Stumbling Blocks

From The Holy Spirit and Christian Testimonies by C. Marie,

“Stephanie Crowns” was brought up by a family who rarely attended church services, and if they had, it was during some selective Easter Sundays and Christmas Day mornings. Inside of sanctuaries, they worn newly bought formal clothes and presented themselves with beliefs that they looked good and appropriate to all who noticed them. But over the years, while those holidays were associated with big dinners, desserts, gifts, bunnies and Santa Clause, the focus on the Lord became more optional, while those celebrations still symbolized those particular holy holidays.

By some years later, “Stephanie” had aged and became an adult Christian woman who had a hunger and thirst for developing in the Holy Spirit, and growing in the faith. She hardly ever walked inside of sanctuaries. But the time came when she had a strong demand from within that stuck on her for a while, which constantly convinced her that she needed to attend a church service somewhere. She had some hesitations, due to an issue that involved one’s outward image inside of a sanctuary, as she and her household were accustomed to receiving backlash from the public at times, because of their appearance.

As a single-parent mother who had very little income at the time, the only garments that “Stephanie” had were a pair of house slippers that she worn outside of her home, and an old hand-me down outfit that should had been discarded long before she received it.

James 1:9, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:”

After “Stephanie” surrendered and planned to attend the next church service somewhere, she continued to be uncomfortable because she believed that her and her children’s lack of clothing would cause a lot of unwanted negative attention on them.

When “Stephanie” finally took her children to church with her, they all sat in the last row in the sanctuary because she did not want anybody to notice them. However, she was able to observe many of the people who screamed out their praises, ran around, stomped their feet on the ground, and jerked their bodies around.

Prior to that day, “Stephanie” basically thought that God was a super spirit who was able to step in and out of people’s time, but had not involved Himself with people since the days of The New Testament. She also changed her perception of the Holy Spirit, as she came to acknowledge Him as one who presently interacts with others.

Jeremiah 23:23-24, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.”

At one point in that same church service, “Stephanie” prayed to God, cried, as well as examined and judged herself in the Christian faith.

St. Matthew 6:1-6, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

“Stephanie” also gave God some explanations of her past offenses, as she repented remorsefully of them. Besides those, she admitted how she sincerely felt about all types of issues that she went through, threw away any grudges and animosities that she had against others, as well as asked God for complete forgiveness of her own transgressions.

Psalms 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”

1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

After a while, “Stephanie” realized that her time at the church had passed by quickly because the service was almost over and people were invited to come down the altar for ministering purposes. During the altar call session, she walked her children down the aisle for prayers.

1 Peter 5:5-7, “…, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

“Stephanie” noticed that they stood next to an elderly age woman. As soon as that particular woman was touched by somebody’s oiled finger, without a bend of the woman’s own knees, she jumped backwards as if she was hit by a large cannonball. Then the woman safely landed into the arms of some people who stood behind her. “Stephanie” became flabbergasted because she never saw anything like that before. After the woman was gently laid down on the ground next to some other senior age women, they all shook and twitched their bodies over the floor.

Because of such observations, “Stephanie” became frightened and it increased after she continued to watch the elderly age women. From what she witnessed from a woman who was on the floor closest to her, before that woman had a white sheet placed on her, as the other women were being covered meantime, the woman’s mouth was wide-open and her eyelid was shut closed. But underneath the woman’s eyelids, her eyes uncontrollably flicked back and forth in an involuntarily fast rate. Meanwhile, the woman moved her body around as if she was in a seizure, but no foam came out of her mouth. Everybody else round “Stephanie” who observed the same incident acted unconcerned and nonchalant about the entire situation, as if they were accustomed to such ministerings, unlike her back then.

The pastor of that particular church was well-regarded by his congregation, …. But while “Stephanie” and her children attended the services there, they received various mistreatments.

Romans 12:3-5, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

The pastor and some of the congregation bluntly made their views known. One being that godly people, who were real Christians, were supposed to have been too blessed to be financially poor.

St. Luke 6:20, “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.”

1 Timothy 6:5-8 and 9-12, “Perverse disputings …, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

St. Luke 16:19-22, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;”

It was also preached at least once that God would never allow His true worshippers to honor Him each Sunday in “raggedy” clothing. Some amounts of the people in that particular sanctuary were disgusted in “Stephanie” and her children. They came across as if she and her family were on God’s bad side. Nevertheless, she and her children had some undesirable incidences from a fraction of that congregation.

Proverbs 15:16, “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

Proverbs 16:8, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.”

Romans 16:17-18, “… mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Different sermons were preached about damnation and people who attended church services but were not children of God. While those went on, a number of mean glances and dirty looks by some of the church members went towards “Stephanie” and her children’s direction. On one particular Sunday, right after she and her children walked inside of the church after the services had already began, a female who was on the pulpit preaching announced how ushers had very important jobs to do and sometimes they might find that they ushered the devil. Then the female threw some other direct insults towards “Stephanie” and her children’s direction.

