Jumping at Shadows

Texas, I believe there is one place in Texas, where they haven’t had a rain for three years. And just think of that. Now, all this is bound to speak of something. It’s just can’t be, just say, “Well, it’s just a coincidence. It just merely happened that way or just to be.” I don’t believe that. I believe that everything has to move according to God’s will for it to move. And now these things are for a purpose.

53-1018 – Elijah – William Marrion Branham

I’ve spoken before about the level of spiritualism I was raised to believe in. From a stalled car being The Devil trying to steal my victory to the traffic delay being God keeping me from some accident. Most would laugh at these things, like clamoring about seeing Christ on their toast. For us in the Message however, we saw a constant tugging at our souls in these ‘coincidences.’ When you’re taught that the demons and angels are constantly at war around you, that stray thoughts or doubts can make the difference in our salvation, you don’t laugh; it becomes a very serious matter. Growing a goatee almost cost me my class, as facial hair was a spirit of a sex symbol working through me. The pastor’s choice of topics showed what God had found the church backsliding in that week. It quickly becomes a mental state to see everything as the direct action of an angry God of justice or a benevolent God of blessings.

I remember the self-deprecating checklists I would go through when my car wouldn’t start. Had I paid my tithes? Had I missed a service at church when I could have made it? Had I doubted something? Instead of wondering about the very real mechanical issues going on, I had been conditioned to look at myself trying to weed out anything the church didn’t approve of. Even my own father, when he was called for a meeting with our pastor, would ask me and double check that there was nothing in my life that he needed to know before meeting with our spiritual leader. This ignorance of the real world issues while focusing on the self-created issues will be a pattern to notice as we continue this lesson.

I often wonder how I could have ever believed it all. So I want to use the next few lessons to show how when improperly balanced, we can distort scriptures and quotes to create a literal fear of God instead of a reverence for his love. Scriptures I now know to be uplifting and reassuring were once filled with judgement and condemnation. Learning to find that balance really did make the Bible into a new book, and walking away from the overactive spiritualism has changed everything in my walk with Christ.

Different Stories

          The church had given me two main priorities when I was ordained into the position of Youth Minister: to get the youth engaged in church and give them an understanding of the core Message doctrine to give them a closer understanding of why we were separate from other forms of Christianity. I felt that I had to find the Tim-way of doing this so that they would be safe from the doubts and frustrations I had. I wanted to bring the Bible into their lives as they’d never seen it before, making it real to them. A big part of that was to dig up every article and fact I could about the people in it and taking artistic license to bring it into modern terms for them to understand.

              The youth group that had been my sole focus in church for years taught me about being accountable for everything I believed. While tapes and sermons were inspiring and powerful for a congregation, frequently, they failed to explain many of my questions. This was in part because I could not begin a conversation with them and ask things of it when I was lost. I could have researched the transcriptions of William Branham’s sermons, but regardless of how deeply I searched, many of his most famous and referenced quotes rarely followed with grounding and explanation, especially rarely with explicit Biblical support. The one place that always gave me an answer or a direction was the Lord’s Word, so I set the youth group on that same path. In some ways, it was my own failure to find answers for myself within Message doctrine. My inability to continue to follow it, which led to my departure from the Message, was the beginning of the youth’s falling out as well.

            On several occasions, the church leadership asked me why I taught primarily the Bible to the youth group, in place of our more exclusive Message doctrine.  In consideration of tapes and quoting William Branham, they had memorized and and learned almost nothing, because  he was so rarely the answer to their questions, when it came to breaking things down for them.As they participated more in the Question and Answer services, they wanted to know more and more about Biblical concepts to apply in their lives, replacing much of the Branham’s teachings.  Finally he came in my classroom early one Sunday when it was just staff preparing for the service, and told me that I needed to be including Branham’s sermons into my lessons. That’s why I was there to be their youth pastor, and I needed to teach them the Message, and that they would learn the Bible through William Branham, as that was the right way to reach God.

