2018+ – the New Beginning Christ has Given Me

My family in Christ,

Last year was a year I hope I never forget. There was a fundamental change to my spiritual life. Despite decades of church attendance and Bible study I started 2018 with a weak faith. To be absolutely honest, I think it was less than the size of a mustard seed, but I held onto the hope that God would somehow turn it around. He did, and I definitely was not expecting the roller-coaster ride that was to come! By Easter 2018 the government’s actions had brought me to a low point, a very dark place. I felt completely empty, drained of all my optimism and zest for life. But from that point onward the Holy Spirit led me on a spiritual journey which saw a weakened faith destroyed and replaced with one stronger than anything I had ever imagined!

One of the first things which the Spirit taught me was a new appreciation for a wider range of Christian music. For decades I’d been singing hymns to the accompaniment of a ‘church’ organ. To be honest, I’d been getting bored with this ‘old style’ of singing praises to God, but I had no idea of what could replace it. But this ‘moving with the times’ is asomething we must always strive to achieve:

“Sing a new song to the Lord, for He did wondrous things;

His right hand and His holy arm saved peoples for Him.

The Lord made known His salvation;

He revealed His righteousness in the sight of the Gentiles”

(Psalm 98:1-2 NKJV)

Anyone who has read my early blogs will know that for a few months I attended a Pentecostal church. And upon entering, this is what I heard:

What a magnificent sound! But what about the hymns? Does God really accept His praises to be sung without hymns? It would seem so as I felt no hint of being naughty by participating in this great act of corporate worship. The song in the video above is by Elim Sound, and after my second visit I began to investigate other songs by this group. Fantastic! I started listening to Premier Praise and was absolutely captivated by the variety and emotive power of contemporary Christian praise music.

In my head though there were still lurking thoughts about how the death and resurrection of Christ could possibly have had such a positive impact on humanity (a, maybe even the, central Christian belief).  And then, like a bolt from the blue, I heard this:

Wow, that’s it!!! My progression in the faith had well and truly started. (My resultant ideas on this subject can be found here.) Christ now became firmly established as the cornerstone of my faith…

…and it seems to be getting stronger every day. As I listened to Christian radio a lot more, searched on Youtube and was recommended songs by other people, Elim Sound kind of became overshadowed by Hillsong, Jeremy Camp, SOUTHVILLE, Anthony Evans, Rend Collective, Darlene ZschechBethel Music, Tim Timmons, Lincoln Brewster, Pat Barrett, Elevation Worship, Virtical Worship, Nichole Nordeman, Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, Lauren Daigle and Ryan Stevenson. And, even though a very small part of it is theologically questionable, [2] I can’t stop loving this song by the Planetshakers:

Now I am able to listen to many such junes every day and it is something that definitely enriches my spiritual life.

Out of all the ups and downs of last year, the milstone for me was the heart-wrenching decision I had to make over whether to return to my spiritual home or to keep on struggling to be a part of the Pentecostal community. I cannot over-emphasize the task: this was really difficult for me. I needed help, and begged the One from Whom all help comes:

“In my distress I called to the LORD, I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry came before him, into his ears”

(Psalm 18:6 NIV)

The result of this can be read here. And because I put my trust in God, I now have a much better relationship with Him. Gone (hopefully for good!) are the days when God would be dismissed as a far away being or an abstract idea. God is with me and He is great:

I can now wholeheartedly say that:

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge…”

(Psalm 18:2 NIV)

and stand with others to proclaim that:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging”

(Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).

For I am no longer ashamed:

Yes, my Pentecostal sojourn has emphasised to me the need of every true Christian to persue some form of evangelical activity, whether this be face-to-face or otherwise. In my case, I hope being an evangelist is more than just the second part of my blogger’s name! Since I started blogging on Christianity in mid-August last year I do not know what effect, if any, I have had on new or non-Christians. Nevertheless I find blogging to be a good spiritual exercise. For one thing, I feel the power of the Holy Spirit leading me to read the Bible daily and to write. [3] I am also taught to prayerfully reflect on my life: please God give me the grace to avoid being a hypocrit and to practice what I preach!

And I must not forget the great honour I have in getting to know so many of you people around the world. Thanks for showing that our spiritual family reaches all aroud the globe and is not hampered by geographical or cultural differences. [4]

God bless you.

Endnotes

[1] cf. Deut. 30:6, Rom. 2:29b; Col. 2:11-12.

[2] 2 mins and 6 seconds from the start of the song, we hear the lyrics, “My soul longs for Jesus, He’s the Saviour of sin. One has to ask: why would Christ want to save sin? In the first 3 chapters of Genesis we read that sin was never intended to be part of God’s creation. God did give us free will though, and the first couple freely chose to trust a created creature rather than the Creator. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b NIV).

[3] In the latter case, though, I am sometimes a very unwilling servant. Like Jonah, I try to distance myself from fulfilling this responsibility, and in a similar way to the events in Jonah the Holy Spirit does not allow my mind to rest if I am uncooperative!

[4] Apologies to those of you who may be a bit exasperated by my political blogs and reblogs. I think that, whoever leads a government, there will unfortunately always be groups that are looked down upon – unless capitalists miraculously start to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around them! And Christians must always remember the outcasts.

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