My parents were not believers when I was young—even though we attended church every Sunday, and they were youth leaders in the church. They knew tradition and religion, but they didn’t know Jesus in a personal way.
That changed when I was seven, and my mother went to the hospital to give birth to my youngest brother. While she was there, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctors told her she had six months to live. This was 1965, and treatments were very different than they are today. She had just had a C-section and they wanted to do a dramatic surgery the next day. My parents hesitated on that decision, then made arrangements to fly to the Mayo Clinic instead.
The pastor who came to visit my mother in the hospital didn’t believe in heaven or hell. The pastor in the church my parents attended didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. (The Church falling away from the truth of the gospel is not a new thing.) On the flight to the Mayo Clinic, my mother said a prayer: “If there is a God—before I die, let me know the truth so I can tell my sons.” She expected the Lord would tell her to be Jewish, or Catholic, or Baptist, or some other denomination—those were the expressions of religion with which they were familiar.
The Mayo Clinic did a very thorough work-up over several days. A doctor came in the room late at night and said, “Mrs. Jackson, I don’t have an explanation, but the masses and the tumors that were a part of your diagnosis when you came—we can’t find them. Go home and raise your babies.” My mother had been miraculously healed.
A few months later, as she was washing dishes, my mother heard an audible voice say, “You asked to know the truth before you died.” “Well, yes, I did,” she responded. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the voice said. She opened the Bible and found John 14:6. “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
My mother understood the answer to the prayer she offered on the airplane. The truth is not about a denomination. It’s about a person, whose name is Jesus. If there’s been one lesson that I have taken from watching my parents and the influence of their lives on mine, it’s to understand the truth begins with the person of Jesus.
The Sunday school teacher at my parents’ church was an airline pilot, and he was born again. My parents stopped by his house one Sunday after service, and they knelt at a coffee table in the pilot’s living room and asked Jesus to be Lord of their lives with a simple prayer like this:
Heavenly Father, I am a sinner and I need a Savior. I believe Jesus is Your Son, and that He died on a cross for my sins. I believe You raised Him to life again for my justification. Forgive me of my sins. I forgive everyone who has sinned against me. Jesus, be Lord of my life. I want to serve You as Lord and King. I thank You that I now belong to the family of God. In Jesus’ name, amen.
My parents becoming Christians profoundly changed their lives and our home. I walked into the kitchen one day and said, “What’s happened to you? You’re different.” The temperature in our home had gone down by several factors, and they told me they asked Jesus to come live in their hearts. I said, “Well, I want to do that!” So, I knelt on the kitchen floor and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. I was baptized a few weeks later in the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. My spiritual formation didn’t start in a church, it didn’t start at the altar, and it didn’t start in a traditional baptismal space. I initially got to know the Lord through my parents’ faith.
Just as God revealed Himself to my mom that day in the kitchen, we need God to reveal Himself to us in a new way—to show where we adhere to traditions or culture, instead of knowing and following Him. It is time for a breakthrough. We need it in our hearts, and we need it in our homes—because we desperately need it in the world beyond. Our solutions won’t come from politicians or the government. They can only come from God changing the hearts of individual people—and that change must begin with us within the Church.
When God reveals Himself to someone, it changes the trajectory of their lives. As they continue to follow the Lord, it impacts the world around them. My parents’ faith changed our home—then they began a home Bible study—and that group grew into our “little country church” and our ministry today. If you ever doubt the power of one person’s faith, take a few minutes to review the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. God has a purpose and a plan for your life, and the harvest fields are ripe. Let’s tell the Lord, “I’m all in,” return to Him in a new way, and make a difference for Him in our generation.
Onward in Him,
Pastor Allen Jackson