Friday, October 2, 2015

Rejection Leads to Confidence

God has used rejection from people to build confidence in me that could not have been made any other way. Now I am still trusting that God will bring people into our lives that we will be able to fellowship with on a more consistent basis. However I do believe this time alone was God ordained just as Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul were alone in their wilderness seasons. 

My hope is for people to see that God can and will use everything that happens to us for His good and that includes the rejection we may have experienced in our lives too.

Ultimately God wants us to learn to depend on Him and that usually includes taking us out of our own comfort zones. Each of us have our own comfort zone and God will tailor the challenge specifically for us. 

God wants us to surrender our lives to Him. He wants us to willingly come to the place where His will is more important than ours. He wants us to leave the comfort zones and learn to trust Him into the calls He has placed on our lives. 

The Devil Wanted Me Dead

Looking back now, I realize the devil was out to get me in my junior year of high school. At 16 years of age, the devil wanted me broken and dead. 

During marching band camp, I started to have symptoms (fainting, lightheadedness and heat intolerance) that would eventually be diagnosed as Postural tachycardia syndrome.  No one (not even doctors) listened to me back then and I suffered undiagnosed with this condition for 8 years. I still suffer with this illness today.

I also found myself in a very controlling relationship for a few months. When I tried to dump that boyfriend, he threatened to harm me and harm himself. It was also during this time where a family member psychologically abused and raped me. It was a traumatic time for me.

It felt like a horrible nightmare except it wasn't a dream. It was real life. 

As all of this was going on, not a single one of my friends (nor my family) knew anything about it. I suffered in silence in my junior and senior years of high school. People just knew that I became an emotional, broken and messed up person who wanted to die. I couldn't talk to them about the symptoms I was feeling nor could I tell them about the events that took place. Unfortunately those friends stopped talking to me in my senior year and I was alone back then too.

Thankfully when I was born again, God was able to heal me of the trauma from that season. 

After high school, I entered into the work force and was going to college full time. I started to feel increasingly unwell though. I first quit college in the beginning of 2004 and then eventually quit working all together at the end of 2005. At the age of 21, I was already disabled and unable to hold a job or go to school. Looking at my life by worldly standards, I had absolutely nothing going for me. I was a burden and waste of space. 

As I got sicker, I started to look online for support and answers. It was on forums, yahoo groups and websites that I started to make friends with others who had the same story as me. It was great! I was so happy that finally there were people who understood chronic illness and its limitations at a young age. 

For about 3 years I had many wonderful chronically ill friends online. I became a researcher and guinea pig. I subjected myself to treatments in hopes that I could help others. I was part of a community and felt like I belonged. I finally thought that I was making some sort of contribution to the world. Not everyone agreed or liked my style, but I talked to people on a daily basis online and considered many of them great friends. 

In this time frame, my husband also became chronically ill and times got much worse. We entered into a new level of hell.

Things Got Harder After I Was Saved

When I came to believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in 2012, God called me out of those chronic illness communities. I had to stop looking at treatment protocols and researching potential cures for chronic illness. That did not go over real well with my chronically ill friends and I walked away from many friendships there. It was hard, but it was part of "taking off the old and putting on the new". God was very clear to my husband and I that we were forbidden to go back to these groups and we were forbidden to even discuss these things with people. I still hold to that today.

I was a new believer in Christ and started to become more active in Christian circles. I figured making friends was going to be much easier. I was wrong. Very quickly I realized that many people want to use you in the Church too. 

They want you to be a testimony for their ministry. 
They want you to join their church. 
They want you to participate in events and ministry. 

With both of us having unpredictable chronic illnesses, we knew it was not going to work well. My husband and I were the odd people out, often times sitting outside during worship because it was too loud. The noise sent my body into sensory overload and it caused horrendous pain in my husband's ears. It was a mess. 

Just a few short months after being saved, I began to write on my blog about things God had shown us. 

This was not a comfortable place for me to be in. I had little to no bible knowledge, little experience as a born again Christian, zero experience in ministry and yet God said to write! I had to extensively research, pray and wait on God to write every post. It is hard writing deep theological posts with migraines and brain fog, but somehow God gave me the strength to it. Although I have many unfinished blog posts that hopefully one day will be published...haha!

In May of 2014, someone locally unfriended me due to one of my blog posts and it caused me to begin questioning everything I thought I heard from God. I was close to shutting down my blog and forgetting about it all. I was in total anguish. 

This brought me to a fork in the road and I had to make a decision. 

Was I going to listen to the people who were upset with me? Was I going to let fear of man take over my heart? Was I going to follow God and continue to speak regardless of it being out of my comfort zone and regardless of the potential fallout? 

I didn't have an answer to those questions at the time. I felt so lost and confused on what was the right thing to do. I didn't want to make people angry, but I also did not want to be silenced either.

What I have learned in this season is:

If we choose to remain silent when God tells us to speak it is disobedience.

If we choose to remain silent for fear of what men will say it is disobedience.

Fear of man may disguise itself as humility, but it is actually false humility! False humility can lead us into a place where we are pleasing people at the cost of obeying God. This is what the devil was after in my life. He wanted me to turn from God and to listen to the other voices around me instead of the only One who matters. 

With my history of losing friends, the devil just kept telling me how much of a bad friend I was to everyone. He kept telling me that I should have kept my mouth shut. He kept saying,  "See what you did!". On the other hand, I knew the things God had shown us were truth and important to talk about.

I was being pulled in all directions and at that point my own heart was betraying itself too.

A Prophetic Word Changed It All

I thank God for a perfectly timed prophetic word in July 2014. If it were not for that word, I truly believe this blog would no longer exist. That single prophetic word changed everything. It gave me the confidence to continue to open my mouth and speak as God was commanding me to do so instead of cowering back. 

God said to me in that word, "When you feel insecure, when you're pushed back on stand in the confidence of the Lord and open your mouth and do the things that he has given you to do."

However when I opened my mouth, I heard from people around me....

...You are just "hurt". 
...You are "critical". 
...You are being "judging".
...Who made you judge?
...You are casting stones!
...Who are you to speak?

Nowadays when these accusations and labels are thrown at me, I know they are originating from the flesh or the devil. I simply continue on speaking what God has called me to do because I know that those people are not hearing from God. 

When I no longer needed validation from men and knew God was with me, it gave me the confidence to speak.  It doesn't make it easy or fun. I still have feelings, emotions and can be hurt by words said to me by friends, family and strangers online, but now I know I'm in God's will. That is the most important thing.

Sometimes I make mistakes and ask forgiveness where necessary, but when I make a mistake it doesn't mean I should stop speaking all together. The enemy wants us to feel insecure, so that we stop speaking.

I truly believe the enemy will speak to us through other Christians to get us to second guess ourselves and to second guess what God has already spoken. He will bring back old labels, old hurts and old wounds that God has already healed. He wants us to begin to believe those lies again about ourselves so we do not continue on in our calling from God. YES the enemy will use a Christian to do it too. I've seen it time and time again with the emails I've received from strangers via this blog. 

Some of the most demonic, twisted words have come out of the mouths of Christians and Christian ministers in this season!

I admit, I'm a broken disaster on most days. Sometimes the attacks take a toll on me. It just shows me how much I need to depend on God to do any of this. If I had my way, I'd never speak out ever again. Yet because I have walked through this season with God, I know that I can't walk away. If I have truly laid my life down to Him, then I must speak.

With everything that has happened to me in my life and the way that God has redeemed it, it has given me a boldness in certain areas that scares people. I think most people would expect me to be hurt and unhealed emotionally. I think most people would expect me to be a doormat. I think most people expect me to be depressed and constantly negative. I think when people meet me in person, they are shocked of the joy and the smile on my face despite the hardships I write about on my blog. 

