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Monday, January 2, 2012

What Are You?

“What are you?” he asked.

Without thinking too much, I answered: “Human. Female.” And I chuckled. I knew that wasn't what the young man was asking me, but I couldn't resist. Correction: I didn't resist. That playful side of me was much quicker than the thinking part of me... He smiled. I knew what he meant, and quickly followed with “Independent Bible.” I explained that I don't like to be affiliated with most organized “religions” because the more I read my Bible the less I like “traditional church.” I further explained that my husband prefers “historic Anabaptist” but I honestly prefer “independent” and “Bible.” I like a lot of the anabaptist concepts like believer's baptism, peace, a faith that can be seen, and community. But not enough to describe myself as anabaptist.

Country Life Natural Food Store
Eberhart Avenue
Columbus, GA
The young man nodded, and seemed to want to discuss further. As is often the case when my girls & I are in the store he worked in (Country Life), I was a bit pressed for time, and as kindly as I could manage I told him I'd let him get back to his work, and we'd try to get the rest of the items on our shopping list taken care of quickly.

I generally try to avoid conversations that cause divisiveness. I am not afraid of or opposed to hearing others express their opinions. I am not afraid of expressing my opinions. I like people. I just don't like arguments. And I also don't like having doctrine force-fed to me. In turn, I try not to force-feed my beliefs to others. Having said that, I will warn you that if you read further you will most certainly get a boatload of my beliefs; if you don't care to hear them then please exit without further reading.

When asked about what I believe, I answer. When prompted for Scripture references I'll prayerfully consider the request and weeks later maybe give a Scripture reference or two. I'm just not the intellectual type. More of a doer than a deep thinker. I can share what I know has been true in my life. I know some will say that's subjective.

I know when I was really young I was scared to death of dying. I'd maybe be trying to sleep and I'd realize that one day I was going to die and then I'd stop being me. I'd be over. No more me. Life would stop. That terrified me. I'd go to my parents in tears, seeking comfort. My dad would sigh heavily.

He used to be more atheist, but now tells me he's agnostic.  Generally, Dad was/is very turned off to anything remotely resembling Jesus. As I understand it, he'd been raised by a devout Church of Christ Mom and an agnostic father. He'd gone to church with his mom as a young boy, but when he was old enough to make his own decision to not go, he was done with the whole thing.

My mom would try to encourage me that when I died that was not the end.

Mom was raised by her maternal grandmother 'til her teenage years. She went to Catholic school, taught by nuns. When I was very young my parents attended an Episcopal church, but I can't remember going there past early elementary school. A little while later my mom got into New Age stuff, and joined an Edgar Cayce-A.R.E.-style study group – big focus being reincarnation, karma, and a laid back works-oriented faith.

So my parents did their best to comfort me, direct me to a glass of water, a hug, and sent me off to bed. I was still terrified of death. I realized later that I must have entered into an age of accountability. I wasn't thinking in terms of sin, and consequence, and eternity; I was thinking in terms of Me-Alive and Dead-No Me. I believe I was about 7 or 8 years old.

Around this time was when my parents started sending my older sister and me to ARE Camp in the summers. It was great fun: my first exposure to health food, tie-dye, vegetarians, meditation & backpacking. I made some lasting friendships & memories. So each summer my exposure to the whole reincarnation, karma & meditation thing deepened. I grabbed a hold of these ideas & concepts that seemed rational. I was still terrified of dying and no longer being ME – but at least the edge of my terror eased up a bit.

I spent my growing up years for the most part, unconcerned about consequence and blocking out my fear of death. When my older sister was killed in a car crash (she was driving – and her classmate/passenger died as well) I was devastated, but clung to the idea that she was okay and she'd come back in some other form.

I am very grateful for the mercy & grace of God through this time, that He didn't allow me to die in my sin & my ignorance, and end up in torment for eternity.

In my late teens I met my husband. We were both worldly public-school educated teenagers busy with work and figuring out what we were all about. We married several years later (November 1987), with our first child coming along several months after that. 
The Kiss
November 21, 1987
The Toast
November 21, 1987
 Having a child changed my perspective in a really big way. I became more aware of consequence, and realized I wasn't settled in my idea of eternity.
I had been exposed to some Christian examples throughout my life, most of whom I pretty much ignored. There were a few that were highly offensive to me in their approach – they seemed to be awful hypocrites. My thinking was “if that's what Jesus is about I want NOTHING to do with Him & His church!”

I believed in God, and I prayed, but I really didn't want to change my lifestyle or my friends or hang out with what to me seemed like an awful bunch of hypocrites.

When our firstborn started preschool at a Brethren church, she wanted us to attend there on Sundays – so we did (very effective outreach through the preschool!). We liked a lot of the anabaptist philosophies. After a short while, we joined a non-denominational Kay-Arthur-Precept-Upon-Precept Bible study, which met once a week, with several couples from our church, and a few non-church folks. First the group met at a young family's home. When the Bible study group outgrew that setting they moved to a nearby church on Thursday nights. This is where I got my first real exposure to God's word in the kind of setting I could relate to: informal, laid back, open, group discussion.

I remember in one of these Bible studies we came across “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Hebrews 9:27 This was the first time I realized reincarnation was not Biblical. Gradually, over the next several months, I learned more & more about God's truth. These studies were great because they used the Bible to interpret the Bible. There was a lot of emphasis on looking up definitions, and studying context. I learned a lot, and I will forever be grateful to the folks that invited us into those Bible studies, and for Kay Arthur, her ministry, and her excellent material!

I used to refer to “alarm bells” as going off when people lied to me. They weren't actually audible bells, it was just a KNOWING when something was off. No bells went off in these groups. Or anytime I studied my Bible.

Each Bible study would close with prayer – if our study was accompanied by videotape then Kay Arthur would close with a prayer and often (always?) do an invitation with her prayer. One of those nights I realized I had not made a decision to be saved. And I realized I needed to. So I did. It was late summer 1993. On a Thursday night.

I didn't “go forward” down any aisle. I didn't go to some room with a preacher or Mrs. preacher. I didn't make any announcement. I didn't write the date down in my Bible. I didn't sign any form. I just prayed and confessed to God, the Lord Jesus, that I knew I had sinned, and I knew the just payment for my sin was death everlasting, and I understood that Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, was born of a virgin, died on the cross at Calvary, was resurrected on the third day, now sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us; I believed on the Lord Jesus for my salvation for my sin, and I trusted in His finished work on the cross. And I continue to trust in Him each & every day.

By many denominations' definition my testimony is of no value. I am not worried about that. I am saved by God's grace, and by Jesus' blood. God has given me faith, understanding & peace; I have seen Him to be very much at work in my life.

Here are some Scriptures that helped me along the way:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; Romans 10:8

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Romans 10:11

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Deuteronomy 6:5

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Hebrews 13:8

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

Romans 8:38, 39
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19

Proverbs 6:16-19
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6

Mark 12:28-34
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. Psalm 119:165

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm118:8

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18:2

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:6

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1Samuel15:22

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 1Chronicles 16:29

– and I might add more later :)

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