Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Fear of Martyrdom

The Seventh-day Adventist Church teachs that the seventh day of the week is an obligatory day of rest and worship for the Christian. 
SDA Fundamental Belief No. 20:
The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. ... The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.
They also believe the writings of their 19th-century prophetess Ellen White "speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church." Fundamental Belief No. 18 

Prophetess White had an end-time, prophetic vision that she believed came from an angel of God. This apocalyptic message is part of the beliefs of the SDA church and today you will hear Adventists warn that one day soon, the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, will be the final and ultimate test of loyalty to God. 

Her accompanying angel showed her specifically that the Catholic Church and Apostate Protestants will someday soon unite in their quest to force everyone on the planet to keep Sunday as the Sabbath day. Which basically means to Adventists, that everyone will be required by law to go to church on Sunday. 
      "Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth [Roman Catholicism and Apostate Protestantism] uniting to war against the commandments of God will decree that "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond" (Revelation 13:16), shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false
sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator's rest day demands obedience and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts. With the issue thus clearly brought before him, whoever shall trample upon God's law to obey a human enactment receives the mark of the beast; he accepts the sign of allegiance to the power which he chooses to obey instead of God." 
Those who do not keep the Seventh-day Sabbath--or more clearly for those who are not SDA--she is saying God told her those who go to church on Sunday receive the mark of the Beast and are damned!
    "The obligation of the fourth commandment has never been set before them [non-SDAs] in its true light. ...The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God's law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God. Great Controversy, Ellen White, page 605-607
Coming from an SDA family,  from the time I was a child, I was being prepared to face the ultimate test--the Sabbath test. In our churches and in our church schools, we were prepped for the last day test with Sabbath School classes, Bible classes, retreats, seminars, etc. We were even read novels written by Adventists that dramatized these last-day events in elementary school. 


Those who face martyrdom to keep the correct Sabbath day--the seventh-day--will survive the test and be received into heaven. Those who fall from pressure of persecution and are faithless will "pinch the incense" by going to church on Sunday, renouncing God's holy Sabbath day, receive the mark of the beast and will not enter eternal bliss. 

Most of my life, I absolutely believed this with a sincere heart. I pledged to God at night that I would do my best to keep the sabbath even if it meant death. There were times, not often, but times in my childhood that I would have panic attacks imagining Catholics standing next to policemen, dragging me from the dark, dank jail cell I had been in for months, my hand sheltering my eyes from the bright lights and my body shivering with cold. Unmoved with pity for this frail, hungry ten-year-old who was trying so hard to follow Jesus, they would draw their guns, point them at me and tell me I was going to church on Sunday or I would die. When I refused they would torture me. That was terrifying, but then, the most horrifying
thought was that if I stood up for the sabbath and refused to worship on Sunday, that they would bring my little brothers and sisters out in front of me and tell me that they were going to torture them with the most horrible tortures known to humans--they would begin chopping off fingers, hands, etc until I relented and went to church on Sunday. 

I thought that if I saved my brothers and sisters, I would betray Christ and lose heaven!! Oh, how I prayed so many times that God would give me the strength to endure such a nightmare. 

This fear of not being able to stand for Christ when that test came, followed me even after I left Adventism. When I was a Protestant, I feared failing the test of martyrdom over Christ when Muslims or mass murders put a gun to my head and asked me if I was a Christian. I continued such dread when I became Catholic. 

Oh God! I have prayed so often I can't guess the thousands of times--Oh God, don't let me fall at that moment of martyrdom if it ever comes!

Though I let go of the idea that I would have to die for the Sabbath, I continued to believe that if tested with martyrdom, pinching the incense to Caesar's genius and not being martyred for God when my
life depended upon it was the worst sin. My fate for hell would be sealed. It was the unpardonable sin. That was it.

However, that is not a historical or biblical belief. 
Nowhere in scripture does it say that the unpardonable sin is betrayal of Christ. 

Please Adventists and Protestants and Catholics, if for some reason you have been tormented by your fear of failing at the moment of the test of martyrdom, look at St. Peter. 

St. Peter, the head of the church, who was given the keys of the kingdom failed Christ and betrayed Him three times!

Consider this carefully. Peter did not have a gun to his head. No, after Peter declared to his best friend  and Lord, “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” Peter betrays him three times to the commoners--two servant girls and another nobody! He wasn't on trial, there was no mob about to hang him. He was scared of course that he would also be sent to trial as Christ was. But as of yet, Christ had not been convicted and sentenced. Peter betrayed Christ three times and he was made the head of the church. 

Don't fear failing martyrdom. It is not the unpardonable sin--that is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In fact Jesus, from his own mouth, told his followers that "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." Matthew 12: 32.  
So failing the martyrdom test is not unforgivable. Be at peace! 

