I asked her. “I’m a Catholic. It’s the Protestants who need to be saved.”
She graciously persisted, and, not wanting her to feel bad, I did what she asked, listened to her spiel, prayed the salvation prayer as a kind of insurance policy, and promptly forgot all about it.
Everywhere I went, Christian missionaries seemed to crawl out of the woodwork to challenge my Catholic beliefs and point me to the Bible. Frankly, I didn’t see how my Catholic beliefs differed much from theirs. What stood out for me, though, was the prominence Jesus played in their beliefs.
To my Catholic mind, Jesus was peripheral, incidental, a senior manager rather than a CEO; whereas all the saints had their own important ministerial portfolios. St. Jude was in charge of impossible tasks. If you were single, 40, and wanted to be married, you prayed to St. Jude. St. Anthony was in charge of finding your lost keys. St. Christopher was your saintly traveling companion and protector. St. Martin de Porres was the go-to guy for the poor.
But what did JESUS do?
Um…not much really. He was portrayed as the Sto. Niño, Spanish for Holy Infant, and what exactly could a baby God do?
Or, He was portrayed as the crucified Son of God, who had done His job of dying for us all, and now benignly reigned from Heaven. An ex-Catholic priest confided to me that during seminary training, the young men were asked whom they would obey if Jesus told them to do one thing and the Pope told them to do something else. The correct answer was that they should obey the Pope, because Jesus was in Heaven, and the Pope was His living representative on earth.
The one who had the REAL power, though, was Mary, because she was the Mediatrix, the mediator/intercessor between man and God. Her loving compassion and gentleness, combined with her having the ear of Almighty God made for a powerful knockout combo! If you didn’t think God would listen to your prayers, you simply bypassed Him and went straight to His mom.
Looking back now, I wonder if having Mary as mediator subliminally communicated the message that God was remote and inaccessible. I mean, what would it say about your pastor if you felt you needed to talk to his mother, to beg her, to ask him, to please grant you a favor?
Penchant for the Paranormal
One of my Jesuit professors was Fr. James who was renowned nationwide as a researcher into the paranormal. His office was an Aladdin’s cave of books and implements associated with the paranormal, from African masks to dowsing rods. People claimed to see him levitate across the campus at sundown, his feet never touching the ground.
I had an extremely healthy sense of curiosity about spiritual things, and was intrigued by this exotic other world. So I started reading books on Eastern mysticism and the New Age – books by Edgar Cayce, Shirley MacLaine, Lobsang Rampa, and Carlos Castaneda. I enjoyed going to fortune tellers (of whom my aunt was one), Tarot card readers, and crystal healers. I learned about astral healing, astrology, rebirthing, the Inner Peace movement, the Science of Mind, and Transcendental Meditation. Much later, when I worked in television, I even did a short documentary feature on UFOs. Little did I know that my dabbling in the New Age would eventually lead to an encounter with evil.
It happened while I was working as the Public Relations Manager for a 5-star Hyatt hotel and resort in the mountain city of Baguio, famous worldwide for its faith healers. Because Holy Week was a huge holiday in the Philippines, the hotel was always fully booked, so, I offered to organise psychic festivals for the entertainment of visitors and guests. They could have their star charts made, their tea leaves read, their ailments healed, their auras cleansed, and their vibrations raised. Then one day, I was offered the opportunity to meet a white witch down in Manila. I figured that wouldn’t be too bad since white witches were supposed to use their supernatural powers for good, not ill.
I had a blistering headache the day we met. The witch told me that the headache was caused by a disembodied spirit perched on my back. This spirit had prematurely left this life, he said, and wanted to re-enter the world, but needed to possess a body to do it. He wanted to use MY body.
“No way! He can’t have my body!” I vehemently protested.
So he offered to get rid of it for me, and while he was at it, would I like to have the power to have anything I wanted, he asked slyly.
“Can you do that?”
“Sure I can”, he reassured me. “Give me something that you wear on your person all the time.” I gave him my silver ring. Then he uttered a spell over my ring and told me to hold it and visualise whatever I wanted, and it would materialize. I went home stoked that I now had the power to acquire anything I wanted.