            I was afraid of questioning my faith in the Message for many years, because all of my spiritual leaders, my father and pastor and the deacons that I had come to know so well, couldn’t see what I was learning. When I backed up, asking things of Message doctrine and William Branham’s teachings that the Bible had answered for me and that deep prayer and desperate conversations with God had opened up for me, I found so much out of place. When I compared the two and one came up short, I could see no other answer than to take time and develop my own direct relationship with God outside of the Message and many of its spiritual leaders. I always believed, even as I left, that if the Message was true and best for my spiritual journey, God would’ve led me back to it in a way I could understand.

Children of God

When I think back to my times in church, my first and most precious memories are my times spent with the kids in my youth class. The 3-5 services a week made church seem more like a job than enjoyable. The pressure to run the soundboard and produce copies of the services that met the Pastor’s approval made services more stressful than a time to hear from God. The kids would run around the church, goofing off, to the consequence of a lot of disapproving looks from the deacons and other church leaders, which ultimately fell on me.  After everything, it was still worth it to close the door every Sunday morning and open up the Bible to them.

My goal was to take all the stories and questions they had ever had and take them off the shelf. I wanted them to see the Bible as a book of stories about people as real as them and their friends. I wanted to make them think about the deeper parts of each story in the Bible, the human side: the questions the characters must have had and the doubts and fears they experienced. From the pages of the Bible I would pull the characters out and use my imagination to make them come alive for those kids. I thrived on their curiosity once they got into it. By being direct and open to discussion with all of their questions, not just Bible lessons, my classroom became a place for them to work through things at school, home, and church. As part of their journey, church and Biblical teachings became intertwined in their decisions and plans, as a place to be open up to God’s plan through discussion with other followers of God. We talked and laughed and cried about so many topics but they began to listen in ways I never even hoped I’d reach.. It became clear as they returned each Sunday with questions about the lesson from the previous week that they had read their Bibles between classes, in both personal study and by paying attention.

Whenever the adult service would gather for questions and answers, I encouraged them to be as comfortable with the adults as they were in Sunday School class. Eventually my class was the main source of questions for those services. Many of the lessons involved games, to put fun and practice into the association while they learned. We got  together at bonfires, games, or anything else I could do to make sure they were active and engaged in the church regularly. In a matter of months, I took the teenager population from sleeping during the sermon to taking notes for questions later. It meant the world to me to see them grow in Christ. I had found my focus. I loved teaching them. They made studying my Bible fun and challenging. I couldn’t just talk about Solomon and his temple, I had to know the measurements and value of the thing, cause they would ask me anything and everything. Youth Ministry was my calling. After so much fighting, God had brought me there to give me hope in my faith again.

If you continue in My word…

As I was becoming accepted by those in leadership, I was still dealing with my own doubt. I felt like I was missing part of the relationship with Him. Typically, when faced with a problem where I seem to be the only one not getting it I do one thing; take it apart and learn every piece one by one. I assume that because there are others around they must have figured it out, it must work, the issue therefore is me. So I made sure that I learned it better than anyone so I could help others find what I was clearly missing.

My immersion started with learning the rules and doctrine of the Message better than anyone around me. If this thing was to be what my eternal destination was gauged off of, I would own it. My fellow believers were happy to provide me with books and tapes and quotes. Digital copies were passed around like they were the Holy Grail. The amount of money made off of those first 30gb ipods (27ish gbs were needed to hold the message at that time) must have been insane. For much of my church, this became a convenient way to expose themselves to God’s word, which I too fell into. I listened to recordings when driving, read the books on my lunches, and studied my bible at all hours of the night.

Due to this and my Father’s appointment to assisting minister and deacon in the church, it became known that even as a young man, I was ahead of most in doctrinal understanding. I was becoming respected for having my life together.. I was often invited to the men’s breakfasts and other gatherings; it wasn’t long before I was involved on multiple levels. I took over the recording and reproduction of the services at our church, assisting with almost anything technical. Eventually, I was ordained into ministry and spoke from the pulpit on a number of occasions, which was rare at only nineteen.
Eventually as the previous youth minister stepped down, he and the assistant pastor came to me and offered me the position. I laughed. I was young; I didn’t know how to be in charge of kids not that much younger than myself. I prayed about it and finally. During prayer and fasting I felt like the lord had told me to “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: Fear not, nor be dismayed: For the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” (I Chronicles 28:20)