I am counting on my readers to know that I am not advocating an indifferent, lackadaisical attitude about a martyrdom situation. Of course not. I just want those of you who have been traumatized by this fear your whole life to look at this in a new way. 

God wants to give you the courage to give up your life for Him out of love not fear.  

Often, fear is the beginning of our journey with Christ and that is good!
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Ps. 111:10, Prov. 9:10
  • [T]he LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Ps. 147: 11
  • [L]ove the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2: 17
Then as we grow in Christ any ungodly fear is cast out--driven out--and it is replaced with a holy respect and awe of God based in the foundation of perfect love. 
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4: 18
Replace those old nightmares of that martyrdom moment. Think of them this way, if when someone gives you the ultimatum of death or Christianity, know that if you fail God, you can be forgiven. It is a sin, like other sins such as adultery or stealing. It is a sin of self-preservation and weakness, that even the Apostles and bishops and great men of God have failed. It is bad, but it is forgivable. 

Think at that moment of what God wants. He wants you to give up your life for love of Him, not of fear of hell. It is said that many martyrs died with smiles of joy on their faces. These saints may have been frightened, but not about hell. They freely gave their lives for Him out of love. The Holy Spirit was there, the angels and the Host of Heaven were there and it was a moment where love transcended the fear of eternal punishment. 

Trust God. If you fail, you have an advocate with the Father. It's not over. Repent and maybe like Peter, when you face the trial again, you will stand firmly and die with great love for your Lord and Savior. 

God bless you! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

TO MY MOTHER, THANK YOU


I recently cleared out all the stuff from my storage unit and I have been going through my

memorabilia. While I am finding out in some ways I have a good memory of how I perceived my childhood, other things I have been chuckling to find out how wrong I was. I had forgotten all the sports our family did. I remember being boy crazy, I remember being sensitive and dramatic. But my grades are not as good as I remembered and my handwriting is atrocious. And unhappily, my plays and short stories were not even as close to being interesting as I remembered. I thought I was a lot more creative than I really was! There is ample evidence that I tried anyway! I know these things to be true since I kept a diary and did a lot of writing, I have proof.

However, I have forgotten something till
yesterday, when I opened up a Bible I had in my childhood. First, though I want to back up and give some context.

We lived in a huge home in Lakewood, and area in Dallas, Texas. And I was not yet in kindergarten. I remember being in the kitchen and I asked my mother if I could marry Jesus when I grew up. She told me that Jesus was God and didn't get married. Well, that was disappointing!

"Can I marry daddy?" "No, I am married to daddy," my mother explained to me. Now I was getting very upset and there was no other men I could think of that were good. "Okay, then I will marry Little Edmund," my older brother. When mother told me that was also not possible I was concerned. While I understood about dad and Little Edmund, I still couldn't quite understand about Jesus. He wasn't married, after all.

My mother kept Jesus always before us in our house. She sang children's songs about Jesus all the time. First to us then I got to listen as she sang to my little brother and sisters. Looking up at my mother, I thought she was an angel from heaven. I really did. No exaggeration.

My mother once told us when we were children that our shoulder blades were leftovers from our wings when we were in heaven. I believed her. Only I didn't really think hers were gone. I always saw her with a soft halo over her head and phantom wings coming off her shoulders.

I remember my mother being very kind. I felt awful one day when I spilled my milk, thinking I had done something terrible and she wiped it up and told me, very sweetly that it was only milk and people were more important than things. She had to tell me that a lot growing up. 


Mother had a way of showing both judgement and mercy that was very much like I think Christ will be. She was relentless about making us admit what we did wrong and apologize, but then all of a sudden once the apology happened, all was well again. The gloom of guilt and embarrassment was over and I found out the sun shown brightly again once you did the right thing. The wonderful world was restored.

It seems like we had family worship every Friday evening from the time I can remember. Once when it was my turn to pray, I said something and my mother said, "amen" and I thought she was telling me to end my prayer and I started to cry. She gently told me that "amen" meant that she was agreeing with what I said. I was so relieved!

The greatest thing I could imagine was being like her, my mother.

Growing up we were very involved in church. As soon as I could, I started teaching in the kindergarten Sabbath School because I thought my early teen Sabbath School was disrespectful to God. Our family sang a lot in church and often in the choir. We sang at the Dallas jail to the prisoners many Sabbath afternoons.

I

wanted to be baptized when I was ten or eleven and went to our church youth pastor and I was told I was too young. One year, on my birthday, I decided to start a Bible collection and saved the money I received and also the money I got at that next Christmas and purchased a little leather Bible for my purse. I wanted to start memorizing scriptures and needed a Bible small enough to take in my purse.