Leviticus 19:15, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

James 2:1-6 and 8-9, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor… If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

1 John 3:17-18, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

In addition to that, the pastor made it obvious to those who paid attention and noticed so, that he disliked “Stephanie’s” presence in that church. She never paid the annual membership dues for her household. Neither had she ever played a part in any of the fundraisers, bakery sales, nor dinner plates in order to help pay for the fees. Yet she believed that nobody there kept tabs on her to be concerned, involved, or offended if she participated in any of the functions or not. However, she and her children were not individuals who were considered to have been significant, permanent visitors there either.

Outside of that, as the sanctuary stayed very Spirit-filled, a portion of the congregation sympathized heartily to “Stephanie” and her children. She identified that group as those who were mostly single- parent mothers, both senior age and young, although the one who graciously affected her the most was a young married mother. All of the women were poor, but not to the extent that she was at. After they introduced themselves to her, she was given sincere apologies from almost all of those who reached out to her. Those were based upon the remorse that they felt, due to how they acknowledged that it was unreasonably some of the other church members versus her and her children. Afterwards, they always gave her hugs, prayers, encouragements, and had their own solo, personal collections of items that they offered to her from their own belongings, for her and her children to keep.

Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

Colossians 3:23-24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

“Stephanie” inevitably crossed paths with another church and learned that the pastors were a married couple named “Mr. and Mrs. Lewis.”

“The Lewis’s” regularly told the congregation to dig deep into their pockets and give faithfully to the Lord. If the church members had no money of their own to do such, then they were advised to borrow it from other people in order to get blessed from God in return. Afterwards, they were supposed to receive enough money from Him and part of it was to pay back their individual creditors who honorably helped them support that Christian church.

“Stephanie” showed mercy to others inside and outside of the sanctuary. She did not have money to give, but found other means to bless people as to how she was able to.

Whenever it was the time for the tithe and offering collections, some amount of the congregation always stared at “Stephanie” because everybody had to stand up and walk down to the altar during that moment. They wanted to see if she would trust God and place her faith in Him, as whatever amount she gave, He was to give her more than enough of the money back. But whenever those particular individuals saw that she remained in her seat on some days, or walked down to the altar with nothing to give on other days, she always felt tension on her. Because she was unable to put money into that church, sermons that had negative tones were often preached about how poor people, who did not tithe, were to remain poor because God was to close His floodgates from Heaven to them, which were to hinder their blessings and stop everything that He would have wanted to bless them with.

St. Matthew 23:23, “…, scribes and Pharisees, …for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

St. Matthew 12:7, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.”

“Stephanie” sometimes intentionally walked in late with her children inside of the sanctuary to catch some of the sermons before the congregation was dismissed. “The Lewis’s” noticed.

Then the time came when “Stephanie” clearly knew that she was about to learn a lot of things that day and have an unexpected experience at the church that was pastored by “The Lewis’s.” As soon as she and her children stepped inside of the sanctuary, and before she made eye-contact with anybody, the atmosphere hit her hard from a clear sensation that was tension-filled and hostile, which instantly had her frown.

At one time during that service, “Stephanie” and some amounts of the church members stood up and praised God. Then “Mrs. Lewis,” who stood on the pulpit, began to preach a long sermon. The whole oration was harsh, cruel and it all pertained to “Stephanie” and her children. “Stephanie” and her children were spitefully slandered and mocked, while they were made out to be everything else but children of God, who the devil supposedly made poor and physically unattractive in the eyesight of God and people. At one point in that sermon, “Stephanie” was falsely accused of trying to find a man, as “Mrs. Lewis” announced afterwards that no man would ever want to be suckered enough to help “Stephanie” raise her supposedly hopeless, substandard children who were to have bad futures ahead of them. So as “Stephanie” and her children were labeled to have been individuals who were unacceptable to the Lord, they were also branded as being evil and fleshy devils too. The actual statements that came out of “Mrs. Lewis’s” mouth were much more offensive and nasty. On top of that, throughout the condemnation speeches, “Mrs. Lewis” repeatedly expressed, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jeremaih 29:9, “For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.”

Ezekiel 13:6-7, “They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?

“Stephanie” knew that she experienced enough of what went on that day there, which led her to grab her children, walk out of the building, and she never seen “Mrs. Lewis” since.

(Some time later,) “Stephanie” strongly felt directed from within that she needed to attend different randomly chosen churches every week for a while. When she had done so, the teachers began to talk about how they wanted to preach about a certain topic, but the Holy Spirit informed them that they seriously needed to preach about something else. Then in their own different words, they claimed that there was a special sermon that needed to be presented to the congregation. Some churches went further and specifically stated that somebody was present in the building who needed to hear a personal word from God. As it became predictable occurrences to her, the different teachers continuously preached about topics that always pertained to her experiences and conflicts.

“Stephanie” understood that she needed to treat her overall situations as firsthand, major, educational life experiences.

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