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Wow, it has been a while since I posted on this blog! I have been working hard on my next book, Estill County, which hopefully will be done some time this year. But I have also been deep in thought about my Christian beliefs. This has been a time of deep introspection as I have struggled with what is going on in the world today. Today, I would like to pretty much “bare my soul” and explain my thoughts over the past few months.
I was raised as a Catholic and attended a Catholic grade school. During my younger years and in my twenties, my Christian beliefs were pretty much black and white – follow all the commandments, all abortion is wrong, etc. etc. No gray area whatsoever. Since that time, I married and divorced (due to an affair on his side) someone who was Baptist, and we were married in a Presbyterian church. During my marriage, we attended Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even non-denominational churches. I’m glad I had these experiences as I learned how people praise God in different ways. I still loved my Catholic faith, but I found myself becoming more open-minded about other faiths.
During those years, most of my encounters regarding religious differences were fairly positive, but I did run into a few problems. First of all, when I asked a priest to be a part of our wedding ceremony, I was met with a stern “no” because we were not getting married in a Catholic church. He went on to lecture me about my “weak” Catholic faith. Another example involves a guy that I dated long ago. His Catholic mother said that her son was not going to heaven because he was engaged to a Baptist girl.
On the other hand, I have met many people who have actually said that Catholics are going to hell. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that Catholics worship Mary. I went to a Catholic school, and I was never taught to worship Mary – only to ask her to pray for me. I also am very hurt and irritated when others claim that Catholic teachings are not biblically based.
Right after college, I joined a Right to Life movement. At that point in my life, I would have gladly taken part in a protest outside of an abortion clinic. I remember getting all kinds of newsletters from them explaining how they were fighting against abortion. I specifically remember how this group would get involved in “protecting the life of the baby” when a mother’s life was in danger or if the fetus had a known defect. I didn’t think too much about that at the time.
I went to work in a genetics lab (my degree is in Microbiology). After several years of work, my views on abortion started to gray a bit. I performed prenatal testing, and I saw many really sad cases during those years. One genetic defect was particularly disturbing – a disorder called anencephaly. A fetus with this disorder has malformed brain development. Sometimes the entire skull is opened with very little to no brain development. At one point, my boss asked me if I would like to watch a fetal autopsy on a fetus with this disorder (the woman had miscarried). I said “yes” because I wanted to see what I was testing for in the lab. I was shocked when I saw the fetus. The brain was completely opened up. The baby almost looked like an alien – there was no forehead. The top of the head was just above the eyebrows. Anyone without a strong stomach couldn’t have handled that sight, but I could for some reason. Don’t get me wrong – it affected me in a way that words can’t describe, and I felt so horrible for the parents. But I am a scientist, and I believe that God gave me the ability to do this work to help others – just like some people can handle the sight of blood while others can’t. After witnessing several of these autopsies on fetuses that women had miscarried, it suddenly dawned on me the emotional toll that this sort of thing would take on the family. This was a child that was wanted desperately, but something went terribly wrong – something that was completely out of their control.
As I continued my work in genetics, I learned about several other genetic abnormalities – specifically trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. I learned that most of the time, after these children are born and if they survived, they would probably never leave the hospital and would most likely die within the first year of life. Their lives would most likely be spent in agony while they were hooked up to multiple machines. I hated when I analyzed a case and found it was trisomy 13 or 18. HATED it!! I knew what the parents were about to face. I knew it was going to be awful for them, and I wondered if their marriage would be able to survive such an ordeal. One day, when I analyzed one of these cases, I left at lunch, went to McDonalds, ordered carryout, sat in my car, and cried and prayed. Here is basically what I said to God:
God, I don’t know why this happens. I’m just a human, and you are the all-knowing God. I don’t understand it, but I know there is a reason. God, these parents are about to go through hell. You have said, “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” Therefore, I will not judge these parents if they decide to terminate. This decision is between you, them, and their doctor. I can’t judge something like this. I certainly don’t want to be judged with the same stringency as the Right to Life group uses in situations like this. So, all I will do is pray for them. I pray that they will somehow come out of this stronger, and I ask you to comfort them in this horrible time.
Not long after this, I quit the Right to Life group. I am against abortion overall – as a form of birth control, partial birth abortion, or in cases where there is an abnormality but the child can survive and live a productive life (Down syndrome, spina bifida, etc). However, I know from my experience in the lab that there are horrible cases where there is pretty much no chance of survival or limited survival where the child suffers terribly. For me, I choose to stay out of those situations. This also goes for cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Instead, I just pray for them – for comfort, for healing, and for the love of God to surround them.
