Monday, December 8, 2008

Some Words, Part 1


It's a very confusing concept to Christians. Not so much to the rest of the world.

First, it is a very uncommonly used word in the world outside of religion. It is not used lightly and almost never as a command. The word has weight. It has undertones related so deeply with religion, that its use is only when it is absolutely the right word for the task. Have you ever heard "repent" or "repentance" outside of a religious conversation?

I have, a small handful of times. Of course, I made it to age 27 before coming to Christ. And every time, it was used as a warning or indication of self-condemnation resulting in self-correction: condemning one's own actions before another does.

Second, in the world, I've always been aware that the word is applied to specific situations, actions, etc,. - never as a general term applied to someone's life or remaining existance. If you were to describe someone as "repentant," the question begs, "Of what?" If you were to say someone has a "repentant heart," it would be assumed it was for a specific wrong-doing, not the general character of the individual.

Finally, repentance is not an easy act. Repent is a verb! But it's a feeling, too. So it's a feeling you do - purposefully. It requires introspection, insight, concern - and motivation. There are two motivations to repent - fear and love. When the world uses the word repentence, they most often assume a motivation of love.

Most Christians I know use fear of God as motivation for repentance. They wouldn't agree with me, but I've listened carefully.

"To repent is a command!"

"You must repent from your sins for forgiveness!"

Who was repentance preached to? Christians?

Repentence was preached to the lost world. Don't you think the word used would be the word they understand?

Why do we change it?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Removing the blog, er... LOG from my own eye :-)

There has been some teaching at my church that is making me itch! I don't like being told what to do, so fear of this teaching leading to that is causing me to feel very critical. (scritch-scratch!) I don't want to back away simply to avoid controversy, but I also don't feel anywhere near equipped to be a spokesperson for a Biblical cause.

My first step is to pray to God to reveal to me where I am wrong and to grant me patience and a listening heart.

Is this the way you interpret Luke 6:42, i.e., removing the plank from your own eye prior to removing a speck from another's? A wise elder woman taught it to me this way several years ago when I thought this meant I had to be blameless before I helped another sister in sin. She told me I should wait to speak until God reveals all the incorrect assumptions I've made (mostly by listening both to the other party and the Word) then to speak, but with a "listening heart."

I stood to speak at the first lesson this week, but a little tug in my memory brought me back to the words of this woman and I simply asked a harmless clarifying question instead.

Hopefully I am completely wrong in my own understanding of this scripture or in my understanding of their teaching - and all my worry is moot. ;-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Can I?

"When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Examining Faith #2

In the conversation below I asked about the meaning and significance of Abram being credited with righteousness by God for his belief.

God had been speaking to Abram for some time. Abram had consistently believed, obeyed and been rewarded throughout that time. This was not the first promise Abram had put faith in.

Now I am curious to know if it significant only that Abram believed what God said in general, or that he believed specifically what God said directly before being credit with this righteousness?

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,

'Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.'

Abram said, 'O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'

And Abram said, 'Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.'

Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.'

And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.'

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness."

Genesis 15:1-6

What do you think?


As I was studying this, I noticed that it really seemed like an "introduction" with the phrase, "Do not fear" in verse 1. But we know Abram had conversations with God prior to this. Then I noticed the phrase, "the word of God" was used to describe who Abram was hearing. I've now emphazised that phrase above in red. This is the first time in scripture that this is used.

Do you think that is significant?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Examining Faith

In Genesis 15, a short verse (oft repeated) simply states, "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (NIV)

Yet, skip a verse and Abram needs assurance once again!

"But Abram said, 'O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?'"

Abram asked a lot of questions - he reasoned with God a lot, too.

What do you think it means that Abram was "credited with righteousness"?

Do you think this is a significant revelation?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wise Words?

It is to a man's honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 20:3

My skin is finally clear, and I just got my hair did!
I was considering this new profile pic. It makes me think of the phrase, "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Personal vs. Ecclesiastical Relationships

I have been in a discussion with another blogger about the concept of separation. Based on his interpretation of Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6,7-14, this blogger has recommended that I must leave my current congregation that believes that baptism is the point of salvation.

I am working through this matter of baptism myself, and would prefer not to get into a discussion on that as I am already inundated with info and up way to late every night continuing the study. I will post my thoughts for discussion, once I figure out what my thoughts are. :)

However, in this discussion, where initially I had focused on a dilemma of separation regarding a friend's marriage, it dawned me that if I were to truly follow this man's understanding of the scripture, that I would have to leave my husband.