Well that night, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I had this creepy sense that I was being watched by invisible entities. I tossed and turned, and the following night was no less terrifying. When I finally closed my eyes, I could see (not with my physical eyes) a family of dense dark mud creatures, standing in descending height, by my bedside, all silently watching me. Their eerie presence pervaded the room. I was so terror-stricken, I vowed to get rid of the ring the following day. But early the next morning, before I could even do it, the telephone rang. It was the white witch.
“Cori, I sense that you’re thinking of getting rid of the ring.”
Goosebumps erupted all over my body.
“Listen, let’s talk it over,” he cajoled. “I know you’re returning to Baguio today, why don’t you send me a photo of yourself, then every time you need help, I can send help to you.” By then, however, I knew enough about witchcraft to know that, by giving him a photo of myself, he would be able to wield power over me.
As soon as I returned to Baguio, I rushed straight to a Catholic church, dunked the ring in holy water, and asked a priest to exorcise my ring. I never wore it again. Shortly after that episode, someone recommended to me a book called The Beautiful Side of Evil by Johanna Michaelsen. It was about a young Christian girl’s encounter with a faith healer and how her eyes were eventually opened to the truth of the source of that healer’s power. It was in this book that I learned about the power of Jesus’ name…which was a real blessing because one night, I had the horrific experience of being strangled by an unseen malevolent force. It grabbed my throat like a vise, squeezed and squeezed. Frantic, I thrashed about madly. Then I suddenly remembered what I’d learned about the power of Jesus’ name. With what little breath I had left, I desperately tried to force the name of Jesus out of my mouth. I only managed “Je”…..”Je”……. then finally, “Jesus”! As soon as I said His name, the evil force vanished.
Shaking with fear, it quickly dawned on me that I’d had NO IDEA what forces I’d been playing with.
During my years in the New Age, I thought that I had discovered esoteric knowledge – secrets to acquiring power that I could use for good.
Now, it seemed, the source of that power had been “outed” and was not at all happy about it.
Light in the Darkness
After that terrifying experience, I was hungry to know more. I read Rebecca Brown’s book, He Came to Set the Captives Free, and this was a real eye-opener. It exposed many of the lies of the New Age and the work that witches and warlocks do in hospitals, luring the dying to their satanic god by masquerading as angels of light.
Then, I was given a video to view, where actress, Shirley MacLaine, one of the top New Age exponents of the day, strode up and down Malibu beach declaring, “I AM GOD.” Hearing MacLaine declare that so brazenly, I was both impressed and appalled. I knew that I secretly wanted to BE God, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to go to hell for thinking such heresy! Plus, common sense coldly informed me that I had far too many imperfections to be divine!!!
I didn’t want to abandon my New Age beliefs because I reveled in the BROAD way to enlightenment and occultic wisdom the path provided. On the one hand, within the framework of my New Age beliefs, I liked the fact that I was in control. I called the shots, had some power, was the boss. I could, in some way, create my own reality. BUT, my encounters with evil were enough to tip the balance in the opposite direction, and I asked myself if personal power was worth the consequences of dallying with demonic spirits.
So, when Neil Anderson of Freedom in Christ Ministries, visited Manila to teach The Bondage Breaker seminar, which was his outreach to New Agers, I made sure to attend. With the help of his co-teacher, Carl, I went through three hours of repentance and deliverance for all of my involvement in the New Age and the occult. I consider Carl to have been my spiritual midwife, ushering me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
The Rocky Road to Salvation
Now, the wife of my General Mgr. at the Hyatt had recently become a born-again Christian, and was determined that I should join the ranks. So, she told the pastors and elders of her church to target me and get me saved! And this is how they did it.
After several months of friendly initiatives, a lovely couple invited me out to dinner at a restaurant. We had a great time. Then, after dinner, they brought up the Salvation issue. Well, coming from my background of a hodge-podge of beliefs, I had a gazillion questions, like: If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin and drag all of humankind down with them, and that Jesus would have to die for their sins, why did He still create them? If God the Father loved His Son so much, why did He send His Son to die instead of offering to die Himself? If God loves and protects His people, why do His missionaries get massacred or raped? Aren’t Allah, Buddha, and Ramakrishna just different names for the same God? If so, aren’t Christians being judgmental and narrow-minded insisting that salvation is only through Jesus? And, if God knows the end from the beginning and knows who will be saved and who won’t, why make people He knows will end up in hell?
