Love Me Anyway

I think we all may be able to relate to a moment in our lives where a sharp pain prevents us from breathing deep enough.  Our short quick breaths leave us gasping for air, wincing with pain, overwhelmed and unable to rationally deal with our surroundings.

These were moments I anticipated.  I thought about them a lot.  They would tumble and bounce through my mind interrupting sleep and causing my mind to never slow its pace.  No matter how many times I would play out the situations in my mind, no matter how well I thought it through; in the back of my mind I knew… better brace myself, because I knew it would knock me off my feet.

Choices aren’t always easy and certainly not always clear, but never the less, they must be made.  Leaving the message has opened a world of new choices.  It has actually made things so much more complicated.  

It may seem a simple task, but I assure you it has been one of the most complicated and difficult  things I have attempted.  It challenged my comfort zone, my pride, my upbringing, but most pointedly; it challenged my relationship with others.

Of course when one chooses to dress differently than they have their entire life, it’s bound to cause a reaction of which my personal favorite would be, “You know better than that.”

Do you? Do you really “know better”? Being told one thing all your life, I would say you have conformed to a standard, but convicted? More than likely not.

Sometime around age 13 or so I remember a visiting minister or perhaps it was at a church camp calling out specifically to us young girls.  He seemed to understand how hard it was to always be so different. To be singled out in school and never fit in, to never feel like “the other girls.” His soothing, kind, and understanding voice assured us of our purity, our love of God, and His word. We were predestined and called to perfection, set aside and Holy Ghost filled. All who looked upon us with our clean faces, uncut hair, and long skirts would see Jesus on display. This outward appearance clearly stated that we had something they did not.  You see, he told us, we could go out and cut our hair, wear make up, throw on a pair of pants, run around with boys…. why, we could be like them in five minutes.

“They” however, they could NEVER be like “us”.

I cannot begin to describe to you the mental separation that continued to take place in my life. It amplified what was already there. I was keenly aware how different I was at a very young age. This, though, seemed to bring a sense of pride in that separation. It made everything better and acceptable in my young mind. It wasn’t that I wanted to look like them or even that I disliked what I was wearing. It was the loneliness. It was somewhat easier to allow one’s self to believe they were just the true believer, the odd ball, that’s of course why you don’t fit in. It would seem the more secluded one became the more spiritual they felt. It was the excuse, the bandage that made “everything better”.

Pride, pride, pride.

My choice to wear a pair of pants was not because I desired it, I didn’t find them attractive, I didn’t even know how to find my size, let alone explain to a sales attendant I had never worn pants before. It was all so embarrassingly uncomfortable.

I’ve really had to challenge myself on modesty. It’s been a long tough road for me. One not so clear as it had always been before. That was a struggle in and of itself. The most difficult of all though, was allowing myself to dress differently around my family still in the message.

It was something that weighed heavily on my heart. No matter how clear my conscience felt, no matter how I prayed and talked to the Lord about it, I knew my family would be deeply hurt.

I would love to tell you that it blew over and they told me it wasn’t a big deal. I would love to tell you they told me I was beautiful to them even still, that clothing couldn’t separate their love for me or my children.

Sadly, I cannot.

What I can tell you is that I saw their tears, their disappointment, their heartache, and it hurt me deeply. I hated seeing their pain. Even though I tried to continue to act as though nothing had changed, we all knew it had. It grew silent, gazes dropped to the floor, and I felt like I had grown a third eye. 

Days have not healed this moment. Nights have not closed this new separation. Conversations attempting to bring closure have only resulted in regrets and hurtful words. Apparently, for message believer’s one’s choice of clothing differing from another is a result of “what is really on the inside”. Not looking the part is a lack of a holiness standard and a lack of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual. This new choice of behavior or change in one’s appearance is the cause and reflection of any struggles or problems one may be having. After all, these things didn’t occur until after you left the message.

Yes, your choice of clothing now questions your salvation. And, just so you know, until you come “back”, you should continue to expect bad or questionable things to happen to you. God has removed His hand from you, you cannot be blessed, and all hell must be set loose for you to find your way “back”. Back of course meaning the confines of their interpretation of the holiness standard and of course what is modest. “Back to the word” “Back to the message.”

They have said, time heals all wounds.

Perhaps.

For now, this one is open and still hurting.

Allow me to clarify that fear has not entered into my life. Nor sudden found conviction. If anything, their words have further confirmed my decisions. If one garment of clothing can halt love so abruptly that it disrupts a life long relationship in a matter of moments, something is dreadfully wrong.  If one garment causes you to treat me differently and change your previous thoughts about me, then perhaps your love was more shallow than I realized. 

