Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This Is Not Your Mother's Church . . . (Part 1)


A little over thirty years ago I reached a crisis point.

My life was unraveling in just about every area, and I was about to make an irrevocable decision. I was driving my car at over one hundred miles an hour on an overpass on the Boulder/Denver Turnpike on a sunny, but cold, March morning. There were a slew of demonic voices whispering in my head, relentlessly telling me how worthless a human being I was and how easy it would be to drive off the road and end my pain and suffering. The ground yawned one hundred feet below, waiting to receive me with open arms, an un-dug grave.

Then, something extraordinary happened.

In an instant, The One True Living God invaded my torment, banished the voices in the blink of an eye, and told me how much He loved me. He then proceeded to distract me from my temporary insanity by showing me all the good in my life instead of condemning me for all the bad.

Three was plenty of bad and, in my mind, not much good at all.

But He showed me how wrong I was to believe the lies the enemy of my soul had been so adept at spinning for a very long time. I’ve had multiple first-hand experiences since that incredible, life-changing moment battling the Father of Lies, both for myself and others. Fortunately, I’ve also had even more encounters with The Prince of Peace, The Ancient of Days, The Holy One of Israel.

When people ask me about those dark days, I often tell them that I was looking for God in all the wrong places (yes, I borrowed that from the Country Western song and replaced one word, although love and God are easily interchangeable). I also tell them that I was dragged into the Kingdom kicking and screaming, and that God definitely got the worst end of the deal. I, like Paul, was chief among sinners. I sinned with gusto. I was not much of a prize when the Lord pulled me back from the precipice, both feet hanging dangerously over the brink of the Abyss. 

I’m so very glad He did.

Shortly after He found me and plucked me from an eternity of torment separated from Him, I had a series of encounters with Holy Spirit that set the course of my life in Him. Before I share a bit about that, and the point of today’s blog, some background is important.

I grew up in a “typical” middle-class home. My dad worked two jobs. My mother stayed at home until I was twelve and old enough to take care of my brother while she went back to school to earn both her college degree in Teaching and a Master’s in Library Science. Dad’s parents were Methodist, but he had no place for any kind of religion in his life. He viewed Preachers right up there with used car salesmen. Mom grew up a staunchly faithful Baptist and won awards for perfect attendance in Sunday school--until she turned fourteen. She’d been having dramatic encounters with Holy Spirit and shared them with her pastor. He told her to stop having those encounters, because “they were of the devil.” You see, mom’s experiences with Holy Spirit did not fit the pastor’s religious theology; therefore they could not possibly be of God. As a result, mom left the organized church and wandered in the wilderness for the next five decades. She was on a quest to find out the truth about God, and her sincere desire to grow closer to Him led her into the welcoming arms of the New Age Movement. Mom never did anything half-way. She became one of its staunchest disciples. I’m the oldest, and we have always been close, so she passed along everything she learned to me. She was a wonderful teacher, and I was her best student. I drank it all up like a man who hasn’t had water in days, because I was on a quest myself.

A quest that had been ordained before the foundations of the world.
I grew up hearing all about God, very little about Jesus, and nothing about Holy Spirit. My mother gave God credit for everything good that happened in our lives and taught me to trust Him even when things fell apart. She taught me the importance of tithing, how to turn the other check, how important it is to forgive those who hurt me, the blessings that come when I lay down my own soulish desires and put the needs of others first, and the biblical mandate of generosity toward the poor. She taught by example, living what she’d learned.

But there was something missing.

A pearl of great price that took me eighteen years to find.

Jesus and Holy Spirit.

You might think that knowing all about God is enough. I can tell you from first-hand experience, it isn’t. You might think that knowing all about God and Jesus is enough. It isn’t. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a package deal. We need an intimate relationship with all three if we’re going to be victorious and overcome the world as Jesus did, both for ourselves and for others. Think of the package this way: Father is the magnificent engine of a beautiful and highly-sought-after vintage car. Son is the one-of-a-kind key to the ignition. It cannot, and has never been, replicated. Holy Spirit is the high-octane fuel that can only be used in this unique automobile. Working in unison, they are a functioning and all-powerful automobile. An extraordinary vehicle that turns heads whenever and wherever it shows up. However, if even one of the Trinity is missing, the car is going nowhere and will be good for little more than looking at and admiring.

Back to my story about the dramatic encounters with Holy Spirit shortly after I made a decision to surrender everything to Him.

Over a three week period I had a series of “visitations.” In Christian lingo this simply means Holy Spirit revealed Himself to me in a dramatic and undeniable fashion. The very first thing God spoke to me through Holy Spirit was that I would live to see His Son coming in Glory and that I would be living in Jerusalem. I really didn’t know what this meant, but I knew it was important and that I had to study and find out exactly what this shocking heavenly pronouncement meant for me.

I was thirty years old, and I’d never read or studied the Bible. We had them at home, but they were just books we carried with us to church and kept on our laps while the preacher told us what God really meant to say in His Word. We were sheep and the preachers were the keepers of knowledge. It was understood by all that they had the answers. If our questions didn’t fit with their answers, there was something wrong with us.

Consequently, I didn’t last very long in any church.

I was searching for truth, however, and I was diligent in spite of my misgivings. I went to the Methodist church of my grandparents, gave my mom’s Baptist church a whirl, went to Mass with a Catholic girl I dated briefly, and visited a Synagogue with another girl I dated. I found a great deal of religious hypocrisy in all of them mixed with bits and pieces of truth. In my youthful arrogance, I decided none of them knew what the heck they were talking about. So, for over fifteen years I wandered in the wilderness as well, following in mom’s erstwhile footsteps. 

Please don’t think I’m bashing any particular denomination. 

I’m not. 
There’s plenty of hypocrisy and religious bondage in all of the denominations, so they are all in good company. Let me also be clear, I am not bashing individuals, denominations, or even the Church as a whole. In fact, I’m not being critical at all, in spite of what you might think. I’m merely making a point about the distinction between religious views and behavior, and relationship. God has as much distaste for religion as I do. In fact, I leaned from Him that He hates religion. He could care less what denomination we idolize and bind ourselves to. His only interest is in having an intimate relationship with His creation. If you don’t believe that, you might want to spend some quality time in your Bible, starting with the stories about the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Next week, I’ll pick up my story, and we’ll delve a bit deeper into the meaning of “This is not your mother’s church . . .”


  1. The power of God to save is amazing. We cannot explain or understand the change that comes with salvation. All of a sudden, we are different people, both inside and out. Jesus sad to Nicodemus, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (Jn 3:8). Thank God for the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, and the grace that He makes available for our salvation.

  2. Very compelling story, thanks for sharing!

    1. So glad you liked! And thank you for taking the time to comment. Blessings.