Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Backwards Faith

“No sweetie, you’ve got that backwards. You need to believe first, then receive. Instead you want to receive the answer to your prayer…and then you will believe that I AM and that I care for you and answer your prayers. It doesn’t work like that Susan. That takes no faith all…and requires no effort.”

“Yes Lord…You are right”, I responded as I pulled in to my driveway coming home Bible study.

I’m not sure if God used tonight’s lesson in Matthew 14 to continue to challenge my lack of faith? Or maybe it was the ongoing study in Luke I’ve been listening to in my drive time? Perhaps it was my response to a friend that weighed heavy on my mind when I was asked, “Why don’t you give your loneliness over to God?”

I think I’m kind of like Peter…my favorite apostle. Who when Jesus bid him to step out of the boat and walk on the water…he ventured out in faith. Peter took a few steps and was doing fine as long as his eyes were on the Lord. But when he looked around, beheld the stormy sea surrounding him and felt the boisterous wind…that’s what grabbed his attention. It was no longer his Lord standing before him and telling him to “Come”. Instead he realized that he was but a man and unable to walk on water…and then he began to sink. Peter started out enthusiastically. Hey…the other disciples just sat in the boat. They didn’t ask if they could walk on water…instead they chose the safety and comfort of the boat. Peter actually stepped out of the boat. But his enthusiastic, impulsive faith soon turned to sinking faith.

Likewise when I get my eyes off the Lord, who He is and what He can do…then my faith sinks to the bottom of the stormy sea like a dead weight….taking me right along with it.

But if I could have the faith…that emboldens me to step out and believe that I could walk on water when my Lord bids me to come. Oh to have a growing faith that takes one who denies his Lord when confronted by a little girl…to one who willingly died rather than renounce his faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. To have such faith that believes the words, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

Oh God…there is hope for me yet. I don’t have to tell You that I struggle to believe. But I’m tired of the enemy snatching away the seeds and fruit of my faith. God…I know that You are able to accomplish what concerns me today. That You are able to do abundantly more than I ask or imagine. I know that You are faithful when I am faithless. Jesus…I need You to give me faith…the faith to believe You and trust You. To trust You even when all I can see is the storm. When just around the corner there is a rainbow and the sun is peaking through the clouds…but I can’t see that yet from my perspective. You alone know the depths of my despair…and my hurting heart. You know my prayers uttered in the solitude and darkness. I know that You can answer my prayer. When I look back on my life…I can see clearly Your hand acting on my behalf. But Jesus…I can’t take this one across the goal line without You. So not only am I asking You to answer my long awaited prayer…but I’m asking You to give me the faith to believe. To walk with me in the dark times and rebuke the lies of the enemy with truth from Your Word. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That’s me Lord. Your word tells me to keep asking, keep seeking and keeping knocking and then I will receive. Jesus…You hear that annoying knocking…that’s me. I can’t wait until You answer. Jesus…I’m asking You to exchange my sinking faith…for faith that walks on water.

At times…it seems like I see God or a message from God in just about everything. The other day when driving to work…I saw the most magical rainbow. At first all I could see was the top of the arch. But as I drove closer…I could see the end of the rainbow. It was so close…I felt like I could drive right to it. Instead I reached for my camera phone to try and capture a photo so I would not forget. Then the light changed to green…and I had to go. As I drove into the rain and clouds the rainbow and sun disappeared. I felt as if God was saying to me, “Susan…you need to remember this. The rainbow and sun are just back there. It’s still there…you just can’t see it.” Did I believe that? Absolutely. I’ve just got to do the same when it comes to faith and trusting God for what I can’t yet see.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Hard Truth

When I heard, “Who am I to stand in judgment?” I found those words to bring a false comfort. The person who uttered that statement spoke of a family member who lived a good decent life and cared for others by their words and actions, yet failed to accept God’s only way of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In saying that’s a false comfort…I know whereof I speak. My dad, Frank, died when I was ten years old. He rejected God all his life. I don’t even think there was a Bible in our home. We didn’t go to church, even on the big holidays like Christmas and Easter. We didn’t pray at meal time or when needs arose. “Jesus Christ” was not his Savior…but instead a familiar curse word.

My dad died within a matter of weeks of being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was sick and whisked away to a hospital in the distant city of Phoenix.. I was shipped off to stay with friends. My mom never told me that my dad was dying and I never saw him again. I never got a chance to tell him goodbye or I love you. I never got to hear those words from him.

I don’t know in those last weeks if my dad grew bitter, angry and rejected God? Or if someone was faithful to share the Gospel message and tell him about Jesus Christ and that his sins could be forgiven. Is it possible that he accepted Christ in his last days? Yes…I might see him in heaven one day. But I never want to delude myself that he is in heaven. My dad lived a life rejecting God and His plan of salvation.

If I think “who am I to judge”…I’m afraid that I will get complacent about sharing the Gospel.

Will I be tempted to be silent about Jesus when I’m in the presence of someone who is kind and decent and does many good works? Will I seek to keep peace and not make waves with those who seek to earn their way to heaven by their good works? Or what about that person who is seemingly seeking God…and thinks that one day perhaps they too can become a god if they are good enough? Will I rest on my laurels and console myself with the thought that at least they are seeking God….after all don’t all paths lead to God?

In fact all paths do lead to God…but not all paths lead to heaven. The Lamb’s Book of Life will one day be opened. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ Lord. But only those who bow that knee this side of heaven will be saved.

When I encounter someone who hasn’t accepted Christ…will I be content with the thought, “Who am I to judge?” Or will I risk rejection and ire when I share that salvation is found in no other name under heaven than Jesus Christ, our Lord?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Warning Signs of the Me Gospel

On Sunday morning before heading off to church or Saturday evening while cleaning…I’ll frequently turn on TBN our religious broadcast station. While there are some solid Bible teachers…all too often I find pastors and ministries going astray from teaching the word of God.

One of the sure signs that I will hear man’s word and not God’s…is when I see the pastor preaching but there is no Bible to be found. On occasion…the pastor will be carrying a Bible, but he never opens it, nor refers to it. I am appalled when I see props on a stage as opposed to a pastor, his Bible and the pulpit. When our pastors are resorting to make their messages sexier and appealing to better compete with the secular world…we have gone over the edge.

As angry as I feel when I see such shenanigans…more than that I pity those pastors. I feel sad for them that they don’t know the power…the dynamite…of God’s word. The power to transform lives…take people who were dead in their sins and make them alive in Christ. If they had any clue what they were dealing with…they would treasure God’s word…guard it carefully and feed the hungry flock with the only food that will satisfy and last.

When I see such antics by men…and women…who claim to know Christ…I have to wonder if they truly know Christ as their Lord and Savior? All evidence to the contrary. God’s word warns us of such times and teachers. More and more…today’s pastors give evidence that we are in the days in which men will seek teaching which tickle their ears…instead of good, solid Bible teaching.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4

With a born again Christian and a Mormon running for President there is more and more of a focus on religion in the media. As a result…I see interviews with pastors that the media consider to be religious leaders. One of “leaders” is Joel Osteen. I was left speechless after hearing an interview in which Joel was asked if Mormons are Christians. Joel had the perfect opportunity and platform to say to a world that is confused, lost and dead in their sins…that indeed there is a difference between the Christian faith in the Bible and what Mormons believe. He could have expanded on those differences and given the Gospel message. But instead Joel Osteen said he didn’t want to judge and that if Mitt says he believes in Christ then they have a common bond.

How is it that a pastor that has one of the largest churches in America not know that there is a difference between Biblical Christianity and the Mormon faith? That the Mormons have an additional text they consider as doctrine. It teaches about a different Jesus…not the same Jesus as the Bible.

But worse than not knowing that there is a difference between Biblical Christianity and Mormonism is the fact that Joel was reluctant or worse refused to address those differences. There is world of people that are dead in their sins and headed for hell unless they receive God only way of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Joel had platform to speak to millions of people who may have never heard the Gospel…or know that there is a difference between Mormonism and Christianity…but he remained silent.

Jesus command is clear. “He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” – Mark 16:15.

When I listen to these ministries…I see some patterns. Below is list of some of the things I see from pastors and ministries who do not peach God’s word.

  • No Bible is present…or frankly necessary because they are not preaching from the Word of God.
  • Don’t teach from the word of God
  • It’s all about me and how I feel.
  • God is only as good as what He can do for me.
  • It’s about what I do…not about being broken in my sin and repentant.
  • No conviction…I leave feeling good.
  • No recognition that I am a sinner saved by grace.
  • I don’t hear anything about me being a sinner
  • The message is meant to make me feel good.
  • There are props on stage
  • It’s a stage not a pulpit
  • A few verses are thrown in just for good measure
  • Casual…no suit or tie…the approach to the word of God is casual and laid back.
  • No conviction of sin
  • Illustrations from movies or personal experience…not from the Bible
  • They make Jesus cool…not holy and they don’t revere Him as God.
  • No talk of sin…which left me dead and condemned.
  • When I don’t know I’m a sinner…I don’t need a Savior.
  • Jesus is someone who came to show us how to live…not pay the penalty for my sin.
  • It’s about what I do…not what He did.
  • We’re all sons and daughters of God…they don’t define what makes one a son and daughter of God.
  • No prayer for those who don’t know Christ, who are dead in their sins to accept God’s plan of salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • No awe and reverence for God.
  • The pastor tells me what I ought to do…but doesn’t share that I can not do it on my own power and strength…but only through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me.

When Kindred Community Church was searching for a Pastor it took almost two years. During that time I was left to contemplate what would I do if we got a man who did not preach the word of God. What would I do? I love the body of Christ at my church…but I knew I had to seek God and His word first. I praise God that each week…in church and in Bible studies that I hear the full counsel of the word of God. I praise God and thank Him for bringing us Pastor Philip De Courcy…who teaches from the Bible. There is many a Sunday when I leave not feeling really good about myself because I’m being convicted of sin. But then I know that in no way will God reject or cast out a repentant sinner…and that I am forgiven. Sometimes I’m comforted by God’s merciful and loving word. But I’m always being fed God’s word.

I thank God for His hand of protection upon Kindred Community Church and allowing us to hear the full counsel of the word of God. We need to be mindful, to whom much is given, much is required. But praise God…where He calls, He equips.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

She Believed God

While paying a long overdue visit to Pilgrim Pals I found post “Perplexed, Preserving Pilgrim” challenging us to come up with a three word statement that summarizes last year…and three word goal to strive for in 2008. Here’s mine…

2007 – It Was Interesting

2008 – She Believed God

While 2007 wasn’t awful…and in fact had some wonderful and marvelous things that happened…I was so glad to leave it behind and start afresh.

Only I found…I brought me into the New Year. The same things I wrestled with last year I still struggle with today. It’s so easy to believe the lies of the enemy and doubt God.

My goal…my desire…my absolute need it to trust God…to believe Him and see what He will do in my life. She believed God…and found hope, faith and love!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Mother I Never Knew

My first nine months were spent in your womb,
But I never knew you.

The certificate says “Baby Girl Dawson”,
That’s all I know for sure.

All those years ago,
Abortion wasn’t even legal.

But I wonder did you love me,
Dare I even ask…why you didn’t want me?

What is the story,
On how I came to be?

Was I the product young love,
Or an illicit affair…or something more tragic?

Did you see me on that day,
Did you hold me in your arms?

Did you whisper sweet words of love,
And pray God’s blessing upon my life?

Or was I taken away,
Never to be seen again?

Was my birth a deep family secret,
Something not uttered in good company?

Do you ever shed a tear or feel guilty,
Or were you confident that you did the right thing?

Did you ever marry,
Have children that you called your own?

Do I have brothers and sisters,
Am I anyone’s spitting image?

During your day,
Do your thoughts every turn to me?

Do you ever wonder,
Who and what I came to be?

Do we share the same faith,
And one day I’ll meet you in heaven?

To the mother I never knew,
I do wonder about you.

It would be with fear and trembling,
That I would dare to try and find you.

For I fear,
Of the answers I might hear.

Susan Bunts
January 5, 2008

With a friend’s decision to adopt a child…my thoughts have turned to my own adoption…so many years ago. I was given up for adoption at birth…and adopted at the age of 3 months. The only thing I know about my birth mother is that her last name was Dawson.

It’s odd how a person who I never met…who I know nothing about can continue to be a part of my thoughts. Obviously I wonder what happened…why she gave me up for adoption. What her thoughts were over the years about her decision. Whatever happened with her life…did she go on to have a happy and successful life? Or was my birth…just another difficult circumstance in her life? Did she ever have children…do I have brothers and sisters? Do I look like anyone…is my personality or interests like anyone the family I never knew?

Abortion back then wasn’t an option…unless a woman chose to do a backstreet illegal abortion. I wonder…if it had been legal…would she still have made the same decision to give her baby up for adoption?

There are times I wonder…have I ever seen or met her? Would I like her…is she a good decent person? Or is she a wretch of a human being and the decision to have her baby adopted was one of the few good things she did? Is she still alive…how is her health? What diseases run in the family that I should know about? As much as ever contemplated the idea of trying to find her…I never followed through for fear of what I might find.

Many adoptions today are more open and children are able to know more about their birth parents. I think that’s a good thing…maybe?

The one scar that has remained in my life if the feeling of rejection. I knew that I was adopted for as long as I can remember…I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that. It’s funny because even if a child is rejected by their birth mother…they are wanted by the family that adopts them. I wonder why the rejection is the dominate feeling?

The above picture is my first picture taken by a foster mother before I was adopted.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Leaving Some Things Behind

On Sunday I made another trip up to the cross. I persuaded Danita to make the trek with me because I needed pray and leave some thing behind at the foot of the cross. Things that I need leave in 2007 and not take into the New Year. Be done with it…and move on.

Things like holding on to a hurt which allows me to nurse a wound of unforgiveness. Or how about doubting God…and seeing Him as inadequate, unable or unwilling to answer my prayers. Seeing my problems as much bigger than my God.

Or how about misplaced priorities…and putting things before God. Not making Him a priority…and giving Him my leftovers.

Maybe I should leave behind disappointment in others…because my hopes and expectations are not being met. That they are not acting as I would have them to act. It might be good to say goodbye to the attitude it’s about me.

I’d be wise to jettison the tendency to attribute impure motives to other’s actions…instead of walking in grace and mercy.

How about that tendency to go to others and seek their advice…before I go to God in prayer…or looking for a word of encouragement or thanks instead of being confident that my work was pleasing and glorify to God.

Seeing my past and what was…as indicative of what will be instead of going to God in prayer…and trusting Him and His perfect timing to answer my prayers.

Oh Lord…how might I be different in the New Year?

Saying, “I believe and thank You”. Trusting God and what His word says…instead of my doubts and unbelief.

Instead of a pity party…look around and help someone else who is hurting.

Take a few more risks…and reaching out.

Dare to keep loving even when it’s not returned.

Not keep pounding on doors God has closed.

Praying for those who have hurt me or annoy me…or even those I just plain don’t like.

See those lost in their sin…as God sees them. Reach out to them with love…and share Gospel message.

Walk in such a manner that I cause others to seek after and want to know Jesus Christ.

Jesus…you know the hurts of my heart…the things I can’t even say out loud or to another living soul. I leave them at the foot of Your cross…knowing that You will know what to do with them. I don’t want to carry them into the New Year. We’re about to head into a New Year…but You already know what it holds. Thanks for not giving up on me…and sticking by my side when others fall away. Help me to do that which You would have me to do. Help me to stay on track and go forward. Help me to see my future as You see it.

Reach Out Anyway

Dearest Julie,

Oh I can relate and understand so much of what you've said. I too am alone this New Years Eve. I wish I could say it's the first time...but instead I pray it's the last time.

But I've been doing this a lot longer than you are even old…and I pray that I might have some words that God will use to comfort you and help keep you going and growing in Him. Never, never give up…put your hope in Jesus alone.

I wish you lived near me…I know that you would love our church…and would feel at home. In turn…the body of Christ at Kindred Community Church would reach out to you. So if you are ever in southern California…you have an official invitation.

When I didn’t receive the invitation that I had hoped for to spend Christmas with friends…I didn’t wait to see if I would be alone. Instead I reached out to a loving Christian family that I am blessed by God to know. For several years the Apple family had invited me to Christmas and Thanksgiving. But I had always declined…because I felt guilty about not seeing my mom on a holiday. She has Alzheimer’s and only a couple of people see her…and it’s important to be there with her.

But this year I couldn’t bear to be alone at Christmas. Even though I felt hurt…the pain of spending Christmas alone motivated me to reach out and ask, “Could I spend Christmas with you?”. I knew the answer before I even asked…because this family embodies walking in the love of Christ like few I know. The warm and loving answer was, “We’d love to have you”.

I’m so glad I asked…because it was lovely day…and I really enjoyed the people and time I spent with them. Be it a drive to see Krista Beth’s horse…or meeting Carrie, a friend of the Apple’s I had heard so much about…to having the most delicious dinner prepared by Vicki…or watching Fredo the cat try his best to capture the helicopter flying around the room…the day was wonderful. My favorite time of the day was in the evening sitting on the sofa by the Christmas tree…and chatting with Doreen. We just talked about stuff…God stuff and people stuff. I even asked Doreen to be in prayer for me regarding my single status…to which she agreed. And yes…I did go and spend the morning with my mom on Christmas day too.

I guess the point is that I reached out and asked. Doreen likely would have extended an invitation even if I hadn’t asked. But rather than be depressed to think I would be alone at Christmas I made sure I asked.

This same family, the Apple family, I can remember a day almost three years ago when I didn’t know them. For two years we had officially been a church…but met at the Elk’s Lodge in Santa Ana, until such time as God provided a church home for us. When we finally moved into our church property…this is when we grew even more as a church family. Ministry opportunities and needs where there…and I felt God pushing me, “Susan…you need to get involved and serve in one of the ministries.”

So when sign up time came…I signed up to work the coffee ministry one Sunday a month. I didn’t know any of the people I would be working with so I felt pretty uncomfortable. But you know what I told myself? “Susan, right now you don’t know these people, but before long you’ll know them and they’ll be your friends.” Little did I know how right I was. That Sunday I began working with Doreen and Charles…under the command of Coffee Captain Mike. People that I didn’t know…before long became most precious to me…and I thank God for them daily. Now each year when it comes time for sign up…we do so under the specification that we must work as a team. That experience helped to work in other areas too.

Because I took that step even though I knew I would feel uncomfortable for time…I got to know Charles and Doreen’s adopted daughters Ramona and Lisa. One of my favorite things to do each Sunday morning is to go and give Ramona and Lisa a hug and kiss and remind them that they are my “favorite Kindred girls”. When I ask them…“Have I ever told you I love you?”…I get a resounding yes! There is nothing as sweet as sitting there early on Sunday morning…before everyone arrives…with my arms around these precious girls as we listen to the worship team and sing along. Ramona gives some of the best hugs…and I would have missed out on that…if I hadn’t risked feeling uncomfortable for a season.

Julie…reach out and take some risks. You’ll feel uncomfortable for a while…and that’s okay. Don’t wait till the last minute and hope that you might be invited or included. Reach out to others. I can guarantee you that there others that feel like you do…and you can reach out to them.

Recently I attended a Christmas concert at church on a Sunday night. I didn’t want to sit alone…so I sat with some friends. Maybe it was because it was Christmas time that I was feeling particularly lonely. I just wanted to have someone put their arms around me and hold me close. But no one was reaching out to me and I felt all the more lonely. I looked over and sitting next me was a lady whose husband had been out of town for the week. I figured she was probably a little bit lonely too…so I reached over and put my arm around her as we sang the last Christmas hymn. Later she came and told me thank you. She had been alone all week…and just needed a hug. So God use my hurt and loneliness to reach out to someone else.

Let Him use you Julie to reach out to others who are hurting and lonely and just need a little love. You know what it's like when it’s missing. Never forget that feeling and make sure that you are reaching out to others. People don’t always wear their hurt on their sleeves…and likely won’t share with you “Gee wiz…I’m lonely”. God has given you this experience so you can know what it’s like to be lonely and hurting. Don’t turn inward…instead you need to reach out to others.

I’m sure that you are well aware of God’s admonition that we are not to forsake the assembling of one another. We need that interaction with one another and time of corporate worship. We need to be serving the needs of those in the body of Christ. If you are part of a church body…you are able to contribute and help meet other’s needs. Remember…God has specially gifted you…and he has a place where he wants you to be a part of. If you can’t get to church because you are snowed in or too sick…that’s one thing. But if you are healthy and able…you need to find a place where you fit in, in the body of Christ. Julie…maybe you are a hand or an arm in the body Christ…but whatever you are…if you are not where God has called you…that body is missing that hand or arm.

Julie…I must confess I would rather die than to go through another year alone. It's so very, very hard. But unless the Lord calls me home...or He returns that may be a reality next year as well.

But I ain’t going to let Satan win. He wants to keep me discouraged, lonely and depressed…and thus render me ineffective in the body of Christ. He wants to make me doubt God’s goodness, love and care for me. Instead of having me say…“God…I don’t like this…but please don’t waste what I’m going through…at least use it to help others…and please answer my prayers for a husband.” It’s a choice that I have to make daily.

Satan knows that being single and lonely is my biggest area of vulnerability. He likes use it to make me doubt God…and sometimes I believed his lies. But I don’t want to waste anymore time. I don’t want the lessons I’ve learned in the pain to be lost and wasted when I instead I can take steps and reach out to others.

Sometimes you will be rejected when you reach out. You’ll act out of love for others…and it may be rejected or you will be used and it won’t be reciprocated. But keep reaching out. You’ll be amazed at what God will bring into your life just from obeying and taking some risks.

As far being alone…recently I spent some time with someone who doesn’t exactly hold me high esteem and it was reflected in their actions toward me. That’s when I discovered there ain’t no loneliness like be with someone who doesn’t care. That loneliness is worse than being alone. I’d rather wait a little while longer for the man whom God will bring. Someone who will love and treasure me for who I am.

Julie that’s my prayer for both you and me. That next New Year’s Eve…instead of writing pieces about being alone and lonely on New Year’s Eve…we’ll be writing a praise report on how faithful God was. That He heard our cries…and that according to His perfect timing and plan…He brought each of us the husband whom He perfectly fit for us. That we will be filled with joy and gratitude for His mercy and grace poured out upon us. But I also pray that we will never, ever forget what it feels like to be alone, lonely and unloved. That it will motivate us as we reach out to other in our lives.

There are some things that I want to leave behind this year Julie…and not take with me to 2008. One of those things is unforgiveness. If I think I’ve forgiven someone an offense…but I keenly remember it every time I see them and feel that wound again…I haven’t forgiven them in full. I’m the one being tortured…not them. But if I was the one that offended and caused hurt…wouldn’t I be most grateful for forgiveness. To know that person doesn’t hold it against me any longer. That when I talk to them we are in the present…in the here and now…and they are not thinking back to a time when I hurt them. Wouldn’t I want that?

Sometimes forgiveness must be given to people who should know better and act better because of who they are. Just because you forgave them…doesn’t mean that what they did is now okay. It’s just saying I’m letting it go and not going to hold it against you any longer. As I write this…I’m speaking to myself as much as you.

Can you imagine Jesus paying the penalty for our sins and forgiving us…but then when we meet him face to face…Him being cold or wanting to avoid us and not be with us because we hurt Him? No…Jesus has forgiven us in full. He asks us to do the same. It’s hard to do…but don’t do it on your own strength…do it by the power of the Holy Spirit within you.

So Julie…I’m praying for God to heal up any emotional wounds you bear...that you will be able to let them go and start lighter because you released of your burdens…and are starting fresh in 2008.

Blessings to you dear one…and praying that God will answer both our prayer for a husband in 2008.

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn – Interesting plot and characters, but had a convoluted ending

When I saw that Lynn H. Blackburn had a new book out, Unknown Threat (Defend and Protect, Book 1) , I wanted to read it because I had enjoy...