Sunday, November 30, 2014

Security?

"Americans used to roar like lions for liberty; now we bleat like sheep for security" Norman Vincent Peale

My husband shared this recently, and it really caused me to think.  I didn’t think about our country and the division and partisanship that has poisoned it, even though that would be the logical place for my mind to go. I thought about Christianity. 

You see, for many, many years I struggled with a desperate need to feel secure.  There was a really dark period in my life when I was desperately afraid.  I had no security and so much fear and uncertainty.  I was working every single day just to keep my head above water, and all I wanted was to feel safe and to feel loved. I wanted relief from the pain I was experiencing in my life and had no idea what to do, and so I clung to my own inadequate abilities and waited for the inadequate abilities of others to fix my life.  I prayed, but it was completely one-sided.  They weren’t the prayers of a person with a RELATIONSHIP with God, they were the prayers of a desperate woman who wanted God to do something.  I prayed and bargained with God to please fix it because that’s what many of us do when things get bad.  

Many years have passed since those dark ones.  Somehow, through God’s grace, I’ve had many happy years since then, but many of them were still absent a relationship with God.  About 2 years ago I started to feel a real longing for Him.  I can’t explain it.  I started to read things about Christianity that I would have typically ignored.  I started to question what I knew, and thought I knew, about Christianity.  I started looking for a church to attend that would really speak to my heart without all the MAN MADE  rules and regulations that accompanied all the churches that I knew.  I was hungry for God, but didn't know that back then.  I just knew that I needed something, really needed something desperately, and felt pulled in His direction.  I was a little confused because my life was really great, and I had so much more happiness and security than I had ever had before. Marrying my amazing husband and life partner, I thought that I had finally found my "something".  

Let's have a quick history lesson, for context.  I grew up Catholic.  I attended church every Sunday as a kid, and went to Catholic school from K-12.  I enjoyed going to church back then, for the most part.  It was all I knew.  I wasn’t a good Christian exactly, but I tried to be nice to people and say my prayers at night.

Then I graduated from high school and started college.  I was a really little fish in the HUGEST pond I’d ever seen, and I got quite lost.  I made some very bad choices and stopped going to church.  Every now and then I would feel guilty, or overwhelmed by life, so I would show up at a 7pm Sunday night mass, but my heart wasn’t with God, it was just hurting and searching.  That searching led me to some dark dark places and decisions, it is a miracle I'm here to tell about it quite honestly.

Fast forward 10 years.  I belonged to a church, but I was most definitely unchurched.  My life lacked peace, security and joy, but instead of going to God to find these things, I relied on myself and others for things that could NEVER be found without putting God first, which I definitely didn't.  Not only didn't I put God first, I never really even thought of Him unless the suffering got too much to bear. When I think about it now, I realize that I simply closed my eyes to God unless I needed something from Him desperately enough.  For the next 12 years I simply closed my eyes to my Maker and my Savior, and suffered on my own.

How many people suffer so needlessly on their own like I did?  Why do we do this to ourselves? Now that I have opened my eyes and said yes to a real relationship with God I see so clearly what was missing.  I see things through such different eyes because of Christ.  I can’t begin to explain it, but I am different. 

I. Am. Different. 

For those of you who believe, you understand I am sure.  Life just looks and feels different.  The fear you used to have is…. muted somehow.  It has lost is punch; it has lost its power.  Of course I am still afraid at times.  I still have bad moods, negative thoughts, take the Lord’s name in vain (less and less these days) and sin.  I am still human after all, and the bible is clear that we humans are sinners, and humans, Christian or otherwise, are terribly flawed.  

“For all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  Romans 3:23

“…and the Lord said to himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth’.”  Genesis 8:21

For those of you who don’t believe, I know what you are going through without God.  Sure there are good days.  I’m sure there are many days you don’t feel that you need God at all.  At this stage it is tough to believe in something you can’t see, especially when bad things are happening all around you and even to you, at times.  The negative messages we get about believing in God are powerful.  They can make us feel weak; like we are believing in a fairytale or fantasy, and even that we aren’t strong enough to stand on our own.  The truth is, we aren’t strong enough to stand on our own.  And when we try to?  That’s when we are the MOST vulnerable.  When words that cause doubt creep in.  When our negative thoughts start to take over.  It’s when we ask questions such as “Why am I here anyway?” or “If there is a God, why are innocent children dying of starving and disease in Africa, or from stray bullets in America?” or “If there was a God, He must be an evil God because He is allowing XXX to happen to me”.

Without a relationship with God, the above thoughts and worse will take over our lives.  The evil that is happening in the world is NOT because there is no God, or because God is really evil, it is happening because not enough people believe.  It is happening because too many of us are trying to do it on our own.  Too many of us are relying on others, often other non-believers, to do the right thing.  We are either trying to be our own gods, or trying to rely on others we make into gods.

Walking with God combats evil, walking without Him invites it in. We are NOT strong enough to stand on our own and we were never created to be.  God created us as His.  He created us to walk this earth with Him by our side.  The bible tells us this over and over again:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans” Psalm 118:9

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man; who draws strength from mere flesh who’s heart turns away from the Lord’.” Jeremiah 17:5

On our own….. well, on our own we get Ferguson, and Isis, and Nazi Germany, and Saul before he became Paul the Apostle….   mere men will never be able to do for you what God can do for you.

Friends, I am not the authority on any of this.  I am such a flawed human being myself that I almost feel it laughable for me to say any of this to any of you.  I struggle every single day to be quiet enough that I can hear God speaking to me, and I often don’t hear anything.  I pray every single day to be used for HIS glory and not my own (those likes on Facebook can be a real minefield for seeking your own glory).  To have the right intentions (i.e. GOD’S intentions) in every word I say and every move I make.  To find the words that will inspire and bring people closer to Him; not to alienate and drive people away.  I never want to sound pious or holier than thou, which is hard to do when it sounds like you are preaching. 

I say the things I say and post the things I post because I have been saved!  I have been saved and I want that desperately for others, too.  Because I believe that the entire reason for my existence is to live for God and to bring others to Him as well.  Because when I do hear God’s whispers to me, He tells me to says things about Him to others whenever I can.

God gave us free will, and with that free will he gave us the ability to choose.  Many of us, many of you, have chosen to follow God and to secure your place in heaven.  Many MORE, unfortunately, have not made that choice yet.  I say yet, because as long as there is breath in your body you can still choose God.  You can still commit your life to Him.  All you have to do, truly, ALL you have to do, is admit that you are a sinner, and commit to turn away from sin.  That you believe Jesus is your Savior who suffered and died for your sins, and that you commit your life to Him now and forever.  

It’s as simple as saying words such as these:

Dear Lord,
I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you.

I know that if you aren’t there yet, you have unreconciled questions that you want answers to before you do something like recite and believe the above. You are wondering how we know Jesus was real. How do we know that the Bible isn’t just made up? Some say that all you have to do is recite a version of the above to be saved, while others say that it is through faith AND works that you are saved, what about that; which is true? These are all questions I have asked, as have many believers before they came around to the Lord. I would love to answer all those questions right here and now if that is what it would take to convince you, because my friend, time could be running out. God gives us grace in this life and this life only. As soon as this life is over for you, so is your chance to be redeemed. Do you know when that will be?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer all your questions right now. There are too many, and I am not an experienced enough Christian to do so without looking up a lot of information that I know exists, but can’t recite off the top of my head. What I hope happens is that you are intrigued enough to look up some of these things on their own. Or maybe you want to ask questions of other believers- why do they believe? What convinced them?

Whatever happens, I will pray for you. I will pray that Jesus finally finds a place in your heart. I will pray that more non-believers will finally wake up and realize that life is so much better when it includes God. Pain still exists, but it is nothing like it was before. Evil still exists because humans are still sinners, but it doesn’t control you the way it did before. There are answers to ALL your questions, if you are willing to search for them.

Whatever you do, stop relying on mere humans to fix what is broken in your life. They are in the same boat as you.