So you want to hear God’s voice . . .

I get that from folks all the time . . . “If I could just hear God’s voice, if I only knew exactly what He wanted me to do . . . ”

Today as I contemplated that phrase, even in my own life, I sort of heard God’s voice! But what it said won’t be too impressive to most who aren’t hearing Him speak right now. Because what I believe I heard the voice of God say is, “Why should I say more to people who don’t listen to what I’ve already said?”

That really smacked me right in the face. In those times when I feel like I can’t hear God, how many of those days am I ignoring something He’s already told me. He gave us this wonderful book with all kinds of instructions and life lessons. There are stories to show us how NOT to live our life as well as so many that demonstrate the right way to do it. There are bold instructions on living throughout the entire book, how much do I ignore?

And what about those people who don’t even bother reading it? Why does one think they will hear the voice of Christ when he or she doesn’t even bother to read the things our Father has already entrusted us with?

God wants us to have the best life possible. He came to bring life filled up to the top and running over, but we can’t have it if we aren’t listening to the One in charge give us the full plan.

I encourage you to get into the Word this week. Find some of the things in there you aren’t quite living up to and just do it! Then do another one next week. Don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit to help you with each thing you do (or you’ll be doing it in vain). And remember that the number one thing you have to do to hear God’s voice is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Until you do that, that’s pretty much the only message you’ll hear.

What to do with the refugees?

I’ve had several people ask me about my Christian perspective on the current situations with the refugees entering the United States. It’s a difficult thing to process. As Christians we want to help people. On the other hand, most of us are terrified at the thought that we may be opening our doors to people who want to threaten, torture and kill our children and families. What is the “right” thing to do?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Jesus calls me to love MY enemies, the ones who have personally injured me, those who persecute me. (Matthew 5:43-48) I believe He told me this because He knew that hatred would eat me alive from the inside and keep me from Him.

However, I also believe the Bible also says that we should not befriend the enemies of God. (James 4:4) I believe it’s not my place to judge who the enemies of God are. But when people say outright that they are God’s enemies, when they violently and maliciously attack the followers of God, then they have announced to the world that they are God’s enemies, and I am not obligated to befriend them. I will not Hate them because that only damages me, but I also will not befriend, condone or protect them. I feel bad for the innocents in the midst of those who are murderers, but I don’t think it’s right to put our children in danger in order to protect those children. If we could help them without putting our own families in danger, that would be great. The Bible says that the one who doesn’t help his own family is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8) I believe protecting my family falls under that. I just don’t see how to protect my family and our country without excluding some innocents. It’s sad, but until they come up with a more foolproof solution, I believe excluding all refugees from countries where professing enemies of God want to immigrate from is the only answer.

[edited and added to on 12/5/2015] The other problem I have with the refugees is the story of the Israelites not following God’s command to rid their country of those who worshipped other Gods. I know it sounded cruel, but the Bible says that the reason God commanded it is because the evil of those nations had “reached it’s fullness.” Much like the Israelites, I fear that America isn’t strong enough to withstand the temptation to follow other gods. Edmund Burke said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Looking at the level of faith in the United States, I don’t believe we are following Christ closely enough to overcome those who would like to bring another “god” into our country. Already people are being led astray by those who call themselves Christian but are clearly not. Americans are being lured into Islam, and even paganism. The only thing not growing (as far as I personally can see) is Atheism. The enemy must finally have realized that we were all created for God. He must know that atheism is not attractive, but following a “god,” even a false one, is. Until the church steps up and becomes the church, gets outside the walls and starts loving people to Christ, we are not ready for foreign refugees, most especially those whose mission is to destroy Christianity (even though it can never be destroyed) and proselytize a nation who has “forgotten the heights from which she has fallen.” [end of edit]

