pastor John's House is the personal website of Pastor John D. Clark Sr., of Burlington, NC
pastor John's House is the personal website of Pastor John D. Clark Sr., of Burlington, NC

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Gary Savelli

"How the Truth Found Me!"

I was raised in a very proper middle-class home in San Francisco, CA. As far back as I can remember, I felt very "special", and had a very deep respect for spiritual things. As a young boy, my mother told me I was very pleasant, and she could leave me alone for the whole day, only to come back and find me making some little project, or reading in my room quietly. I do remember wanting to, and liking being alone. Later in my life, I remember being made to feel that wanting to be quiet and alone was a strange thing - but I liked the opportunity just to think and be by myself. So many thoughts would go through my mind as a young person... one thought in particular stands out to me and that was my wanting to be happy.

One of the earliest things I remember about God, was when I was 6 years old or so. My little sister and I would make pretend refrigerators out of old cardboard boxes. We would go to the corner store and buy sunflower seeds or small candy and store them in our refrigerator. One time in particular, I recall stealing some of her sunflower seeds. Not a lot - just a few. That night while laying in bed, the fear of God came upon me, and struck my conscience. It was a "darkness" with fear. As if I would die, and I could not control my weeping over what I had done to my 3 year old sister who could not defend herself, and really didn't notice the difference. But I did. I cried for hours until I fell asleep. The next day, I took what money I had, went to the store, and bought several packs of sunflower seeds and put them in her refrigerator. That was the first time I ever recall repenting.

Another time I recall being with friends in the neighborhood and there was a chubby boy named Johnny on a bike that drove up to us. My friends made fun of his appearance, and taunted him. Finally they pushed his bike over, and he left crying. Again that evening, the picture of that haunted me. I could not stop crying about it. It was frightening to me to have mistreated someone.

As time went on, my Grandmother became very ill. So much so, that she, in desperation, went to a Christian Science practitioner as they advertised "healing" at their reading rooms. Evidently she had some miraculous healing, which I still do not know much about, but she dragged our whole family to the Christian Science church every Sunday. There I went to Sunday School, and I recall liking it very much. I hated getting up on Sundays to get all dressed up and such, but after I got there, and they talked about Jesus, the 10 Commandments and such, I felt very good feelings. The more respect I paid to God, the more at peace I felt. That stuck with me all the way through my young life.

When I was 12 or 13 we stopped attending those services. I don't know the reason why. For many years in my early teens, I drifted. Farther and farther away from God. I was never a real "good" sinner. My conscience would not let me be. But I did follow friends into drugs and alcohol, and the other normal sins that attend being young and foolish. I found a deep interest in music in my later teen years, and made that my profession. We played in the local nightclubs and dances. All the while, I was wanting to be happy - but never could find it in anything I tried. My "un" happiness led me to hide in a life of daily getting "high" with the group of people I was associated with. It was a miserable existence during those years. So much so, that it all seems like a "haze" to me now. And something I don't much like to think about - and God has been gracious enough to blot out many of those memories.

One of my drummer friends, who was very "wild" in those days, had some kind of experience with God. His life dramatically changed, and it made a good impression on me. I felt if God could help him, God could help me. He was going to a Pentecostal church and was in a music group there. The church choir and music group was predominately made up of precious black folks, and sang the kind of music I liked best... something with a "beat". They invited me to play guitar on a gospel music album they were making, and I decided to do it. I went to their practices, and was very impressed with their kindness. Something was different about these musicians. After playing with musicians that were by and large "spaced out" most of the time, this was refreshing. They were courteous, and helpful. And they talked about God and Jesus a lot, which did not put me off at all. For the first time in years, I began to read my Bible, as well as many other spiritual kinds of books like hare Krishna, UFO books, Rosicrucian guides, Christian Science books. Anything that mentioned "God" I was for. I was searching. It was a "double" life during that time. Half of the time I spent searching for God, and the other half living the only way I knew how with the sinners I called friends. Everything seemed to be getting less important to me except the Bible and Jesus.

Meanwhile, I was attending the church every so often, and enjoyed the Pentecostal services. I especially liked the fiery preaching, and more than that, the services when the holy Ghost was touching people. The people in those meetings were not ashamed of the power of God. I remember seeing people praying with their hands lifted up, and older ladies speaking in tongues. Sometimes people would start shouting, or "fall out" when the pastor prayed for them. At those times, I would tell God, "If I ever love you Lord, I want it to be that way". I really meant it.

One night, I recall being VERY depressed. My life was going nowhere. Our music group was not progressing - more problems than ever. I had been drinking, when the phone rang. My old musician friend from the church asked if I would join the church music group at a local restaurant.

