Victim’s of Johnson’s Sozo Ministry Speak Out

An article on Sozo and the victims of Bill Johnson’s ministry…

Closingstages

Sozo 2

Opening Client Visualization

Many people believe that they do not have a visual compliment to engaging God. They have been taught, or the enemy has led them to believe, that their primary, if not only, interaction with God is through His written word, the Bible. This is typical of most folks with mainline evangelical denominational roots. In order to make the ministry time fruitful for a client, we often have to help them to “open their spirit eyes”.

Many people believe that God is accessible only through their minds and hence, all experience that is not absolutely logical (from their perspective) is not only not probable, but more to the point, not possible. Consequently, they have never tried any other method of interacting with Him. That doesn’t mean that is not another method, only that they have never entertained the idea that there is another one.

What the Sozo session…

View original post 2,827 more words

Hindsight: Those wacky Christians, maybe they are not so crazy after all? An intellectual faith…

When I was in college, a group of Christians befriended me and my friend.  They were very nice to us, but I didn’t “get them”, I just didn’t.  They were, to me, like birds of a different feather, a different breed of human.  I was into partying hard (and other endeavors) and didn’t get these peculiar people who had come into my life.  They invited me to a few lunches and Bible studies.  I went, but still, I just didn’t get it or them.  Honestly, for some reason I felt an odd sense of discomfort around them.  I am quite sure that I judged them, labeling them (in my mind) as “wack-a-doodles” (don’t you love that word?)!  I kind of felt sorry for them actually, that they had given up their “lives” to “follow Christ”. “What a waste”, was my thought.  I soon grew bored with these Bible studies and lost touch with these people.  If they were right, good for them, but I didn’t want to know.  I wanted to live my life.  If they had the truth, I didn’t want it.  My friend was “out”, and so was I.  I still couldn’t help but notice that there was something refreshing, something different, about them.  Perhaps it was their love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.

My opinion and judgment of these Christians who I put in a box were born of my own faulty thinking and ignorant judgments rather than an intellectual pursuit of careful, factual research. I had grasped a blind faith that Christianity was not true.  I had a belief system and faith.  My faith was that Christians were wacky and I didn’t need it.  

As it turns out, it takes more blind faith to believe that life is one big cosmic accident than it does to believe in an intelligent God who designed the world.  I stand on the other side, now.  I stand on the side of being labeled as the “Jesus Freak”.  I have felt the judgment that I once placed onto other Christians.  It’s not ideal, but it is what it is.  People think that Christians are judgmental?  Become one, and you will know what it is like to be labeled, continually.  You will become all too familiar with being put in a box before people even get to know you, but oddly, you don’t really mind, deep down.  The benefit far outweighs the cost.  The judgments don’t matter, because the freedom, peace and joy that I have now far surpasses any sort of sorrow that silly judgment brings.  It pales in comparison!  I now understand what Jesus meant when He said, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.  Just as light sets us free from the dark, Jesus sets us free from bondage (that we never knew we had).  I was living a stolen, destructive life, not a free life, though I did not see it that way then.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)

I really thought I was “free” before.  It’s like seeing only in black and white, until one day, someone tells you there is color.  Color opens up a whole new world, and those who see in black and white cannot comprehend color until they experience it for themselves.  When people talk of “color”, we can think they are just wacky.  We can think we are quite happy and content in our black and white, that nothing more is needed at all.  It’s a little difficult to explain color.  It’s like speaking in a different language.  To most, this all will sound plain silly, even foolish, but that is exactly what I am talking about.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Perhaps that is not the best analogy.  The difference is more than the difference of black and white vs. color – the difference is completely night and day – as different as dark is to light.  It is weird and surreal being on the other side, because life is abundant and full now.  My inner life, my soul, is better than ever.  I see things I never saw before.  I love people more.  “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:10).  There is a peace that surpasses all human understanding.  People have this notion that once they become a Christian, they have “lost their lives”, basically.  I will tell you that it is quite the opposite. 

