Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Story of How I Came to Church
Part 2 - Wandering in the Wilderness

I became very intent on personal Bible study right when I became saved after I bought my first Bible at a small Christian bookstore owned by an elderly couple. I was determined to read through the book and did so in less than a year and then started reading it over again right away. I listened to Christian radio and read books to supplement my learning. I was thoroughly engrossed in learning about Christ and hungry for more knowledge of Him. I was so thrilled about what He had done for me 2000 years prior and what He was doing in transforming my life at the time through His Word which was obviously alive and active.

I knew no other Christians that befriended me as Joe and Charlie did. I spent many hours with Joe talking about the Bible and learning doctrine. Joe proved to be quite different than anyone I have ever met before or since. He was a Christian “Maverick.” He used to tell me, “All these churches around here are apostate.” He did not go to church and encouraged me that such an endeavor would be a dead end road as there were no true churches left in this day and age. “There really aren’t many real true believers left in the world.” When I would meet a Christian here or there I would be so excited to tell him about it and soon he would “show me” by pointing out something this “Christian” said or did that proved they were not the real McCoy; they were “pretenders” or "lukewarm believers." He said that God was done with the church as we know it and that the “church” was not in these buildings... it was invisible. He totally neglected the doctrine of the local church as he said that God was going to the “highways and byways” to call out a “rag-tag army” made up of small pockets of people all over the world.

Over the next five years I remained in the “grip” of this man. When I recount this time it is very hard to do. I knew almost no other Christians. I was so lonely. I wanted to go to church. I was not a very outgoing person and could not imagine how I could possibly go into any church by myself, if there were any “true” churches out there. It was beyond what my constitution at the time seemed capable of. In the latter end of this period, I and a few of the others that had become saved through Joe’s witnessing and some who had latched onto him, began to meet for Bible Study on Sunday afternoons with Joe as the teacher. There were about 7 or 8 people - a very odd lot. None of these went to church or seemed to want to go to church either. This was our “church.” It was almost cult-like as I look back at it. None of the doctrine per se was cultish (we used JV McGee’s guides), but the practice of being so isolated was.

I was terribly lonely. Sometimes I would go to that bookstore where I bought my first Bible just to see Don and Buelah, the elderly couple, so that I would have someone to talk to other than the “group.” They were a wonderful couple who went to Emmanuel Baptist Church. They never invited me to church. This could have been because Buelah had bursitis and they did not always get to the Sunday Morning service. Still, knowing them would end up being what God used to bring my “salvation” from the situation I was in.

It seemed to be an impossible situation and at times I was utterly frustrated and forlorn.

Joe was full of cynicism about other people, whether they were unbelievers or Christians. Looking back, I can say with certainty that Joe did not like people. He really was very hateful toward many people and to this day it amazes me that God could and would use him to bring the message of salvation to me and several others that I know of.

Joe often said some very terrible things about the people that came to the Bible study when they were not around. He just had such disdain for others. His son was a part of the study and he would talk terribly about him behind his back. He often would question whether his son was saved or not because of some of the lifestyle. He spoke rudely of his other family members.

Even innocent bystanders in restaurants would get the “once over” by Joe from a distance as he criticized them and looked on them with such suspicion. He would comment on old ladies with their “blue hair” and say things like “I know how they are…” about various demographic groups. It wasn’t long before, although I appreciated what Joe had done for me in leading me to the Lord, I could see that this was not spiritually healthy. I somehow seemed to be immune from it, personally, though: I had no sense that he was talking about me in this way. I imagined that I held some loyalty from him, that I was immune to his cynicism, as I had never directly felt the sting of it.

On the other hand, he was a very charismatic person – he could win people’s ears very easily and had a great gift for passionately sharing Christ and teaching the Bible. But he didn’t love them. He knew he came across as unloving because he would often say, “Loving people is telling them the truth!” and then would proceed to express what errant and egregious people they were.. this was the “truth.”

He was not a very easy person to confront (-->I articulate that as an extreme understatement). If I tried to express an issue with some of his attitude or such, he would 'respond'… and within five minutes of having begun speaking, his voice would be at an extremely elevated volume... and after 30 minutes of tirade, no one would want to “correct” him again. I quickly learned to keep these kinds of thoughts to myself, of which I had many: feelings, opinions and a growing understanding of truth from Scripture about what I was witnessing. Still, I did not know how to break away and out of this “fellowship.”

I endured five years of this “wandering in the wilderness”...as I call it. I lived at home with my Catholic mother the entire time as I finished my BA, found my first job in the graphics field and sought more meaningful employment. I had zero dates and met no other Christians with which I had any lasting involvement except for the small group of isolationalist friends from “the Bible Study.” I grew a lot in wisdom and knowledge and I believe God used that time to prepare me for something, the likes of which I am still not sure of, even today.

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13 Comments:

  • A simply amazing story Rose.. waiting for more :)

    By Blogger Kansas Bob, at 10/23/2008 6:50 PM  

  • Kansas Bob took the woids right out of my mouth!

    A couple thangs grabbed my attention, Rose! It seems so amazing that this man who told you that you could come to Christ just as you are, which is right, then would turn around & judge folk by their works?? We can certainly be weird, can't we? I am sure I've done that myself, but it just seems inconsistent.
    Another thang is that poor kid having this man for a father. Yet the grace of God can overcome any obstacle!
    As KB said, waiting fo' more!!