I had never been so nervous in my life. Standing there in the suit I’d preached to hundreds in still left me shaking in front of these kids. I was a young and naive twenty years old about to face my first class of 11 to 17 yr olds. I was tasked by the Pastor and his assistant to fix the problem of the teenagers not being engaged and wanting to give up on church. I was to turn them towards Christ. I had to show them the missing pieces that I, myself, had barely found. They reminded me every day that even I didn’t know how to find God in the Message all the time, but that I was going to find the answers for them, because my pastor and my God had asked it of me.

El retablo de las maravillas

For years I could tell you the services that would generate a revival at the end. The services where the Spirit would come down and we would spend hours afterwards singing, dancing, screaming, etc. All this was our evidence of the Spirit of God. I hated these services, not because I didn’t want to be a part of them, but rather because I knew how to make them for others. I found that I could only sit and watch as the spirit moved and touched every single person but me. I spent thirteen years in a Message church watching the moments that were built upon, encouraged, all to better experience the worship. I could tell exactly when the songs were just right and the preaching struck a cord and the people would be touched. I was trying desperately to understand the mechanics of it so that I could break it down and make it work for me. I wanted nothing more than to give myself over to the spirit of God as it rolled over the people. After years of traveling to multiple churches it was a shock to actually stay in one where my father wasn’t the lead minister. So I determined to try and understand what this prophet and pastor had that I needed. The Message had regulations for nearly every part of life, and I was desperate to try anything if it would mean I would get it. I never wanted to feel ashamed when everyone was discussing the time it became real for them, and I had nothing to share.

I was never able to ask questions though. My pastor and most of the men in the church that held positions of authority, didn’t like someone constantly asking how they’d gotten it. My father had asked me to listen and obey when we were around others, to trust in his faith and that all my questions could be answered later. The Message used this trust in my father and my pastor that everything would be answered later to put all possible questions “on the shelf.” The answer to everything became, “Only Believe.” Many of those questions would sit on that shelf until long after I left the Message, thirteen years later. Until this point in my life people loved discussing and debating and sometimes arguing God and the Bible. I wanted to break this down so that if I could understand it; I could share it with others. My father’s primary point in a sermon was always, if I can understand it being the simple man I am, then anyone can understand the Word of God. I had to get it so I could share it like him. Trying to go back and ask my father would earn me, “I just haven’t listened to enough tapes for that yet son, give me time.”

I was afraid my entire time under that belief that I had somehow lost God, in my failure to see what everyone else was seeing. I thought that maybe everyone else in there had an answer or a piece that I hadn’t yet found in that level of my faith. It took me thirteen years of desperate praying and searching to realize I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t getting all it was made up to be. I tried in every way I could for years to make the experience more for those in the pews, to show them the power of the Spirit, in teaching and audio/visual directing and in supporting my brothers and sisters of the faith. I put my heart and soul into my sincerity, looking for the key that would make it all click together for me. I wanted that piece whatever it was, for years.

I started to wonder as I found the cracks in everyone else’s faith where they just didn’t have answers. I’ve seen so many very solid intellectual debates on doctrine crumble because someone didn’t know why something was done in that manner, only for the purposes of doctrine and tradition. If so many, not only within my church building, but the other Message believers and the prophet himself were witnesses to the Spirit within them, working through them, then I had to be the one that was wrong. We are taught that we are already undeserving of so much, so I could only think that I was the one that was lost. I realized slowly that not everyone had the missing piece I was driving at, but they were still able to receive the Spirit in worship and in hours of prayer, that I never could seem to achieve. I realized as I began to let go of my anxiety to find it, to go through the motions as though I had found my piece, many of those “elect” few that had been ordained within the Message with me had the same look I had before. I watched so many who I had thought of as having solved the puzzle that were coming to find out how I had finally found “it.” It tore at me that everything real to me as a child in my church life was now a facade I lived for others to see while I was secretly still trying to find the missing bits, alone. It only scared me more when the leadership of the church, which I was fast joining, suddenly began to look at me with an almost comfortable confidence that I had finally settled into this position.I was afraid for the first time in my life that the Bible may not have the answers I was looking for, that all of the sources of trust that I had upheld couldn’t help me, and I was lost.

Closer to Him

Teaching Bible lessons was to my father an art of combining understanding and the right approach, something he learned from car dealerships where he worked. When I say ‘used car salesman,’ the image that pops in your head is not a man behind a pulpit. My father fought that stigma constantly. I watched him stand up for how you could take on the ‘worst’ positions and show how they could be done with integrity and honesty. As a pastor, he took questions and individual interest the same way, with the personal intent to help anyone and everyone find the best fit. I watched first hand, from his sales office dealing with irate customers to the living room of our trailer dealing with disgruntled parishioners: my father cared. Several times I couldn’t understand why these people would be welcomed into our home, sharing in all we had. But to my father, this is what you did: he made people welcome and he showed them he cared. Without that, who would ever want to listen to anything he had to say?

My father studied two things religiously: sales trainings and the Bible. Smith Wigglesworth was one of the leading sales gurus of the time, and a household name for us. Tapes, books, you name it, my father had it. He used the same ideas with the Bible. He had multiple study Bibles, concordances, and sermons from every major name from Charles Spurgeon to John G. Lake. Educating myself on multiple sources and perspectives was not an option, it was a must. No one was going to listen to me if I didn’t know where both sides stood on the matter. I had to understand their argument better than they did and know my facts better than anyone who had ever questioned it. Because of this, my favorite church services were Q&A services, led by my father. My father would pray and study over these questions making sure he had the answers to handle them with wisdom. Watching him use his studies to help others find their answers was inspiring to say the least.

I did my best to pick up on his traits like that, everyday discussions laced with Christianity. We wanted to help people work through the tough moments in their lives without forcing them into uncomfortable and personal conversations. Many times it begins as listening to a friend, because they want to work their issues out. They come with questions and why’s about things; most of them harbor the frustration of not being heard, and the conversation starts when I can listen and genuinely try to take up their position. A conversation about an uncaring God becomes an opportunity to help someone see a different perspective, and my father taught me to keep an eye open for those exact moments. That is how I view this page, for having common conversations when we feel that God isn’t listening or that church doesn’t have the answers. When my father took us out of our home church, and we made the next big step in our path, I began having to find a lot of answers on my own. He hadn’t just stepped down as a Pastor in Etown, he was stepping down as a spiritual leader in my life as well.

I have found that among any faith, those considered the most devout often had the hardest path, doubting and questioning. That personal struggle solidifies their belief more than any pamphlet or prophet could do. When we find a way to work through this time of silence, of digging for answers and coming up empty handed, we learn to trust in Him in all things. We feel that personal relationship growing. I was taught that everyone had a unique relationship with God, each denomination wasn’t outright wrong so much as different. When I followed him into the next stage of our faith in God, the Message, the idea of a prophet seemed only rational to me. Prophets had always existed with God, and the pastor that took over spiritual leadership of my family was the next step to becoming closer to Him.

Ephesians 3:15

There was a sermon my father would use anytime he was taking a church’s pulpit for the first time; I’d heard it so many times I could have preached it with ease without picking up my Bible. Like myself, he had found his namesake in the Bible and took it as his calling. He would have them open their bibles to the story of David finding the army of God’s people were scattered behind any cover they could find. So many groups gathered behind boulders and blaming each other, no unity, no actual army to speak of other than uniforms. Their leader was nowhere to be seen. David would go from one group to another asking what was going on, getting the same answer. “Don’t draw attention to yourself. He’s out there, you know, waiting for a challenger. Back and forth he goes seeking someone to kill.” David would ask why they weren’t over with their fellow soldiers “Oh that’s the oneness camp, or the trinity group, we don’t agree with them on everything, so we found this shelter here.” Each group had similar stories, even Saul was terrified and hid. We all knew what the cause was; Goliath and his challenge: “Give me a man among you willing to fight me! If he can best me than we’ll all serve you, but if I best him you’ll all serve us! I defy the Army of Israel!” David’s blood began to boil. “Who is this uncircumcised philistine! Who does he think he is to defy the Armies of the living God? Why has no one of you answered this? I will stand against him rather than him go unchallenged.” David was not greeted by cheers. He was not applauded. His own elder brother shot him down. “I know the naughtiness of your heart! You’ve left the herds alone on the hills with our elderly father to be taken. You simply wanted to see the excitement of battle. How dare you when we have been out here longer and know how to handle these things.”