True life is gained:

“Jesus said,’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.'” (John 10:10)

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

There is more to this Christianity thing than meets the eye, what’s at face value.  I stand on the other side realizing that when I was in the dark, I did not get it.  It’s only when a light is turned on that one realizes darkness is in fact darkness.  I was not brainwashed or forced, I came to this conclusion on my own using my own intellect (because of God’s grace, of course).  We cannot even see what is in the dark, until the light is turned on.  Light is revealing.  I realize now, in hindsight, that I was fine with my darkness, just fine. I was the wacky one for putting faith in my ignorance and quick judgments (not to mention – “popular opinion” – now that’s a dangerous notion to put one’s faith in) rather than gathering the facts and actually seeking truth. It is crazy to judge something without any information about it, wacky to make decisions based upon zero due diligence.  Ignorance is easy, and I didn’t even know that my darkness was darkness. I didn’t know what I was stumbling and tripping on because it was dark.

I didn’t want to know if the darkness was darkness; I didn’t want to see what was in the dark.  It didn’t even cross my mind, and I definitely didn’t want to be like those “wacky Christians”!

It’s funny that most of us believe in the great classical books, we would never doubt the validity of those, but when it comes to the New Testament, we dismiss and discard it without first getting the facts straight and doing the research.  I have shared a video below about the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of the New Testament.  The Bible is more historically accurate than any other literary work in existence and can be proven with science, but still, we discard it and judge it as hogwash.  Why?  Because we don’t want to know.  Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss.  If you were who I was two decades ago, you have already made up your mind and you think there is no use for exploring any evidence.  I get you.  And, I get those who you might think are wacky.

Perhaps the most commonly quoted scripture in the Bible is John 3:16, but most people who quote this leave out the verses immediately after, the ones about light and darkness:

For God So Loved the World

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21; ESV; emphasis mine)

Paul (the apostle, you know, the one who is featured on stained glass windows in modern churches, who was once named Saul and hated the wacky Christians, throwing them into prison and even consenting to their deaths) had this same sort of thing happen to him.  The Christians that he once persecuted and hated, he now loved and understood.  For this reason, they were at first afraid of Paul.  “They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy'” (Galatians 1:23).  He was converted and went around preaching the Gospel.  Gospel, from the Greek word euaggelion, means “good news” or “good tidings”.

There is a movie called The Case for Christ, based on the book by Lee Strobel.  Despite its Roman Catholic tidbits (not a fan of Roman Catholicism due to my careful study of the religion), it was full of interesting, even scientific, pieces of evidence as to why Christianity and the Bible are true and trustworthy.

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:10-12)

Hindsight!

What were the ‘heavy burdens’ the Pharisees put on others? A Christian article on legalism, spiritual abuse and narcissistic pastors

https://www.aacc.net/2017/12/11/let-us-prey-the-frequency-of-narcissistic-personality-disorder-in-pastors/

A friend of mine recently shared the following:

“Want to meet someone who has seen evil in human form and actually became stronger through the experience?  Want to talk to someone who has wisdom beyond their years? Want to see what inner resiliency looks like in a person?  Spend some time with a survivor of narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic abuse.  They are some of the most sparkly gems I have ever known.” (Shannon Thomas)

Isn’t that the truth?  I have known quite a few of these sparkly gems (and one too many narcissists/sociopaths).  If you are one of these “sparkly gems”, you know all too well the poison and toxicity of being in a relationship (or friendship) with one of these suck-the-life-out-of-you, fake, false teachers.  It is a very intense heat that creates these sparkly gems.  Until you have known (or been close to) a narcissist or sociopath yourself, you do not know the baffling damage one can cause.  They prey on the empathy of others and are experts at deceiving the human mind via clever manipulation tactics (most of them have a very high IQ and a remarkable con-artist ability).  They are likened to the ancient pharisees and can be referred to as the modern-day pharisees.  The Bible teaches love, yes, but it also clearly warns of certain types who would damage others.  The pharisees were the only men that (gentle, kind and compassionate) Jesus sternly denounced.

The link above is a link to a great article I wanted to share written by Dr. Darrell Puls, a certified mediator and arbitrator who holds a Doctorate in Religious Conflict Management.  At one point, he was a professional negotiator for one of the biggest unions in America!  He has done all this for over 37 years.  I came across his article on the AACC website.  The article is a warning about narcissistic pastors. He is a professional peacemaker, yet he says he will go anywhere to confront this insidious evil.