How did this happen? Only God can do it. You can't learn it from another.

You have to get to a place where you have nothing to lose anymore. 
You have to get to a place where doing God's work is more important than having men on your side.

Thankfully I know I can trust in God. I know that God has different thoughts about me than those around me who yell and curse me. 

Somehow in His amazing ways, God can use everything that I've been through in my life and use it for His good. He has used all of this to prepare me for the call on my life. 

I now have compassion for those who have been the victim of incest. 
I now have compassion for those who are chronically ill and doctors cannot help.  
I now comfort those who feel alone in their walks with God. 
I now comfort those who have been believing God for healing and it has not yet come.
I now point people to the One who truly matters; Jesus Christ!

It was in this season where the dependency of man was removed from me and I've had to learn what it means to really truly depend on God. That involved tears, pain, frustration, anger, lack and confusion at times. It is a normal part of the process!

When I stopped looking to men for my help,  I stopped sending others to men too. 

I started telling them directly about Jesus Christ and did not refer them to a book, teaching, video or healing course. These days I'm rather selective of the things I recommend to my friends, strangers and family because I know the impact it will have on that person's walk with God.

You don't learn to trust God by watching a video or reading the latest Bethel book or going to the next conference. You learn this by surrendering yourself to God as you go through tough times in life. There is no other way and no shortcuts around this.

What the devil has tried to use to literally kill me, silence me and wound me, God has redeemed. The devil sends his little minions from time to time in the form of baby Christians to attack me personally, but I just sing praises to God that the enemy lies are just that..LIES!

It is in this season where I had to decide if I was going to let the words of people get me to back down. Do I care that much about what people think about me to disobey God? Would I allow false-humility to keep me from fulfilling the call of God on my life? 

For some what I say looks critical and judging. 
For some my testimony and who I am today is offensive. 
For some they say I'm too young to speak.
For some they say I haven't been trained properly to have an opinion or voice.

There is always something that people will say about you, but the only thing that truly matters is what God is saying. It is common for people to label others with terms that have negative emotions or connotations attached. They do this to write you off, to discredit you in order to do character assassination. 

Jesus tells us an important lesson in Matthew 10:24-28 (emphasis mine).
24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25“It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 
26“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

For those who God has called, there comes a place where you have to simply say to the people...."I'm continuing on and doing what God has called me to do. You can smear my name. You can do character assassination. You can even kill my body, but I'm going to continue with what God has called me to do!"

Once you are truly able to get to this place, then you are free. It doesn't mean the words won't hurt or you won't have dark days, but overall you realize that only following God and fearing God is what matters. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Feeling Alone in the Storms

I've been really quiet on my blog because it's been a very difficult, trying time (once again) in my life. There has been so much stress and pressure put on me and I did not feel like writing.

This blog post is going to be pretty emotional and raw.

Let's talk about friendships or really the lack of them. I wrote a post about this same topic in the beginning of this year here where I've had to let go people I've met in this season.

Ever since I was a teenager, I've had trouble keeping friends. In all of the friendships I've ever had with women, there was always this element where I had to be fake. I couldn't actually be honest and truthful with them because it might hurt their feelings. For me this does not work. I like to just say it like it is instead of me festering or holding on to things inside of me. However I realized that 99% of the population does not work that way and so it causes problems.

People want you to be fake. I refuse to do it.

Inevitably I've always been the one blamed for being a bad friend and then a "break up" happens. It is always in these times where the other person's true feelings finally come out. This is when I see they were the ones festering animosity this whole time and it's a big mess. After various messages back and forth, I realize that there is no possible way reconciliation can happen because it wasn't real to begin with.

It is like I was friends with a facade, not the actual real person within them.

I've seen this cycle time and time again in my life. Today, this is why I'm upfront and real with people.

My husband told me this quality in me is why he fell in love with me. He loved that I had an opinion! Apparently on our first date I was ranting about the Catholic church?! haha! I don't even remember that, but it's obvious that God put us together. No one else I ever knew liked that quality about me!

It is the thing everyone else hates that my husband loves.

I say it like it is because I will not fester and harvest things inside of me. Any time I've violated this rule of mine, it always comes back to hurt me in the long run.

In these fake friendships, I always felt like I lost my freedom and my voice. It was like that person expected me or even peer pressured me into doing what they were doing. I hated it. I had to put up an act. I had to always agree with them. I had to like the things they liked. I had to basically be them and I hated it. It's like a bad controlling relationship.

To me that is not a friendship but that is honestly a prison. Today I refuse to befriend someone if that's the terms they have for friendship. I absolutely despise it and will eventually push the person away on purpose.

To add insult to injury, having a chronic illness does not help things either. It tested all of the friendships I've had.

The main problem is that....

I don't have kids.
I did not finish college.
I don't work.
I can't regularly go to church.
I can't "hang out".
I hate talking on the phone because it aggravates my health problems.

That pretty much throws every friendship and way of making (and connecting with) friends out the window. All of the things that people do with their friends, I cannot possibly do and it always puts strain on the friendship. If I do end up making a friend, eventually the emails or texts stop and then I never hear from them again. Time and time again.

So for me, all that I have are online friendships and I am grateful for those who have stuck around even if it's just 3-4 of you. I thank God for you every day.

I feel like most of those whom people think are their friends are an illusion.

They are there for you today because: still agree with them. can still hang out. work with them.
...there is something in your life that connects you.

If you remove all of that, will they still be there? For how long? A few months? I had amazing friends when I worked at Kohl's and Pier 1, but that was over 10 years ago now and those people are gone. I personally have never seen a friendship ever last when there is nothing to keep a person connected.

This is a sad post, but one I wanted to write today. I really don't have any friends. No one calls. No one texts. I get no phone calls on my birthday. I get no invites to weddings. I get no invites to bridal or baby showers. Honestly if I died today, I do not think anyone locally outside of my family would actually care. I've had to come to the reality of that and somehow be OK with it.

I simply have no one at all in my life except for my husband and God.

I've entered in a time where my husband cannot help me in the place I'm in. He cannot help me with the struggles and pain that I'm feeling in my heart. I have been so emotionally and physically unwell, but instead of God bringing me people to comfort me, He has taken more away.

It might seem strange to many of you reading, but I believe that God has brought me to this place. He has brought me so alone and so low to show me that He is enough. I don't need likes on Facebook. I don't need a certain number of friends on Facebook. I don't need more followers on my blog or even more visitors here. I really only need Him.

Jesus was betrayed and abandoned by the only people and friends He knew. God knows the pain I'm feeling and I continue to trust that He will bring my husband and I community and friends that will accept us as we are today. Neither of us have that right now.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Who is the Thief that Steals, Kills and Destroys in John 10:10?

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

We have all heard this scripture, but who do you think is the thief?

Most reading this today would likely immediately say, "the devil " because it's been repeated over and over again by many ministers. However is this an accurate assessment based on the context? I do not believe so. I too used to say "the thief" was the devil, but as I started to read John 10 thoroughly, I had to come to the realization that I was wrong. I've even written a blog post using this verse, which I no longer agree with. I believe there is a lesson in the Parable of the Good Shepherd that Jesus was trying to share that has been lost because many have made "the thief" in this particular parable, the devil. I've seen many use this verse to promote theologies that are otherwise not supported in the bible, so I think it's important to step back and really take a look at this verse.

First let's refresh ours minds of what occurred before Jesus gave the parable.

In John 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind. It caused quite an uproar because no one had ever been healed of a condition like this before. The Pharisees were not happy when they heard it was done by Jesus and they began to interrogate the man and his parents.

The man told the story of what happened to the Pharisees, but they did not want to listen. Then they called this man's parents in and they were so fearful of the Pharisees, that they essentially left their son to explain it yet again. God used this man who had been born blind to confront the Pharisees and to reveal their true hearts and spiritual condition. God used "a foolish thing to confound the wise". The Pharisees became angry and they kicked him out of the synagogue.

Jesus states in John 9:39-41:
“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind. Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we? Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
It is in this exchange that Jesus exposed the Pharisees for what they really were; blind guides leading other blind people to their destruction. The Pharisees said they could see and were followers of the Law and Disciples of Moses. Yet they purposely denied Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, "Because you say you see, your sins will remain."

God is merciful to those who are in ignorance and do not know, but His wrath is upon those who purposely close up the way of salvation and abuse His sheep. Although Jesus opened the eyes of an actual blind man there was a spiritual element to what He was teaching. Jesus was clearly teaching about opening the eyes of the spiritually blind.

This is extremely important to remember as we head into the Parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber."
Here Jesus is saying you must enter through the door that leads into the fold. Later on we will see that Jesus is the door. However, the "fold" that Jesus is referring to here is the pasture that holds God's sheep. Therefore, if a person does not enter through the door (Jesus), but climbs up some other way, Jesus says he is a thief and a robber. These thieves and robbers are false teachers (the Pharisees) who were not sent by God. These false shepherds have entered into the pastures of His children, but were not granted access. They gained access unlawfully.
But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 
Here Jesus is using an analogy to assert His deity and is showing that He has been sent by God.

In these two verses we see that:
God the Son is the Shepherd.
God the Son is the door to the fold.
God the Father is the doorkeeper.

Jesus is saying that He has been sent by God to shepherd the sheep. The sheep (God's children) know the true shepherd's voice and He calls them by name and leads them! You can see the difference in descriptions here. God calls us by name, but thieves and robbers do not. They do not even use the door and instead gain access into the fold through unlawful means.
When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
Here Jesus is saying He brings all of His own into the fold. This is likely talking about God calling each of us by name to believe in Jesus for salvation.

Jesus (the Shepherd) has gone ahead of the sheep. He is our example. He shows us the way. The sheep will follow Him because they know His voice. A stranger's voice they will not follow, but instead they will run away because they do not know the voice of strangers. The strangers here are the thieves and robbers that Jesus spoke about in v. 1. They are the ones who have gained unlawful access to the fold. These are the Pharisees, false teachers and false shepherds.

Now Jesus begins to explain this verse in a more plain sense, so they could understand.
7 “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
Jesus was stating here that He is the only way. He is the door (and the Shepherd). He is our salvation. He is telling the crowd you cannot follow any other person or way into the fold. He says, "Those who came before Me were thieves and robbers" These are the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who killed all of God's prophets. The Pharisees and Jewish leaders were not sent by God and did not lead the sheep by God's authority. They climbed up some other way to deceive the sheep. v.1.
9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Here Jesus talks about what a person will find in Him. Jesus is the door to salvation. If a person enters through Jesus, he WILL be saved. Those who enter in through Jesus will go in and out of the fields and find pasture. In this pasture we find forgiveness of sins, love, rest and eternal life! 

In verse 10, Jesus is using the idea of a thief to show the contrast between Him as the Good Shepherd and those who are false shepherds. If a person follows the thief, he will steal from the sheep, kill the sheep when it suits him and ultimately destroy the sheep. There is no salvation in the thief. There is no life.The false shepherds and teachers do not care about the sheep, but will actually send them to their destruction. Yet Jesus says,"If you follow Me, then you will have life abundantly." I believe Jesus is talking about eternal life here.

Having gone through all of this verse by verse, I no longer belief that verse 10 is talking about the devil as "the thief". We all know that the devil is our adversary, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). I am in no way trying to make him look "good" because he is not. However we need to be true to the scriptures. This parable is not talking about the devil, but about false teachers, false shepherds and anyone else who keeps the means of salvation away from the people. It is talking about those who were not called by God, but pretended to be one of His shepherds.

In this particular scripture, Jesus was most definitely talking about the Pharisees, but it is something we should heed even today. There are thieves and robbers pretending to be shepherds who have not been called by God, but are in this for their own selfish ambitions.

As we continue on in the parable, I believe it's even more clear that the thief in v 10 is not the devil.
11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Here Jesus is telling us that He is the good shepherd and He is foreshadowing the cross, but we can use this as an example of how we should treat the sheep that God gives each of us to care for. A good shepherd would lay his life down for his sheep. He takes care of them regardless of the cost to himself. Jesus leads by example and He shows us the heart of God for His sheep.
12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 
Here Jesus is showing us the contrast. Hired hands are the thieves and robbers that were previously discussed. They only care about the sheep in so much for what the sheep can give them. They do not look to the sheep as their own and so would not lay their life down for them. They are in this for themselves and their own selfish ambitions whether it be money, fame or status.

Good news though. Jesus is not a hired hand! He is the Good Shepherd! God takes possession over us as His children and He is our Father. Jesus willingly surrendered His life for us!

We also see in v. 12, Jesus talks about a wolf coming to the sheep and the hired hands do not care. The wolf could be the devil, hunger, sickness and trials in life. When a hired hand sees the wolf come, they flee because they do not care about the sheep. They only cared about themselves and their own safety. They do not want caught up with the wolf because it is more than they had bargained for. They run and let the sheep to fend for themselves, but a sheep is no match for a wolf and the sheep are scattered! Sheep need a shepherd, but this hired hand was not it and it lead to their destruction. It is the hired hands (thieves) that lead the sheep into being slaughtered.
14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
Once again, Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd! He is contrasting Himself to the thieves, robbers and hired hands that came before Him. The hired hands do not care about the sheep, but He says, "I care about the sheep because I know you by name. I own you. You are mine!" Jesus the good shepherd does not flee when the wolf comes, but will lay down His own life willingly! He shows us the kind of service that we should all follow in. Hallelujah!
If we quickly look to Ezekiel 34:1-10, we see that what Jesus was talking about here was prophesied through Ezekiel about the false shepherds in Israel.
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’”
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 ‘Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’”
God was not happy with the way the shepherds of Israel were treating His sheep. They slaughtered the sheep, took their wool and ate them for food, but did not care about them at all. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about in John 10 with the Parable of the Good Shepherd. This is one of those scriptures that actually shows that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah in the Old Testament.When Jesus was born of a woman and came into the world in flesh, God was taking His sheep back out of  the mouths of the false shepherds in Israel. Jesus is the Good Shepherd as opposed to the shepherds of Israel who were thieves, robbers and hired hands.

I truly believe when this parable is read in its entirety and alongside Ezekiel 34, it becomes very clear that "the thief" discussed in v. 10 is not the devil. It is certainly talking about false shepherds and false teachers. If people want to debate that the Pharisees and false shepherds in Israel were doing the devil's work, then that is something as a Church we could certainly debate. However, I still think the point must be made that in this parable, Jesus really was talking about the Pharisees. It ties into what had just occurred in John 9 nicely as well.

I personally feel we should refrain from using this Scripture to create theologies that are otherwise not supported in the Word.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Unstable Foundations of Hyper-Grace and "Finished Work" Doctrines

Over the past 3 years, I became aware (and deceived) by the “hyper-grace” teachings while seeking God for healing. I truly believe the only thing that kept me from fully embracing hyper-grace is the fact that I am sick and have a real need. I've had chronic illness for over 14 years and doctors cannot help me. I need to see the reality of what Jesus did on the cross in my life, so catch phrases, slogans and simply believing things differently will not cut it for me. I need the real supernatural power of God to hit my body.

The hyper-grace message became very popular because many people live with a lot of condemnation and do not have a basic understanding of the true message of God's grace.

Since I've been sick most of my adolescent and adult life, I used to struggle with a lot of condemnation. I've never been able to meet up to anyone's expectations in life.

In the church, most of the condemnation that people feel, stems from the fact that ministries are driven by teaching people a method instead of getting people to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. When we try to sell Jesus as a 10 step method, it only makes a person feel condemned and feel as if they are never doing enough. You will always find someone who prays more, reads the bible more, prays in tongues more (or maybe you don't pray in tongues at all!?), sees more people healed or does more street ministry. It's an easy place for people to self-condemn themselves. These checklists and methods also turn into weapons used against people too.

I think it's important to recognize that the main theme of the hyper-grace movement is their disgust and rejection of all methods that have been created in the church. Many of them have been hurt in an abusive church situation. I am not faulting them for wanting to move away from controlling types and it's one of the reasons why I gravitated towards their message too. The problem though is instead of simply rejecting the bad they have indeed over-corrected into error.

They believe that once Jesus died on the cross, that doing anything at all for God is considered works. They believe if you try to obey the teachings of Jesus, then you are pushing “works salvation”. Sadly if you teach on things like service and obedience of any kind that you are “legalistic” and “religious”. Some of them say praying is a work. Some of them say reading the bible is a work. Some of them say turning from sin is a work. Some of them say fasting is a work.

There are variations of exaggerations in these groups. Not all of them believe in the same exaggerations and it makes it difficult to succinctly point out all of the errors. A person is basically forced to use minister names because otherwise you might be using a broad brush on another group who doesn't believe in what the other group within hyper-grace believes.

They have gone from one extreme which is a long list of things “to do” to the other extreme where they say, “there's nothing left to do. Jesus did everything. Just rest”. They have confused the free gift of salvation with the costs of serving the God who gave us that free gift. 

First, it's important to understand that from what I've seen, no one on either side is preaching the idea of doing works in order to be justified (saved). Of course salvation is only found in believing in what Jesus did on the cross, but we should also obey God's will for our life.

But this is where the conflicts and disagreements begin.

Many will say that grace cannot be exaggerated. They say that God's grace is too good and I agree that God's grace is too good. The fact that God sent us His Son Jesus, to die for us, to redeem us even while we were still enemies of God, is amazing! But once we come to believe in Jesus, our life and actions do in fact need to change and this is where hyper-grace disagrees. They say, “It's already done in Christ”. “you are already holy and sanctified”. And yet there is a renewing that God must take us through in our lives to begin to react as Jesus would not as our flesh would. Unfortunately many in the hyper-grace groups do not believe that God can do a work in each of our lives. They do not believe in wilderness seasons. They do not believe that trials can be used to conform a person into the image of His son.

I suspect many people who come across the hyper-grace teachings are in fact temporarily set free! This happens because they realize that the man-made methods that they put themselves under were not of God. I myself had this realization in 2013. I stopped trying to fulfill some man made healing method and started to look directly towards Jesus. But this is where I differ from the hyper-grace camp... Looking directly towards Jesus and pursuing Him involves having to pay a price of some sort. We will have to pray and read the bible. It involves spending time with God. It involves having to turn your back to the things you once did and learn to live the life that he wants for you. It involves sacrifice at times. It's not an effortless journey. It actually is quite painful to die to oneself.

When a person does not have this real connection to God and trials come, many who believe in the hyper-grace, finished-work teachings walk away from the faith. I've seen at least 3 "leaders" in this movement shut down their blogs and FB pages. When the trials and struggles of life come, many of them are not built on the rock that is Jesus. While they reject the "methods of men", they have also done away with any personal relationship and intimacy with God too. When a group of people considers turning from sin and obeying the Lord as works, then how as a church can we restore such people back to the true gospel message? When a group of people think God is no longer doing works in His children, then how will they ever be prepared when storms come?

In my few years, I have seen more walk away from God in these groups than in any other group. I have a few Cessationist friends who are sick and do not believe in healing, but trust God no matter what. They are on stable grounds. I have hyper-grace friends who are sick and were believing God for healing, but when it did not come; They left the faith. The general attitude and mindset of those in hyper-grace is this. "Either God is good and He heals me now or God is not real” There is no room for long term struggles in their walks with God. There was no trust built in God, but simply they trusted in their doctrines and catchphrases. Underneath the catchphrases and slogans, when their life spoke louder than them, they had nothing at all to lean back on.

If those who have accepted hyper-grace were honest with themselves I believe they would see there's a lot of healing that needs to take place within their hearts. They are insecure of God's love and therefore have had to then say that God is always loving and there is no wrath. They are insecure about their salvation and therefore have had to say that you cannot fall away from the faith. They need black and white answers to legalistic questions about God and it has forced them to have to rewrite scriptures like Ananias and Sapphira. For example, some are now saying that Peter in his great power received from God, murdered them. They cannot accept that God may have judged them, but they will gladly turn Peter into a murderer. Wow!

Unfortunately sometimes we need to examine ourselves to see why we are believing the things we are believing. God put me in a situation that forced me to do it. It came down to humbling myself and realizing that what I had believed about God was not true.

The bottom line is that those believing hyper-grace have been deceived into thinking that service, obedience, prayer and reading the bible is works. They have been deceived that trials and struggles in life are strange things we should never experience. If you type in trial, struggles or wilderness into the hyper-grace blogs and you get almost no keyword hits. They have absolutely nothing at all for those in hard times. It is a teaching that attracts people with generally good lives, but gives them zero tools to endure when the wind begins to blow. It's not supposed to be that way! The gospel is supposed to get us through the good times and the bad times.

If we have lost our hunger for God, then more than ever we need to be alone with God and seek him! Unfortunately though, it is nearly impossible to talk to many in the hyper-grace/exaggerated Finished work groups. For having such an amazing revelation of God's grace, I do not see this same love and grace extended towards those who want to have simple discussions with them. They see the inconsistencies with everyone else, but are totally blind when they do it themselves. We can all get our feathers ruffled at times, so I understand and can relate. However I don't see the great revelation of righteousness, grace and forgiveness they all claim to have. If I don't see it in their life, then what and why are they even talking about this as if it's having any transformative effect? Do as I say, not as I do? Isn't this exactly what they were against in the first place? The hypocrisy that's in the Church and the pastor or church that hurt them? Have they simply become what they preached against? In many ways, yes I do believe so and they don't even see it.

We rest in knowing what Jesus did for us, but that doesn't mean we don't pray, read the word or turn from sin. It does not mean we do not commit our lives to God and serve Him in whatever capacity He wants for us. In fact because of what Jesus did, we have a hunger to do all of those things even more so because we see what He took for us. We should not arrogantly look at the cross and then think we are owed something from God.... Jesus gave us more than enough and we should have a joy in our hearts while following Him. No matter what life brings and sometimes it will bring tough situations.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Necessary Cost

Recently God has been talking to me a lot about cost and sacrifice. He has been giving me various dreams about the cost that we've had to pay in this season as we were seeking Him for healing.

Prophetically we were told that what my husband and I have been walking through was part of a necessary cost. We've had other words that basically confirmed we had been walking in a wilderness season and a training program as well. 2 years ago I could not have handled this, but God has changed my heart on many matters relating to this and I choose to trust God.

This summer marks 15 years of suffering with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. In 2005, I had to quit college and work altogether because I was too sick to function any more. That was only a year after I had gotten married. Pretty much my whole marriage has been riddled with trials, struggles, sickness, pain, frustration and confusion. Then in 2009 my husband got sick with chronic fatigue syndrome. He was hospitalized for a week and then became bedridden for an entire year. During this time, he was no longer able to run his own business. We went from being financially well off to being in total poverty. I gave my life to Jesus in June 2012. By 2013, we had no money left and God told us to start selling off everything we owned and to go on food stamps. We obeyed and once we ran out of things to sell, we had to start trusting God for ALL of our bills and God provided! We have been completely dependent upon God ever since and both of us are still too sick to work. We have had to cautiously navigate this season and yet God said it was a necessary cost. Looking back on all of this, it is only by the grace of God that we have made it through it all.

If God is asking us to sacrifice things in our life or asking us to bear a load, we must know that it is not for the remission of our sins. We are not paying to be saved, to be loved by God nor are we trying to lessen our eternal punishments by offering up a sacrifice. The shedding of Jesus' blood on the cross was enough to pay the penalty for our sins. We are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus, so suffering in this life has nothing to do with making payment to God for our sins. I just wanted to make sure that was clear before I continue on here because many seem to get confused about that.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose, for me as a Gentile believer, it was only the beginning. We see this in Ephesians 2:11-13.

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth...remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

It is only because of what Jesus did on the cross that we can now be reconciled to God through faith in His son. Now that we are in a relationship with God, He may call us into a place that requires us to sacrifice. He may call us out of our comfort zones. He may call us into a season where we are bearing a load. All of these things are for His purposes and often times are related to the calling that God has placed on our lives. He has to get us ready for the work He has ordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We see this in the life of Elijah, David, Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul and even Peter. They all went through some stuff.

There's a popular message today that says you can't earn God's favor or blessings. Many of them are actively attacking service and sacrifice saying you are trying to “buy” God. They say if you sacrifice things for God you are cheapening what Jesus did. They will say that if you try to “please” God with your sacrifices that you are “doing works” and “adding to the Finished Work of Christ”. These teachings actually show what is in these minister's hearts. It is true that I can't earn God's favor when it comes to salvation and why would I? That was paid for by Jesus' sacrifice, but what these groups fail to recognize is that Jesus was also an example of obedience for us to follow. Everyone wants to “be like Jesus” in power and miracles, but I see very little talk about “being like Jesus” in devotion, holiness, obedience and in service to the Father.

When Jesus was about to be betrayed and suffer a horrible death, He called out to God.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

His obedience to God was to His own death! We should remember these words from Jesus when God calls us to sacrifice or walk a certain way that is difficult. We should remember that Jesus chose to die for us willingly and we should be willing to give our lives for Him too.

Having said that, in this season God was calling my husband and I to stand into a difficult place. He called us to bear a load that seemed impossible to bear at times, but it was in these times that we had to dig in and really begin to trust God. We had to dig into His word and start searching for living water to live off of! 

On my worst days, it was God who gave me the strength to stand and now I can say that our faith has been tested by fire. God did something inside of me that I cannot describe to you today. I feel something inside of me that I cannot describe, but it was born in me through this difficult time. I finally understand how the apostles could do what they did day after day after day, knowing they were going to be physically assaulted at times. I cannot even imagine the physical pain they must have been in after getting stoned, beaten and whipped and yet the hope that was in them through Jesus, that brought them to their feet to continue proclaiming the gospel.

If God calls us into or if we have found ourselves in an impossible situation (like my husband and I), God may call us to continue to stand in this difficult place for a season. We may be called to places we didn't think God would ask us to stand. I know that was certainly the case for me. I never knew that God would ask so much of me.

A common way God calls us to stand is when there are delays. Delays in the promises of God creates the atmosphere for sacrifices and loads to bear. It was the delay in our healing that caused us to have to stand in this difficult place and instead of giving up, I said, “Ok Lord, not my will, but yours” and what that involved was a lot of changing, stretching, tearing down, rebuilding and growing in Christ.

The “Finished work” groups would say I am preaching “mixed-grace” because the words sacrifice and service are bad words to them. They would say that I am preaching works based salvation. However my post has nothing to do with salvation and everything to do with being obedient to God's will for our individual lives. There's a big big difference there. Paul was never trying to obtain God's love or his salvation through the beatings and sufferings he went through for Christ's sake. Yet enduring this was part of the cost for his calling from God. He was called to suffer these things for Christ. It was very clear in his writings that he understood the costs involved and he knew it would ultimately lead to his death. This was also the same with Peter. After Jesus was resurrected, He told Peter in John 21:18-19, the kind of death that would be pleasing to God for following Him.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.

I bolded things here because God through His son Jesus called Peter to die a certain way and Jesus said, “Follow me”. It was part of Peter's calling that he would suffer and die in this way!

They knew the cost and willingly accepted it. Everything that Peter and Paul went through was part of a necessary cost of the calling on their lives. I believe we each have a role to play today. Are we willing to pay the price though? Are we willing to accept our cost for following God? Are we willing to say, “Father not my will, but yours be done”?

Some people may go through a season where they have to get angry with God because of the cost God is asking of them. Some people may go through a season of rebellion because they made an idea for themselves who God is that was not based on scripture. Some people may never willingly accept the cost and I believe those calls may be forfeited.

The sacrifices God asks from us will be different for each person. He may ask us to let go of things that we cherish and hold dear to us. He may ask us to leave a job. He may ask us to take a certain job. It may be things that we never thought God would ask us to let go of.

I'd like to share a dream I had several weeks ago. In this dream, I found out that I was given free stays at a $400/night hotel. It was a beautiful place and I was already imagining myself in the room. I was so amazed that someone would give me this! I asked the lady at the counter if there would be any other costs and she repeatedly told me no. Except I found that she lied to me. If I wanted to use internet, drink the bottled water and eat breakfast, then I'd have to pay for those amenities. When I found out there was a cost, I was angry! This lady at the counter in charge of putting people into their rooms flat out lied to me!

Even though the $400/night room was given to me for free, I was angry about the costs I had to bear. Because that lady lied to me, I started making a scene in the place. I was so mad that I walked away from that freely given $400/night hotel and went to the cheap $50 hotel because the amenities were included.

When I woke up I had to look up to see if this was a real thing with more expensive hotels and I found out that it was! But God wasn't talking about real hotel rooms. I believe these rooms represented the callings God is asking His Church to step into. The lady at the counter who lied to me represented teachers and ministers who are not being upfront with God's children. These ministers are lying about the costs and are not properly preparing people for their calls!

Remember the room itself was given for free. The same goes for our callings which are given to us freely through faith in Jesus Christ, but in order to walk in those callings and fulfill those callings, there may be costs to us. In the cheap hotel, the internet, breakfast and bottled water were all "included", but the room was cheap. It was dirty. It wasn't anything special whatsoever.

In my dream God also showed me the lines of others in the Church who have settled for the cheap hotel when He is calling them into the $400/night room. They settled because they had been lied to by ministers! And because of that lie, they were not willing to bear the price He is asking of us to bear. 

In this dream I very clearly heard the word, cheapskates.

We have become cheapskates in the things of God.

Many hyper-grace and Finished Work teachings today are actually teaching believers there is NO price to pay. They are perfect representations of the lady in the counter of my dream. They have twisted up so many believers and have put in the hearts of believers the false idea that if you give of yourself to God, that you are trying to earn the blessings of God. Whether they realize it or not, but they are not giving people freedom but becoming gatekeepers, keeping people from receiving what God has for them in their life. They would likely accuse me of the same thing.

If we are not careful we may walk away from the high calling of God and settle for something lesser because we don't want to pay any price at all. Even if that price is minuscule compared to what God has given us! There may be more asked of us with particular callings. This is seen in the lives of Jesus and the apostles. They walked in power, boldness and authority, but it came with a price.

Have you been duped by false teachers in the Church telling you there is no cost? And I use the word false teacher very seriously. I do not throw that out there lightly.

Are you not willing to pay a price because you were lied to that there was no price to pay?
Are you walking away from what God has called you because it is different than what you had been told?

At various times of our walk I have been guilty of this. I fell for hyper-grace and the exaggerated Finished Work teachings in the beginning of my walk. God in His grace warned me in a dream about it at the end of 2013. I never thought that sickness would ever be part of the cost that God would ask of someone to bear. However in this season as I trust and believe God for healing, He has shown me that He was using this sickness for His purposes. Without the sickness, I never would have had the compassion and desire to see captives set free. Without the poverty, I never would have been on food stamps, without light bulbs, soap and other various things at times. The necessary cost was a major humbling for me because I looked down on people like that. I never would have been able to feel the pain the sick and poor feel. I never would have even cared at all about these people. It was this struggle, this cost, this pain that made me who I am today and now God can use it all for His glory.

Whatever cost you bear for a season, God will use that so you can help others in similar situations. And since I believe in the supernatural power and healing of God, I believe this means God will use you to pray and see others healed, set free and delivered in Jesus' name. But we must be willing to follow Him, no matter what.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Knowing God's Love During the Storms

Mix of dark clouds and sun. A storm passing through the area
When life is going good, it can be easy to see God's love in our life. Many associate God's love with the joy they feel and the blessings they have been given such as family, a good job and good health. But if those tangible things were taken away from you unexpectedly while you were faithfully following the Lord, could you still see God's love? Would you think God was upset with you because of something you had done? Would you still be able to continue to believe and trust in God?

Several months ago I was telling my husband that this long season has given me a different understanding of God's love. Even talking about this topic is tricky because God can choose to reveal His love to His children in different ways during different seasons in our lives and one way isn't necessarily wrong or right. Admittedly though my journey has been a bumpy ride and I never had a "honeymoon period" after being born again. I came to God while in a long battle and the battle raged even more afterward, so this gives you an idea of where I am coming from.

In this difficult trying place, God's love has not always been tangible, but that does not mean something is wrong with me nor does it mean He does not love me. There are some things I saw while in this season, that I wanted to write about. Because of the way many teach God's love, there were labels people wanted to put on me in this season that I had to actively and purposely reject. These labels and teachings can make those who are going through these stormy seasons, seem as if they are missing out or not measuring up in some way. It's easy to see God's love when life is good, but we also need to be able to see His love when things aren't going well because we were never promised a perfect life.

Does God's Love Mean Instant Answers to our Prayers?


I often saw people associating God's love with instant answers to their prayers. This is very dangerous.

God is faithful. He hears our prayers. We can trust in that because scripture tells us in 1 John 5:14-15, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."

Sometimes God's timing and His answers to our prayers may not be what we expected or even wanted though. Therefore, if we attach God's love to immediate answers to our prayers, it WILL cause us to lose our faith and trust in God if there is a delay. I once heard a prophet say "Delays are not denials" and that is so important to settle within our hearts.

God really can be trusted even if and especially if there is a delay.

I have also seen many people link God's love with physical and emotional healing. Since I've walked this journey seeking God for healing of Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and other various chronic problems, it is absolutely the worst thing a person can do. While I agree healing is a demonstration of God's love, we cannot make it the cornerstone or the measuring stick of God's love in a person's walk. When a person has been praying, believing and asking God for healing for years and are not yet healed, it can be rather devastating to their faith, their hope and their trust in God.

We must more accurately focus attention to the cross instead of getting them to look to their healing as God's love.

Does God's Love Mean Instant Delivery From the Storms? 


Some ministries suggest since God loves us so much, that He will keep the really bad things from happening to those who have "truly surrendered". But if for some reason a trial does come, then people who "know who they are in Christ" will have a quick delivery in all trials. These two teachings coupled together are very dangerous.

I walked down this path and listened to these teachings and they produced no life. It nearly made me leave the faith only a short 8 months after I was saved. The problem is as soon as a trial comes or does not leave as quickly as we thought it should, these teachings will cause a person to question everything, even God.

These teachings have bred a disdain for those who are sick, hurting or frustrated. Those who are healthy and living a great life are perceived as "spiritually healthy" and those who are in trials, sick and hurting are perceived as "spiritually sick". This is not biblical though.

We need look no further than the ministries of Jesus, Paul and the other apostles to see that this entire idea is false. Jesus himself clarified this false idea in the bible in Luke 13:4-5, when He brought up the 18 who died because the tower of Siloam fell on them. He said, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The ideas taught in some groups have left many in the midst of storms feeling hopeless and defeated. Many teach that those going through trials especially a long term trial, that there is something wrong with their relationship with God or they haven't figured out "who they are" and they are "living in the old man" and much more. There's so many catch phrases out there that it's impossible to list them all here. However the overall idea in this group is that trials should be short lived, should not cause you any distress and should be overcome with ease. These attacks made to a person's relationship with God cause them to lose hope, lose trust in God and eventually lose their faith altogether. No matter how good they sound, these teachings are misguided.

Jesus wasn't short of revelation (given that He was fully God and fully man) and He certainly did not have a bad relationship with His Father. YET He was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, which lead Him to be tempted by the devil. Jesus being put into this difficult set of temptations and trials had nothing at all to do with God's love for Him nor a lack of relationship with the Father. If you can believe this about Jesus' wilderness, then we must start believing it for other people's wildernesses as well.

God will guide us and carry us when the storms come and He will provide the way of escape during our struggles. However it may not be instant, even if we are fully surrendered and know our identity in Christ and are "living from the new man". In fact there is evidence in the scripture that says the opposite, which I'll touch upon later in this article. Sometimes there are things that God is doing in us during these storms that cannot be taught elsewhere. This isn't because of God, but is a part of our human nature. We tend to be stubborn and unable to see our own weaknesses until we go through difficult times.

Where Do We Find God's Love (No matter what)?

The demonstration of God's love is that He sent His son to die for us on the cross, even while we were lost and dead in our sin! He gave us His son Jesus Christ, so that we may be set free from sin and to be reconciled back to Him. Because of this we can now have a personal relationship with God and also have eternal life.

This is how one builds a strong foundation in God's love that will get them through the storms of life. This is the GOSPEL! For some people though this isn't enough. They have stopped preaching the Gospel and have replaced it with "revelation" that focuses on authority, power and experiences. But what good is power if it's not to preach the Gospel and God's love seen in His son? The power of God is the cross!

If you first have to see God do something for you to know His love, then you may never make it there. Settling in your heart that God's love is seen on the cross is what will actually carry you through to the other side, to the fulfillment of His promises for you.

When we build a foundation on this, our life circumstances won't destroy us and we will be able to step into the call God has for us no matter how difficult it may be. There may be trying and frustrating times in our life, however we know that we can still approach God in our time of need. Nothing can take away from the power and love demonstrated on the cross because it stands forever and ever. Even if we are sick or in poverty or being persecuted in chains! We can trust that God's love has not left us and has not faded away. God has not set Himself against us in any way when we meet obstacles and road blocks along the way. We can boldly come to God in our time of need and continue to ask God for our needs.

I am fully aware of all the scriptures that says that God will provide and God will heal and God will give us good gifts etc. Yes I understand and agree completely that God can and will bless us in our life according to His purposes. However if we need those things to know or to prove that God loves us, that is precisely the problem. It is not a stable foundation.

This is not limiting God. In times where we have nothing and in times where we have plenty, God will use it all for His purposes. We see this stated by Paul in Philippians 4:11-13.

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Paul, one of the most "anointed" men, suffered from want at various times in his ministry. So if it's OK that Paul did, then it is OK if you are too. Please understand me here. That's not to say we can't ask God for help, but nothing is spiritually wrong with you if you have a need. Nothing! Do not let any teachers convince you that you are spiritually unwell because you have sickness in your body or because you lost your job or are going through financial trouble.

Some of the teachers today may have likely told Paul that "he must not know who he is in Christ" since he suffered from need at times.

Is God's Love Always a Feeling?

The third mistake is that many believe or even teach that God's love is something that they will always "feel" or "see". There are times and seasons where God may give us an outpouring of His love and we should cherish that! Sometimes though we will go through seasons where we will not feel His love, but we know that He loves us because of what His Word tells us. If you are in one of those seasons where you are not feeling His love, do not let anyone tell you that you are less of a Christian for some reason. Do not base your walk with God on other people's experiences.

In the seasons when we do not feel His love, we stand on God's word and receive His love through His word.

When our relationship with God feels a bit distant, it's important to understand that it does not mean that God is distant. Scripture says that, He will never leave us nor forsake us. This scripture is a promise to us when we aren't feeling loved and when everything in life is a disaster. In the book of Job, even though Job did not feel God's presence during his trials, God was listening to every single word and every single cry from Job.  

God is present even if we don't feel His manifest presence. This is such an important thing to remember because so many are chasing God's presence when He is always there.

If we need to see, feel and experience things to know God's love, then the enemy will use it against us so that we never make it to the fulfillment of the promises God has made to us. The enemy wants you to start questioning God's love (because of what you don't see or feel). He wants you to become discouraged and walk away from God.

It's so important in these times of our life to get in the Word and to really start reading it through on our own. If you have trouble understanding it, then every day continue to pray for God to reveal it to you, to help you understand and the Holy Spirit will come and do that. I know that I had to keep at it and then suddenly one day it was like the letters jumped out at me and everything started to make sense. And when that happens a glorious thing will take place. Instead of just regurgitating what others are saying, God will be able to lay down real foundations in your life that YOU personally live by. It won't be what "so and so says" but it will become real in your own life. It's so important to get to this place during these difficult times.

Paul Knew God's Love Despite His Hardship

As I already mentioned above, Paul went through a lot of stuff. Yet he saw God's love while in a prison, being beaten, shipwrecked and going hungry.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 we read about some of the hardships he was "boasting" in:

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."

Remember in Philippians 4, Paul said that he learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself in. I hope we all can agree that God loved Paul very much and yet he went through all of these things in his life.

This helps us to realize that...
  • God's love isn't based on what we are feeling.
  • God's love isn't based on our life going good.
  • God's love isn't based on the condition of our physical body. 
  • God's love does not mean instant delivery or total protection from trials.
If you are going through a tough time, it doesn't mean you are a lesser Christian or have done something wrong or have turned God against you in some way.

We are to trust God during hardships and know that His great love is there because He sent His son Jesus! I have found meditating on what Jesus did on the cross can be really incredible. Think about how much God loved us to pay that kind of price. He wanted us to be reconciled back to Him!

When we come against obstacles, do not let anyone try to tell you that you are in that situation because you aren't committed enough or aren't surrendered enough or "don't know who you are in Christ" or 'are living out of the old man". It's best to just ignore them and to continue on seeking the Lord in your walk.

Scriptures of God's Love 

Read these scriptures and meditate on them to understand where God wants you to see His great love.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),..." Ephesians 2:4-5

"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:2

"For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5: 7-8

"By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4: 9-10

We are Conquerors in the Trials

This next scripture takes the idea of God's love to a whole different level. All of Romans 8 is amazing, but I have found many chop this one verse in half and ignore the context in which it was made because it's such a difficult and yet powerful message.

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:35-39

I'm not sure about you, but this doesn't sound like the "It is Finished" "God loves you message" that is very popular right now. Paul is talking about a lot of tough situations in this scripture which are being done to the physical bodies of Christians. These are Christians in need. He is also quoting out of Psalm 44:22, which talks about how they were being killed for God's sake, not because they had turned away from God, but because they were following God.

If we quickly head over to Psalm 44:17-22 this is the context of what Paul quoted:

17 All this has come upon us,
    though we have not forgotten you,
    and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
    nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
    and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
    For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

Paul was not preaching the love message that is being preached today in many groups. This scripture along with Romans 8:35-37, pretty much says, if you are following God, then you should expect trouble to come. It's not because you have turned away, but it's because you are following God.

Paul continues on that we can take courage that even while in these trials that we are overwhelmingly conquering in Christ and that nothing can separate us from His love. In some translations it says, "we are more than conquerors in Christ", so just because you are going through something does not mean you are "spiritually sick".

We must believe this, that when we see trials, even unto death, that it does not mean God does not love us or turned His back on us. For those In Christ, we are more than conquerors.


What God demonstrated in His son Jesus can not be undone. No matter what Satan or man does to us, it cannot remove us from His love. Sometimes God will call us out upon the waters like He did with Peter on the boat, but we can trust God in these places. You have been called there and that is what makes it stable. Know that God is there. He has called you here. He sees. He knows. He hears. You can feel broken, tired and weak, but God will carry you through those times. Trust in Him.

In these times, we absolutely must look to the demonstration of God's love on the cross. Things that happen to us in our life are going to call into question God's love and His goodness. If we put emphasis on how our life is going or on our feelings, then we very well may believe that we are unloved and rejected by God. If these feelings harbor long enough, one could walk away from the faith. But know if you are going through stuff, it's not because your relationship with God is bad or that God has given up on you.

I want to encourage people who feel like they lost their faith because they misunderstood God's love to come back and to recommit. God really does love you despite what you see in your life. He is calling you back today because He loves you. Tell someone the struggle you are going through and pray that God reveals His word to you in a bigger way because it will refresh you as you walk through the storms.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Deception Became a Part of My Walk with God

I was raised Catholic by my family, but truthfully I knew nothing about God. On my mother's side my uncle was a Catholic priest. One of her sisters was a nun and so was her aunt. Yet somehow in this family who was very "devout" and spiritual, I did not understand how Jesus and God fit together in the equation. As I got older, I didn't want anything to do with it. I avoided all things of God and did not talk about Him at all. If someone brought up their faith I was extremely uncomfortable and usually changed the topic.

The first non-Catholic minister I ever saw preach was Dan Mohler in 2012. Some people would be absolutely amazed because they respect this man of God, but for me it meant nothing. We made the journey to this unknown church. We got there and I wasn't used to this kind of service at all. The music was too loud and it sent my body into a sensory overload fit. My heart rate was ridiculously high just sitting there due to my health problems.

Finally he started to preach. He sure was lively and happy, but I had no idea what Pastor Dan was talking about. It was so far above my level of understanding of God that I basically gave up trying to listen to him. Sad but true!! At the end of the meeting I made my way up to the front to get prayer and a woman came up to pray for me. I thanked her. Then my husband came back over to me and he said, "I want to get baptized".

That night I was confused by the message. I knew nothing about Jesus. I did not know what He did for me at all and yet somehow I got baptized. I can blame my husband for that! haha I was baptised at Harvest Chapel on June 16, 2012.

About a month later I had an impression to quit all of the health stuff. It felt forceful and painful to me at the time because all I had ever known was doctors, science, researching supplements, genetic stuff and chronic illness FB groups and forums.

That was when my real journey began. That is when I started watching videos and reading about healing theology. This was the most dangerous time for me because I had no foundation whatsoever and yet I was like a dry sponge ready to soak up anything I could find.

Today plenty of teachers focus solely on the "Finished work" and the Book of Acts. They say healing is always flowing and always right now and they have plenty of scriptures to promote this idea. Well as someone who was sick for 12 years at that point, I fell for it. I wanted healed now. I wanted healed today. I wanted MY life back now. Hook, line and sinker, I wanted it!

Since I came in by way of Dan Mohler and Todd White, I immediately gravitated towards these ministries and those who preached a similar message. I was feeding on their teachings and thought I was growing in faith. I was able to repeat what they said and it all sounded really good! But honestly beneath the surface, I had nothing...

I went down this path for months. I got prayer from anyone who came to the general area. I believed! I wanted healed! I was told by another minister that "God wants you healed more than you do!"... YES Sign me up!

