Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A RATIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

I loved Jesus when I was a little girl. There has never been a moment of my life when I didn't want to love Jesus and yearned to be His little girl and the delight of His eyes. 

Most people who knew me growing up would have called me dramatic. Which could be a good description with one explanation. I felt more than I ever showed. The drama was not empty or exaggerated. There was nothing put on with my happiness and my pain. I didn't display more than I felt, I was careful to only allow a certain amount of emotion burst from the volcano that I was actually feeling inside me. 

I wasn't melancholy or depressed or angry. In fact, I distinctly remembering in 6th grade the first time I ever felt anger and it shocked me. Mostly my
feelings were on the positive side of the spectrum. I was dramatically silly and happy.

Most of my life, people felt free to dismiss me because they labelled me a "drama queen." They had no idea. They still don't. I have learned, as an adult, to discipline that overwhelming emotion percolating inside and exhibit only a small fraction of what I feel. Which is good. I am not complaining. 

The only reason I draw attention to this is that I realized as a child that some days I would feel so in love with Jesus and other days I would feel empty. So by the time I was in my early teens I knew not to trust my feelings about God. I didn't want a roller coaster religion or theology. I didn't mind feelings of course, I couldn't help experiencing them anyway. I just needed God to be outside of feeling, bigger than feeling

So by the time I was in high school I had made a commitment to myself to seek God outside of emotions. I wanted an intellectual relationship with Him. I needed that, because that had a fixed point in the turbulent seas within me. 

Try explaining to a Southern American Protestant that you want a rational, intellectual relationship with Christ. Try, as a teenager telling your pastors and teachers that you want more than a simple emotions-oriented relationship with God and actually telling your pastors and teachers this? I can assure you, that didn't go over well. 

I don't think they even understood the concept. And that was probably because I didn't know how to explain it. But they thought I was going backwards and replacing my heart of flesh (Jesus) and putting in a heart of stone. 

However, I was not limiting, but expanding my walk with Christ. I already had the heart. Christians simply did not understand. They absolutely told me that a simple relationship was all that was needed. And by "simple" I felt they meant--"don't think, stay in the world of intuitive, otherworldliness." They equated emotions with the spiritual world. 



Because of this need for a stable relationship with God that dealt with the intellect, facts, rationality, I began to think about what I believed. When I reached out for evidence, facts, reality, rationality and especially philosophy, you'd have thought I had become an atheist, or was treading on evil ground. 

Believe--don't think!

I do understand. Because the minute I began thinking, I realized that what I was taught and reality simply didn't add up. 

When newly married, I became disillusioned with the church I grew up in, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, because I had to walk around with a cognitive dissonance between reality and what I was taught. So, my husband and I eventually left the church. 

And what I have learned is that there is a great danger in Christianity with this over-emphasis on feelings. There are Christians out there who do not believe one can make an intellectual commitment to God. That unless one has this dramatic "experience" with God you are not legitimately saved. That is a travesty. 

Using the power of one's will to commit to God is every bit as legitimate a decision to follow Christ as an emotional one. God accepts both. 

So with that personal introduction, I recommend the below video to all of you out there who resist a "drama queen" relationship with God. You too, may identify with this man's need to reach out and understand God with philosophy and rationality. 

Maybe you want more than a simple faith. Perhaps that is not enough for you. That's okay. There are a lot of people out there who need an intellectual faith. You will enjoy this video. It doesn't give you the answers but shares with you the philosophy of having a theological philosophy!



Here is the book that helped Dr. Sullivan to come into faith: 

HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS

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.