“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
I was in my ninth month of walking in the love of Christ when it hit me. I had been “free” from sin over the last several months, but I was still held in bondage. The bible says there is freedom in Christ, but why did I feel like I was in chains? Less than a year ago my life was in shambles, but Jesus gave me a new start. I knew the scripture in Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” I knew the truth of God’s Word but I was in captivity.
When I gave my heart to Jesus, He instantly delivered from alcohol and cigarettes and changed my life entirely. It was a miracle. I knew God had worked a beautiful thing in my life and I knew without a doubt if it hadn’t been for my friend, Jake, sharing with me the love of Jesus, I would still be left in my sin.
Jake would spend hours patiently teaching me with the Word and listening to my ridiculous questions about God. I would tell him the way I saw it only to justify my own sin. I would start arguing with him and get mad and leave the restaurant swearing him off for the rest of my life. But a couple days later, we’d be back at it again with our bibles in hand. He was patient with me beyond measure and he dealt with me in love. I have so much respect for him, even to this day. He became like a brother to me. That’s why when he invited me to go to his church, I accepted the invitation without hesitation. After all, the pastor of his church is the one who shared with me and through him, I was brought into the family of God.
My first day of church, the light of the Lord shone on me so powerfully that people commented on the huge glow of gold light that surrounded me. This was the first day I had been to church in over 10 years. In the light of God’s Word, I learned three very important things that day. First, I learned that Jesus was returning to rapture His church. I don’t know why, but somewhere in my church upbringing I missed it. I had no idea that Jesus was coming back and I sat speechless when I realized that if I hadn’t accepted Jesus in my life days earlier, I would have been left behind. The second important thing I learned was that the bible was the Word of God. When I was in 6th grade, I had been misled by a trusted spiritual leader in our church. When I started to question the bible, he told me that the bible was a bunch of stories and not all of them were true. I was 11 years old when he told me that. It only took 17 years for the Holy Spirit set me straight. At that moment, when Pastor Clark said “This is the Word of God,” I knew the bible was true and all that was in it. The third thing I was enlightened with was that the Holy Spirit speaks to His people. I was totally in awe and hungry. I remember the pastor and his wife saying that the Lord had told them something and then it happened. I sat there in amazement and in my heart I said these exact words, “Lord, if this is real and you do still speak to Your people, then I want that!” From that day forward, I inclined my ear to hear the Word of the Lord.
I learned a lot from my friend Jake, but it didn’t take me long to observe there was something very wrong with the church he went to. The pastor was not affiliated with any denomination, holding services in his home. I noticed early on he held all of his “flock” accountable, but he was not accountable to anyone. He preached the “Jesus Only” movement making claims that there was no trinity and your salvation was based on three things: Accepting Jesus Christ for forgiveness, being baptized in the Name of Jesus, and speaking in tongues as evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. If any one of those three things were missing, you were not saved. At first, I didn't question this. But as I started to search the scriptures, I found holes in what he was saying and I desired to question it. I would try at times to express what I was finding in the Word, but I saw how he treated other people who ever crossed him. He would belittle them in the middle of service and talk down to them. If anyone ever crossed him, he would say things like “God will have his justice with him.” This man had me so scared. He would tell us that we can lose our salvation and if we didn’t speak in tongues and we died, we would not go to heaven.
It’s so amazing because I used to watch cult members on TV and think how could those people be so stupid? But these types of controlling people prey on people in my situation who were totally broken and in need. But amazingly enough, the Lord would not deny His Word and He still used this man to lead me to salvation. 2Timothy 2:13 He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
As the weeks went on, I found the Pastor to be very controlling. He would tell people that God speaks through him and that they should go to him because he knows certain things that they don’t know. At one point I counseled with him and his wife because my parents wanted me desperately to move home to Wisconsin with my boys and live with them so they could help me. Pastor Clark told me that he felt the Lord told him I should not go because that wouldn’t be good for me. And even more than that, if I did go, I would in danger of losing my salvation. He then proceeded to tell me in a very stern way that if I decided to move, he would pray for me until God removed the burden from him.
It seems almost comical now when I think back. Some might think how does that happen? That’s what I used to think. But when you desire more than anything to have a relationship with Jesus and spend your life with Him and someone with apparent spiritual authority explains that you might lose your eternal salvation, you step back and listen. I desired more than anything to do the right thing.