Finally, after an hour or two of questioning and debate, we were all worn out, and, with still more questions to go, one of them finally said, “Well, Cori, if, on your way home tonight, you got hit by a bus, would you rather die with all of your questions, or would you rather die saved?”
Of course, I’d rather die saved!!!
RIGHT! Sign on the dotted line.
And that’s how I got saved.
But for years after that, I didn’t have the assurance of salvation, because I felt I’d only accepted Jesus because I was threatened with the prospect of hell. So, for nearly 20 years after that, I’d pray the salvation prayer at every altar call, in every church I attended, just to make sure I was saved.
I joined this nice couple’s church soon after that, and continued to be the good girl obeying all the NEW rules. I attended Bible study every week and service on Sunday; started to tithe, and threw away the idols and crucifixes I could lay my hands on. But, I noticed that if I mentioned anything like Christian meditation, visualization, centering prayer, martial arts or yoga, everyone freaked out.
Cori! That’s New Age!!! That’s demonic!
Why, I wanted to know.
Because it’s from Hinduism / Buddhism / the occult! Just stay away from those things because they are not in the Bible, they adjured.
But electricity’s not in the Bible. Does that make it bad?
Then, when I got engaged, I was made to attend a seminar on How to Be a Godly Wife. One of our teachers had been a very successful real estate agent who made a lot of money, but, she said, God told her to give up her job so that her husband would not feel small or diminished by her success, and could then occupy his rightful place as head of the home. I was sitting down as I listened to this, but on the inside, I was standing up indignantly! I loved being a successful career woman and now I was hearing that I should not be more successful than my husband; and that I should be submissive, quiet, and play small so that my husband could feel BIG and successful as the leader of our home. Otherwise, if I exerted my authority or made independent decisions, I would be operating in the Jezebel spirit, which would need to be cast down and cast out.
I began to think of God as a real party-pooper – demanding, hard to please, and misogynistic. If He didn’t like women, why’d He make them?
Subsequent Christian fellowships, over the years, sang the same tune. Women were good for women’s ministries, Sunday School, and morning tea, but they should not be allowed to teach or preach because St. Paul said so in 1 Corinthians 14: 34. Was God a chauvinist???
The put-down of women really upset me. Was it true that God meant for us to be inferior, second-class citizens just because Eve had been deceived in the Garden? Were we really so hopelessly untrustworthy? I decided to add it to my list of questions.
“Questions are great, but only if you know the answers.” – Laurell K. Hamilton
I had questions about the Bible – its origin and inspiration; questions about God – His character and motivations; questions about evil and suffering, purpose and destiny. I even attended a New Believers Class at a Baptist church just to be able to ask these questions though by then, I’d been saved for more than 15 years. When I asked my questions, however, the response I got was, “Cori, where is your faith?” To me, it seemed a case of “Leave your mind at the door, sit down, and just believe”.
I was told to read the Bible, so I read it from cover to cover three times. More questions filled a notebook and I didn’t have a safe place to go to for answers. Was it possible to believe in God AND be a thinking individual, I wondered, because, without intelligent discussion, faith felt like superstition. And it really surprised me how many Christians were full of fear: fear of getting it wrong; fear of not being good enough; fear of God’s wrath, fear of not going to Heaven, fear of demons behind every tree; fear of the end-times, the rapture, the tribulation, and the judgment.
Because of this culture of fear, the disempowered status of women, and the absolute absence of freedom and joy in the faith, my world got progressively smaller, narrower, more confining. I did NOT enjoy being a Christian. I’d go to church and people looked like they were there to discharge an obligation so they could go home and feel righteous. When the sermon was over, guys who’d been napping would suddenly wake up, stretch, and head to the kitchen for morning tea. Was this the abundant life Jesus talked about?