This is just one example of when gray areas began to interject into my beliefs. But things really got tough – a deep introspection – since Trump took office.
I have always been Republican. I have voted Republican in every presidential race until this last one. I have voted Republican probably 98% of the time in all other elections. The abortion issue was a major reason. But what I have seen over the last few months has really bothered me, and after much thought, I have now become an Independent.
As you all know, there has been a lot of mean and vicious banter regarding this past presidential election from both Republicans and Democrats. However, a large portion of the Republican base are the evangelical Christians. Although I do agree with a lot of the Republican views on major issues, I became disheartened by the enormous number of mean memes and Facebook posts from some Republicans who have portrayed themselves to be good Christians. The posts were not at all Christian, and I honestly viewed them as highly hypocritical. This really bothered me. I also noticed that churches were promoting Trump based solely on his anti-abortion stance even though disturbing news came out about his behavior, especially the remarks about women while on the bus. I expected these evangelical Christians to stand up and denounce his behavior, and some did. But a lot didn’t as apparently they focused solely on the anti-abortion issue. This disturbed me even more, and hypocrisy was becoming increasingly clear to me. I hated this and struggled with it since that time. I believed in a lot of the Republican views but I didn’t want to seem like a hypocrite. I did not like Trump either and didn’t approve of his behavior.
During all of this, I prayed…a lot…and asked God for direction. I felt an uneasiness in my soul. I was confused.
Each time I prayed, I kept going back to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Several times, I opened the Bible to this exact passage. At first, this made me think about the abortion issue. If we stand outside of an abortion clinic and tell someone who they are going to hell if they abort the baby, how do we know the details of that pregnancy? We don’t know if that baby has anencephaly. Maybe those parents are having to make an incredibly difficult decision and really wanted the baby. We are judging a person without knowing the details. Do we want for God to judge us with the same stringency? I sure wouldn’t. I think God is telling us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We need to love those people, not judge them. They need comfort, not judgement. It is not up to us to judge others, and Jesus himself told us that. If we judge someone else, we are playing God. This thinking can also be applied to everyone who says that someone is going to hell if they don’t belong to a certain religion as my example above shows.
On Easter Sunday, I went to mass with my mom. We arrived quite early (because we knew the church would be packed). As we waited, I continued to pray and think about the behavior I had seen this year when I looked up at the front of the church, and once again, I saw “Love One Another as I Have Loved You” on the stained glass window. I thought about how all life is sacred. I thought about how disturbed I was that funding to the NIH was going to be cut which would affect all those who were sick – cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes – the list goes on and on. If funding is cut, those people would suffer. How is it that those that are pro-life only consider the life of a fetus but seem to forget about all the other people in the world that would be hurt by cutting funding to the NIH? and the EPA? Millions of people would be hurt, but that isn’t a consideration for those who are strongly pro-life? Why? Why can’t they see this? Again, I looked at the stained glass window.
Love One Another as I Have Loved You.
I believe God expects us to love everyone, not just the unborn. All life is sacred. All life.
A few days later, I went to a physical therapy session. Several of us watched the television as we saw that the “mother of all bombs” was dropped in Syria. While we were talking, a woman turned to me and said “All life is sacred.” She was right, and it confirmed for me that we have to look at how things affect everyone. Focusing purely on the unborn may ultimately harm those who are already here. Don’t get me wrong – the abortion issue is important…extremely important…but by focusing on that and only that, is not a good thing to do. We have to remember that all life is sacred.
Hypocrisy – I have seen so much of it in the last several months and am getting so sick of it. So-called “good Christians” that don’t practice what they preach. I am stunned that after all the things Trump has done, he still has die-hard followers. I have even seen recently how some people still consider him a good Christian even after all the lies (numerous), bad behavior (bus, making fun of disabled reporter), not keeping his word (numerous), pointing his finger at other while doing exactly the same thing (golfing!!), etc. Why, after all that, do people still call him a good Christian? Can’t they see the hypocrisy? Again, maybe they are focusing just on the anti-abortion issue only. I don’t know. I don’t get it. It bothers me so much to see all the hypocrisy yet people still say he’s a good Christian. Jesus speaks of hypocrisy all throughout the gospels. Are these people just turning a blind eye to that?
“The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others…They have the place of honor at banquets…” Matthew 23:4-6
I urge you to read all of Matthew 23 as he directly deals with hypocrisy…“Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites…”
Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I thought some more about these issues. And it suddenly came to me…in the dead silence in the middle of the night. Something quite disturbing. I have talked to many people over my lifetime who have left the church because they have witnessed hypocritical behavior. Some of these people have gone on to become atheists. Hypocritical behavior in Christians is extremely damaging to the church. We have to remember that Satan is very devious and sly. Could he be using the hypocritical behavior of these so-called Christians to his advantage? I believe so. Then I remembered what Jesus said:
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes.” Matthew 18:6
Is hypocrisy a stumbling block? Is this hypocritical behavior by some so-called good Christians a stumbling block to those who are wanting to know Jesus? That’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? This morning, in preparation to write this blog, I read a devotional in my Bible. The following excerpt came from St. Catherine of Sienna, a mystic who conversed with God. Again, she talks about her conversation with God regarding loving your neighbor as yourself. This is what God said to her as recorded in her book, The Dialogue:
“It is your duty to love your neighbor as yourself…In love you ought to help them spiritually with prayer and counsel…If you do not love me, you do not love your neighbors, nor will you help those you do not love. But it is yourself you harm the most, because you deprive yourself of grace. And you harm your neighbors by depriving them of the prayer and loving desires you should be offering to me on their behalf. Every help you give them ought to come from the affection you bear them for love of me…This lack of charity for me and for your neighbors is the source of all evils, for if you are not doing good you are necessarily doing evil…You harm your neighbors by not giving them the pleasure of the love and charity you owe them, the love with which you ought to be helping them by offering me your prayer and holy desire on their behalf.”
In conclusion, I have seen a lack of compassion and a need to judge others from the evangelical Christians during this presidential election and during his first days in office. In addition, I have seen incredible hypocrisy. I would like to suggest that we move away from judgement and condemnation and move more toward a spirit of compassion and empathy for our neighbor. Pray for those around you without judging. After all, we are not the judge. We do not know the details of their situation.
Love One Another as I Have Loved You.
Several months ago, my aunt recommended that I read three books by the author Paula D’Arcy that had really impacted her. The Gift of the Red Bird: Story of a Divine Encounter really spoke to me as I recently had what I believed was a divine encounter with some finches (see my previous blog). She described how she was able to feel closer to God by being alone in nature, and this made me think. How could I feel closer to God while living in the city? Where could I go?
I remembered a special place that my friend Sharon had taken me several years ago…a Benedictine monastery. It was so peaceful there, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for meditation and prayer in this busy area. At this particular monastery, there was a labyrinth. Sharon told me a little bit about the background of a labyrinth as I knew nothing about it. Basically, it is a place to go to spend some quiet time with God away from all the hustle and bustle of the day and to get clarity for any problems through prayer and meditation.
A labyrinth is a type of maze that only has a single track, so you can’t get lost in it. It has been around for thousands of years and is present in many churches around the world. The belief is that if you walk the labyrinth, you will go through three stages:
1. Purgation – you are released from all the worries of the world while walking through the winding paths
2. Illumination – a divine revelation as a result of meditation and prayer. This occurs at the center
3. Union – reflection on what you have learned as you make your way out of the labyrinth.
Well, I thought about the labyrinth while reading Paula’s book, but I didn’t go immediately as life got in the way. I was so busy writing and working on my house that I just couldn’t find the time. Then, one night, I started to read the next book by Paula D’Arcy – Seeking With All My Heart: Encountering God’s Presence Today. Amazingly, early in the book she had an entire chapter on the labyrinth! I knew at that moment that I had to make the time to visit the Benedictine Monastery.
Several days ago, I finally went and spent quite a bit of time by myself in that quiet place. No one else was around. There were many things on my mind at the time, but mostly I thought about how my life had changed since my divorce. Five years ago, I had this life of lab work, dance, and a twenty-year marriage. Now, all of that had been taken from me. Why did that happen? I had been plagued by that thought over the years.
As I started to walk the labyrinth, the first thing that I noticed was that my mind quieted. I felt God telling me to be quiet and just listen. Just listen to the birds and crickets. Just feel the slight breeze blowing on my face. Just be still and listen.
As I walked, I began to think about how the labyrinth mirrors life. We walk straight ahead in one direction, and then suddenly we are forced to turn in the opposite direction, just like what happened to me five years ago. Do the curves in the labyrinth represent our difficult/challenging times? Was this God telling me that sometimes the path we walked previously is no longer to our benefit? Is there something on that path that could hurt us, so He is taking us in a different direction?
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
As I continued to walk, I noticed that some of the bends in the labyrinth were hard to maneuver without falling a little off the path. I noticed that my momentum brought me one direction while the path directed me another way. This made me think about easy it is to lose our way in difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged, depressed, or fall into a sinful life when challenges arise. I was intrigued.