The Bible does not ask us to lie down and be doormats. It does not ask us to invite in those who want to destroy God’s people. It asks us to care for those who have lost their way and are looking for the way back to God. Those I will help. There are plenty of downtrodden already in our country. I think once we have every single person in America in a decent home and making a modest living then we can start inviting in these others, but we have plenty of “angels unaware” lying on our streets already. Bringing in new ones won’t make us better people, it will just make the few who are already helping people stretched even thinner

The Woman’s Head Covering

Every year I read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. Most years I read it more than once, and every time it bothers me. As a woman should I wear a head covering. I see those denominations that wear doilies on their head and I wonder, “Do they have that part right?” The thing is, I’ve never felt convicted about it as I pray. Not once have I ever felt the Holy Spirit telling me to cover my head. It’s just when I read this passage or see someone from one of those churches that I wonder.

So today I read it again. But this time instead of stopping at verse 10 and then starting again at verse 11 like it was something new, I read it all together. And today this is the message I saw.

In verses 1-10, Paul is describing the reason that a woman wears a head covering in ancient Israel (and probably the reason they wear the head covering in the middle east today). It’s these verses that make me wonder, “should I cover my head?” In verse 11 Paul start, “But in the Lord . . .” He’s telling us something new, something that would have been foreign to his readers. They were just beginning to learn about what it was like to be “in the Lord.”

Before the Lord, Jesus Christ, the people believed that woman was completely dependent on man, “that is why she should have a symbol of authority on her head.” What if there should be a paragraph break between verses 3 and 4? What if Paul meant for us to know that the man should submit to Christ, the wife should submit to the husband and God is the head of Christ, but verses 4-10 are a description of what was happening during that time?

But in the Lord we are not independent of one another. Everything comes from God, so we are really all dependent on God, and God gave us our natural covering, our hair. Then Paul says that there are some that will still want to argue about this. Bottom line is that the argument would have come from the good “Jews.” They probably had a problem with women coming from other cultures without a head covering. The Jewish leaders were often trying to get Paul and the Twelve to convince new converts to follow Jewish customs. He’s not telling them to change their customs . . . I think that’s why it’s so vague. But he is telling them to pray about it. Each person should decide for themselves if a head covering is important.

It’s definitely not an issue that I anticipate fretting about. It’s a “rule,” legalism. I refuse to argue about anything other than Jesus Christ death being the only payment for salvation . . . and even that I don’t really argue . . . I’d really rather show love, pray and let the Holy Spirit convict those who need to change their views.

So you want to be blessed . . .

All the time I hear from people that they don’t believe in God because they see too much evil. Others want God’s blessings, they don’t understand why God isn’t giving them more because they believe and pray.

Most Christians understand that salvation is a free gift. Even the ones who appear to be working for it. You can check out Revelation 22:17; Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8 and more. Christ died for you, no strings attached . . . you just have to open the gift.

But what about blessings? So many folks think that blessings are guaranteed, like God is a great big in the sky Santa Claus. Blessings won’t come because you share memes on Facebook. But the Bible does say that God wants to bless us.

Deuteronomy 11 is one of the most obvious chapters that describe blessing. In verse 13 and 22 God says, “If you faithfully obey the commands I’m giving you . . .” verses 26 and 27 tell us, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse; a blessing if you obey . . .; a curse if you disobey.” God’s chosen people, the nation that Christians have been grafted into (Romans 11) were told that blessings come with obedience. Why do Christians today think that will be different for us?

Matthew 5 and Luke 6 give us some of the most famous ways to be blessed. Nearly every Christian has heard of the Beatitudes. And while some translations, use the word “happy” rather than blessed, I don’t believe the two words are synonymous. These promises of blessings aren’t one we like to hear. Blessed are the pure in heart, the poor in spirit, the hungry, the persecuted, the merciful and more. Most folks don’t want to live in any of those categories if that’s what blessedness requires. Additionally, the “blessings” Jesus mentions aren’t the same as the list of the prosperity preachers. There’s no mention of financial abundance in this list, only that we’ll be satisfied, comforted, filled and shown mercy.

2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that being blessed means we’ll have enough. James tells us we are blessed when we persevere. John 13:17 says we will be blessed if we do the things that Jesus has asked us to do.