I remember the money in my pocket and entering the Christian book store. I found the beautiful little leather Bible with much excitement and I had some money left over. I spotted a clearance table and there was a huge Bible called The Jerusalem Bible on sale for five dollars. That was going to be the second Bible in my collection. I was so
excited. Sitting in the back seat of my car riding home, I was puzzled because when I was looking through my new and exciting purchase, I realized there were some strange books added. My father told me I had accidentally purchased a Catholic Bible. That made me feel weird, so I put that book on my shelf and decided I wouldn't read it till I was older. But my collection had begun and I was excited.

I also made a commitment to read the Bible all the way through once a year. Some days I forgot, so I would skim as fast as I could through to catch up. Which did me no actual spiritual good, but I had made a pledge to myself and God and I wasn't going to break it!

Isolating these incidence makes it seem like I was this little saint of a child. While I loved Jesus from the time I can remember, mostly I loved Jesus because I loved my parents. I felt Jesus must love me a lot to have put me in my family and so I would never be bad. Never. Ever. I wouldn't make Jesus cry over something I did because that would hurt Him and my mother. 

The vast majority of my childhood I was obsessed with boys. I was going to marry a minister and have eight children. Therefore 70% of my childhood thoughts were of love and romance. Jesus was the structure, but inside that structure were boys, my siblings and my dreams for life.

However, there was something more yesterday when I was looking at my little purchases that day after school when I was (twelve, I think) that made me smile.


My name is Teresa, spelled without an "h." My mother's name was the same but spelled with an "h. However, no one ever called me by my name, for I had a nickname. I signed everything with a nickname--all my school papers, my poems and plays. So when in later years I thought I had lost my little leather Bible, I decided to write my name in each of my books so if anyone found one, they could return it. My nickname was in most books. In the Bibles, I wrote "Theresa."

And I remember exactly why. In my Bibles, I wanted to be the best me I could. I wanted to be reverent and holy. I added the "h" to my name so I could be more like my mother. For there was no one I could imagine being more like Mary the mother of Jesus.











Wednesday, July 13, 2016

4 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR CHILDREN FROM LOSING THEIR SOULS

My husband works very long hours, so when we are together in those few precious moments of the morning, we try and concentrate all our
conversations into what is important. We do very little chit-chat. We always start the day at 5 am. drinking coffee, reading the Bible and praying. Then, we have about ten minutes to talk. It's always something important! (So I think, anyway. Yeah, that picture is exactly how we look at 5 am.) 

This morning, as most mornings in the last couple years, we discuss what has gone wrong with our world, with Christianity, with the USA, with our smaller circle of family and friends. 

There is perhaps a backstory I should drop in here: I began about five years ago researching what happened to our country that we could so easily let it slip out of our hands without most people even realizing it and those who do realize it, feel there is really nothing that can be done. Oh, we have had some attempts, like the Tea Party, but I always feel deep down we are scratching the wrong itch. At its root, our nation doesn't really have a Constitutional or liberty or bigotry or cultural or economic or immigration or terrorist problem. If you trace all those symptoms back to their root, we find there is a heart and soul problem. But what is that problem? I know a lot of people will say sin or a lack of Christ, but how does that manifest itself? How would a historian track sin's path in America? That's what I want to discover. And so, most mornings, we discuss different theories about how and when and why America has fallen. 
Okay, now back to this morning's episode in the daily drama of our morning conversation.

I have noticed that parents, at least in my life experience which goes back to the 1960's, don't act upon what is best for their children. Most parents live life as they want to, pursuing their own goals and fit their children into their life. Empty slots of time and energy? Okay, let the kids fill them. But, their first priority is work and most of America has a two-parent working household.

Whether mothers have to work or whether they want to or should or shouldn't isn't really the discussion here. What has amazed me is that parents seem to be oblivious to their children's temptations and struggles, and if they do realize them, they often do not make a plan to get their kids out of the situation and then follow through or act upon the plan. Parents today seem to be unable to derail the inertia of the trajectory of their own lives in order to help their kids.

I am not speaking of parents sacrificing their time, energy or money to give their kids a swimming pool or going to hockey or football games or a trip to Disney World. I am talking about making sacrifices that have to deal with their spiritual well-being. That thought doesn't even occur to the parents I have been around.

Generation after generation of parents have fallen prey to this illusion that as long as their kid's name is on the church membership and church school roster, they have sacrificed enough. That's it; they feel they have done their job. Then they go on to--me time. They do little, if any real soul-searching and deliberation about getting their kids into heaven. Or at least figuring out a way their kids can surviving the minefields of temptation to sin that Satan has sowed in all the fields they will be skipping across during their childhoods here on earth.

I can hear many of my reader's thoughts, "Hey, that's not me! Where is she getting this?"

My response: My childhood was in Dallas, Texas. But I have lived all over the US. However, everywhere I have lived I see some of this. But mainly my experience comes from my twenty years in the SDA mecca and holy city of Keene, Texas.

