Monday, June 27, 2011

Paul's Take

If you read Bethany’s earlier posts, you are aware that we have been delivered from the bondage of legalism. The legalism that we speak of is not often recognized as legalism. Our legalism was the kind that says, “You are in the Kingdom of God, but you still have work to do to earn the favor and blessing of God. You have to strive to be really loved by God.” I know that some will say, “Where did you come up with that?” To be honest, I am not really sure myself. It is not in the Scriptures. Looking back we can see were discontent and not happy in God. So we believed that we could somehow work to get content and happy in God. (Oh, wait, some of you may think God does not want me to be happy, just holy. If you think that to be holy is not to be happy I feel sorry for you) Anyway, with each effort to make ourselves more content and happy in God we drifted farther away from Him. We would often cry out to God, “What are we doing wrong, what do we have to do to get you to bless us?” Bethany was often angry with God. She was trying so hard to make God happy with our family and we were always coming up empty. We were trying to keep up on our end and feeling we were getting nothing back from God.

On top of that, we had all the legalistic groups that were always vying for our adherence. They would scream out to us, “If you are not like us, you are falling short, God is not happy with you.” I could give quite a list. Some of these groups are so cultic and demanding of their adherents that I would go out of my way to not run into them if was not walking the line. There was so much fear and self loathing. I believed I was the worst husband and father and Beth believed she was the worst wife and mother. Yes, there are husbands, wives, fathers and mothers that beat their kids commit adultery and do all manner of evil and vice, But, we were worse, because we had been enlightened, so to speak. To top that off, every seemingly bad thing that happened to us was the discipline of God, and He obviously was not happy with us, as we were sometimes told. If we tried to open up to others, we would receive no help just condemnation. I could go on and on.

But, praise be to God. He delivered us. Before He delivered us, we were involved in a home church group. That was the last attempt at making God pleased with us to the point of blessing. In was in this group that God gave me the revelation of His grace. It was in this group that I saw the polarity of those who love grace and those who seemingly hate grace. I was forced to choose grace and peace over fear and hate. I chose grace and peace and have not been the same since. It was after this that I realized that God loves me in spite of me.

Whoa! What a feeling! I am finally free from the yoke of slavery! I do not have to work anymore! I have been redeemed! Get, this, GOD LOVES PAUL WOODS. GOD LIKES ME. GOD WANTS TO BE WITH ME. You know what makes this AMAZING? I did not lift one finger to get His love lavished upon me. Now that’s amazing!

Next time I want to talk about what this freedom is and what its implications are.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Survival Skills for the Early Years: Part 1

Survival Skills 1

I dedicate this series to all the people who have asked “How do you do it?!” I also write these posts for all mommies who are crazy enough to have two babies (or more) in diapers at the same time!

Preparing for Sunday morning:

When I had only one or two little ones, Sunday preparations began a few days early. I starting making sure everyone had clean clothes washed by Friday. Back then we always had clothes set out ready for Sunday morning. And, everything went more or less according to plan. I remember playing piano almost every Sunday before we would leave for church (that was just a four or five years ago).

These days, if I do have clean laundry set out the night before - temper tantrums are thrown because it was not the right outfit. Or, I had the shoes set out, but one got eaten by the mysterious shoe monster during the night. Or, more often than not, I don’t plan ahead at all and one of the grown-ups will throw together a load of laundry Sunday morning. Because this one has only one clean sock, that one has no clean undies, and another one got dressed before breakfast and got gravy all over his clothes.

So, my practical advice to you is to find a church with a late service… even if you get there 10 minutes late no one will know, because the college kids come in even later than that.

Other practical ideas – IF you can get your oldest to stop primping long enough to help, then by all means employ her to put shoes on the little ones. Only, be prepared that after dressing the little ones, she herself will not be able to find her own shoes. Consider keeping an extra pair of flip flops in the van. And, if your oldest boy is willing, then by all means have him help clean up the breakfast mess. And, when you say, “put the left over gravy in the fridge,” make sure that he understands that the job does not end there… or, you might find your toddler on top of the table eating gravy scraps off of someone else’s forgotten plate… after he was already cleaned and dressed. But, don’t panic, no harm in sponge bathing the toddler before running out the door. His Sunday school teachers won’t be able to catch him long enough to notice that he rubbed the gravy plate over his head before you took it away.

Last practical idea – Instead of planning to leave early, which you will never actually accomplish… aim for leaving late – that way if you do actually leave on time you can feel good about yourself.


Stay tuned for the next installment of Survival Skills for the Early Years!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A rare moment

Seven year old Nelson complained to me this morning that he was the only boy in his Sunday school class. So, I wanted to get this on the record... There was this ONE time when I actually wanted Nelson to stay this age forever.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do you doubt your salvation?

(Reposted 5-7-2013: Completely unedited. I will be honest with you so that I can see others set free.) 

Do you doubt your salvation?

I used to… often. I heard a barrage of voices in my head volleying Scripture. One side would tell me that I was truly saved because of the work of Jesus Christ. The other side brought up any and every Scripture about any possible kind of “work” that man needs to do to offer as proof of salvation. Friends, Satan used Scripture when tempting Jesus Christ (Matt 4)… he can and will use Scripture to confuse you as well. Let me give you a few Scriptures to think on before I begin my actual post.
“Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” John 6:28-29 (NASB – emphasis mine)

“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 (HCSB)

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. Rev 12:10 (NASB – emphasis mine)

This post is based largely on a journal entry that I wrote a few weeks ago. I was not writing it to be a blog post, but the Lord has laid it on my heart to take it public. I write this for anyone who is struggling with these same things:

The voices in my head are gone! The voices have not been warring in my head for months. A few months ago we went to visit some friends in northwest Missouri. One evening we had a prayer time with the dear father and mother. These friends prayed over each of us individually for our own special needs. The dad prayed over me that I would not hear voices any more. (A little alarming to me that he knew about this… since I didn’t tell him. After all, who wants people to know they hear voices?!) I have not heard voices since the night this man prayed over me. (Side note: He also prayed that I would be delivered from the “spirit of depression” – another thing which I certainly didn’t tell him – and I have been freed from that as well.)

I used to hear the voices daily… sometimes hourly. One set of voices accused me of all my sins, saying I would never change, calling me reprobate. (On good days – I knew it was the Father of Lies, the Accuser himself – see Rev 12:10 above and John 8:44 ). The other set of voices defended my salvation. BOTH sets of voices volleyed with Scripture so that I would get so confused who was right that I would hide in my room and cry. There were times the voices would tell me I was better off to kill myself… that it would help me, and the kids, and Paul. Sometimes I did toy with the idea of suicide, because I wanted to do anything to make the voices stop!

(Side note: the voices got worse with each new stage of legalism and “elitism” that Paul and I entered. I doubted my salvation more and more often as we kept adding more and more extra-biblical requirements to our salvation. I was so depressed that I weighed more than I have in my entire life… including every pregnancy.)

And then, of course you can’t actually talk to people about hearing voices… even in most churches. (Friends, my college degree was partly psychology… I know all about what the World says about people who hear voices.) I did NOT want to be locked up and have my shoestrings taken away in some psych ward!
But, let me tell you, I am more sure now than I have ever been that the voices were REAL, and they were NOT my own thoughts! They were spiritual voices.

Praise God for this deliverance from the voices!

I think it has a lot to do with the kind of Christianity we are practicing now, compared to that of the last several years. We are now looking to Jesus alone as our salvation, instead of our works. And, you cannot lose a salvation that is bought with the blood of Jesus! It is imperishable! (see I Corinthians 15 and the rest of the Bible)

Also, we go to a church weekly where the message is always Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. The preacher regularly says that we are not perfect people. He constantly lays the weight of our salvation on the cross… on Jesus. The pastors are regularly reminding us that we need to keep looking to Jesus instead of getting caught up in the list of sins that people like me often drag along with us to church. Friends, they are not preaching “fluff.” They are preaching the Gospel! After years of doubting, after years of hearing voices, I now truly, truly believe that Jesus has saved me. It has nothing to do with what I have done and what I will do… except for the fact that I must constantly keep turning my eyes back to the cross and believing in God’s Son. (see John 6:28-29 above)

Thank you, Jesus, for taking away my burdens!

No more condemnation… finally, no more voices.



Friend, if you are dealing with a nagging doubt of your salvation; or, if you are hearing voices that are accusing you of all your past mistakes please see a trusted Christian friend for prayer. IF you cannot trust your friends not to lock you in an asylum somewhere, call a pastor at a Charismatic church… they see this kind of thing all the time. They will not call you crazy. Or, if you would like - and you live nearby - contact me. I would be more than willing to pray over you to be free from these doubts and/or voices. Just please, go to someone for help. Ask the Lord who you should go to. Then wait for His answer. But, please, please, don’t let the voices lie to you anymore! God loves you! He died for you! He cherishes you! He does not want to see His children enslaved to doubts and/or voices, and He is eager for you to call on Him for deliverance!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Liberated

(Reposted 5-7-2013. Unedited. When I wrote this I was coming through an awkward transition. My feelings here are raw and a little hurt by former groups that we felt wounded by. This year we were reconciled to most of the people from the homechurch that I mention in this post.)


Liberated!

I mean this post to boast in nothing except Jesus Christ. If it sounds like I am boasting in myself at all, please forgive me. I am nothing… Jesus is everything. (See Galatians 6:14) Also, as far as I know there is no bitterness in my heart towards any of the people or groups that we were formerly affiliated with. If it sounds like I am putting my dear friends down, I do apologize. It is not my intent. My goal is to see Christ glorified and to see people healed from their pains and released from their bondage.

Paul and I have been liberated from a cage we have been constructing for ourselves the last several years! In an effort to be as pleasing to God and as holy as we could possibly make ourselves, we boxed ourselves in with rules… almost entirely extra-biblical rules.

But, do you see the biggest problem with the logic of what we were doing? I just wrote, “as holy as we could possibly make ourselves.” Friends, can we/ do we ever make our own selves holy? Careful now. Who is it that has the power to make me holy? Only God - through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. It is Jesus who has made me holy. And I cannot do anything to add to my own holiness. My efforts to fix myself before God are as filthy rags before the Lord. (see Isaiah 64:6)

This is the very reason why – while we were yet sinners Christ died for us! (see Romans 5:8) While we were enemies with God, Christ died for us! (see Romans 5:10) We can never earn salvation. We can never make our own selves holy. This realization has set our family free from years of bondage! We have shaken off the shackles of some of our legalisms and elitisms and we are now living a life of holiness that is granted by God and not earned by us.

I feel that I have been given wings to fly! I am no longer lonely and aching (which was largely caused by our family’s inability to find friends who were almost exactly like us). I am no longer over-eating to fill some great void. I am no longer dependent on caffeine (though I feel at liberty to drink a coke or a coffee). I am no longer living with the burden of man-made rules!

Some specifics:
I have been wearing blue jeans, slacks, and capris in public for a few months now.

I no longer feel that I have to “homestead” some day… though we still would like to live in the country and do some farming things

I no longer feel that I have to eat a diet of mostly whole foods. We are even at liberty to eat at McDonalds! *winks*

These few considerations (which are a very small sampling of the huge metamorphosis of the heart that we have been going through) might seem silly to you, but they were all very real to me and to many ladies. So many Christian blogs and magazines are preaching Christ alone in word… but works salvation in practice. Ladies, why do we get so caught up in secondary issues? Many of us have believed the lie that the more mature Christians are the ones who eat all whole foods, raise their own chickens, sew their own skirts, have 10 babies, etc. And, if a woman grinds her own wheat then she has truly “arrived.” Satan has deceived us! He has taken a good thing (healthy eating/good stewardship of our bodies) and used it to put many, many women into bondage.

My neighbor is a great source of encouragement to me. She and I talk about all of these expectations regularly. She wisely reminds me that Christian ladies need to keep going back to our “job description.” Does Titus 2 speak of raising chickens and goats? Does it speak of the need to have a perfectly clean house? No – these are characteristics of “Super Mom,” not necessarily a Titus 2 wife/mother.

Paul and I are free from years of bondage. As I said – a cage of our own making. Are you backing yourself into a cage? Perhaps by your: clothing convictions, food choices, mode of worship/type of church gathering, schooling choices, birth-control choices, child-rearing choices?

Do a little self quiz:
Can you go to church in a large church and worship with a group of diverse “normal” Christians? Or does the idea of going anywhere but your congregation of 20 select people give you the willies… even if you do have to drive over an hour to get there? (Friends, I am speaking in love here… we have driven 2+ hours before to find “like-minded” Christians, because our idea of like-minded was skewed. And, kudos to the pastor of that church who kindly but firmly said that if we were coming that far just to go to a Vision Forum Family-Integrated church, that we were making it of greater importance than the Gospel. He said that would be making family-integration a cultic thing. Amen, brother!)

Do you feel that you could be friends with someone who is a Christian but is part of a different denomination?

If you answered “No” to either question then you might be an elitist Christian. (Only God knows your heart) Paul and I know the elitist type very well. We saw one every time we looked in the mirror for the last 5 years! Over the years our church size kept shrinking and shrinking. God let us go all the way to the far extreme of an isolationist home church to see the results of our exclusivities. (I don’t know that all home groups are separatists or isolationists. In fact, most of them would be outraged by the idea of this accusation. But, what are many of them living in practice? Solitude. Isolation. Exclusion. Separation. Some home churches even screen potential visitors to save problems and disagreements down the road. This seems pretty exclusive to me.

For now, our family is attending a huge, very diverse church in town with “normal Christians.” Some are immodest. Most choose to send their kids to public school. Most families send their kids out of the service (just before the preaching) to go to children’s church. The girls flirt. The boys are often naughty. There are broken families alongside the healthy families. There are divorced people. There are working mothers. There are many things that Paul and I used to shrink from. But, for now, this group is home. We go and we minister to those in need. (And we are ministered to as well). We pray for the hurting and the sick (and we receive prayer as well). We worship with our whole hearts alongside of other imperfect Christians. We may not look like our previous notions of what holy Christians look like. But that’s okay. We stand before God admitting that we are undone, and thanking Him that it is HE and not ourselves who makes us Holy. This is the gospel.