Fighting Battles But Forgetting People

download-1.jpg

Are we so busy fighting the big battles and the things that threaten the spreading of the Gospel, that we’re forgetting to actually spread the Gospel?

Lately I’ve see so many articles and posts on social media that are waging war on all kinds of hot topics: Divorce.  Abortion.  Substance Abuse.  Homosexuality.  Islam.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it doesn’t sit right with me.  I’ve been struggling with the idea of us as Christ followers spouting messages about “abortion is a sin!”, and “make your marriage work!”, and “stand up against the muslims taking over our country!”, and most recently, “don’t let those school board heathens take verses from our Bibles!”.

I understand that we need to stand, we need to have convictions and believe in them. And we need to pray.  But in the wake of our social media convictions there lies a lot of carnage; carnage made up of broken human hearts.

Behind that divorce is an exhausted woman who needs some support.

Behind that abortion is a woman living in shame who doesn’t know how she can raise a baby on her own and how she can manage the looks of judgement.

Behind the social drinking is a person who is dealing with a childhood of neglect and abuse.

Behind the homosexuality is a person who feels judged and condemned.

Behind the hijab is a woman who fiercely believes in her Koran and doesn’t know any other reality.

Behind a school board decision is a person who has hurt from the church and is trying to do what she believes is the right thing.

And all of these people, what do they receive from Jesus followers?  They usually receive more shame, guilt, condemnation, and judgement.   These people won’t benefit from a Facebook post that further pushes them away from what they need most.

When I watch how Jesus walked out his short years here on earth, he never addressed the sin or the issue without addressing the heart.  He never did one without the other, except maybe when it came to dealing with those who were religious, the Pharisees.  (I think He knew their hard, proud hearts weren’t open, but the heart of a hurting person would be.)  When a woman was caught in adultery (a sin punishable by death), He restored her dignity in front of her accusers, treated her with love and valued her as a person, and THEN  told her to go and sin no more.  It’s a similar story with the woman at the well.  When He healed people, He never asked them what sins they committed first (though He DID rebuke his disciples for inquiring who’s sin made a boy blind – John 9:2-3).  He took the depravity of the human condition and put it up against the Love of His Father.  And that love won EVERY. TIME.

I really think we have it backwards.  We address the sin in peoples’ lives, and then tell them how to live opposite of that.  We tell them not to get divorced, that abortion is murder, that alcohol abuse is wrong and hurts people.  But we’re not really doing what Jesus did – appeal to the broken heart first.  When Jesus gave love and grace to the sinners he encountered, it was a given that they would turn around and do something different.  Because meeting Love in person form has a way of changing people.  Imposing rules and fighting big issues don’t.

Let’s not forget that behind the “big battles” are people.  People who need love, not hate. People who need what Jesus has to offer, not more of what the enemy offers (judgement, shame, guilt, isolation, condemnation).  What are we offering them when we share politically/racially-charged articles on Facebook?

What are we offering them when we’re fighting so hard for our rights to spread the Gospel, that we’ve forgotten to actually do just that?  None of these issues affect my ability to spread the love of Jesus where He calls me to: which is everywhere, at all times – I need to grow to that!  (Remember that the Gospel is being spread even in places where that very act is punishable by death, so surely we can get around any restrictions imposed on us.)  The big issues don’t stop me from telling one person about the love of Jesus and how He can change our lives.

The big issues matter, but Jesus is teaching me that they don’t matter more than a person.

Jesus fought the big battles by going after one heart.  Then another.  And then another. Let’s go after peoples’ hearts and the big issues will diminish.

What it actually means to be pro-life

imgres.jpg

To be pro-life means you are advocating for a life, not just a birth.

Abortion is one of those controversial topics that has a huge influence on the way people vote.  I can’t remember any election in recent years in which the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” issue wasn’t a part.  And there is certainly no shortage of passion coming from either side of the argument.

In all the articles that fill our social media newsfeeds, and all the televised debates, one question that always remains in my head is, “What happens to those babies?”

You might assume that this question is referring to all the fetuses cut out of their mothers’ wombs and disposed of.  That’s a real concern for many.  I certainly share the concern.

But you know what?  I have a larger concern for those babies who’s lives we are advocating for.  I’m asking about all the babies who live.  Where do they go?  What happens to THEM?

When a woman chooses abortion, she does not want a baby.  Simply telling her she should – or has to – remain pregnant and birth her baby solves very few problems in my mind. It’s great that she remained pregnant and gave birth.  But now we have a baby that wasn’t wanted.

A baby that wasn’t wanted, grows into a child that wasn’t wanted, and becomes an adult that isn’t wanted.

It’s all fine and good to fight for the life of a precious, innocent infant.  But when that infant grows into the behaviourally-challenged bully that targets your child in the classroom, or becomes the drunk, homeless man who stinks and begs you for change on your way to work everyday (“and why doesn’t he get a damn job like the rest of us do!”), it’s not so cute anymore.  It’s not so simple anymore.

We want babies, but we don’t want needy adults who are a drain on society.  We want babies, but we don’t want to get messy.