Since becoming born-again, I’ve lived in four different countries. I’ve joined Baptist, Anglican, Salvation Army, and Pentecostal churches; accidentally fallen into a cult; experienced the Toronto Blessing in London; fallen hard for the prosperity gospel; dabbled in the emergent church; thought about returning to Catholicism; then finally decided that Christianity was far too confusing and divisive, and considered becoming a Buddhist. I wanted peace and NO FIGHTING! And Christians seemed to always be arguing about whose theology was correct and whose was wrong – whereas Buddha just sat serenely and meditated his way into Nirvana. Thank God I read a book called “I Once Was a Buddhist Nun” that opened my eyes about Buddhism or I would be chanting with the Dalai Lama by now.
Because of my varied religious experiences, my image of God looked like an alien hybrid. I wasn’t sure who He was anymore. Was He a prosperity genie who emerged from a lamp rubbed with the right prosperity scriptures; or a dictatorial tyrant who snarled, “It’s my way or the highway”? Was He someone who needed to be praised and worshipped because He had self-esteem issues, or a cosmic disciplinarian with His star-studded bamboo cane, making me suffer so as to “build my Christian character”?
Well, my warped and toxic views of God gravely impacted the way I related with Him. When I saw Him as small and easy to manipulate using the right scriptures, I could not respect Him. When I saw Him as needy, manipulative and keen to keep me dependent, I could not trust Him. When I saw Him as someone whose standards I would never be good enough to meet, I could not love Him.
AW Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He’s right, because our image of God will determine whether we will want to have a relationship with Him, or dart desperately in the opposite direction.
Looking back now, I suspect I created God in the image of man – projected onto Him human characteristics of impatience, displeasure, rejection, and punitiveness, for which I secretly hated Him. What’s worse, I was scared I would go to Hell for hating Him. And horrors, as a Christian, I was expected to promote and market this God to others, and tell people that they had to turn to Him to be saved. I just couldn’t do it. It felt like feeding young children to a child abuser.
My Heart’s Cry
I was caught in a vicious trap from which there seemed to be no help. And I was tired of having to be around the super-spiritual and self-righteous who were long on judgment but short on love. So, I stopped going to church all together and in desperation, I cried out to God. Everyday, I begged Him, “God, if you’re there and if you can hear me, please reveal yourself to me for who you really are. I NEED to know you. I need your help. I want to see you for who you are!” Day after day, this was my heart’s cry.
Well, God heard me, and the healing began in late 2009. A friend introduced me to Margaret, a deep and contemplative woman who became my spiritual director. It was she who revealed to me a God whose love was big enough to embrace me, with all my anger, hatred, questions, and doubts. It was Margaret who directed me to look at Jesus and to see how He, and not my parents, truly reflected the heart of the Father. Margaret was not threatened by my shocking questions or scared by my experiences. Instead, she was full of gentleness and love.
Sometimes, I would cover my face with shame because I dared to ask a question that I was sure would provoke God to strike me. But Margaret was unerringly gentle and provided a safe place for me to fall. She also gave me opportunities to attend quiet days and silent retreats, which my contemplative nature hungered for.
I also started seeing a counselor – a lovely laughing woman named Sharron, who helped me to glimpse God’s presence and compassion in the turmoil of my painful past.
Then, in 2010, I attended the Living Wisdom School of Counseling with pastor, Richard Black. It was there that I learned that the harsh, judgmental, autocratic God, whom I blamed for all that was hateful in my life, simply didn’t exist. That He was a lie, a figment of the imagination, conjured up by my pain. In His place was a God who gave up everything for me and would not let go of me even when I had let go of Him. I started to behold the tender heart of God.
Little by little I began to take baby steps of trust in this God, but then something would happen, and I would fall back on my toxic image of God. I could not seem to move forward in my spiritual life. I had lots of head knowledge now, but my heart was coated in Teflon, and the truth just would not stick! I felt like Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology, who was condemned by the Greek gods to forever roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again, repeating this action forever.
The big turning point came in June of that year, when I attended a seminar called Keys to Wholeness taught by Selwyn Stevens. During a time of ministry, I confessed that I seemed to take two steps forward and four steps back in my faith walk and could not seem to progress! “What’s wrong with me?” I asked.
He asked me point blank: Have you ever been a member of the Roman Catholic Church?