The next thing I noticed is that the stones around the curves are very small in relation to the stones in the straight areas. This made me think about how, in difficult times, we have to take “baby steps” to get through it. For example, during the divorce, my strength was sapped and I just couldn’t do as much as I did when I was married. We talked at length about this exact thing in my divorce support group. We were told that some days, we would find it hard to even get out of bed. For me, these small stones so accurately depicted what happens to us, physically and mentally, during difficult times. We have to be patient with ourselves and take “baby steps” until we eventually get back to our normal lives (the larger stones).
Other ideas came to me as I continued on the journey. Some areas of the labyrinth have longer areas without bends while other areas are shorter. This also mirrors life as some times we will have longer periods of peace and stability while at other times, it comes in short spurts. Also, some of the bends are a complete 180 degrees (lots of change) while other bends are 90 degrees (some small change). Finally, I realized that some of the bends could actually represent good times that are also stressful (marriage, a move, etc).
But the biggest lesson I learned that day is when I walked into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that no matter what we go through, if we stay on the path to God, it will lead us to salvation. The little bends in that labyrinth cannot even be compared to the beauty of walking into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that if I stay on that path, even through the difficult times, it will ultimately lead me to God. Straying off the path into a sinful life is not an option. I just have to trust in Him, keep my eyes on Him, and walk through that narrow door.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22
When I pray, I always ask God to speak to me through His Word. When I open the Bible, I assume that God has me open it to whatever I am supposed to read that day. I have always done this, and I usually read something that really speaks to me that day. This is just the way I do it, and it works for me.
Today as I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to be silent. To just sit in His presence and listen to His still small voice. I have read some books recently which taught me this concept, and today, I felt like I just needed to listen to Him. Well, something came to my mind almost immediately. This had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but today, I felt as if God wanted me to delve in and understand this event in my life on a deeper level.
In 2011, just months before I found out that my husband had been having an affair, I began to have dreams that I was divorced. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I had occasions of premonitions through dreams. My dad had this happen to him too – he dreamed that his brother was killed in a car accident, and a week later, it actually happened.
The first time I dreamed I was divorced, I just blew it off. I woke up thinking how ridiculous the dream was as I had no intention of ever getting divorced. When the second dream happened, I was a little bothered and wondered why in the world I would dream about something so crazy. When it happened a third time, I woke up confused and worried. I told my husband about the dream, and I asked him point-blank if he was going to divorce me. Although he denied that he would ever divorce me, his response was anything but convincing.
If that isn’t strange enough, around that same time, another amazing thing happened (although I didn’t understand it at the time). On at least three occasions while falling asleep, I audibly heard a voice say “Maria!” I opened my eyes, sure someone was calling my name, but no one was there. My husband was asleep next to me, and he didn’t move at all so I thought I had dreamed it. When it happened again, I thought that maybe it was an angel or even God trying to say something to me. Each time, I heard “Maria!”, clear as day, and when I opened my eyes, no one was there. My husband never moved, so clearly, he never heard it.
As I thought about these events this morning, I wondered if this was some kind of warning about what was going to happen to me later in 2011 when I found out about the affair. Was that God’s voice speaking to me?
I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:
“Listen to me in silence…” Isaiah 41:1
This was interesting enough. But it went on:
“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced….For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 10-13
When I look back on these events, I now know that God was right there. I believe He was telling me that He was watching everything, and he knew every detail of the affair even when I had no idea what was happening. I believe this was His way of telling me that He never left my side during that time, and that even though I was going to be divorced, He would bring me through it. Even though I was about to go through hell and be yanked out of the life I knew, He would ensure that I would get through it and would end up in a much better place.
Always know that God sees EVERYTHING. He sees everything that is done in secret. He knows every insult, every lie, every betrayal….everything. Nothing can be hidden from God. On the other hand, He feels every single pain of betrayal. He sees every teardrop, feels every hurt, and goes through all the suffering with us. Remember – God was betrayed by Judas. He knows full well the pain of betrayal of someone who He believed loved Him.
He will always be with you, even when you think He isn’t there. God never leaves our side…EVER! As it is written in Isaiah 41:13, “Do not fear. I will help you.”
Yesterday morning, as I was channel surfing while eating breakfast, I once again stumbled across Andrew Wommack’s show. This time, he was teaching about prayer. I listened for a few minutes but was so disgusted by his remarks that I quickly turned off the television. Just now, I decided to listen to a little bit more of speech on prayer online because I wanted to address his remarks in this blog.