I stopped going to his church shortly after I started, but the things Pastor Clark told me about losing my salvation and all of his twisted scriptures stayed with me for months and months. It would wake me up in the middle of the night and it was on my heart 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can honestly say, I have never felt in such turmoil about anything in my life. I had to know the truth. I would walk down the street and drive in my car and wonder if I was going to spend eternity with Jesus. When I read Luke 22:44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground, I understood this with all of my heart. My heart was in agony and my prayer was earnest. I had to know the truth.
One afternoon, I was lying on my floor with a heavy heart like so many days in the past. I was crying out to the Lord and asking him what to do. All at once, there was a knock on the door. It was my neighbor and she said she had just been thinking about me and wanted to know if I wanted to go to church with her on Sunday. My heart leapt in my chest and I accepted the invitation. I thought it couldn’t hurt.
Sunday came and I attended this small community church down the street from me. As I sat there, I wept at the message that was preached about love. God had totally spoken to me through the message and I knew without a doubt that God was using this pastor to speak directly to me. I sobbed almost the entire time and felt the love of God in the entire congregation. To my surprise, when I left this church, I didn’t feel that dark, heavy feeling I experienced at Pastor Clark’s church. I was floating on the clouds all day by the Spirit of God. It was an awesome experience to go to a bible-believing church and I was blessed that God had called me there. I was so excited that I shared my experience with my friend, Jake. My heart dropped as he warned me not to go back. He explained that if I go to another church, I would fall away from the “truth.” To my surprise, that old heavy feeling started to creep back in my heart. It had been just earlier the Lord had spoken to me mightily in that little community church of “love.” Within hours, I was in worse shape than I was in before.
For hours after my conversation with Jake, my heart was flooded with grief and anxiety. Was I going to lose my salvation? Was I going to be eternally damned into hell? I just had to know. That same evening, I was at football game with a friend of mine. I could think of nothing else. When my friend would talk to me, I would answer without even knowing what he was saying. I was totally in my own hell.
After the game, as we walked back to the car. I cried out to the Lord for the last time. I pleaded in my heart that I had to know the truth once and for all. I let the Lord know that it didn’t matter – If he wanted me to go to the “crazy” church, I’d go; if he wanted me to go to the church of “love”, I’d go. I just had to know what HE desired and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. As I walked back to the car, I made a demand on the Lord. This was the first time I had ever done this and the last time I ever did it again. When I say I made a demand, I mean I was so intense with the Lord that He was gracious to answer me. I told the Lord that I was not going to put any limitations on Him. I wasn’t going to put out a fleece and say if You do this then I will know that it means that or if You do that, then I will know you means this. I told Him that I was completely giving this to Him to speak to me in whatever way He wanted to, but that by the time I got to my car he needed to speak to me. I told Him it had to be obvious and there could be no question that He was speaking to me. I had to know it was Him speaking. I asked the Lord to show me what t church He wanted me to go to. At this point, I didn’t care. I just had to know because I wanted to walk with Him.
I recall the feeling I had in my heart knowing that God was going to answer me. Thoughts of God’s Word were in my heart. Luke 11:11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? The Word was established – If I asked Him, He would give me bread and not a stone. He was faithful to answer me.
I was deep in prayer and the last thing I spoke to the Lord was, “Lord, I’m waiting on You. I have no idea what I am looking for, but when I see it, I will know it’s You who answered me. I’m almost to my car, Lord, and I need to know. You know the turmoil in my heart and you know how I feel. I have to put this to rest.”
I had my head down looking at the sidewalk and praying. I found myself looking at the shoes of the person in front of me. My eyes moved up to the pants. I thought to myself, “I recognize those pants.” They were blue jeans with white specks in them and I had seen them before. My eyes traveled to the back of person in front of me and I recognized the shirt from earlier that day. Finally, my eyes went to the back of the head. I recognized that full head of black hair. My heart jumped in my body. I tilted my head and peered around to look at the person’s face in front of me. I almost fainted. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was following Pastor Dave, the pastor of the “love” church I had attended that morning. I wanted to jump up and down. God had answered me in a mighty way. The most amazing thing was there were 50,000 people at this game and the Lord dropped this man in front of me.
I cried out to the Lord and He heard my cry. Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. From that day forward, I had perfect peace with my salvation. Jesus Himself set me free and I was able to experience His love to its fullness. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36.