I said Yes.
He then said that the Catholic Church, during the Council of Trent in the 16th century, pronounced anathemas or curses damning to hell Catholics who left the church and denied Catholic doctrines. He referred me to a very long prayer in the Keys to Wholeness workbook. This prayer led me through a step-by- step repentance for belief in false doctrines, so as to break off the curses from my life. From that moment on, I have been able to move forward in my faith and grow in my relationship with the Lord. Praise the Lord!
The Truth Will Set You Free
A teacher once told me that our minds have three drawers: a Truth drawer, an Undecided drawer, and a Lie drawer. Everything we hear and learn gets filed into one of these drawers. But sometimes, because of bad experiences or ignorance, we might take a lie and stick it in our Truth drawer. A lie like “God doesn’t love me” or “I don’t matter to God. I’m insignificant.”
If you put that lie in your Truth drawer, and believe it’s true, how do you think you’ll end up behaving? Do you think you’ll enjoy spending time with God? Would you tell other people about Him? Would you worship Him with joy in your heart and a smile on your face? No. Instead, you’ll probably look for more evidence to prove that what you believe is true. And you’ll become a prisoner, just like I was.
Because I’d been so confused about God for so long, I now needed to wash my brain with truth over and over again. I attended the Father Heart of God conference, where I glimpsed a God who actually WANTED to BE my father – who was not a reflection of my earthly dad – but was the perfection of all that an ideal Father was: someone who had time for me and loved me, just as I was and just as I wasn’t.
God knew that I struggled with His invisibility, so He blessed me with some visual aids. I never knew what unconditional love felt like until it was revealed to me, and continues to be revealed to me by my daughter, Charis. I comprehended God’s faithfulness through my husband, Iain. Finally, it was A.W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, that extricated God from the smallness of my warped mental fabrications, and finally restored Him to His sovereignty. God ceased to be MY creation. I was restored to being His.
Forgiveness – Bridge to Freedom
I have received a LOT of healing and deliverance over the years – seeking it out wherever I could through spiritual direction, counseling, conferences, workshops, books, videos, teaching CDs, visiting ministries, church, etc. Apart from repentance, I discovered that the key pivotal step and pre-requisite to healing was FORGIVENESS. Jesus had a point when He said to forgive those who’d hurt us seventy times seven times.
It took me 10 years to forgive my Dad and considerably more to forgive my Mom. They were not wicked people. They were simply victims of victims, and I happened to be a highly sensitive child who interpreted their actions and words in ways that damaged by self-image, along with my image of God.
Forgiving and releasing from my judgment both my parents and all those who had hurt and rejected me along the way was essential to gaining freedom. You can’t walk tall if you’re dragging the corpse of your regrets, disappointments, griefs behind you.
And because I am hungry for truth and for God, I read a lot, go to conferences, listen to Christian teaching, read books, and go to hear visiting speakers. I want to know God more fully – the REAL God, not the super-cop who I thought was waiting ‘round the bend to catch me speeding so he could give me a ticket.
I want a real relationship with God, and I discovered that He wants a personal relationship with me. He proved it by sending Jesus. I want to experience the depth of His love. And I want to be FREE. Free from the lies that I believed were true. Free from my toxic image of God. Free of the burden of trying so hard to please Him and be acceptable. Free from fear.
In Proverbs 8:17, the Spirit of Wisdom says“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me”.
I had been seeking God diligently all my life and after a million detours and dead-ends, I have finally found my Lord. Now, as I read His Word, I hear Jesus saying to me, “You did not choose me, Cori, I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain. Do you know that no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me, draws them? Well, the Father drew you, Cori, to Me.”
My heart, which had become hard through confusion, bitterness, and disappointment, had never stopped seeking the true God. When I finally learned that I didn’t have to be the good girl for Him to love me, and that He accepted me just as I was, I couldn’t believe it. This was freedom…to know that even when I’m bad and I sin, God can still bear to look at me. He still loves and accepts me. Why? Because Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus Christ died for me BEFORE I’d even repented! He didn’t say, “Okay, Cori, try harder and maybe, one day, you’ll be good enough for me to love.” NO!