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at 10/23/2008 8:11 PM  

  • This is already a very interesting story to me, Rose, because it's about you. :)

    But I do enjoy your style of writing, and we are too alike in our thinking for me not to "get it."

    What I like the most so far is that you make a fine point that no matter where we are or what our specific theology is that simply sharing that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners - that He loved us even as enemies - makes a difference and reaches people.

    Even if, in the end, it's not really what we believe.

    It turns them to God's word - and He will do the rest.

    I look forward to more. It's my opinion that our testimonies in relation to the gospel are more powerful and contain more truth than most can ever know.

    Missy

    By Blogger Another Voice, at 10/24/2008 9:14 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing your journey with us Rose. I can relate to much of what you say. I had never attended any church till I was 17 and knew nothing about Christ or the bible. For about the next 20 yrs I, too, "wandered in the wilderness". I was confused and had no assurance of my salvation, so it was a very difficult, distressing, and dark time for me. I think that Ezek. 34 is an interesting passage to consider for those who have had a negative experience in church or the "Christian world" in general. The truth of who Jesus is still stands no matter what. He truly is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, and it's fascinating to hear about how He found you. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story!

    Gary

    By Blogger goe, at 10/24/2008 11:20 AM  

  • Bob,
    Thanks. I appreciate that. It is amazing looking back.

    David,
    Joe used to say that he could "inspect fruit" and he would say that these people lacked fruit. He wasn't so much LS, because he insisted that you didn't have to give up this or that to become saved, but then, as you point out - he was always "fruit inspecting." Funnily enough, he would be chewing tobacco and cussing while he talked about others' lack of fruit. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2008 1:40 PM  

  • He did teach me a lot of good things though, I have to say that.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2008 1:40 PM  

  • Missy,
    That is so sweet of you to say.
    Yes, God can use the truth of his gospel regardless of the vessel.
    Thank you for your comments :~)

    Gary,
    Thanks for the visit. Honestly, I was hesitant to share this on my blog. It's very personal and I could just imagine someone poking fun at me for it - relagating me to irrelevance because I did not grow up in the church or because I had a quirky start as a Christian, or whatever... but I decided that there were others who would be encouraged and who would be able to relate, like you.
    Thanks so much. I am sorry you had to "wander, wondering" about assurance. That is one thing I didn't face: being unsure. I think that would be a difficult challenge. Thanks for sharing. God bless.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2008 1:45 PM  

  • It continually amazes me how God can 'use' any vessel He chooses. Not just the 'perfect' ones.
    Guess it gives me hope He can also use me. :)
    Have just been studying Paul - he also spent time in the wilderness immediately after his conversion.
    You're in good company Rose!
    Eunice

    By Blogger ewe cho, at 10/24/2008 2:16 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Sorry you had to go through such an ordeal, and that Joe wasn’t consistent in his grace. I know we can all be judgmental at times. I believe the greatest revelation is that Jesus is the Christ the One who guarantees our eternal destinies. But I think the second greatest revelation is the awareness of our own sinfulness. Usually it is this that drives us to the Savior. When I’m talking to lost people I try to point out that most of the best sinners are in prison. And that we are all born sinners and that is what sinners do, is sin. But the good news is that Christ has taken care of sin so that He can offer us the free gift of life. I don’t belittle sin because I know it is so awful that Jesus had to die to take it away. But I also don’t make it a barrier to Jesus living water that He has invited them to take freely. The great thing about knowing the truth is that the truth will set you free from sin and death to see God’s GREAT love and provision for the sinner. Praise God!!!

    alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at 10/26/2008 7:48 AM  

  • Eunice,
    Yes it is good that God uses flawed vessels because otherwise He wouldn't have any vessels to use. :~)

    Alvin,
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think sometimes sin can be empahsized to the point where Christ is not the emphasis of our conversations with the lost. Christ is the solution to all of that. If we lift up Christ, He will draw all men to Himself.

    It is so true with so many things. Christ should be the emphasis... for asssurance of salvation too. The objective truth of Christ is what we need to emphasize always! It is the only hope for mankind!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/27/2008 9:36 AM  

  • Hi Rose!

    You said:
    There were about 7 or 8 people - a very odd lot. None of these went to church or seemed to want to go to church either. This was our “church.” It was almost cult-like as I look back at it. None of the doctrine per se was cultish (we used JV McGee’s guides), but the practice of being so isolated was.

    You are very, very lucky. Usually this kind of authority over others makes the truth corrupted in their own mind. And in fact that seems like what actually happened.... You said that he wore out his relationships with others by being preoccupied with their failings. He was intent on not going to church. And I suppose, seeing their faults was a way of justifying it. I don't understand why he seemed to start having a problem with church, in the first place? It seems very curious to me that he could have ended up preaching a gospel of grace and still grew to such a decided lack of practicing it with others as Christ did for him. All I can think, is, "lucky."

    It makes me think that people like us, you, me, and the ones who read your blog, we are fortunate indeed. Somehow we have been saved from this kind of error by watching it in others and knowing there should be "more."

    Praise God....

    Thanks for sharing this, I hear and feel it.
    Michele

    By Blogger Sanctification, at 10/29/2008 8:53 PM  

  • Michele,
    Thanks for reading it. It is nice to know that some others can relate to it.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/30/2008 9:20 AM  

  • Rose,

    It kinda reminded me of this part of your story when I read Tim's post.

    Thought I'd share that, Michele

    By Blogger Sanctification, at 10/31/2008 7:18 PM  

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