"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials."

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Old Lady Brady's Joy Journey

My Mama didn’t believe in joining a church because of her Mama’s religion. They taught you would get ‘the Mark of the Beast’ if you did. (I didn’t know what that was.) Grandma’s religion had made atheists of all of her kids because it was, what was then called the “holiness” movement. She wore dark stockings, no make-up and did not believe in having much of anything. There was no radio, television, indoor plumbing and for many years, no refrigerator. She carried wood and coal and used an outhouse until she was 90 years old. Her belief colored all of our lives. Mom and Dad could never agree on what to do about church and so they slept in and sent me to a small church two blocks away.

At that little church, we had a series of pastors, at least two of which I believe loved the Lord. The…

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Is the Presence of God Absent?

We walked into the church hopeful.  We had looked for a long time and we were getting discouraged.  Within a short time we knew we had hit the ‘religion’ jackpot.  There was an active ‘amen’ corner.   The lady that sang the solo had no talent and was chosen for her hair style and lack of make-up.  The reverend was very loud and pointed an accusing finger at the congregation who seemed to be used to the berating.  He talked of the devil and condemned each of us to our own private corner of hell UNLESS we repented from our sin.  I could think of no reason to repent but only had a desire to flee.  If this was ‘church,’ we wanted no part in it!  We quickly delivered ourselves outside to the fresh air and blue sky.  It was not our first disappointment and would not be our last.

It must grieve God’s Father heart that we can be satisfied to sit under this oppression and call it Christian.  Being abused every Sunday morning by a leader who has never even have had an encounter with the Living God.  There is a good chance that s/he is not even a part of God’s family.  This person is what the Bible calls a ‘hireling,’ not a shepherd.  He found a career and used his public speaking skills to try to scare people out of hell, but I think he may just have succeeded in convincing them that if this was what church was about, they wanted no part of it.

Other leaders may not be so overt, but they are all about psychology, or they are a friendly social club that only teaches the easy parts of the Bible  There are so many ways that the church has been infiltrated by the devil and the world.

When we were first brought into the family of God, we were zealous and accepted everything we encountered as coming from Heaven.  After several woundings and our son walking away in disgust, we realized that there must be more to the church thing than what we had first thought.

So, we continued our search to find a place where the Spirit of God actually showed up when we came together.  We love the Lord and spent time with Him on a regular basis.  We really did come into His Presence from time-to-time, but it seemed that the more we hung around certain churches, the less we encountered Him.  Finally we gave up and stayed home.  This was really not a solution either.  At home, we began to drift.  I started reading Christian Fiction instead of the Bible – a voyeur into the lives of people who actually seemed to get it.  My husband just pulled in and his wounds isolated him.  Every so often, I would venture into another ‘church.’  If I could persuade him to come, he would give me a list of why everything was wrong, and he was right!

But I was starved for fellowship – the kind the Bible speaks of – koininea – a coming together in unity and oneness.  Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father were One.  I wanted that and I wanted it with my husband.

I attended a small 7:00 AM fellowship in my small town.  There was a young man there that changed before my eyes.  He went from being a good denominational man to a radiant expression of the Presence of God.  He kept inviting me to come to a small church he attended.  He assurred me it was different.  I was intrigued.

When I went, it was definitely different – totally different from church as usual.  The leader claimed to walk and talk with God on a daily basis and taught the Word of God with authority.  Not completely convinced, I went several times before I asked hubby to come with me.  He came but not with a happy heart.  I could tell he was impressed but sitting for a long time is hard on him and the guy could talk!  After two and a half hours, the meeting broke up.  My dear man told me that I should go to this fellowship, but it wasn’t for him.

So with his blessing, I continued to go.  I changed so much that he knew something was up.  One day, he decided it was time to visit with the leader and he found a man-of-God who not only affirmed him but drew him into a friendship.

We began to attend as a couple.  God has done amazing things in our lives in the last six or seven months.  Now we sit through sermons that can last much longer than two hours and still be hungry for more.  We are learning to enter into and abide in the Presence of God.  He is not just Almighty God to us anymore; He is now our Papa – Abba – Father God.  He loves us and we know it.  We love Him because of it.