He explained that I had no knowledge of the difference in applying this doctrine of separation to personal and ecclesiastical relationships.

I basically said he was right, I have no such knowledge. And I asked him to share those differences. But he decided to cease discussion with me.

Is there such a difference in applying this or any doctrine to a personal vs. an ecclesiastical relationship?

And what of those relationships that are both personal and ecclesiastical (which for me, are almost all of them!)??

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What DID Jesus do?

Some people spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what Jesus would do, today, if found in the same predicament. But I think it's pretty important to focus more on what He actually did do.

He died.

If I really want to be like Jesus, I will, too.

  1. I will die to self, like He did. Not lead, not defend, not judge, not strive to be the best, not impress others - but serve.
  2. I will obey God to the point of dying, not because I want glory but because I trust even my very life to the Father.
God sat at the tables of men and women who not only disagreed with His doctrine, but those He knew plotted His demise. He spoke truths that might later change and save their souls after they had succeeded in slaying Him. I cannot think of one instance when Jesus "withdrew fellowship" or ever spoke up to even defend Himself. Knowing what these men would do, knowing they not only disagreed, but despised Him - Jesus continue to accept their invitations, answer their questions, share insight and parables. He only spoke of the "Pharisaical Heart" to the Pharisees themselves. To the crowds, He taught what it was to be loving, merciful and generous to one another - and of a kingdom to come - not preaching of the dark hearts and heresy of the pharisees.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4:4-8
I'm going to try to follow that advice! Fancy that - the peace of GOD will guard my heart and mind, and I can keep my mind on doing good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Out of Order

Please see more details here.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Logic says I am dead already - that I can be willing to do what is right and good, but never will.

I desire to lose logic.

But when it flees, I despair.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's a little bit funny?

I had a melt down in Sunday service.

All our New England sisterhood of churches got together for an incredible weekend conference to inspire us in our personal service to the Lord. I've been feeling a call to serve more - not really in church, but in general. The lessons were pointed, practical and inspirational. I had an opportunity to help with the kids and learn some new songs to take back to the home church kids. Mr. Right and I partied with the singles. I loved crashing their gathering and showing off my dance mooooves!

We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and walked across the street. Sunday worship started right on time, at 11am. No worries - ready to worship.

Suddenly, the beautiful worship songs started to make me furious.

Now, I have had a struggle with song-leading for the last 5 years. I have some talent and no lack of joy for being the center of attention. I am a maniac for karaoke, and I dance like a fool for any beat. I love the fellowship at practice and sing my heart out - and even in the congregation I sing so loud people in front of me turn expecting me to be 6 feet tall. But if I stand before the church to lead in worship, I go mute. I keep telling the worship leaders its not my calling, and I get rebuked for not sharing my talent. I hate being told to smile. I hate being told how to dress. I hate being told that my singing is to encourage the church and I should always sing encouraging songs. Poppycock! None of that matters. If it's not 100% for God, I can't do it. It's like God hits the mute button - I physically cannot do it. I've even fainted once when I tried to force it.

But the songs themselves have never made me angry.

With several congregations gathered, many of the songs were unfamiliar, so the words were printed on a sheet.

Refrain from the third song:

"More love, more power
More of You in my life..."

I got nauseous. WHAT? Did He not give us EVERYTHING? Why are we singing these words? And we kept singing it over and over and over and over. I asked my husband to please stop singing. He could tell I was severely distressed, but had no clue. He told me to sit and put my head between my legs until it passed.

After it was over, and I lifted my head, I looked on the sheet at the next song. "I...I...I..." "" I started circling each of those words in the song. My husband frowned at me.

Then another song exclaimed, "You alone are worthy!" I wanted to shout, "Who am I to say that only God is worthy of my praise? I am the lowest of sinners - all are worthier than I!"

The rest of the songs were bearable, but the distress remained. I had to get up and move. I bolted out of the convention hall and ran a lap around the block, praying. I returned feeling a little better - but knowing I am getting a little worn by the worship "experience."

photo by: Mary Ann Morgan

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back to the Matter of Sin...

In what little spare time I have, my mind has wondered over the matter of sin and what it is to God. I had not realized until this moment that it's been in my thoughts consistently for more than 4 months. That's a long time for me to stay focused on something!

I've been told that in His holiness, God is "unable" to look upon sin, and my sinful nature is what creates the need for reconciliation to God through Christ. I have a problem considering God unable to do anything. If God is unable to look upon my sin, how is He able to judge it - condemn it - rebuke and discipline me from it? How is it that God can love me if, daily, He cannot even look at the wretch that I am?