I have read the Apostle Paul’s words over and over, they state:

Romans 8:35-38

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For too long I have separated myself from all that I considered unholy. I separated myself from this world and all who partook so freely in it. I was a stranger waiting to be called to a better place. I am ashamed to say in that same mindset of separation, I claimed to have more of God, to have been more revelated, and blessed of God than most. I claimed to be His bride, to have so very much of Him inside of me that I mustn’t blemish my spotless garment.

I now grimace at this thought. I cringe with regret. To be so full of God and refuse to share the love of God cannot go hand in hand. If I cannot reflect His love for all others, if I cannot love equally and unbiased upon my own convictions, I am nothing but a hypocrite.  How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus if I can not go near enough to make a difference?

Outward appearance has dominated the placement of one’s spirituality far too long. It is an absolute misconception to build one’s self up while pushing another down all based upon a garment. This judgmental attitude is a true reflection of not having the love of God to express in the first place.

We were taught to strive to a rapturing state of perfection. This teaching has brought condemnation and a “better than you” mentality. It neglects to tell you, you are human, created to be redeemed. Created to need a Savior. You were designed to be weak. Designed to fall down so He can pick you back up again. He is strong when we are weak. It is in our weakness, that we call out to our Savior, “Lord, help my unbelief.”

We have strived to achieve perfection, taught to be “little g-o-d-s”. Perfect love, perfect faith, speaking the word and creating our desires into existence. All that is holy outwardly expressing the inward working of revealed truth for our day.  I find this “perfection status” a ridiculous notion knowing these same holy temples neglect the basic simplicity of Christian expression: Love.

1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The love of God should unite us, unfortunately we have been far too busy allowing our garments to separate us from any form of unity whatsoever. Our garments declaring our spiritual status and modesty, have done nothing more than become a garment of separation drawing a line in the sand from you and all who could possibly need a little something we are all called to give. We are meant to express the same grace extended to us, and the same love. Love and grace that is unconditional, love that cannot separate or divide. Love that never fails.

A More Excellent Way

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

      Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

      Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”   – 1 Corinthians 13

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phh_OnJA1Fw

Commandments of Men

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  -Matthew 15

Why is it a norm in the message to travel so far to church every Sunday and Wednesday?  Often driving two or three hours one way sometimes twice in a day.  Goodness, don’t miss, whatever you do, don’t miss a service.  Your spirituality depends on it. Or more pointedly- your reputation does.

You dare not darken the doors of those “denominational churches”.   It is simply not an option to go to a non-message church.

I know people who pack their lunches to stay for the evening service.  They nap in their cars, the nursery floor, or wherever they can.  Some go without food until they are home.  Arriving back home on a Sunday can be as late as midnight just to get up for work and send the children off to school the next day.

Just recently I have read of message believers stating their loneliness and lack of connections in their churches.  Something is terribly wrong.  Those who don’t think so are more than likely in the ministry and on the “receiving” end.

Most sacrifice much to attend each service.  They might sing a song or two, smile, nod, shake a few hands, drop off their tithes, and then they go home.  The majority quietly asks within themselves, “What did he say?”

Those who “Amen!” the loudest every single service and sit on the front row (generally as their wives are in the nursery) are like the babbling brook.  They make a lot of noise, but they just don’t go deep.

They have fallen into a routine of the same songs, same sermons, and same quotes.  Guest ministers are invited on occasion for “special” weekend services.  I call this stirring the pot or pulpit swapping.  To make it more enjoyable a potluck is often held in between a set of services.  More than likely, it’s the most fellowship the people have had since the last “special” meeting.

Another favorite is the beloved camp meetings.  As a young vulnerable teenager there is nothing quite like a minister counting to ten calling everyone in the room to the alter attempting to strike fear into you.  But you go, look your best, and hope to meet “the one” before the week is over.

Message ministers preach for hours.  They take off their jackets, loosen their ties, take a swig of Gatorade, and off they go.  You know you have a while to go; he just isn’t loud enough yet. At least when they choose to play a tape you can count to see how many pages are left.

If you happen to attend a smaller church, you have the opportunity to view the tithes being dumped into the pastor’s wife’s purse for her to total the moment her car door closes.  The larger churches are a bit more discrete about it.  They receive a hefty salary and then hire family members to collect the rest.

Afraid to ask questions or doubt, concerned they didn’t “feel anything”, no one says a thing. They dare not, after all they should have come “expecting.”

“Brother, sister, what you need is a genuine refilling of the Holy Ghost!”

“I’m not sure when He left?”

When was the last time you left church and said:

“Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” -Luke 24

Growing up I only heard the negative concerning churches of the “world”.  We were taught they were harlots. They didn’t worship Jesus, they rejected the true word.  Imagine my surprise when I got over my bias and heard a sermon from one of these “foolish virgins”.  I got more out of their 25 minute sermon than many, many, many three hour message sermons.

