Happily Ever After

Many times when a Christian speaks to a non-Christian they tell of this blissful experience once they are saved.  They tell this story that ends with a happily ever after once a person is saved.  I once had a little boy come to me at school and tell me that he didn’t feel saved.  He had prayed the prayer, but he didn’t feel saved.  His life was still hard.  His life was still covered in disappointment, loneliness and neglect.  He wanted to know if he had prayed the prayer wrong because it didn’t feel happily ever after.

I was saved in 2004, and from that moment I entered the most difficult period of my life.  It was financially, emotionally and physically overwhelming.  I was tested in a period of tribulation that was simply beyond comprehending.  I was broken down to a person that was nearly unrecognizable.  Yet, I was a Christian.  I was doing what I was supposed to do.  I was studying my bible, listening to preachers on the radio, and attending local services.  Where was my happily ever after? Didn’t God accept my prayer?

You will find preachers and churches that promise you a happily ever after.  You will find preachers and churches that promise blessings upon your family if you tithe.  You will find preachers that promise heaven on earth if you surrender your life to Jesus Christ. They rush you to pray for salvation under the false pretense of a happily ever after, and when that doesn’t happen you begin to doubt yourself and Christ, just as the little boy did.

Quite to the contrary, you can expect a life of tribulation and hardship.  All of the apostles except one was martyred for his faith.  If those closest to Jesus Christ suffered and died, then how can we expect a fairy tale existence?  The scriptures tell us that the world will hate us as it hated Jesus.  The devil will rise against us and challenge us daily to turn from our loving father.  We will be in the world, but not of the world. 

2 Timothy 3:12 NIV
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

John 15:18-21 NIV
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What the Bible does promise is salvation.  The Bible does promise that upon your death you will live again in heaven with your savior.  What the Bible does promise is that you will be sealed by God and become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.  The Bible does promise that while there will be tribulation, loss and suffering you will never endure it alone.   The Bible does promise that all things will happen for your good and for His glory.

You are the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  You have a personal relationship with God.  Your sins have been washed away by the sacrifice of the creator of the universe.  Death no longer has a claim on you and you will live in fellowship with God in heaven forever and ever.  That is our happily ever after.

The Hulk

At times I get angry. In my younger days my anger would come surging out of me hurting everyone within arms reach. I would turn into the Incredible Hulk, break things, and once even shattered a picture by punching it. I had a viper’s tongue and the object of my wrath received a scathing breakdown of all their failings. I spared no punches. I even received the nickname “junk yard dog” for my tendency to go after people. Unlike the dog, my bite was as bad as my bark.

When I was saved the Holy Spirit began working in my life. Over time, not overnight, I learned to manage that anger. I learned to get upset without going green. I learned a healthier way to manage what anger really was… a hurt. I learned to surrender my anger to God. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. That’s how God works in you, slowly. Eventually you will wake up one morning and realized that you have changed…and I have.

However, I still get angry. I feel it sneak up on me like a burning feeling around my heart. There is this rage that just wants to explode and consume everything. There is no gain in that. If you lose control who has it? So what do you do with that anger when you have been wronged? The Bible has a lot to say on anger…

Psalm 37:8 NIV
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

James 1:19-20 NIV
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

As a Christian it is clear that I need to resolve the growing green monster in me that rises from an offense. I need to surrender this anger and seek refuge in forgiveness and love. So even as the Hulk burns inside of me yearning to be set free, I surrender to Christ.

I sink to the floor and pray. I pray for the one that hurt me. I pray for the one that maligns me. I pray for the one that refuses to understand me. I pray for the thief, the abuser, the cheater and the villain. I swallow my own bitterness and pray for my enemy. At first the green monster is still enraged and fighting against the respite that prayer brings, but with patience even it subsides and I am at peace. I have peace not because the wrong no longer exists or that the wound has healed, but because I have sought the Lord and found Him within me.

Matthew 5:44-48 NIV
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Delete

Yesterday I rushed home from church excited to write about the revelation I had received from the pastor’s message. I drove home with the radio off so I wouldn’t lose my focus. I set my things down on the floor right inside the door and raced to my computer. I jumped onto the keys with a fervor that was intoxicating. I felt moved by the Holy Spirit and it was glorious.

The words came out so fast that I had to proof it twice to find all the typos. I had a message to share, and I needed to get it out and on the air. I probably left out things that would have clarified the point, but I was on fire for the Lord. After finishing it I quickly posted it to Facebook and set back overwhelmed by that glowing feeling of work well done. I had been inspired by the Word to write about Jesus Christ. That’s awesome!

As I set about the rest of my day, the doubt started to creep in. I could hear those Mind-Binders at work in there.

“Delete it. That’s not a good blog. You wrote about yourself. You didn’t write about Jesus. You wrote this for your own glory, not His. Who are you to think that you could tell anyone about God or his love?”

Now I must confess, that I experience doubt after every blog post. I go through a period of concern and wondering. This is what the devil wants me to do. He wants to steal my joy. He wants to steal my glowing happy feeling. He wants me to delete the message so that I won’t share my stories, my discoveries, or my joy with Jesus. He doesn’t want me to write about the way that Jesus has changed my life, how God has been faithful to His promises, or the way the Holy Spirit leads me.

The devil doesn’t want anyof God’s children to have a victorious day. He doesn’t want you serving God with a glorious heart. He wants you to feel shame, guilt, doubt, and fear. Those are not God Feelings. So what do we do? Do I delete the post?

Romans 12:21 NIV
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

No. I do not delete it. I swallow the sour feeling in my stomach and I leave it up. I write another one, for my love for Jesus will not be stifled by those Mind-Binders. I will praise God, I will seek the kingdom, and I will search for ways to serve my savior. I will go out the front door and I will find someone to love, something to give, and someway to help.

If it is a poorly written piece, or if it has a naïve understanding of the Lord and His will, it was still written with joy. It was written to glorify Jesus by a willing heart. I may have lost the point in what I was writing, but I haven’t lost the point in why I was writing. I write for love, and I will trust in Jesus alone, not the words of doubt fed to me by the enemy.

Psalm 62:2 NIV
He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.

I AM

Whether you are a Christian or not, you have probably heard the story of Jesus Christ. It started in a small town, with a young girl named Mary. Through her faith and obedience was delivered the savior, Jesus in the town of Bethlehem. Jesus was visited by three wise men, escaped to Egypt with his family and then returned to Nazareth. At a young age he was found preaching in the church with the scholars of the day. As a child he worked with his father, obeyed his mother, and when he became a man he started his ministry.

Jesus was baptized by John, and then wandered in the desert for forty days where he was tempted by Satan. At the end of his period of fasting and prayer he began traveling the region speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven. When his ministry led him to the city of Jerusalem during the Passover, he was seized by Roman soldiers. He voluntarily turned himself over to ridicule, torture and execution through crucifixion. After three days he rose from the tomb and met with the apostles. For forty more days he spoke, taught, and prepared them to carry the message of salvation to the four corners of the world. Then in front of more than five hundred witnesses he ascended into heaven.

Then what happened to Him? The Bible then tells about the early days of the church. The ministry that started with the apostles. The salvation and ministry of Paul. But what happened to Jesus? Is that the end of Jesus’ story?

I can tell you what happened to Jesus. Almost 2000 years after ascending to heaven He found His way to Small-Town, Oklahoma where a little girl was born. He stayed with that little girl as she grew through a home that more times than not was dark and violent. When the whole world was unaware of the suffering in that home, He was there holding that small child. When her tears fell in sorrow and pain, He was there.

As she grew up He stayed with her. He followed her into the United States Army and around the world on missions and deployments. He cried with her over the loss of loved ones and broken relationships. He stayed with her as she experimented with the temptations of the world, and He never left her side. He loved her when she didn’t even know how to love herself. Jesus followed this woman even though she denied Him with her words and actions.

Though she didn’t deserve it He answered her deepest, most fervent prayer. On January 3, 2004, Jesus showed this woman how much He loved her when her daughter was born. The first time that little hand touched this woman’s face, was the first time that this woman allowed herself to feel the touch of her savior. For the first time in 30 years this woman felt true unconditional love, the love that only comes from Jesus.

In 2006 this woman was baptized and her soul, her heart and her mind began renewing itself in the Word. She began walking the path with her Lord instead of running ahead and away from Him. Instead of listening to the world, she started listening to her king. Now this woman is a writer in Small-Town, California. She writes about her true love, Jesus Christ, and the way He saved her. She writes about the Word of God and how it changes people. This woman has surrendered herself to be used as a tool by her redeemer, her savior, her constant companion, her Lord, her king of kings.

Do you want to know the story of Jesus Christ? You are the story of Jesus Christ. We are the story of Jesus Christ.

I AM the story of Jesus Christ.