Only by Love

It is only by love that our hearts continue to be won.

Juanita Kretschmar mothered three children; spent decades serving alongside Merlin, her pastor husband; by prayer led a New York health/community e-Van-gelism outreach and a tourist attraction ministry in Florida; and now serves two small churches and oversees a full-power FM station in the Florida Keys that reaches the world via Internet. She says "ALL credit to GOD, our CEO."

Although I'd been raised in the church, as an adult I had no private devotional life. I knew all the Bible stories, but I did not pursue regular, personal Bible study or devotions. My husband was the the preacher; he gave the Bible studies.

I was raising my family, working with community, leading church music, and running a clinic for the poor in Brazil, where we served as missionaries. 

Just before returning to the United States, I was forced to rest in the hospital to recover from a miscarriage, and someone gave me audiotapes of sermons by Pastor Glenn Coon, Sr., about the “ABCs” of prayer and claiming Bible promises.

At first I found them merely entertaining. Then I decided to read the Bible verses he shared. Soon I began searching for promises to claim. I would read God the verse, tell Him I understood this promise was for me, and thank Him for giving it to me--assuming that the gift really was mine. 

I began praying over every little need or question. As I claimed His promises, answers came almost instantly. I devoured the Bible and concordance, looking for more and more promises to meet more and more needs. It was as though God was there, just wariting for me to ask. Nothing seemed impossible! 

Soon after, my husband and I began ministering to a couple in a troubled marriage. The husband had moved out, and they were talking divorce. After I showed the wife how to claim Bible promises, we asked God to fulfill Isaiah 42:16. I was certain God would open her husband's eyes and bring him home. Didn't God always answer my prayers? Weeks passed, then months, and there was no change, except in the wife's life. I wondered why God delayed. One night as we prayed on the phone, I heard her pray  “God, if he never comes home, please save them both anyway.”

This was a huge contrast from someone who recently had wished harm for the other woman in her husband’s life.

That evening I prayed silently while cleaning the house: God, is there another promise we should be claiming? What if her husband doesn't go home after all? Have I misled his wife? Have I been wrong to encourage her? What else should I be doing?

I stopped praying. There was nothing more I had to say. Suddenly, a thought-voice spoke in my mind: YOU should go talk to her husband!

I dismissed the idea instantly, thinking, I can't go. I wouldn't know what to say. 

Again that thought-voice spoke a command into my mind: Ask for the Holy Spirit. That was out of the question for various reasons, includedous reasons, including that in my teens I’d heard a preacher warn about the Holy Spirit, saying that if you ask to receive the Holy Spirit, you’re likely asking for trouble. I’d decided never to ask. So instead I prayed, “God, just tell me what other promise I should be claiming.”

Again the thought came, YOU go talk to the husband. Again I replied, “But I don’t know what to say!” Twice more I was instructed, Ask for the Holy Spirit.

I put away my vacuum and, with much hesitancy, took my Bible and went to my bedroom. I opened my Bible on the bed, knelt beside it, and put my hand on the text in Luke 11:13. I prayed God’s promise to Him: “Dear God, You say right here, ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"  

I continued, "God, I am asking for the Holy Spirit so I will know what to say when I go to visit that man, who is such a sinner! You said that when I ask, I receive, so I believe I  I have received your Holy Spirit. Thank You, in Jesus' name, Amen."

I paused. Nothing happened. I prayed again. Again, nothing happened. I'd learned that you don't stop asking after the first prayer. So I read His promise and claimed for perhaps thirty minutes. Finally, I realized God knew I was reluctant about His gift. I wondered if I could prevent this couple's reunion because of my unwillingness. I confessed this to Him and asked Him to help me to want it. Then I told God I really did want the Holy Spirit, and ǁŽƵůĚĂĐĐĞƉƚƚŚĂƚŐŝŌ͘/ƚǁĂƐƚŚĞŶ͕ĮŶĂůůLJ͕ƚŚĂƚ/ďĞĐĂŵĞ aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

In my mind's eye I could see the sillhouute of three crosses to distant hill. I saw no Person, but I was aware of Who had been on the center cross. The thought-voice spoke in my mind: Your temper is sin, to be confessed as sin and forgiven. 

