Monthly Archives: May 2016

Bible Study ~ God’s Attributes

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Bible Study ~ God’s Attributes

On this Memorial Day, please take a moment to thank all of those who have served this magnificent country of ours and have lost their lives doing so.  Be they first responders or military personnel, we owe so much to them.  They made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us, this country, and our freedoms.  I humbly thank each and every one and pray that your families find comfort in the arms of our living God.  

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David Kay starts this Day with a story about mistaken identity.  I was working as a teacher for Baldridge Reading and Study Skills, a private firm in Greenwich, CT that was contracted by schools throughout the world to provide their unique brand of reading speed and comprehension, study skills, and writing effectiveness.  It was a great job that took me around the world for two years.  During one season I found myself working at Elizabethtown College just down Route 743 from Hershey, Pennsylvania.  I had the students for the four weeks before Spring Break and during one of our last classes one of the kids brought in a couple bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs for the class to share.

I remember gleefully biting in to one only to find that it was so fresh that the chocolate and peanut butter actually dissolved on my tongue.  It just melted away.  I’d never, in my whole life, tasted a Reese’s that was so fresh and immediately started gushing about how remarkable the experience was.  I must have blathered on for a good 5 minutes and probably downed at least one more (oh, who am I kidding, a couple more!) before I turned to the student and said, “How did you ever find a bag of Reese’s so fresh?”

The class grew silent as the young man looked at me incredulously.  I immediately thought to myself, what a stupid question, the chocolate center of the USA is right up the road.  But the boy just asked softly, “Miss Clarke, what’s my last name?”  I thought for a minute before I realized … it was Reese.  What a dope!

David makes a point on this day to say that relationships don’t work well if we don’t make an effort to get to know each other and I certainly felt stupid not remembering that I had a Reese in my class – actually two – because the boy’s older sister was also one of my students.  Doh!

In this session David pulls out several passages where he wants the reader to highlight what the passage says about God.  He uses Psalm 103:19, Jeremiah 32:17-19 & 27, Deuteronomy 32:3-4 and Romans 11:33 to name a few.  However, the verse that made me pause was when God is speaking about Himself in Isaiah 45:7

The One forming the light and creating darkness,

Causing well-being and creating calamity;

I am the Lord who does all these.

Did you blink right there?  Whaddya mean God creates calamity?

I had an occasion once to tussle with a Pastor over this issue after being told in a classroom setting that God causes pain and suffering.  I was not well read (biblically-speaking) and couldn’t comprehend that God would cause pain, suffering, and even disaster.  The Pastor talked a lot about Job which I acquiesced was God allowing Satan to bring suffering to Job to make a point, but that He didn’t actually cause the suffering.  Even though it still didn’t sit right with me, I walked out of our meeting thinking that I might be able to wrap my mind around God allowing disaster.  I wasn’t there yet but I would give it serious consideration.

Somewhere in the years that followed I settled in my mind that God was sovereign over all, and realized that if I am to believe that God is completely in control, then I must also believe that God allows the good and the bad and will even cause joy and pain if it accomplishes His purposes.  It’s not an easy concept to come to grips with and I can’t tell you how long I wrestled with it before I let it saturate my psyche until it was planted as truth.  This knowledge has certainly helped me in my bout with cancer.

Recently, I read the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer.  In it he uses a verse in Romans as a similar example and brings up a very important point.

“Therefore consider God’s kindness and severity …” Romans 11:22a

Packer’s point is the importance of the word “and” which you also find in the Isaiah scripture above.  We must comprehend that it is our limited thinking that has given human attributes to God when we say we have to accept “the good and the bad” about God.  He is not neither good nor bad.  He is Him.  In these scriptures we must realize that God is both good and severe – He brings light and darkness – He causes happiness and disaster.  He is both, He is all, He is everything.  He is omnipotent and He is sovereign.

It’s so popular today to just want to believe in a God of grace without consequence.  I can only imagine that people who espouse this view are attempting to lessen the devastating truth of sin but all it does is end up cheapening Christ’s work on the cross.  We cannot forget that Jesus is our Savior and our ultimate judge.

So while I pray and ask God to expand my mind to accept what is written in Isaiah 45:7, I’ll leave you with just this …

Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we will ever have in this life or the next.  As we would with any friend, let’s make a concerted effort to get to know Him better.  Make it our life’s work.  Don’t ever stop because we both know He is unfathomable.

Next up … Days 5 and 6: Stronger in the word.