I was raised Catholic. Although I currently attend a non-denominational church, Catholicism is near and dear to my heart. I personally don’t believe there is any one “right” religion – I believe it depends upon what is truly in your heart and soul. Some of the finest people I have ever known were Catholic, so I’m sure you will understand when this man insulted Catholics during his show on Monday. No, he didn’t actually say the word “Catholic” – he actually said that he didn’t want to point out any one group, but he talked about how some Christians would use beads and say the Hail Mary repeatedly and how this wasn’t real prayer. Clearly, he is referring to Catholics. His attempt at saying he didn’t want to point out any one group was pathetic and just plain mean. We all know who he is talking about. He went on to say that some prayer is bad if it isn’t done “correctly”. He talked about how prayers aren’t answered because we aren’t praying the right way.
First and foremost, I would like to point out that Andrew Wommack isn’t God! He cannot say at all if someone’s prayers are right or wrong. Only GOD know what is in someone’s heart. Only GOD knows how someone was raised and what they were taught. Only GOD decides if a prayer is genuine or not. Andrew Wommack doesn’t get to decide how you must pray. If you reach out to God with all your heart and soul, He will respond. He doesn’t need anyone’s permission here on earth. Don’t be deceived by this man.
Second, it is of utmost importance to not compartmentalize religious groups – any group, really. I have been very active in the Catholic church, especially in my youth. Yes, there are some bad people, but there are many, many wonderful people in this denomination who believe in Jesus with their whole heart, mind, and soul. What about Mother Teresa? What about Padre Pio? Andrew – are you really saying that these two people, both of them Catholic and both who prayed the rosary constantly, were not really praying? Are you saying that their prayers weren’t heard by God? You’ve got to be kidding! And there are so many other examples! There are bad and good people in every religion. Judging an entire group of people based on the actions of a few is very dangerous. Remember, Andrew – the Bible also says “Do not judge lest ye be judged”.
Third, it is extremely important to realize that prayer will not always be answered according to how you think it should be answered. Sometimes what you are asking for is not God’s will for you. Andrew leads you to believe that if you pray a certain way, your prayers will be answered according to how you want them answered, and that is just not true. The key is that you pray, just as God taught us to, and then you submit to His will. His will may not be the same as your will, but you have to trust in Him.
I believe it is a very dangerous teaching to tell others that they must pray in a certain way or God won’t hear their prayers. If the prayer is truly coming from your heart and you believe in Him with all your heart and soul, He will listen, no matter how you pray. Remember – Jesus himself taught us how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer. He wants us to pray – listen to Jesus, not Andrew.
Finally, Andrew tells of a story where a woman asks him to pray for her husband. Andrew said “no” because in his mind, this lady wasn’t praying the right way. This is horrible. We should all pray for one another, no matter what. It is not up to us to judge how someone else talks to God. Shame on you, Andrew Wommack!
This question is certainly a hot topic of debate. After writing my previous post on this same topic, I was contacted by a friend of mine who didn’t agree that our salvation can be lost. She talked with her pastor about this issue since my post made her think a little more about this subject. His explanation was good. He said that if someone turns against God after becoming a Christian, they were never Christian. There is truth to this statement. According to 1 John 2:19:
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
I am glad that my friend enlightened me in this way. That makes a little more sense to me. However, I was still troubled by a few things.
First of all, God gave us free will. If, once we are saved, we are always saved, then doesn’t that take away our free will? Also, the way that some preachers are passing on the message of “once saved, always saved” sounds to me like they are saying that sin isn’t a factor since our works have nothing to do with our salvation. I do know of people who truly believe that you don’t have to do anything except to say “Jesus is my Savior”. They truly believe that they can lie, steal, cheat, or do whatever they want, but as long as they say “Jesus is my Savior”, they are guaranteed salvation because salvation is a gift, and our works have nothing to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong – I fully believe that our salvation is a gift and that Jesus died on the cross to save us. There is no doubt in my mind. What I worry about is that people are getting an incomplete and twisted message. I believe the error occurs when one or two passages in the Bible are the main focus, and the rest of the Bible is ignored. Let me explain further.
There are many passages in the Bible that point to the fact that you can turn away from God and possibly lose your salvation. First and foremost is a passage that I referred to in my last post:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” 2 Peter 2: 20
Peter also refers to Proverbs in making his point:
“Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’ 2 Peter 2:22
As per the book of Hebrews:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift….if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subecting him to public disgrace.” Hebrews 6:4-6
“We have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:14
“See that no one is…godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected.” Hebrews 12:16-17
As per the book of Timothy:
“If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.” 2 Timothy 2:12
From 1 John 2:
“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. IF IT DOES, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24
But the one that stands out most to me is from 2 John:
“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 8-9.
As far as the teaching of current pastors regarding the fact that our actions (works) have nothing to do with our salvation, the most important passage comes from James:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 2:14
“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not be faith alone.” James 2:24
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26
There are also many different places in the Bible where Jesus Himself states that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. One such verse can be found in the gospel of John:
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John 14:21
Another one can be found in 1 John 3:
“Those who obey His command live in Him, and He in them.” 1 John 3:24
Now, regarding the idea that people can just say “Jesus is my Savior” and still lie, steal, cheat, etc., the Bible specifically warns against this behavior. In fact, the warning are stern:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessolonians 2:8-10.
“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22
So, here is my opinion on this subject. Based on the above scripture, I believe that if you are a true Christian and endure to the end, staying true to God’s Word, you cannot lose your salvation. As it says in John 10:28, “no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
Is it possible to be a true Christian and then turn away from God? Yes, I believe it is possible based on the above scripture. If it wasn’t possible, why would there be so many warnings? Remember, Judas was once an apostle but then later betrayed Jesus. Is that because he was never a true Christian? Was it because he was Christian and then turned his back on God? We will never know as only God knows what is truly in someone’s heart and soul.
As far as being a true Christian, I believe that actions will show what it truly in someone’s heart. I do not believe that you can say the words “Jesus is my Savior” and you are guaranteed to enter heaven while continuing to live in sin. I believe that you have to truly give your life over to God, truly believe in your heart that Jesus died for us, and live by His commandments. I think that so many people want to believe that actions don’t matter because it’s easier that way. I also believe that people are being led astray by focusing on one, two or three verses in the Bible. If you truly want to learn the teachings of God, you must read and accept all of it, not just some of it. The Bible can easily be twisted into what you want it to say if you only focus on a few verses. I challenge all who read this post to open up a Bible and read it – not just the gospels, not just the New Testament. Read all of it. Only then will you have the true knowledge of what it takes to be a true Christian.
And that’s my opinion 🙂
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, All rights reserved.
I received some troubling news last week after receiving the results of an MRI last week.
I have had three back surgeries since 2009 at the L5/S1 level. For those of you that don’t know the levels of the spine, this is in the lower back. “L” stands for lumbar, and “S” stands for sacral. This is a troublesome area of the spine for many people out there, and I was unlucky enough to be one of them. It all started with a herniated disc in 2009. My first two surgeries failed, and I ended up with two broken screws in my back – scary, I know! The third surgery was a “success” in that the bones fused successfully, but the pain never went away.
I deal with chronic pain. I am in some degree of pain every day. However, I try not to let it stop me. I have been told from the beginning that walking is the best thing I can do for my back, and I have tried to do this; however, I have become a little slack over the past few months. I have also been in physical therapy which seems to help, too.
About two months ago, a couple of toes in my right foot went numb. Around that same time, I began to have constant foot cramps which were quite painful and an increased level of pain in my lower back. My physical therapist worked with me twice a week, but the symptoms never improved. I even tried Gatorade and bananas as we thought there might be a possibility that I was dehydrated. However, that didn’t work either.
The MRI results showed that I now have degenerative disc disease in the two levels above my surgery sight. This wasn’t a complete surprise since I was repeatedly told by the doctors that the surgery puts more strain on the levels above it which could lead to future problems. Even so, I was quite depressed when I found this out, and for a day, I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I was still quite depressed. I thought about things for a few minutes, and then I decided to pick up my Bible. I desperately needed something…anything…to lift my spirits. I have been reading 2 Corinthians, so I continued to read where I left off. Amazingly enough, , I read about Paul’s “thorn in his side”:
To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 (NIV)
I realized that God will not allow anything to happen to me that I won’t be able to handle without His grace! How wonderful! He was reminding me that all things happen for a reason, and I have to trust in Him. My soul felt lighter and happier knowing that God is right here with me as I walk through this storm. I also learned that whenever I feel down or discouraged, all I have to do is pick up the Holy Bible, and God will surely comfort me.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 (NIV)
I had planned on writing a different post this morning, but something happened yesterday that was nothing short of miraculous. I had to share this with you today.
Last Tuesday, I woke up with the feeling that something was in my eye. As I looked in the mirror, I was shocked to see what looked like a bubble or blister on the white part of my eye. It scared me to death! I ran downstairs to my computer and began to research what could possibly be affecting my eye. This is typical behavior for me since I am somewhat of a science geek, and I love to do research. I learned all about diseases of the eye, and from what I read, this little blister was probably not dangerous. However, I decided to follow-up with my family doctor.
On Thursday, my mom and I were scheduled to be on a flight to Kentucky to go to her school reunion at Nazareth College in Kentucky. I was excited to go since a big portion of my family lives in Kentucky, and I was going to be able to visit with them. However, my family doctor told me that it was inadvisable for me to wait on treatment for my eye. I canceled my trip, made sure my mom made it to the airport, and went to a opthamologist later that day.
The ophthalmologist poked and prodded on my eye for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he told me that I had a conjunctival cyst. He went on to tell me that they are caused by prior eye surgery (not my case) or some kind of trauma to the eye. He also told me that they usually don’t respond to conservative treatment and surgery is required in most of the cases that he had in the past.
Eye surgery?? I surely didn’t want anyone to mess with my eyes. I had always had 20/20 vision until I was in my mid 40’s at which time I needed some reading glasses. Other than that, my eyes were perfect. The ophthalmologist agreed to let me try some prescription eye drops for two weeks, but he didn’t seem too hopeful that they would work. I went home and once again researched “conjunctival cyst” and “conjunctival cyst surgery”.
The next day, a close friend of mine called to check up on me. She knows me very well, and she knew that I loved to do research. After telling her all about my eye research, she made a comment to me that would have a huge impact on me, but I didn’t know it at the time. She said, “I’ve just been thinking about this, and maybe you should stop researching. Just stop. Just give it all to God, and let Him deal with it.” I thought about it, and she made sense. I was too busy trying to figure it all out myself, and I just needed to hand it over to God.
I talked with my mom that evening. She told me that she and my family had been praying, and she also asked the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth to pray for healing. I had met many of them several years prior to this, so they knew me.
The next day around 1:00, I put the drops in my eye. I closed my eyes, and while the drops penetrated my eye, I decided to pray. I told God that I didn’t want to have eye surgery, and I asked for His healing. I told Him that I was giving this problem to Him, and I asked Him to put His healing hand on my eye. When I finished praying, I dozed off for about an hour. When I woke up, my eye felt a little bit better. I looked at it in the mirror, and the bubble was gone! My eye looked totally normal! I couldn’t believe it!
This was clearly a miraculous healing. With the help of the advice of my friend, the prayers of my family, friends, the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth, and myself, God healed my eye.
Jesus replied, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Are you interested in learning more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Are you looking for ways to effectively deal with a narcissistic individual in your life while enjoying a fictional story? My new book, Blinded by Deception: Life With a Narcissist might be just what you are looking for. This books delves into the life of Nikki Redding and her struggle to survive for twenty eight years in a narcissistic environment. It describes the life events that cause so much confusion and frustration for Nikki early in her life. Once she hits rock bottom, she begins to learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, and begins her long healing process. Through the support of her friends, both individual and group counseling, and her faith in God, she is able to pull herself out of the depths of distress and into a life full of love, hope, and joy. You will be cheering Nikki on as she travels this long road to her eventual healing! The book is available on Amazon and is available in print and on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that it will bring healing to others who read it!
Click on the link below to go directly to the book on Amazon:
This past Christmas may have just been the most special of my life, and it all centers around one single yellow rose.
The past five years for me have been tough. I’ve endured three back surgeries, a coiled brain aneurysm, a divorce, and the loss of my father to cancer. During this time, I turned to God for help, and my strong faith in Jesus Christ sustained me. I have received many signs from God during this time, but none were quite as special as a single yellow rose that I received early in December.
My mom was visiting me, and we decided to go to a book signing that my friend, Belinda, was holding at a flower gallery near my home. The store was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and it was crammed with people feverishly looking for Christmas gifts and decorations. After visiting with Belinda, we made our way to the front of the store to leave. As we walked out, two men stood there with armfuls of roses. They were giving roses to each customer as he/she left. I was handed a yellow rose, and my mom was given a purple one. It was such a pleasant surprise and really made our day.
When we arrived home, I cut the stems of the two roses and put them into a vase. Both roses clearly had been freshly picked as they hadn’t opened yet. The next morning, both roses had completely opened up, and both were beautiful, but the yellow one was incredible. It was loaded with petals, more than I had ever seen on a rose. We remarked on the beauty of the yellow rose but didn’t think much more about it.
Later that week, my mom returned home. The purple rose started to wither at around day 5, and I tossed it at about day 7. However, the yellow rose stayed alive and beautiful for weeks! It didn’t begin to wither at all until about 3 weeks had passed. I was amazed at the beauty and health of this single yellow rose.
I wondered if this yellow rose was some kind of sign. I had never seen anything like it, so I looked up information about yellow roses. They are associated with the sun and convey feelings of warmth, happiness, springtime, platonic love, and devotion. First discovered in the 18th century, they can symbolize renewal…a time of starting fresh. I wondered if this was my sign that things would begin to improve for me. When the rose started to wilt, I took 4 of its petals and placed them inside my Bible to keep to remember this special flower.
On December 30, a friend of mine posted the above photo on facebook. I was stunned when I saw it was a yellow rose! I knew that God had sent that rose to me as a sign that He was right there with me. I knew that this was going to be the subject of my next blog. As I thought about writing the blog, I kept thinking about the song, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.” I hadn’t sung this song in years, and I kept wondering why that song was stuck in my head. I kept thinking I should look up the words, but I never did. Then, on January 1, my mom and I attended a Catholic mass. The song after communion was “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”! I closely listened to the words, and the message became clear to me.
God’s gift to me this Christmas was a single yellow rose that signifies renewal, starting fresh, and comfort. He is walking right beside me. He has dispelled darkness and shares the load that I carry. He will care for me always and will supply my every need. Praise be to Lord Jesus Christ, my savior and king!
“O Flower whose fragrance tender, with sweetness fills the air, dispel with glorious splendor, the darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us and share our every load.” Verse 3, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”
“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” Bette Midler, “The Rose”
The Soul Becomes Dyed with the Color of its Thoughts
Quote by Marcus Aurelius
I am the victim of an extra-marital affair. I was married for twenty years when one day I found e-mails that were being sent back and forth between my ex-husband and his paramour. That was two and a half years ago.
Since that time, I have been through intense counseling. I immediately joined a divorce support group at a local church, and I also began weekly one-on-one counseling with a professional counselor. I have been through the emotional rollercoaster that typically accompanies the process of divorce and realizing that someone who you trusted with all your heart and soul has betrayed you. I get it. I have also learned a great deal about narcissism, and I am currently writing a book on my experiences.
However, I also have a very strong belief in God. In addition to the counseling, I turned to God and begged him for His strength. I knew He was right there with me. How? Well, in addition to just “knowing” it deep in my soul, I had many, many things that happened to me during that time that told me He was right there. There is too much to tell here, but it will be available to read in my next book, hopefully to be published within the next six months. Right after finding out about the affair, I had a dream that I was walking along a stormy beach, completely broken. Jesus walked up next to me, picked me up, and carried me down the stormy beach. I vividly remember this dream. I have also read Bible passages that spoke directly to my situation, and people have come into my life that are definitely “true” Christians and who have walked this stormy journey with me without leaving my side. Finally, one day I saw a rainbow after fervently praying to God about this situation (see a previous post on this blog called “God’s Rainbow”.
When my ex was caught, he lied to me repeatedly as he was trying to cover up his actions. He also tried to blame me for all the bad things that have happened to him since the break up. He told me that it was my fault that he didn’t have any friends because I told all of my friends about the affair. At the time, I let all of those remarks affect me. I now know that the entire responsibility for the break up of our marriage lies directly on him. I have learned that I have to put the responsibility where it lies – on him. Those comments no longer affect me as I now understand the truth.
I recently had another vivid dream. The question was asked of me in my dream “what is the difference between me, my ex and his paramour?” I was quick to respond. “I have a good soul. I truly believe in God, and I did not break my marriage vows. They cannot say that. They lied, cheated, and tried to cover up their sins.” And then, several comments that had been made to me over the past few years came to mind. A priest told me “Your ex is a very weak man.” Another close friend said “A mile wide and an inch deep.” And then it hit me so hard that I actually woke up. My ex and his paramour try so hard to “look good” on the outside, but in the inside there is nothing but darkness, ugliness, deception and lies. I realized as I woke up that they are actually not only lying to me and everyone else around them, but they are actually lying to themselves. They will never truly find happiness and inner peace until they deal with all the darkness that they have on the inside. Outward appearances can be very deceiving.
The Bible says to “guard your heart”. Be careful that you are not deceived by outward appearances. You may be shocked at the inner ugliness that lurks inside. I have learned that I am certainly one very, very lucky lady. God reached down from heaven and pulled me out of a very dark and ugly situation. He actually saved me! I feel like the most blessed person in the world for God to think enough of me to yank me out of this terrible situation!! Praise be to God forever!!
This is God’s lesson to me, and it was learned by going through a very deep valley in my life. Listen to Him…..REALLY LISTEN……AND OBEY HIS COMMANDS!! You will be amazed at the inner peace that will come with His lessons. True wisdom only comes from really knowing God.