Archive for the ‘Testimonies’ Category

Tracey and Alan Parker at the "God Unlimited weekend 2014"

Tracey and Alan Parker at the “God Unlimited weekend 2014″

Have you ever had an experience and said afterward, “I never want to lose this feeling?” Well, I am here to thank God for the experience I had and I want to tell you it is not a feeling. For the past five years we have attended the God Unlimited Enrichment weekend in Louisville, Ky., with our friends, Brian and Tandy Coatney, at the home of Scott and Sylvia Pearce. The first year we went, my husband and I didn’t think we would be back. It seemed like everyone was saying the same thing in a different way, and although that was true, it would prove an attraction for us in the future. Every year has its own precious jewels that develop into life changing lifestyles.

This year is no different. Some of the same people were there and even the same things were said over and over, but there was one particular difference. It was me. I am different, and I feel like my life has changed forever. It’s one of those pivotal moments you can put your finger on. I must interject, that there was a series of events that lead up to this life-changing experience. One of the elements included suffering, then perseverance, and it was all upheld by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the Universe, which, by the way, lives inside me.

It would be hard to explain to you what it means to be loved with an unconditional, everlasting love if you have never experienced Him. Being loved by Jesus is the touch of love, “I can’t touch you without being touched by you,” said Alan Parker. Love is the greatest gift you can give to another, but please remember that God is love. He gives of Himself to others, He is a poured out life so others can live. It was never about how much we love Him, because we have no power within ourselves to love others unless it’s with His love.

As my husband and I wrapped up in a blanket on the cold Friday afternoon under the tent at the conference, we saw a distinguished man and his older son walking up “Mimi’s Way,” which is a cobblestone walkway which leads to the back of the Pearce’s house in memory of our dear Mimi Anderson. “Who is that, do you think?” I said to Louie. “I think that is Alan Parker,” he replied. I kept an eye on him trying to make sure that was him. I had been looking forward to meeting Alan Parker ever since I read “THE CROSS IN THE HEART OF GOD” booklet. Let me quote the introduction of this booklet and see if it does to you, what it did for me: “This is written for those people who want to receive the truth, for only they are going to posses the Kingdom of God. This is written for seekers. These writings have nothing to say to those who are wise in the wisdom of the world.”

Later on that evening Alan gave a talk that lasted almost 3 hours. I got as close as I could and listened by sitting at the edge of my seat. I wanted to absorb everything he had to say because I know he speaks the truth of God. I admire this man and wanted to know everything he knew. I am not sure what draws me to his teachings, but I hung on to every word. The next day, Alan spoke again, this time not as long. He talked about Hebrews 4:12, He said the Word is alive, conscious, and it knows and it’s energy. The word of faith is God’s faith, not ours. He said, “Do you know why the word of faith has no doubt? That’s because it’s His faith, His word, His life, the life of the Son. He continued to say, “You can never be Christ, but He can be you.”

Alan quoted the passage of James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, without doubt and it will be given.” Alan asked if anyone wanted Wisdom, to come up front and ask without doubting. I said to Louie, “Come on, let’s go.” I told him I wanted Wisdom, so I ran up there. I was third in line. After Alan prayed with the first person, he knew it would take too long to pray individually, so we all stood in a giant circle and prayed in our own voices and asked for Wisdom. Guess what, the Spirit of Wisdom penetrated my inner being and I knew it. I started getting filled up, tears ran down my face and I began to giggle from way down deep inside, my breathing started to accelerate and I felt dizzy, but Louie was close by and I grabbed him and said, “don’t let me go.” I knew something supernatural happened to me. I felt like running, but I couldn’t leave. I can’t say I understand everything that happened to me, but what I do know is Wisdom has been here all along, I just didn’t hear from her (Proverbs 8:1 tells us she is wisdom). The first part of Proverbs 2 tells us seek her, wisdom, verse 4, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.” I desired her and sought after her and found her. God has opened my eyes to understanding and I have become more sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord.