There are ministers, which are true students of the word, who actually know how to explain the scriptures.  No quotes, no handed down pulpits of family ministry.  God called men with a true heart for His people.  They serve the people without making themselves authoritative.  Rather it was prayed, “Let my tongue be as the pen of a writer.”

Tapes have been played and used to pull quotes, topics, and context to inspire message minister’s sermons for nearly 50 years.  People no longer study their Bibles; instead they listen to regurgitated words.  And you wonder where the anointing is?  The voice?  The tapes?  If that’s so, tell the minister to step down and save your 10%.  You’ve got your stored up food. You’ve got your mp3 carcass.

What then do you do with Jesus’ words telling you to take care of the widows, the orphans, or feed the poor?  You can’t even agree on the interpretation of the tapes, let alone minister to the body.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4

More than likely this concept of ministry is foreign to you.   The body of Christ is many members in one body.  Gifts are for the building and encouragement of the saints.  The body does not consist solely of ministers nor is the ministry the head of the body.  Christ is the head.  At least He should be.  But you allow a man to replace that.  You sit under a ministry that tells you not to speak.  Just say “Amen”.  You are told it is blasphemy to question the prophet.  

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”  – 2 Timothy 2

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  – Acts 17:11

Facebook and the internet is the undoing of those ministers.  It’s giving the people back their voice.  It tells them to reason and searching of the scripture is not only encouraged in the Bible, but they are admonished to do so.  Perhaps you should listen to your ministers: “Stay off of Facebook” and do not venture onto the websites full of material for your benefit.

Sunday service, a time we have traditionally set aside to worship, to be refreshed, to be encouraged… it has become a defense mechanism.  A taxation upon the people, a burden on their wallets and their time, all while the minister spends all of his time unsuccessfully defending William Branham and neglecting the call to  ”Feed my sheep”.

People are frustrated.  They are in a fog of confusion and lulled to sleep with a soothing voice.  They’ve lost their absolute.  Rather than the edification of the body, commandments of men are preached.  Rules, standards, regulations, a law without grace.

Sure, they will tell you they do not worship a man.  They will say, “We don’t pray to Jesus via Brother Branham!”  Maybe not.  But you take his words over Jesus’.  So who’s your mediator?

Stream into any message church, you will hear the defense of this message spoken with loud words and red faces.  The topic is what not to do, who is doing wrong, and who you shouldn’t be listening to.

You challenge the ex-message believer and you ask, “Where can you go now?”  You say, “They left to be free to dress any way they want and live any way they want.”

Allow me to clarify a bit of that.

We go to church, we worship the living God…. we are encouraged.  We look forward to the next service because we did leave and say: “Did not our hearts burn within us?”

No, we didn’t leave to be free to wear pants, cut our hair, or have a drink.  The freedom we speak of that we have found in Christ- that freedom allows us to be led of the Spirit and hold the Bible as our Absolute.  It allows the man to be the head of his home and Christ to be the head of His church.

You think you have that?  No.  Your head is your minister.  It’s the tapes.  It’s the words of a man and another private interpretation of it.  Those words are your standard.  They are your absolute.  Your understanding is based upon indoctrination.  Remember, “Just say what the tapes say.”

You think you are respecting authority.  That’s not respect.  It’s fear.  Don’t believe me?  Try challenging it.  It was said, “To find out who rules over you, simply find out who you’re not allowed to criticize.”

Sunday services should hold joy.  They should be looked forward to with anticipation. Worship should be enthusiastic.  You should leave edified, encouraged and refreshed.

I’ve experienced the message churches far too long.  I was told denominations and their membership was the mark of the beast.  Miss American church twisting to rock and roll attending her social club.

I’m amazed, those songs you are so fond of singing, who wrote them?  That “Christian” radio station you like, wonder what Jesus they serve?  The Christian book store you like to shop at, I wonder, who inspires all that they sell there?  Those authors you may like to read… just what God are they serving?  The movies you deem clean to watch, surely those are not ‘true’ Christians, no.  Sort of saved.  Almost.  But… you know… just not bride.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

I am sure you are very familiar with those words.  How many times have you sang them? These words touch the heart.  You cannot help but sing them with great emotion.  It cries out for every believer.  It speaks for the redeemed.  You sing this song.  It moves you.  And yet, the man who wrote it, you would say: “Is he saved?  Oh, Yes.  Sure. Bride?  No, no.  Not bride.”

One body, one Spirit.  Many members.  All through the blood of Jesus.  All by grace.

Christ is the head of the church.  His church is not contained within the walls of a building. Its not a select group of people with a secret revelation for their day.  The body of Christ is whosoever will.  If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you are a part of His body.  You are His hands and His feet.  Go, and minister unto the needs of His body. Build up and encourage.  Speak life.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” -Hebrews 10

 

A New Life Has Begun

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  – 2 Corinthians 5

As a child, I never dreamed it possible to have come so far in life.  I never imagined my self a teenager, let alone a mother with children,  Each New Year’s Eve from as far back as I can remember I have closed out the year in prayer on my knees.  From a little girl I would be found in the living room with each family member kneeling over a chair praying.  My prayers consisted of reflection over the year, repentance of any wrong, and a promise to pray more.  After all, this would more than likely be the year of the rapture.

A memory from about the age of eight or nine years old comes back to me, kneeling in prayer attempting to pray and not to fall asleep; I placed my head on my hands with eyes closed letting my mind wander. A loud gunshot went off jolting me back to reality and fear settled over me,  I began to pray with great fervency. Repentance for being lax and pleading, “Please dear Jesus, take me too.” Tears streamed down my little cheeks as I peeked around making sure my daddy was still there.  His gentle voice praying uninterrupted soothed me somewhat as I waited for us to finish.

As the years have passed I have kept the family tradition of praying out the year.  I’ve not missed once.  As 11:30 rolled around I would quietly sneak away and find a place to kneel and pray. I wanted to be ready for the new year, I wanted to be found prayed up and conditioned for the coming of the Lord.  While I believe my heart was sincere, this year I have stopped to re-evaluate this tradition.

There is no better way to start the New Year than with prayer, however, my motives have changed.  This holiday season I have spent much time reflecting on this last year and just what this new year will be to me. 2013 was certainly a year of discovery for me.  A year of searching, study, and change.  As I reflect on where I was at last year and where I now stand I have to confess I am not the same person.  I have let go, I have learned to bend while standing.  I have accepted that I am complete in Christ despite any circumstance I may find myself in.  There is no super power that comes with hidden knowledge, revelation, praying one’s self up, or anything one might attempt to do to draw themselves into a higher spirituality.  It simply is not earned.

The love of God is immeasurable.  His grace is sufficient.  His blood covers all sin.  You don’t need an extra dose of blood for one sin or less for another.  He won’t love you more if you belong to one group and less if you do not.  He loves me because I am His.  I can’t earn it, I can’t do anything to deserve it, I can only accept it and lowly confess I am nothing without Him. “Oh God be merciful to me a sinner!”

I have let go of all the old doctrines and in childlike faith I have come to Him and said, “Lord my hands are empty, my heart is broken, I am lost, and I need you. Be merciful to me Oh God, forgive me, and teach me Lord. Fill my heart’s desire to know you in all truth.”  I have started over.  I am teachable, willing to learn, bend, and change.

Change I have, I am stronger in many ways.  I have acquired a boldness backed by confidence in His word.  I have learned that I will disappoint those I love, but I can love them all the more.  I have learned that through His unmerited favor and grace I can be who He called me to be and do what He has called me to do.  I do not belong in a box. I am no less or any more than anyone else.  I am who I am because that is who He made me to be and I need Him.

This year is a new year full of new beginnings.  Old things are passed away and I am being made new.  A new heart full of love, concern, and a burden for people like never before.  A new mind: teachable, willing to learn, and change.  A new Spirit: Christ’s alone.  I am a new creature.

Last night I made a conscious effort to break my tradition.  I did not pray as the clock changed to midnight.  I was not found on my knees.  I didn’t  pray out the old year and condition myself for the new.  As the clock ticked, my mind reflected back on everything I had been through this year and what I wanted for the new year.  I was handed a card to fill out my resolution for the new year and I couldn’t think of one thing.  Not one.  I had Jesus and He was enough.  Lord I can’t ask for anything, I can’t vow to be more than I am.  My friend saw me pondering my blank card and laughed, telling me she hadn’t meant for it to be so difficult. I smiled, if she only knew.

Embracing the changes of 2013 and all that has been made new to me, holding all who were dear in my heart, I wrote down one word.  For me it represented everything drifting through my mind, continually spinning and refusing to stop.  In that one word I took all of it and placed it in a promise and a request,  God give me strength to take the next step.

If I were to make a New Years resolution I would say I will no longer allow myself to be influenced by the thoughts and opinions of a particular person.  I will not base my decisions upon their ideas.  I will not let them influence me or persuade me.  I will not look at the ministry as some type of mediator or “higher calling” above the laity, but rather, as another part in the body of Christ through which we can be edified and blessed.  I will look for the Spirit of Christ and I will seek the scriptures. No longer will I allow a standard of law to be placed in my life that removes grace.

Be disappointed, be hurt, cry.  Unfriend me, stop speaking to me.  Call me an apostate, tell me I can’t be bride; I’m over it.  I’m following Christ.  If it’s not in His word [the BIBLE] it is of no concern to me.  Keep your quotes.  Keep your revelations, keep your ministry… anytime the ministry is placed above the people instead of for the people I will run from it.  This year, I will be me in honesty and and authenticity.  I will strive to find the place to not offend my brother and yet stand firmly and boldly in truth.  This year… I may ask, “Just who is my brother?”

Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  – Mark 3

Welcome New Year.  Welcome 2014…. I’m embracing it with peace knowing I’m walking in His grace.  Yes, the old life is passed away and a life has begun.

What Does the Sheep Say?

“As a pastor I have proven to myself for 20 years that the best sheep are those who consume the prophet’s message’s on a daily basis. They are the lowest maintenance, easiest to teach, Word abiding sheep I can have.”   – A Message Minister

What is wrong with that statement? The “best sheep consume the prophet’s [message’s] on a daily basis.”  In other words, heavily indoctrinated by tapes.  Not much left for him to do, but reinforce the tapes.  Obviously that is low maintenance.  I think though, my largest problem with his statement is that fact that he refers to them not only as sheep, but ‘his’ sheep.  Rather than see himself as part of the fold, he emphasizes that the ‘best’ sheep are ‘lower maintenance’ and easier for him to teach.  He is not among the sheep, but separated from them, and in so placing himself as this ‘head’ emphasis on the true shepherd or head is then lost.  So much for “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  It’s certainly low maintenance when someone else does all the work.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” -John 10

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” -John 21

Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  He likened his people to sheep, not because they were stupid or without reasoning.  He likened them to sheep because He cared for them.  Follow me, and I will feed you.  Come, and follow me and I will teach you.  Follow me, and I will provide for you.  I am all that you have need of.

Jesus said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” I believe it is important for us to realize this ‘Comforter’ is a WHO and not a what.  He will teach us ALL things.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

It is very clear that Jesus not only taught His disciples, He told them He wouldn’t leave them alone.  He would send them a helper.  This ‘helper’ is a WHO.  He is the Holy Spirit.  He lives inside of each of us and leads us in our daily walk as we learn to listen to Him. This seems like a very simple and uncomplicated matter.  However, when Jesus spoke with Peter, He told Peter to take care of His sheep, to feed them.  If we have the Comforter leading us into all truth, never leaving nor forsaking us; what then is this role Peter is given?

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?”  -Ezekiel 34

Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.   -Ezekiel 34

I find it ironic that in the message we are told to listen to “the voice”.  Just “say what the tapes say”.  You will fall in love with the voice, it will soothe you. You can listen to tape after tape, you can read it, search it, quote it, and live by it.  Ah yes, “He said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

“Amen to every word.”

Yeah, you don’t have to understand it.  It doesn’t even have to make sense, just believe it.  Throw your reasoning out the window, your Bible too for that matter, and press play.

I have yet to find a scripture that instructs the ministers, pastors, shepherd(s), or any man for that matter to lead and guide the people into all truth.  Nowhere does it say to look for a man to tell you what is right or what is wrong.  Nowhere is it recorded that a man is to come and reveal mysteries to us. 

It is recorded, however, that Jesus was going to the Father.  He would send us the Comforter, and HE would teach us all things and remind us of what He previously (as in already, a long time ago) said. There were no gaps to fill in.  No blank spots, no editing necessary.

Jesus spoke it.  I believe it, and…… THAT settles it.

No interpretation.  No opinion.

Here’s the thing.  If you are a Christian, and you believe the Bible is the written, inspired, unadulterated Word of God, and it is without error, then tell me, please; Who’s voice are we supposed to be listening to?

Jesus said, He would send us the Comforter to teach us and remind us of what He said, and all these years people seemed okay with that, until 1947.  Then they needed to record the voice of a man, and ‘store up food’ for us to hear after He was not so graciously called off of the scene in 1965.  Really?  Was Jesus’ voice not good enough? Did the Comforter go on vacation?

  “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  “I am God and I change not.”  Jesus spoke the words “It is finished” on the cross.  Prior to that point, He spent three years ministering and preparing his disciples. Then He sent forth the Apostles, and we have their firsthand accounts of it.  I wasn’t there, but they were.  There is no lack of understanding, it is written down for us and brought to life by a God that dwells in the hearts of His people.

Yet, we have chosen to believe that after 2000 years God decided it really wasn’t finished, and needed to send another prophet….

A gentile one.

From the United States.

Uneducated.

Adding to the Word and interpreting it.

And record his sermons on tape to call out a bride.

Yes, follow the voice of a man, let it soothe you, and lull you to sleep.  Press play.  Evidently the Bible isn’t enough, Jesus’ words aren’t enough.  Take the voice of a man, who is dead.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  -Matthew 7

I choose life.

Jesus, is risen, He is alive.  He speaks for Himself, His mouthpiece is the Comforter.  He didn’t die 50 years ago.  You don’t hear his voice on a tape, there are no “blank.spots-ed” and he isn’t buried under a pyramid tombstone.

He’s alive.  He’s Christ IN YOU, the hope of glory.

Jesus told us He was the Shepherd.  There is one Shepherd and one flock.  His sheep know His voice and they will not listen to anyone or anything else.

 Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

The Rapture of Fear

“If there is only one person that makes it into the rapture, you believe you will be that one.”

I sat with wide eyes as a child listening to that statement.  I squirmed in my chair looking around to count all the spiritual people that would make it before me.  How could the minister not make it?  His wife certainly would have to, and surely the song leader and the deacon.  It was going to be such a small number, how would there ever be enough room for me?

Nightmares of coming home to an empty house with no mommy or daddy met me night after night.  Vivid images of hideous beasts and demons haunted me.  The sermons of concentration camps and the terrors of the tribulation made their way into my little thoughts as I drifted off to sleep.

Tribulation.  Hell on earth.  The bride was to be such a small number.  Brother Branham always seemed to emphasize the number eight, just like Noah’s ark.  I began to count again: Brother Billy Paul, Brother Joseph, Brother Billy’s wife, Brother Joseph’s wife, their kids… I ran out of fingers.  Confused, I wondered just how many would be in the rapture.  Surely all of Brother Branham’s family, after all he said anyone who loved him would be there.  I began to reason that perhaps because they were family, I didn’t have to count them.  I started over: Brother Byskal, Brother Green, Brother Reagan, my pastor, the song leader… I ran out of fingers again.

I thought about Brother Branham’s horse and his green chair.  His dog was there.  Surely, just surely I could go too.  Night after night the nightmares came finally sending me crying to my parent’s room where my dad led me to the Lord at the very tender age of six.  I didn’t want to miss it.  I didn’t want my mommy and my daddy to leave me behind.

This was the beginning of fear.  Once I voiced this fear aloud and was told that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.  This taught me that fear was okay.  It was normal to be afraid.  My nightmares followed me to into my adult life.  They changed from coming home to an empty house with no family, to my children being taken away from me and me being placed in a prison for not denying my faith.  I would wake up scared, everything was so vivid and real, often I rose to check on my babies and pause to listen to their steady breathing.  They were so peaceful and so unaware, just as it should be.

The Bible tells us “Do not fear” and “Do not be afraid” at least 365 times.

As a child I was taught demons were real, when someone was prayed for you were to bow your head so the demon did not jump on you.  I was told about the mark of the beast, the great tribulation, and the many imagined things that it would bring.  No food, prison camps, torture, be-headings, giant bugs eating women who cut their hair, numerous details I really don’t care to remember.  I was taught fear.

With this fear was the act of conforming and obedience to all that was said to be right.  You wanted to do what was right, what did the prophet say about that?  Quotes; they were beloved, spoken like scripture, recited, and ingrained in your mind from childhood.

“If there’s just going to go, be one, that’ll be me (Amen.), ’cause I believe.” See? That’s the way you want to believe it. “Be me.” 63-0320

Yes indeed, if there was only going to be one, you believe you will be that one. How?  How could you possibly make it with all of these spiritual ministers and people around you?  There wasn’t enough room; the number was just too small.  Doubt always lingered, and the plans of survival set in.  As a small child I kept a backpack in my closet with plans of escape. Looking back on that, it makes me sad.  No child should have to live in that fear.

There was always a statement that I held onto:

Just then, a voice spoke and said, “All that you ever loved, and all that ever loved you, God has given to you. We’re all here together.” Oh, my, my heart just melted within me. “All that you ever loved, and all that ever loved you, is gathered here with you to meet God.” 60-0608

That’s it? I just have to love Brother Branham and I’ll be there?  I love Brother Branham, I can do that.  I think perhaps this is the beginning of my veil between me and Christ.  I can remember prayers where I said something like, “Lord I believe, your prophet Brother Branham said…”  Why on this earth would God send His only Son to die in our stead to be the ONLY mediator between God and man for us to be sent a “prophet” to take his words and rely upon them above Jesus’? As though Jesus was not enough?

The elitism, the attitude that I was special; I was “one of them”…. I had a prophet.  How privileged I was to be called to the message, to know God sent a prophet in my day.  After all, it wasn’t for everyone, but it was for me.  This attempted to silence my doubts.