My father would pause here. He’d shuffle his notes and look around allowing the people to remain caught up in the story he’d drawn from scripture with a slight artistic license.We all knew the stories, but my father was masterful at making the characters of the Bible come to life. Whether it was Bible stories at bed time while I was growing up or the sermons that became embedded in my subconscious, my father had that simple yet powerful way of breaking a story apart so everyone listening could put themselves in it. He thought if he could make it real, on his level and theirs, that anyone could understand it. Everyone was paying attention when he would speak the next words. The next words out of David’s lips was not an alter call or a offering request. He gave his history, his testimony. He told him how God lit his candle. His personal experience with the one would defeat anyone no matter how big they are.

“Now, folks, I’ve been to a lot of churches. I’ve sat down and heard the reasons this church doesn’t talk to that church. Why those people don’t associate with those other people. All I can tell you is that the enemy is not sitting on the pew here next to you or in a pew of another church. The devil isn’t concerned which group you’re with as long as you stay behind that rock or bush. As long as you don’t know who your champion is, you’re no threat to him. I’m not coming in here with something you haven’t heard before, not some strange doctrine. I want to tell you one simple thing. I’m here as someone without the credentials some of these great ministers have. But I want to tell you why I can stand here with confidence. I have a personal testimony of how Jesus Christ has defeated the devil in my life at every instance where it seemed like I had no hope. I am a witness to the power of God moving among his people where as few as two or three are gathered. I am here tonight to encourage you to find that for yourself. Until you know when and where your candle got lit; the devil will be there to scatter you behind the rocks of man’s creeds and doctrines.” With one sermon my father could unite a church that had been struggling; people would focus on getting themselves to that experience and away from petty differences.

“Son, everything you need to make it to heaven is right here. From Genesis to Revelation, God has given you this as a road map. The people in this book were real, and they’re stories are there to show us just the tip of what God can do for us, if we’ll only yield to his Holy Spirit. Always study to show yourself approved.” I had owned a Precious Moments Bible from my grandmother, a Gideon Bible from Sunday School, etc. The real lessons began when my father handed me one of the first Bible’s to have my full name on it.

Dad was my entire concept of the the Heavenly Father. God was right there ready to teach and instruct, just as my father was. God could be stern but he was always fair, giving you understanding when you asked for it. My prayer life and such reflected that: polite and elegant when in public or heard by others, but very raw and one on one when I was alone, anger and all. Dad never shied from my anger. In the vein of serious issues, I was allowed to vent and scream and question and demand answers in those private moments. He was as straight with me as he knew how, and it got me through so much.
My father was a true guide for me as I grew in my faith, as an evangelizing pastor and my teacher in all things. Every correction, stern reprimand, they all had a connection to God’s Word, which heavily influenced our relationship. Many times this meant he blended the line of those two jobs and I lived with a preacher more than a dad. He always let me to ask why and figure out how things worked for myself. I constantly asked too many questions and never took “It just is” for an answer; my faith was no different. I rebuilt and fixed everything I could touch, and religion, being intangible as it is, was taken apart in questions. He always knew the scripture I was looking for or the reference I was trying to find. He knew all the stories from cover to cover and all the connections to every other scripture. Hours in the car on the way to preach at churches all over the eastern coast to just west of the Mississippi. I was his assistant, the only one allowed in his study during the hours of prayer and preparation, the one in charge of making sure things were just right for him. I saw his agony in prayer trying to find the message God wanted for his people, and how to say it without all the human in way.I was trying to see where he was going, where the inspiration was coming from, what it was saying, who needed that sermon. I was watching how God’s Word could be the changing force in people’s lives if you could preach it from the heart.