Since this time, I feel humbled by His love and hear Him more than ever before. I am looking forward to my new life in Christ as He lives in me as me. Thank you, Jesus for loving me so much and for giving me opportunities to be a life poured out for you and to invest and have you change lives through me. The branch never takes credit for producing the fruit, we bear the fruit. Others see this fruit and are drawn to it, they take the fruit and it is Jesus. He is a person to experience not something simply to obtain. We have no power by ourselves, but are a vessel that He works in and through. I asked for the Spirit of Wisdom to live in me and that is why she (Wisdom) is a person and not a feeling. Wisdom and understanding now are in me always, never leaving me, but changing me from glory to glory forevermore.

Tracey

There’s an old Bruce Springsteen song called “Glory days” that tells the story of running into an old friend in a bar and all he wanted to talk about is what some call “The good ole days.” Do you think that’s a sign of getting old? While I understand the attraction of being pulled into another place and time when talking with old friends; why aren’t we living right now?

There is nothing I would take for my youth, or the friends or experiences I’ve had, but at the same time I don’t want to miss the life I’m living right now either. The past is as good as it’s going to get. What do you say we learn to live in the present full of the hope of a glorious future?

Who are you right now? You may have identified yourself as a great athlete, writer, singer, carpenter or friend but what about now? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Who is in your life right now that you are helping along the way? When was the last time you encouraged someone else and told them what God has done in your life?

Tracey recently came across a journal, or diary, that documented our lives together from around 1992 to 2001. Wow! To hear some of what went on during my B.C. days is kind of tough, and yet I thought I was having the time of my life. Boy, was I deceived. As she read some of the entries to me I must admit it made me cringe. To hear about my outlook on life back in my addiction days is painful, and somewhat embarrassing, if I’m honest with you. Thankfully God saw fit to intervene, open our eyes, and reveal the truth to us.

Last night we went to the women’s prison to share our story and teach the Word. Tracey shared a bit about the diary and how messed up we were. There are many who never knew us back then and they seem to think we’ve always had it together. Well, thanks to Tracey they know better now! She spilled the beans and told them we all go the wrong way first but thank God he shows us how to get back on the path if we’re willing to receive his direction.

When my turn came to speak I began by reading Titus 3:3-7 to them. “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for others is to simply tell them how much you’ve messed up in the past. It is amazing how encouraging it is to others for them to hear how you screwed things up too. Then you can take the opportunity to tell them how God turned things around. Once God comes in to your life, you will begin to take glances at your past, but you will finally be free to live in the present and begin looking forward to the future.

Louie

Funny thing about getting older is how celebrations take on a brand new look. For years and years I spent New Year’s eve drinking and partying, in a bar for the most part, just like every other lost twenty-something in the world. When you are a drinker life is defined by “the bottle that you drink” as Bon Jovi so eloquently puts it in the song “Wanted dead or alive.” After sobriety takes hold you have to mark your calender in a new way. You can’t say, “Oh yeah, that was the night we drank that fifth of tequila and you…”

Tracey and I had the privilege of being with a friend of ours to celebrate his first sober New Year’s Eve. He’s 33 years old and told us “This is the first New Year I can remember…” and I stopped him there. He said, “You’re right; I was going to say, “The first I can remember spending sober but stopping at ‘remember’ is probably true.” He and his “girlfriend” went to eat with us. Granted we were only with them for a couple hours as I think about it now I see it as the beginning of a new tradition. After all, who says New Year’s Eve has to be spent drinking and stumbling around only to have no real recollections of the celebration the next day?

While we were at the restaurant there were a few getting in “the spirit” of New Year’s early, not the Holy Spirit mind you. There were several people drinking at the bar and one lady cackled in an all but too familiar drunken way which caused us all to look at each other as if remembering when that used to be us. There is a distinct difference in the sound of drunken laughter and Holy Spirit joy and it became all too obvious, at that moment, which one we preferred. It was so good to enjoy the company of another couple who are approximately ten years younger than us as they are starting their sober, Spirit led life. It’s good to be able to enjoy food and fellowship with others with pure motives and a clear conscience.