I’m not saying that every unwanted baby become a bully, a homeless man or a prostitute. Certainly that’s the extreme.  What I AM saying is that it is not right to advocate for lives just to the point that they make it out of the womb, and then think your job is done.  Regardless of the socio-economic status of the mother involved.  I am saying that to be pro-life means we stand for life – the mother’s, the infant’s, and whoever that infant becomes in the future.

Being against abortion means that we are going to have many babies – people – born among us who were not wanted.  Being against abortion means we will have women in our midst who need support and help.  Being against abortion means being willing to foster a child, adopt a child, or to simply step up to help a mom.  Maybe it means volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Maybe it means supporting a single mom financially.  Maybe it means working with a ministry that helps street people find and secure jobs.  Maybe it means being available to babysit for the worn out mom who didn’t want another child.

One thing I know for sure, is being pro-life DOESN’T mean sporting a sign outside an abortion clinic or sharing a Facebook post to voice your opinion, without any intention to support a mother with an unwanted pregnancy or a child who WAS the unwanted pregnancy.

I know that I want to be pro-LIFE – and all that it entails – and not just pro-birth.   Lord, help me be okay to get messy.

 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

-Sister Joan Chittister

Why Christians need to stop hating prosperity.

images-3

“Health and wealth”.  “Prosperity gospel”.  Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give.  These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.

I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind.  In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed.  So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all.  You know, lest someone be offended.  Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.

This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion.  If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it?  If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars.  Right?  “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity.  I can’t accept that.”  If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?

The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad.  Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?

Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”.  In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God.  When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it.  They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things.  Seems a little backwards to me.

So who’s the source of the things we have, then?  If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it?  There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:

  1. You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life.  “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.”  God is not part of the equation here.
  2. The enemy has provided it for you.  (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here.  We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.)  God is not part of the equation here either.
  3. It’s just kismet.  Fate.  Good luck.  Again – God is not part of this equation.

Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it?  It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence?   It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?

There is something so, so wrong with this picture.  Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t.  And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t.  Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).

But what does the Bible say?  Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13).  Super rich in material things.  But it wasn’t just for him.  He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2).  The Bible also talks about Job.  He was extremely rich too.  “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?”  Yup, it was.  And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more.  Even more material things.  God did that.

This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.”  Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings.  And those are far greater than earthly ones!  In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us.  We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc.  But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.

In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“.  I didn’t say it, the Bible did.

Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough.  Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have.  “Well, I need this van.”  Actually no.  You don’t need a vehicle.  “I need a house to live in.”  Again, no you don’t.  You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty.  So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed.  So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed.  Blessed beyond measure!  “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.”  Who are you to say that?  Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large.  So who’s to draw the line?  That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have.  You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not.  I know these things, because I did them.  All of them.

So here’s the thing.  Here’s the reason all of this matters:  Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else.  If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it.  I earned it, it’s mine.  But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom.  I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.

And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it.  How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?

It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.

It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.

It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.

It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.

It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.

You don’t NEED money to bless people.  We should be blessing any way we can!  But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways.  So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.

We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them.  And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.

***

My heart in this is not to pass judgement.  If this is where you are, I get it.  I really, really do.  Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you.  None of us have arrived, none of us know it all.  This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.

 

Hate religion? Good. So did Jesus.

re·li·gious
rəˈlijəs/
adjective
  1. 1.
    relating to or believing in a religion.

One of my least favourite things is being called “religious”.  I know it’s done with good intentions usually, so it doesn’t make me angry, but I don’t like being associated with religion in any way.  I always reply with “I’m not religious.  Jesus hated religion.”

See, the main reason I don’t care for that title is because the definition above just doesn’t fit; I don’t believe in a religion.  I believe in a man named Jesus who died for me to have an abundant life.

Religion is man-made; Jesus was God-made.

The other, more important reason I really don’t like being labelled with this term, is because religious people were the ones who worked against Jesus.  They were the ones who were more concerned with how they looked on the outside than the true motives on the inside (Matt. 23:25-26), they were the ones who beaked from the sidelines when Jesus performed healings and deliverances (Matt. 12:9-14 is one of many instances), and they were the ones who tried to control him and make him conform to their man-made rules and traditions.  Jesus’ freedom ticked them right off, and they eventually put him on the cross for it.

Jesus and religion are not synonymous.  In fact, they are quite opposite.

A religious spirit is obsessed with appearance and rule-abiding; a Jesus spirit is concerned with the condition of the heart.

A religious spirit boasts about his maturity in Christ; a Jesus spirit quietly lives out maturity in Christ because he is always seeking more truth.  

A religious spirit takes pride in his doctrine and his knowledge of Scripture; a Jesus spirit humbly lives out the truth of what he has read.  

A religious spirit believes he knows all there is to know; a Jesus spirit is always willing to admit there is room to grow and learn.  

A religious spirit puts emphasis on doing, performing, and following rules; a Jesus spirit puts emphasis on what is already done, and is led not by rules but by the voice of the Shepherd.

A religious spirit speaks out against the works of Christ (healing, delivering, setting people free); a Jesus spirit believes God meant it when He said “these signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16) and then walks in it.  

A religious spirit will skip around from church to church, because he is seeking power and control and church is about him; a Jesus spirit follows God’s leading about where he should be planted and then stays until God directs him differently.  

