That’s how I’d have to describe the past 26 years (OK, I’ll go ahead and admit it – that’s the last half!) of my life. Twenty-six years ago today, I made a decision that changed everything about what living for God meant to me. In spite of being happy with my church at the time, not mad with anyone, heavily involved in what was being done there, trusting God to help with things that required more of me than my own efforts would produce, I began to feel that knowing God and walking with him could be more in-depth, personal and real than what I’d experienced.
Thinking the answer was to be found in deeper and more full-time service to him, I applied to be a foreign missionary. Though my credentials seemed to be the type they needed for providing social services through their missions in other countries, at that time I hadn’t found a social work job here that really felt like a good fit, and the prospect of trying that in a foreign land just didn’t seem inviting (those were the only conditions under which I could serve full-time).
Unable to fill the hunger to have more of God through my own efforts, or my understanding of options, I cried out to God in my own way, that if there was something more beyond what I had and knew at the time, then I wanted it. That is the prayer that, if sincerely prayed, will always move God to draw near to you, and show you steps to take in reaching what you have said you wanted. I must say that I haltingly walked the path at first, for when I stated the desire to have more, I had no idea that “more” would lie outside the bounds of what I was accustomed to in the church I was familiar with. That may sound like a contradiction, but my point is that I wasn’t unhappy with my church or my denomination at the time, only with what felt like a “ceiling” I had reached in my walk with God. When (within a week of my asking him for more, if it was available), a woman with the apparent garb and hairstyle of “holiness” people entered my office building on her first day of work , my response was “Oh, no, not one of those!”
After weeks of her failing to meet my expectations of being pushy about her faith, and badgering me to come to her church (which she never once even hinted at), I relaxed enough to only observe what she was doing: quietly letting her faith in God and daily encounters with his presence and his power show through in her life. In that way, she did what the “salt” Jesus spoke of his followers being was supposed to do: created a thirst in me for more of what was creating the peace, love and joy and power with God I was seeing manifested in her. Her accounts of praying about something and Jesus so immediately and undeniably answering her exceeded the things I’d felt or heard related in my own childhood (and adult) faith. I wanted to hear more. It took my insisting on lunch together for her to open up to me more about her faith, because, as she told me later, the Holy Ghost had not allowed her to feel the liberty to try to invite me to church with her – God knew my heart, and how that would have put me off. He drew me by her casual sharing of what he was doing in her life.
Well, needless to say, I was much less than anxious to make any big changes, and months actually went by before I, through much study of God’s word, prayer on my own (and for me from other people) and visiting her church (invited by another co-worker who’s attended) to hear the pastor and evangelists preach, that I concluded that what was being evidenced to me was indeed what I was hungry for. On this date in 1986, I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of my sins, which is what was told to the first congregation that heard the gospel preached after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as being necessary for salvation (“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the Promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38-39). Before I was only baptized by one who repeated Jesus’ “Great Commission” commandment (Matthew 28:19-20). This day, I was baptized by one who obeyed the commandment, as Peter, Paul, Philip and the others did in the book of Acts.
Though others would try to say this whole phenomenon that was evident in the first church was something that ended after the Book of Acts closed, I say they came too late to tell me that “as many as the Lord our God shall call” didn’t include us today, because he included me. After being baptized on April 28, I prayed and continued to seek God for the Holy Ghost, and on May 15, I received the “like gift” as Peter, James, John and all the Apostles, as well as thousands of other Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the books of Acts. God filled me with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with other tongues, and that prayer still works and moves today when I seek God and reach out to him.
The daily walk of prayer that begins in normal everyday speaking voice and attempts to focus on God — who he is, his goodness to us — while shutting out the thoughts of worldly cares, worries, etc., then begins to progress toward feeling God’s presence come into the room as I’ve called upon his name, whether alone or with a group of others praying, then having God’s Spirit speak through me to him in a language unknown to anyone but him, as the Holy Ghost gives utterance (Acts 2:4 ), is something I cannot begin to fully describe to those who haven’t experienced it. I have no doubt there are many who will read this who have experienced some degree of feeling the presence of God – he draws us to himself and as we respond, we feel more of him. But I can tell you the feeling of having the Spirit of God flow through a person in prayer and worship, will make the glimpses of him you’ve had before feel like simple sips compared to the river of living water he promised those who believe on him, “as the scripture hath said” (John 7:38).
Anyone gets excited about a “new thing” when they discover it. I even suppose some had expected my “new religion fever”, if that’s how they saw it, to be about as long-lasting as “new car fever” is for folks, once the reality of new car payments sets in. But coming to know the realities of the need for daily prayer, for studying the Word of God, for living a holy lifestyle by the power of his Spirit in us (the only way for anyone to live above sin), and for obeying his commandments of faithfulness to him and to his house of prayer, has only added to the fullness and joy of walking with him. Twenty-six years is a long time for anything to keep getting better and stronger, but I assure you that is exactly the way it’s been and still is! Praise God for his unspeakable Gift.
Are you walking in what your inner-most being longs to have? Call out to God for what he wants you to experience, and follow as he begins to lead you into his marvelous light! For a free personal Bible Study, or for more information on where to visit the church that I call “home”, contact or visit us at:
Bay Springs, MS
Church the way it was meant to be…