When I got there, they began to ask me about my relationship with God. They asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus. I told them I was not ready for that. Then they said that I was rejecting Jesus - but I did not want to do that either. So they asked me if I wanted to pray for Jesus to come into my life. I said all right, but I was shocked and embarrassed when they all held hands right in the restaurant, and asked me to "repeat after them" all kinds of things about Jesus. Out of courtesy I did so, but I do remember leaving the restaurant thinking, "what did I just do that for"? I was very confused.

The next day though, my depression seemed to have left me. I felt cleaner. I recall not wanting to do the drugs that my daily routine involved anymore. Soon after, other things started to fall away. I just read my Bible a lot and talked to God. I do feel as if God honored that prayer at the restaurant - because much of it came from my heart. I did really want to love Jesus. I did not know then that "accepting Jesus" was NOT being born again. People were telling me I had been born of the Spirit (because I now wanted to love Jesus) - but I did not feel that I was. I was water baptized later that month - and felt terrible afterwards. I felt I was a hypocrite to be doing that, yet not be "changed" in so many other ways. But I was afraid to tell anyone about what I was feeling. It was God keeping me silent, to avoid men stopping short the work He wanted to do in me.

As time went on, I began to go to a New Believer's class at the Pentecostal place. We had a lot of questions about the baptism of the holy Ghost and speaking in tongues. As a class, we agreed to pray for it at the upcoming Friday night service. I had wanted this experience for the longest time, and as the night approached I felt a great sense of anticipation. I was hoping that receiving the holy Ghost would give me the power to live right and to think right. After the sermon, our group of 17 people came up to the front of the auditorium and began to pray for the holy Ghost. The teachers and others from the congregation came up behind us and laid their hands on us. While praying, the power of God came on me as I had never felt it before. I started weeping uncontrollably, telling God how sorry I was for my sins, and how much I loved Jesus. I was crying out to be baptized with the Spirit. But it did not come. Time seemed to fly by, and there would be waves of feeling God that would come and go. At times, I felt Jesus was right there with me. At other times he seemed so far away. But I kept praying, and crying. All the time with my hands raised, for what I found out later was hours. Finally after being sweaty from head to toe, I was ready to give up. But I remembered people telling us that it would take "tarrying" and not giving up. So I kept on praying. It got late, but finally I felt something I had never felt before. Through the tips of my fingers, down my hands, arms, and then through my body came a "fire". It felt like electricity, but very warm and soft. It began to inflame my insides, and my mouth just lost control. I started making high pitched sounds, and jumping up and down, and finally I realized that there was a language coming out of my mouth, one that I had never learned or heard before - it was beautiful. I lost control of my body completely, and was jumping and running. Though I felt I could stop if I wanted to - but I didn't want to. I just kept shouting and enjoying the presence of God. It went on for more than fifteen minutes. I was weeping uncontrollably with joy. I felt Jesus touch me - and he said, "You are mine now - I have sealed you". I didn't know what "sealed" meant - but that was the word he used.

After the prayer time ended, I almost felt a bit embarrassed by my actions because I had never done anything like that before. But people told me, "you got it!" And I did get it! It was wonderful. I knew that Jesus had changed me. I don't think that I had ever actually seen someone GET the holy Ghost before I did, although I had seen people speak in tongues. In any case, it was Jesus that did it.

I felt washed, and new. I didn't know it then, except in the depths of my heart, but THAT pentecostal experience was when I was born again - not praying in the restaurant like everyone told me I had been.

I started to hear "confusing" things in the coming months. Things that were not feeling right, although I did not know what it was that was wrong. They told me (over the course of time) that I had already been saved, but this experience was just something extra. That doctrine nearly killed me. Spiritually, it could have robbed me of the zeal I had to live a holy life, and to follow the Spirit I had received. It was telling me that something else was greater than what Jesus did for me, even though I knew otherwise deep inside.

So from that early point after my Spirit baptism and onward, my life began to take a different kind of downhill plunge, even though I remained faithful to the religion of Christianity for 15 years, trying to be the "best" Christian I could. I knew something was lacking.

I remember sitting one morning in my living room, praying, and crying out to God for peace and a place to go. I said something like, "God, how am I EVER going to find the truth? There IS NO truth out there. Help me. Send me the truth!" It was heartfelt and real. And I felt as if Jesus heard me, but I didn't even know what I was asking for.

A short while after that, I got a strange envelope in the mail. It was from some ministry in North Carolina that I had never heard of. I thought one of my friends sent it to me, because she was always finding some new off-beat ministry and would send me stuff now and then. I put the envelope in my Bible, unopened, and drove back down to where we were pastoring. I did not open it until many days later.