A religious spirit looks at a circumstance and then determines God’s will; a Jesus spirit looks at God’s will, and then determines what the circumstance should be.

A religious spirit is offended if he thinks you are saying he doesn’t have enough faith; a Jesus spirit will freely admit a lack of faith and take it as an opportunity to cry out, “Lord, increase our faith!” as the disciples did when Jesus rebuked them (Luke 17:5), or to declare, “I do believe!  Help me overcome my unbelief!” as the father of the sick boy did (Mark 9:24).  

A religious spirit condemns sin and makes you try harder; a Jesus spirit gives grace which empowers you to conquer sin for good.

A religious spirit repels the unbeliever; a Jesus spirit attracts him.

A religious spirit knows Scripture; a Jesus spirit believes Scripture and lives it out.

A religious spirit fears man; a Jesus spirit fears God.

A religious spirit binds people; a Jesus spirit sets people FREE!

Jesus really did not like religion.  And if he didn’t, then we shouldn’t either.

Think about it – Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, but hung out and showed grace and forgiveness to an adultress.  Jesus (and John the Baptist) called the Pharisees and Sadduccees “broods of vipers” on multiple occasions, yet he told a condemned man hanging on the cross beside him that he would join him in paradise that day.  The only group of people he consistently rebuked, and even turned his back on, were the religious. No wonder they hated him.  (Keep in mind, it was the spirit working inside of them that he rebuked, and he still loved them.  So should we.)

So if the thought of religion repels you – GOOD.  It should.  It is not a true representation of God’s heart.  He didn’t die on a cross so he could obsess over our behaviour, keep us powerless against the evil in this world, and keep us thinking we’re just lowly little sinners.  NO!  He came and made us the “righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21) and “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:27).  He came so we could do what he told us to do (Mark 16) and be a solution to a sick and hurting world.

Religious Christians do not truly believe and live out the call to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1-2) and to follow his example (1 Cor. 1:11).  If we all did, then we wouldn’t have a problem with healing.  We wouldn’t have a problem with casting out demons.  We wouldn’t have a problem walking alongside society’s “worst”.  Religion has a problem with those things, but Jesus didn’t.  Jesus DID those things, and then told us to do them too.  In fact, he not only told us to do the same works he did, but that we would do “even greater works” after he went to be with the Father (John 14:12).  (Religious spirits really hate that one!  Good thing I didn’t author that – so don’t take it up with me!)  Religion keeps us arguing over the theology of such statements, but the spirit of Jesus at work within a person has them going out and doing them.

So, you see, it’s not about being good.  It’s not about rule-following and wearing a suit to church on Sunday and not drinking alcohol; it’s about being clean on the inside.  It’s not about memorizing Scripture and spouting off theology, it’s about allowing the truth of Scripture to change you from the inside out.  It’s not about knowing who Jesus was, it’s about knowing Jesus and then continuing His work to grow His Kingdom.  To help people.  To bring light to the darkness around us.

This world is dark, friend.  It doesn’t need more religion.  It doesn’t need more Christians arguing and fighting over theology.  It needs more Jesus.  It needs believers who will believe and obey His unadulterated Word, and who will then go do the works He called us to do.

I don’t want to be religious.  I want to be like Jesus.

 

 

Boundaries

imgres

“You can’t control behaviour,

but you can control consequences.”

This quotes comes from the authors of the awesome book “Boundaries” by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.

Boundaries are an interesting topic.  Loved by some, hated by others, boundaries are – in the very least – a good litmus test of the health of a relationship (or a person in it).  If I put up boundary A with someone I love, and they respond with malice and spite, and are offended by my boundary, I now know that there are some issues of power and control at the heart of that relationship.  If I am being loved, valued, protected, and respected in a relationship, then a boundary should be something that I am encouraged to put up.  If it’s not understood, a healthy person will ask genuine questions to gain understanding.

I read a great analogy on the “Boundaries” Facebook page a few weeks ago that has been rolling around in my head since.  It was talking about how a boundary is like a fence that we put up around our property.  What is inside that fence belongs to us, and as such, we have a say as to what happens there.  As a silly example, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on my lawn.  You can pee on the lawn outside of my fence – I have no say as to what happens there – but if you choose to pee on the inside, I will no longer allow you inside my fence.

The interesting thing, is that a healthy person will realize that they are the one who has caused themselves to not be allowed inside the fence anymore.  An unhealthy person will blame the person who put up the boundary, and say it is their fault they are no longer allowed.  Now, if you’re not wearing a shirt, and the store requires you to wear one, is it the store’s fault you have to remain on the street?  Or is it *your* choice not to adhere to the standards set by the owners of the property that you want to enter into?  The funny things is, a simple change of behaviour would allow that person back into the property (ie: not peeing on the lawn, or putting on a shirt).

An unhealthy person will not only make you responsible for their choice to continue in the disrespect that put them outside your fence, they might even go so far as to make you feel guilty and put a lot of negative pressure on you due to the boundary you’ve set out.  A lot of people in this situation take the bait, and to avoid the discomfort that has been created, will change their boundary and allow the person to come on in and pee on their lawn again.  Never mind, you’re right.  I was the problem.  Come on in and do whatever you’d like.