It would seem that it is certainly a conditional love, one that can only look to me when I am good.

Is it not more correct to say that God eyes are continually upon me? Is it not more reasonable to assume that the fault lies within me - that I cannot look to God when I am encumbered by sin?

Hebrew 12 has been entering my mind in this matter, specifically vs. 1-14 :

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,


It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

Of course, then I read Joshua 7!

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Three Voices

KC asked about credentials. They are important. I mean, you want to know that someone has some education and experience in what they are teaching, right? Online, I've read some odd thoughts on scripture, and my initial reaction is to look to see what's that person's job. Clergy, seminary student - I might take it a little more seriously. Tax collector - not so much (and before you say anything, look at my profile!).

Yet, don't you still get a million different opinions of scripture from learned men and women? And they always seem to edge in and try convince you they are right. Ah, what good would they be if they had no conviction? :)

But, the ones who tell me I'm not listening to the spirit, or worse, that I can't hear the spirit, because I do not agree with their opinion - they scare me.

Jesus' teaching was practical - what He did was practical. It's fun to get ethereal and consider some weird stuff about the cosmos and angels, but it's not what Jesus was about. Sure, the inner workings of what Christ accomplishes are spiritual, ethereal, mysterious - but are they important for me to know? Is it important that I know "why" and "how" it works - or that I just trust it does?

If a teaching leads me away from God and deeper into my own mind, where only one voice exists, I'm not sure that's a safe place for me to be. A singular voice is never a good thing. A chorus makes sure the path. Maybe that's why God has three voices. {c;

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Did God Abandon Jesus?

(It's still a lot of questions, but a little more focused than the previous post - one thing at a time!)

According to Matthew (27:46) and Mark (15:34), when Jesus was dying on the cross, he said these words:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Did God leave him alone? If he did, why?

The teaching that this was the point at which Christ took on Sin and was separated from God has never settled well with my soul. God abandons us when we sin. That's what this teaching implies. Does that sound right to you?

Why does the more detailed account of Christ's last words in Luke (Ch. 23) not include this outcry?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is Mankind depraved - or is it just me?

According to Matthew (27:46) and Mark (15:34), when Jesus was dying on the cross, he said these words:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Did God leave him alone? If he did, why?

The teaching that this was the point at which Christ took on Sin and was separated from God has never settled well with my soul. God abandons us when we sin. That's what this teaching implies. Does that sound right to you?

Why does the more detailed account of Luke not include this outcry, but instead several other words from the Savior?

I keep coming back to this when I consider what it was exactly that Christ was asking God to forgive "them" of in Luke 23:34.

"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing"
Was it gambling for His garments because the Roman guards were only doing what had been prophesied? Was it for the Jews who had condemned Him? Was it for His disciples who had gone into hiding and were denying Him? Was it for you and I, the world, for every sin we had/are/would commit?

These words of forgiveness seemed to be spoken very soon after Christ was nailed to the Cross, while the guards and the crowds that had demanded His death were still there. Wouldn't they too feel guilt very soon, when they KNEW? Didn't you feel guilt when you KNEW?

What also comes with guilt?

Godly sorrow; self-pity?

When you are innocent, or not, does a guilty verdict make it seem as though you have been abandoned, too?

And what was the punishment He endured? It was not death - death was the result; the consequence - the punishment was the crucifixion. By refusing to defend Himself, Christ accepted the verdict of guilt laid upon Him by man. By accepting that guilt, He knew death that would come with it.

Jesus perfectly illustrates that guilt does not equal abandonment and that death is overcome.

Satan would have us think otherwise.

So would some Christians.

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Infallibility of the Saints?

I have considered that the letters of council from the Apostles to the churches might not always be the advised council for me specifically - that we apply very specific instruction for one individual or church in a very general way to ourselves when maybe we shouldn't. Each of the churches had their own challenges and strengths, as they should. We can easily find those similarities today, and through the rest of the ages I am sure, but the specific will of God in each our lives and churches can be very unique. Jesus warns against comparing one's deeds or lack of to another man, and yet we find ourselves comparing against the NT church and the saints regularly.

Do you think every teaching of the saints in the New Testament is required doctrine as a Christian?