I was stunned. It was true, I’d had a bad temper and even tantrums when I was displeased as a newlywed. But now ŝit was under control! No more doors slammed until the plaster fell, rarely tears from sheer anger. I’d never claimed to be perfect, but over the years I’d told myself that since my temper was inherited, it was excusable. Now, I was supposed to call even my mature control of that temper was sin against Him. I accepted and thanked Him for His promise of forgiveness and cleansing. A moment later the thought-voice seemed to speak again: Your spirit of criticism is sin, to be confessed as sin and forgiven. I'd always thought I was gifted with a "discerning" spirit. Often I had inwardly criticized hypocrisy in others. For example, during ministers' meetings, I'd judge the way some pastors uttered loud and fervent "Amens" to the prayers of visiting union or division or General Conference leaders, in contrast to what I thought was relative silence when a "lowly" intern was praying.  Also, the sight of a loved one’s weight problem continually provoked my inner condemnation. Now I realized my spirit of criticism was more repulsive in God's sight than someone else's supposed apple-polishing, seemingly unfair monetary unfair monetary decisions, or a loved one’s genuine struggle with excess pounds. It was my sins that sent Him to the cross. 

Almost in shock, I again claimed the promise of 1 John 1:9, calling the spirit of criticism a sin. I accepted and thanked God for His forgiveness. As quickly as I thanked Him, another thought came:

As quickly as I thanked Him, another thought came: Your impatient tone of voice and the unkind look on your face toward your family is sin, to be confessed as sin and forgiven. (He helped me understand He was referring to those mornings when I had a headache after being up late claiming promises with someone the evening before--while I had been excusing my poor family behavior!) I quickly called those behaviors sins also and accepted forgiveness. Then I asked God, "Please, just forgive it all.  Now there were no excuses or justified reasons that I had used before for my attitudes and actions. At that moment I knew I was standing fully exposed before God.

I thanked God for forgiveness and waited, expecting more rebuke.  No thought-voice spoke. I prayed again, “Please, Lord, tell me what else I need to confess. I don’t want any more sin. I have been so blind, so busy straightening everyone else out, so busy praying for everyone else. I've been the sinner all along. I thank you, Jesus, for all Your forgiveness; I accept it. But I’m sure there is more sin! Please tell me if there is anything else, because I want to be forgiven of everything.”

No additional conviction came. Finally, I opened my eyes and looked down at the Bible, lying open on the bed to 1 John 1:9. I had never before noticed a promise on the opposite page, which seemed to jump out in front of me, saying, And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life" (1 John 2:25, KJV). 

I couldn’t believe it. He would want me? I got up off my knees and walked over to the window of my bedroom. It was for my sins specifically that He had gone to that cross. I was the sinner, self-righteous and hypocritical. Yet He loved me and wanted me with Him in heaven. Everything was amazing!

He was telling me in 1 John 2:25 that I had eternal life. I got back on my knees to thank Him and weep at such love. I told Him, "God, I want to see You. What kind of God are You, anyway? You have waited so long, so courteously ... I want to see You!"

It was as if for the first time my eyes were opened and I was free of the need for pretense, free of a fascade. I had no idea I had been carrying a burden all my life, yet now I knew was free. I was embarrassed for not even seeing the portion of Luke 11:13 where it says the Holy Spirit is the good gift of the Father. 

The inner peace was amazing. The next morning I began apologizing to family members I had hurt by my attitude and words. Then I went to see the man for whom we'd been praying. I told him of my experience the previous evening, how I was the sinner whom God was waiting to help. As I shared with him the joy and peace I had found in specific confession of sins and acceptance of Christ's forgivenss and cleansing, the man told me he didn't know a person could really be happy "being good." But he said he would give anything ot have th epeace of mind I had found. (He added that 95 percent of his patients would get well if they had it also!)

Way more than twenty years have passed since that experience. Eventually, that man was reunited with his wife, and many changed lives resulted from their joint ministry.

Besides freeing me from the power of an ugly temper, Jesus gave me an unquenchable sense of urgency about His soon coming and a desire to tell others of His love and mercy. He enables me to follow the counsel I'd heard my hsband share many times but, somehow, had never really heard: "The first thing to do in the morning, as you come to consciousness, is to let God know that you choose Him, that you want His control of your mind and life, that  you want to be possessed by His Holy Spirit.” And I have found that in order for God to be truly the center of my life, I must surrender to these specific guidelines every morning: 

1. BEFORE I look at any magazine, book, or newspaper, or listen to the radio, watch TV, answer the phone, text, or check emails, I invite the Holy Spirit in to teach me more about Jesus. 

2. I MUST spend time reading His Word. 

3. I CHOOSE never to leave His presence until a passage of Scripture has impressed itself upon my mind as being a revelation from Him that day. 

(After 46 years of following this daily path, I can say it is only by love that my heart continues to be won. In awe, I'm honored to love Him in return!)

Juanita Kretschmar mothered three children; spent decades serving alongside Merlin, her pastor husband; by prayer led a New York health/community e-Van-gelism outreach and a tourist attraction ministry in Florida; and now serves two small churches and oversees a full-power FM station in the Florida Keys that reaches the world via Internet. She says "ALL credit to GOD, our CEO."