God’s Nature

Most of the people in Bible stories are perfect examples for us, because things always seem to work out for them, almost like a fairytale ending. Trying to translate that to our everyday struggles can be tough, unless we recognize that they were directed in their daily lives as we are. We have to remember that all of His people in the Bible were fallible humans like us, that it was always God working in their lives as he does in ours. Each of us must aspire to be like Christ, knowing that through all our certainty and faith and hard work, we will never be perfect. Aiming for perfection here on Earth can be a losing game. We are powerful because we can do all things through Him, but not alone. Miracles are a little out of reach, so we tithe and volunteer and help out others in everyday ways that a lot of people won’t notice. But to that individual, you just changed their whole day. We all know there are a ton of canned-food drives and goodwill and salvation army and blood drives, and in all these ways we are encouraged to help. I sometimes like to go out of my way to make someone feel special, or to support someone through personal issues, or whatever may offer itself up to me. I began making conscious efforts every week to help someone, anyone, without any intention of repayment or favored owed back to me. Sometimes by the littlest of actions and sincerest heart, God was able to make someone feel His love through someone like me. God’s works have always come through human hands, working through us, under his guidance. Every thing that we know about him has been passed through us, and we carry that responsibility to live up to His name. How do you show his love? Do you have any every day suggestions for the rest of us, to be better parts of the community and do good works to express our love, which comes from Him?

Human Nature

I spent a lot of time in youth ministry, working with ages 11-16. Most times, they found the Bible to be unrelatable and unreadable in some aspects because Jesus and his disciples were always perfect, almost by definition. As you know by now, my church only used the KJV because other versions were seen as worldly. Yet more often than not, the argument from other versions is that the KJV is difficult to understand. I remember trying to humanize the stories for them, to tell them about Jesus as a man who walked the Earth as we do, with 12 guys who were definitely flawed, more like us. I was hit with a lot of criticism for that, with telling stories about them like they were characters in a book or someone you knew locally. But I found that when you felt you understood each of them, it made everything more real or at least make some sense for the first time. If they can be as broken as me and still find love with Jesus, in person, individual, then I had a chance. Have you ever wondered what they felt like, in a very personal way, to be on that adventure, but also to sit and make jokes over the dinner table with the Son of God? We are told so many times that Jesus walked on the Earth as we do, and loved as we love, and was human, like us. But we forget to realize that he was ‘human’ and he surrounded himself with very ‘human’ people.

For example, I could never understand Jonah as he sat and waited for the destruction of Nineveh. Why would he want someone to die? What had they done to him to deserve that kind of personal anger? But you look at the days he’d been having and the attitude his people had for them. You’ve been given a mission you didn’t want, fought God the whole way and still ended up helping a people you grew up hating. He fought back, thought that someone else needed his help, because good deeds shouldn’t be wasted on people who wouldn’t use them. We do that. I’d be right there beside him with the popcorn waiting, laughing with him about it. Or Peter when they came for his best friend, and he pulls a sword. Peter was scared, his best friend was being taken, and that was his whole world those days. His purpose and the guy who believed in him wouldn’t be beside him for a while. He wasn’t a soldier, he’d only been in street fights his whole life, but from his perspective he knew something big was coming, and he wanted to help. They were human, God was real, and every story is that simple when you let them be. God is the same yesterday today and forever, and being human in those days, walking beside Jesus, wasn’t so different then either. He laughed, he cried, he was uncomfortable in new situations. Have you ever found someone in the Bible and felt they were human like that?