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just a Disciple

It didn't take me long to tire of my search for a new label. I've been using the label of "Disciple" for many years now, and I think it's sufficient. I am taught by one I hold in high regard, granted understanding through His spirit when necessary and rewarded for my applications of His lessons. I make abundant errors and rely on Him for correction - the consistency of which is only outmeasured by the mercy applied.

Maybe I am just lazy. I don't want to argue with man about whether I am right or wrong. I don't want to sit at the knee of every theologian and search the truth they've proven, getting a high from every "new" truth discovered.

I want to sit at the knee of the One - the Only One - who died with my sin on His conscience, suffering the death I earned, who has every right to condemn me - but instructs me, anyway, in the things that are old and true, boring and unenlightening, simple and timeless - the lowly things no other teacher would have the patience or humility to show me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Am I Dispensational?

3/24/08 Update: No, don't think New Covenant works either, but I might be confused. How does a layperson know? I'd have to go to Bible College to figure this out - or give up my day job as a wife and mother to read up on everything. I really don't know how people can do this. I thought I'd take what I have found to ring true and it would fit nicely into a theology - but not so. Apparently, amongst many other considerations, I have to figure out the book of Revelation to choose an official theology. Can't really see that happening in my lifetime! Faith really is personal, huh? ;)

3/14/08 Update: I've been looking at distinguishing theologies and think what I have described is more closely related to the New Covenant view. Still looking - not sure I will find a label close enough to cheer for.

I dodge labels. I have all my life. But lately, I find a (unwise?) desire to locate a group - if not a label - that best fits my theology. To my travail, I have finally been challenged to understand some of the theological terminology that I have not to this point been educated on. One term I have heard bandied about most often is "dispensational." And the current discussions going on at Rose's are kind of dependent on some understanding of it. Initially, based on the meanings I knew of the term itself, I thought it might have meant a belief in how God distributes salvation. But as I read conversations, the implication proved false. Then using my understanding of the term along with contextual evidences in conversations, I deduced that it was a belief in breaking down the history of the Bible by the reigning laws of God for man. I think this was a fairly accurate assumption for so little real knowledge, but there is still much to know.

I don't really understand if these dispensational periods indicate different content requirement for saving faith, or simply the stages of revelation until Christ.

Here's my take. Let me know if you think I am dispensational or not. Would I fit in with that group or would I be thrown to the curb?

I don't always think that sin is what separates us from God. I often think that sin is the symptom of the disease that separates us from God - that not believing what God promises, such as "Eat the fruit of this tree and you will surely die," is what separates us from God. Sometimes I imagine that Adam and Eve ignorantly did many of the things we consider "sin" today, and God lovingly instructed and trained them as they trusted him to help them mature. But when they decided to trust the serpent and doubt God's promise, they acted in disbelief of that promise. That promise was more complicated than Adam & Eve were aware of. Obviously they did not seem to die at that moment, but they would. God knew this. They had chosen to trust themselves to decide what is right and wrong instead of God, and there was no turning back.

Have you ever been in a relationship where distrust entered in? How does that affect your relationship? Have you ever worked to bring that relationship back around to trusting? It takes sacrifice, doesn't it? I was trying to get some feedback on my previous post about sin as barrier between God and man, but no takers. With the lack of readers, I guess I have free reign to work this out. :)

Anyway, with this premise, I might understand that saving faith is believing God's promises and not acting in unbelief. I believe that God issued several promises in time that might have changed the "content" of what is to be believed, but at the heart of it was simple trust in God's promise. I have considered that there are some universal promises and some individual promises, and many of the universal promises were issued as a result of the trust ensuing in those individual promises. Consider God's covenant with Abraham, who believed in God's promise of a son and thus entered into a covenant that included all Abraham would add to it.

The universal promises I've identified align pretty well with the 7 dispensational periods I have read about online recently. Ironically (not really, because God knew this already!) each of these promises lead directly to the true fulfillment of all those promises - the Messiah - who issues the final and eternal promise of a reborn eternal life. It would seem that each age has it's specific promise to believe in, but Jesus is truly the fulfillment of all those promises.

I am still working through this. I might have found a tentative label, but I suspect that even if I chose to wear it, it would fall off occasionally. :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Sin Really What Separates Us From God?

I keep running into a wall in my studies on sin.

Let me share the study I did on this prior to becoming a Christian, which is the conviction I held as passed on in the tradition of my church. I am not sure that it is a conviction I hold to today - but it might be. I find that as I mature in my studies and faith, there are many things I have to revisit and regain conviction of what was taught to me. All scripture is from the NIV, as I originally studied it. I find that the various translations continue to have different bearing on my understanding.

(Beginning of Study)

1 Peter 2:9-10 (from the NIV as I studied it originally)

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Those that are saved are called out of darkness into his light:

Darkness =
Not a people of God
No Mercy

Light =
People of God

What is this darkness?

Isaiah 59:1-2

"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear."

  1. Sin separates us from God.
  2. In order for a man to have a relationship with God the wall must be broken down - sin must be forgiven.
  3. The point in time sin is forgiven - the wall is broken down - is the point in time a person is saved.
Romans 3:23-25

"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished..."

  1. EVERYONE has sinned.
  2. All are equal; all are lost - whether we consider our sin small in comparison to others, that "small sin" creates the same wall as the "big sin". A moral life does not save you. You cannot earn your salvation by good deeds.
  3. Faith in the blood of Jesus saves you.

What is sin?

Galatians 5:19-21 (sins of commission)

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (sins of commission)

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."

James 4:17 (sins of omission)

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

What is the eternal consequence of sin?

Romans 6:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Wages of Sin

Gift of God
Eternal Life

How do I come into the Light?

John 3:1-7

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'

In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'

'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!'

Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"

A person must be born again - born of water first and spirit second.

What message must one believe to be in the light?

Acts 2:22-24

"'Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.'"

  1. Jesus is from God.
  2. Jesus was raised physically from the dead.
  3. Everyone is responsible for the crucifiction of Christ - since all have sinned.
What is my response?

Acts 2:37-42

"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'

Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.'

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

If you are cut to the heart, obey:
  1. Repent (turn)
  2. Be baptized (immersed)
  • sin is forgiven, so at this point you are saved.
  • Holy spirit given to you for the power to live as God commands.
(End of Study)

I am interested in what others think about this study. I don't believe this study failed me in coming to faith, but it is milk. There are deeper meanings than this in scripture. I think this study is enough - maybe more than enough. I have come to question the assumptions made in absence of scripture in these first studies I accomplished. I know more scripture now, and of course, the Holy Spirit guides me. I think it's safe to venture...

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Thursday, March 6, 2008

His faith is immeasurable!

When I suffer scrutiny of my faith, one of two things happen (and sometimes BOTH!):

  1. I will hunker down like a caged animal and defend my belief in desperation - eventually revealing the deep fear that I will lose it, and God comes to my aid.
  2. I will grow in sorrow and compassion for those I have scrutinized in the same way, and God comes to my aid.

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is the Bible alone sufficient?

Do you think it is possible to simply read the Bible, with no extraneous study materials or personal guidance, and come to a saving faith? Do you know anyone who has?

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Friday, February 29, 2008

Acts 10:34-48

Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) -- you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.

"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

"We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.

"God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

"And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

"Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.

All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered,

"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"

And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Acts 2:1-41

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."

And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"

But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

And they shall prophesy.

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

For David says of Him,


"Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:


"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."

And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Help me, Lord

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galations 5:22-26

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Gospel Experience

Honestly, I could spend a lifetime attempting to explain what did NOT convince me to trust in the promise of Christ. And that is primarily my frustration in talking to so many about about our understanding of salvation. There are many similar stories and testimonies, but no one is exactly the same. In each case, however, it does seem to be a deeply personal interaction with God mediated through the budding knowledge of Christ.

I think I can solidly agree that one cannot simply believe God sent someone to fulfill his promise - as you can decide that anyone could be that someone. It must be Jesus; THE Jesus of the Bible. And I can certainly agree that to believe, there are some fundamental facts about Jesus that set him apart that must be known to establish that belief. The debate seems to be regarding what absolutely must be known about him to claim to believe in the correct Jesus. And maybe that is not exactly correct. The debate isn't as much about WHAT as WHEN. Must these things be fully disclosed before salvation is granted - or simply accepted as they become known?

Again, I can only draw from my own experience. I do have doubts about many things, oh so many things, but that I know the source of my salvation I am absolute. That knowledge is not something I can even attempt to explain or even expect that you would understand. I just know.

In early September, 2000, I was fit to burst with my third child. The doctors said I was due the first week of October, but I knew (with absolutely no evidence) that I was due no later than the 23rd of September. I was more than 4 months pregnant before we discovered this hidden life, as I was still nursing a six month old! It was a strange and exhausting year. Essentially pregnant for the last 20 months, I was working full time while my husband was getting his degree and bar tending at nights. I had been sick for a month, and we could not afford groceries. For the first time in my life I had to ask a family member for grocery money. Running late, I picked my two kids up from daycare and stopped at grocery store on the way home. I had to make what I borrowed stretch as far as I could. The store was unfamiliar to me as it was far from my neighborhood. Both kids were tired and fussy, my back hurt and my heart ached for rest - not just sleep, but peace. I remember thinking, as I walked down the aisles trying to compare costs through the tears, "God, can you help me here?" I repeatedly met another woman, a few years older with 2 kids, coming the opposite direction on each aisle. After the 4th or 5th intersection of our baskets, she stopped and said, "I know you might think this is crazy, but I feel God begging me to talk to you." I laughed nervously. She proceeded to invite me to join her later that week to a Bible Study. I walked away thinking I should absolutely study the Bible, but knew I probably wouldn't.

But the day before, I decided I would do it. Then, I ended up in the hospital with false labor on that day. We rescheduled, and on that new date, the 21st, I was once again in the hospital welcoming my third child into the world. I lost the number and forgot all about her. But studying the Bible was a thought that kept returning.

We had christened our other two children in the same Catholic church we were married in. My husband was raised Catholic, and I thought it was sweet tradition. But we both were independently questioning what it meant to have faith, and had also independently came to the conclusion that we weren't sure about infant baptism - so we avoided the discussion, never realizing we were thinking the same thing.

I had an old family Bible - almost 70 years old and the spine was still stiff and new. The translation was difficult to understand and the size was inconvenient, so I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I would like a new Bible for Christmas. Christmas Day, while opening gifts, she laughed and told us we were being awfully religious for parents who had forgotten to christen their child. We quickly realized she had given both of us Bibles - we had both asked. We spent the next 2 weeks trying to read and discuss our thoughts, finally throwing our hands up. We both agreed that we needed to join a study group or class at a church.

Two days later, a group of people came through our neighborhood to invite others to a Bible Study they were having in one of their homes. We just laughed and agreed to join them. We had been discussing where to look for a study group when they knocked on the door!

The day of that study, I was pretty sure these people would be crazy - you know that way religious people can be kinda crazy. As the time approached, I felt a little tug at my heart that maybe I was already shutting out their words before I even heard them. I'm a professional know-it-all (really!); this was an unusual reaction for me. I stopped to pray. It was awkward, but I asked God to help me be open-minded.

I had read the Bible multiple times in my youth. The first time was at eight when a Sunday school teacher (they bused us in) told me my father was going to hell. Obviously it made no sense to me, and when I continued to ask questions that made the teacher uncomfortable, I was "expelled" from Sunday school. The second and third attempts were within a few years of that, and both of those occasions were purposed to prove "religious" people wrong. I did not want this rebellious let-me-show-you attitude taking over again. It was a phenomenal study. I walked away challenged, but hopeful. The second study, I asked lots of questions - probably to test if they would kick me out, too. We began to study daily at that point bringing in various other members of their church who could help me search out scriptural answers. It was apparent they were following some guided studies with me, but they were loosely structured so we could go with the flow.

First, we talked about their beliefs that the Bible as the word of God, the double-edged sword, the breathe of God. Okay, I could go with that, but obviously almost ALL of the Bible was allegorical.

Then, we talked about what the Bible had to say about sin and how it keeps us spiritually distant from God. This made sense and most of it fully supported my allegorical theory.

We talked about the Cross and why it was necessary to reconcile me to God.

I was not an easy sale. Each time I had an emotional response, I withdrew it as quickly as I could. I would not be manipulated. I must come to a rational faith in this or have no faith at all. So far everything we had studied could be labeled endearing, but not very real or practical.

About this time, they had a weekend couples retreat at a nearby campsite. We attended, excited to spend more time with these new friends. Late into one evening, we did the only study we had ever done together - men and women, my husband and I. I could barely stay awake. It was all about prophesy and how Jesus fulfills it. More allegory and symbolic guessing. I was a lit major in college and was a little prepared to scoff their attempts at this, but really I was mostly tired and prepared to be bored. Let me also mention I was a drop-out, so I wasn't as good as I thought I was.

Now, I still am not in 100% agreement with what was discussed that night, but as we flipped back and forth between the OT and NT, the words became alive. There was a clarity I felt, nearer to understanding than anything I had ever experienced. My heart was very heavy with a treasure as I began to know that Jesus was the Christ, the promise fulfilled. I stopped hearing the words that were spoken and saw the words written acted out in my mind. It is very difficult to describe. I walked out that night, very quiet and spent. Something felt very different, and I knew I would never be the same. I was terrified to voice what I had just experienced to my husband. It just was not rational. But I also could not contain myself. To my joy, he was feeling exactly the same way. We had stopped the arguing and the debating, and we just believed.

