I thought it was just me, but from what I'm hearing, it's not. Those of us who attended The Moody Church service on Easter Sunday were moved beyond words. I even raised a hand during worship, almost two! As a congregation, we were ushered into the presence of our Risen King and experienced genuine celebration of the Easter Holiday. I'm so grateful to have been there. If you want to watch Pastor Lutzer's message, click here.
I have to share with you one of my favorite parts of the service: Star Costello. Star shared her personal story to an audience of 2000+ with boldness and grace. Her story is powerful and real and reflects the amazing, redemptive work of Jesus. Below is what she said, or you can watch the video by clicking here.
"I have seen the Lord bring great healing out of darkness. Growing up, I was taught to try my best, be honest and do good. To my perfectionist ears I heard: be the best and do not show weakness because that is admitting failure. This was fine for the first fifteen years of my life when I found I excelled in school, but I grew in the awareness that not only could I not always be the best, but that I really wasn’t all that good. I was selfish, dishonest, mean to my little sister (and she only deserved it about half the time)—and this just did not fit with what I had been taught or what I expected of myself.
At this same time I struggled with depression, but I did not recognize it as such—instead it was just another way in which I was failing to live up to my own expectations and I feared that I would disappoint those who loved me if I admitted I was not the girl behind the smiles and accomplishments. So, I wore a mask. But it grew heavier and tighter, and harder to keep in place.
I knew I could not be good on my own, so I began looking for a way, a system, anything, that would fill that emptiness and allow me to drop the mask. I looked at and practiced several Eastern religions and philosophies, but these did not suffice. I then discovered Wicca and the occult. In this I thought I had found what I was looking for: real, lasting peace, joy, true purpose for my life. I participated in many occult practices and I admit that for a time the mystery, the seeming of being in harmony with creation, were exciting and met my needs.
But I discovered that the more I practiced the occult and the deeper into it I got, the peace that I thought I had evaporated, and instead left me with a gaping hole—I was consumed with anxiety, fear, anger and frustration. I started cutting and burning myself because I honestly did not know how else to release that terrible pressure.
At this same time, my best friend invited me to church with her—and here I have to pause a moment and speak to the young people here today. Please do not underestimate what your friendship can mean to your non-believing friends. Do not think that your youth means you cannot have an impact in someone’s life. Your invitation to church or to a youth group activity may be that very thing that opens the door of the Gospel to that person.
My friend invited me to church with her and I laughed in her face. I wanted to deny the existence of God, but I knew too much to believe He did not exist. I was just incredibly angry at Him for allowing me to feel so horrible.
My friend persisted. She knew I liked to sing and so she invited me to join the church choir with her. Understand, it was a church of about thirty with a choir of ten, five of whom were the pastor’s children!
But I joined. I just told myself that I wouldn’t pay attention to what I was singing or what the pastor said. Be assured that this is no longer the case. So, I went to church and pretended not to listen and continued to be involved in the occult, and day by day grew more and more depressed. Finally, I could no longer bear it. I waited until my family was away from the house, I left a note where I knew they would find it and I prepared to kill myself.
I made a shallow pass over one wrist with a razor just to see if I could do it. And then I cried out to God, to the one whose existence I had tried to deny. I said, 'This is Your last chance. If You are real, if You are who You say You are, prove it.'
I did not hear a booming voice from heaven; I did not see God appear. But I can tell you that in that moment, I was filled with the most overwhelming sense of peace that I have ever known. I am alive today because the God of Heaven and earth pursued me and would not let me go. A few weeks later, my friend, my dear persistent friend, tricked me into going to a Billy Graham crusade. She told me it was a concert, and to be fair, there was music.
Now, unlike Pastor Lutzer, I do not do a Billy Graham impersonation, but I will tell you that when I heard him preach the Gospel, everything that I had been trying to ignore in church finally made sense. I realized that I was a sinner and I could not be good on my own as I had tried so hard to be. But I also realized that I could be righteous before God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Billy Graham gave the invitation to go down and accept Jesus as Savior, I went.
Today, through God’s grace and healing, and the help from godly counselors, I have that peace and joy I had been missing for so long, even when my life has not been easy and I and my family have suffered loss. And I can say to you with full confidence that He is risen. He is risen indeed."
Amen, Star. Thank you for sharing.