In all Things, God Works…

Discussing major milestones in my journey out of a cult and to Christ can be difficult at times. Truth, while liberating, is always harder to write than fiction. When I left the cult I did so quietly, behind closed door meetings with the leadership, and not screaming out at my fellow church goers. I came to myself and realized how far their teachings had been from the Bible. How the entire church I belonged to was more focused on the words of a man long since dead, and the rules made by a man hell bent on controlling his flock. Out of a congregation of nearly 200 I received only two phone calls from people concerned about my devotion to the cult. Bitterness over that lack of reaction caused me to just stop attending church at all. I searched through every religion I could get my hands on. From the Catholics I was taught to hate, to the Jews I was taught to pity, to the Satanists I was told to fear. I read book after book on, and by, them all. I went in, and verbally sparred with anyone in authority I could find. I was trying to find the errors in their beliefs now that mine had failed me so suddenly. Lashing out trying to make sense of years of indoctrination.
There were days I laid in bed with the weight of my thoughts holding me down more effectively than any physical bond could have. Leaving the cult had cost me my family, my church, my friends, and any support I could have hoped for. Marital advice? Get back into the cult and God would fix everything. Family struggles? Obviously I was backslidden and needed to get back into the church and listen to the prophet some more. I was more alone than I had ever thought possible. My phone was full of numbers that either would push me back into the cult, or refuse to hear me out and tell me to just get over it.
The local Hindu Brahmin (priest) graciously tolerated my intrusions on his temple and rituals, explaining things to me as he went along. During a time of feeling alone, lost, and purposeless, I was given my next message from God in the most unexpected place. “The meaning of life is multifaceted. There are parts for taking care of yourself and parts about helping others. You’ve been here seeking enlightenment and we’ve allowed you to go through blessings, yet when you speak of others it is about what they have done to you, not what you’re doing for them. You did not arrive to this moment in your life alone. You owe something to each and every person who helped you become who you are. Your parents, your teachers, and most importantly you owe something to those who will come after you. You seek a lot but you are full and not giving into others. You must seek a balanced spirit.” This man’s words reminded me of my Sunday School Teacher from my youth, who I had succeeded in heading that youth ministry. I thought about the kids I had once taught. I thought about everyone still stuck where I had once been and how I had helped keep them there. I needed to balance that.
From the two phone calls when I left, to a barrage of messages when I became vocal, I realized one thing: groups like what I came out of will never change for those sitting comfortably on the pews paying their money. It will never change for those that never pick up the Bible and learn it for themselves. It will be business as usual until you are actively searching out your own personal salvation. Many of us have had those times when we wanted to change, we wanted out of a toxic situation, we wanted to say something to make it all better. Yet due to peer pressure or circumstances beyond our control we were stuck. Sometimes physically stuck in institutes, or in back offices of churches, or in a pew, or in our beds or within our own minds. At those times when our own words fail, when someone is making sure we aren’t heard or feel worthless for not going with the status quo, we look to others for inspiration.
Last week I mentioned some of the odd places God has spoken to me. He is not limited by our circumstances, by our peers, by anything. God will find you where you are and his gospel will set you free. We here at The Incomplete Message are simply trying to be a voice for those who feel controlled with no way out. Christ brings a freedom like no other. So for you who are feeling alone, for those stuck, for those afraid. Christ is right there. If we can help even one person become free from man’s religions, we have accomplished everything.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (KJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
There are times I wish I’d never been in the cult, it damaged my family in immeasurable ways that I’ve only just begun to understand. I fought with God for years thinking he had simply stood by while we suffered at the hands of greedy men. Only recently have I looked back and seen that this was all needed for someone to react and speak against them, for those who had already suffered before me, and those still suffering right this very day. The amount of control they hold can keep even the most determined and vocal of us from ever saying a word. The more timid and gentler have little hope of getting out of these toxic situations. So after running away from Church, God, and everything else, I found something to work towards. That my freedom from the cult was not something to take for granted, but that I needed to be just as active out of it as I had been in it. That my ministry didn’t end when I left one single church, but that I had finally found the focus and motivation to point people to God and his Word. To put up with the hate mail, the calls, the lies, being physically thrown out of churches for not agreeing with off-Bible teachings, and be a light for those in need. A voice for the silent.
I have lost much, but I gained so much more in finding my purpose. I cannot stand here and tell you I’ll understand where every one of you is coming from, but I want to stand beside you, to help you in anyway I can, and to encourage those afraid that there is always hope as long as we hold to God’s unfailing word and love one another. Whoever abides in Love, abides in God.