Throughout the centuries people have twisted the Words of God. They picture God as a genie forced to do whatever His followers command. They take John 10:10’s promise of abundance and assume Jesus meant rich. Unfortunately for those pursuing wealth and the perfect life as a Christian, they will be disappointed every time.

Jesus promised peace and mercy. He promised an abundant life, but what if that means a beautiful life worth living. He promised if He is my shepherd, I’ll have everything that I need . . . not everything I think I want.

In Luke 11 Jesus said that we are blessed when we obey. 1 John 2:5 tells us that Jesus knows we love Him when we obey. In Jeremiah 7:23 God says that “Obey me and I will be your God. . . walk in obedience and it will go will for you.” Over and over our Heavenly Father is clear that obedience brings blessings.

Fortunately, He is a loving and gracious God, so we are sometimes blessed even when we aren’t obedient. God is faithful even when we aren’t. But to expect blessings without obedience is to be an ungrateful and rebellious child. That is the story of the prodigal son.

If you are waiting for God to pour out His blessings, I recommend you obey. Start with the obvious things He talked about in scripture, things like the big 10. Find a place to worship each week with a group of believers so you can “not give up meeting together” and obey Hebrews 10:25. Read His Word daily so you can be obedient to the many verses that tell us to obey His Word. You can’t obey what you don’t know. God is waiting to bless His children, but He only gives us what we can handle. Fortunately, He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He loves you and wants to bless you.

Born with a Deadly Disease

There are a lot of questions in Christianity that have no really great answers. I think God describes the reason for this in Isaiah 55:9: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The biggest problem with the questions that we have is that we try to find answers from a human perspective rather than a Kingdom perspective. Plus, we just don’t have the mind of God. We can’t fathom all that He knows and understands.

For instance, one of the great questions of the faith is this: “Why does God condemn “good” people to hell?” and “What if they’ve never heard about Jesus?” A lot of these questions begin with “If God is a loving God . . .” These are good legitimate questions! And while we can’t possibly know the complete and full answer (because my mind cannot fathom the knowledge and wisdom of God), the scriptures do give us some clues.

Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” That puts our “goodness” into perspective. What looks good to us as humans does not look good to God. In fact, it still looks filthy. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” I guess if the only requirement for heaven was “goodness,” heaven would end up looking a lot like earth. Even with all the descriptions in Revelation, and Jesus’ word pictures in the Gospels, we really don’t understand the beauty and perfection of heaven.

There’s a phrase someone came up with that goes, “God doesn’t send people to hell, people choose to go there.” That’s really a very true statement. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. He wants everyone to repent. I picture Jesus looking like He must have when He stood outside of Jerusalem almost in tears. In Matthew 23:37 He said, “How I have longed to gather your children together . . . but you were not willing.”

Just the fact that Jesus was willing to die to “make us white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) should be evidence enough that God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell. As for those who have never heard of Jesus . . . I don’t personally know anyone like that, and the truth is I can’t personally worry about that. All I can do is try to make sure that everyone I meet hears about Christ, and since God said He doesn’t want any to perish, plus He said that because of the beauty of creation men are without excuse (Romans 1:20), I trust that God will take care of anyone who truly never had the opportunity to know about the Savior. How God does that is none of my business. I think that’s part of the reason Jesus told Peter “If I want John to live forever, what business is that of yours? Just follow me” (my paraphrase of John 21:22) It’s not my place to worry about who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s only my job to concern myself with following Jesus, and while that will often entail helping someone discover “the way,” I need not worry about who will and who won’t find Him.

Perhaps a human way to understand it would be to realize that everyone is born with a disease. It’s a disease that eventually kills. It’s a slow death, and the life here on earth with the disease, like most diseases, can sometimes be agonizing. On the other hand, there are those with the disease who feel so good, they won’t acknowledge they have the disease. No one would even believe they have it until it takes them. Either way, their fate is the same. Whether a person has lived a good full life or an agonizing, pitiful life, he or she will end up eternally dead.

However, there is a cure for the disease. Anyone who takes the antidote will live forever. Everyone on earth is made aware that they have the disease, and everyone is offered the antidote. But some don’t want the cure. They don’t believe they have the disease or they do, but they are afraid of the antidote. Some just want to tough it out, while others believe they can overcome the disease on their own. The good news is the antidote works even at the very last moment! The bad news is some refuse it even as they take their last breath.

The One who created the antidote mourns for every single person who won’t take it. He literally gave up His life to create this cure for the most deadly disease known to mankind. He is heartbroken at the thought of losing even one person to the disease. You see, He gave up His life to create the cure because He loves every single person more than we can imagine. He thinks of each one as His best friend.

This is the condition of mankind. We are all born with a deadly disease called “sin.” No one is exempt. In order to get to heaven, it’s necessary to take the “antidote” for the deadly disease. That would be accepting the blood of Jesus Christ as the “cure” for your deadly disease. God does not “send” anyone to hell. He weeps over those who refuse the cure. He mourns for those who refuse His gracious gift. He offers it freely to everyone, but many refuse His free offer.

Teen to Parent and Back at ya’

One of my young Facebook friends posted the following list:

WHAT I WITH MY PARENTS COULD UNDERSTAND
– When I hang out with a boy/girl it doesn’t mean he/she is my boyfriend/girlfriend

– School is hard and I’m trying my best

– I’m a teenager, I don’t always have the best attitude

– I try to make the best decisions for myself

– I’m young and want to have fun

– If I’m out all night it doesn’t mean I’m drinking or doing drugs.

– Not all my friends can be a bad influence.

– I feel useless whenever they compare me to other people

I posted a reply:
WHAT PARENTS WISH TEENS COULD UNDERSTAND

– If the boy/girl you’re hanging out with doesn’t make you a better person, we don’t care if it’s your official “squeeze”or not – we’re trying to help you become the person Christ created you to be

– Sometimes when you think it’s your best, we see more potential in you than you see in yourself. We don’t mean to push you too hard, but if you could see what we see . . .

– You haven’t lived long enough to make the best decision. That’s why God gave us parents. And believe me, I remember thinking I was making a good decision . . . time and experience will reveal what the “best” really is

– I want you to have fun while you’re young too! I just don’t want that fun to ruin the rest of your life.

– Most really bad things happen after dark. Most of them were never planned. Most of them are complete accidents. I believe that you don’t plan to do anything stupid. Almost no one ever does. But again . . . I have more experience . . . I’ve done my share of stupid. . . you will too. Being in early just keeps you from doing someone else’s share too!

– Of course not all of your friends are bad influences! But most of the good influences have parents who have a tight rein and they have a curfew. (hence the last explanation)

– Please forgive me when I compare you to another person. I don’t mean to. I hate it when people do it to me. Please know that it’s just frustration because I don’t know how else to help you see how wonderful and precious you are! I don’t want to see you be hurt, and I only want the best for you. Please act in such a way that I can loosen the reins and trust you more. It’s what I want to do, but until you realize my experience with life gives me an edge, it’s going to seem like I’m against you. I’m not!!! I love you!!! I only want the most wonderful, blessed life for you!!!!

Slave or Son

Friday morning I was reading Luke 15. It’s a familiar story, one that most of you know already. It’s often called the “Parable of the Lost Son” because it follows the stories of the “Parable of the Lost Coin” and the “Parable of the Lost Sheep.”
Let me read a bit of it for you: READ Luke 15:11-20

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

So, how many of you have heard this story before. While some sitting here KNOW for a fact, they fit the bill of the younger son, many of us can’t imagine being like this. That’s pretty bold, asking for your inheritance while you father is alive and well. And according to those who know more about ancient Israeli culture than I do, the boy should have been stoned to death or at least disinherited because he was basically saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.”

But just like the sons in this story represent you and I, the Father in this story represents God, so this father was a man with extravagant love. He loved bigger and better than most fathers, so he gave his son the inheritance he asked for. 1/3 of all of his father’s possessions were now in the hands of the younger son. Did you notice the father was pretty wealthy? Giving this son 1/3 of his estate didn’t seem to put a dent in his way of living.

But the son did what most spoiled kids will do. He didn’t know how to handle his instant wealth, and it didn’t take long for Him to squander it, waste it, basically throw it away. Before he knew it, this wealthy young man was living on the streets. Jesus even tells us it was worse than just being homeless. He had to feed pigs (much like you and I being forced to feed and keep alive rabid dogs), and either he was still wasting his funds or his wages to feed those pigs was pathetic because he was so hungry he wanted to eat their slop.

When he finally comes to his senses, he realizes that if he was a servant on his father’s estate, he’d have a better life than the one he’s gotten himself into. So he packs up and returns home. All the way home he’s hashing his apology over in his mind. Over and over again, he plays the scene. He’ll grovel at his dad’s feet. Let his father know how sorry he is, and relinquish his status of son. He definitely doesn’t deserve to be called a son anymore after his bad behavior.

But every scenario he played out on that long walk home didn’t prepare him for his father’s reaction. Picture it. He’s a good ways off, starting to regret his decision, wondering if he should just turn around and walk back the way he came. He looks up one more time before deciding whether to go eat crow in front of his family or return to the pig slop, and he sees something. Someone is running. His first thought is that something bad must be happening. Is the barn on fire? You see, Israeli men with any kind of status didn’t run.

And then it dawns on him, his father is running toward him. This man who has already shown extravagant love by giving him his share of the inheritance is running toward him. Running! No, it can’t be. He’s already disgraced his father enough. The young man is now in tears because he knows he’s going to be welcome. When his dad reaches him, he realizes he should have met his dad half way, but he’d been so stunned to see his father running, he’d just stopped in his tracks. When his dad hugged him, he didn’t even return the embrace right away. With tears in his eyes, he slowly puts his arms around this man who has shown him nothing but love all of his life, a man who has gone out of his way to bless him, and he is even more humbled than before. In the midst of his weeping, they begin to walk back toward the house. Finally just before they get to the front door he remembers his little speech, and he says to his dad:

21 . . . ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But dad says nothing, just commands the astonished servants to prepare a banquet in the son’s honor. And they get it ready fast! There’s already a huge party going on before the older brother gets out of the fields for the day.

That’s the son we hear about the most. And that’s because every one of us has been that son. We’ve all needed to see our Heavenly Father run to us out of love. Some of us haven’t wandered quite so far from home before we returned to Abba’s arms, but each of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior have fallen into those arms of love regretting the way we’ve wasted the blessings of our inheritance.

If you’ve never accepted Christ, or asked him to be your Savior, but never realized how much He loves you, I encourage you to read that story in Luke 15 over and over until you realize that God, the Father is running to meet you. He loves you more than you can imagine, and nothing you’ve done can keep you from Him if you’re willing to humbly return to Him.
But today, I want to focus on the second son, the one who stayed at home. I think that even more of us sitting here today are like this second son. Let’s pick up the story in verse 25

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

The older brother isn’t quite as excited about the younger brother coming home. Some might think that it’s because the younger son was always spoiled while the older brother always was made to do all the work. But the father in this story is God, and God treats us all with the same love, he is just and good.

As I read this passage in the New Century Version this week, I began to realize the older son’s problem. In the NCV verse 29 says

“I have served you like a slave for many years.”

And I knew that was his problem, and the problem of many in our church today. There is a lack of passion and love in the church today. Not just this church, but churches all over the world, and the problem is the condition of the younger son . . . people are serving God like a slave instead of a grown son . . . the kind of child who has matured and become a friend.
Have any of you adults ever worked for your parents? I did for a while before and after I was married, and I never felt like a slave. We were almost partners in business. I worked like the business was mine and did whatever I could to make it better. I never felt as though I was being mistreated or like I had to do something I didn’t want to do. And I’m confident this son in the parable was treated at least that well.

But too many times people inside the church act like they are slaves. They forget that Jesus said

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father.

No wonder those outside the church don’t want to become Christians. Who wants to become a slave? But if we lived more like we are friends of Jesus, people might want to meet our friend. Earlier in the service you sang, “I am a friend of God.” But do you act like a friend of God or do you live like a slave.

I’m guessing the older son was more worried about getting the work done than spending time with his Father. He said that he obeyed all of his Father’s orders. Did you notice? He considered all of his father’s instructions to be orders. Is that how we look at the Word of God, as a book of orders instead of a letter full of love and encouragement from our extravagant Father?
He complained that his father had never given him even a young goat to celebrate with his friends, but I wonder if he ever gave his father an opportunity to suggest a party. Did he ever laugh and joke with his dad, make friendly conversation? I have grown children, and I don’t treat them like they are my kids anymore. Now they are my friends. And if you think about it, obviously his dad had this calf in the barn that he was saving for some kind of celebration. He didn’t even know for sure the other son was coming home. So that calf wasn’t being saved for the younger son.

What if that calf had been the one the older son was supposed to use to celebrate, but every time he talked to his dad it was all business? By the time he’d finished, his dad had forgotten to even mention the calf in the barn just waiting for a party.

The whole story forces us to evaluate our relationship with our Father. What does it look like when you talk to your heavenly Father? Do you talk to Him like a friend or servant reporting in for the day?

What does your Bible Reading look like? Do you read the Bible like it’s a love letter from your best friend, or do you read it as if it’s directions from your commanding officer?

Why do you serve? Why do you behave the way you do? Do you “try to be a good person?” Or are you like a child who loves and respects his father so much he wants to imitate him?

Today is World Communion Sunday. There will be a lot of people who are celebrating communion today as an obligation. Many think that if they miss communion they lose their place in heaven. Others think of it as something that just makes the service too long. Those folks have chosen to be like the older son, the one that had opportunity after opportunity to become best friends with the Father, but chose instead to be the slave. They don’t realize that communion is a celebration, a meal with the family that represents the father running toward us with open arms.

Communion is the celebration that the younger son accepted and the older son rejected. Jesus is the lamb that was killed for this celebration, and our return to the Father is the reason for the celebration. When we take the bread and the juice as if the Father just broke protocol and left all His dignity behind to run and meet us on the road with a big hug, then we are entering into communion the way it was intended. Just like the younger son, we need to confess. But the story tells us the Father blew right past the confession and on to the party. That’s because like the father in the story, God has already forgiven you and is running toward you with open arms.

I invite you to come to the party today, the celebratory meal that reminds us of Jesus’ death on the cross and gift of unconditional forgiveness. I hope that today you will not be like the older son and reject the Father’s invitation. Did you know that you can come forward to take the elements and still be refusing the Father’s invite if you aren’t coming out of a sense of friendship and gratitude? The Father loves you. He gave His Son in your place, and He is celebrating because He’s so happy you are His friend!

Religion or Relationship

A Facebook friend asked about our opinions on the difference between religion and relationship. I have to admit, that’s one of my favorite Christian discussions. You see for a long time I lived under the umbrella of religion. I knew all the rules and I was pretty good at following them. I think if you asked my parents, I may have been called a model child. Not that I never did anything wrong, but in the grand scheme of problem children, I was low on the list. And as far as following the rules of religion, I had it down. I didn’t drink or smoke. I’ve never touched drugs. I was in church every Sunday. I won every Bible challenge. I memorized the books of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm and the ten commandments at a very young age. I didn’t even fuss about having to go to church. My road to being the best at religion was going so well until I was about 17.

Yep, I was pretty young when I began to understand the problem the Israelites had. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I’ve grown in Christ, I see that my life was exactly the life of Israel. Israel was good at following the rules for a long time, too. But rules are tough, and it’s easy to make excuses for sin that doesn’t seem to hurt anyone else. So just before my eighteenth birthday I got married because just after my eighteenth birthday I had a baby. And while I am thankful for my husband of 35 years, and I would have married him anyway, the reason for our marriage at that moment was so I could get back on track to following the rules.

It’s not that I’d never been introduced to relationship. Looking back I saw my grandmother live out relationship. Plus, I had a tremendous pastor for a very short time in my teens, Rev. Rod Buchanan, whom lived out relationship. Both planted seeds and gave me good examples of what the Christian life could look like. But because I’d broken one of the big rules, and neither of these tremendous mentors were around when I broke it, I left the church for a few years. Because of religion, I was confident that I didn’t deserve to be in church. Church was a place for the people who followed the rules . . . that’s what religion taught me. And I had messed up. In my mind, I’d messed up so bad it couldn’t be fixed. The worst part about that whole time is that no one came to tell me any different. I had been active in church for 18 years and not one person came to tell me that my religion was useless, no one told me to abandon my religious rules for relationship.

Until I met a group of ladies in Rome, New York. This group began to show me what Rod and my grandmother knew. They began to help me on my journey toward relationship.

My new “catch-phrase” since I began to have a relationship is this “No Rules, Just Jesus.” You see. When I have a relationship, I don’t need rules because my life choices are dictated by wanting to maintain my relationship. I don’t want to do something that will make God sad. I don’t want to disappoint Him. Part of really coming to relationship was me understanding that getting pregnant outside of marriage wasn’t my biggest sin. My biggest sin was dismissing things that separate me from God and ignoring the fact that the only thing that can bring me back into relationship is the blood of Jesus Christ.

I am now in awe of what Christ has done for me. I now appreciate everything that my dearest friend has done to show his love. Now I am aware that He is always with me. The verse, “I will never leave you or forsake you” is personal.

Living according to the rules is hard. Israel couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it, and many more folks that I’ve met can’t be “good.” But a relationship with the only perfect person is much easier. He always has my best interest in mind, and every faux pas is from my side, yet He understands, loves me and forgives me as long as I have a heart willing to maintain the relationship. It’s beautiful. It’s simple, yet it’s so far beyond human understanding that many times we miss it. I’m so glad my Creator called me to it and sent people into my life to help bring me to Him.

One more way for the enemy to defile God’s picture of Himself and the church

I’ve thought for a long time that marriage is tough because the enemy hates it. He hates this institution that God has set up as a picture of Himself and His people. He called Israel His adulterous wife. He calls the church the Bride of Christ. I believe that the enemy attacks marriage so that he can give people a distorted picture of what Christ wants the church to be.

And now, with the most recent court ruling, the enemy is doing it again. He is distorting the picture of the family. We are children of the King with the church as our mother. This new “family” that’s trying to make it’s way into the acceptance of society can’t produce children, it can’t do anything “naturally” (the words of the Bible, not mine). Yet the enemy would like us to embrace this perversion of what God intends for His beloved.

More Thoughts on Current Events

Again, I need to preface everything I write reminding folks that my stance if from a Christian perspective for Christians. God says that I am not to judge (even the actions) of those outside the church.

But here’s a question for those who support the Supreme Court ruling about same sex marriage:
If you have been living in a homosexual relationship and could not marry, how have you kept the marriage bed pure?

I never thought about that until today. I should have. I’ve always compared homosexuality to pre-marital sex and adultery. I believe they are all the same thing. They all fall in the category of “sexual immorality,” all defile the “marriage bed.” I know that there are those who consider themselves followers of Christ who also practice homosexuality. So, how have you kept the statutes of Hebrews 13:4?

I’ve never had to deal with a mature Christian who wanted to keep living together. As people in our congregations have matured in Christ, we’ve never even had to make their living together an issue, it’s always been something that God has convicted them of. So . . . it’s just something I started wondering about today . . .