Now, the other person knows they have won, and can continue in the disrespectful behaviour on your property.  They thought you were the problem all along, and now you’ve just finally seen the light.

The question is:  How many yards has this person been peeing on?  Maybe dozens.  And you may be the only person in his or her life who has put up a fence and set out a clear consequence should the standards you have for your property be breached.  So clearly, you are now the problem.  “Bob doesn’t care if I pee on his lawn!”  Well, that’s fine.  Go to Bob’s house to do that, it’s not okay here.

Now obviously, most of us don’t have people clamouring around our yards wanting to pee on our lawns.  But we all have people in our lives who expect to treat us however they’d like, and we just keep the fence open.  “Come on in and treat me like crap!”  I’ve even heard people say, “well, Jesus was walked on.  So we should be too”.  Jesus died for the sins of humanity as a fulfillment of prophesy and to save us.  It wasn’t an issue of relational disrespect.  Jesus DOES however, tell us to be holy.  And part of being holy is being loving and truthful.  Allowing continual, unrepentant disrespect to keep happening without saying anything is neither of those things.  It’s not loving to enable someone to continue hurting you – or others – without saying something.

Everyone has an example of their life of someone who comes in and pees on their lawn.  I want to encourage you to be okay to put up a fence and protect your emotional property.  It’s okay to have a say as to what happens to your heart.  “You can’t control behaviour, but you can control consequences.”  You might lose family, you might lose friends.  But you will have peace inside that fence, and people in your yard who truly love and respect you unconditionally.  You will have truth, and honesty, and love, and respect.  And that fence is always open for people who are willing to come in and be nice.

I know that I want to be the kind of person who is welcome and safe to be inside other peoples’ yards.  And I also know that I want to model to my children not only the putting up of boundaries, but also the respecting of boundaries.  And the only way to do that is to walk it out as best I can, armed with His love and grace.

Healing theology: Why it ticks people off.

images-1

I’m not sure I know a doctrine in the North American church that manages to offend and tick more people off than the doctrine of healing.  (Wait, I do know another one:  Wealth. Combine the two, and you’re in even more trouble.  But that’s a touchy subject for another day…!)

Here are the 4 top reasons I believe it is always God’s will to heal:

  1. Because it says in His Word that He came to heal us and make us whole (Psalm 103 and many others).  He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).  We know from Scripture that sickness is a work of the enemy, not from God.  How do we know this?  Because only good can come from God.  He is not suffering from multiple personalities – He is either Jehovah Rapha (our healer), or He is the giver of sickness.  He can’t be both, and He only says He’s one of those things.  We know which one if we read His Word.  (Also, why would he put sickness on people, just to have Jesus come and take it away from them?  Jesus wasn’t able to work against the Father, so if sickness was the Father’s work, Jesus would have been working against Him if he healed.)
  2. Because Jesus came and healed ALL he came in contact with.   There is not one place in the New Testament where Jesus left someone unhealed and told them it was God’s will that they remain the way they were.  (The thorn in Paul’s flesh doesn’t count, because it states it was a “messenger of satan” – not sickness  – and it was eventually removed once Paul learned to lean on God’s grace and not himself.)
  3. Because the Greek word for “saved” (SOZO – my favourite topic that I will scream from the mountaintop to free people from religious bondage – and the subject of my recent tattoo!) also means “physically healed”.  In fact, there are many places in the NT where the word “sozo” was used when someone received a physical healing:  The woman with the issue of blood and the ten lepers, just to name a couple.   Healing is part of the same package that salvation is part of.
  4. Jesus told us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are to go out and heal the sick, free people of demons, and raise the dead.  Mark 16 says that healing is actually a sign that will follow those who believe.  Luke 9 says that he sent out the disciples to heal ALL diseases.  He wouldn’t tell us to do something we’re not capable of (with him).  And it wasn’t just the disciples, so don’t let yourself off the hook.  The apostles did it too.  It wasn’t just for them, any more than any of the message of the Bible was solely for those who walked with Jesus.  It was for us too.

Here are the top 4 reasons people don’t believe this is true and it downright ticks some people off:

  1. “Because Uncle John died of cancer and lots of people were praying for him.”  Praying for a sick person is actually something Jesus never did.  (I know, right?!)  And just because he wasn’t healed, why does that change what God’s will was and is?  God’s will is that NONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people still perish and fail to repent. There is a big gap between what God desires for us and what actually happens, because we have free will.
  2. Circumstance theology:  this is the fancy word for #1.  It’s when people take our earthly circumstances (ie: the healing didn’t or hasn’t happened), and then determine God’s will based on that.  Uncle John died of cancer so that must mean that it’s not always God’s will that people are healed.  A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned, is that NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS LINES UP WITH THE WILL OF GOD.  There are things that have happened in my day already today that were not the will of God.  Yet they still happened, because there are two forces that work against God’s will:  1. The enemy; and 2. My own flesh.  Now, the great news is that both of those things can be overcome.  But if you maintain your belief that whatever happens – even if you activated the church prayer chain about it – is God’s will, you will never get to the point of overcoming those things, because you are missing their involvement completely.
  3. Christians love to spiritualize suffering.  For some reason, we think we are to suffer for Jesus.  Yes, trials will come.  Yes, we are told to take part in Christ’s suffering.  But if you look at the original Greek, we are to “simpatiko” with Christ – to identify with, to have compassion, and to be of one mind with – not physically suffer.  Jesus was called to suffering so that we might be saved through him; my suffering does not accomplish that.  Yes, God will use the hard things I go through to refine me, but He doesn’t author them.  He would much rather I learn through seeking Him and heeding His Word, just like I would rather my children learn not to run in the road because I tell them, and not because they got hit by a car and got paralyzed.
  4. Because we don’t see it happening.  (P.S. You should go somewhere where it is.  It’s way more exciting!)  Just because we don’t see it, again, doesn’t mean it’s NOT God’s will.  It just means we’re missing something.  Remember again how Jesus said, “These miraculous signs WILL accompany those who believe (not just disciples): They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handles snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.  They WILL BE ABLE TO PLACE THEIR HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY WILL BE HEALED.”  (Mark 16: 17-18)  Jesus said that, not me!