This fellowship has become our family.  We are now involved in going to the streets to invite people into His Presence.  It has changed our lives forever.

If your church doesn’t have the Presence of Father God in their services and if it doesn’t show in the lives of those who attend, find a place where God is present.  It makes all the difference.

Is your church abiding in His Presence.  Are you?

Hearing God’s Voice

I don’t want to share with you the twisted road that the devil had me on before I came to the knowledge that Jesus died for me and He did it because Father God loves us so much; It still amazes me that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf. And, as if that wasn’t enough, He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and bring us into Father’s Presence.

My testimony is NOT about what I did before, but what I DO almost every day.

When I first met the Lord Jesus, I fell in love with Him. I discovered that the only way to have a relationship with Him was to spend time with Him. So, that is what I did. For months and months, I spent time in the Bible and talking to Him. He introduced me to God the Father and invited me into the Heavenly Throne Room.

To prepare my heart when I want to meet with Him, I put on loud worship music so I can shut out my surroundings and sometimes I open the Bible – I shut my eyes and I am transported into Heaven and the Throne Room.

I know, I know; you are saying, “Whoa! What do you mean, you go into the Heavenly Throne Room!”

You see we are not citizens of the world anymore. We belong to our Family in Heaven where God is our Father and Jesus is our big Brother. We have imaginations given to us by Father God. (The devil has corrupted them and many people don’t think they are okay anymore, but they are.) So I close my eyes and ask Jesus for permission to enter into the Throne Room (He is the Door.)   He is seated at Father’s right hand. I come in and I am engulfed in Light. I feel the cares of the day fall off and I take my seat next to my big Brother, Jesus. From here I find out what the Father’s will is for me.

OR sometimes, I just crawl up in Father God’s Lap and call Him “Abba” (Hebrew for Daddy”) and tell Him everything that is on my heart and rest in Him. Sometimes, I just sit on the floor and look at Them and watch all the angels.

It is really a wonderful. I can go there anytime. The more I go, the easier it is. You can do it too. Don’t be afraid. Your imagination was given by Father so that you could see Him. He is able to help you see the right things. It is always a good experience.

He loves us and wants us to know Him. He wants us to love Him – romance Him, if you will. It is how you have a wonderful relationship with someone you love. There is no relationship without alone time intimately with the other.

So much of what the world has done tries to convince us that we can find this level of intimacy with another person here on earth, but it is just not possible. But I promise that when you shut everything else out, He will meet you and love you as you love Him.  Learn how to open the door to your heart any time, any where!

The Scriptures uses the symbolism of the Church as the Bride of Christ. There is no relationship more intimate than a Bride with her Lover and that is who we are to Him.

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Religion or Encounter?? You choose!

My Mama didn’t believe in joining a church because of her Mama’s religion. They taught you would get ‘the Mark of the Beast’ if you did. (I didn’t know what that was.) Grandma’s religion had made atheists of all of her kids because it was, what was then called the “holiness” movement. She wore dark stockings, no make-up and did not believe in having much of anything. There was no radio, television, indoor plumbing and for many years, no refrigerator. She carried wood and coal and used an outhouse until she was 90 years old. Her belief colored all of our lives. Mom and Dad could never agree on what to do about church and so they slept in and sent me to a small church two blocks away.

At that little church, we had a series of pastors, at least two of which I believe loved the Lord. The others were merely religious and not true shepherds.

The one that negatively impacted me the most was a man who had been asked to leave his previous denomination – and pastorate (at least that is what I remember.) Reverend was very unhappy. He had five children who were unique in that they didn’t even fit in and I know that was painful for them.

His wife was the one that still causes me to shake my head. One thing I remembered vividly was that she wore silk stockings with a seam down the back and acres of unshaved hair beneath them. She taught Sunday School. Her favorite song was “Holy, Holy, Holy” and I always felt she was singing about herself as she closed her eyes and warbled in a high stringy soprano.