Keene is a small Seventh-Day Adventist town south of Dallas. That is where my kids spent their childhood. I was actively involved in both their school and their youth groups. I paid attention. I mean I really paid attention. I couldn't understand why parents there turned a blind eye to their kids seeing inappropriate things on television and movies. I saw a majority of parents either be oblivious to or ignore when their kids were disrespectful, bullies, used bad language and then later these same kids started trying drugs and became sexually active.

When I heard their conversations in Sabbath School (Sunday School for other Christians) and saw their potentially long-term destructive activities in elementary and high school, I would talk to them and when necessary, talk to their parents. The parents often would get highly upset that I would dare to speak of their child in any way but as perfect. I assumed they just didn't want to have to do the hard thing and take care of their children. In fact, when several girls attempted suicide, one girl began cutting herself, and a boy succeeded in his suicide attempt, I ramped up my efforts to let the parents know what I was seeing when they were not around.... okay, do something!

I am horrified to report that almost none of the parents even saw themselves as part of the problem. They blamed everything else, even me for warning them. I look back on those kids I 

loved so well and most of these kids lives have been shattered with unnecessary pain, unwed pregnancies, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse and even jail time. These kids were abandon to make stupid, self-destructive choices while their parents were right there-- just buried deep within their own activities.

My husband made the comment that most parents aren't even aware that they can do something about the kids' situation. They can see the problem but they think they are hopeless to act in any different way than they have been programmed. It would never even occur to them that perhaps they should talk to the child, get the child away from the situation, get another teacher, classroom, set rules and follow through, move to another city to get the kids away from bad influences, or turn off the television/iPhone/computer. I was assuming that these parents were making willful, selfish decisions, being irresponsible, while Arthur was making the case that many of them simply had no categories in their way of thinking to even know how to parent. They can't parent because they never saw anyone parenting.

I think we can also add to this that when parents have made bad choices in their lives, often they assume there is nothing they can do to stop their children from making poor, destructive choices. They act as if they do not have the right to instruct their children because they were so stupid when they were young.

It is frustrating that for those parents who do want to be good parents often get the worst advice from "experts" and grandparents and teachers and pastors. 

My parents were some pretty good sources of wisdom because they had six children and my mom studied diligently reading and trying different things out. She also was a full-time stay-at-home mom which gave her the ability to focus on doing the right thing as a parent. But I have to tell you, as a child, most of the mothers of the people in my classroom didn't have to work but they were pretty awful parents. I watched terrible parenting from the beginning of my life in my friends' families.

We, as Christian parents, really need to wake up and smell the spiritual battle going on for the souls of our kids. Quit ignoring the world around you--especially your children's world. Quit assuming that you have to bear up under hopeless passivity. Make a plan and act.

And if the problem is more than in your particular home, if it is a systemic, cultural problem--get out of that environment. If necessary, move if you see a problem where your children are unable to cope with a temptation. MOVE. Move schools, move cities. No excuses. Your child is more important than...."fill in the blank."

Here's why this is important. Because:

1) While we must teach our children how to deal with certain temptations, remember that Jesus didn't say when temptation overwhelms you in a certain environment--try, try again to fight it off. Jesus said to flee temptation. Especially when your kids are too immature to know how to fight 

temptation. Teach them it's okay to flee--they are not being quitters and giving up. Flee because that is what Christ commanded us to do. (2 Tim. 2: 22) Show them by your own example, by fleeing overwhelming temptation yourself.

2) When your children see you take firm, decisive action against evil, they will know that it can be done. You are not passive and enslaved by circumstances--that a human can fight back even just by getting out of the situation. They will learn by your example of action.

3) They will see that they are worth you taking action--their souls are of inestimable value to you and God. Talk about giving your child self-worth! That is a message that will drive down indelibly to their souls way more than you showing up to their piano recital. Take action!

4) And finally, when your children see you suffer for them--their parents suffering--for them--the extraordinary action of losing a job, moving or acting to save them in a sacrificial way--they will understand the Cross better. One other thing, gird your loins for this, because your child will inevitably hear mockery, condemnation and scorn from other parents who may not be willing to sacrifice their jobs and homes for their children's spiritual or physical safety. They will loudly condemn you as irresponsible. If your children come to you with these criticisms, just calmly tell them it is because you are willing to do anything to follow Christ and see your child in heaven. You will have shown them a little of Christ's Cross and it will make an impact for the rest of their lives.

There is no formula for perfect parenting, nor to ensure a child will want to follow Christ. But what I can see in Christian parenting today is a total lack of planning a strategy of actions for your children's spiritual health. It's as if they really don't want to believe it is possible for their children to go to hell or that they can act to help assure their children will not be faced with a lifetime of digging themselves out of the mess they made with poor moral choices.

There is so much more I could write on this subject, but I have wandered around enough today and this topic was the point of this morning's discussion with my husband. God bless.