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The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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How Should We Then Live?

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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Second Time Around

2nd time around heartAbout three and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post titled, Don’t Lose Your Soul At the Crossroads,” that was deleted with a bunch of other posts I’d written during my first year of blogging. I started this blog in July 2010 and this particular post was written on March 26, 2011. When I deleted all of the posts I had written up to that point in April 2011, I thought I had permanently lost it, but discovered that for some reason I had saved it and another post I wrote a week earlier on a flash drive. They were two of the last posts I wrote before deactivating my blog site.

When I fired my blog site back up three months later on July 8, 2011, I started it with this post written on March 26, 2011, and a second post I had written on March 19, 2011, titled, Moving Forward.” Now there are over 300 blog posts on this site and it all started from these two posts. As I read through both of them this evening I became very much aware of just how many changes I have gone through in these past three and a half years since I wrote them, yet the message in them is still as simple and true as the day they were written. However, I can feel the weight of the time between when they were first published until now, and I am still unemployed after all this time, too, and at that point back then I had been unemployed a month shy of two years. Now I can feel the very heavy weight of the “waiting” as five years and four months have passed since I lost my job in Houston.

My blog posts have gotten longer at times since then, but the basic message is still the same, and that message is Jesus Christ. So this evening instead of writing a new post, I’ve decided to repost that old post from three and a half years ago (see below). You can also read the original post at this link.

Photo credit here

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Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads

This blog post was originally written and posted on March 26, 2011.

When I was a very little girl, my mother told me many stories about Jesus. My family went to church every Sunday, and one day when I was ten a traveling evangelist and his wife came to our church and presented the gospel message. I was sitting in the back of the church when he gave the invitation and I ran to the front of the church to repent of my sins (oh, for the sins of a ten-year-old) and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Over the years, I’ve never forgotten this, and while I have stumbled my way through most of my life, Jesus has never taken His hand off of me. You see, when I accepted Him as Lord and Savior of my life at the very young age of ten, He put something in me (no doubt, the Holy Spirit) that has kept me chained to Him all these years, through all the bad and the good.

Jesus frequently spoke in parables, and the one I’m thinking of right now is “The Parable of the Sower” (Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). Jesus spoke to a great multitude about a sower who went out to sow his seeds, and as he sowed, some fell on the wayside and was trampled down and the birds devoured it. Some fell on rock, and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because of a lack of moisture. Some fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked it. And some fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded up a crop a hundredfold. When He finished this parable, He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Most who are familiar with the parable know that the seeds represent the Word of God (the Bible), and it is fairly clear that the first two soils found no place to grow either because as soon as they hear, it is forgotten and never takes root; or else when they hear, they at first receive it with joy, but develop no roots and fall away at the first sign of temptation. It is the last two soils I want to address here: the seeds that fell among the thorns; and the seeds that fell on good ground.

Thornswe’ve all been there. We can look back at the day we accepted Jesus Christ at whatever age we were and accepted our new lives in Christ with joy. We made it past the first two soils, and then we hit the thorns. You know, thorns–the cares of this world–running after the money trail or the “prosperity gospel” grabbed your heart, or maybe you just got tired of the struggles that come with life and decided to take in the pleasures of this world, or you did whatever it took to get ahead in your career or profession, figuring your soul would still stay intact, or you lived in fear and doubt most of your life, or pride. We’ve all been there, and many are still living there, but the thorns in life produce no fruit that clearly shows that we are called to live out a different type of life from the rest of the world. And if we stay in this state, at the end of our lives we’ll discover we’ve wasted our lives, and when we stand before Christ to give an account we will have nothing to give to Him, and no amount of excuse-making will work. In fact, I dare say, the shame will be almost unbearable when we realize at the end of our lives we’ve really only lived for ourselves. It’s called wood, hay, and stubble/straw (see I Cor. 3:12-13). And it gets burned up.

I have a lot in my past that will be burned up. In fact, if it wasn’t for what happened to me in Houston, I’d still be mistakenly going in that direction. You see, when I accepted the job in Houston, I thought that maybe, just maybe, some of that “prosperity” stuff was actually true; that perhaps I had it wrong all my life (I am not of the Charismatic persuasion where much of that teaching is taught). I was never so excited about a job in my entire life and I really thought that God was smiling on me big time. The salary was more than I had ever made in my life by a substantial amount, and it was in an environment that I loved–art and creativity abounded. And, I could attend the megachurch of the pastor I had been watching for the past year and a half on TV. Life was good or so I thought.

Well as you know by now, I lost that job in Houston a scant seven months after it began. I lost all of the money I spent to move there, and I lost most of my possessions (including furniture and appliances) and over 1000 books (I love books and that was the hardest thing to lose) because I couldn’t afford to move them back to Florida. The prosperity gospel wasn’t so prosperous after all; nor did it ever represent the Gospel.

By now you’re thinking I must have missed God’s will big time when I moved to Houston, right? Not at all, in fact I had never been so right in the middle of God’s will for me in my whole life. You see, Houston was my Crossroad, and God used that experience to wake me up to the fact that my life was filled with thorns, that I had lost my first love (Him), and He used some pretty drastic measures to get my attention. My blog post titled “Moving Forward addresses those issues.

God, in His unfathomable love, reached down to yank me from the thorns and my pitiful spiritual state. Also, I have never been so aware of spiritual warfare in my entire life as during my days in Houston. The adversary is, indeed, a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). I learned a dependence on God in a way that I never would have learned in any other way. I clung to Him, I repented, and He brought me out so I could finally land on good ground.

Good ground… past the thorns that choke out life. In these past two years since I lost my job in Houston He has planted me in good ground; the ground of His Word, the ground of prayer, the ground of fellowship, the ground that softens the heart. It’s ground that is capable of bringing forth good fruit. And while I may be much closer to the date of my death then the date of my birth, and, therefore, not have as many years left to yield a crop of hundredfold as in the parable (and not in the Charismatic way of meaning hundredfold), I know that I can do nothing that bears real fruit without Christ. But, I’m finally in good ground, and the wood, hay and stubble (and thorns) are behind me, thanks to God’s great intervention in my life.

It’s not too late for you to turn your life around if you’re stuck in the thorns. Hopefully, it won’t take as drastic of measures as it did in my life. But no matter what, it’s never too late to leave the thorns behind and move on to good ground. But don’t look to the world for the answers. It has none. Look to God, and give the thorns to Him (it’s called repentance).

You’ll never regret it . . . .

The title for this blog post came from the painting above titled “Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads” by Otis L. Stanley.

Photo credit here

YouTube Video added August 9, 2014: “From the Inside Out” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Moving Forward (It’s About Second Chances)

Moving Forward (It's About Second Chances)When I resurrected this blog on July 8, 2011, after deleting the contents from the previous year when I originally started it (July 2010), I published a post I had previously written on March 19, 2011, titled, Moving Forward.” It was the story of my spiritual journey from the time I lost my job in Houston on April 21, 2009, until that point in time (almost two years later). I followed it up with a post written on March 26, 2011, titled, Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads,” which was a continuation of the first post and republished on the same date, July 8, 2011.

Several months later, I wrote a post titled Second Chances (published January 23, 2012), written almost a year later from the original dates when I wrote the above two posts and also as I was coming up to the end my third year of unemployment. In it I wrote about being a “late bloomer” much like what Jesus talked about in the parable about the workers in the vineyard who were hired throughout the day (from dawn right up until the very last hour of the work day) and how they were all paid the same amount of money regardless of how long they had worked (see Matt. 20:1-16).

Well folks, I’m about to end my fourth year of unemployment in early (April) 2013. Who knew, right? And it’s been a very long haul . . . . Looking back, I’m glad that on the day I was fired (April 21,2009) I had no idea what was up ahead and that I would still be unemployed several years later. If I had known that at that time, I would have requested that they take me to the roof of that building (a six-story building) and throw me off. The upside to that is that I wouldn’t have spent the last three years and eight months in an absolutely futile attempt to find employment and I would have been in Heaven all this time, too!!! However, that was obviously not God’s plan for me (and no doubt somebody at that former place of employment would be in jail for throwing me off the roof). I say all of that tongue-in-cheek as I certainly don’t have a “death wish” even after almost four years of unemployment. But this is getting WAY OLD, folks!!!

If you’ve read any of my previous posts (176 including this one since July 8, 2011), you are familiar with my journey and how it has taken on a whole new perspective and direction beyond the initial (and frantic) search to find another job, which is still certainly something I keep looking for as I need an income. However, God graciously kept it a secret from me that I would be unemployed for so very, very long. Not only that, but all of the thoughts I had back then about how I thought God would work in my life after being fired bit the dust (e.g., that I was sure God would bring me a new job within six months or at the longest a year since I am self-supporting and knew I’d be financially destitute by the end of that first year without another job). Well, here I am almost four years later and I’m not broke yet (that–in and of itself–is no small miracle).

Years ago I read a book titled, Your God Is Too Small,” by J.B. Phillips (1906-1982). Originally published in 1952, it was republished several times (the latest in 2004) and is available through Amazon.com. While the copy I owned has long since been lost (no doubt among the 1000+ books I lost when I left Houston in 2009), the title has always stayed with me. The book is broken up into two parts: Part One: Destructive (Unreal Gods), and Part Two: Constructive (An Adequate God). There is a long list in the “Destructive” section that I’m sure many of us can relate to–here’s some of the chapter titles: “Resident Policeman,” “Parental Hangover,” “Grand Old Man,” “Meek-and-Mild,” “Absolute Perfection,” “Heavenly Bosom,” “God-in-a-Box,” “Managing Director,” “Second-hand God,” “Perennial Grievance,” “Pale Galilean,” and “Projected Image.” Several of those titles most likely ring a bell in all of us as to how we personally view God. However, the one that really intrigued me was “God-in-a-Box.” A PDF of the book in plain text is available at this link but be aware that it is 97 pages in length.

In the chapter titled, “God-in-a-Box,” the topic of which is regarding denominations (pp. 22-25 in the PDF) J.B. Phillips states, “There are doubtless many reasons for the degeneration of Christianity into ‘churchiness,’ and the narrowing of the Gospel for all mankind into a set of approved beliefs (e.g., within denominations); but the chief cause must be the worship of an inadequate god, a cramped and regulated god who is ‘a good churchman’ according to the formulas of the worshipper. For actual behavior infallibly betrays the real object of man’s worship” (pp. 24-25). I think many of us would agree that those of us raised in a certain denomination tend to believe what we have been taught about God in that particular denomination. And in so doing, we put God in that particular denominational box and this extends into our own personal relationship with Christ and our own image of who God is. Unfortunately, most of the time it is very small . . . e.g., “destructive.”

We do put God in a box all the time whether we realize it or not. For example, we say we believe in miracles but do we really? Here’s an example from my own life: I was sure (well, greatly hoping) that God would not leave me unemployed for longer then my savings (and unemployment checks) would hold out (a year at the max from the time I was fired as normally unemployment benefits only last six months and my savings added to it would keep me going for an additional six months). I couldn’t “see” beyond what my bank account told me was “impossible” at the time–e.g., that I could survive almost four years of unemployment and still not be broke when my actual funds at that time would only last a year. When we find ourselves in a tight spot and look to our own resources, we forget all about the fact that Jesus twice fed crowds of 4000 (Mark 8:1-10) and 5000 (Mark 6:34-44) with a few fish and a few loaves of bread.

In the routine of our daily lives, we tend to live in a very small world when it comes to understanding God. And at times, He will intervene through circumstances to get us to see Him and this world of ours as being much larger than we can even imagine. Initially when I lost my job I viewed it as God’s way of taking me out of a bad situation (which it was) and in my way of thinking He was going to place me in a job better suited for whatever it was He wanted me to accomplish and do it within a year due to my financial situation. Of course, at that time I didn’t realize how small the box was that I had put God in until my “new” life of unemployment began to unfold. And unfold it did sometimes very painfully when I came close to getting a job but didn’t get it, and I didn’t understand why.

When God intervenes in our comfortable world, it turns our world upside down. For example, the Apostle Paul had it “made in the shade” when he was a Pharisee–highly respected, publicly recognized, most likely well off financially–he had all the trappings of “success” in his profession, and he was “religious” to the core–a Pharisee of Pharisees–and he didn’t even recognize that he was heading down the wrong road. Indeed, he wasn’t even looking for a different road because he thought he had it right. And then Jesus met him on the Damascus Road, and his encounter with Jesus Christ changed his life forever. He wrote about the change that happened to him in Philippians 3:7-14:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In his comfortable life as a Pharisee he couldn’t see beyond the facade. But when Jesus intervened in his life, he couldn’t go back to what he once knew. Everything changed, especially his focus. It went from “living by the rules” to “knowing Jesus Christ personally” and the whole course of his life was forever changed . . .

. . . And that is what He wants to do with us–get rid of the box we’ve put Him in and the “religious” games we play and our assumptions about Him and how He works in our lives and in the lives of others. We need to stop judging what we don’t understand and realize that miracles DO happen everyday, and many times they are disguised in trials, and in my case, it has been this very long “trial” of unemployment. What He did for me wasn’t about just “finding another job.” No–it was about finding Him–not from a salvation standpoint as He has been my Savior since I was ten years old, but by taking Him out of the very small box I had put Him in which made my world small and self-contained.

I still don’t know what the future holds nor do I know how much longer this trial of mine will last, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is moving me forward and has given me a second chance. He has broadened my world and my view of Him in ways I absolutely couldn’t have imagined before I lost my job. He has become more real to me then a next door neighbor. And He is the God of second chances, and He loves to do it even when we initially shake in our boots and don’t understand because it is disguised as a crisis or trial. After all, as Isaiah stated a long time ago:

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
        God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
“Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
“So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
“They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
~Isaiah 55:8-11 MSG

I’ll end this post with two of my favorite verses which hold the key to taking God out of the box we put Him in (you’ll most likely recognize them, too):

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

He does, indeed, make all things new.

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” (2008) composed and sung by Israel Houghton and the Lakewood Church Worship Team:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Back Again

I started this blog in July 2010 but I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take with it so I deleted the posts I wrote up through April 2011. However, I’ve now decided to write with a focus on what I’m learning through this long process of unemployment (since April 2009) so here I am, back again! I’m starting with two previous posts that I wrote back in March 2011 (Moving Forward and Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads) since that will give you some background on how I’m integrating my Christian faith with this journey through unemployment. If you wish to read more about my background, you can go to the top of this page and click on “A Little About Me” or click here.

Photo credit here

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