You would not believe all the religious battles I’ve fought… in my head… with myself. I was raised Baptist, in Mississippi. So you can guess what my life has been like- gone to church since I was born, got saved at a young age, that sort of thing. But it was all religious. What I mean by that is, it was all routine- as it is in a lot of Southern Baptist homes. It was just something we did. (Isaiah 29:13 says “The Lord says; ‘these people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'”) I knew all the most popular Bible stories, memorized The Lord’s prayer. But that wasn’t enough for me. I needed more. I needed it to be real.
And that’s what I got at my friend’s church. Or so I thought. Maybe it wasn’t, but at least it was something more, something different than what I had heard in all my 13 years of living. It was D-Now 2011 and I heard preaching like I’ve never heard before, about how it’s not about religion. Following Christ and being a Christian is not about religion. It’s about a relationship with Christ through prayer and reading the Bible, obedience and trust. Whoa. And all this time I’d only been using prayer and God to ask for things, or to demand things as if God’s only purpose was to make my life better. As if he didn’t give His life for me to cleanse me of my sin and to have that relationship with me. When I tried explaining to my Mama about what I’d heard-that religion is the wrong way to live- she couldn’t believe it. She was speechless. And I was confused and scared. Had I said the wrong thing? Had all that had just been taught to me been wrong? I thought “no, it can’t be. It must be true. It makes sense, has meaning. It must be true.”
Now the problem was what to do with this new information. How was I to begin and keep this relationship? God isn’t physically here, how do I talk to Him? What do I say? I had a Bible and I had prayer, but for some reason, I didn’t put the two together and I didn’t really do anything about all this. I’ve always been more of a thinker and a hearer than a doer (James 1:22 “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”). And I know it’s a lame excuse, shouldn’t even be used as one but, I’ve never liked reading, and prayer has always been boring and long and pointless to me. But one thing that God placed on my heart at D-Now was that nothing else matters except for living for Him, spreading His Word, telling people the gospel. But my idea of witnessing was going on a mission trip to, like Africa with 50 other Christians. Witnessing can and should be done wherever we go.
So I never thought we could go on a mission trip because we were (and still are) poor… and shy… and weren’t even attending a church anymore because we had moved and hadn’t found a church yet. We were out of church for about 6 years. But even in those six years we went to VBS twice, AWANA for a few months, my friend’s church a couple times, D-Now at the same friend’s church, our grandparent’s church whenever we visited them, and our aunt’s church a few times. We visited a church in Carthage, the town where we had just moved to, and we really didn’t like it. It was like it was all a fake. Like routine. Like normal “Christian” homes.
Not long after that-it may have been the next week-we found another church. We had just joined a homeschool group and one of the ladies in the group I guess had told Mama about their church in Kosciusko which is a town half an hour from Carthage. So we went on a Wednesday night, my three younger siblings to AWANA, my older sister and I to youth, and Mama went to big church. We were 30 minutes late and like I said earlier shy, so Mama brought us to the youth room and introduced us to Brother Jimmy: the youth leader, music leader, and an old college friend of my Daddy’s. Brother Jimmy introduced us to the youth and some of them to us. It was awesome. We walked in and Brother Jimmy said to say hi to us and they’re like “Hey!” And one girl is like “Hi, I’m Nikki! You’re pretty!” We made friends and loved hearing Brother Jimmy and Brother Derrick (the pastor) and Mrs. Pam (the youth Sunday school teacher) talk about the Bible and God and Jesus and Christ and us and our lives and what we should do and shouldn’t do, pointing it out and convicting us and we get it and understand it and act on it.
Brother Jimmy sometimes gives us challenges. Like wearing a bracelet to remember to watch what we say and holding a rock for a week to represent the burden of sin and a couple weeks ago we fasted and prayed. Some of us fasted from food, but mainly we personalized it and fasted from whatever kept us from praying the most. I still have plenty of questions about life, God, this relationship, and many other things, but I have a feeling it’ll all be sorted out and I now know what the purpose of life is- to bring glory to God through giving our lives to Him, and to tell others about Him. The song Trust and Obey really sums it up. “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Anyone can live for God, in fact, that’s why Jesus died on the cross- to cleanse us of our sins and to have a personal relationship with each of us. But He also gave us a choice. We don’t have to live for God, but that is what He made us for. Christians, don’t be discouraged if you have troubles in your life. This is only the world, and God has overcome the world. When our journey is done we shall be rewarded and live in Heaven with our Savior forever. No matter what life throws at you, Jesus is still in control and you are safe in His arms. Louie Giglio has really helped me to understand all this. Please watch some (or all) of his videos. I suggest starting with his Indescribable sermon. And also watch Flaming Tongues of Fire on You-tube. That is all. Thank you, God bless, bye-bye!