After finishing our time together Tracey and I didn’t even see the ball drop or break open any champagne, but we did wake up this morning to a cup of coffee, time in the Word and the Sun shining through our kitchen window. I love how the Spirit of God brings peace and joy through what seems to be the smallest of things. No more needing a charge in the flesh to fight off boredom because when you are living in the Spirit there is no part of any day to be seen as ordinary.

As I thought about a new year, celebrations and resolutions what came to me is there is no time in the Spirit. You see God isn’t trapped or limited by time. Time is really just for us to mark days and months and years; because one day we will move on into a realm in which time will not matter. I don’t over emphasize the beginning of a new year so much because living in the Spirit gives us the ability to live and move in such a way that we aren’t fearful of a new year or bothered by growing older. Jesus’ statement to Martha at Lazarus’ tomb comes to mind. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

With that I’ll say, “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”

Louie

No matter what you think about Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” one thing’s for sure. He’s a polarizing figure and why wouldn’t he be? He lives his life following the most polarizing man to ever walk the earth, Jesus.

I remember thinking early on that Phil reminded me of another Biblical figure who just so happened to be Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. When John came on the scene there was quite the stir and especially among the religious establishment of his day. John came preaching “Repent! For the Kingdom is at hand!” It seems his whole role was to prepare the way for the long awaited Messiah. He lived a simple life, clothed in camel hair, and ate a simple diet of locust and wild honey. Many of his day didn’t get him. They didn’t understand this wild man in the desert yelling for everyone to get their lives right before the coming day of the Lord. Of course then came Jesus himself.

Once John declared Jesus to be the awaited Messiah the conflict and agitation began. Jesus life was marked by conflict with the religious and political establishment, and it seems “Christ” in Phil Robertson is still stirring up things even now.

Here’s another thing to think about. John the Baptist confronted King Herod about his relationship with the wife of the kings brother telling him it wasn’t right. Of course Herod didn’t appreciate him telling him how to conduct his sexual life so he threw John in Prison only to be beheaded shortly thereafter. Now I’m not suggesting Phil Robertson is doing this exact thing but it did strike me as interesting that his comments about some people’s sexual misconduct happens to be the center of this most recent firestorm. While John was placed in a literal prison it seems Phil is being tried in the court of public opinion, although I would venture to say there is an element that would like for him to be locked up for his comments. No matter where you stand on this issue one thing’s for sure. You have to make a decision. When it comes to the truth of the Word of God there really is no middle ground and there isn’t meant to be. Jesus said, “You are either with me or against me and you are either gathering or scattering.”

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:25-29 NAS)

God loves us so much he makes sure we get shook up because he wants us to look to him and without a good shaking most of us are content to remain asleep. I pray the controversy over Phil Robertson’s comments will push you to make a stand for Christ and the truth of his word.

Louie

We have friends who tease Tracey and I because we live our lives in, what some might call, a regimented manner. For instance we generally go to the grocery store on Monday nights, and some will say things like “Oh, you can’t do such and such because it’s grocery night.” Of course we don’t take offense to this type of thing, but if the truth was told we would say the reason we go on Monday’s, rather than another night, is because “WE’RE OUT OF FOOD!” I know, I know it’s crazy, but we only buy enough food for a week at a time so when Monday rolls around it’s time to buy more.

I thought of this today as I listened to an elderly woman talking about growing older. She emphasized the importance of self-discipline. She said it was extremely important and besides look at the alternative. When you live your life with no self-control you only have chaos, frustration and disorder to look forward to.

Sometimes others criticize us because we are “scheduled” in how we do things. They will say this type of thing implying that we are rigid or we can’t ever change our plans.  I suppose this depends on what commitments we have made and how faithful or trustworthy we want to be. If I don’t care how my life affects others, and their schedules, then I don’t have to follow through on my commitments. For me being scheduled or regimented really means I’m dependable or faithful. It’s funny how others see things completely different isn’t it?

Now to come at this from another angle if you are one who has had a past filled with addiction and a history of being flaky the path to sobriety is probably only going to come with planning and commitment. Without a plan someone struggling with addiction is setting themselves up for failure because they are prone to wander. With the wandering will almost always come trouble and with the trouble will come the excuse to use again. Getting on some sort of schedule is one of the first steps toward getting your life back together. When I was in what I suppose could be called “recovery” the counselor I talked with always had me to write out three short term and three long term goals. Goal setting and accomplishing them is an important part of getting back into the swing of the real world especially after a long time in the land of make believe.

Do you remember how God started this whole thing we call life? The Bible tells us in the beginning God saw that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was there, so the first thing he did was say, “Let there be light.” Then he started to organize things. Once the light was turned on he saw the mess the earth was in and started straightening things out and putting them where they belonged. He divided the land from the water before he let things produce. Once they were in order he said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.” He made lights to govern the night and lights for the day. I’m not going to write it all here you can read it for yourself, but I think you get my point. God is a God of order, and if we are filled with his Spirit it only seems logical to me that our behavior would reflect his.

In the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians one of them is self-control or if you’re a King James person it’s called temperance. Either way it is an attribute of the Spirit of God in one’s life and not just something this one or that one has. There are plenty of people that act as though they can’t be disciplined, but according to the Bible it is the Spirit of God in the person rather than simply the person. It really just all boils down to how much we want to open ourselves to His control. As we do this he will work the discipline out in our lives as he sees fit. For most of us, like everything else, we have to get our belly full of the disorder, frustration and pain that results from living in the flesh before we are willing to give His Spirit a try.

P.S. Don’t misunderstand me I know when you are walking according to the Spirit changing of plans will occur, but what I’m talking about here is a lifestyle of discipline as opposed to a lifestyle of drifting and disorder. No one else can do it for you, unless of course you end up in jail or prison and then you will no longer have any choice. You see discipline is coming either way. One way or the other it’s coming so we can do this the easy way or the hard way it’s up to you.

Louie

As one’s parents start to age you find yourself doing things you’ve never done before. Recently I had to take my father to the dentist and on the way home we stopped at another office so he could have some blood work done. He’s basically wheelchair bound so these trips involve putting his chair in the trunk of my car and so on. On this most recent outing it dawned on me how it takes the Spirit of God to do even what sometimes seems like routine or maybe even boring things.

Sitting in the second waiting room it occurred to me how in the old days, back before I was born again, how I would have had such difficulty just sitting there and waiting. There was a television show on but I really had no interest in it whatsoever. It was at that point I realized I was living in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5 patience, or long-suffering, if you prefer a King James word, is in the list of attributes or fruit of the Holy Spirit. In that second I understood how our supernatural God is present even in the most routine, and seemingly mundane things, we do everyday.

The more I thought about this the more I thought there are aspects of the Bible I may have missed. For instance when I think about Noah I think what a story! Here’s this man God tells to build a boat and gives him the exact measurements.  We tend to think wouldn’t it be great if God told me something like that? Then I remembered how he worked on that boat for years. Can you imagine the day in and day out tediousness of his work? We have no record of Noah hearing from God during these years. I’m not saying he didn’t, but it seems to me he had to get up and go to work each day with nothing extraordinary happening just like we do. With all the endless measuring, hammering and sawing I’m sure there were times when he thought I’m done with this. I’m going to look for something else to do and besides these people continue to mock me saying, “Where’s this rain you speak of?” It took the keeping power of the Spirit of God in order for Noah to finish his job.

Moses is another one we sometimes glamorize. We sort of skip over the fact he spent forty years living in the desert as a shepherd. We know he was God’s man but what do you think he was thinking during those forty long sheep herding years? I bet there were more than a few times the smell of sheep made him think, I’ve had enough of this. Can you imagine how many times he had to track down wanderers? If Moses lived in our day he would probably be tempted to go out and buy a corvette or something to alleviate the restlessness of his midlife crisis don’t you think?

You know sometimes life isn’t all that glamorous and it’s filled with dentist’s offices, waiting rooms, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, litter boxes and so on. The key here is to keep our thoughts on Christ because he is the one who grows the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The next time you find yourself feeling a bit restless or impatient thank God for his presence,even in what may appear to be a bit monotonous at first, because it just may be he’s preparing you for something amazing just around the corner.

Louie

The other day while talking with a mechanic friend of mine he used the word “Ameliorate.” For you this may be an everyday word, but when he asked me if I knew what it meant I had to admit I didn’t. He said, “It means to make better.” This man is a Catholic and isn’t shy about letting you know about it; so we have had a few conversations in the past about God, the Bible, denominational differences and so on. In other words, it isn’t surprising if the conversation takes a theological turn once in a while. Today was no different except self-help was the topic.

As he defined “Amelioration” he equated it with self-improvement, and I couldn’t resist telling him I didn’t believe in self-improvement. His response was “You can improve yourself” so I said, “I think you can improve your economic status, your intelligence and you can get a “better” home or car but those things aren’t improving the self. He wasn’t going to just receive what I was saying without going a little further with his reasoning, so he brought up, of all things, Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin, he said, wasn’t a very nice guy when he was younger and several folks told him so. Eventually Ben decided to do something about this so he set out to improve himself. He apparently made a list of virtues that he would like to develop in his life and went to work. Of course when he looked at the length of the list he knew he couldn’t take on all of them at once; so his plan was to work on one at a time until he eventually had them all taken care of. Oddly enough as this man was telling me this I remembered my friend Brian Coatney had written a booklet entitled (click here for link)> “Ben Franklin and the Apostle Paul” in which he contrasted the two men and their differing approaches to “self-improvement” if you will. The Apostle Paul of course didn’t teach self-improvement he taught co-crucifixion with Christ as the only way. God understands fixing up the old man doesn’t work.

As this man shared ideas of improving the “self” with me I said to him “Isn’t the whole point that we all need Jesus Christ and he is the one that transforms us? I mean if we could change or fix ourselves we wouldn’t need him, right?” Then he said something that was so revealing to me. He said, “This is why Catholics have purgatory.” Wow! All of the sudden it made perfect sense to me. If we as humans are independent beings responsible for making ourselves perfect, or like Christ, purgatory is a must because that means when we die we will still be in need of yet even more improvement. On top of that who knows if any of us will ever make it? On the other hand if we are joined with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection we can walk in newness of life right now and forever. God’s Spirit joined to our human spirit is our only hope of perfection and that can only happen as a gift given to us from God himself.

I shared with him how I believe we are spirit beings and he said, “There is a teaching that we are spirits in human form, but that isn’t right because…” As he said this his phone rang, and I was actually glad because I thought this conversation had gone far enough at this point. It isn’t that I didn’t want to continue this talk, but I was afraid it may not end well. Sometimes a little bit of light and truth will go a long way, besides I’m sure this isn’t the end of our discussion it’s just going to be postponed for another day.

As I left his shop and drove away I had gained some unbelievably valuable insights into the difference between Law and grace, flesh and spirit and self-help and transformation. I was invigorated and couldn’t wait to tell Tracey about it. During my lunch break I shared the story with Tracey and picked up a copy of Brian’s booklet (click for link)> “Ben Franklin and the Apostle Paul” to give to him.

Let me end by saying I didn’t write this to indite Catholics or fuss about denominational differences but simply to tell you about this conversation. My hope is that we would all take a closer look at what the Bible is really trying to tell us. Does God really expect us to “Do better”? Or does he already know we have no hope without him? Isn’t this what the Gospel message is all about? Man disobeyed God and found himself in an impossible situation and only God can rescue him.

Jesus Christ didn’t come here to make bad people good he came here to make dead people live.

Louie

Just got home from Bible study and thought to myself, fifteen years ago you never would have convinced me gathering together to study the Bible would be something I would ever want to do much less that it would actually be fun. Yet I look forward to going to the Coffee Connection downtown every Wednesday to discuss the scriptures and fellowship with whomever might show up. The old Louie would have never done that.

Being a Christian isn’t something you do on Sunday morning it is what you are. Jesus Christ died so we might have life and have it more abundantly, and that means more than just a day of the week. Tracey and I talk about the Word, and what we see God doing in and around our lives constantly; in fact I can’t think of anything I would rather talk about. This too is proof Christ lives in me. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The next time you talk with someone if you listen for a few minutes you will discover what they love, because we all talk about what we love the most. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t wrong to love your children or talk about your car or job, but if you are a Christian and never want to talk about Christ it seems a little strange to me.

Tonight at Bible study we read in John five where the religious leaders were wanting to kill Jesus because he healed a cripple man who then picked up and carried his mat, on the Sabbath mind you. The religious leaders just knew Jesus wasn’t from God because he was working and encouraging others to work on the Sabbath. Of course we know the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath, but when you are religious keeping the rules tends to take precedence over the well being of people.

The scriptures tell us the religious leaders were trying to kill Jesus, but according to Deuteronomy no one could be put to death without two or three witnesses. Jesus told them there were plenty that witnessed on his behalf. He said, John the Baptist, the miracles, the Father and even the very scriptures they were so fond of backed up who he was. Jesus told them “Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life.” You see they had the Bible but they didn’t have Jesus. I would venture to say that Bible study with them probably wouldn’t be as much fun as we have on Wednesday nights. After all what is Bible study without Jesus anyway? I guess it would be a book full of rules with no life in it.

Jesus went on to tell his accusers he wouldn’t be the one to accuse them, but Moses himself would be their accuser. He told them “Moses wrote about me and if you don’t believe his writings how would you believe my words?” You see the Bible isn’t like any other book. Most books are read with the sole purpose of receiving information on the subject at hand, but when reading the Bible we are invited to receive the actual person of Jesus Christ.

Louie

The Key“That is exactly what Miss Zander and I were talking about two days ago, ask her,” she said. As another one hugged me she said in a prayer, “Thank you for being obedient because that was right on target,” then she said, “That was the turning point of the service.” After I spoke to the ladies about a very sensitive subject in jail tonight, Tammy came and hugged me and I wept out loud. As tears were streaming down my face, Joanna came and whispered a prayer into my spirit and said, “Lord, put this back into the storehouse and only bring it out to bring glory to you.” Margo came and also ministered to me and as she did this, peace overtook me and I began to calm down.

It was on Saturday that a friend of mine asked me a question of why I never had any children. The question itself didn’t bother me, but the time in my life that the decision was made was a turning point for me. It wasn’t until Sunday, Louie and I were sitting at the kitchen table and I started revealing things to him that had happened to me when I was between the ages of 18 and 22. It was a dark time in my life and I haven’t thought much about it, until now.

I felt the Lord urging me to share this experience with the ladies in jail because they have been abused, mistreated and deceived just like me. These ladies see me on the other side of the negative. They didn’t see the struggle, the heartbreak, the tears and the despair in me, but they see it in their own life. The Lord wanted me to share with them how I got caught up in the lies of the enemy, the devil through a man. I won’t say his name because he gets no recognition except for the victory that came out of what he meant for harm.

This man was 9 years older than me; I was 18, a virgin. I was hanging out at the video store where my parents forbade us to go. My sister and a friend of ours went there every chance we got. We got to know the owner and his brother and they let us play the videos for free. The owner had a friend and that is who preyed on me. He took me out for drinks and bought me jewelry and we had secret numbers to describe our love for each other. One night we were at a nice hotel and I gave him my virginity. After that, I thought I had to marry him because he had my virginity. We came up with some lies to my parents so we could be together. It worked. Until one day my mom saw me coming out of the bank and found out I had withdrawn a large amount of money. They wanted to meet this guy and then later forbid me to see him again. So, I left home and moved in with him.

He was consumed with sex and had me believing that I loved it too, except I didn’t. He started bringing me downtown Chicago to the seedy side of town. I don’t remember a whole lot about it because I started drinking once we left the house so I could be drunk by the time we got there. There were so many times I was scared, but I would just do whatever he told me to do. I tried to leave him, but he wouldn’t let me leave. He would stay home from work for 6 months just so I wouldn’t leave his sight. I could have anything I wanted, but I had to stay with him. He hated when I talked with my sister or other family members and we would argue for days about it.

It was so dark in my world, and I thought I could never leave, I was trapped without hope. This was the time I took a bunch of narcotic pills a little at a time so I would die for sure. I didn’t want to throw them up, so I paced myself and kept taking them. I didn’t know it then but God had a different plan for me. Jesus was there the whole time; He never left me, even when I was acting like a whore. He loved me and He forgave me when I didn’t feel lovable or worth forgiving. I just didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know God was giving me a way to glorify Him through the things I suffered. But these ladies felt the hand of God touching them and cleansing them from all unrighteousness. Just like the woman in Luke 7:47 when Jesus said to her, “for this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

I had no idea how God was going to work this out at jail for these ladies because when I first got up there, I was told to speak up, but I couldn’t speak at all. Then a new inmate got up to use the toilette without asking permission; which caused a public announcement for them to ask first. My mouth was so dry I couldn’t form words and my heart was beating out of my chest. I started reading out of Luke and my voice was breaking up into tears. The room fell silent and their ears were on high alert. I could see tears welling up in their eyes and they could relate it to experiences in their own lives. I wasn’t up there to convince them to listen to me; I was telling them of what happened to me and how God’s grace and mercy kept me. I could have died, got pregnant, got a disease or even worse, stayed in that dangerous lifestyle until it killed me.

The devil seeks us, to kill and destroy us and will do it a number of ways. It doesn’t have to be that way though if we would only turn our wills over to Jesus. Let Him be who He is inside us. Let Him love you, and He will set you free because He is love.

“Thank you, Miss Tracey, I loved your story, it helped me,” one girl said as she was leaving to go back to her cell. I thank the Lord that He brought that memory out of the storehouse of my life, but also to put it back in there, except to glorify Him.

Tracey

When I was younger I loved hard rock or heavy metal music. Bands like Kiss, became a regular audio diet for me. I discovered Kiss at the early age of 8yrs. old and they became my first love. I could sit for hours and hours listening to their albums. My father was a church going, Bible believing man and took my sisters and I to church every-time the doors were open; so he wasn’t too happy with my musical taste and didn’t hesitate to tell me so on a few occasions. There was a great push back from the “Church” against the music I had come to love and I was told it was “Of the Devil!”

As a child I just couldn’t see how Kiss was “of the devil.” My way of reasoning, as a child, was I haven’t heard them sing one time about the devil. Their lyrics were not in any way embracing God but they weren’t saying anything about the devil in their lyrics either, so I thought what’s the big deal? At the time I didn’t have any spiritual insight at all.

I didn’t intend for this post to be about rock music at all but just told this to illustrate a point. As I have been reading through the Gospel of John recently, I noticed a common theme throughout the first four chapters. In the first chapter John the Baptist, who is Jesus’ cousin, says, “I did not recognize him, but so that he might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” God told John to baptize in water and as he obeyed, the fact Jesus was the messiah was revealed to him. John had no ability to see this until God revealed it to him.

In chapter two we read where Jesus cleared the Temple out saying, “Stop making my Father’s house a place of business.” Then Jesus went on to tell them to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Of course they thought he was advocating destroying the building, but John let’s us in on a deeper point by saying, “He was speaking of the Temple of his body.”

Moving on into the third chapter we find Jesus having a conversation with Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, who just can’t grasp what Jesus is telling him. Jesus tells Nicodemus “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus, just like the rest, scratches his head and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” He had no ability to really hear what Jesus was telling him.

Then in chapter four,  Jesus is talking with the woman at the well in Samaria. He tells her he has some water for her that will “spring up in her to eternal life.” She, also being dull of hearing, says, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” She was just as confused as the rest when it came to understanding Jesus. You see without enlightenment from the Holy Spirit we simply cannot know the things of God.

In closing let me just say, I am not preaching against music, buildings, childbirth or wells of water. I am simply letting you in on a common misunderstanding that occurs between those that walk according to the Spirit and those that don’t. Of course those that haven’t been born again can’t see, but there seems to be some who have been and are still confused about what Jesus is really all about.

Lately I have become more and more aware of the unseen. The Apostle Paul even told us in 2 Corinthians 4 we are to “look not at the things which are seen (only the surface of things), but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” God is ultimately looking to the source of things not just the surface and if we are filled with his Spirit our lives will display the same.

Louie