One evening, I was staying alone, and I went to the bathroom, looking for something to read. The place where we were staying was a small apartment with hardly any furniture or books around, so I grabbed that envelope, which contained 2 or 3 gospel tracts. I started to read them in the bathroom, and I recall one was about "Works". The writer was saying that works DOES matter in salvation, and that we will be judged by our works. That was strange to me (and exciting), because that is what I had been often criticized for implying and saying (our denomination taught that we are saved by grace only, and that works has no part in it). In fact, as I read the tracts, they were speaking everything I had felt from the beginning of my walk with God, but things that people hated me saying all along the way. I had always felt like some sort of "black sheep" in every place I went. But these new words were like water to a man who was dying of thirst. These tracts were different than anything I had ever read before. They reminded me somehow of the day I got the holy Ghost. They brought back those sweet, loving, feelings - full of truth and power. I sent away for a sampling of all the tracts for $1.00 or $2.00. They came quickly, and I devoured them. I would discuss the issues with the pastor that brought me on staff, and he thought I was getting entangled with a "cult". But it sure felt good, even if it was a cult (those were my thoughts at the time)!

After a while it sank in. I began to understand what I was reading. These people were saying that the baptism of the holy Ghost was the actual new birth experience! That is what I felt had happened to me when I received the holy Ghost baptism - but I could never say it. It made so much sense, and explained everything that was going on in Christianity, and in the places I had been. That truth was the answer to ALL my experiences!

But as I spoke about it more, I was criticized, and ostracized by friends and people in the denominations. My best friend (a street evangelist) told me he did not want me passing out the simple tracts I had written any more when I was with him. My other friends in the denominations felt I had "gone off the deep end." My whole life was changing. It was so painful. But it felt SO wonderful!

One final incident in the Assembly of God I recall was a sermon the pastor gave on the holy Ghost baptism. He was telling the congregation that people can receive the holy Spirit in many different ways. Some speak in tongues. Others dance or raise their hands. Others don't say anything, they are silent. The point of his message was that a person did not HAVE to speak in tongues to receive the Spirit. When he finished that part of his sermon, the Spirit of God came on me and said, "You are divorced from this place". It was crystal clear that I was to leave and not come back, but I didn't really understand what was so wrong in what he was preaching. I just knew it was wrong. After that, God told me it was time for me to leave. I did not hesitate.... I was thrilled to love the truth, and forsake error. I turned in my resignation to the Assembly of God quickly (I had become a licensed minister during that time.)

I wrote to the people who produced the tracts, because I knew nobody else who taught these things. I remember writing "fellowship" in one of my letters, and mailing it to the Pioneer Tract Society - hoping that I would feel something back from them - and I did. Because truly, this was the first time I ever felt an open and free fellowship in doctrine. And in the power of the holy Ghost. Pastor Clark mailed me a cassette tape to listen to. I remembered praying before I listened... asking God to NOT make it another one of the Christian teaching things that was so empty of the life of God. I was sick of them. The tape was on the "Antichrist". It described how the spirit of antichrist was the spirit in charge of Christianity - keeping people from knowing what the new birth was. That was where I had been, and even given my whole heart to. Half way through the cassette I had to pull my truck over to the side of the road, and weep. It was full of the life and truth that I had been searching for. Full of the holy Ghost, and the power of God. Jesus had answered my many prayers! The truth had come!!

Space limits me from telling the very many things that happened to me when I left the folks in Christianity. Around this time (in 1993 or so) John Clark, the pastor of that group, got a message from God. And that message was that God is calling every spirit-baptized believer to come out of Christianity. When I heard it I KNEW it was right. That convinced me that these were the saints that I could finally love and be one with. Their God was telling them the same thing my God was telling me!

We were in California - and they were in North Carolina. So over the years, we have made many trips back to see them (and they have come out to see us). We also met Jimmy Tolle and the group in Louisville. These precious folks loved the truth. They are our family in God. It is worth whatever it takes for us to visit them, and feel the good things of God.

Since we were no longer part of "Christianity", we felt the urge to get this truth out to others who might be in the position we were in while in the denominations, so we began a radio program in California. After that, I started the Isaiah 58 Broadcast & Tracts Internet Web Site (www.isaiah58.com) which has been blessed to have found several folks who love the truth too. It has been an honor to come in contact with so many people who have heard what we have heard in the Spirit. I think that many people feel that what we are saying is true - yet VERY FEW love it, and obey it. I understand the pressure they feel when the truth comes to them. But hopefully, they will pursue what the holy Ghost inside them is telling them to do. God is able to get it to those whom He has chosen.

We have been through a lot. But it has been worth it. I have received so much from God, and at times feel so unworthy to have been shown these good and holy things. But God has chosen us. He called me out of Christianity. It was His choice, and He initiated it all. My desire is that in gratitude, I will bear fruit for Jesus.



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