Mine is not a story of wayward living and drugs resulting in a desperate call on the Lord but rather that of a small quiet, and beckoning voice of the Holy Ghost who cautioned me that whether good or bad, unless I call on the name of the Lord that I too would be dammed.
I was blessed to grow up in a home with parents who instructed me in the things of the Lord, pointing me to Him. Besides this, as a family, we attended a small, Pentecostal fellowship which were fully persuaded of the fact that "All Scripture [was] inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness". This fundamental, Bible-believing fellowship of believers, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, played a crucial role in molding me into the person that I am today. Their discipleship engendered in me a love for the Word of God and the fellowship of the saints, while the teachings that I received provided me with a solid foundation in Christ together with a good knowledge and understanding of His word.
I find it very sad that now days the trend appears to be that we separate the youth from the main services. Things were very different for me. As a baby, during the services I slept under the pews. As I got older I would read a book or colour in pictures, sitting at my parents' feet while they listened or participated in the service. By twelve years old I was an active listener, engaging in the meetings while sitting alongside my parents. By that time I knew the songs by heart and had a sound knowledge of scripture and understanding of what we commonly believed. Things like Sunday school, Junior Church and Youth Group activities were always scheduled at times that did not clash with the main services times and these we attended as a family right up until the time that I left home to study and then to work. While this pattern repeated itself with my family, the tradition was eventually broken when we changed countries and couldn't find another fellowship that followed this model.
Not only was I attending the regular church services but from a young we were all encouraged to participate in these meetings either through prayer, testimony or sharing a word. I am not eloquent enough to express the eternal impact and benefit that this involvement had on my spiritual well-being and growth. In short it established the following principals in my life:
- Wait on the Lord continually, being ready to share what Christ is doing in your life with all around you.
- A deep and lasting love for the Body of Christ; His Church
- A love and appreciation for the fellowship of the Believers (my brothers and sisters in Christ)
- A desire to grow deeper into Him
- An openness to His discipline and correction
- A desired to be a blessing to others just our Elders and Teachers had been to us
- A solid understanding of Biblical truth and doctrine
- A love for the Word
- And the list goes on and on.......
Church structure was very flat, yes there were Apostles and Elders that gave direction and had the final say (should that be necessary) but no one was ever referred to by a title other than Brother or Sister. The ministries were acknowledged and submitted to but at the end of the day we were all equal in Christ, walking closely, alongside each other in what we believed, submitting one two the other, with all issues being worked out in the mouth of two or three witnesses. This appears to be a very different picture to what we see in many present day churches where we appear to find strong leadership hierarchies, generally having a single man who dictates from the top down. No wonder so many seem apathetic in the church today. Rather than having our gifts exercised by reason of use, we are able to go week to week sitting in the church seats listening without having to work out what we believe since everything is been done for use, even to the point of what and how we should believe. In short there is very little space for us to open ourselves up to the leading and challenge of the Holy Spirit. I have often said to the younger folk that you don't just wake up one day saying, "Today I'm going to be a teacher of Scripture, or today I'm going to do this or that for the Lord." Generally when it comes to spiritual things, our desires and actions start like a small seed which needs to be exposed to the elements while being protected and nurtured. When this happens, this seed is then given the opportunity to grow into a strong and established tree that by God's grace will not only stand unmoved in life's storms but will also be a source of strength and comfort to other. Instead of the latter we see more and more Christians worried more about their own personal lives and less about their brothers and sisters in Christ. Many also seem to be less and less willing to be involved beyond that of attendance or ushering, especially amongst the young men.
Enough of my ramblings. I don't remember when I confessed my need of Him, repented of my sin, and committed my life to Christ but I do know that it happened somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10 years old. During this time I remember very clearly walking down the school corridors chatting with God as one would talk to your father. While I have often not been true or faithful to Him, ever since those days He has always been true and faithful to me. While I used to think that having dark past with a radical turn to Christ would have made me a better Christian and witness for Christ, age and experience has shown me how fortunate I am not to have to deal with the consequences of bad decisions of the past; and for this I am truly grateful.
While the details are now a little vague, there was a period in my life (somewhere in my late pre-teens) that I stopped attending fellowship regularly. For about two years I wondered in a spiritual wilderness, not rejecting the Lord but at the same time not allowing Him to be Lord of my life. Two issues helped fuel this state and those were ones of pride and hate. My pride was simply part of my adamic nature while the hate issue was a result of a fight that I got into but didn't quiet come out of very well. These experiences taught me how crippling secret sins of the heart can be. At the end of the day I confessed both, forgave and forgot and was able to reconnect with my Lord again.
The following was a watershed experience for me. The exact time is a little blurred by time but I think that it may have happened somewhere in the middle of the above period. One evening in the middle of the night I was woken up to the reality of a very real and evil presence in my room (more could be said but there is no need). It woke me up to the fact that I was either serving God or I was not; if I was serving God half-baked then I could land up being at the mercies of a different master. While the result of this was me recommitting my life to Christ it also resulted in my living in paralysing fear of the dark for about two years. The conclusion of this was me having to truly work out my salvation with Christ, continually calling on Him, and trust Him to deliver me from this blinding fear which in the end He did do; praise His name.
Other highlights in my walk with the Lord were when I was baptised as well as when I received the glorious infilling of the Holy Ghost. Both of these milestones reflect the gracious and patient working of God in my life and confirmed that no matter who we are, or how old we are, that He not only wanted relationship with us but also wanted us to be involved in service for Him.
Fellowship, prayer meetings, youth group, Bible studies and breaking of bread also played a pivotal role in my life and continued to do so until arriving in my new country. While these remain important to me on a personal level, how I miss the corporate fellowship, prayer meetings and breaking of bread meetings of previous years. I may be wrong but I sense that many have moved from that of old experience of interactive, corporate worship where "day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they [the believers] took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people"
Reading all this I would not blame you for concluding that I may be a little bitter and twisted but that is not the case. Yes my heart pains for the body of Christ but I also realise that these things are probably necessary before the return of Christ. More than that however, I confess with Job that I know that my redeemer lives and I have a hope that even though we (the “I” is included here) may often miss the mark that He does love us and that probably in the not too distant future, all that are His will be gathered together to Him in glory and at this time, in His presence, that perfect worship of Him and fellowship with him (together with the great cloud of witnesses) will be restored. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus".