What goes on in most churches is heartbreaking.

The sheep are being beaten.  And, bottom line, THAT is what is heartbreaking.  But what is perhaps even worse, is that the sheep are allowing themselves to be beaten.  They sit idly in their chairs or pews as the guy up front tells them all of the things they are doing wrong.  Forgetting that Jesus Christ paid a tremendous price to take away the sins of the entire world.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  (John 1:29)

The last time I was in an actual “real” church — as opposed to the outside-of-the-box Bible Studies I’ve been attending the past decade — I witnessed one of these public beatings.  I went to hear their guest speaker, a famous author of “Christian books” (I guess the books got saved?).

He gave an end-times message which ended by telling the humongous audience (1,000 or more) that since Jesus was coming back soon they had better shape up.  They were reading the wrong books and magazines, watching the wrong movies, and doing all sorts of other things wrong, and “When Jesus comes back, people, do you really want to feel ashamed when you stand before Him!?”

By this time in my life, I had only recently surrendered to the fact that I am a completely forgiven person, so my own welts and bruises were still raw; the lashes on my own back from 12 years of such beatings were not yet healed.  So when he finished his message and asked the packed-out crowd to bow our heads in a prayer of repentance, I wanted to scream out, “No!”  Instead, I kept my head lifted high and searched for the pastor; why wasn’t he running up to the podium to interfere and apologize to everyone for letting this happen!?  Why wasn’t the pastor reminding the crowd that Jesus is NOT ashamed of us!! (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 11:16).  But it wasn’t just his fault . . .

The sheep accepted their beating; they took their lashing without complaint.

Once it was all over, I walked among the huge crowd looking for anyone who might be as upset as I was.

Nope.  They were all fine.

Some were visibly giddy.  They were busy chatting to friends, and perhaps making plans to watch “Fireproof” for their next movie night.

It was a horrible evening for me.  I felt as if I were about to burst into hysterical sobbing.  (Which I later did, once home, and after holding back the storm of tears during the 20-minute drive home.)

What I experienced that night was not unique.  I have been to an enormous number of churches, and these beatings are taking place everywhere.

Yet, He is not ashamed of you if you have believed in Him and believed in the gospel.  If you have done that, then you have done all the work that He requires of you.  Now it is time for you to rest.

“Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.””  (John 6:28) 

 

 

What goes on in most churches is heartbreaking.

On trusting God . . . (and admitting that I don’t)

“The goal of the Christian life is to start trusting God,” according to Aaron Budjen.

He says this in opposition to the widely accepted belief that most Christians live by:  “The goal of the Christian life is to stop sinning.”

No, Aaron says, the goal is not to stop sinning.”  Why?  Because that is impossible.

But trusting God also seems an impossible task at times.  I gave this a lot of thought recently and realized that there was a contradiction between my claim of trusting God and all of the time I spend worrying.

If I actually trusted Him, why do I essentially say to Him:  “Hey God, let me tell you how you should run your universe.”

A few weeks ago I asked myself, “Wait.  Do I even trust God?”

I realized that the answer was no.  With certain things, no, I don’t trust Him.

I just lived with that for a few days.  (Ouch.)

Then, last week, I had an hour-long drive home with views of the Rocky Mountains and rolling hills and cascading pine forests along the way . . .

I thought to myself, “Wow, you’re an idiot!

With my heart rejoicing, I prayed, “Lord, of course I can trust You!  Look at all that you have created!!  Your power is amazing.”

Next, I had these two really vivid dream.  They happened over a span of two nights, and were the type of dream that you can never forget.  They were obvious reminders from God that He is trustworthy; they were reassurances of His friendship with me, His close involvement in my life.

It was as if God was saying, “It’s okay.  I understand.  You are just flesh and blood.  I know exactly how you feel.  But, you really can trust Me.”

And I was blown away!  Yes, I can most certainly trust Him!

I love it how He doesn’t condemn us or expect us to be perfect, or strong or heroically brave.  God is so kind and gentle with us.  He has no expectations of us; He has forgiven us of all of our sin and trespasses (Col 1:14, Eph 1:7).

He knows that we need His comfort, and He gives it to us in times of need.

In fact, He has given us everything that we need, because we have Him!  We just have to remember that He is trustworthy.  🙂

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

On trusting God . . . (and admitting that I don’t)

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Jesus Christ is the most important thing in this world.  He is “the way, the truth and the life.”  He not a way.  He is not a truth.  He is not a life.  He is it.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

As Aaron Budjen says, “He’s not the consolation prize.”  As believers in Him, as followers of Him, as His children . . . He truly is all that we need.

“‘…However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'” (Luke 18:8b)

There are so many things in this life that can distract us from the simple fact that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.  These things begin to take priority in our lives; these other things — as “good” as they may be — become more important to us than Jesus.

Those things are “a knowledge of good and evil.”  Remember that tree that mankind was forbidden to eat from?  When we live by a knowledge of good and evil, by doing what is right and not doing what is wrong, by adhering to rules,  by living according to commandments, by joining the right group, by being accepted by the right people . . . whatever ‘system of good and evil’ that governs your life, it will kill your faith in Jesus.

So He asks, “When I return, will I find anyone who trusts me?”  Anyone!?

Isn’t that scary!?  I certainly do not want to be in that category; I don’t want to be counted among those who have no faith.  I want to live my life in response to what He has shown me to be true, and what He is presently showing me . . . as He guides me into all truth.

Father, we want to be branches that bear fruit; branches that are well nourished by Your love, and that bear the fruit of the Spirit.

“‘Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.'” (John 15:2)

Father, prune us that we may bear more fruit; that we may know you better.

“Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)

What little fox is in my life that is preventing me from trusting you today?

I want You to be the only WAY I live; the only TRUTH I believe in; the only LIFE I devote myself to.  Nothing else is as important as You.

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Is there power in prayer? A Q&A by Aaron Budjen of Living God Ministries.

“I do not believe in the power of prayer. I only believe in the power of God.”

This article can be found here; it is posted at the Q&A section of Aaron’s website.

QUESTION:

I am preparing a sermon on prayer, and was wondering what your thoughts might be on the subject.

ANSWER:

As I see prayer expressed in Christianity today, I really believe there is a very fine line between prayer and witchcraft. In witchcraft, prayer is exercised as a means of getting spiritual entities to respond in a way to inflict good on some other person. Of course the witch determines what is good and what is evil, and either the overall spiritual consciousness or individual spirits respond to the prayer being invoked. The concept of believing in the power of prayer did not originate from the recent Christian mantras, but has been a fundamental tenant of witchcraft for many ages.

I do not believe in the power of prayer. I only believe in the power of God. Now, many Christians respond to me when I say this in agreement with me, but in their hearts they really don’t believe me. They truly believe that God is going to respond to them because of their prayers to Him, and hide their pride by saying something like, “if it’s the will of God.” However, deep down inside they really believe that they can have an influence on God, and that they now have some mystical power they can draw on to effectively inspire or even control the hand of God. While this is certainly very attractive to our flesh, prayer has nothing to do with getting God to respond to us.

God is so often portrayed in the same way that God is portrayed in witchcraft. He is some kind of impersonal spiritual essence that we call upon when life isn’t going the way we want it to go. Many Christians have no idea that God is a real person, who is actively living His life as we live ours. He inspires people, and communicates with them. He effects events and sometimes intervenes in miraculous ways in the affairs of mankind. But He decides when, how, and what He will do regardless of what we tell Him we would like Him to do. He does retain His autonomy and sovereignty quite often in spite of us.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7 that we are to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. It is a comfort to me when I experience anxiety that I can speak to God and He hears me. However, as my focus is turned towards Him, I recognize His love for me, and can experience a peace that can only come from Him. This is not because I think He is going to respond to me and give me what I want, but because I recognize who He is in the midst of my circumstances.

You can’t imagine how people are often offended when they ask me what they should be praying for me in my life, and I respond with the fact that I’m not particularly anxious about anything at the moment. It is so offensive because they personally are often consumed with their own anxiety, and they can’t pray anything for me to make themselves feel like they are concerned more about others than themselves. Don’t let such a comment stop you from praying for me, in fact, this may inspire you to pray for me more if you don’t agree with me, but let it be put on your heart by the Spirit of God within you to pray for me if He inspires you to do so. And if He inspires you to pray for me, I can’t imagine Him not also telling you what to pray for. Otherwise, prayer can easily become a mechanism and a religious excuse to stir up gossip.

In my own personal life experience, I have found my life of prayer to be more a time of expressing thanks than asking God for something. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness, 2 Pet 1:3. So, what can I ask for that I don’t already have? Generally what I don’t need for life and godliness. Should I really expect God to respond to that? Not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong. There are many occasions when I do pray and make requests that appear to be directly related to my flesh. The important thing to realize is that this does not have anything to do with my relationship with my God. So often people ask for Him to do what He never came to do, and reject that which He already gave. All that remains is the giving of thanks, which I do as I pray and live my life with a dependency on Him. Subsequently my prayer life becomes more an act of listening than of talking, wanting to hear from Him about what He has given me, and how it applies to my life.

Aaron Budjen

 

Is there power in prayer? A Q&A by Aaron Budjen of Living God Ministries.

Interview with author of “Still Between the Waves”

Peggy and I interview our dear friend, Judy, for our YouTube channel:  Church Dropouts (Who Found Jesus Waiting Outside.)

Interview with author of “Still Between the Waves”

Do Roman Catholics know the truth?      

Maybe.  It depends on the person.

In my case, the answer would have been no.  I did not come to know the truth of the gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ, until I left the Catholic church.

I think I could have been saved during my 20 years as a Catholic; not because of what was taught, but because of what was SUNG.  This story illustrates what I mean . . .

After I became a believer, I moved to Southern California to attend Bible College.  One of the students was an adorable blonde surfer-type-girl who had a Volkswagen van with flowers and Bible verses painted all over.  What stood out the most to me were the words of the Lord Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Those words are from John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.'”

Those words — I am the resurrection and the life — were the most prominent; they took up an entire side of her van and were painted in huge colorful letters.

I wondered why she made that choice.  Why did she choose those words?  What did they mean, anyway?

I had no idea.

Of course, I knew that Jesus had resurrected from the dead, but still . . . that sentence that Jesus spoke – I am the resurrection and the life – I didn’t really understand it.

At this time in my life, I had been saved two years.  And although I never once read the Bible growing up (like most Roman Catholic families, our Bible was not for reading, it was displayed on a special table on a special stand in the formal living room), the funny thing was, I knew the words well.

Though Catholics hold the Bible at arm’s length, the songs they sing at Mass are often direct quotes of Bible verses.  Growing up, I often sang these words, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will never die.  I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live a new life.”

Singing that song every Sunday offered me the opportunity to know the truth.  If I had cared, I could have searched and discovered the truth.  That song preaches the gospel! 

So that is why my answer is maybe.  A Roman Catholic MAY know the truth if they are a person who cares to know the truth.  God can reveal the truth to anyone.

And, by the way, I understand the importance of that Bible verse now (John 11:25).  I understand why that girl painted those words on her VW van.  The resurrection is everything to a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are still in our sins.  If Jesus Christ had only died on the Cross for the forgivenss of sins, well, we would be forgiven dead people.  It is the resurrection that gives us life, that saves us.

He had to take care of the sin problem first, but once that was accomplished, He could then rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, and make the restoration of LIFE available to all who will believe and receive Him.  The Holy Spirit of God is now available to anyone who will receive the message of truth . . . even to Roman Catholics.  🙂

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)

 

 

Do Roman Catholics know the truth?