Bible Study ~ The Trinity

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Bible Study ~ The Trinity

Days Two, Three, and Four of the bible study discuss the Trinity.  I mentioned Wednesday that we would discuss God’s attributes today, but I came across some other items that I want to discuss first.

There is a person in my life who doesn’t consider Jesus God.  Because he calls himself a Christian, I didn’t realize this until he mentioned after church one day that he didn’t like a song we sang in which we called Jesus, God.  I was flabbergasted to hear that he believes Jesus is the Son of God and the Father is completely distinct.  Literally speechless … my mouth might have even been gaping open.  What a teaching moment!  Actually, I did teach, or at least tried to, but it didn’t work out so well.  Sometime later, when I was listening to Moody Radio, I heard a pastor say that people who didn’t understand this core concept of Christianity should read the book of John because in it Jesus calls himself God several times.  I was kicking myself.  I’d told him to reread the bible but if I’d thought about it (and given the Holy Spirit a chance to speak) I could have given him better direction.  Especially since he also mentioned that he only believes what Jesus says in the bible (but that’s a topic for another day!).

In reading several of the scriptures pulled out by the study, John 10:30 must be especially jarring for those who don’t see the connection:  “I and the Father are one.”  Really can’t misread that sentence.

Isn’t funny how Jesus called himself God over and over and no one either (1) believed him or (2) even heard him?  It really wasn’t until He asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) where Peter answers, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (v.16) the first time that this revelation is voiced publicly.  Jesus tells the disciples then that the only reason Peter knew the truth was because the Father allowed it to be revealed to him.  Why doesn’t God allow this truth to be revealed to everyone?  The same can be said for the Holy Spirit, but we’ll get to Him next.  I stop in the middle of the study and thank God that He has revealed this truth to me and pray that He will reveal it to my friend as well.

So if it’s hard to believe that Jesus is God, how does that fare for the Holy Spirit?  Just who is this guy anyway?

Well the most amazing thing I learned during the third day of the bible study is … wait a second … do you ever come across a verse and swear you’ve never seen it before?  I know for a fact I’ve read John and I’m willing to bet I’ve even read it several times; yet here in the study is a verse I swear I’ve never read.  It was so foreign to me that I even looked it up in several different versions trying to fathom how I’d missed it.  Yet in each version there it sat plain as day.  The verse is in John 14 where Jesus is talking to the disciples about having to leave soon.  You know they’re reeling.  It seems they’ve just hit their stride and their rabbi is now talking about his death – the end of it all.  In verse 16 Jesus talks about how he will ask the Father to send another Helper to be with the disciples forever.  I can appreciate that they’re not really hearing this.  But then, just as he’s discussing the Holy Spirit coming, we hit the bit that sent me running for different translations, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

I will come to you … meaning I am the Holy Spirit.

Of course, I know that we worship a triune God, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one – but I can’t believe I’ve missed that verse my entire life.  Jesus stating in no uncertain terms that He is the Spirit.

As I let this verse roll off my tongue over and over again, I grasp that I’ve been guilty of treating the Holy Spirit and Jesus as different entities.  Even though my head knows they’re one in the same with the Father, my heart and my mouth have probably prayed differently to them.  I make a pact with myself and God to not let that happen again.

We’ll talk more about God’s attributes on Monday and what I learned in the study which may spark a hot debate.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Bible Study: Day One

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Bible Study: Day One

In the take away for Day One of the Bible Study, David Arthur asked us to write our story.  Here, then, is my testimony:

Hind sight is 20/20, right?  Isn’t that what they say?  When I recall my life in the years before I surrendered to Christ I can see that God was with me the whole time.

God was with me.  Through all of it.

He was with me through the pot-smoking, the speed-popping, and just half a Quaalude-please-taking.

He was with me when I was so starved for affection and acceptance; I gave my body to any man who showed any interest in me.

He was with me through all the years I spent getting educated and, I thought, sophisticated.  When what I really was doing was walking away from Him.  Determined to prove I didn’t need Him.  That I could do my life better.  Cut my own path through the forest, be self-reliant and self-dependent, and that I could make my own religion.

He watched silently as I took a little piece of most every ism and belief and new-age, occult idea that I stumbled across and somehow managed to crumple them all up in a little ball, wave a magic wand, and call the mess:  “What I Believe.”

Today, I can only shake my head in sadness.  I was so off-track.

Running the other way … the wrong way … and all the time away from God.

I told myself lies to pretend I was doing life right.  That I felt good.  That I was happy.

I told myself that I’d arrived.  You’re making great money.  You’ve got a great job.  You’re successful.  Your parents are proud and your friends are jealous!

Now this is living!

But it wasn’t.

I was dead inside.

There was a deep crevice inside of me.  A deep fissure in my soul filled with black goo that sometimes would lay dormant, sloshing around just enough to remind me it was there; but most of the time it would roll and boil and whisper that I still needed more to fill it up.  That the crevice might be closed with the wrong people and more possessions and alcohol and cigarettes and food.

I slaved away at work to fill the empty pit inside of me.  But I was never full.  I never was content.

I was existing … but I wasn’t living.

How do I know that God was with me through it all?

Because when I did drugs and got drunk I didn’t like the way I felt.  Something inside said, “Stop it. This isn’t what you need.”

Because when I laid down with which ever male walked into my life, and started to lose myself in fleeting affections, something inside said, “Stop this. You are worth more.”

Because even though I practiced divination with tarot cards, numerology, and astrology and offered praise and worship to the four directions with sage and tobacco; any time I had a big question … a really important question … something inside me said, “Open your Bible.”

Some thing inside … that ‘thing’ would be God’s Holy Spirit.

He was with me.

Waiting my whole life for me to need Him.  To be quiet long enough in my own head to hear Him.

And one day I did.

Like a rush of love and frustration and heat and passion and hope and glory, I looked at the shambles of my life and fell to my knees in the middle of my lonely apartment and cried out …

God!  I need you!

And as I cried, God loved me.

Then He told me how I didn’t need to cloud my judgment and dull my pain with drugs and alcohol – how I was His precious child and worth more than I was being treated by men who only wanted my body – how I needed to turn to Him for guidance and answers in my life and not tarot and numbers and stars.  How I was His beautiful daughter and He loved me.

No, God had never left me.

He had always been with me.  Waiting for me.

After I made the choice to follow Jesus, it took a while to kick the dust and dirt and disgrace of the world off me.  I lost some friends because I began changing.  I no longer wanted to sleep around and drink until I was drunk.  I only wanted to learn everything I could about the Messiah.  The man who died for me so I wouldn’t have to be a slave to sin and the way the world thinks and operates.  And as I learned my heart swelled with love for my Savior.

I discovered that the Bible is filled with so much wisdom and hope and love that you need no other book.  I understood that finding a church that teaches biblical truth is vitally important, and that meeting up with other Christ Followers who will help educate and inspire and encourage is the tender and beautiful fellowship my heart ached for.

Once I got my feet planted firmly on the path following Jesus a genuine peace settled in and began to pour into the pit of black goo, covering it … neutralizing it … cleansing it.  Once I received my spiritual gifting from the Holy Spirit, I began to use it for the church, both local and universal.  Once I started speaking to God, He spoke to me and our relationship flourished.  And now there is joy.  So. Much. Joy.

He Is Forever with me and I am forever with Him.

If you’re participating in the Bible Study with us, on Friday we’ll discuss “Who is God?” from Day Two.  Specifically, God’s attributes that most intrigue us and what verse we’re working on memorizing.  See you then!

Bible Study

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Bible Study

This week I’m starting a bible study with my OCFG Paula.  Have you ever embarked on a bible study with one other person?  Specifically we’re doing a study that I’ve had laying around for a while called “Lord, Help Me to Grow Spiritually Strong in 28 days” by Kay and David Arthur.  It’s now been repackaged as “Lord, I Need Answers: A 28-Day Journey to Growing Stronger in Your Faith.”  Paula is afraid that I’m going to be bored since she knows how much I enjoy studying with BSF.  But I think we can receive a lot from any study because isn’t it really about what God wants to speak to our hearts?  He has been known to use any and every thing to get His point across and I’m sure He’ll use this study too.  Besides, for me it’s more about fellowshipping with my friend and strengthening her faith during a trying season in her life.  The fact that I’m bound to get something out of it is just the proverbial icing.

If you’d like to grab this book and fellowship with us we’d love to have you. You can get what they call a slightly imperfect version which is only $5.99 here: Christianbook.com (not an affiliate link).

At the end of each day’s message there is a ‘take away’.  For Day One which is entitled “Is Anyone Up There?” it is to write your story.  We do this often at my church because we always want to be ready to testify how Jesus has changed our lives. As Peter said, “… always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3: 15b)

But I was thinking … don’t we have many stories?  Who among us comes to Christ and then grows beautifully from that point on a straight and heavenly trajectory never faltering?  Not one.

Don’t we gather many stories throughout our lives?  The story I traditionally tell is the one where I initially came to Christ because it was such a God-thang.  But there was the time I came back after a little slide; then the time I came back after a huuuuge slide – that was pretty special.  But now, and it maybe a little premature, I seem to be recovering from cancer and that will be yet another story to tell of His awesome grace and mercy.  How am I to decide which story to tell when?  Should I be tailoring stories for certain situations like a resume and cover letter for different potential employers?

To make it easy for now, let’s stick to the story of how we came to Christ.  How you were living before Christ, how you made the decision to follow Him, and the state of your life after Christ.  Keep it short and powerful.  We can prattle on about ourselves all day I think (just look at this blog!) so it’s wise to keep your story between 3 and 5 minutes.  Just long enough to tell an unbeliever without losing or boring them.

My story appeared several years ago on the original blog that was lost when my hosting company changed blogging programs.  But I’ll reprint it on Wednesday and if you get yours written down, you can post it in the comments. I’d love to hear it!

And don’t forget to let me know if you’re going to join us in this Bible study!

My Anchor

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My Anchor

We sang “Anchor” by Hillsong United in church on Sunday.  It’s a beautiful song and I adore the imagery of Jesus as my anchor.  In the middle of any upsetting situation, faced with any temptation, or in any trial or storm I should find myself; I need only to look to Jesus to secure me – to hold me in safety.  With Him there’s no way I can be snatched away by the winds.  I can’t be lost.  He is my anchor.  It makes me think of the story of a man who lashed himself to a palm tree in the middle of a hurricane.  Buffeted by the fury of the storm he was bruised and bloodied but survived only because he was anchored to the tree.  Jesus … as my palm tree.  How comforting is that truth?

While we were singing, two lines of lyric struck me in such a way that I had to immediately sit down during worship and write them down.  The first was, “Your word, unfailing.

Your word, unfailing.

Out of the entire song … why is this line touching me?  I ponder in the days to follow and more questions than answers develop.  How do I know God’s word is unfailing?  I also recognize that I add a comma to the lyric where we naturally pause when we sing.  Is there a comma in the original lyric?  Does the writer of these lyrics mean God’s word as in the Scriptures or does he mean God’s Word as in Jesus?  Does he mean both?  Does it matter?  I begin my study …

First, the dictionary:  Unfailing. (Adj)

1. not failing; not giving way; not falling short of expectation; completely dependable

2. inexhaustible; endless

Then the thesaurus:  Unfailing … meaning certain, dependable, reliable, trustworthy, constant, consistent, abiding, lasting.

Finally, in the Scriptures I search for the word “word” in the HCSB and find:

Every word of God is pure;

He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. ~ Proverbs 30:5

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… My word that comes from My mouth

will not return to Me empty,

but it will accomplish what I please

and will prosper in what I send it to do. ~ Isaiah 55:11

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Heaven and earth will pass away,

but My words will never pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

 

God’s word is unfailing.  It is pure, it is strong and true, it can accomplish God’s purpose (making it alive), and it will never die.

If you’ve read the Bible more than once then you know that the same verse of Scripture can have vastly different meanings to you each time you read it.  I can attest that even day-by-day God’s word can have different meanings and perform new works in one’s heart.  I will never forget reading a fairly long passage of Scripture one day and deriving nothing from it other than a good story.  The very next day I reread it and was flabbergasted by the significance and the lesson it was teaching me.  I was especially convicted of how superficially I’d read it the day before that I spent a long time asking God for His forgiveness and to help me to never read his word so casually again.

It was a direct example of how God’s word accomplished His purpose in me.  We can rely on the Scriptures.  They have proven to be true, trustworthy, and consistent.  Just consider that our Bible was written over thousands of years, penned by many different people, but authored by only one – God’s Holy Spirit.

Then I took a look at the word as God’s Word.

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God. ~ John 1:1

We need not read beyond Genesis to see the plurality of God, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” (Gen 1:26a) God only has to speak a word and worlds are formed.  Then John confirms that the Word was there in the beginning, with God and was God.  Jesus is that Word.  The very breath of God that called the universe into existence.  I love in Colossians where Paul states, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth … … all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Col 1:16)  Why?  Because He is the Word.  He is God.  Alpha and Omega.  He was there from the beginning and He’ll be there until the end … unfailing.

I think I now know why this lyric is tugging at my soul.  There is nothing … no thing … on this earth that is truly unfailing except God. Friends grow apart.  Attitudes change.  Everything, even you and I, dies.

Only Jesus is my One True Constant.  My Rock.  He and His word are unfailing.

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What’s a favorite lyric of yours that has touched you in some way?

 

He is Holy

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We’ve just finished up the study of Revelation through BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and I can’t really contain myself.  Firstly, if you’ve never been to a BSF study, and you find yourself a quart low on studying the Bible, get yourself to one (a study of John will begin on September 12)!  BSF headquarters are based in Texas but the study is offered worldwide and over 500,000 people participated in Revelation at the same time.  You can find out more, and where there is a study in your area, here: http://www.bsfinternational.org

I found BSF through a friend who fortunately invited me last year for the study of Moses.  It came at the right time when my educational options were limited in my church and I was desperate for some comprehensive Bible study.  I got just what I needed in BSF.  It’s a long and detailed study that is perfect for delving in deep and hearing volumes from God.  He has taken the time to speak to me in each of the two studies I’ve been involved in and I’ve been thrilled.  You really can’t go wrong when you hear God speak.

This past year God has really been working on me to understand His sanctity and studying Revelation just brought everything to a head.  I was really struck by His unfathomable holiness.  It’s led me to examine how I think about Him and whether I fear Him like I should.  I think it’s easy for us to put God in a human-sized box.  Partly due to our general humanness – He is so vast, we just don’t know how to comprehend Him so we bring Him down to something we can latch onto; and partly due to the songs we sing these days … the Jesus is my pal – type songs.  Well, Jesus may be friendly toward me, but He’s not my pal and I don’t wish to think of Him like that.  He’s my Savior.  My King.  My Lord.  My Judge.  Putting Jesus on a friend level does Him a disservice … it limits him, cheapens Him.  None of my friends can die for my sins.  None of my friends can heal me.  None of my friends can facilitate my eternal life with the Almighty Father.  And, I hate to say this, but sometimes I’m not a very good friend.  I know, hard to believe, right?

God is so far above what we can imagine.

Chip Ingram asked recently on his program ‘Living on the Edge’, “Which Jesus are you worshiping?”  I probably screwed up my face when I heard that line … thinking “wha?”  But as he started explaining I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement.  He asked a pointed question (my paraphrase), “Do you worship the Jesus that walked around Judea with 12 other guys doing miracles here and there, or do you worship the Jesus that was arrested and crucified on a cross, or do you worship Jesus as He is today?”

You see, Jesus as He is today is explained very beautifully in Revelation 1:13-16.  He wears a long robe with a gold sash and has hair white as snow, His eyes are like fire, His feet like burnished bronze, His voice like cascading waters, His face shines like the noon-day sun, and His mouth yields a sharp two-edged sword.  Friends, our Lord Jesus is no longer the God-man who roamed the countryside for three years and He no longer hangs bruised and bloody on a cross.  He is a warrior!  Our warrior!  The Ancient of Days, the Almighty, holy, faithful, true, and the victorious conqueror over evil.

History is good to know to complete the picture of Jesus, but we need to worship Him as He is … today.

 

It’s Not the Cancer That’s Killing Me

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It’s Not the Cancer That’s Killing Me

I sat in the neurologist’s office the other day and heard myself ask, “Do you think I’ll ever walk properly again?”  I was sitting behind still on the exam table, my feet swinging free because she had needed to tap my knees and watch my reflex.  “Ouch,” I said as she used that baby rubber triangular hammer on my right knee.  She moved on to the other leg, “Yow!” I remarked sharply as the baby hammer fell against my left knee.  It was part of the reason I was here.  I’ve fallen a few times and landed squarely on my knees which is why they sting so much from a baby rubber hammer tap-tap-tapping away.  I’ve fallen because I’m not steady on my feet and I’m experiencing a bit of a foot drop while walking.  I can’t wear flip flops because I can’t grasp with my toes (and believe me that’s a real pain in Florida) and at home, with no shoes on, my feet dully smack the tile floor … I call myself Slappy.

The neurologist, having completed my exam, sat at the computer with her back to me typing her findings into my record.  I do love that about Cleveland Clinic – I can visit any doctor in a multitude of different locations across the state and each office has complete and immediate access to my history.  She stopped typing when I asked the question I knew she really couldn’t answer.  I was essentially asking if I’d ever walk, run, jump, and play again.  I wanted some kind of assurance that one day I’d regain my normalcy.  I realize I want this promise from all of my doctors.  To be told I’ll be normal again.  They can’t do it, at least not yet.

The neurologist says what I expect, “We need more testing.”  She’s very nice, even if her hands are frigid.  I want to hold her hands in mine until they warm up so the next patient won’t be so startled.  Instead I leave with prescriptions for a brain MRI and some sort of orthotic for my shoes and some other type of nerve test.  I sigh.  I was hoping to be able to live through the month of June without having to see a doctor or undergo any sort of test.  I brighten a little.  Perhaps I can get it all done before the end of May!

My feet, and my hands to a much smaller degree, are suffering from neutropenia a type of neuropathy that occurs in varying degrees to most chemotherapy patients.  I’ve known patients that have experienced it in one toe, the left thigh, an entire arm and hand, and some who’ve never had the thrill of it all.  It’s the worst side effect I’ve encountered.

Even though in the early days I had a very hard time grasping anything and my cell phone certainly took a beating, my hands have healed very well since my last infusion (Dec 2015).  I dared not carry a plate across the room if I couldn’t use both hands.  But now they just feel like tiny pins and needles at the tips of my fingers; making it hard to insert earrings or pick up something thin or delicate.  My feet are a whole other story.

I started 2016 with feet that hurt so badly there were times when I couldn’t even walk – each step was excruciating.  Then when I sat in a chair or got into bed, what felt like tiny electrical shocks would bombard my toes and insteps causing my whole leg to jump and me to yell out, “Ow!”  There were even a few nights when I was awake all night due to “the shocks” as I called them.  The shocks have largely abated and just appear now and again.  But perhaps the worst symptom was the stabbing pains. Usually coming at night, it was as if a pint-sized goblin was underneath my sheets sticking a sewing needle under the toenails of my big toes.  It was pretty rough.  I can give glory to God that the stabbing pains have long subsided.

But what drove me to the neurologist, aside from the neuropathy in my feet, is that I get dizzy when I close my eyes.  It only happens when I’m standing – so you say – well don’t close your eyes when you’re standing.  Have you ever tried to take a shower without closing your eyes?  Even when I’m out of the shower and throw a towel over my growing hair, the world starts to go wobbly.

The worst part though is church.  When I sing I’m one of those people with at least one hand up to God in praise and my eyes closed until … you guessed it … I start to teeter and have to grab at the people standing on either side of me so I won’t fall over.  I sometimes wonder if people, who don’t know me, might think I’m being slain in the Spirit.  That would be funny!

The truth is, no one can tell me how long these side effects will last or even if they’ll ever go away.  But I hold out hope that they will fade and I’ll soon regain the strength in my legs and be able to stand surely on my own two feet.

And … maybe even wear flip-flops!

Thanks for hanging in with me!

A Subtle Evil ~ 2

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This is part 2 of a post that started on Wednesday.  If you missed it, you should probably pop back here to get caught up.

While my friend and I texted back and forth on the issue, I happened to receive a phone call from another friend of mine.  I asked if she knew the “pillar” and was told that not only did she know him and his wife, they were her and her husband’s long-time mentors.  I now realized that the “pillar” was clearly someone who should know what they’re talking about and started to think that my friend had misheard him or that he had misspoken.  She agreed that it could be the case but had already spoken with the others who were privy to the conversation and said they were as perplexed as she.  We left it that my friend would return to the “pillar” and ask him to explain further.

The following Sunday she did just that and he mentioned that this idea of repenting for non-believers is in a new book that will be published shortly called Operating in the Courts of Heaven. She pressed him for a biblical reference to this idea and he only kept pointing her to this new book. She ended the conversation by stating that she takes her truth from the Bible alone and I congratulated her.  More and more we need to be like The Berean Jews, constantly searching scripture for the truth and measuring everything against the scriptures (Acts 17:11).

I was thrilled that my friend had the maturity to question the “pillar” and had held to the Bible as her true North, but then I started thinking about others whom may have heard about this book from the “pillar” and because of his standing in the church, believed him and his faulty* theology, and even go so far as to put it into practice.

These days we have already seen celebrity pastors going astray and deviating from Biblical truth and entire sects of Christianity disavowing large portions of the Bible.  In some cases we don’t have to look further than our local pulpits to find preaching that’s gone soft on salvation and dumbed down the sin message while preaching grace grace grace … presumably because you can get more bees with honey … even if their honey only gives a person a portion of the comb and not the whole hive.  If we don’t ever hear about our sinful nature, we can’t possibly comprehend why we need to be saved.

In a recent study I ran across 1 John 3:7 (NIV) which says, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.”  And in Mark 9:42 (NIV) Jesus states, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”  Similarly, in Revelation 18:21, the prostitute Babylon will also be thrown into the sea with a millstone around her neck never to be heard from again.

Obviously Satan will use anything and anyone at his disposal to turn believers away from Christ.  He’ll use the BIG issues mentioned in Part 1 because they cause widespread panic, anxiety, and lots of headlines.  In the future we know Satan will use his ‘mark’ to control economic resources, but he may also use misinformation like this from seemingly trusted sources to cause confusion and division.  It’s a most insidious technique because if the Christian doesn’t have a high level of discernment or maturity, they may easily be turned from the One True God.  If we don’t continue to stay in the Word, it would be easy to fall prey to the seemingly insignificant yet vastly deceptive lies from the enemy of our souls – especially when they come dressed up and sounding pretty from a bible teacher, pillar of the church, or even the pastor.

Friends, it’s so important that we stay true to the Word.  Ask God for discernment and wisdom and keep your nose in THE Book – the only book that won’t lead you astray.  Lastly, be like the Bereans, measuring everything you hear against what we know is the absolute Truth.  Only then do we have a solid foundation to stay true to Jesus Christ.

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* I know I have readers who are much more theologically sound than I and welcome you to educate me and my readers if I’m off-base.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for stopping by!

A Subtle Evil ~ 1

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Christians, if they haven’t hidden themselves under a rock, are aware of the “signs of the times” and the “end of the age.”  More than likely you’ve read about it in the Bible or heard about it from your pastor as almost everyone these days is working it into a weekly message. Or perhaps it’s the multitude of unique astronomical and climatological occurrences (e.g.: blood moons, increased and stronger tornadoes and earthquakes), or what about all the books and movies regarding the coming apocalypse and Jesus’ imminent return that have popped up on the shelves of your favorite retailer.

Certainly society is sliding down a slippery slope as social mores change and what’s good or bad or what’s true or false or what is moral or amoral has become subjective.  It looks a lot like Babylon playing out in our backyards.  The statistics of some of the more frightening aspects (genocide at the hands of religious extremists [ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Taliban] runs well over 15,0001 and counting, children gone missing equal an average of 1,260 a day just in the USA2, exploited children equal over 4.4 million reported in 2015 in the USA3, abortion figures – from 1973 thru 2011 – stand at nearly 53 million in the USA4 (that’s approximately 1.4 million a year), not to mention the increasing number of senseless mass shootings.  It can be overwhelming.  One wonders just how bad it’s going to get before Jesus does return to bring His faithful home and begin the tribulation countdown – you can tell I’m a pre-trib girl!

I think one of the traps we may fall into is that we’re waiting for the big stuff to happen … the REALLY BIG stuff like what is mentioned above.  But something occurred the other day that gave me pause.  If you’ve read Revelation you know that Satan is going to attempt to sway people (believers as well as unbelievers) to join him and go against God until the moment he’s thrown into the Lake of Sulphur.  It’s probably not going to be the BIG, obvious stuff that causes Christ Followers to backslide, it’s more likely going to be small stuff, stuff that doesn’t seem so bad … stuff that doesn’t seem like too much of a sin.

Throughout the book of Revelation God is judging those who are evil and those who have chosen not to come and reside with Him.  He brings judgment after judgment and still people don’t repent.  The reader of Revelation wonders, “what is up with these folks?”  There is also a caution in the book to believers to not turn away from God and become like the world.  It’s chilling to read that it seems some will take their eyes off Jesus and be swayed to follow the enemy.  To this the Christ Follower wonders, “How could this happen?”  I think I might know … let me explain …

Recently a friend called me up and told me that she was in a prayer meeting at her church and happened to mention that she and her husband were praying for another friend to receive Jesus.  A “pillar of the church” (her words) told her and several others in attendance that she needed to repent for her friend before she prayed for him to come to Christ.  This friend of mine and I always bounce things off each other so it was no surprise when she called to inquire if I’d ever heard of something like that.  Repenting for another person?  Even with my leaky cancer memory brain, I’m pretty sure I would remember that.  I wondered aloud how we could repent for someone else.  What good would it do?  Isn’t the whole point of repentance to recognize and turn away from your own sins?

This post got too long for my comfort, so please join me on Friday for the rest of the story!

Be blessed, my friends.

When Faith Falters ~ 2

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This is part two and the conclusion of a story that started on Friday.  You can find part one here. ~ F

Faced with a friend whose strong faith is perilously close to slipping over the edge of the abyss … I close my eyes and pray … God, help.  I am not equipped for this.

As I often do with my counselees, I change the direction of the conversation.  There is a time to shake the muck and mire off your feet and scramble back up to the edge of the pit.  I concentrate on asking Paula to pray for God to speak to her and then to watch closely and listen for Him to speak.  “He can use anything and anyone,” I say.

“I do,” she says.  “How come I don’t hear Him?”

Knowing that she believes she isn’t hearing Him I add, “His voice may not come the way you think it will.”  I remind her that I’d wanted to share Psalm 66: 1-10 with her earlier and hadn’t had the opportunity to – mainly because of how our conversation had unfolded.  I ask her to read it at home because it had been called to my attention that morning and it was so beautifully brimming with praise to God.  It’s hard to feel poorly when you’re busy praising Him.  And, since it’s one of my spiritual gifts, I tell her that I’ll pray for God to send me a word for her and that when He does I’ll let her know immediately.  She doesn’t look very confident.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m confident for the both of us.

We settle the bill and I suggest we go sit on the rocking chairs that litter the front porch of this establishment.

Outside we rock and talk softly.  The gravity of her earlier emotion subsiding, she’s now deep in her head and I’m still praying that God will speak to her and allow her to hear Him.

A woman walks by with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. I notice her hair is cropped really short like maybe she’s coming off chemo.  “Happy Birthday” I call out as she passes by.  She turns and smiles, it’s not her birthday but a friend’s … she’s just going to the car and will be right back. I mention to Paula that she might have cancer.  “Look at her hair,” I whisper.

“It may just be her style,” Paula responds.

“Maybe.” I say, sighing and looking out into the parking lot.

As the woman returns from her car she stops and hesitates in front of us.  Looking at me she indicates that she’s just finished treatments for breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery.  She apologizes for surmising my situation (which I presume is due to my lovely ‘I’m fighting cancer’ hair-do).  I wave her off and congratulate her and her progress.  I gesture to Paula and tell her that my friend is also battling cancer and having a tough day.

Her words so tender and uplifting, I gasp and grab Paula’s hand as the woman bends down and speaks directly into Paula’s soul.  She mentions much of the verbiage in Psalm 66 – the very Psalm I had planned to read to her hours earlier.  She talks about gratitude and hope and healing. Paula is crying and I’m thanking God for this angel He has sent to us.  Talk about divine appointments!  Hugs and kisses later she hurries off to retrieve her friends inside.  I praise God aloud for sending the woman and squeeze Paula’s hand again.

Paula is still despondent.  “She’s just a woman,” she states matter-of-factly.

“A woman sent by God,” I emphatically declare.

The next morning I was not even out of bed before I was praying for Paula and asking God to give me a word for her.  I sigh laying my head back on the pillow, “Lord, we need a word from you now,” I implore aloud.  Suddenly I ‘got’ Isaiah 62:12.  I smile and say (again out loud), “Thank you, Lord,” my heart brimming with joy.  I grab my HCSB from the nightstand and read:

“And they will be called the Holy People,

the Lord’s redeemed;

and you will be called Cared For,

A City Not Deserted.”

How glorious! Of course He cares for her and has not deserted her. I immediately text Paula.  The Lord makes my day before I’ve even gotten out of bed!  How can you not love such a responsive Father?  He is so faithful!  I pray Paula will receive this message from Him and meditate on it.

At church the following Sunday Paula remarks that she didn’t understand the verse I sent her.  She opens her Bible and we read her version of the verse.  It’s nowhere near as glorious as the version I’m currently using (the HSCB or Holman Christian Standard Bible).  I open mine and read it to her.  She sits back contemplating the message.

Then, just before service started Paula grabbed my hand, “Don’t give up on me,” she whispers.  I turn to look at her with tears in my eyes.

“I won’t,” I whisper as I hug her tightly. “I won’t.”

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Now tell me … What have you done to strengthen your own faith, or someone else’s faith?

Update:  While Paula still struggles, she is doing better, is reading the Bible, and has (at least) remembered that she will be going to Heaven when she dies. Glory!