Part of my journey with this, is that I had to get to the point where I asked myself, “Do I believe the Bible, or do I believe my experiences?”  “Do I believe what God said, or do I believe what I see or don’t see?”

Why can we have faith for salvation, but not for healing?  “Sozo” says they’re part of the same package, so why is one part easy to believe and another isn’t?  I believe part of it is because we never see “failed salvations”.  We don’t know if someone actually went to heaven or not.  But we’ve seen people sick with cancer, or lose a baby, or live with diabetes (or perhaps we ourselves have been the person).  So those experiences taint our ability to accept God’s word about healing (but not salvation), and we eventually decide healing must not always be God’s will.

Friend, God is good.  If you’re not experiencing these things in your life, it’s not because God doesn’t want them for you.  It just means you’re like everyone else and you’re on a journey of faith.  There’s no judgement, no condemnation no matter what you believe.  There is no one waiting to wave a finger at you if you don’t believe these things or even if it makes you downright ticked off.  But I encourage you – do your own study.  Dig into it.  Ask God to show you more of Him and what His desire for you is and what His character is.  I need to do this daily, as I grow and change and realize areas where I’ve missed it.  (And there’s lots!)  But regardless, His love for you is great.  And that’s a doctrine that we can all agree on.  🙂

So maybe your answer to my title question is different than mine.  Perhaps your answer to why this theology ticks people off is because you think it’s wrong, faulty theology.  You’re entitled to that opinion, and I am open to hearing where in Scripture it says that sickness and disease come from God, or that He won’t heal us.  I am always open to some good discussion!

I’ll leave this on this note:  I heard a quote once that really resonated with me, and it said something along the lines of:

The truth that has the most chains around it 

is the one that has the most ability to set you free.

So maybe – just maybe? – has the enemy put enormous amounts of chains around the doctrine of healing in our church, because it is that very truth that has the MOST ability to set people free?  Why does God being SO good anger people the way it does, instead of excite and spur them on to walk in more of His goodness?  I guess that is for each of us to ponder and decide for ourselves.

Peace and blessings.  Thanks for hearing my heart.

 

Drink the Whole Cup

imgres.jpg

Yesterday at church, we went up for communion as a family.  Our little Josie sipped the juice out of the cup she was handed, and started to return her used cup back to the tray, when she hesitated.  She had realized that she had only managed to slurp out about half of her juice.  She quickly took it back, excitedly drank up the remainder of what was hers, and we all headed back to our seats.

As we walked back, that picture really made me think.  I used to not get all of what Jesus had done for me on the cross.  I sipped the top, and then blindly handed it back, believing I had gotten it all without double checking.  I was wasting what had been given to me, because I did not even know that more existed.

I leaned over to Kris once we got back to our seats, and told him how I thought that scene was really a picture of our journey out of religion.  Once, we were just skimming the surface of our cup, of what Jesus did for us, but we were leaving a whole pile of it in there to be wasted.  And once we found out there was more in there, we had a choice whether or not we would hand it back half full, or grab it back enthusiastically like my girl had done, and get ALL of what was ours.  We all have a choice.  Are we all being as thorough as Josie, getting in that last sip of what Jesus has done for us?  Are we getting the full picture?

Salvation is an amazing gift.  The forgiveness of all of our sins is baffling and hard to even imagine.  But those things are just part of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  If you’re going to drink any part of what Jesus has for you, that is a great place to start.  But there are promises in there that have to do with this life on earth, that enable us to have victory over the works of the enemy, and that help us have the abundant life He wanted for us (John 10:10).  There is more in that cup than a promise about what happens to us when we die.

So what else is in there?

In the original Greek, the word that was translated into our English language as “saved” or “salvation”  was one word: SOZO.  The Strong’s Concordance tells us that “sozo” means “to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively), heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.”  It was used in places where salvation was being discussed, but also for deliverance, and healings as well.  So “salvation” is really more than just about our eternal destiny.  To accept Jesus only for salvation is better than not, but that would be equal to slurping up only the top portion of that communion cup.  “Sozo” tells us that the cup is also made up of physical healing (the fact that it’s mentioned separately from salvation and forgiveness in the Bible tells us it’s not just a “spiritual” healing; not to mention, many times that a person was physically healed in the Bible, the word “sozo” was used), deliverance (which means complete freedom from oppression), protection, the ability to do well, and the promise to be made whole.

It is a package deal.  It all goes together when you drink the whole cup.  Those elements of “sozo” are the benefits David sang about in Psalm 103, that he did not want to forget.  The fact that he makes a point of saying “don’t let me forget” leads me to believe that the enemy must want us forgetting – or never knowing about – God’s benefits (just drinking the surface), because he does not want us living them out and being a witness of the complete SOZO package to people.  And having Christians just slurping up the top drops of the communion cup – and not even believing more exists – is a great tactic to make that happen.  If I were the enemy, I’d be terrified of believers who were living out all of God’s benefits, and would hate the little Josies who, in faith, grab that cup and take all of what belongs to them.  And like Josie, David didn’t want to miss anything either.  In this passage, he is in essence crying out, “Lord, let me always drink the WHOLE cup!”  He wanted ALL of God’s benefits, which he goes on to say are things like being forgiven, being healed (which he states separately from salvation and forgiveness, so again, NOT “spiritual” healing) from ALL of our diseases, being redeemed from death, having our youth renewed, and having our lives filled with good things.  In other words: SOZO.

If you grew up like me, and you knew about the gift of salvation, but you’ve been handing that cup back half full, I encourage you to seek what else God has for you.  I encourage you to ask God what benefits you may be missing.  I encourage you to seek His goodness and in faith, take it all.  It’s not selfish to receive a gift.  It’s not selfish to make sure you got it all, so that the remainder doesn’t go to waste.  It’s a way to be thankful.  It’s a way to live in ALL of His fullness so that you can turn around and share those benefits with a hurting world that needs it.   It’s a way to tell Jesus that He didn’t pour out his blood in vain, and that you’re going to make sure no drop of it was wasted.  It’s a way to live out what we are called to do – to destroy the works of the enemy and to seek and save the lost.  And we were meant to do those things FULL of the complete sozo package.

Take it.  He thought of you when he spilled his blood, so don’t hand the cup back to him half full.

Josie’s birth story

_MG_2356BW

Although sweet Josephine is already 9 (nine?!) months old, I really wanted to share her birth story with you.

My previous experiences with birth were not awesome.  I remember being terrified, in a lot of pain, not being able to cope, and ending up with epidurals, vacuums, stitches, and really painful recoveries.  Not to mention the horrible symptoms of pregnancy that preceded all of that.  It had not been a lot of fun, and they were not the kind of experiences that had me beating down the door to sign up again.

The year before we ended up getting pregnant with Josie, I had started thinking that maybe birth didn’t have to be so awful.  I remember at Christmas time, hearing a song on the radio about how Mary would have toiled and been in pain giving birth to Jesus.  Right away inside of me, and I believe I even said it out loud without even hesitating, I thought “Yeah right!”  I just didn’t believe that Mary would have been in excruciating pain and having an awful time giving birth to the Savior of the world that would eventually redeem her.

Think about it.  She rode on a camel while she was 9 months pregnant.  She gave birth with no medical staff and only her husband there (that’s a WHOLE  other ball of wax right there!) and in a barn, to boot.  I remember always thinking that Mary must have had a special grace given to her because she was carrying and birthing the Son of God.  It just didn’t seem right to me that Jesus, who healed all that he came in contact with and who walked in the utmost peace and love and mercy, would have come into the world amidst screaming and terrorizing pain.  I imagined a completely peaceful, safe, JOYFUL birth.

But then I got to thinking, couldn’t that happen for me too?  If God could do that for Mary, couldn’t He do it for me?  I remember looking in the Bible at the part where the curse came on Adam and Eve, because that is where we get our idea of birth being painful.  It’s interesting to me that the part of the curse was specified for how it would affect males and females differently: Adam was told he would have to toil to provide for his family, and Eve was told that her pain in pregnancy and childbirth would be increased.  BUT, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:13 that “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law”.  So was it possible that the curse over women had been redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross?  I believed it was, but had never heard anyone talk about it before.  It rang in my spirit as such truth, and I was confused as to why we weren’t hearing about this more.  Pain-free child-birth?!  Hello!  Sign me up!

Not long after those thoughts started going through me, I happened to see a book entitled “Supernatural Childbirth” on a friend’s bookshelf.  This woman is an amazing woman of faith, and someone I respect and admire a great deal, and I was so excited to see how God had used her to bring this book into my path.  And at such a time.  I asked about it, and decided to just order a copy for myself, knowing it would be one I would come to often.

It arrived a short while later, and as I enjoyed a nice quiet bath one evening, read the book from cover to cover.  All of the thoughts and feelings I had been having about birth were all confirmed in this short book.  The promises of God regarding pregnancy and childbirth were that they didn’t have to be awful.  I didn’t have to suffer.  I could feel good in pregnancy.  I could give birth peacefully and without pain and toil.  Could it really be so?

I excitedly shared all I had read and learned with Kris, who instantly agreed with me.  We read the book together, and we were in full agreement that it could really be like that.  The only hitch was that we hadn’t really been talking about having a third child.  I remember thinking, as I was reading, that even though we hadn’t really talked about having more kids, that I’d really like to try it all again, just to have a different experience than I’d had before.

As fate would have it (and obviously fate = God!), we ended up getting pregnant that following summer.  I was excited to see how this time around, things would be different.

And they were.  Oh, how different they were!

I did deal with some nausea in the first couple of months, but I knew all along that it was just the enemy trying to convince me early on that I couldn’t have what God had promised.  I pressed on, and kept believing that I had been redeemed from all the crappy parts of pregnancy.  It subsided, and I felt like a million dollars after that.  I had energy, I felt great, I wasn’t sore, I slept like a baby!  I worked out all the way through my pregnancy.  It was amazing.  I can’t even begin to tell you how different it was from my previous experiences.  You really might not believe me anyways.  🙂

Kris and I had a list of things that we were believing for regarding the birth of our little girl. Ephesians 3:20 states, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”.  What a promise that God wants us to think and ask, and then on top of it, He wants to do even more!  We also stood on the truth of James 4:2 that states that we do not have the things we desire because we do not ask.  So we decided to ask!

So here are some of the things we believed for:  We believed that the day she was to be born, that I would wake up, go into labour, and be done within a few hours.  We had missed whole nights of sleep before our boys were born, and we just didn’t want to do it that way again.  We would be well-rested this time!  We believed I would not be in pain, and that the birth would be quick and easy.  We also believed that although I would not in pain, that I would still have contractions and would therefore actually know I was in labour.  We believed I would be and stay in perfect peace, knowing that fear can create pain, and knowing that God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  We believed that we would get to the hospital in time and that the right staff would be there.  We believed I would not need stitches and that my recovery would be quick and easy.  We believed I would not go overdue and need to be induced, but that I would also not have her early and that she would be full-term and healthy.

April 7, a Sunday, I had a great long nap in the afternoon.  I woke up, and had an urge to clean the house.  The boys were all playing outside, so I pumped up some great tunes and got to it.  Kris came in, surprised to see me in all my cleaning glory, dancing away and cleaning my little heart out.  Cleaning quickly turned into a dance party, and we had a blast. Oh, and we played swords:

IMG_1756

We both figured that this little one’s birth must be imminent!

That night, I woke early in the morning to the feeling of just need to have a good bowel movement.  I was only slightly crampy feeling, but definitely not uncomfortable.  After using the bathroom and figuring today would be the day, I went back to bed.  I didn’t even bother waking Kris and telling him, as I knew he would wake up and then likely not go back to sleep.  I feel asleep and slept until 7am, when our household usually gets up for the day.

I figured I was probably in labour, and so I hopped in the shower right away.  I was going to look decent if I was meeting my daughter today!  As I was showering, I kept having pain-less contractions.  They were just tightenings of my uterus, just like Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Though they were not painful, they were strong and regular, and I knew labour had begun.  I got out of the shower and texted Kris (we have a two-storey and I didn’t want to run downstairs in my skivvies), asking him to bring me a cup of coffee while I did my hair and make-up.  Then I texted again, telling him he should probably call our friends to come get the boys as it was time to go to the hospital once I was ready.  He didn’t reply, and was at the door of the bathroom in about 1.7 seconds.  He looked at me while I stood there calmly straightening my hair, “really?!”  Yes, really!  I told him that the contractions were strong and regular.  It was go time!

As a side story, our little rural hospital had called us the Friday before (it was Monday now), telling us that our doctor would not be in until after Tuesday.  If we were to go into labour, they told us we would have to go elsewhere.  I was immediately devastated, and then happened to look up to see what I had written on our scripture chalkboard just a few days before:

IMG_1737

Oh right, that!  I decided I would not fear, and it was in God’s hands.  It wouldn’t matter where I delivered, He would keep me safe.

So when I went into labour, Kris said, “you know what?  I’m just going to call out to Daysland and see if we can go there.  You never know.”  So he called, and the head unit nurse told him to absolutely head out!  Our doctor was back and able to deliver our baby.  Thank you God!

The nurse wanted to talk to me to assess where I was at, and when I couldn’t really tell her how far apart my contractions were, and I was chatting away just fine without the need to breathe through contractions, I don’t think she thought too much of it.  She said, “well, why don’t you just come out and we can at least see where you’re at”.  Ha!

So after getting a few things arranged, and waiting for our friends to arrive, we left.  It was about 830, and we had a 1/2 hour drive out to the hospital.  I popped in my Scripture music, and told Kris I just needed to listen to my music and not talk.  It was the most glorious, sunny morning.  I sat and listened to my beautiful music (“Hidden in my Heart” – highly recommended!), while my uterus painlessly contracted away.  At one point I looked over at the speedometer, and was about to give Kris a little heck for not driving faster.  I knew labour was humming along, and he was going a conservative 115!  I decided against it, though, as I knew I just needed to stay in my peaceful state, and let God look after that.  I couldn’t believe that I was able to just sit there upright, totally at peace, while my contractions were coming about 3-4 minutes apart.  I remember thinking, “This is really happening like we believed it would!”

