Yes, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. It’s not that I’ve been too busy or had nothing to say…Quite the opposite, actually. I’ve had a variety of words swirling around in my head and they all started to bottleneck. I needed to do an inventory of my heart and separate the truths from the lies and the important from the insignificant…but most of all, seek the Lord, so that I would make sure that He is speaking through me and not Belinda-Marie’s flesh taking over.
It’s been a tough few weeks; dealing with uncomfortable and unfortunate situations and God Bless ‘em, the sandpaper people! Through it all, I could feel the Potter’s Hand working and molding the lump of clay that I am. On the one hand, to know that I am being shaped and fashioned in the hands of the Most High is a very comforting feeling; but in the process of being made perfect, there is a lot of kneading and bending that is painful…and even some tearing away of clay that has dried out because of disconnection from the hydration source. That process can be painful. Necessary, but painful.
But, I don’t want to talk about the ugly stuff, because through it all I’ve been given a transformation by the renewing of my mind. (Romans 12:2) That’s the good stuff! The good, pleasing, and perfect stuff!
I have to give a little back story to make my point. Yes, this might be a long one, so feel free to go grab that cup of coffee. Although you might want to skip the coffee cake, because you already had a piece this morning; that apple looks good! (Uh wait, that’s what Eve said…get the banana! Bananas are the perfect food!)
When I was 13 years old, I was scared to Jesus! Not scared of Jesus, but scared to Jesus! …better than being scared to death, right? You see, the church I attended put on a dramatic interpretation of Judgment Day. We were a King James solid church and there’s just something very James Earl Jones about the way that version reads…in that “I Mean It” tone! Keep in mind; I was 13, as I recall these events. The dialogue is probably not spot on, but the scripture is forever embedded in my mind. I will be using both KJV and NIV for the retelling.
“The Container” - Part One
Temple Baptist Church; Knoxville, Tennessee...July 4, 1985
The sanctuary was darkened and the most eerie music I’ve EVER heard played softly in the background. I still can hear it playing. A young girl, probably in her mid-20’s, came in the door…she was confused…she scanned cautiously as she made her way up the isle. She finally made her way to the altar when all of a sudden a bright light appeared from the baptismal. It was so bright that you could only make out a silhouette of our Pastor…who was, in this case, James Earl J…I mean, God. The choir loft was then illuminated to show lots of happy people…joyous people! They were all dressed in bright spotless robes as white as fresh undisturbed snow.
Even though it was a sight to behold, the young girl began to tremble, as the voice boomed her name. “Amy!”
…”Yes? Where am I?” she inquired? “I don’t know this place?”
…“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12)
…“What? I’ve heard that before…uh, it’s from the Bible. My Mom used to go on and on about the Bible, but I never believed it. It was just a story.”
The shadowed figure was then illuminated and Amy fell to her knees in both awe and terror, for now realized that it was not just a story and she in fact, was giving account in front of the Almighty God! Then she recalled other parts of the Bible that her Mom and others had pleaded with her to understand and accept. Something about eternal life and the wages of sin being death…oh, why hadn’t she listened!?!
…“Lord, surely you know of all the good things that I’ve done? I volunteered to help kids with special needs. I gave blood. I went to church because it made my Mom happy! I was kind to people! I gave money to the poor and I donated food to the hungry. Surely, that will get me into heaven?”
… “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves [it is] the gift of God Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
…“But Lord! How was I supposed to know? So many people believed that the Bible was just a book of morals; some believe it was even fiction. This is something that I have thought about, but I was 25 years-old. I thought I had more time. You didn’t give me enough time, Lord!”
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father …The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. … "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matt. 24:36; 24:50; 25:13)
…”But Lord! Please! I…”
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20) Amy, you yourself, blew out the candle.
“…but, there has to be another way…”
“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Now sobbing …“I remember sitting in church that one day and the Pastor said something about Jesus knocking at the door…”
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)
…”Yes! That’s the one! I remember feeling like I should come forward when the Pastor invited. I, I, just didn’t want to believe it. I needed more time.”
Just then, two cloaked dark figures approached on either side of the girl. It all happened so quickly. A woman from the choir loft [heaven] was spotlighted…it was the girl’s Mother. She was beautiful in her spotless white garments. She looked like queen…very happy…and yet, very very sad at the same time.
“Mom! Mom! Help ME!!! You have to tell him what a good girl I was. How I deserve to be in heaven! Mom! Mom! PLEASE!”
The woman tearfully shook her head and softly whispered, “Oh Baby, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you now.”
The cloaked figures grabbed the girl, one on each arm, and began to carry her away.
“NO!” She screamed! No! You know who I am! You know who I am…..!!!”
Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' …"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'” (Luke 13:25)
Out of the ear splitting screamed, as she was being slowly carried down the opposite isle that she came in, on the Judge’s left-hand side, she continued to plead her case but she her breath was waning as she began to realize her eternal destiny, “I was good, Lord, I was good…”
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23) … Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25:40)
The doors to the vestibule opened up and all of a sudden the sanctuary was filled with the most awful sounds I had ever heard. It sounded like a tormented combination of a blazing fire with moaning and crying and wailing…like someone…no, like a lot of some ones, where experiencing the most gut-wrenching, teeth-gnashing pain imaginable. Worse than any massacre horror film I had ever seen! …There were orange and red lights flickering madly, to resemble a roaring fire. The cloaked figures hoisted the girl up, while she was still sobbing, and launched her into the flames. [I assume into someone’s waiting arms, because I later saw the girl walking around and she didn’t appear to have been launched into anywhere.]
...but then, still the sounds of utter agony blaring away, a much softer sound could be heard. A softer sound, but more prominent than the others…the sound of sorrow, the sound of regret…the sound of being so close to God’s glory, and yet will never experience it in the way humans were created to experience. The joys, the perfected kingdom, the glorious sounds of worship are never to be realized by those who did not answer the door; who did not open the gift. The glory of God would be to those souls, eternal torment. The doors to the sanctuary were closed again and the sanctuary again became dark for what seemed like forever. The house lights were then turned on to find no actors, no choir loft heaven, no Pastor Charles/God with the James Earl Jones voice.
For the next 5 minutes, you could hear a pin drop. The only sound you could hear were the sniffles, the tears falling to the floor for those who didn’t think to bring tissue. The Holy Spirit was indeed present and He chose, that night, July 4th 1985, to call the name of Belinda-Marie. Independence Day became an entirely different celebration for me. I needed no time to think, because when the Holy Spirit convicted, it was not the tiny prick of a needle that perhaps I had experienced before. This was the strong hand of the Lord reaching in through my flesh and seizing my heart and He wasn’t about to let go. I don’t remember exactly, but I may have knocked down a few people in my all out sprint to the altar; I just had to get there lest the Lord came back in the next 30 seconds. I would not be left behind. I would not stand before my Lord and Master and have Him not know who I am, with my Momma standing in the choir loft! I became a child of the kingdom right on the spot.
Oh, and if that isn’t enough... Because I was sitting with my friends that night and not with my family, I wasn’t aware that while the Lord had a hold of my heart in one hand, He had a hold of my mother’s in the other. It was good to find out that we’d both be in the heavenly choir!
So, that’s how I was scarred to Jesus. I know what you’re thinking! Scared is a poor choice of words. God doesn’t want to frighten us! He wants to love us! I agree! …but it would be a little later before I would discover this part of the equation. I mean this in no disrespect, but this is where the church failed me.
When one is saved, we inherit the Holy Spirit immediately. It’s like a child at a birthday party ripping the gift open and tossing the paper aside and immediately claiming the toy as “mine”! That night a peace settled around me and I knew that I was a changed person. Salvation & Redemption aside, I now had the Holy Spirit inside me! But as with any relationship, it starts out slow…a getting to know each other (only in this instance, I am getting to know the Lord…He already knew all about me…but who knew? Not I.)
Getting to know the Lord is a daily process that the Christian will never complete on this side of heaven. Billy Graham on his dying day will learn something new about the God he has so faithfully served and walked with. We will never stop growing, unless we stop coming to the table. But see, that’s just it. I let Jesus come in and dine with me, but I never really took a portion for myself. I was safe from Hell! What else was there? The church failed to educate me on what comes next. Many churches fail at this. Being born again is just that…being born again. I was now an infant….a messy infant. I pooped my pants, spit up, burped, passed soymilk gas…and all that other stuff that only a parent can love about a child. I couldn’t walk with the Lord before I was able to stand on my own two feet.
Now, I want to go back and just say that I do not devalue the fire and brimstone methodology of delivering the Gospel. There are some hard headed folks out there that frankly, need to be scared. Their lack of fear is killing them. Hell is a very real and very scary place. If that’s what it takes to get through a hard heart, then to God be the Glory! …but after the deal is sealed, don’t deny the newborn the good stuff! The very reason that God sent His only Son to die on the cross! LOVE! Not the love that God has, but the Love that God is! The very essence of God is love and the dictionary defines essence as “a substance of which is extracted from.” God love is designed for us to draw on from its very source. Many kinds of love can be derived from different sources. But true love in its organic state can only be gotten from God. It would be many years before I would understand this part of salvation.
(to be continued, tomorrow)