Our Natural Self: Good or Evil?

Psalm 14

Psalm 53

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Romans 3:12

A repeating theme throughout the Bible. So important to David, in fact, that he writes two different psalms about it (Psalm 14, 53). He must have taught this to his son because Solomon writes about it later in Ecclesiastes (7:20). Finally, the apostle Paul quotes it in his letter to the churches in Rome (Romans 3:12).

Why is this such a prevalent theme in Scripture? That’s a big question, and I can only come up with a small answer: it’s important for us to know.

As a follower of the Way, am I not called to love Christ first and love others secondly? It’s clear that I can not do this without the power of Christ in me. God Himself through 3 different people has said, “You are not good.” I can only assume then that people are not inherently good. We are born into a world smeared with, and shattered by sin. Everywhere you turn, you can see the effect of sin on the hearts of mankind.

Take a young toddler for example. If you have two children together, playing with the same toys, what is their natural reaction? “MINE!” Grabbing. Taking. Pushing. Do you think they learned that from their parents? No. These babes were not taught how to be selfish, they are born into it.

These babes then grow up to be you and me. And we aren’t any better. We haven’t out grown our selfishness, or our sin. In fact, we become better at sinning, not worse. If you’ve grown up in the church or been around the church scene for a length of time then you may have heard, “All sin is the same to God.” To Him sin is sin, whether you murder someone, or lie to your parents you’ve separated yourself from Him. From a human perspective, that is really hard to grasp and comprehend. Here’s the point: from a human perspective, the older we get, the longer we live in this sin stained world, the worse our sins get.

We grow from grabbing a toy from another child, into sexual immorality. Please do not mishear my words. It’s not that your child is going to grow up to be a terrible person because they took that toy, nor are you a terrible person now because you stole a toy as a child. The point is “There is not one who does good, no, not one.” We are all selfish; we are all sinners. This is the world we have been born into.

If you spend any amount of time with someone who doesn’t follow Christ, or really, even those who have been led astray, it won’t take long until you hear the statement, “They’re a generally good person.” Maybe referencing someone they know, or perhaps even referencing themselves. But unless you have Christ guiding your choices and your thoughts and your life, this can’t be true.

It’s a fascinating truth to meditate on.

I was listening to a sermon the other day about this topic. The pastor related that in America we may have this tendency to think that people are inherently good because we live in a Disneyland of a nation. If you look at the basis of just about any other country in the world, what do you see? Evil. Sin. Inherently bad. China deciding that men are better than women, so they murder female infants. Middle Eastern countries do not allow women much of any rights. Russia, oppressing their people for years because those in power don’t want their people to believe they matter. Hitler. Stalin. And if we’re being completely honest, we should look at our own history too. The concentration camps we put Japanese people in during the Second World War, the mass genocide and theft from the Native Americans.

No one is immune to sin. No, not one. Not even our great America. We just choose not to remember our past mistakes. The path of a nation is similar to the path of an individual: if we choose not to look back at our past, and learn from it, we will keep stepping into the same sin over and over again. Different day same story.

Now, I didn’t set out to make this a political post, nor do I want to continue that way. But I believe the point remains, and I won’t ever be convinced otherwise. All have sinned. There is not one who is good. The only good we have ever seen in this world comes from God.

Please don’t think that all hope is lost for mankind. No. That will never be true. Hope is never lost or gone. And there is a faith you can have that is in something more secure than mankind. Because over 2000 years ago a child was born, Jesus. The promised Messiah. He came to bring peace to those who choose to believe and trust and follow Him. For those of us who have chosen and will choose Him are filled with His righteousness. We have so many spiritual weapons and blessings available to us so that we may be different than our natural nature. We can choose righteousness rather than sin. We are now slaves to righteousness rather than sin.

Lord, I thank You for Your infinite wisdom. Thank You for revealing truth and knowledge to us. I pray that we would not sit stagnant when faced with truth. I pray that You would erase any words that are not Yours, so that my words would not settle in the hearts of those who read this. Rather, my God, I ask Your Word would take hold and grow in their hearts. In Your Holy, Mighty name I pray, amen.


Confessions of a Christian Woman

God is still writing my story in the pages of His book. Below you will find my testimony. I have been blessed to have walked a tough road, through many choices of my own. Blessed because now I get to impart truth, hope, life, and grace to those who would listen. In April I shared this testimony at our church’s yearly women’s retreat, and just a few weeks ago was able to share a snippet of this with the youth group at church. May the Lord bless and protect all who read this.

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When you examine your life and you really think about that one thing you want, that one thing you need, what would it be? Is it that job, or that house? Is it to have a marriage like them? Would it be to have kids that acted like her kids? Let me tell you that all of these have crossed my mind, and settled into my heart at one time or another. But really at the core of all these desires there is a lack of worth, a lack of true love. And as women, isn’t that what we want, what we need? In our deepest longings, in our heart of hearts we are screaming, begging for someone to tell us, “You matter to me. You are so worthy of all my love, and freely I give to you, unconditionally, all that I am. I love you!”

The apostle Paul nails it on the head in his letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and the first letter to the Corinthians. He knows: women need love. We as women, as young girls are so impressionable, especially by the men in our lives. And before I go into my account of how God gave me worth, and told me that I was loved, I want to encourage you today to begin seeking your worth and meaning and true love in Christ alone.

In the book of John, Jesus says this, “For the thief has come to kill, and steal, and destroy” and how does he do this? With society. With the ideas that this is how you’re supposed to look, that you have to be super-mom, or super-wife all on your own, that you need to be happy, and that all the things will make you happy. But then Jesus says, “I have come that they,” they being those who have chosen Jesus to be their Savior, those who have said, ‘I am sorry Jesus for my sins. I know YOU died on the cross to save me. Please come into my life and change me!’, “may have life.” Note that Jesus doesn’t say happiness, but LIFE, “and have it to the full.” I truly believe that there should be an exclamation point after this statement (I think John got that wrong). Jesus gives a full life! And as you are about to read, I tried filling my life with all the things. In an attempt to find that fullness, to find that worth, to find that love I so desperately craved, and still do, I searched in all the wrong places. I might be showing my age a bit when I ask: Was it in the 80s that the slogan of “drug, sex and rock n roll” became a thing? Well…welcome to my life.

I should set the scene for you. I was raised in the church, a “Christian” household. I had accepted Jesus into my heart at a young age. My biological mother and my Dad ran the Children’s Ministry. So believe me when I say I never would have thought my family would be the victim of a divorce. Looking back now I remember having a happy family at church, and a tendency towards anger, dysfunction, and explosive behavior at home. Now that’s not to say we didn’t have fun and I don’t have fond memories, but I do know that the Lord shielded my eyes from many things.

I actually remember walking to the bus stop one morning when I was 8 or 9 and hearing all the neighbor kids talking about their step-moms, step-dads, or step-siblings, and the resentment you could hear in their voices was astounding. But I thought to myself, ‘How lucky I am that we are Christians, and Christians don’t get divorced.’

Not long after that our parents sat us down in the living room, only a small light was on, and we sat next to a dying fire. What an ironic picture for what was about to happen: “Mom is moving out.” At 10 years old, I had no idea what that meant, I had no idea what that was going to look like. I honestly thought that she was probably going to move a few houses away. My brother was 12, and my sister was 8. As you can imagine, for our Christian family, this was devastating. It was absolutely earth shaking, and over the next several years my foundation showed its weakness and cracks, and eventually crumbled away. Do you remember that kids song about the foolish man who built his house on the sand? Although I had gone to church for as long as I could remember, and I truly had Jesus in my heart, I had a foundation built on sand. I had not made a foundation of rock for myself. I had not owned my faith yet, my parents were still my foundation. But their foundations were broken too.

In the years to follow the ugliness, the brokenness, and the darkness in both of my parents came out full force, in different ways. Custody battles ensued, leaving a house divided even more, me with my Dad and my brother and sister with my biological Mom. Eventually I would choose to not visit her at all for various reasons but the main one being that there had been years of backlash from her and her second husband with me wanting to be involved in the church. I struggled with feeling abandoned: If the woman who carried me and gave birth to me couldn’t love and accept me for who I was, then who could?

The love and acceptance I so desperately needed could clearly not be found in my family, my family was a hot mess. My biological mother didn’t even want me. The feelings of abandonment and not being worthy of her love, the pain that enveloped me from this divorce would soon take me down a path I wouldn’t come back from for about 10 years. With every lie that Satan whispered in my mind, every one I began to believe, I was giving my heart to the enemy that had come to kill and steal and destroy. And while this story obviously ends with a wayward child returned to the loving arms of Christ, I still struggle with those destructive, negative thoughts.

Through Jr. High, in those few years right after the separation and divorce, I tested the waters of rebellion. I wore white eye-liner, like Brittney Spears, against my Dad’s wishes. I wore tight clothes, and shirts that showed my mid-drift. And to get away with these things I would often change at school, or put layers on so Dad wouldn’t see. I listened to Country music *gasp* but it was against my Dad’s wishes. And I was a serial dater. I was dipping my foot in the waters, testing it out, seeing what I could get away with. So you can see that in the core of me I was looking for acceptance, worth, and love, and I was beginning to seek it out in earthly things. But I still enjoyed going to church and doing all the church things. There was a spiritual war beginning in my life, and I didn’t even realize I was playing into exactly where Satan wanted me.

In the summer before my freshman year of High School, there was a revival within my heart, quite unexpected I might add, I suppose they usually are though. I went on a mission’s trip; I joined the worship team and eventually became a part of the student leadership team. I was finding acceptance and worth in my friends, and the things that I did for God. But there was still a big issue: I was finding love, and acceptance and worth in church and acts of service, not Christ. In a matter of 3 years I would leave high school as a completely different person then who entered in. Depression, self-mutilation, and Satan’s lies would entrench me by the time I graduated.

I began serious dating in high school, and subconsciously, in order to protect myself from the hurt of abandonment ever again, I would perpetually end relationships suddenly. Generally, it was because I had already started liking someone else. This would also carry into my “adult” life. And Satan would use these situations to pile shame and guilt in to my heart and mind; I knew it was wrong, but just couldn’t seem to stop it. Why? Because I hadn’t found my True Love yet.

Towards the end of my junior year I began believing that I was in such turmoil and pain because I was bi-sexual, and I was living under oppression from my Christian family, and I was being forced to live a lie. In a bold attempt to show my Mom (technically step-mom, but she holds the title of Mom) and Dad who I really was, and why I was in such turmoil I told them I was gay and had a girlfriend. I packed my room at lunch the next day and moved in with my biological mom. Because I just knew she would accept me as I was. I ended up living with her for about a week but during that time, I found myself at a college party with a friend, drinking heavily, really drinking for the first time aside from sneaking a bit here and there from my parents. And before I knew what was happening I was having sex in a bathroom with some guy I barely knew. Was it rape? No. However, in my naivety and drunken state, I really didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. I cannot even put in to words the shame and guilt I felt, how absolutely empty, bare and dirty I felt the next morning. And at this point I had no loyalty to God, but Satan was using this act of sexual immorality to take me further down a path of destruction. Much to my own dismay the pain I was now feeling was a catalyst to return to a safe place, and I ended up moving back in with my Mom and Dad a few days later. Talk about spiritual warfare. There was clearly a battle between Heaven and Hell for this child of God. And I felt every single bit of it. Turmoil and darkness surrounded me, while God and His angles fought for me.

Internally I continued to struggle with my sexual identity, and my depression. In 2007, my senior year of High School, I began dating a boy and really thought that I had found the love and acceptance I had longed for so long. Alcohol also entered my life more regularly and became a facilitator in numbing pain. And when you begin mixing alcohol, instability, depression, and teenagers, you know you’re bound for trouble. One weekend, I was feeling particularly invincible and thought it was a good idea to have some friends over and we had a bottle of alcohol. Mind you, my parents are asleep downstairs, my two youngest sisters asleep upstairs where my friends and I were. The girl that I had dated briefly was there that night, and we fooled around a bit, I gave her a ring to profess my love. But I’m still dating that wonderful guy, and guess what else? I wasn’t invincible, my parents found out about the alcohol.

Oh, the turmoil I suffered in those next few days. Not only was I dealing with consequences from my parents, I also had to figure out the drama I had created with this girl and this boy. On top of my heavy school load, because I was an Honor Student you know, and participating in sports, and, and, and… I could not cope. I couldn’t deal with the consequences of my actions. And on January 3, 2007, it would seem that Hell had won the battle for my life. It was a Wednesday night. I finished swimming practice, went home, grabbed a brand new bottle of Tylenol PM, and 2 or 3 handfuls of Ibuprofen. I only tell you the specifics of what I swallowed so that you understand it is ONLY by the grace of God that I am alive right now.

I wrote my last words down as I swallowed pill after pill, handfuls at a time. One might think that with all the people I felt the need to write to that night I would have snapped out of it. It’s shocking how engulfed I was in the lies Satan had been hissing in my ears.

Now, obviously I didn’t die, but boy I remember thinking in the hospital how badly I wished it had worked. Because not only did I still have to deal with the choices I had made prior to my suicide attempt, but I now had this suicide attempt to deal with too. After a night in ICU, a week in the hospital, and another week in inpatient psych care I left the hospital, and decided somewhere along the way that I was going to be continue dating that boy. We continued to date through high school, and shortly after graduating we were engaged.

Now, because of the nature of the relationship with this boy, not only did I struggle with who my true love was, acceptance and worth, I would now struggle with associating love as sex. He left for boot camp some short weeks after our engagement. So when the sex stopped I was easily swayed to fall for someone else. While Mr. Navy was away, I became involved with a guy at work, Mr. Lifeguard. I ended up moving in with him, at his parent’s house, and didn’t write to Mr. Navy for almost 2 weeks.

Mr. Lifeguard and I had a dysfunctional relationship to say the least, and I was not any more responsible than I was in high school, as grown up as I felt. Living on my own with my boyfriend…in his parent’s house. Mr. Lifeguard and I were together for about a year and a half, and towards the end of the relationship I began having feelings for one of our mutual friends. We’ll call him Mr. Married.

Again, turmoil; I was living with someone but was carrying on an emotional affair with another man, but the fact that he was married didn’t bother me. Eventually I made one of the most adult decisions in those days, and ended what was going on with Mr. Married. Although, much to my dismay about a month later Mr. Lifeguard would tell me that he didn’t think we should be together. So I moved in with a friend from work.

Mr. Married came back into the picture very quickly, as did a few other guys. Some physical, some emotional, some I led on because I thought that the attention was lovely. To be blunt I was acting a whore; in one 24-hour period I had sexual relations with 3 different guys. But soon all the sex, all the cigarettes and all the alcohol couldn’t numb me enough. I found marijuana, oh the sweet relief I felt when I was high.

My low point finally came when I began to be more concerned about being high than just about everything else. Only by the grace of God, did I continue going to school and working. Because of my desire to be high all the time I chose to become homeless so I could be with my “friends”, my suppliers. There were four of us, and one was a young mama with a 2 year old daughter.

My pastor mentioned in a sermon some time ago that people can become so entangled with sin that they do not care for the sanctity of others. This was true for me. There was one night when the little baby was so fussy that I thought, “Marijuana works to calm us down, it should work for her too.” So we proceeded to blow smoke in her face, hoping she would become just “contact” high enough to sleep. The poor baby was actually just hungry and dehydrated. She ended up in urgent care the next day.

Not too long after this my Mom and Dad had got ahold of me and asked me to come to dinner. Offering a shower and use of the washer and dryer if needed, but the stipulation was that only I could come. I obliged, thinking only of what I could gain.

To my surprise they offered as the main course God’s grace along with a plate of spaghetti. Much to my parents surprise I broke down in a broken heap of tears and accepted their sweet platter of grace. I moved back in the next day. Mom helped me straighten out my financial mess, I continued to work and go to school. There were house rules of course: no drugs, no alcohol, you have to go to church on Sundays, and other basics. But I NEVER went to church with them; I always made sure to be working.

God had been working in my heart in ways that I didn’t realize, and He would continue to use me, and orchestrate events that only He could. At some point during the summer Mom called me and said they were going to a local burger joint and the church picnic. I asked if I could go simply because I wanted a burger and I didn’t want to pay for it. I was always thinking about me, what could I get from a situation. But here’s where God started getting my attention. When we got to the park we were getting out of the truck and before I could stop the words from leaping off my tongue I blurted, “Since I’m not working Sundays anymore,” because I had been fired from that job (blessing in disguise!), “I’ll go to church with you guys, because I know it’s important to you.” I regretted saying it as soon as it had come out of my mouth, but there was a strange peace in that choice too. I dreaded every Sunday. I would sit sourly in service journaling about how communion was cannibalism, and popping my knuckles during prayers, dressing as masculine as I could.

One Sunday though, as I was driving home, I began arguing with God about His existence. And I knew He was talking back to me, and I don’t know how to describe it, but if you’ve heard Him talk to you, you know what I mean. I told Him, “I’m sorry, I just can’t believe You’re real.” God responded ever so tenderly, “I know.”

On December 14th, 2009 I was taking a shower and out of nowhere, I hit my knees, “God, I can’t do this alone anymore. I just can’t do it.” The peace and light that washed over me was so freeing. In that very moment I began building my foundation of rock. I had owned my faith, and asked God to be a present help in my life. That was the moment I asked Him to be Lord over my life. I promptly went downstairs and told my parents. And while I continued to struggle for some time finding my new life, I was finally on the right path to finding the love, and acceptance and worth I so craved.

God has done amazing works in my life following that day. I quit smoking marijuana cold turkey, on more than one occasion I have quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey, God healed me in a way that I no longer identify as bi-sexual. I am married to a great man with a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. While my testimony continues in a very different light after that day, it wasn’t until more recently that I truly began seeking Jesus to be my love, my acceptance and my worth. I’m not going to pretend that God made it all rainbows and butterflies after I was humble before Him. It’s not easy, in fact Jesus Himself said that we will have it rough; trials and tribulations. I have good days and bad days. I still struggle with depression, and have added anxiety into the mix, the lies of Satan still often drown out God’s truth, I have contemplated suicide on more than one occasion in the past 8 years, even in my marriage I struggle with associating sex with love. But God is so gracious to continue shaping us, and isn’t it so much easier when we are willing participants.

I would really encourage you, if you haven’t accepted the grace that God offers, the salvation that comes with Jesus’ death and resurrection, to seriously consider it. It won’t be easy, but you’ll have peace in the chaos. You’ll have troubles, but the love that God offers is true and unconditional. There will be drama, but God’s truth, God’s Word, the Bible, defines your worth. And if my life hasn’t convinced you that God will accept you as you are, wherever that is, then may He bring you someone’s who will.

 

 


Why I Enjoy Being Close Minded

God’s call to His children is to live a separate life. A life of opposite. We are to be light in darkness, peace in chaos, joy during grief, love in turmoil, we are to turn the other cheek, forgive when we’ve been wronged, we are to love and serve our enemies (just as Jesus loved and served Judas the night He was betrayed), we are to be salt in this tasteless world. We are called to be holy and acceptable unto Him – weird, nuts, crazy, different, close minded as the world may call us.

Being close minded isn’t all that bad though. Being close minded, is in fact, a great thing as a follower of Christ! I would take it as a compliment any day. 

If I was to allow all the things of this world to seep into my mind I would be a wreck. In fact, I have done just this, and I’ve ended up in the hospital after overdoses, I’ve found myself homeless because I was more concerned about a high than a place to live, I’ve suffered consequences in my marriage because I wanted to drink rather than listen to my God’s convictions. NO, I will not be open minded, because my God calls me to live a life that is full of love, but opposite of what the world says is right. God calls me to protect my mind, to close it off to the things of this world.

If you are not a follower of Christ then you’re probably not going to fully understand this, and that’s ok. My prayer is that perhaps you might still glean some truth from this, or that God might plant a seed in your heart to grow a tree of Life for Him later. Maybe you know Jesus, you’ve asked Him into your life but you’re not seeking Him, or you’re withholding a part of your heart from Him: hear me when I say that there is nothing in this world more satisfying than giving your entire heart over to Him.

When we protect our minds, we are protecting our very life. Whatever it is that you ponder on, that you think about, that you allow to enter into your mind will settle in your heart. And from your heart flows the very springs of your life (Proverbs 4:23). If all I’m doing is stuffing my mind full of sin, of worldly, worthless things then what do you suppose is going to begin flowing out of me? Selfish, sinful behavior. I grew up in a home that taught me what you listen to (music, podcasts, radio, etc) and what you watch (tv shows, movies, news, etc) will eventually shape how you act. If you grew up in church it’s likely that you sang a song as a child with these lyrics: “Be careful little eyes what you see…Be careful little feet where you go…Be careful little hands what you do…Be careful little ears what you hear…” There is great wisdom in those words.

We should get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is prevalent, and we should humbly accept the word planted in us, which can save us. Do not simply listen to the word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says. Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without any reason that He jealously longs for the Spirit He has caused to dwell in us? If anyone, then, knows the good they should be doing and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. Oh dear friends, I implore you to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (James 1:21-22; 4:4-5, 17; 1 Peter 2:11)

Jesus does not show partiality. Why should we? We are His ambassadors, His representatives. Every action, every word, every thought reflects our relationship with our Christ. I for one, would like to remain submissive to the One who created me. For His ways are high above my ways, and His thoughts greater than mine. My desire is to fulfill His calling – to be pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Am I close minded? Yes. And for good reason.

I pray that those of you who follow after Christ would also consider and choose to be close minded. For those that deny God, I pray for your salvation, because I do believe that there is only one way to Heaven: through Jesus Christ the Son who said, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Light. No one gets to my Father except through Me.”

May it all be for your glory, O Lord.