She didn’t like me much. I was a bit of a leader among our small fellowship. The kids voted for me to give the Youth Sunday sermon. When the news got to Mrs. Reverend, she took me aside and said, “Reverend and I don’t believe that we should have someone in the pul-pit (emphasis on pit) that isn’t a member of the chucha (no ‘r’ and strong last ‘ch’).”

I was very hurt and confused. I left and went to a church across town until they left. It was years before I could hear the song ‘Holy, Holy, Holy and focus on the one it was about.

At no time did anyone in that small church talk to me about the Gospel. There was no power and often little love. It was a place where some folks were thought of as pillars and others as necessary but not honored.

When I went through my rebellious years, I turned from traditional ‘religion’ and started looking at alternatives including the New Age. I found the focus on me and I liked it. I had a new religion and I was the ‘god’ of that religion. It was comfortable but it did not satisfy.  I did what felt right in my own eyes.

Many years later, as I drove down the street listening to R. W. Shambach on the radio, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my heart and my life changed forever. I had an encounter with the Living God.  I learned that afternoon that God was real, He loved me and had a plan for me  the most amazing thing of all, I found out that I was forgiven. God Himself walked me through receiving His forgiveness and washing me clean. No one can ever convince me that God is not real. He is real! I am His and He is mine.

Religion is an ugly thing.  It is a practice of traditions not instituted by God. It is primarily cultural and doesn’t focus itself on the love and Presence of God.   It talks about God but doesn’t really know Him and can be a mere history lesson.

Religion is found in many different forms and even embraces Christianity that has explained away the power of God.  Because they do not experience it, they deny it.  I includes many different belief systems from all around the world. It incites people to have wars to protect their doctrines and beliefs.  There is form but no supernatural power.

Today’s Lesson:

What religion has is tradition, judgement, culture, doctrine, history, and social clubs as well as conflict with anyone who disagrees with them. What God has is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Righteousness is His gift to us at our acceptance of His Son’s finished work.

Peace is ‘shalom’ in Hebrew which means wholeness – complete in Him.

Joy comes from His Presence and has no opposite and is found only abiding in Him.

A relationship with the Living God is far better than religion.

Are you in religion? Or do you personally know and fellowship with the living God?

If you don’t know Him, I invite you to an encounter with the Living God by accepting the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is easy to do.  Just call on the Name of the Lord Jesus and believe with you heart – NOT your head – and you will be saved and He will send the Holy Spirit to Guide you into all Truth.  Then ask Him to make Himself real to you and He will.

Let me know if you make this decision.

Who are the People God Throws Away?

Are there really people thatGod has created to throw away?  Is it His will that some of us are destined for hell?  Who would they be?  Why would God bother to create people for destruction? Let’s look at how “Christians” look at people who are ‘different’ from their idea of Christian life.

Recently I became aware that some good church folks think it is okay to look down on and even dismiss some people.  In fact, if one of these undesirables comes into their sanctuaries, they would be put on the back row in the balcony so as not to offend.

What does a candidate for salvation look like?  Are they well-groomed, middle class with a good income and not too many problems?  Are these the only ones God loves?

So who are we throwing away?

A young man gives his heart to the Lord and then tells his pastor that he is gay and loves his partner.  The Pastor tells him to go get his life straightened out and then come back.  He goes to another church and the Pastor preaches that all homosexuals are destined for hell and are an abomination.  He falls into despair and quits going to church.

A young woman is pregnant and the father of her child is her dad.  She turns to the church for help.  The board is shocked and suggest an abortion.  She has come to them for help and to find a way to keep the child in safety from her family.  They report her father and he spends jail time and is forever a registered sexual offender.

A young boy of seventeen comes to church alone and when the Sunday School teacher talks to him, she finds out that he is being molested by a family member.  She calls social services and he ends up in foster care and his family member is in jail.  Redemption?

A father of four confesses His love for Jesus but can’t get free from his addiction to alcohol.  He begs the pastor for help, but he either doesn’t know how to help him or doesn’t want to help him.  He comes to church faithfully; every week he goes down to the altar begging for help.  Within the year, he dies.  He is forty-five years old.

A mom has a new baby with an abusive husband.  Because of her victimization, she has lost her other four children by a previous husband.  Now this husband plays mind games with her and tortures her with losing she fears losing this baby.  She seeks for help but the pastor can’t get her free.  She lives in fear.

A couple has lost everything.  They are living in their car, washing up at McDonald’s and working for Image Detailhourly pay doing the most menial things.  They have nothing, clothes are threadbare and their teeth are decaying.  Are they invited to the front row?  No, they sit down and the people around them get up and move away.

A trembling Muslim woman in a hijab comes in and slinks off in a dark corner hoping not to be noticed.  Her husband has beaten her again and has left alone for a few days.  Having escaped from her prison, she is hungry for a religion of love and wants to hear about Jesus.  She overhears someone call her a terrorist and leaves in fear.

A  Charismatic  couple visit a mainline church. They are made to feel welcome.  One of the greeter ask them where they go to chruch and when they realize the denomination, they all turn a walk away and don’t speak to them again.  Their doctrine is more important than the people.

A rather plain woman with Down’s Syndrome is brought to the church.  She loves everyone and wants to touch them and kiss them but the church people are repulsed by her.

A beautiful young woman comes in to the church.  Her father died when she was sixteen and she is hungry for the counsel of a godly man.  It starts out well, but before long, the Pastor takes her to bed.  She is confused and her understanding of God as Father is corrupted.

A soldier coming back from the Middle East has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and struggles with suicidal tendencies.  They counsel him and counsel him, but they have no power to set him free and one day, he is found in his car with the motor running.  At the funeral, the pastor wonders if he could have done anything differently.

All of this grieves the Father-Heart of God.  He loves each one of us.  It doesn’t matter to him if we are a murderer, alcoholic, homosexual, lesbian, pregnant with out marriage, suicidal, handicapped, vulnerable or a molester.  He wants us to come to Him.  He loves us.

As those who have given our hearts to God, we need to remember that when we judge another, we may be guilty of something worse.  It boomerangs on us.

Today, I invite you to quit judging people with soft hearts who want to know God.  They may look hard and scary, but they are looking for answers and they want to see the love of God in you.

We are all broken.  We just don’t always tell everyone what is wrong with us.

Read the testimonies at http://SwimTalks.wordpress.com.  Remember where you came from.  If you were a good person with no noticeable faults, remember ‘God resists the proud.”

God loves us.  Every one.  He created hell for the devil and the other fallen angels, not for us.  So the next time you think that someone isn’t good enough to join your fellowship, check your own heart.

I invite you to receive God’s forgiveness and ask Him to put His love in your heart for even the least of us.  They are in gangs, murdering and lost because those of us in the church are not sharing the love of God with them.  Purpose today to spend time with the God of Love and get filled up with Him.  Quit playing church and BE the Church!!

In His Presence . . .

As I pulled up to the entrance to the park, I rolled down my window and inhaled the fresh air.  The water rushed over the old dam with beauty reminiscent of Niagara and an awesome sound.  Further on, the lake glistened in the sunshine and I could feel the stress falling away. Water has always had a soothing effect on me. When I am stressed, I even go there in my head and listen to the sound of the babbling brook as it flows over the rocks. It has a great ability to heal and refresh my soul.

Today, I am needing to pull into my spirit and get back in touch with my Heavenly Father. But then I need to do that every day, it’s just that some days it is more urgent than others. I am so glad that He is always available.

All this got me to thinking. Does Father need us to get in touch with Him? The Apostle Paul tells us that He doesn’t ‘need anything’ – so why did He send Jesus to redeem us. He is Self-existent, Omnipotent, and the Creator of the whole world. What does He need with me? Or you?

Then I remembered that He wants us to be His family and to call Him, Abba, ( Daddy.) He loves me and He loves you. He is not angry with us but He wants you and me – ALL of you and ALL of me.

This really boggles the mind. The great God of the universe – who is above the earth so far that to the human eye earth looks like a tiny dot of light – nothing more. If we were positioned in the same way He is in our natural state, we are not even visible. It is a mere speck of dust. And if earth is a speck of dust, then we are even smaller than a dust mite and on top of that, we are very temporary on this planet.

The Psalmist asked, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” And then goes on to say, “You (Father) made us a little lower than God (Himself) and crowned us with glory and majesty. You made us to rule over the works of Your hands and put everything under our feet.”

Really? Why do we live so far below our privilege. How come we can we just reach out when we are in trouble? Why is it that we don’t take the time to sit with Him every day and rejoice in His love and Presence? How can we not know that He wants us to be His family. He wants us to call Him Dad!

What are we doing? Papa, forgive us. Are we so’ dumbed down’ by the cares of the world and our busy-ness that we have no conception of Who He is and who we are.

I challenge you and I challenge me to wake up! Get to know Dad. He longs to spend time with you and me. He is an individual God and loves us each individually. We cannot be ‘grandfathered’ in. Will you take time to find your way into His Presence today? I will.

Related Scriptures:

Acts 17:25
. . .nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

Psalm 8:3-6
(NASB)
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,

Galatians 4:4-7
But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

Matt 11: 25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Ezekiel 43:2
. . .and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.

Revelation 1:15
His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

Heart

I had the privilege of being in a meeting where Dr. Gary Wood was speaking.  When he was 18 years old, he and his sister had been to a party and were on their way home.  It was a dark night and his sister saw a truck illegally parked and screamed, but it was too late.  Gary  died and went to heaven.  When he got there, his best friend who had been killed in a car accident earlier, met him and showed him around.  He told him that he couldn’t stay and he knew instantly that his younger sister was calling him back using that name, Jesus.

After being in heaven, returning to earth didn’t look attractive.  He needed plastic surgery and his teeth were shattered, his neck broken in the same way Christopher Reeves’ neck had been and his jaw was broken in three places. He had no vocal cords.  After returning to his family, he was in the hospital for nine months.  They said he would never be able to speak or sing.  Imagine the nurse’s startled face when she greeted him after almost a year of silence and he answered her back.  He has an X-Ray that shows that he has no vocal cords, yet  he can talk and sing today.  (Excerpted from the preface to: I Died and Went to Heaven. available on-line)

He began to speak without vocal cords and without a larynx.  As I have pondered how that could be, there is an answer.

The facts are that Gary has no vocal cords or larynx. The larynx serves many purposes.  Without a larynx one can not eat food as it will go directly to the lungs and cause pneumonia and death.  It is used by the voice to show emotions and speak loud or soft – and it also serves to bring in air to support your ability to act.  Without a larynx, Gary should not even have been able to pick up a book or move a lectern, yet he does it all.

So, how does he do it?  God healed him so that he did not become a paraplegic as Superman had been, but God didn’t heal everything in  his natural body.  He still has no larynx or vocal cords.  After being in heaven, He knew the reality of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Father God in ways few of us will know until we are there in His Presence.  Gary still had to find the truth alive in his own heart.

As he moved from his head to his heart, his brain surrendered and the power in his heart began to take charge.  Under the domination of his heart which where the Spirit of the Living God resides, the supernatural took over and Gary spoke.  He didn’t need the body part, because He had something better.  He had the Truth and it changed everything.

We must consider that no matter what we are facing, no matter how devastating our circumstances, we, too, can live from our heart.

Today the question is:  Are you living from your heart or is your brain still running things?

Selected Scriptures:

Psalm 9:1
I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.

Psalm 13:5
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

Psalm 15:2
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

Psalm 16:9
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Psalm 17:3
Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Psalm 27:8
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

Psalm 27:14
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

Psalm 31:24
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Psalm 33:21
For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

Psalm 34:18
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Psalm 37:4
Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Psalm 62:8
Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.’

Psalm 84:5
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

Psalm 112:7
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.

Psalm 147:3
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

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

Proverbs 4:23
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 14:30
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 17:22
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Acts 2:26
Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

Hebrews 10:22
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

1 John 3:19
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

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