We arrived at the hospital, and the nurse I had talked with on the phone met me.  I smiled and chatted away with them, and they took their time getting me into the delivery room and doing all of my charting.  After about 20 minutes, I was just about to say, “I really, really think you need to check me”, when the nurse said she’d grab the doctor to check me before he headed out.  He did his check, and then said there was only a lip.  I interpreted that as meaning I was only dilated a fingertip, and thought, “crumby!”  I thought I was further along then that.  I asked what that meant, and he said, “you’re 9cm dilated!  There is only a small lip of your cervix left!”  Praise God!  Everyone was shocked and started running around the room getting everything ready.  I was incredulous, even though it was all happening just as we had believed it would.

Below is a photo of me (my last pregnant photo!), smiling while in the transition phase of labour.  (I had an IV for antibiotics for Group B Strep, though in hindsight I wish I would have refused.  I really wasn’t worried about it and they didn’t have time for the full dose anyways.)

 IMG_1762

Josephine Sarah was born at 11:16am, just 2 hours after arriving at the hospital.  It would have been much, much sooner had my water broke earlier, but it didn’t matter.  I had spent that time in peace, and it certainly was not horrible as I had remembered labour to be!  I did experience some pain for the last hour, but it was minimal and completely manageable.  By the time it came to push, it all happened very quickly.  The head nurse (who was an obstetrics nurse for 20 years – the perfect staff we had prayed for!) was the one who delivered Josie, since the doctors only made it partway through the pushing!  I pushed only for about 3-5 minutes, and just a few good pushes got her out.  And that part didn’t hurt AT ALL.  I can’t really fully explain it, but it felt amazing to push.  I could feel her as she emerged from my body, pain-free.  It was absolutely amazing.  I did not need any stitches, and my placenta delivered quickly and easily, and the doctor even commented on how much better it had gone than usual.

We were amazed, and the medical staff were amazed.  At one point earlier on in the labour, a new nurse came in and said, “so this is the mom who came in 9cm dilated, smiling and chatting away?  Amazing!”  It was so, so neat and such a testimony of how good our God is.

It was such an awesome journey of faith and believing God.  Josie had been born in the exact timeframe we had believed for, with little to no pain, no stitches, and even the size we had asked for.  (Jack was a 9 1/2 lb baby, and though he was perfect and beautiful, we wanted a baby around 7 1/2 lbs.  Josie was 7 lbs. 11 ozs.)  She wasn’t early and she wasn’t late.  Her due dates were April 6 and 9, and she was born on the 8th.  God is so good!

  IMG_1765

She was perfect and healthy, which was the most important thing to us at the end of the day.  And she was, in fact, a SHE!  We were thrilled.  What a perfect addition to our family.

An extra little God-thing, was that we found a knot in the umbilical cord after Josie was born.  I wish we had taken a photo of it.  The doctor showed it to us – it was perfect little knot.  I didn’t know this at the time, but have since heard of multiple babies that were stillborn due to this complication.  The knot inhibits nutrients to get to the baby, and they eventually pass away.  I didn’t even know that could happen, and I am just so, so thankful that my little girl was not affected in the least by the knot.  Wow.

After the birth, I did experience some above-normal bleeding, as some of my placenta had retained.  Though the staff were a bit concerned, and it was a less-than-ideal situation, God was really my rock through that stuff.  I always felt as though my Dad were literally sitting in the chair next to me, holding my hand and telling me it was all okay.  I don’t think I ever felt as close to him as I did then.  And in hindsight, I would have included some post-birth details in our “believing for” list.

Knowing that some tissue had remained and that was what was causing the hemorrhage, we told my body to rid itself of that extra tissue, and shortly after that the piece of placenta removed itself.  (If you’ve ever read “Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth”, she even makes reference about telling women’s bodies to stop bleeding, and they do.  Funny!)  The doctor had mentioned a possible D&C (a surgical scraping of the uterus), or even a transfusion, but no more placenta remained and even though I lost a fair amount of blood, my levels never required me to have a transfusion.  God was so faithful in that part too.  The staff were constantly checking on me and asking if I was dizzy or had headaches, but I felt amazing even though I had lost a lot of blood.  I was a little tired, but didn’t feel as bad as they were expecting me too.  I had a check-up a week after Josie was born, and my iron levels were a decimal point below normal.  Even that part was supernatural.  I felt much, much better than I should have!

Nine months later, I am still sometimes in awe of how it all went down.  I am still praising Jesus for what he did for me during those 9 months and in that delivery room.  I am so thankful that he took the curse for me on the cross, so that I didn’t have to have a horrible time giving birth to my daughter.  I often wish I had had that revelation when my boys were born, but the cool thing about it is that my experiences with them really set me up to want something different.  Those experiences allowed me to put myself in a position to receive and believe God for something better.  Because that’s all He really requires of us – to believe and to receive.

I am so thankful for the gift I have in each of my children.  They are such a blessing to me.  And I am so thankful for my experience with Josie, and I am excited and passionate about sharing my story with other women, so they can experience freedom from fear and pain in pregnancy and childbirth too.  It can happen, because it happened for me.

Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my blog!  I have had a passion for writing for a long time, and I also have a passion for people to be healed and set free to live the abundant life Jesus has for them.  I am so thankful for what he has done in my life, and what he continues to do, and that is what I want to share with you.

Unknown-1