God the Expert Author, Composer, Tapestry Weaver, Artist
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that this is not a post to tell you which denomination you should belong to or elevating one denomination above the other. Each one of us must listen to the Holy Spirit and go where He’s leading us when searching for a local church body, and I hope what is highlighted to you is that God did a beautiful thing in me through every different church I’ve ever been a part of. I’m a conglomeration of all the people and churches that have sown into me, in addition to all I’ve received in my own pursuit of God. Beyond anything else, this is what I hope to convey: God is an expert tapestry weaver. He’s an expert conductor of the song of your life. He’s an expert author of your story. He knows when to introduce new characters, new narratives, new melodies and new threads and new color to the beautiful portrait of your life. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and can see the masterpiece He’s making out of you. We’re invited to partner with Him in what He wants to create with your life, and it’s an adventure of ever increasing intimacy with Him as we discover who our God is, who He says we are, what He says He can do in and through us.
One aspect of His nature that I don’t hear talked about quite as often as others is that He’s a gentleman. He know when we’re ready for certain revelations. Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” He doesn’t tell us all there is to know about the things of God the day we get saved. He conceals some things. He wants us to search some things out. He loves the intimacy we get with Him in search. Jesus says in John 16:12, “I have so much more to say to you, more than you can bear now.” He knows when we can bear the more that He has to say and He’ll say it to the ones who seek it when we can bear it. We get to rest and trust that He’ll reveal what He believes we’re ready to know, as long as we’re continually seeking Him in His Word, in prayer, and in community.
A Quest for the More
There’s hundreds of different struggles and trials I’ve had in my nearly 16 years as follower of Jesus, but by God’s grace there’s one that I don’t have. I don’t have a lack of desire for God. It might wane every now and then, but an eagerness and a craving to know the more that He has to say hasn’t primarily been one of them. When you are as much of a mess as I have been at times and have seen as much darkness as I have, Jesus is your only option and He looks like a good one. Since I day I walked into my neighbor’s home as a young girl, you can read more about that here. I knew I wanted what they had, and what they had was Jesus. They were alive in Him and I was hungry to be alive like they were. Little did I know at the time, I’d be spending the next 20 years still on the same quest, trying to find people that had a piece of the Kingdom that I wanted and I’d try to get around them as much as they’d let me, trying to learn how they got it. And really, that’s how I’ve changed denominations. I never once intentionally left one to become apart of another. I just kept seeking the more in different places and found that different denominations carried something I was looking for.
Learning About Love in the Lutheran Church
I grew up being brought to a Lutheran church semi-regularly. I sang the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” from the youngest age possible, and I’m grateful to my parents for bringing me there because I actually did learn that Jesus loves me. I actually did learn that there is such a thing as a Bible (even though I thought the hymnal was the Bible until I was about 10 or so). I learned that heaven and hell are real places, although I was fairly confused on how to get to those places for a number of years. And I’m grateful that in order to be confirmed, I had to attend a week-long summer camp which is where I heard the Gospel preached for the very first time and surrendered my life to Jesus at age 13 on that summer camp alter and honestly, I never looked back. Besides what I experienced at my neighbor’s house, that precious little summer camp was my first exposure to the more. It made me realize there’s more Truth out there than what I was hearing at my home church. There are churches out there where the Bible is being preached with boldness and clarity. There are churches out there where people bring their Bibles to church and actually read them at home too. And that began my next quest. Find a church that is all about the Bible. Find people in that church that read the Bible and want to talk about what it says.
So I did. Crazy, yet miraculous events happened in my best friend’s/neighbor’s church. Their church burnt down. Like, literally, the building caught on actual fire and burnt down to the ground. I’m not sure whatever happened to that church, but I know that God used that to redirect their family to what was at the time, was a new church in town. They had a rule in their family that if you had a friend sleep over on a Saturday night, you have to go to church with them in the morning. Since my best friend and I tried to have sleepovers as much as possible, I started having to go to church with them on Sunday’s, which was no problem for me since I wanted to be around them and go to their church. The church they started attending was a Southern Baptist church, and from the first Sunday I attended, I LOVED this church. The pastor knew the Word inside and out and had read it from cover to cover multiple times. He preached the Word like I had never heard before in my entire life and I began to fall in love with the Bible. I would literally come home from school as a 15 year old girl, plop down on my bed and read my Bible with my whole rainbow of highlighters, ready to mark that thing up and read it over and over, now that I knew the Bible was to be read and consumed, not just to sit on the shelf as a spiritual ornament and collect dust. This went on for many years as the Word started coming alive to me for the first time in my life. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I was able to drive myself to this church and therefore started attending and getting involved as much as a teenager could. This period of time marked my “accidental” exit from the Lutheran church and into the Baptist church, a place where I got the more I was looking for concerning the Word of God.
Around this time, I again “accidentally” met my husband on Facebook as an 18-year-old girl in 2007. That’s a story for another time, but long story short is that after about a year of dating long distance (I mean really long distance, I was in Kenya most of that year) with a few trips sprinkled in, I decided to move where he lived, Austin, TX. He told me about his church but he was also new to the city and wasn’t super established in his church. As a small town girl from Wisconsin, big cities were totally foreign to me and Austin lived up to it’s commonly said slogan, “Keep Austin Weird” every minute I was there. I went to his church with him one Sunday, and I thought, “WHOA, BABY. WE ARE NOT IN WISCONSIN ANYMORE!” People were waving flags, dancing, one gal doing kart-wheels, painting, spontaneously shouting, weeping, clapping, lying prostrate and more during worship. Nothing seemed off-limits. People were so free and expressive in their love for God. I had no earthly idea what I had just stepped into but I liked it. (By the way, this is the is the church I currently attend today.) People radically loved Jesus. The community was so intimate and vulnerable, it slightly intimidated me when I was around them, but in a good way. These guys were out there loving people hardcore and seeing people come to know Jesus left and right. Not only was there an outward expression of love for Jesus, I saw people that were actually free in Christ, transformed inwardly, and God broke some extremely strong strongholds in my life in that time. I was actually free from bondage and living victoriously over some ongoing thought patterns that had such a grip on me, and so much of that was because of this church and the atmosphere and culture of victory they had there. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a “charismatic” church. All I thought was that Austin people are kinda “weird” like the slogan says, and this is an Austin church, so people are just kinda like this here.
At this point, my husband I had just gotten married and within 5 years we had moved across the country three times, in order for him to complete the education and training he needed for his career. In those years, we had “accidentally” become a part of Southern Baptist churches, like I had been a part of in Wisconsin. I say accidentally because none of those churches had the word “baptist” on their sign, although their doctrine was certainly baptist, and I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a baptist if you asked me. I was drawn to these churches because of the solid, pure gospel preaching of the Word. I still have quotes that go through my head all the time of one pastor in particular I had that included the gospel in every single sermon. I loved the high value they placed on deeply knowing the Scriptures. I loved how much of the focus was on evangelism, and living on mission everywhere you go. Looking back, I see how God used this time to deeply root me in the Word and give me a very solid foundation in my Christian faith. It was here that I learned the doctrines of the total depravity of humanity apart from Jesus, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone, justification, sanctification, and glorification. All very essential things for the believer to understand were built into my belief system during this time.
As time went on though, there were ongoing inner and outer struggles that I was really having a hard time grasping and keeping any victory over. Worse than going through them was that I didn’t have a single person at church I felt like I could talk about it with. There wasn’t even a culture of freedom, victory or breakthrough because the culture and emphasis were on embracing suffering as a way to mature in character and develop intimacy with God. I didn’t talk to many people about it, not because I didn’t want to be vulnerable, but because I knew what they carried, and I knew I was going to be in a place that I had been in many times before: pouring my heart out, and no one knowing what to say back to me. I also massively struggled as a woman who feels called to write, speak and teach. Whatever the level of my husband’s involvement was in church was my glass ceiling, as I was told, or I’d be usurping his male headship. This caused YEARS of conflict between us. My husband loves Jesus with all his heart, but he’d rather study quantum physics for hours on end, in awe and wonder of the One who created it, than be a deacon and attend meetings. We simply didn’t fit the mold as a couple, with being a woman who wants to lead and a man who would rather be a supporter than a leader.
Beyond that, as I studied the Word more and took it seriously as I was inspired to do by many of my pastors, the more I started to believe there was more to the Holy Spirit than what I saw and was experiencing. I started to wonder if I had the same Holy Spirit as all the Apostles in Acts, whose shadow healed people, whose preaching led to thousands of converts, and lived such radical Christian lives filled with actual, manifested power that was actually effective that validated the truth of the gospel, why don’t I? If Jesus himself said in Mark 16, that the signs that would follow true believers are that they would cast out demons, speak in new tongues, get into dangerous situations and still be safe, and lay hands on the sick and they will recover, where was that in my life? I wouldn’t know a demon on someone if I saw one, let alone cast it out. AND, if Jesus also said that we would do even greater things than He did, where was that actually happening? Certainly not in my life, and certainly not in my church. But I believed the Word whether I saw it or not, and believed that was still in God’s heart to fulfill on our day.
As I was questioning these things and started to see that once again, Jesus was getting me ready for the more He was waiting and preparing me to be ready for. I was still struggling with ongoing defeat in spiritual warfare. It had been a long time by now and I was pressing in with everything I had but still wasn’t getting the victory I believed Jesus wanted for me. It was then that events started to occur in the church we had only been apart of for less than a year, and we knew we had to go. By this time we had been back in Austin for two years, been a part of two different churches, and we were pretty weary of being the new kids in the church again. We invested in community after community with no fruit. The thought of trying to find a church again nearly made me want to cry. I’m loyal to a fault, which makes it really had to leave anywhere, even if God really is asking us to. God had to show up and do something big if we were going to go and start over again.
One day my husband and I were driving and talking about churches we should try, and “all of the sudden” we remembered the crazy church we had gone to, now 8 years ago, in Austin. I started remembering all the freedom and breakthrough (a word I never heard in my 8 years in the Baptist church) and deliverance and miracles I experienced there because of the culture they had there. I started to remember the intimate community that nearly freaked me out, how people would radically love people and share the gospel, and somehow, we knew that we had to go visit all these years later.
We visited one sunny December morning, and I can barely even describe what I felt and experienced when I walked through those doors. We arrived a couple minutes late and I looked through a window into the worship area and saw people worshipping like I used to see. As I dropped my kids off and got in the service, I literally felt something lift off of me. Every demon that was tormenting me for nearly years felt like it was gone after that service. People were declaring the goodness of God over and over, a doctrine that I really struggled with for years in the Baptist church. The senior pastor started declaring today as a day of breakthrough and victory being manifested. People actually noticed I was new and said hi to me, including the senior pastor. They announced that their “Freedom House” ministry was happening that night, a ministry for people needing prayer for freedom and breakthrough and healing. When the “gospel” you’ve been told is that God wants us to suffer so we’ll become Christlike and mature character for 8 years, that’s music to your ears. I couldn’t even believe what I had just witnessed. And it didn’t stop. It was like that the next week and the next and the next week. Every week was like a shot in the arm. I actually saw people walking not only in solid, deep gospel truth but also in manifested power. I was reminded that the Gospel is actually Good News. And I started to believe that God is good and does good again. Even with all the belief in miracles, healing, signs and wonders, the biggest and most transformative belief in the atmosphere was on the goodness of God. That is the doctrine that changed and unlocked everything for me.