That’s why the gospel is such Good News – because there’s absolutely nothing we can do to merit God’s love. He knew we couldn’t earn it, so he gave it FREELY – as a gift!
We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to get it right all the time. We don’t have to be quiet and sit still in the corner, and be something we’re not!
I know I will still sin and make mistakes, but I cling to 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Just like with the woman caught in adultery, lying in a crumpled heap of shame, Jesus came, gently lifted my face so my eyes met His, and said, “Cori, neither do I condemn you.”
“Woman, Thou Art Healed!”
The next thing God healed was my identity as woman in the Body of Christ. When we visited Bishopdale Church of Christ in 2012, I liked Pastor Dianne because she was joyful and welcoming and she remembered my name. But I secretly wondered “Is she allowed to be a pastor considering she’s a woman?!!!”
We had just left a highly chauvinistic church and I was honestly fed up with the belief that men were spiritually superior, so I thought, RIGHT, I don’t care if THEY think this is wrong. I’m going to go to a church with a female pastor. I felt like a rebel. 🙂
And my goodness, God is so amazing because it was only through coming to this church, that I finally realized that I have a place at God’s table as a woman! And I love it, because I can bring my talents and gifts to serve Him and build His Kingdom.
When the Bible says do not neglect the fellowship of believers, I used to think that was just another rule. But through our fellowship times on Sunday, at home group on Monday, and through other informal get-togethers with friends, I can see the wisdom of that advice. Life can be very lonely, and I don’t think we were meant to do life alone. The Godhead itself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is a community, and God invites us to be part of that community by drawing us to Himself in love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.
If you are a prisoner like I was, I believe I know how you feel. You must feel so alone with only doubt, anger, and fear as your companions, and the burden of having to pretend that everything is okay.
That is NO way to live.
God is offering you so much more that just a life to be endured. May I encourage you not to give up? Cry out to God for help. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Seek healing. Seek deliverance. Ask for prayer. Share your heart with someone you can trust. Have the courage to see if what you believe about God is the truth or a lie masquerading as truth. The Holy Spirit will help you. And He will often do it through people. That’s why we need each other in the Body of Christ.
God loves you so much, and wants a living relationship with you. This is the God who said, “Let there be Light”, and BANG! – like a hundred trillion floodlights suddenly switched on and wiped out the darkness!
Forbes magazine recently declared that Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is the most powerful man in the world. Well, this God is more powerful than Putin, wealthier than Bill Gates, more important than the Queen, more famous than George Clooney, and He’s standing in front of you, inviting you to dance. He says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; with loving kindness I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
When I was in high school, I read a poem by John Donne called A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. It inspired me to pray this prayer: “Lord, if you and I were a compass, You be the needle and I’ll be the pencil. Let me wander far and wide, try everything I want to try, and do everything I want to do. But, just before I fall off the edge, please pull me back to You”.
That’s exactly what He did. Through all the years that I was lost, God went on loving me relentlessly – never giving up, never holding back. You see, it didn’t matter to me who God was, until I knew that He loved me regardless – that He was FOR me and not against me.
He forgave me, took my rags of shame, and bestowed on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Now I’m hungry for MORE of Him. The more He heals my heart, the more I fall in love with Him…the more I want to know Him, spend time with him, worship, and enjoy Him.
I’m still on the journey of finding greater freedom and abundant life in Christ, but now I know that however much I want that, He wants it even more.
And to that God who stalked me, until His love won me over, be ALL the glory!
Father, thank you so much that You never give up on any one of us – that You love us with an everlasting love, and that nothing can separate us from Your love. I pray that You will reveal to each heart who reads this story how great is Your love for each one of them, so that they will learn to trust You, and enjoy an eternal loving relationship with You. In the name of Your son, Jesus, I pray.
Now, Friend, let me pray a blessing over you:
May the Lord bless you with the revelation of how He sees you, how much He loves you, and what He can do with your life when it is fully yielded to Him.
May He heal your heart and your memories so that you can walk in total freedom, trust, and joy in Him. Amen.
If you have never heard the Good News and want to know WHY it’s good news, please watch this short but wonderful You Tube video featuring Billy Graham’s final message to America: