A 911 Call I Have to Make

September 11, 2011 at 1:49 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

To my friends and family:

 I love you all too much not to make this 911 call.

 Today marks the 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001. As I watch the horrific news coverage of the terrorist attack on America at the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and The Pentagon in Washington, I can’t help but wonder how different the day could have been —would have been–had someone exposed the evil plot. If a single person had made a single warning call to 911 just say… 30 minutes before the attack…how many thousands might still be alive today?

 On 9/11 Americans busily went about their routine, entirely unaware that a terrible enemy was scheming against them. Life and business went on as usual, but in an instant, everything changed. Fates were unexpectedly sealed forever. Countless individuals never had the chance to say, “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” Their time, time that they were counting on, simply ran out.

 Because I understand that everything that happens here in our physical world is directly related to things of the unseen spiritual realm, it’s not hard to find a parallel here.

 The truth is that the entire human race has a very, VERY real enemy that’s been plotting against us for a long, long time. He’s crafty and cunning and generally carries out his plan undetected. He is a terrorist by nature, purposed only to steal, kill, and destroy. And sadly, those who are unaware of this enemy don’t really even stand a chance.

He is the enemy of God, the rightful owner of your soul if you haven’t come into relationship with God through His only son, Jesus, and he’ll do whatever it takes to drag you to the pits of hell with him. He is deceitful, the father of all lies, causing man to believe “it’s all good” when really the plane is en route and the building is about to go down.

 If you’re running from God, procrastinating, putting off giving your life to Him so you can live a little more of it for yourself-

 If you know a whole lot about God and know “religion” but you aren’t actively in a day-to-day back and forth relationship with Him-

 If you think that just being a good person will get you to Heaven-

 If you haven’t yet realized that you are a sinner that doesn’t measure up to God’s holy standard-

 If you haven’t turned away from your sins and asked for God’s forgiveness-

 If you haven’t started living life in obedience to Him-

 Then you’re in grave danger. You’re on schedule to go up in flames.

 So my loved ones, whether you want to hear it or not, I’ve made the 911 call. The clock is ticking. You have had the good fortune of receiving a 30 minute warning. Don’t waste another minute taking your chances. Evacuate immediately. Leave your old ways behind right now. Take hold of your loved ones, run to the source of life, and never look back.

May anyone that doesn’t yet know Jesus be rescued by Him today.

If you would like to learn more about how to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, feel free to visit our church website at Remnant Church Online and contact us now.

And please, make the 911 call to warn your own friends and family by forwarding or sharing this post on your social networking sites.

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Leakin’ Life

September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

It’s amazing how God will use everyday things to teach us if we’re willing to listen. 

Back in April, on a whim, my husband and I decided to create a little rose garden. While I’m not exactly the romantic type and I’d prefer a practical gift to a bouquet of cut flowers any day, I’ve loved the intoxicating scent of the Don Juan rose since I was a little girl.  After much research, I carefully chose nine rose plants worthy to take up space in my small slice of paradise.  Though I’d already been advised to stick with cacti due to my bad history with plants, I was determined to make my little rose garden flourish.  May and June passed without a hitch as I carefully pruned and watered my new babies.  When July arrived with her triple digit temps, I ran into trouble.  I watered, but my precious plants continued to wilt.  So, I called on my brother and trusted horticulture expert for a little advice.  “You’re not watering them enough and you’re not watering them the right way.”

 Turns out, roses thrive when they receive a l-o-n-g deep drink.  Frequent sips don’t quite do the job. 

Well, I tried out the deep soak idea for a few weeks and my plants did perk up.  But my soaks became few and far in between because I simply did not have the time to stand out there all day with the hose!  I tried leaving a hose to work alone at the task only to return and find that it had somehow gone wild.  The water that I had intended to give life to my precious rose plants had actually done the opposite!  The overspray scorched every leaf it landed on! 

Just when I was about ready to give up on my project, I was introduced to the greatest invention on the planet:  the soaker hose!  A hose that’s created to leak water in the right places at the right time without any assistance!  What a perfect solution!  I excitedly unwound my new treasure, carefully surrounded each wounded plant with it, turned the water on full blast, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I left, picked up my kids from school, returned home, and waited.  We did homework, baths, and dinner, and waited.  Hours had passed but the mulch barely looked damp!  “This method’s not getting me anywhere.”  I thought.  Though I was frustrated that I could not see a visible change in the flower bed, I continued to utilize the soaker hose- as it was my last resort.

This morning as I went out to gaze at my beautiful, well nourished, and healthy roses, (a delayed but direct result of the soaker hose I had no faith in) the Lord clearly spoke, “Your life should resemble that soaker hose.  My holy spirit should literally leak out of you all day long.  When people come into contact with you whether it be in person, or over the phone, or even through words on the internet, they should leave ‘damp’ because of your kindness.  Your hope and joy should ‘trickle’ deep down into their roots and nourish them.  Your love should ‘creep’ up on them when they’re least expecting it and your peace should ‘penetrate’ their spirits.  You have the source of life in you but you’re not watering often or deep enough.  Words are not enough.  Your actions must also speak of Me.”

“But Lord, if I’m going to leak life I don’t want to just drizzle.  I want to spray at full blast!  I don’t want to wait forever to give people the source of life.  I want to dump everything that I have on them now.”

“Different plants require different watering techniques.  Some flourish at full blast and others require gradual saturation.  Those that are already wounded can easily be burned if you spray them directly.  However, if the resources that they need are readily available nearby, they will pursue them when the time is right.  Remember that no one comes to Me unless I draw them near.  Your job is simply to be filled daily with My spirit and to be prepared to ‘leak’ Me onto anyone that crosses your path.  Your actions (ALL of them) should point others to Me.  Show patience to the hurried driver on the road.  Walk in integrity as you make your purchases.  Be gentle with your employees.  Have self-control when dealing with your children.  Pray blessings over the teen walking to school.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t see a  ‘visible change’ right away.  No one can come into contact with Me and not be changed.  If I am in you, and you come into contact with them, they will be changed in some way or another.   Wait patiently on that growth.  It will come.”

I don’t know about you but my desire  is to become so filled with the presence of God that wherever I go and whatever I do, my actions will naturally ‘leak’ His goodness all over the place! 

 What are your thoughts on leakin’ life into others?

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No Price Too High To Pay

October 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

So I know that salvation from sin is a free gift from God.  It can’t be bought.  It can’t be earned.  It’s simply there for the taking.  Being close to God, however, comes with a price.  A high price.  A price I am finally willing to pay because a ticket to Heaven isn’t enough for me anymore.  Playing church isn’t enough for me anymore.  Doing the absolute best I can in my own strength…and still failing…isn’t enough.  I’ve come to find that every bit of my “religion” is worthless without relationship with the Creator.  And the “relationship” that I’ve convinced myself that I’ve had up until now has been nothing more than one-sided.  So I’ve set my heart on the real deal—to intimately know and actively experience the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the Bible every single day of my life all day long.  I’ve got a long road ahead of me…for hearing His voice and knowing His ways require dying to the desires of self and living each day for Him-things I am only beginning to put into practice.  Every choice, every action, every thought is a test-a step away or a step closer to Him.  Even when I have the strength to choose right and draw near to Him, the light of His holiness searches out the darkness hidden deep within my soul and purges me of it.   It’s an ongoing process.  It’s ugly.  It’s messy.  It’s uncomfortable.  And it’s down right difficult.   But nobody ever said it would be easy.  Jesus himself repeatedly reminded His potential followers to count the cost before following Him. 

Well, I’ve counted the cost and I’ve determined that there is no price too high to pay.  Why?  My answer might come as a surprise.  It’s simply that I’ve come to an awareness that God is not at all who I thought He was.  My greatest moments with Him to date are merely a taste of what’s in store for those who love Him.  With each step closer to Him, I find that He is immeasurably above and beyond everything I have ever been taught.  So I find myself consumed with the desire to learn who He truly is and who I  truly am as a child of the one true King. 

A wise man recently told me that we learn best through teaching.  So with each new discovery, I teach my children what I’ve learned.  I chew it up, simplify it, and pour into them what has been poured into me.  Today I’d like to share something with you that I chose to teach my son Josiah through a written story form.  Though it is written at a child’s level, it holds great truth for all ages.  I pray that you’ll encounter God as you experience an ancient tradition and how it still applies to our lives today.

Please note the following characters & who they represent:                                                  

The story is written in first person through the eyes of  Josiah

Kodesh = the Holy Spirit

Yahweh=God

Yeshua=Jesus

Joy, Grampy, Grace, and Gabby=Josiah’s team members

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Chapter 6

Covenant

My normal life as I knew it no longer existed.  My days as a regular boy were over.  In a matter of a week or so I had been stripped of my childhood innocence and given the keys to a brand new life.  One without all of my favorite things: video games and toys and television.  But, one with purpose.  One with adventure.  One with power beyond measure.  Stepping into my destiny was going to be really difficult, but it felt so….so right! 

Kodesh woke me up bright and early as he had a lot planned for my first day on the job.  “Load up Josiah.  We’ve got to pick up the rest of the team.”

As each member of the Spirit-led Gang squeezed into my elevator, I watched them fidget.  We were all very excited, but also nervous and even a little scared.  Kodesh had recently invited Grampy to become the newest member of our team.  Though Grampy had made it very clear that he was coming to learn rather than to chaperone, we all found great comfort in travelling with an adult.

Grace spoke up and broke the silence.  “So, where are we headed to Boss?”

“The palace.”  Kodesh’s voice was calm and steady.

“The what?”  Gabby and I both spoke at the same time.  Joy giggled.

“Uh…the last time I checked, there weren’t any palaces around here.”  My attempt at being funny fell flat.  No one laughed.

“Lesson one is on trust.  You will not be able to step out and do mighty things in faith unless you fully trust Yahweh.  You will not be able to fully trust Him until you understand His commitment to you. Today you will witness covenant.”  Kodesh did not offer any extra input.

“Like a marriage?”  I asked, hoping he would give an explanation.

“Marriage is in fact a covenant, though few people realize it.   A covenant is a binding agreement between two individuals or even two groups of people.  Each party makes promises to the other one.  A covenant is sacred.  According to the Bible, it cannot be broken under any circumstances.”

“Well that can’t be right, because married people leave each other all the time.”  Joy struggled with the concept.

“That’s true Joy.  The idea of covenant has little value in the world you live in.  Your modern world treats a covenant casually and honors it only when it is convenient for them.  But that’s not how it used to be and it is definitely not how it is supposed to be.  In Biblical days, a covenant was much more than a legal agreement between two people.  Covenants lasted for many generations after they were made.  It didn’t matter if circumstances changed over time or not.  People kept their word.  They did not violate the contract they had entered into.”

The elevator came to a stop.  I looked up.  Two young men stood in front of us.  One was dressed in beautiful garments.  His appearance, posture, and mannerisms were clearly those of royalty.  The other young man looked as if he was a day laborer.  He was rugged and common and held a staff in his hand.  There was nothing special about him.

“Who are they?”

Grampy spoke up.  “Jonathan and David…from the Bible.”  He recognized them from the story.  “Jonathan was the son of King Saul who would likely lead his father’s kingdom one day.  He had it all.  Anything money could buy!  Fame, power, prestige.  He was educated and refined.  But David was just a shepherd boy with no education.  He had no possessions, nothing of value.  To the world, he was a nobody.”

“So why are we here?  What does this have to do with any of us?”  Grace spoke aloud the question we were all wondering deep inside. 

“It has everything to do with you.  Whether you realize it or not, if you are a Christian then you are ‘in covenant’ with Yahweh God.  You must actually understand that covenant and what all it involves before you can benefit from it.   A Biblical covenant has many steps.  Watch and learn.  When two people agreed to enter into a covenant friendship they would choose a time and place to meet up.  Now, you must remember that the Jewish way of life is filled with symbols.  Most of the people back in the Bible days wore an outer garment which symbolized who they were as a person – their very being.”

We watched as Jonathan removed his elegant princely robe and placed it around David’s shoulders.  Then David removed his tattered and worn cloak and gave it to Jonathan.

“What are they doing?”  Gabby whispered, her eyes round with wonder. 

“They are exchanging robes.  By this they are saying, ‘I give you my life – all that I am and all that I have.’  David is now free to walk in Jonathan’s garment.  He has the right to take on Jonathan’s identity.”

Our attention fell back to the two young men who were continuing in their pledge.  They were now exchanging their belts. 

“What’s the belt all about?” I asked.

“They fastened their weapons of defense onto their belts.  A man might carry a bow and arrows, or a knife, or maybe even a large sword on his belt.”  Grampy said. 

“What?  Why would he give up his weapons?   That doesn’t make sense to me.   If he gives up his belt, then he gives up his ability to protect himself from an attack!  He’s defenseless.  That’s not too smart!” 

“That’s right Josiah.  He is handing his defense over to his covenant partner.  When he gives up all of his weapons, not only is he making himself incredibly vulnerable, he is also choosing to forfeit his own ability to hurt that friend.  This action says, ‘I’m handing over anything I could ever use to hurt you in any way.  I am at your mercy.  If I am attacked, I can do nothing – unless you choose to defend me.’  In the same manner, when his covenant partner surrenders his own belt he, too, is promising to fight his friend’s battles.  It’s a huge commitment.”

Grampy spoke up.  “A missionary came to our church once and shared a story about African tribes.  She told us that whenever two people would enter into a friendship, they would make a cut on their arm deep enough to scar.  If they ever got into any sort of trouble with another person or tribe, all they had to do was raise that arm up and show the scar.  It clearly represented that they were not on their own but had someone else who would stand up and fight on their behalf.  It was like saying, ‘If you’re gonna mess with me, then you’re gonna have to face my friend, too!’”

“That is so cool!”  I had never really thought there was anything exciting or even interesting about Jonathan and David before.  My Sunday school teacher had mentioned that they loved each other like brothers.  But this…this was much, much bigger.  These guys were pledging their lives for each other.  That’s huge!  People just don’t do that anymore. 

I was jolted out of my thoughts as Joy let out a shriek of disgust. The two men now stood before us ankle-deep in blood.  They had taken a young ram and slaughtered it.  The creature had been cut into two equal sections.  The sections lay side by side on the ground with just enough space in between them for the two men to stand.  As bizarre as this ceremony seemed to me, a modern twenty-first century kid, I knew it was sacred.  I stood in awe and continued to watch the ancient tradition. 

Just then Jonathan spoke.  Kodesh translated for us.  “Today I die to myself.  I live to bless you David, my covenant partner.  Every decision I make from this day forward will be with you in mind.  I will seek what is best for you and not what brings me gain.”

 David loyally repeated the very same words to Jonathan.  And then they both spoke at once.

“What did they just say, Kodesh?”  Joy asked.

“May God do this and even more to me if anything but death separates you and me.”

“What does that mean?”  Joy squinched up her tiny sweet face. 

“They are agreeing that the covenant they are entering into is so important that the punishment for breaking it should be death.” 

It seemed that we all gasped for air at once.  Death?  Yikes!  A covenant was certainly not something you entered into lightly.  As the two young men stood in the now cold pool of animal blood they each made a cut close to their palm.  They rubbed the cuts together until their blood mixed and then each spoke again.

“What are they doing now?”  I whispered, forgetting that they could not hear me. 

“They are exchanging names.  Jonathan has given David the authority to use his name when needed.  There are no limits on what he can do with this power.  It is as if he, too, is the royal son of King Saul.   Not that Jonathan would ever need it, but David has also given him the right to act on his behalf.” 

David grimaced and Jonathan muffled a groan as the two rubbed salt and hyssop into their freshly cut wrists. 

“Why in the world would anybody do that?”  Grace bluntly remarked. 

“It causes the wound to scar and keeps it from fading away in the future.”  Grampy explained.  “The scar is like a reminder of the covenant they have made.  Every time they look at it, they will be reminded of the rights and the responsibilities that they received by entering into that agreement.”

Kodesh continued to explain the covenant.  “The book of Leviticus reveals that life is in the blood.  The people believed that once their blood mingled it could never again be separated.  Likewise, Jonathan and David’s lives became one – never to be separated.  It didn’t matter how they felt or how circumstances in their lives changed.  The scar was a visible reminder that grounded them in the reality that they were in a binding agreement unto death.”

“Awesome!”  I couldn’t hold my excitement in any longer.  “Who would have thought there were blood brothers in the Bible?  Wait ‘til I tell my Mom.  She’s not going to believe it!”

The men were now talking again, still standing in that disgusting blood!  YUCK!  Before I could ask, Kodesh translated that they were promising their assets to one another.  This included their property and money…just about anything with value.  In my opinion, poor Jonathan was getting the short end of the stick because David truly had nothing to give.  Well, Jonathan did already have everything his heart could possibly desire, so maybe it wasn’t that bad for him after all.  Kodesh went on to inform us that the covenant partners were receiving each other’s liabilities as well. 

The two finally stepped out of the blood and began to wash their feet.  They shared a meal together breaking bread and sharing a cup of wine as lifelong covenant partners.  We watched in silence as they celebrated.  When they finished eating, they planted a small tree near the slaughtered animal and sprinkled blood on it as a memorial of the new covenant relationship that existed between them. 

I watched the two men and their little tree grow smaller and smaller as Kodesh sent the elevator in a new direction.

“Where are we going now?”  The girls asked at once. 

“Another time, another blood covenant.”  Kodesh was anxious to reveal more to us.

I quickly spoke up.  “I can’t.  I mean…I can…but not now.  Y’all go ahead.  I’ll catch up later.  Would that be alright Kodesh?”

Knowing exactly what my struggle was, Kodesh agreed and quickly returned me to my room.  He made one last remark before he left.  “Just focus on Him Josiah – you’ll get there.”

Chapter 7

My Upper Room

I sat on my bed and fluffed up the pillows.  Leaning back against them, I drew my knees up to my chest and breathed in deeply.  I needed to think about everything that I had just seen.

“Okay, I can do this.”  I thought.  “It’s simple.  Just go to my Upper Room.  Yahweh said He’d be there waiting on me.  Just gotta get there…somehow, but how?  Oh yeah, Kodesh said to focus.”

I took two more deep breaths and squeezed my eyes shut.  No distractions.  Just thinking.  Thinking about the God of the Universe.  He’s sitting on a throne.  He’s standing up.  He’s walking toward me.  He’s reaching out His hand toward me….

Something was happening.  My body was beginning to gently rock.   I opened my eyes.  I was scared.  “What are you scared for, silly?”  I argued with myself.

“I don’t know.  I’m just scared of not knowing.”

          “Focus, focus, FOCUS Josiah!  You do NOT want to mess this up!”   I thought.  A warm tingling sensation began to spread through me.  I reached out and took a hold of His hand.  I was still sitting on my bed at home, but I was also there!  And I didn’t even have to fly!  It wasn’t far away like I thought, but right here.  But how could I be at two places at one time?  Who cares!  I made it to my Upper Room – ON MY OWN!  Yahweh was there grinning that amazing grin at me.  He walked over and gave me a huge bear hug. 

“It’s about time you came!”  His words were kind and gentle.  “I’ve been waiting on you, little man.  Did you enjoy your visit?”

“I’m not sure.  It was kinda…well, weird!  Kodesh explained what they were doing, but I don’t really understand what it has to do with me.”

“It has everything to do with you.  You see, I like to reveal truth through pictures and stories.  It makes it a little easier for humans to understand.  Jonathan and David are a model of the two of us.”

“Us?  What do you mean?”  I was totally confused at this point. 

“You and I entered into that very same covenant the day you asked my son, Yeshua, into your heart.”

“We did?”

“Yes, Josiah.  Before I created the world, I already knew that mankind would not meet up to my holy standard.  I knew that Adam and Eve would choose to sin and that all of their offspring would be born forever cursed with a sin nature that would eternally separate them from me.  Knowing that on his own man could never escape the spiritual death that sin brings, I set my own plan into motion to redeem him from that sin.  Because it is impossible for sinful man to approach holy God, I made an agreement with my perfect sinless son on your behalf.  He and I ‘cut covenant’ together for your sake.  He took your rightful place when He died on that cross.  You received His rightful place of eternal life with me.”

“Whoaaaa.  That’s deep.”  My brain started to buzz inside.  “But why did He have to die?”

“All actions have consequences.  They may be good or they may be bad.  The consequence that results from sinning is death.  There’s not another choice.  A price must be paid for sin.  Blood must be shed to cover it.  My son, Yeshua, was without sin.  He didn’t have to do anything.  But He chose to pay the price for your sins by shedding His own innocent blood on the cross.  By doing this, He made atonement for your sins, causing you to become righteous and acceptable in my sight.”

I squinted my eyes and squished up my nose.  My brain hurt.  It was bulging with information and thoughts itching to be entertained.  God’s son, Yeshua, crowned prince of the entire universe, left Heaven in all its splendor and glory to come and redeem me from my sin?  Wow!  That was a lot to ingest.  The whole concept didn’t make sense.  Why would He do that?

Yahweh spoke up.  “Because I love you.  Just as Jonathan gave up his royal identity to take on that of a simple commoner, my perfect son gave up His life for you and all sinners.  As it is written in the book of Isaiah, He clothed you with the garments of salvation.  He took on your robe of self-righteousness – a filthy rag – and wrapped you with His own pure and holy robe of righteousness.  Yeshua died your death so that He could give you His eternal life.  You are now to take on His identity and nature as a child of the King.”

My mind was soaking His words up like a dry sponge.  I could not yet even begin to comprehend the notion that I had actually exchanged lives with the very son of God. 

Yahweh moved on.  “Josiah, can you see that we have also exchanged belts?  If you’ll read Deuteronomy 20:4 in your Bible, you’ll see that I, the Lord your God, am He who goes with you.  I will fight your battles.  I will deliver you from your enemies.  I will bring you safely to everlasting life.  It is so very important that you understand this.  I don’t want you to spend your whole life believing that your have to do it on your own.  Nothing is further from the truth.  I am your covenant partner.  You can trust me to defend you in any situation.  I will never leave or forsake you.”

Peace trickled down over me and soaked deep within.  There’s nothing better than knowing that you have a big strong dad that’s going to take care of you no matter what. 

Yahweh grinned.  His eyes lit up and I could tell that He was pleased with my thoughts.  Of course He knew them as soon as they formed in my mind – just like Kodesh.  He continued.  “You should also realize that you have access to my name.  Obviously there is great power in using my name and you should do it carefully and wisely.”

“I can just use your name without permission?  That doesn’t seem right to me.”  I was a little cautious.   

“You are my son and you are learning to follow in my footsteps.  From now on, you’ll be doing the work of your Heavenly Father.  In your natural world, when a son matures enough to help out with his father’s business, he is allowed to make decisions and act on behalf of his father.  Any transaction he makes in his father’s name is considered valid.  It is the same in the spiritual world.  If you are not sure of what you can and cannot do, read your Bible.  My children can do everything that my son Yeshua did….and more!  Seek me first and if it is my will, you will be able to do mighty things with authority.  If you act in your own flesh, my power will not be released.”

A thick lump began to swell in my throat.  “But…what if I get it wrong?  What if I think I heard you but I really didn’t and I try to use your name and power and nothing happens?”  My mind was quickly filling with scenarios of failed attempts at using God’s name.

“So what?”  Yahweh’s carefree answer instantly dissolved the panic that was invading me deep within. 

“You aren’t going to be upset if I blow it?”

“There is no such thing as a mature birth.  In the natural and in the spiritual, everybody has to start out as a baby.  All things require practice.  You’re going to make mistakes.  Lots of them.  That doesn’t mean you give up though.  When a little child learns to walk, he will not be able to do it perfectly the very first time he tries.   He’s going to fall.  Does he stop trying and settle to crawl for the rest of his life, convinced that he is not capable of walking?  Of course not!  He’ll fall time after time – only to get right back up and try again.  And one day, he’ll get it!  What parent would get upset at their small child for falling?  Instead, the parent is there close by, encouraging that child and strengthening him and pushing him on to excellence.  It is the same with me.  I’ll be proud that you tried in the first place.”

“I don’t know how good I’ll be at leading a team.  You know, the teachers at my school don’t think I’m good for much.  They say I’m “unreachable.”’

“Their eyes are closed.  They do not see now, but one day they will.  Josiah, you must not care about what the people of this world think.  Just stay focused on me.”

“I will.  It’s just… sort of hard.  I mean, it’s great when I’m right here with you, but that isn’t always the case.  So many things are fighting for my attention…it’s hard to stay focused on you.”

“That’s why I left a reminder with you – a scar.”

“A scar?”  I began examining my body for any new markings.

“My Holy Spirit is the seal of the blood covenant.  He’s the ‘scar,’ or the constant reminder that you and I are in a covenant relationship together.”

“Kodesh.”  I whispered.  “He’s always with me.”  I hadn’t fully realized his purpose in my life until now.

“That’s right, Josiah.  You’re never alone.  When the enemy comes to you, don’t be afraid to show him your scar.  When he sees the power of the Holy Spirit operating in your life, he’ll know exactly who your covenant partner is.  He has no choice but to run, because he knows he doesn’t stand a chance against me.”

I flopped over on my stomach and began to think on all that I had just learned – straight from the mouth of God!  The knowledge that I was marked as His lifetime covenant partner permeated my entire being.  Warmth bubbled up from the base of my throat at the collarbone.  I didn’t even get up to check it out.  I knew without a doubt that Yahweh had forever branded me.  Spending time with Yahweh was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  He was so kind and loving and so very real.  The sweetness of His presence soothed me from the inside out.   Within minutes, I was drifting into a deep, sweet sleep.

How incredible that we can be lifetime COVENANT partners with Almighty God! 

  Any thoughts? 

 

 

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Safety Nets and Sacrifices

October 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

My son, Josiah, has been trying for some time now to share Christ with a classmate at school. 

“Mom, he just doesn’t get it.  He tells me that he can go back and forth between evil and good.  He says he can do whatever he wants because God will forgive him anyway.  I tried to tell him that it doesn’t work that way but he just won’t listen.”

Josiah knows and understands the truth of God’s grace, or unmerited favor, which can be found in the fifth and sixth chapters of Romans.  Indeed, God will forgive those of us who come to Him with a repentant heart regardless of how “bad” our sin may be.  BUT…that does not give us freedom to knowingly sin. 

Many choose to embrace sin because they think there is a “safety net” of forgiveness available to “cover” them.  Not only do those with this mindset not understand how serious of an offense sin actually is to God, but they are choosing to take advantage of His mercy. 

God’s mercy is not an excuse to live in disobedience to His word and do whatever we want.  Sin is a BIG deal.  So big, in fact, that nothing other than a blood sacrifice can bring forgiveness to a sinner.  The Bible tells us that the price for sin is DEATH.  Before Jesus died on the cross to forever take away the sins of the world, God’s people were required to sacrifice an innocent animal, a “substitution” for themselves, to atone for their sins.  His people were responsible for much more than a quick prayer and an apology.  They had to face the truth of what their sin really was. They had to view it from God’s perspective-see it as filthy, awful, and so vile that it cannot even be in the presence of a Holy God.  To be forgiven, they had no choice but to place their hands on that innocent animal and to lean heavily against it, symbolically transferring their sins to it.  They experienced the animal’s undeserved death, watched the blood flow out, and literally felt life exit the animal’s body.  For the wages of sin is death.  No exceptions.  Something had to DIE to pay for their wrong choices. Because the sacrifice determined whether or not the sinner was in right-standing with God, it was not something that was approached casually.   No one justified ungodly choices by saying, “It’s not a big deal.  I’ll just go murder something, cover myself in its blood, and feel its very life fade to nothing.” 

 Sin was avoided at all costs.

Jesus’ death removed the need for the substitutionary animal sacrifices altogether –for He became my substitution and your substitution once and for all.  He was the undeserving lamb that paid the price for our sins. 

With great remorse for what we’ve done, we lean heavily on him to take away our sin.  We don’t approach him with a casual, “Forgive me for this today and tomorrow I’ll be back with something new for you to forgive” attitude.   A true understanding of Christ’s sacrifice removes our “safety net” mentality and replaces it with a deep resolve to pattern our actions and choices after those of Him who loved us enough to take our rightful place of death. 

Today as I was reading in Jude, I ran across an interesting passage that I didn’t even know existed.  In verses 5-7, Jude reminds us that the Lord delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those of His chosen who refused to adhere to, trust in, and rely on Him.  Jude also points out two other examples of rebellion:  the angels that were once pure, holy, and living in God’s presence who gave in to pride and joined Satan in rebelling against God and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah whose inhabitants were so full of sin that God wiped them clear off the face of the earth.

God is Holy.  He will not be associated with sin.  If God punished His chosen people, angels, and an entire city for justifying sin, what makes us think He’ll look the other way when it comes to us?  What makes us think He’ll wink and wave as we choose to take advantage of Him? 

Sin separates man from God.  Even those in relationship with Him.  When we choose to sin, or miss the mark or standard that God has set for us, we choose a small degree of separation from Him.  When we make sinning a habit and justify it, it doesn’t take long for that small sliver of separation to become a vast expanse.

 If you find yourself to be far from God perhaps it’s time to view yourself through His eyes.  Are you just using Him as a “get out of hell free” card?  As a safety net?  Or maybe you really do recognize the seriousness of sin but compromise has slowly crept into your life?  Either way, know that your situation WILL NOT change until YOU choose to change it!  It just takes one step at a time…in the right direction.

 Jesus paid for our sin with His LIFE! 

 The very least we can do in return is to LIVE FOR HIM.

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“Not So Dreamy” DREAMS

October 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

 

So today is October 1st, the release date of the October 2010 In Touch Magazine.  A day that I WAS really looking forward to.  I’ve decided to abandon my blog idea for today and rant and rave a little…if you don’t mind.

Back in December, I thought I’d try my hand at writing magazine articles for Christian publications.  I sent my first attempt out to MANY different editors and was genuinely shocked to receive the same response over and over.  Your message is too “Christian.”  We serve a “cross over” market.  You can’t say anything that might make someone feel bad.  We’re looking for “soft” evangelism.  We’re not looking for anything “preachy.” 

Oh, I’m sorry…I thought I was submitting to the Christian market.  When did we cheapen the truth?  When did we water down the Gospel?    How in the world can anything I write affect anybody if I take out the one thing that has the power to actually affect them?

After I settled down, dropped my defensive attitude, and reasoned that maybe, just maybe, people might be able to learn something from a “not too Christian, cross over piece that doesn’t make anyone feel bad and isn’t too preachy but has some soft evangelism in it,” I drafted a new manuscript-one with a whole lot less of God in it and a whole lot more of  ME in it.  A practical, humorous piece about surviving motherhood.  I sent it to only a handful of publications this time and quickly received interest from three of them.  Shortly afterward, I signed first rights over to In Touch Magazine, a ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley that still promotes Biblical truth.  After a little happy dance, I thanked the Lord for opening a door for me to change lives for Him.

A month passed.  Two.  Three.  Four.  No published article.  Five months.  Six.  So much time passed that I began to believe that they dumped my manuscript and decided not to publish it after all. 

About two weeks ago, I received an envelope in the mail from In Touch containing two copies of their magazine.  Realizing just how special these little books were, I excitedly flipped open the front cover to reveal the table of contents.  And sure enough, there it was on page 26!  “Mothering Without Incident” by J U L I E   H I G G I N S.  And it was even spelled correctly!  I could barely believe my eyes!  Better yet, someone had written a clever little attention grabbing intro for it! 

Getting tantrums under control is of vital importance-especially when it’s the parent who’s having them!

Could it possibly get any better???

I flipped through the pages as fast as I could and came face to face with a screaming woman sporting  green skin.  “They gave me artwork!”  I squealed to my husband, dancing around the kitchen.

And then it happened.  A large yellow text box caught my eye.  I scanned its contents and was instantly overcome with panic.  “I didn’t write that.”

“What?”  My husband walked over to take a look.

“Those words in the box.  I didn’t write them.”  I continued to scan the small print.  “I didn’t write that word either.  Verdant.  What does that even mean?”

I got out my original manuscript and noted all of the things that had been edited out of the copy due to space limitations.  (What can I say…I’m wordy!) 

Perhaps the most upsetting thing of all, the one little bit about God-the most important part of the piece-was cut and spliced with an entirely different section, changing the entire message I was hoping to speak.

“Or better yet, if I would have started the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the word of God, how much differently I might have handled the situation altogether. 

My only complaint as a mother is that there simply is not enough time to get it all done.  I would love to spend time reading devotionals and inspirational stories every day to help me on this motherhood journey.  Those of you who have toddlers know that every minute wasted on yourself is equal to about five minutes of “damage control” later when you find out what your small child was up to during that stolen moment! “

was changed to read, “I USED TO THINK that if I could start the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the Word of God, I would handle these situation more calmly.  I’d love to spend time reading devotionals and inspiring stories to help me on this motherhood journey.  But then I reasoned, every minute wasted on myself equals five minutes of “damage control” later when I find out what my small child was up to during that stolen moment!

While it might not seem like that big of a change, it entirely changes the meaning of my words and leads others to believe that I’ve “tried that and it didn’t work”  instead of “this is what I should have really done.”

“How can they do that!”  My husband was now irritated, also.

“Because I signed a contract that said they could ‘edit’ my work.”  I sighed.  I did not realize that ‘edit’ meant  re-word and add their own thoughts to it.

I’ll admit that it was a pretty hard lesson for me to learn, but it could have been much, much worse.  From this experience, I’ve learned that maybe the dream of being published in the largest circulating Christian magazine isn’t quite so dreamy after all.  If a million people read my words, but they don’t glorify God -and don’t challenge people to become more like Him-  have I really accomplished anything at all? 

I’ve decided that I’m just not really the “soft” evangelism type.  Perhaps I’ve spent too many years under a pastor with a passion for speaking the truth at any cost.  Perhaps it’s just another lesson in becoming more than mediocre.  I’ll still submit my work to Christian magazines, but I refuse to compromise my message just to get published.  It’s just really not worth it.  I’d rather speak the truth  to a single blog reader than to have thousands read a message that does not stir a hunger for God in them.

You can check out my professionally “edited” article posted on the In Touch website at this link  http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content/topic/mothering_without_incident

OR…you can read the original version right here on my blog at  www.hiddenjewels.wordpress.com  Just scroll down until you see the picture of the Incredible Hulk!

 

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Who’s YOUR Daddy?

September 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

In 1 John 3:9, scripture tells us that “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 

If we do a little digging, we’ll find that the word “seed” in this verse is actually taken from the Greek word, Sperma, meaning something sown, i.e. seed (including the male “sperm”); by implication, offspring.  It is from Sperma that we derive our English word, “sperm.” 

From this, we can understand that when we are born of God or “born again” into Christianity, the actual “seed” of God is injected into us and we are literally re-conceived and made new through the “sperm” of our Heavenly Father.  Our spiritual DNA is forever changed as God’s divine “seed” is planted within our spirit and begins to grow and produce life.

Just as we inherit blue eyes, curly hair, or even a hot temper from our earthly father’s seed, we inherit the character and attributes of God the Father from His divine seed.  The very nature of Holy God is implanted into our spirit, cancelling our old sin nature.   We can no longer continue in sin or live the way we once did because the old person that we once were no longer exists! 

Because my parents serve as foster parents, I’m no stranger to DNA tests!  It seems that half of the kids in the Child Protective System don’t know definitively who their father is.  Often, their DNA will not match that of several potential fathers.  However, occasionally, a child’s appearance and mannerisms will present so much like those of their father that we can call their heritage with 100% accuracy.  But those cases are extremely rare.

My question for you today is, “Who’s YOUR Daddy?” 

1 John 3:10 tells us, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Can the attributes of Father God be found in you?  Do your thoughts and actions display His nature?  Can others recognize what you have inherited from Him?

Live as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  But as the One who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.

For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.

 ~1 Peter 1:14-16

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Good LOVE-er Gone Bad

September 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

If you read my last post you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that I’m still stuck on the book of 1 John.  (And I probably will be tomorrow and a week from now and ten years from now until I KNOW that I’ve mastered it!)  If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning, then you know that I’m a rule follower.  Just tell me the right thing to do so I can do it, PLEASE! 

1 John does exactly that for me.  When I read it, I see arrows pointing to a huge sign with blinking lights that says, “So you want to follow Christ?  This is what a Christian looks like.   Do YOU look like this?”  Well, the problem is…I DON’T.  Not yet anyway.  Because 1 John isn’t just about choosing not to sin.  It also focuses on LOVING OTHERS. 

 Today I’ve decided to let you in on a dirty little secret of mine.  I’m a good LOVE-er gone bad.  Yep, you heard me right.  Now, before you start to defend me, I’ll tell you that I’ve already been there and had that argument with the LORD…and I lost!  So don’t bother.  But don’t worry, I’m working on it and hopefully I’ll cross back over soon.

There’s probably a hundred things that I can blame it on…a broken heart, trust issues, an introverted personality, a short temper….the list goes on.  But before a Holy God, no excuse stands.  So, I’ve had no other choice than to go ahead and face the ugly truth. 

 And it is UGGGG-LY!  

  I used not to have a problem loving others because I surrounded myself with only those that were lovable.  Whenever I came into contact with a “sand paper” person that rubbed me the wrong way or grated on my nerves, I’d think,   “I don’t have to put up with that.”  And I didn’t put up with it!  I closed them out of my life and went on my merry way.

About five years and three children into mothering, things weren’t very merry anymore.  To my dismay, two of my three precious children  had become “sand paper” people themselves.  The really, really coarse kind!  Only a mom can understand this next statement, so the rest of you…just ignore it! 

I loved them, but I was really beginning to not like them! 

 Though I truly loved them…deeply…with every ounce of my being- I was finding it extremely difficult to express any love to them at all because I just wasn’t “feeling” it.  They were taking up too much of my time, my energy, my space, my peace, my sleep, even my food!  MY EVERYTHING!  On top of that, they were so, so, SO very difficult to manage!  I found their behavior to be absolutely “un-lovable” and I honestly didn’t want to be around them.   I was frazzled, frustrated, and exhausted day in and day out and I just didn’t want to put up with it.  It was too hard.  So, I began to close them out and focus on ME.  How did I feel?  What was I going to do today?  What did I want in life?  What were they keeping me from?   How could I get more time to myself?  (Hey, I warned you that it was pretty ugly!)

I’m ashamed to say that this went on for a number of years.  My actions continued to spiral downward until I didn’t recognize myself anymore -for I was exactly the opposite of loving.  Who was this selfish, unloving person that I had become?   I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that I hit rock bottom.  I realized that the quality of my parenting could not get any lower.  I knew I had a real problem that needed a very real solution-right away before I did any more damage to my children or anyone else!  I needed to stop the pity party, choose to put others above myself, and learn how to truly LOVE because real love does not close people out.  It does not give up on them.  Genuine love is patient and kind.  It is never  jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, or easily angered.  It does not act unbecomingly.  It does not insist on its own rights or its own way for it is not self-seeking.  It is not resentful and it does not pay attention to wrongs that have been done.  Love is always ready to believe the best of every person and it endures everything without weakening.    Love always trusts.  Always hopes.  Love never fails.

In 1 John 4:7-8 the Bible tells us that we are to love one another  because love is from God and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows Him.  Those who do not love do not know God because GOD IS LOVE. 

That verse alone creates a  problem for those who aren’t actively choosing to love others but want to be in a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I did the only thing I knew to do.   I went straight to the most loving person I know, our pastor’s wife.  She and I went to the Lord together and asked that He place His love in my heart. 

How do I know it’s there?  Because I’m having little tiny “love victories”  one “sand paper” person’s action at a time. 

Do I still fail?  Absolutely.  In fact, my kids told me the other day that they didn’t think the prayer worked!  But when I fail, I get right back up and try again.  Because that’s what love is all about.

How about you?  Is there a “sand paper” person in your life?  Are you a good LOVE-er?

 Let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!

~1 John 3:18

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1 John: An OCD’s Best Friend

September 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

It’s not something I’m proud of, but I tend to exhibit a *few* obsessive compulsive behaviors.   Like having to actually feel each of my sleeping children breathe before heading to bed myself.  (Seeing their chests rise is not enough!)  And making sure to say ‘I love you’ every time we part ways.  There’s checking the locks again even though my husband said he already checked them.  And then there’s this list of everything that I have to make sure is turned off before leaving the house.  All of my kids have known it since they were just toddlers.  “Flat iron, regular iron, air, lights, stove, heater was never on.”  They help me run through it when we get into the car.  That’s just how we do it at our house.  Okay, so maybe it’s a little worse than I made it out to be, but the fact remains that by nature I HAVE TO MAKE SURE.  It’s just part of who I am.

 So, when it comes to salvation – when it comes to having this ongoing relationship with God that I’m seeking out – I’ve got to have some sort of proof that it is real in my life.  Do I have it?  Or do I not?  What exactly makes someone who has accepted Jesus into their heart any different from all the good people who have not made that decision?

 God, in His infinite wisdom, knew in advance that OCD’s like me (and perhaps regular people like you) would struggle with the authenticity of their salvation in Him.  Some…every now and then and others on a daily basis.  He inspired the Apostle John to write an extremely straight-forward no-nonsense letter that clearly pictures the evidences of true discipleship.

 **Warning:  put your shoes on because this guy is a toe-stomper!  I’m limping right now…

 John starts out in the 5th verse of the 1st chapter telling us that God is light and that there is no darkness in Him at all.  That if we claim to have fellowship with Him but continue to walk in darkness, our claims are false and there is no truth in them.

 CRUNCH!  One toe out!

 In the 2nd chapter of 1 John, verse 3, he lays it out again by stating that we can discern that we have come to know God if we obey His commands.  The Amplified Version of the Bible brings great clarity in verses 4 through 6.

  “Whoever says I know Him [I perceive, recognize, understand, and am acquainted with Him] but fails to keep and obey His commandments (teachings) is a liar, and the Truth [of the Gospel] is not in him.

But he who keeps (treasures) His word [who bears in mind His precepts, who observes His message in its entirety], truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected (completed, reached maturity). 

 By this we may perceive (know, recognize, and be sure) that we are in Him:  Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself. ”

 OUCH!!!!

 He’s not finished yet, though! 

 Chapter 3 verse 6 goes on to tell us, “No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him – deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. 

No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].”

 CRRRRRRRR—–UUUUUUNNNNN—–CCCCHHHHHHHHHHH! 

 John goes on to share proof after proof after proof, revealing exactly what we are to do and what we are not to do if we intend to maintain a relationship with the Living God. 

Though his message isn’t easy for me to hear, I choose to embrace it because it’s a map straight to God.  This ‘map’ shows me which direction to head towards and all of the “landmarks” I should be seeing on the way to where I’m going.   By reading it I can know that I know that I know that I KNOW that I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with God.  And that brings great satisfaction to this OCD girl!  With all of the wondering and worrying out of the way, I can spend more time putting His words into practice.

 How about you?  When’s the last time you checked out the book of 1 John?  It’s a really short one, so take ten minutes out of your day and just MAKE SURE.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Do You Have the Time?

September 20, 2010 at 11:50 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

So how exactly does one enter into this two-way relationship with God?  I’ve spent more than the past fifteen years trying to figure the answer out!  Ironically, deep down inside, I’ve known it all along and you probably do, too.  It all boils down to spending time with Him.  Time reading the Bible-getting to know who He is and how He does things.  Time worshipping Him.   Time talking to Him.   And then time just listening for Him to talk back. 

This is much easier said than done because the one thing in life we don’t seem to have any extra of…is time. 

 I must confess that I’ve been looking for a shortcut to God my entire adult life.  I’ve never really “had the time” to sit down and read God’s word because I’ve filled my days up with “important things” that “have to be done.”  I race around all day long getting kids ready for school, dropping them off, grocery shopping, running errands, cleaning house, exercising, picking kids up from school, driving kids to library clubs and  piano and cheerleading and soccer and Bible Study, helping with homework, cooking dinner, giving baths, reading stories, and saying prayers.  THEN it’s time to do laundry, wash dishes, iron clothes and think about what all didn’t get done for the day!    

With such a hectic schedule, I’ve searched for an EASY way to God with QUICK results that requires LITTLE TO NONE OF MY TIME.  Well, that’s not exactly how a normal relationship works and it’s definitely not how one with God works.  Who wants a spouse that only comes home every once in a while?  What good is a friend who’s never around?  Successful relationships require a significant amount of time spent together.

Confession #2  My to-do list above isn’t quite complete.  I left off a thing or two…or three or four…You see, I failed to mention that Monday nights at 8 are kinda off-limits.  And Tuesdays from 8 to 10.  Thursdays at 8 are taken, too.  Oh yeah, nine on Thursdays is not really available either. 

Remarkably,  in the midst of my “busy-ness” I somehow manage to never miss an episode of my favorite TV shows.  But I don’t have time to read the Bible.  You know, because I’m just really very busy.  And then I’m just really tired and need to relax…

I’m sure you know what’s coming next.  It’s the thing we already know we should do but we don’t really want to do because we like what we are already doing!

I’ve  had to make a choice to re-prioritize my life.  The truth is that we MAKE time for that which is truly important to us.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my shows just as much as anyone.  And I didn’t have to give them all up.  But I did have to limit them along with many other things. 

Perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve chosen to give up is scrapbooking.  (Okay, let’s all agree that I’m a mega dork now and get it over with!)  I absolutely love love LOVE photos of my kiddos and the  precious moments in time that they capture.  I can spend hours upon hours creating masterpieces with them.  At times, the hobby has literally consumed me, my thoughts, and my energy.   But do I really want scrapbooks to be the only thing I have to show for myself in life? 

 I have a feeling that God probably isn’t all that pleased to be in direct competition for my time with scrapbooks and Criminal Minds re-runs.

You can laugh all you want, but I have to admit that it was really difficult to let go.  I mean REALLY difficult.  But, as the days turned into weeks it got easier and before long, the desires died altogether.  I still watch some of my shows, but only after I’ve spent time with the Lord.  I’m sure I’ll scrapbook again someday, but not until I get to the point where I can value it less than I value spending time with the Lord.

How about you?  Do you have the time?  Has God asked you to give up anything important lately?

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Magic Prayers and Maybe’s

September 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

 Every journey has a beginning and mine started years ago as a little girl.  I was born and raised in the church.  We were there every time the doors were open.  I grew up in a Christian home learning the word of God and living it.  Somewhere around the age of seven or eight, I walked down that long center aisle of the church and said a sinner’s prayer.  I don’t remember anything about that day except that my best friend had just done it and that I was wearing this fantastic little white dress with red, royal blue, and navy hearts all over it.  I really didn’t know what I was doing but I did know that @#!*%  sounded like a scary place and I’d be much better off in Heaven.  Life went on.  I learned more about the Lord in church and at home, and continued to live an overall “good” life. 

 Years later, I attended a special youth camp held to help teens grow in their walk with the Lord.  It was there that I learned the cost of true Christianity and what being a Christian is really about – dying to self and living for Christ.   I realized for the very first time that my ‘magic little prayer that was supposed to open the door to Heaven’ was not quite magic at all.   I came face to face with the fact that if I were to die at that very moment, I would spend eternity in exactly the opposite place than I had always believed I would.  I can hear someone gasping now, “But you said ‘THE PRAYER!’”  Yes…for years I, my family, and my friends thought that I was “covered” when it came to Heaven.  But in reality, I was on my way to @#!*% .  Sure I repeated some words after the preacher, but there was absolutely no change in my life.  I was not a new creation in Christ.  Some have argued with me that a change isn’t always noticeable when you accept Jesus into your life at such a young age.  After all, you don’t see many eight-year-olds out robbing banks and killing people.  I can certainly agree with that.  But for me…I knew in my heart that I had not truly handed over every aspect of my life-my thoughts, my choices, my actions, and my future to the God who created me.  You see, I’m a rule-follower by nature and I learned early on that following the rules brings good things into life while breaking them only brings trouble.  So I didn’t have to do much to appear “Christian.”  I was smart enough to do the right thing to avoid painful consequences. 

 In tears, I approached a couple of trusted camp counselors and explained my dilemma.  I’ll never forget their response, “We’re pretty sure you’re saved.  We really don’t think you have to worry.  Why don’t you sleep on it tonight and if it’s still bothering you in the morning then we can nail it down.”

 You’re pretty sure?  You really don’t think I have to worry?   We’re talking about my eternity here!  Are you kidding me????

 I tossed and turned all night in bed, terrified that I was going to die in my sleep!  First thing that morning, I nailed it down and I truly gave my life to the Lord.

  The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants.  On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord!  Didn’t we prophesy in your name?  Didn’t we expel demons in your name?  Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’  Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you!  Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’

 Scriptures makes it clear that some will be in for a terrible surprise when their life on this earth comes to an end.   Though they THOUGHT they’d make it right in to Heaven with no problems, the Bible states that God Himself will tell them to depart from Him because they never KNEW Him intimately.  Now look at the things they listed off as proof that they deserve to be in Heaven.  Prophecy?  Demonic Deliverance?  Miracles?  We’re not just talking about your average moral person who tries to live a decent life here.  We’re talking about people who are truly trying to do good things and who appear to be doing “God’s work.”  And yet, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  How can that be?  Scripture says they do not have a relationship with the one true God.  They don’t know Him intimately.

 Is it just me or does anyone else find this to be extremely disturbing?   Salvation’s not about saying a prayer and it’s not about doing enough good things to earn your way into Heaven.  Yet how many people among us genuinely believe that they will go to Heaven when they die because of these very things?  I know I did for some time.  Somehow “the church” has managed to lead people to believe that a one time “magic” prayer is all the fire insurance they need to protect them from  @#!*% .  “Say the prayer and live however you want.  Jesus loves you.”  Well, that’s not what the Bible says at all.  We have failed to share the parts of the Gospel that make one truly count the cost before making a decision to become a Christian.  We omit the difficult parts about repenting from sin, denying the flesh, living a disciplined life in complete submission to God, and suffering persecution from non-believers.  Christianity is not a free ticket to Heaven.  It’s actually a very, very costly one!

 When I finally came to understand that Christianity is a lifestyle and that an ongoing relationship with God is the most essential part of it, things began to get a little complicated.  I asked myself, do I or do I not have a relationship with Him?  Maybe I do.  I think I might.  Others think I do.  I’m pretty sure…

 Well, “pretty sure” just isn’t good enough for me.  I want to be 100% certain that I will spend all of eternity with the God who loved me enough to sacrifice His son for me.  I don’t want to know ABOUT Him.  I want to know Him personally.  To be in a two-way relationship with Him.  To hear His voice daily.  To truly, intimately KNOW who He is, what He loves and what He hates, and what He has planned for me next.

 How about you?   Are you crossing your fingers or do you know without a doubt that you are in a committed and intimate relationship with Almighty God?

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