Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Extra! Extra!!! Newsflash, Church: We Have Free Will!

The revelation hit me full speed like a basketball flying at the head of a disengaged kid in a basketball game.   

I stood there, stunned, with mouth agape at the realization that I had believed a lie.  A big, fat, elephant-sized lie.  As have many of my friends who've grown up around modern Church culture.  To cut to the chase:  I realized God has, in fact, given us free will - and, yes, including in our relationships.  Shocking to many of you.  "Uh-Duh"-ingly obvious to most everyone else on earth.  It's a revolutionary concept.  Allow me to explain.

I believe in this beautiful concept called free will.  Life is not a foregone conclusion.  Life is a free choice every day.  Yes, our eternal life and future is secured in Christ, but how we choose to live it is up to us now.

I know "free will" is trending out of fashion these days in the church like yoga pants and 70s hair, but, baby, it's time to bring free will back!

 A Bit of History

For me, I started pondering this subject years ago, when I first heard the words: 

"God told me you're my wife."  

I wish I could say that was the only time I heard that phrase lobbed at me, but I grew quite accustomed to it during a certain strange season of my life.  "Step in line, fellas," I should've said.  (I always think of come-backs a little too late...a few years too late, in this case!) 

This particular man was persuaded that I was being 'disobedient' because 'God' had told him that I was to be his wife and I just wasn't listening.  He also lived in a bus (not that there's anything wrong with that!)  He was estranged from his family.  And he held himself out to be a pastor.  He knew a lot of scripture.  He could quote the bible 'real good' and sounded darn persuasive when he did.  He wrote me letters often telling me that I was his wife.  It was kind of "cute" in a creepy sorta way...until the disembodied, threatening phone calls came in and I had to block his phone calls. 

I was just a young pup, but it didn't take me long to realize this man was hearing from someone, but he was definitely not hearing from God. (Sorry, Rich!  Didn't catch that memo.  God must've forgotten to tell me!)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me...~John 10:27.

And a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."  ~ John 10:5. 

What I didn't realize then is obvious to me now: by assigning blame to God and accusing me of 'disobeying God's will,' he was actually exerting power and control over me ~ a tell-tale sign of abusers.  I mean, if God said I was to be this man's wife, how could I argue with God?!  Instead of owning it and saying he liked me, he just blamed God and didn't give me a choice in the matter.  "If it's God's will, after all, you can't blame me!" he was basically saying.  I realize now this man, knowingly or not, was guilty of emotional rape.  By playing the "God" card, he was trying to take by force my hand in marriage, which he knew he would not be given by my consent.  What a devastating breach of trust! 

The good news is: we are not helpless.  Our wills do matter.

Life is a Choice

"O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?" ~ Galatians 3:1. (Rhetorical answer: no one!)

Good news!  We choose who and what we believe.  If someone comes up to you and says God told them (but not you!) that you are their marriage partner: you can RUN!!!  If a self-proclaimed prophet looks into the crystal ball of your future and declares your future mate, you can say "See ya, stranger!"  You don't have to follow them. 

Instead of looking into a crystal ball, how about looking into a mirror?  

You can look into the mirror and say: "I choose how I handle whatever situations come my way today."  You want to know your future?  Choose it.  You will either choose yourself, or allow those decisions to be made for you — by time, circumstance, or other people.  Voila!  Behold: your future.

It dawned on me lately that God allows us to choose whether or not to be in a relationship with Him. He doesn't force us to love Him.  He doesn't hold us at gunpoint to obey Him.  He gave us free will, so choosing to love Him would actually mean something.  Why on earth, then, would he force us to love another person 'until death do us part' without our consent?  If we can choose our relationship with Him, why on earth wouldn't He allow us to choose the other relationships in our lives?  The truth is: we do choose.  We just use God as a scape goat a lot of the time. 

If you struggle with this concept, as I did, here's some food for thought.  Let's address the romance issue in particular.  How romantic is it, really, to have someone say: "This is a foregone conclusion.  Let's get hitched. You and I have no choice in the matter."  Real sexy.  I would much rather say someday to the man I love: "you're the one I choose."  (Yes, hopefully with God's help!)  And I hope he, of his own free will, says back to me: "I choose you, too!"  That means something to me.  It's not forced, it's FREEDOM!!!  No shifting blame on God.  None of this "I had no choice in the matter, so if it sucks I have no responsibility for it."  No blame shifting!  We choose to love, or not.  

I can think of nothing more romantic than two people of their own free will choosing to come together and face the challenges of life together as one.  Not because they got peer pressured into it by guilt, fear and condemnation, but because they were motivated by genuine, authentic Love.  That's freedom, baby!!!

Free will.  It's a beautiful, wonderful thing. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Father's Love Runs Deep

No Guts, No Glory!!!

The greatest athletic feats in history were not achieved on the sidelines.  Greatness came by going that extra mile, by putting forth that last full measure of devotion, to achieve the impossible!  Today I want to share with you one such story of how a Father's love carried his son the extra mile, when his son could not carry himself.  I give you the true story of "Team Hoyt: The World's Strongest Dad':

What a Dad!  My friends, we have a Heavenly Father who went the extra mile for us, too.

What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things?  ~Romans 8:31-32.

Love gives all, and then some!  

I urge you to go the extra mile(s) for others, and give beyond your means this Christmas.  Give beyond your full measure of devotion to demonstrate your love to the ones you love, and to the ones who are hard to love. (Luke 6:27-29).  Give generously of your heart this Christmas and watch the layers melt away, watch the defenses fall, and feel your tender heart beat new life again.

And be ye kind one to another, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's (the anointing's) sake, hath forgiven you.  ~Ephesians 4:32.

El Shaddai gave us His all.  The best gift we could give this Christmas is to share the gift of His love.

Love Always,


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are You Spiritually Fit?

"We're not here to stand around and look pretty!"  my personal trainer barked.

Those were the first words out of his mouth. 

"Good!"  I replied.  'I think'....I thought to myself, squirming a little inside.  I sized up the mountain of muscle standing before me.  You could bounce a pretty penny off his cut figure and it would rebound right back to you.  This retired Air Force trainer could run laps around me and lift me up with his pinky finger.  I pondered my own petite frame in comparison, and wondered how on earth this man could make something out of me.  He didn't have much muscle power to work with, after all.

"The purpose of this training is to make you ready to handle anything at any time," he continued.

I liked the sound of that...'but how on earth am I going to get from Point A to Point B?' I wondered.

It dawned on me that I had just entered my own personal boot camp.

Practice Like You Play

We often dream of being physically chiseled, but who really wants to do what it takes to get there?  And yet, we can't bypass the growth process.  We can't just skip from Point A to Point B.  Our strengthening, our growth, occurs between Point A and Point B, and, in fact, makes us ready for Point B when we get there.

We "get" that in the natural.  If we want to look and feel good, then we eat well and exercise.  Voila!  

But how often do we work on getting ripped on the outside, while we let our spiritual selves dwindle like emaciated skeletons within? 

When it comes to spiritual things, we chow down on McDonald's (genetically altered religion or worldly pursuits) every day and don't get off our spiritual duffs to do what the Word says.  Yet, we still expect to be Olympic champions!  We still expect to overcome life's challenges and take over the Promised Land.  Then we get sincerely disappointed when things don't work out.  'What happened, God?  Where were you?' we ask, sincerely.  Yet, the scripture says: "THOSE WHO KNOW THEIR GOD will be strong and do mighty exploits (bold and daring feats)!" ~Daniel 11:32.  

If you're not seeing victories in your life, maybe you just need to know your God more.  Here's how.

Eat Well and Exercise

If I were a spiritual physician and you came to me with a bunch of your problems, I would ask you two questions:

1)  Are you eating well?

2)  Are you exercising? 

It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. ~ Luke 4:4.

First, I would ask: are you daily renewing your mind through scripture on how much God loves you?  Are you recounting how Jesus Christ died, took the keys of Hell, was risen from the dead, raised you from the dead, and seated you with Him in heavenly places, over all the works of the enemy?   (Ephesians).  Are you remembering the many mighty works God has done on your behalf?  Like given you life, breath, a family, food, clothing, not to mention countless personal answers to prayer throughout your life.  

Do you hang around life-giving people, who feed your joy rather than rob your joy?  Are you hanging with people who bring you down or lift you up?  Are you feasting on worry?  Are you feeding on the good news or bad news? 

Second, I would ask: are you exercising what you know?  Sometimes we become spiritual couch potatoes....consuming lots of scripture, but never doing what the Word says.  We become fat and feeble, unable to lift a spiritual finger when we meet the least bit of resistance.  We can quote the whole New Testament, but we don't do what it says, and, therefore, we don't see good results.  (Luke 6:46).

James 1:22-25 says: "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.  But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

There are a lot of Church people standing around looking pretty, but who couldn't lift a finger spiritually if they met the least bit of resistance in life.  Going to church in and of itself makes you no more spiritually fit than going to the gym, standing there, and admiring the weights from afar off will make you physically fit.  It's only when we pick those weights up, when we exercise what we learn, that we start seeing results.  Get to know your God and do like He does, and you'll get His results every time!

"Be Combat Ready"

Notice how I didn't say: "read a chapter a day" or follow a bunch of arbitrary, self-imposed rules.  No, this is not about you.  This is about renewing your mind to who God is and what He did.  We are called to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10), not strong in ourselves.  Let the weak say, "I AM strong!" (Joel 3:10).

Like Joshua and Caleb in the Old Testamanent, you too will say to the obstacle before you right now, "We are well able to overcome it!"  And you, too, will possess the Promised Land.  Why could they say that?  The other Israelites were quaking in their boots at the thought of facing the giants inhabiting the Promised Land, and so they didn't enter in.  But Joshua and Caleb knew their God, they had a revelation that "greater is He who is in me than He who is in this world" (1 John 4:4).  And so they conquered.  They did mighty exploits.  And so will you.

Get in the Game!

Get off the bench and get in the game!  If you want to win in this life over financial lack, broken relationships, depression, fear, anxiety, death, and whatever else ails you, then practice like you play.  Do it every day: remind yourself that God made you victorious in Christ.  Remind yourself that God cannot be defeated.  Remind yourself that God never fails.   Remind yourself that if God be for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31).     

As we grow up in Him, we'll be combat ready: able to handle anything at any time.  When we remember Him, we win. (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Grow strong in Him today and watch your miracles unfold.