But they wouldn't baptize us until the next weekend. Our change of heart confounded them. Oh, I was so angry. The fruits of the spirit had not yet begun to grow. :) I did do something truly out of character, though. I stopped arguing with them after a couple of days about their belief that the Holy Spirit was granted at the moment of water baptism. I knew the Holy Spirit was already a part of me, but I just could not convince them. So I chose the way of peace. I have never regretted that.

The church we began to attend with them was about 250 members strong in Fort Worth, TX. Not a large church by any means for that area. After several months in attendance, I finally got to meet some of the parents who had been teaching the Sunday School classes after a changing of the guards. Remember that women from the grocery store? She was a member of the same church!

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Friday, February 15, 2008

The True Gospel, Part Two

Sorry for the delay! I have returned to my story...

I may not always have a child-like heart, but I most often exhibit a child-like mind - easily distracted in thoughts and then suddenly hyper-focused on a detail others would by-pass. Looking at my previous post, I have become concerned that I might sound judgmental of those who preach Eternal Life or a gospel different than my own personal gospel. I am trying so hard to make a point; I failed to state the point! I do believe that Eternal Life through Christ is TRUE, but someone preaching that it is true did not make me realize it was so.

Another gospel emphasis, obviously just as true and critical to salvation, is the death of Christ on the Cross. Now this is the one I am most terrified to admit never quite affected me the same as it did others. I remember a study I did with some sisters a couple of weeks before my baptism. It was a study on the Cross - what does the Bible teach about what happened, and why did it happen? We watched a movie depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. It was heartbreaking and I cried - I shook with anger - I ached with the pain a mother, brother, friend could feel at this injustice - I felt the guilt of my sin and the responsibility it played in His death. But I also remember being too embarrassed to say what I was thinking, "I've watched death strike worse than this." We read aloud one of those medical accounts of crucifixion. It was horrid - but still not the worst I had imagined or even witnessed. These ladies had yet to learn that I was born in a home of a drug dealer and an addict prostitute, and even after my Dad changed his path and left my Mother I continued to witness, albeit in a sheltered way, some horrible facts about life and death. Add to that, it was my opinion at the time that this romantic story of sacrifice was being used to manipulate me - so any personal application to my life was tainted with this suspicion.

Again, this is an aspect of The True Gospel that is not a part of my gospel emphasis. So much so, that I often forget to share it when I witness! Be assured however, I have seen God use my meager seed.

An element or two of this study did begin to ruminate in my heart that night. I grew up with a determination not to be "bad" like the people I watched around me. They were unhappy and cruel, and I did not want to be like them. I followed every rule, to the finite point - for I clearly saw that sin led to death long before I read it in scripture. I had great difficulty in understanding I needed salvation. There were just a few things I could work at, with the assistance of a self-help book or two, and I would be the best person I knew. (You are welcome to LOL here.)

I am still soaking this lesson in seven years later, but I began to see that it was ridiculous to compare my "bad" to the "bad" of others. We are all offered the exact same restitution for sin - so how can one be any worse than the other?

I was fully aware that the girls at my study were carefully watching my reactions to the film, the reading and the discussion. I was so impressed with the leader of that study. Some might say she was being judgmental, but in her wisdom she knew the gospel had not become personal to me that night. Christ on the Cross was incredible - the resurrection was beautiful, but I was not yet persuaded.

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The True Gospel

I have been hearing a lot lately about the true gospel. There seem to be many opinions that sound very different on the surface - but as I dig and wind through to clarify my understanding, they aren't really so different. What the true gospel consists of seems almost universal in understanding: This Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose from the dead, fulfills the promise of God in the Old Testament as atonement for our sin, and He alone can give eternal life to those who believe in this. Now there are many disagreements on HOW and for WHOM the promise is fulfilled...

...but maybe it would be easier to focus on one thing at a time. {c;

Is the gospel not simply the story - never told in specifically the same way more than once in scripture, by the way - about the salvation given to each man/women who tells it? I find it interesting that one person's experience with accepting the witness of the gospel emphasizes mercy, another eternal life, another love. Are they wrong? Shouldn't they see that my emphasis is certainly more correct than yours? Or could it be that a particular perceived emphasis is exactly what the Holy Spirit uses at the correct place and time in a man's life to persuade him to faith?

I've known people to listen to the brief testimony of one bumbling unskilled speaker, with no colorful beaded bracelet to make sure she's covered every point, and be fully persuaded that Christ is salvation and ready to accept whatever the Word and Spirit reveals - without ever opening a Bible. I've also known people who have had to study and wrestle with scripture for years, ask theological scholars of every denomination on every call radio station, and fully reconcile each historical event of the Bible before coming to faith in Christ.

Was either one less rescued than the other?

Let's look at one example. I will use my experience, because... well, it's what I know. One faction calling their idea of the "gospel emphasis" the true gospel seems to focus on ETERNAL LIFE. That would never have worked on me! I agree that eternal life is definitely a part of the gospel - a critical part. Leaving out eternal life is not like leaving out an "a" or a "the" - it would be death to leave it out. But if your gospel only included or over-emphasized ETERNAL LIFE, I never would have listened.

I grew up imagining my bones feeding the earth upon my death - and that seemed heavenly to me. It still does. Eternal rest is what appeals to me! I was poor, broken and weary long before I should have been (not gathering pity, as I believe many feel this way even before adolescence!) MORE life, ugghh!?!?

And even today, as I rejoice in the eternity I will spend with the Lord, whenever I hear someone extolling gratitude for eternal life, I can't help but think of these words from our Savior:

Matthew 16:25
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Mark 8:35
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Luke 9:24
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
These reasons dissuade me from holding ETERNAL LIFE as the emphasis in my gospel. But that's just my gospel - my "gospel emphasis" probably wouldn't work for you either.

The Voice grows hoarse...

I will share more tomorrow!

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Than One Voice

I am the daughter of a diligent Bible-studying atheist father and two devout haters of the church. My mother was mistreated by church doctrine most of her life, and my step-mother was abused by an over-bearing minister for a father.

I know I am, by no means, alone. However, I often feel like an outsider in religion. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

Exactly seven years ago I was born again. My conversion was an act of consciousness as well as divine inspiration. I received the gift of the Holy Spirit the moment I accepted that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that he fulfilled all the prophesies of the Old Testament. I did not (and still do not) yet know all those prophesies - but I became convinced of enough that I accepted as whole what I had heard in part. One week later I was baptized at the hands of my also newly-baptized husband. Losing him was a cost I had counted, but fortunately had not paid. I was joyful and content with my experience. It made sense to me and gave me much assurance.

Yet, from the moment of my baptism, godly men and women began to assuage me with doubt. They were certain that I was to receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, and it was not possible I had received it before. When I shared my testimony, God's use of the men and women of the church to intervene in my life and the "coincidences" of time and place that led to my conversion were praised as truth, while the spiritual and emotional interventions of God working alone in my heart were cautiously accepted with warnings to test the spirits with scripture.

For many years, I studied the Bible hours on end trying to find the conclusions and convictions of others in the scripture. Had the Lord abandoned my spirit? I could not find these convictions with the same source of enlightenment that had found the Lord. Mind you this enlightenment was not an emotional response - it was simply clarity of the knowledge set before me. As the speech of man began to clutter my heart I felt a loss for all clarity beyond the first.

The second half of my journey has been learning not to allow man to nullify my experience with God. Yes, I know that I still must test the spirits with scripture, and that many advisors make wise council, but I also know the voice of my Shepherd.

In the past two years, the Lord has added another dimension to my walk - blogging as a Christian. I call it my "stalk." I have been compiling information in my mind regarding other Christian's experiences with finding and holding on to God. My mind can only hold so much and make any sense of it. Hence, you have my voice right here - in your head, as it is in mine.

One of my goals is to find the common experiences. Is it common to all or some? Another goal is to learn not to dismiss someone's experience because it is not like mine. We are told in scripture that there is nothing new under the sun - so I suspect that there will be no truly unique experiences, that statistically I will always find two or more of a kind. I also suspect that I will find these common experiences are what gather us together into theological denominations - because it is safer. If your experience is the same as mine, you won't make me doubt what I have come to know. However, I also find it very dangerous. I will often defend my experience as the only way - attempting to create in you the very doubt I fear you will create in me. It is very ugly, and I pray daily I do not succumb to this close-mindedness. I think having more than one voice in my head will help.

I hope you find my voice is reasonable and compassionate, but loud. And when you respond with your voice in my head, I hope I find it just as reasonable, compassionate and loud.

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,