As amazing and mind-blowing as me experience was, a new quest had just begun. For the first time in 8 years, I wasn’t in a Baptist church, and I finally realized that all the doctrines I was wrestling with were doctrines that the Baptists have a particular stance on. To be quite honest, this was actually the first time that I even realized that for 8 years, all the sermons I had listened to were from Baptist preachers, both in my church and on podcasts, all the people influencing those pastors were Baptists, their commentaries and resources were also all written by Baptists, and all the books I read were also written by Baptists. I was honestly in a Baptist bubble and didn’t even know it. I definitely was not forsaking all that I learned in those 8 years, as I previously stated, there were so many life-changing, foundational truths I learned in those years. I still financially support a Baptist church I was a part of and pray for them regularly, because I still believe that the city they’re in is better off with that church there. I have absolutely no hard feelings towards this denomination and bless their efforts to make disciples and lead people to Christ.
Overcoming the Fear of Being Deceived
Then began a journey or reexamining a lot of my theology through a new lens of the goodness of God. For the next 8 months, I refused to read anything but the Bible or listen to any preachers from either side (Baptist or non-denominational/Charismatic), especially focused on the Gospels, which is stretch for me since I love books and sermon podcasts. I wanted the words of Jesus on the matters I reexamined. I refused to compromise what the Bible says because of what I hadn’t seen (yet). I honestly was struggling with a lot of fear of being deceived. I felt like over time, little by little, the leaven (influence on the mind) that I was under was only a partial truth, and the other part that I missed was a pretty big deal. If I was deceived last time, how do I know I’m not being deceived this time? This is where I don’t want to make it about whether or not you agree with me or not or particular issues or not, (especially suffering, since that was a biggie for me) I just want to share the truths and tools God led me to when it comes to forming and living out my theology.
1. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. That’s His job (John 16:13). I need to be obedient in reading His Word, but I needed to have more faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead me that the enemy’s ability to deceive me. If I am ever off in my thinking somewhere, I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will do His job in leading me back into truth.
2. Read the Bible the most. I like Christian books. I like podcasts. But the only book I 100% trust is the Bible. Read it more than you read other resources. Listen to the Bible more than you listen to podcasts. Because this is the only book that is alive, whose Author’s opinion will never change, whose Words will wash you and has the power of the Spirit on the pages. You need to know the Word to discern true from almost true.
3. Stay under multiple teachers. I don’t want to be in a bubble of voices that are all basically saying the same thing, speaking at the same conferences, best friends with each other, and affirming what I already believe. I’m careful to a fault about who I allow to influence me. I pray about who I should listen to, and try to not listen to just one denomination’s theology. Today, there are some people I won’t read or listen to and I’m not suggesting to listen to heresy. I think there can be multiple acceptable interpretations of Scripture, and I don’t think because one person’s interpretation of scripture is different from yours (within reason) that makes them a heretic.
4. “For we now know in part…”. “For we now know in part” is part of 1 Corinthians 13:9. Verse 10 goes on to say, “for when completeness comes, what we know in part disappears.” I don’t know about you, but I can breathe a little easier knowing that every Christian not yet in Heaven knows only in part. I will spend the rest of my life discovering more truth, and on the day I die, I will not have yet known everything there is to know. Jesus never asked us to know it all and have perfect theology by the time we get to Heaven. My rightness does not make me righteous. Jesus, who knew no sin, that became sin for me, so that I may become the righteousness of God is my righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
5. Humility, humility, humility. It’s okay to say, “I could be wrong, but to my current understanding is…” Sometimes I hear someone say something in church or a small group that I’m not familiar with, and instead of thinking “they’re wrong, or they’re deceived”, I think “Maybe I haven’t learned that yet. Can you tell me more?” As much as I try to be careful about who I listen to or read, I’m equally as prayerful to maintain a teachable spirit.
That leads me to where I am today. Most importantly, I pray that this encouraged you to trust Jesus on your quest with Him, knowing that He’s the best leader of your heart and writer of your story, and will tell you the more He has to say when you’re ready for it. I’d love to know if this blessed you at all. Shoot me an email or find me on Instagram! Love you guys!