I have experienced loss. Many losses. Most recently, the loss of Pastor Ray Bentley has stung my heart with the pain of loss. If you don’t know him, he is the pastor and founder of a huge church called Maranatha Chapel. I used to live within 10 minutes of this church and I worshipped there at least twice a week until 2006. I started attending this church in 1997 after my daughter who had recently given her heart to the Lord introduced me to the church. At that time the church was located in Rancho Penasquitos and my husband and I attended one service in that location before they moved into their current location in Rancho Bernardo/4S Ranch. My daughter, husband, and I attended weekly services and Bible studies. Our faith grew. My husband was raised Catholic but had not been inside a church in decades. I had grown up in church and believed in the saving grace of Jesus. However, I had fallen away from practicing or walking in my faith until my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. A series of events occurred in June 1997 that sent me to my knees and I surrendered my will to God and begged for his help and salvation. Ray Bentley met with me and my husband privately before my husband died and Ray anointed him with oil and prayed over him. Ray met with me and my daughter several times over the months just after my husband’s death. Ray was my pastor and I flourished under his teachings. After my husband died in 1998, I continued to walk faithfully with God and grew my knowledge of the Bible and even lead a women’s home fellowship in my home. My life became about God and following the path that He wants me on.
Fast forward to January 4, 2022, and I learned of the passing of Ray Bentley the day after he died. I was in disbelief, shocked. I was heartbroken. I was instantly, spiritually, back into those years that I had attended Maranatha Chapel and the location that I had lived in for 10 years. As I drove into the area of Rancho Bernardo/Ranch Penasquitos, my soul became heavy with grief even before I arrived at Maranatha Chapel for the memorial service on January 21, 2022. I was caught up to speed on what Ray had been working on when he died. Prior to this time, I had gone through 15 years of trials and tribulations and I have been fellowshipping at Journey Community Church in La Mesa, by the present time. But more on that later…
I attended Journey Community Church that night, Friday night, as I often do and my cousin/roommate met me there and was uplifted by prayer. As I often do, on Sunday, I like to watch streamed online church. Many times, l watch the sermon again from Journey Community Church. This morning, however, I decided to stream Maranatha Chapel’s online service. I was blessed and engulfed in the Spirit. After the sermon was finished, I stood up and looked out of the window at the bright, sunny day, and asked God, who should I hang out with today? The television, still on and streaming from Maranatha Chapel via YouTube, suddenly came alive with Anne Graham Lotz’s sermon at Maranatha Chapel from February 2021. I sat back down.
Anne Graham Lotz was speaking on the Holy Spirit and loneliness. A small laugh escaped me as I turned my attention back to the television. I knew God had just answered my prayer. He wanted me to spend time with Him today. I felt inspired to write this post and share my heart with the world. At Ray’s memorial service, all the awesome speakers who came and spoke, some on video, has awakened that call of discipleship in me. This is profound because at Journey Community Church we have just started a series on discipleship and stepping into that…taking a step forward in faith.
Now if you know anything about Ray Bentley’s teaching you know that one of his common phrases is “step into the story”. This phrase repeatedly has reminded me to take a step in discipleship. I have spent the last 10 or so years completing my education and starting a new career in counseling as a marriage and family therapist. I feel somewhat settled in my position and have been searching for ways to get back involved with the church and resume discipleship. So, as with God, he uses all of our experiences to lead us to Him, and while I mourn the loss of Ray Bentley, I feel reunited with that body of Christ that he has lead for over 20 years and feel the connection with the body of Christ at Journey Community Church.
I’ve known for a while that moving back to the area of Rancho Bernardo/4S Ranch was not what God was calling me to do. I had to leave the memories of my life with Alfredo and raising my daughter behind because there was so much pain involved in that season of my life. My daughter is all grown up, has a family and a career all her own and is walking her own path with the Lord. As I see our paths diverging I have been praying and watching for some kind of direction for my own journey.
As with everything I do, I will continue to lean into the gentle, whisper of the Lord guiding me which way he wants me to go. I continue to struggle with aging and the pain of arthritis but I feel my purpose has come clear. I’ve known since 1997 that my purpose has been to point people to Jesus but the Lord needed to do some deep house cleaning within me. I’m now ready to follow Jesus down my journey’s path to whatever He has got for me. I re-invented myself as a therapist and have been delivered from the earthly desire of chasing after men and basically anything in the secular world. At 62 years old, I have no boundaries between walking with Jesus and sharing Jesus. I am free to be me, a child of God.
As the months and years continue, I will see and experience the unfolding of scripture in the world and fervently wait for Jesus’ return. I will also be a voice in the wilderness leading people to Jesus. For He is coming back soon. I truly believe that. Maybe not in my lifetime, because who knows when God will finally call me home, but certainly in the lifetimes of my grandchildren. And if not, I pray my grandchildren can carry the torch forward to the next generation to continue the faith of Jesus Christ.
So, God used Ray Bentley’s word for the year of Breakthrough and his passing to empower me to take a step in Ed Noble’s current series of authentically following Jesus in my Best Life.
Click the links below to follow Maranatha Chapel and learn the stories of prophecy by Ray Bentley.