That is, the evil of spiritual abuse.

I would also go anywhere to confront this evil.  Spiritual abuse damages one’s soul and psyche.  Jesus even warned about spiritual abuse (Matthew 18:6; Luke 12:45).

Heavy-handed shepherds (pastors) are dangerous.  Of course, not all pastors are dangerous.  Two of my dearest friends are pastors; one in Kenya and one in Virginia.  They are humble, kind men.  They have hearts to serve/love, not to dominate/control!  They spend their lives helping others.

Jesus said the truth would make us free.  He does not want us to be in bondage to controlling, self-aggrandizing and manipulative pastors.  That is not the New Testament model.  That is not the message of Christ.  It gets tricky because narcissistic pastors are very charming!  They work in disguise.  They also speak some truth which disarms their hearers, making their hearers more open to deception.  This can be subtle and manipulative.

There are actually quite a bit of scholarly articles written on narcissistic pastors, which makes me glad, because these false teachers do a lot of damage.  Through the years, I have seen my friends traumatized (even with PTSD) from the words and actions of abusive church leaders. I’ve seen it happen to many, many people.  It has happened before my eyes with people who did not deserve it at all; very kind, loving people.  Nobody deserves that, yet the pastors cover it up as “discipline”.  Godly correction always points people to Christ, not away.  Godly correction involves grace, not legalism.

As I mentioned, it is my belief that these types of pastors are the modern day “pharisees”.  The pharisees were a Jewish sect.  Jesus rebuked them because they followed their own “traditions of man” (this is called legalism) rather than the teachings of God or Christ.

Jesus said in Mark 7:13 concerning the pharisees,

“…thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

They were not in trouble for obeying the Law and loving God.  They were in trouble because they were trusting in their own “church traditions” (i.e., oral traditions outside of the Law of Moses) and putting that bondage and control on others.  How is this different from the typical American pastor?  The pharisees loved to “void” the word of God (and they do that today by voiding the teachings of Christ in the New Testament) because they wanted to follow their oral traditions, their made-up rules.  They wanted control over people.  They did hold to some truth, like the resurrection, and the thought of a Messiah, but their errors were destroying people.  They were a religious sect.  They were not Christian, though they claimed to have the way to God.

Again, Jesus was not chastising the pharisees for obeying Him.  They hated Jesus and couldn’t stand Him or His words!  The pharisees today do not love the sound teaching of the Bible, and they want followers for themselves.  Sure, they may preach some truth, just as the pharisees held to some truth, but their errors and bad fruit will become evident.  Jesus was chastising them for making up their own junk and forcing it on people.  There are those today (who have themselves been influenced by cult leaders, Christian sects, or other leaders who attempt to draw away followers after themselves) who promote the warped idea that the “heavy burdens” or “heavy loads” are the Bible and the teachings of Christ in the New Testament.  This notion is almost comical and quite twisted (2 Peter 2:2; Acts 20:30).  The New Testament was not even written at the time Jesus spoke about the pharisee’s heavy burdens.

This is what Jesus says about the “heavy loads”:

“For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:4; KJV)

The heavy loads were not the teachings of Christ in the New Testament (again, the New Testament was not written yet).  The heavy loads also were not the law of Moses, in fact, according to Jesus, the Pharisees were conveniently “sidestepping” the law of Moses.  One commentary explains, “Meaning not the rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses, circumcision, and other rituals, which obliged to the keeping of the whole law, which was a yoke men were not able to bear; but the traditions of the elders, which the Scribes and Pharisees were very tenacious of, and very severely enjoined the observance of, and are called their ‘heavy things'”(1). Another commentary suggests that Christ didn’t have a problem with the law of Moses, but the twists and falsehoods taken from the oral traditions.  It explains that Jesus “denounced the false inferences and deductions therefrom, leading to injunctions insupportable and impracticable” (2).  How is this different than when pastors “twist the Scriptures” today to suit their own selfish agendas and deduct from the Bible horrible errors?  Wouldn’t Jesus have the same reaction when pastors today “sidestep” His teachings and put unhealthy loads (double standards, twisted scriptures, mind control, psychological enslavement) onto people?

Remember, Jesus says to obey His commands in His Word (the New Testament) is not burdensome and that his yoke is easy and burden is light, and that we will find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:30).  Being a “doer” of Christ’s teachings makes us like a “house on a rock” (Matthew 7:24-27).  Spiritual abuse ensues when “loving God and one another” gets thrown aside as a result of harmful church traditions taking precedence.

I usually don’t quote the NLV version of the Bible, but just to get a point across, I will include it here:

“Then he said, ‘You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.'” (Mark 7:9; NLV)

The pharisees would never become a disciple.  Remember the Greek word for disciple?  It’s mathētēs, which means a learner and doer of Christ’s teachings (as opposed to man-made or church teachings/traditions/”new” revelations).  When church traditions invented by man, spiritual abuse, double standards, hypocrisies and unspoken rules infiltrate a church, the pastor becomes a pharisee and legalism ensues.  Many churches are run this way.  For example, Calvary Chapels are run as a pyramid scheme with the pastor erroneously on top seated on a pedestal as a “modern Moses”.  This is just what the pharisees did.  They loved to control others, to look down on others and to look holy while doing it.  (For those of you who don’t know, Calvary Chapel is a “Bible Plus” organization, meaning it is not merely the Bible they go by, with unspoken rules and the Distinctives book being an extra set of man-made rules which, in a few sections, greatly contradicts Christ’s teachings).

This is legalism.  This is pharisaical.

And, this was supposed to be a short article, so I will stop here, but leave you with a note from Dr. Puls.

Dr. Puls explains…

Jesus warned us about wolves dressed as shepherds coming into the Church to “kill and destroy” (John 10:10). They’re here! The enemy has successfully infiltrated the Christian churches of North America. Is your pastor one of them?

We have been inundated with heartbreaking stories of people singled out for destruction by narcissistic pastors. We have walked alongside them through the dismal places and will continue to help them find sunlight, health, and high ground. As I told one young woman at the AACC conference in Nashville, “I know that you are in the darkest, scariest swamp you ever imagined. Let me walk alongside you. I’ve been through that swamp, and I know the way out.” She burst into tears. At last, someone understood.

The damage these pastors do is incalculable. In one case, over the course of his career a toxic narcissist pastor recruited, groomed, and then attacked and drove out 21 associates. Only two are still in ministry in some form. In other situations, the congregation fractures and splinters until it can no longer function, and the pastor moves on to victimize yet another. The church building of one of these congregations is now a bed and breakfast. (Dr. Darrell Puls)

 

1. Gils Exposition of the Entire Bible Online. Matthew 23. http://www.biblehub.com

2. Pulpit Commentary Online. Matthew 23. http://www.biblehub.com

Who are you trying to please: God or man?

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 1.23.54 PM

“And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

I woke up with this thought so clear on my mind, then a dear friend of mine sent this to me two hours later. So often, we put others in boxes, instead of seeking to understand one another or to go deeper in knowledge. We judge without seeking deeper understanding.  Humans have a tendency to disregard what they don’t understand or what they can’t explain from their perspectives, when really we should be open to seeking more knowledge and a deeper understanding (and challenging ourselves).  It is easy and natural to cast aside what doesn’t make sense to our finite minds.

The other thought was this: Christians must be true to who they follow, walking in integrity, not sitting on the fence, and not people-pleasers. “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). One absolutely cannot be a “people-pleaser” and please God at the same time; the two are diametrically opposed. If you profess Christ, you are not to blend in to this world’s ungodly patterns and ungodly expectations, but to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), a nonconformist to whatever is not true/right, and ready to stand alone in your nonconformity like a live fish that swims against the stream. Be ready to disappoint others and not fit into their boxes.  Here is the same thought re-worded, “Don’t COPY the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”. If we profess Christ yet do not follow Him, but follow the world and those of the world, we are not His – “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” and “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (Matthew 12:30; 1 John 2:15).

What about you? Are you living for the approval and “likes” of your friends, your boss or someone else? Are you trying to fit into their boxes they have made for you? Or are you living for the One who made you? Are you allowing God and God alone to transform your mind, or do your friends mold your mind?  If you have nobody to oppose you or disagree with you, and conform to everybody’s expectations for you, then you have no enemies, and really, you are in bondage…”the fear of man will prove to be a trap, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).  Being fake (being one who compromises) has always resulted in popularity with the world.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Mark Twain)

Jesus warned that those who are not on the side of truth would be very popular with the world: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). If everyone praises and adores you and not one person opposes you, one must consider… who are we trying to please – man or God? Sometimes it is very clear. People who profess Christ should be different, not conforming to the same old patterns of the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

It is the world that needs to brag.  It is the world that boasts of how much money they have, just to make others feel bad who are less fortunate.  The Kingdom of God flips the world’s pattern upside-down.  God’s way is different.  For example, instead of shouting from the rooftops about good deeds done, Christians are to do them in secret, if possible.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3,4)

Christians must not follow this worldy pattern because love is patient, kind and does not boast.

“They may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12)

What about you?  Are you on the fence?  That is not a good place to be because, well, there is no fence…so if you are on the fence, get down.  Are you with Christ or not?  Are you worldly or other-worldly?  Do you profess Christ but still want to be in the same old patterns of the world?  Remember, the two are totally contradictory.

Is God calling you out of the world into His pattern?

Pharisees and False Teachers

DEFINING DECEPTION

There is a word that used to have no derogatory meaning but has found its permanent place in  the insults of “Christianese.” Its original meaning referred to a man’s position as an expert adherent of God’s law with rabbinical duties to guide others. The word is – Pharisee.  

Nowadays, this word is used and thought of in a slightly different way. If you call for accuracy in biblical preaching you could get called a Pharisee. If you lovingly confront a small group friend concerning their sin, you’re not thanked through tears – you’re called a Pharisee. If you voice concern for dangerous doctrines and the exploitation of those desperate for hope…well, you’ll see.

Recently a special conference was held in our city (Tustin, CA). The promoter promised signs, wonders, and miracles to those who would attend. A big sign was posted on the street and social media sites spread the word. Revival…

View original post 1,845 more words

The ‘good person’ trip-up: Why being good is not good enough…

The “good person trip-up”…
Many people think that if they are good (a good citizen; a good parent; an all-around good person), that being good is good enough. The problem is that this mentality consists of our own standard and perspective that we have invented in our own minds. For example, we are all “good” compared to a terrorist. The standard people use is the terrorist. We are all “good” compared to the bad standard we have set up in our intellect (without even realizing it). Let’s face it: most of us look around at other people and don’t think about God.  It is with love that I say there are very large problems with this. When we compare ourselves to ourselves, it is not wise: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” 2 Cor. 10:12. When humans compare themselves to other humans, it is a false standard instead of God’s true standard.  Essentially, when we do this, we are basically (even unknowingly) stating that our standard is right/true and God’s is wrong/false.  We have a choice – we can use our own standard or God’s.  The choice is ours; He allows us free will to choose.
“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” Proverbs 21:30.
Which standard are you using?  There comes a point in each person’s life to choose which standard to live by; they are contradictory standards.  One is true; one is false.  Both can’t be true.  It really comes down to this: Who is wiser?  God or me?  Most people won’t listen to Him, He is used to it:
“But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would have none of me.” Psalm 81:11
“Enter in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in there, because narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.Matthew 7:13,14
 God’s plan for our lives (as opposed to our own plan), is that we do not use our own standard to make ourselves feel “good” because this leads to destruction, but rather, to use HIS standard alone, which leads to life.  This is a narrow path, and one that most people will not choose because it feels better (temporarily) to deceive ourselves with our own standard.  It is HIS standard that we will be judged by, not our own. It’s like a class full of students – if my friend gets an F, but I get a D, I am pretty good! I am feeling really good about myself when I am looking at my friend, but I have forgotten that the teacher holds the standard and that I am getting graded by the teacher, not the student! This is how it is with God. He is the grader, and He is the judge.  Our friend is not our savior.  He is good, 100% in His awesomeness and infinite in wisdom.  If I get a C, and compare that to God’s standard, I’m really not that good at all.  It’s about our perspective; the way we have grown up, what our parents have taught us, etc.
 This presents a problem. This means that all of us are pretty much not “good” when compared to HIS standard. Unless, of course, you are perfect.  If you are perfect, than this article is not for you.  We are all in the same boat, we are all dirty dishes in the sink; we are all flawed; we have all sinned and are imperfect when compared to HIS standard.  There is not one person on this earth who has not thought a wrong thought or done a wrong deed:
 …
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
 1 John 1:8
 …
 We don’t need to teach a child to be bad, to fight, etc., but we all need to teach our children’s hearts to be good and to do the right thing. We are all born wretched in our hearts, each of us:
“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” Matthew 15:19
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”.  If this apostle, who we see on stain glass windows in churches, admitted his wretchedness, and his need for a savior, how do we claim to be good?
Even the best things we do, God is not impressed with; we cannot make our way into His arms and Kingdom based on our own merit and good deeds. He’s not impressed; He just isn’t. The best things we do are often still like filthy rags.  The way to God is not through being good, getting baptized or going to church.  It’s also not through self-help gurus like Joel Osteen or Wayne Dyer.  It’s not through giving money to the church, or being one with the universe.  It is not about what we do to earn our salvation, it’s about what He does in and through us. It’s HIS work (a supernatural act of His grace and mercy), not ours.
Jesus said that unless a person becomes truly born again, they “cannot” enter into HIs Kingdom:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” John 3:3
The only way to heaven is to become born-again (according to Christ).  It’s His standard, not ours.  He must remake us from the inside out, starting at our hearts. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to remake a person.  This is why it is called being “born again” or “born again of the Spirit”.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Once He re-makes us, and gives us a new heart, like a tree, it grows and produces good fruit, good deeds, etc.  Goodness is simply a bi-product to salvation, not a means of earning our way. This is also what sets Christianity apart from other religions.  Many religions teach that we must do things to earn God’s approval/salvation and that He is impressed with us.  Christianity says the only way to the Father is through the Son, and good deeds (and a holy and changed life) follow as a natural result like fruit on a tree:
“Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.'” John 14:6
 …
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all, this to be a testimony at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  Ephesians 2:8,9 nlv
It is God who cleanses us (through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross) and forgives us/wipes us clean.  We all fall short of the glory of God, and can be justified freely by His grace.  What standard are you using?  I think a lot of people think that their own standard will be acceptable to God…when it will not.  God is wiser than us.  The way to God is through His Son’s atoning death on the cross and becoming born again. Jesus is the only way; not being a good person when compared to our neighbor.

Dead in trespasses but alive in Christ: A message about new life…

Dead in trespasses but made alive in Christ (true life).

The word Gospel from its Greek origin literally means “good news”. So often, people think their lives will end if they follow Christ (LOL), that the fun will be gone, yada yada. I have thought that too. But I have seen, not only with myself, but with others close to me, that this is exactly when true life begins and a soul becomes truly alive and full of light. There really is no way to understand this until one experiences it for themselves, so it is hard for me to explain, and of course, there will always be those who don’t get it and don’t want to get it, until God in His mercy changes their hearts because of His love for them, even if undeserved. It’s sort of like turning a light on and flipping a switch, when once you realize the life before was death and darkness (though we do not SEE it like that when we are in it because it’s impossible until something happens and God turns the light on) when compared to the new life and light. That’s why Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” and “The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it MORE abundantly”. Light and the newness of life is what Jesus came to bring, that is why He is called the light of the world. Light to our souls, to our families and children, etc. When we desire to save our own lives, to do our own thing, even if it is wrong and contrary to God’s desires, we are not saving our lives at all, we are only deceiving ourselves. The truth God brings is that true life begins at conversion, it’s his gift. The wages of sin is death, not life, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The best part is that it is a free gift simply out of God’s love and mercy. Salvation is a deep, life changing event. Yes, there are hypocrites in churches – those will always be there, they are not God’s children, and they misrepresent Him, but don’t let them deter you – there are also truly converted souls who have been powerfully changed from the inside out by a loving and merciful God:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2)

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2)