“If only one makes it, you believe you will be that one.”

I thought of all the people I would leave behind.  I was told not to worry about that, that it was just to build my faith.

Reflecting on these teachings from my childhood, I hesitate to share them.  I don’t want to hurt my parents or the people I grew up with.  I don’t think these are thoughts they intended me to have.  I honestly don’t think they even knew I had them.  I think had they known, they would have reassured me and done everything they could to relieve me of those fears.  If you can take anything away from me sharing this portion, perhaps you can relate, perhaps you cannot, but can you ask yourself, “What did the children grow up hearing?”  Children are so impressionable, what are they hearing?

Brother Branham said Noah was supposedly a ‘type’ of the bride that went in the ark.  In another ‘type’ Enoch was the bride and Noah and his family went through the tribulation.  This never made sense to me.  In my study, I’ve thought about Noah preaching to the people telling them what was coming.  They didn’t believe him.  They ignored him.  Many probably thought he was crazy and steered clear of even crossing paths with him.  I thought about Noah and his family walking into the ark and looking outside one last time to invite the people to come in.  Perhaps his sons pulled at his sleeve and said, “It will be okay Dad, just come in and sit down.” Noah didn’t shut the door.  I don’t think he could have.  Not because it was heavy or cumbersome, I think as he looked out on his family, friends, and neighbors, the people he had known all his life, grew up with, went to school with, worked with them, he knew them… how could he close the door on them?  Do you think that perhaps just maybe he wanted to drag them in by the hair of their head, bind them, and gag them until it was all over?

Or do you see him clinking glasses with Ham, Shem, and Japheth; “It was for us, it wasn’t for them anyway. Look! There goes another one!”

I imagine after the door shut they sat in silence with tears streaming down their faces listening to the cries of the people being washed away.  They sat there helpless.  Mothers with babies were washed away, small children, their family.  You realize Noah had in-laws.  His son’s wives had family. They left people behind.  They went into the ark full well knowing they would never see them again.

“If there is only one…”

I can’t help but see children running around in a circle playing musical chairs.  Too many children and not enough chairs.  The music keeps playing and the children eye the chair.  They are not about to give up that chair.  I’ve decided to walk away before the music stops playing.  More than I want the chair, more than I want the prize at the end, I want someone else to have the chair.  I want someone else to have the prize.

As I walked away the fear that had haunted me my entire life evaporated.  I no longer wanted to “escape”.  If there is a rapture, and I could offer my place to someone else, I would.  If there is a rapture, whether I go or stay no longer matters.

The “bride” so full of faith and the word was to leave the weak to die for their own testimony.  This baffles me. The word says there is just ONE body.  If the “bride” leaves how can the body be divided?  Will we take the hand and leave the foot?  Or are we actually saying those who aren’t bride aren’t His at all?

Further, if there is one way to heaven and that is through the blood of Jesus, why do these people need to seal their testimony with their own blood?  The ‘Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ’ clearly says they were washed in the blood of the Lamb and given white robes.

No, I don’t understand this.  I don’t understand how I can leave one of His behind to fight just when the battle gets worse.  I can’t. I will be with them, I will encourage them.  I will tell them they are not alone, they are loved, and that He loves them.  We will fight unto the end together.  But I will not wait until the end to do so, I will tell them now.

The fear has left. In its place is a love I have never felt before; a love for all people and all creation.  I no longer see myself separate and apart from them.  No longer do I wish to be taken away from it all.  I feel like Abraham, “If there be one more Lord?  Can I help just one more?”

Every kindred. Every tongue. Every Nation.  His creation. His people.  Who are we to divide and say “It wasn’t for you.”

God said it was.

The rapture of fear has taken place. Do not fear.  Do not be afraid.  He is our rock, He is our portion, and He is our strength, our hope, our refuge.  He is everything.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, what can stand against us?”  -Romans 8:31

“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.” – Isaiah 8

Isaiah 43
But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Broken

I reached a place in my walk, where I became broken.  I felt so vulnerable.  I was scared and I couldn’t see what He was doing.  At that time, I just wanted answers.

I first wanted answers that lined up with what I knew, my own thinking.  I wanted God to back me up.  This was the beginning of my brokenness.   Desperation set in.  I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I began to ask for anything.  “Lord, you told me to ask and you promised to answer, you told me to knock, and you would open the door.”

I had to be in a place that when He answered me, I could receive it, whatever it may be.  He prepared me to receive an answer despite what I wanted the answer to be or thought it already was.  I couldn’t see what He was doing, but as His answers came they brought peace and the courage to face another day.

I asked for truth.  He gave it to me.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it was hard to accept it.  I can’t say I didn’t try to push it away or reject it, I did.  But He kept bringing it back to me over and over. I started to feel like a child at the dinner table.  It wasn’t what I wanted, but when you get hungry enough; you will eat it.

I guess being human we can’t help but ask “Why”?  Sometimes we don’t know, but we just believe there is a purpose.  We don’t understand but we trust Him.  We know trials help us grow; they build our faith and mold our character.  This trial, seemed to have no end in sight and my question of why grew stronger each day.  I prayed, “Lord, I can’t see what you are doing.  I don’t understand but, I trust you and I know you are with me. I believe your word, help my unbelief.”

That was my prayer for months.  All the while things were surfacing and coming up before me.  Feelings of anger, bitterness, past hurts and heartaches, memories of things I hadn’t thought about in years.  Words would tumble out and catch me completely off guard, “Where on earth did that come from?”

When God breaks us, everything we are holding inside of us begins to spill out.  It’s a flood of emotions and they rise up one by one.  Circumstances and words that hurt us, the moments that we buried deep inside of us never wanting to think about again begin to tumble out.  Sometimes they come as an emotional outburst; other times it’s something someone else is going through that you are relating to.  However they may come, God is bringing them forward in His time and He tells us, “I want to heal that”.

Broken.  Let it all spill out, empty everything you’ve held inside.  Let go of the weight you have carried.  You might try to hold onto it, but He steps in and takes it from you.  You may think you’ve got this- I’m here to tell you, you don’t.

God does.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 29

You think you understand.  You think you know.  You think you have it all figured out; you in your own understanding.  You have all the answers, you already know what is right.  You begin to walk and push forward and your weight gets heavier and heavier until you are so bogged down you can’t go any further.  All the while, He has been walking beside you saying, “Let me take that, let me carry that for you.”

But you aren’t listening to Him.  You are too busy giving all the answers, making your point, defending your stand, you can’t hear Him.  Did He not tell us to be still, that we might know that He is God?

Pride holds all that inside.  Pride speaks back and says, “No, I got it.”

Grace walks beside our pride and waits for us to fall.  It picks us up and carries us.  It takes all of our broken pieces, heals us, sets us back on our feet, and goes before us.  With each shaky step it’s ready to catch us like a safety net.  It surrounds us.

With each step strength finds us.  Not our strength, His.  We couldn’t go any further.  We fell.  We cried out, “God! I can’t do this.  Please, take this.  Help my unbelief.”

Courage brings another step.   This is just where He wants us.  Broken.  Dependent upon Him, and in need of all He wants to give us.  He can’t fill you up and set out His plans for your life until He empties you out.  We are so full of ourselves there isn’t any room for Jesus.  We have our own path, our own ideas, and our own plans.

“For I know the plans I have for you!”

Jesus set this example for us, “Not my will but Your will”.  Jesus was broken.  He gave everything; He submitted His will to the Father completely.  Jesus demonstrated what we are called to.  God can’t use us when we think we are strong.  God can’t move in our lives when we are so full of pride and callused over with hard hearts.  We must be broken and emptied out.

In that emptiness and vulnerability we can say, “What do you want for me?”  We can offer Him everything we are, all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  What do you give a God who has everything?  He wants you, all of you; broken and empty, and ready to be filled with His plan for you.

When you can say to Him, “Lord I have nothing to give you but me, I am nothing.  I don’t deserve you, but I need you.  I can’t do this without you.  Lord, I’m human, I’m weak, and I need you.  I don’t want anything but you.  Be real to me, reveal yourself to me.    I’m so unworthy Lord, I have nothing to offer you but me, use me Lord.  Let me serve you.”  You are just where He wants you to be.  You are weak, that in your weakness He can be your strength.  You have nothing, that He can be your supplier.  You give Him you, that He can use you as He desires and planned from the beginning.

You are called for this moment to be placed into His body, under His headship.  You are called to serve Him.  You are called to be an active member of the body of Christ.  If you aren’t active, you aren’t living.  There isn’t a part of your body that would want to see inactive or dead.  I don’t care if it’s your toenail.  You think that’s insignificant?  Go ahead and rip it off.

You are His that He might use you.  Let Him be glorified in your life.  Surrender to all He has for you and serve Him.  Become broken before Him, let Him empty you out and heal you so He can fill you up again.

You aren’t happenstance, you aren’t an accident, you aren’t insignificant; you are created for a purpose.  He knew you before the world began; He has called you by name.  “For I know the plans I have for you.”  There is no age discrimination with Christ.  You are neither male nor female.  You were created for a purpose; He has a plan for your life.

David said, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

If you are asking why, if you are feeling broken; this is the beginning of healing.  This is the beginning of restoration.  This is the beginning of an awakening.