But then nothing was changing and I started to question things. This is when I realized that there was more to this than what these guys were preaching. I started noticing a general disdain for the sick in the Church despite so many ministries focusing on healing.

I finally learned that although Jesus is a healer and "paid the price", that God also wanted to do a work in me. I didn't really know what that meant at the time. However I was told repeatedly in these circles that was not true. Many people will neatly try to separate suffering, tribulation and trials away from sickness. They may agree that a trial can be a car accident or a loss of a job, but could NEVER be sickness. Sickness is MUCH scarier to think of as a trial because it's out of our control. We can't just snap our fingers and make it ok overnight.

At that time, I agreed that sickness was not a trial because I certainly did not want to be sick anymore. Trials are for other people, not for me.

I was repeatedly told that God's work in me was "already done" in Christ and that we no longer have to go through periods like that. I was repeatedly told that we are already perfect and our healing has already happened in the Spirit because of what Jesus has done on the Cross. I was also told that, as far as God is concerned, "you are already healed".

That sounds great and easy, but it made me confused, frustrated and eventually angry as life got harder physically, emotionally and financially. My life is an absolutely disaster. haha

I was repeatedly told "You're already healed" meeting after meeting after meeting. I was tired of hearing it! I was tired of the talk.

Others said that I needed to find someone who could "represent Jesus to me in the way I needed" and once I did that, then I would be healed.

Unknowingly this caused me to chase MEN instead of Jesus Christ.

Looking back now for a long time I was fighting not against the devil, but against God wanting to do something much larger in my heart and in my life.

There is a deception in the church that says everything is already done. Some call it hyper-grace, some call it greasy grace, I personally believe it's an exaggeration of the Finished Work of the Cross. Those who believe in this message claim everything is already completed and done.

Am I saying that Jesus needs to come back and die on the cross again? NO
Am I saying that Jesus did not accomplish what He came to do? NO
Am I saying that I am justified by my works? NO!
Am I saying that there aren't some truths in the "finished work"? NO there are some great truths!!

However what I am saying is that we need to be balanced with what the Finished Work truly accomplished and what we are expected to do now that we are in a relationship with Him.

Deception came into my walk with God because of the unbalanced healing theologies I was following.

Some say you do not need to sacrifice anything for God, Jesus sacrificed it all.
Some say you don't have to go through wilderness seasons, Jesus went through the wilderness.
Some say you have everything now, today. Healing is now, not tomorrow.
Some say if you think God heals in His timing, that is unbelief.
Some say there is no journey.
Some say you are already perfected (mature).
Some say you have all the spiritual gifts now.
Some say everything is now.

And it was these messages which made me nearly walk away from God.

It was these messages that had me walking around in despair because I thought I had missed it. I thought that God was mad at me for not saying my prayers with enough "faith". It was these messages which had me screaming at God in my head for an entire week. It was these messages that almost made me give up and tell God I was done with Him. It was these messages which made me question God's love for me.

And somehow in that pain and in that brokenness, I finally found God and finally found balance. God was finally able to build a strong foundation in me where I had to abandon everything I thought I knew.

In life bad stuff is going to happen and when someone is IN Christ, it does not mean bad things do not happen. In the Finished Work crowd, there tends to be an emphasis that trials won't come or will be immediately overcome to those who really believe "it is finished" or really "know who they are in Christ". This is deception and an imbalanced view of what Jesus accomplished. It leads those who have generally good lives to be exalted as better "sons of God" than those who are struggling with trials, sickness and other things. This is clearly not true.

God will use the trials and the bad things that happen to us for His Good. He will use them to test and purify our faith to make us a more mature Christian. Sometimes these obstacles if they are large enough, they can be used by God as a wilderness season before He decides to fulfill His promises.

But this idea completely goes against what many healing ministers teach.

The diet industry makes something like 60 BILLION dollars a year on diet pills and gimmicky exercise machines. This industry is fueled by people who want to lose weight, but don't want to do it "the hard way" and there is a captive audience too. A 60 billion dollar audience.

Well I fell for the spiritual equivalent of the diet pill. I wanted to be healed now, but I did not want it to be hard. I wanted it to be easy and not cost me anything. There is a very captive, desperate audience who will buy the books, watch the teachings and exalt teachers into leadership positions.

So in the diet industry we see, 
"Just take this pill and you will lose fat fast!".
"Just buy this abs machine and you will be ripped in no time".

In the exaggerated Finished Work healing ministries we see,
"It is finished. It is already done. Just receive what God already did, today".
"God wants you healed more than you do!"
"You have all dominion!"

And just like all of those people who want to lose weight easy, I did not want my spiritual walk with God to be tough. I didn't want to wait and have to walk through the fire to get what He had promised to me in Christ. I completely ignored the Old Testament and tried to somehow separate the God who wrote that with the God who wrote the New Testament.

So I collected for myself teachers who agreed that everything is now and is easy.
I followed the Todd Whites, the Dan Mohlers, the Curry Blakes, the Pete Cabreras, the Andrew Wommacks, the Art Thomases.

I repeated the mantras and chants. 
"I'm a daughter of God, I have all authority given unto me in Christ".
"By His stripes I WAS healed"
"Today is the day of salvation!"

Many of these things by themselves are biblical truths, but in the ways they are used become deception.

Desperation and persistence are bad words to the "Finished work" ministers. Everything is always about today and if you go to sleep sick, then YOU failed today. That is how these ministers preach it. They believe God's hands are tied and it is up to receive what "God has already done", so there is very little room for long term battles without condemnation setting in.

These distorted views of God are absolutely devastating to a person's walk with Him.
I was a baby Christian who knew nothing at all. I was a completely blank slate. I was a dry sponge ready to soak up anything I could find and in that was the problem. I did not soak up the pure living water of Jesus, but dirtied water along with the living water.

The underlying deception that I fell for actually prevents and stunts our maturity in Christ.

  • It is lifting up immature believers in the Lord who are simply repeating catchphrases from other ministers.
  • It is lifting up believers in the Lord who think everyone who is struggling "just don't know who they are in Christ".
  • It is lifting up an army of narcissistic people who are in spiritual pride and have no grace whatsoever for people.

If I had been healed at the first meeting at Harvest Chapel, I would have been a horrible person. I would have been a complete arrogant, prideful monster. I would have been a prideful healed person who went around and abused those who were not healed. I would have thought that I "did it right"and that was why I got healed. I would have taken credit for my healing.

And God knew it and so I believe He delayed my healing in order to show me the condition of my heart. He delayed my healing to do a larger work in me that needed to be done, so He could use me later on. Instead of just wanting to be healed to move on with my life, now I want healed to do the work that God has called me to do. I gain my life to lose my life to be a servant of God.

These groups whether they realize it or not, but they have rejected the means that God our Father in heaven prepares us for leadership, for ministry and for a life that bears good fruit. When they say everything is now and today, they deny God's Sovereignty and the specific plans He has for each one of us.  They claim everything that Jesus did is past tense and now we have all authority and all dominion. They continually emphasize that Jesus was "just a man in right relationship with God who knew His identity" and that we are just like Him. They elevate the deity of man and diminish the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Let the Lord mature us in His time as we seek Him for healing, for life and for the promises He has made to all of us in Christ. Yes it does not always feel good, but just like having to lose weight the hard way, it can be a tough journey, one with ups and downs. However thankfully we are putting ourselves in the hands of a good God. We can trust in His ways and in His methods and in His timing.

And this is how I fell into deception and I praise God for His grace that He knew better and that He had a more perfect plan in store for my life.

Today I continue to believe God for a complete healing of everything in my life and now when that day comes, I will truly understand the magnitude of what God did in my life. I will understand the grace that He poured out on me and I will truly give all Glory to Him and not to my faith and not that I finally just believed "right". I will know that I did nothing to deserve healing and it is all God's grace.