A note on gratitude and loving your enemies

Following Jesus is a path of gratitude.  Don’t forget to look back at all God has done for you.  Rocky, my husband, was sharing some wisdom with me, telling me it’s important to be thankful for all that God has done already in our lives. He and I both see that God has blessed us with so many spiritual blessings (and other types). Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had our fair share of trials, okay?  Anyway, I consider myself a thankful person; my heart is full of gratitude. Despite that, I admit sometimes I easily start to lose my focus on what God has already done and my focus shifts to the future on what is yet to be done. I am sure I have many friends like this; those who are progress and future-oriented. As soon as I complete a goal, I start another project or goal and only think about that because I view time as a gift not to be wasted. I know productivity is a good trait, but sometimes I need to stop and look back and see all that God has done for us. When I do, I am blown away and humbled mostly at the deep spiritual blessings. It is true that God is good to all people, even those who don’t love Him:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

What can you be thankful for today that has already happened? How can you show kindness to others today, even those who hate you or will be unthankful for your kindness? There is truly nothing special or noteworthy about loving those who love you. Every human being on the planet is capable of that; even the most evil person. That’s easy. What’s a challenge is loving those who don’t love you and who are not thankful for you. If you do, your character will be like God’s because that’s exactly what He does to every human being on the planet. Even when I didn’t love God or give thanks to Him, when I ignored and rebelled against Him when He was trying to get my attention in many ways (because of His great mercy), He gave to me and was good and gracious to me. Why? Because He is kind and good even to the unthankful. He gives us our breath and even our intellect; the ability to work and make a living, etc. Really, what do we have that wasn’t given to us? There is really no room to boast about anything. Rocky and I are at the point where we both see His hand in our lives and His blessings.  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion:

“But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.”
— 1 Samuel 12:24 NLT

Insight:
Samuel reminded the people to take time to consider what great things God had done for them. Taking time for reflection allows us to focus our attention upon God’s goodness and strengthens our faith. Sometimes we are so progress- and future-oriented that we fail to take time to recall all that God has already done.

Challenge:
Remember what God has done for you so that you may continue your life accompanied with gratitude.

© 2010 by Tyndale House Publishers

Could your weakness be your strength?

Have weaknesses? Like an illness, maybe? Or a mindset? God is strong in the weakness. God uses the weak and flawed, like Gideon, not the high and mighty. That way, His strength shines through and He gets the applause. He alone is worthy of praise. He does not use the “elite”. He does not need the high and mighty of this world to do His work; an elite troop. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The Gnostic sects have always claimed elitism and certain privileged, secret knowledge just like the Pharisees. His strength is made perfect in weakness. He uses the weak to lead the strong, not the strong to lead the weak. Also, He blesses the poor in spirit; the broken. The Apostle Paul admitted his weakness. God’s power rested on Him (2 Cor. 12:9). I have personally seen God turn my biggest weakness and sorrow into His strength, and it has become my joy and a witness to His power and goodness.  The following is written by the Bible League International:

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Gideon had a low opinion of himself and his clan. His assumption was that if someone was to save Israel out of Midian’s hand, then it must be someone of greater status than him and from a stronger clan than his. It never occurred to him that God may have selected him for the task precisely because of his low status and weak clan.

God, however, seems to specialize in selecting what is low and of no account for the accomplishment of His purposes. He selected the Israelites as His chosen people not because they were numerous, but because they were few (Deuteronomy 7:7). He chose David to be King of Israel even though he was the youngest son in his family (I Samuel 16:1-13). The Apostles Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). Many more examples could be added to the list.

The reason why God so often chooses what is low and of no account is so that the chosen will be more reliant on Him and through that reliance His glory will be magnified. God often chooses the foolish, weak, lowly, the despised, and the things that are not so that no one may boast before Him (I Corinthians 1:26-29). If God were to exclusively choose those who are high and mighty, then they might be tempted to boast of their own abilities and take credit for any successes.

If you are confronted today with a calling that seems beyond your status and abilities, then consider Gideon. It is God who makes us able, not we ourselves. Indeed, God declared Gideon to be a “mighty warrior” before he ever accomplished anything.

%d bloggers like this: