The Day I Walked Away from Religion

United States

As a child, I was taught that when I give my heart to Jesus, He will come and live inside of me.  First of all, that’s kinda weird.  I don’t want someone living inside me.  My mom said that my brother was living inside of her, so does that mean Jesus is going to be a baby inside me?   Does that also mean He will come out in 9 months? Wait….that’s what happened to Mary in the story they tell me at Christmas time.

To clarify, He is not going to live in my belly. He’s going to live in my heart. I was also taught that in order for Him to stay in my heart, there was a list of rules I had to follow.  If you chose not to follow the rules, then “you were not a Christian anymore.”  

  • I couldn’t go to the movies, 
  • I couldn’t drink wine (Jesus turned water into wine, why can’t I drink it?), 
  • I could only listen to Christian music, 
  • I had to be at church every time the doors were open, which meant I had to go to church even when I was sick and vacations with my family were out of the question,
  • I had to read three chapters of the Bible every day,
  • I had to pray every day for one hour, 
  • I had to go to the altar every church service to ask for forgiveness for my sins,
  • I could only wear certain types of clothes,
  • Every person I met, I had to tell them about Jesus,
  • and the list goes on and on.  

I’m sure you could add several more rules yourself.  

If I didn’t follow every rule, all the time, then I couldn’t be a Christian or go to heaven.  I think we can agree that reading your bible, attending church, and other actions listed above are all good things to do. However, it was the unrealistic expectations of how these actions were lived out that made them rules to follow, instead of opportunities to live out a life of worship.

All these rules had me so bound up that after 20 years (I can’t believe I lasted that long), I was ready to walk away from God not towards Him.  I was told that if I stopped attending church, I would be walking away from God and I didn’t want to do that. I had seen so many people walk away for the same reason.  Just like those people, I love God and wanted to know Him more, but didn’t want to live under the constant pressure and unrealistic expectations anymore.

Then one day, God showed me the difference between religion and relationship.

Continue reading The Day I Walked Away from Religion

Crossing Denominational Lines

Ukraine

The paint was chipping on the weathered concrete structure as we entered the Ukrainian church.  You would never guess this was where 100 people gathered every week, as it looked very different from most Western churches.  I imagine in the nearly 70 years of Communist rule, building church sanctuaries was not on their list of priorities.  The lack of Western luster didn’t offend God either because he showed up and showed out this particular day.  After teaching one hour about God’s desire to heal the sick and perform miracles, through my interpreter, I asked if anyone needed prayer for healing.    

The first couple in line pastored a local Ukrainian church that teaches, “Healing is not for people today. Healing was something that Jesus and the disciples did in Bible times, but it was not meant for us to experience today. The wife said, “I’ve had severe back pain for five months. I realized during your teaching today that I had sin in my life. I repented of the sin while you were teaching and my back started to feel a little better, but the pain is still there. Can you pray for my back that God would completely heal me?” 

My heart nearly skipped a beat as I listened to her next few words. I’ve heard these words many times. I have lived my life by these words until God revealed His truth to me. She said, “I think God is punishing me for my sin, that’s why I am in pain.”

WoW! Even now as I write down her words, I can feel her pain. Soon compassion for her overwhelmed me. “That is not true! That is a lie from the enemy, satan. God does not make people sick! God does not punish people with sickness,” I said.

Take a look a the scriptures below. Do you see a theme?

  • “He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.”  Psalms 103:3 
  • “Jesus spoke and the demons left them, and he healed all the sick.”  Matthew 8:16
  • “Jesus went everywhere in Galilee….preaching the good news….healing all the people’s diseases and sicknesses.”  Matthew 4:23

It’s a three letter word that we should repeat over and over as it pertains to healing. It’s the word ALL.   “ALL” means “every, wholly, entirely, completely, everything.”   It doesn’t mean some people or just specific sicknesses, but ALL people and ALL sickness.  

In Psalms 103:3, it says “He[God] forgives ALL your sins, and heals ALL your diseases.”  So, the same faith that it takes for you to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and receive him as your Savior, is the same faith it takes to believe He can heal you.  There is no magic method, formula, words, or actions that should be followed to receive healing from God. You only need to believe in faith.  If you are a child of God, then you already have that faith. The enemy will immediately try to come in and create doubt by telling you lies. We have a choice to believe him and make his lies our truth or resist him and choose to believe God.

What if you don’t believe in the bible?  Let’s take a look at these lies from a logical standpoint. God doesn’t make people sick! Why? Because He’s not sick. You can’t give what you don’t have.

  •  If sickness is from God and in some way this brings Him glory, why would it not bring Him more glory if we were even sicker?  
  • Why would hospitals not be places of revival where people are giving their lives to Christ? 
  • Do you have children of your own, nieces, nephews, etc.?   If they were disobeying you, would you give them pneumonia, cancer, or some other disease until they did what you told them to do?  NO, of course not. You would be arrested for child abuse and your children taken away from you.  You love your children and would do anything to protect them and keep them safe.  Often times sparing no expense to ensure their health and safety.  If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are considered a child of God.  Why would he make you sick to teach you something? That’s just stinking thinking!!!

I could see the look of astonishment and hope on her face. Could it be true? Could God really heal her?

She went on to explain her pain was so severe that she could only bend over at a ten-degree angle, which made it hard to pick up things, properly bend to sit in a chair and do everyday tasks.  So, with her permission, I laid my hands on her back and prayed that God’s healing power would flow through her body and all muscles, tissue, ligaments, and bones would be restored to their normal length and strength. 

Nothing happened.

I prayed again. Still nothing happened.

Continue reading Crossing Denominational Lines

The Art of Believing

Philippines

The humid, Philippines air flowed through the open window as I wiped the sticky, sweat from my face.  Good thing no one else was in the room to witness my slobber on the pillow.  I could hear the earthly sounds of crickets, roosters, and tropical leaves blowing in the wind.  Barely able to lift my head, I decided to stay for another moment gaining my strength and preparing for the gut-wrenching pain soon to overwhelm my body.  Exhaustion coupled with the tropical heat had not produced the relief I needed from this deep sleep.  Instead, I was faced with the reality that I may not be able to get out of this bed.  Just like most of humanity, my bladder wasn’t privy to the news of my back pain.  It was functioning just fine.  

Perhaps if I rolled out of the bed and used those fancy military maneuvers I saw on TV as a child, I could make it to the bathroom that was less than four feet from me.  Clinching the bed frame with all my strength, I pulled myself closer to the edge of the bed.  In a moment of relief, I thought to myself, using my wonder woman accent, “I can do this!  I will not let my bladder win this battle!”  Quickly, I started to arise in a sitting position, only to discover my wonder woman skills had failed me.  The excruciating pain took over my lower back and landed me on the wooden floor.  

How did this happen?  I’m young.  I haven’t participated in any risky behaviors lately, that I could remember.  I just woke up one morning with this pain that increasing began to take over my body moment by moment, day by day for the past two weeks.  I couldn’t bend over, sit down, or even walk.  

Continue reading The Art of Believing

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