Writing Down Life

WITNESSING...the ebb and flow of life.

Ministry, Morning Walks

Why I’ll Never Tell Someone They Are Going to Hell

By | June 16, 2017 | Comments
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I remember it clearly…the anguish and urgency in his voice during our phone call as he questioned me on whether his parents, who are tried and true Jehovah’s Witnesses, would go to hell because of their “religion.” This 40 year-old-man to whom God had entrusted me as a witness, struggled his entire life with the religion of his family, to the point of not just rebellion, but being shunned by the JW church. Ministering to him was only possible through the Holy Spirit. Understanding that he sought Truth, I was very sensitive to the fact that my response could lead him to, or away from, receiving Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He seemed to believe, yet, for years couldn’t relent to the truth of the gospel due to decades of untruth being spoken into his life.

The answer provided to his questioning heart: “You cannot look ahead to the end of your parents life because God can do anything. With God, all things are possible! He can change anyone’s mind and heart. The Bible says that in the end, every knee shall bow to the Lord. It says that God judges people at the end of their life and your parents are not yet dead, so do not lose hope!” I expressed this while silently praying for the Lord ease his mind and draw him closer.

Since I didn’t have my Bible available during the conversation, I later pointed him to a verse in 2 Peter that I hoped would bring him some understanding of how the Lord sees people, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV) Thankfully, this verse seemed to help him see God and Jesus as a just and loving, not only as judge and jury.

Going to Hell?

Understanding that verse from 2 Peter is one of the reasons I’ll never tell someone who isn’t a believer (in Christ) they are going to hell, in attempt to convert them to Christianity! The other reasons are all laid out in Jesus’ ministry. Did Jesus discuss hell? Yes, he did, but not as a scare tactic; therefore, nor should we as His witnesses. Is hell possible? Yes, absolutely! Sadly, today, a lot of people are already in their own personal hell so being told they’re condemned to hell, actually pushes them further away from God. One purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:10)

God’s biggest desire is to reign over our whole heart, and that precludes fear! Jesus’ answer was clear when asked, ‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?’

“Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'” 

In the Bible, every response Jesus had when approached by someone living in sin is one of love. (Because He first loved us…) Jesus never condemned people to hell (he did threaten the pharisees and scribes with it, however, due to their false teachings), therefore, why do some Christians feel it is their place in this world to condemn and use scare tactics to get people to surrender to Christ? That is hatred of people, not love. Some justify their actions by stating they hate the sin, but I ask you: how can that be when the sin is not being separated from the person first?

It was all done in love…

People who aren’t churched or educated about the ministry of Christ Jesus, do not view their lives through a Christian lens, so they do not always perceive the harm they do to themselves and possibly others, by living in sin. They have an intuition, but do not understand that is also God in them, guiding them. Jesus didn’t perceive those he ministered to through anything other than God’s lens of love and desirability (meaning: God desires every person to be restored unto him).

The Apostle Paul was not writing letters about sinfulness to anyone outside of the church! He wrote solely to the established “churches” (various bodies of Christ, e.g. Corinth) because they could actually receive and understand his points, through conviction of the Holy Spirit. Those who are not born again are usually blind to such conviction, instead it feels like condemnation, hence they don’t know how to respond. (Some people may carry very deep hurts from bad experiences within “the church” and “religion”  causing them to reject God and his love.)

Carrying out God’s Business

How did the disciples witness? In love.

A good example in the Bible can be found in Acts chapter 8, which discusses how the disciples carried out Kingdom business, and delivered people from demons – and there was great joy afterward. I can offer, from personal experience, having been both on the receiving and giving end of such deliverance, yes, there is joy! Rarely should there be a feeling of condemnation if one is truly receiving his love, or being ministered to properly. I say “truly” because not everyone is ready or open to receive, not even some who proclaim Christ. This is a “heart” issue requiring much patience, but also Truth told in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is especially difficult witnessing to those who once Believed yet now have a hardened heart toward God. (This is an example of a “heart” issue.)

Take for examples Simon the Sorcerer (Acts ch. 8:9-24): Simon was a wicked man who “Believed” in Christ. Then after witnessing miracles through the disciples, also tried to buy the Holy Spirit’s power from them, for his own gain. Yet, he wasn’t condemned by Philip, rather ministered to in truth and love about the need for a repentant heart so God would forgive him for his deceitful actions. (See Acts 8).

Don’t Play God

No one is perfect at ministering to people because it is not an easy feat and quite frankly, we aren’t God!

One must invite the Holy Spirit into every situation. People are completely powerless to change a person’s heart – this is only done via the Holy Spirit. Believing a mere mortal is capable of this is pure vanity! Sure, we can soften a heart through love, but not change its innermost parts. Missteps while ministering to people occur, often because the recipient wasn’t ready or open, period! I’ve experienced this. It isn’t that I wasn’t being led, it is because they didn’t want it, and honestly, it happened with family or someone with whom I was acquainted. Jesus had the same issue, however, so I don’t feel like too much of a failure (e.g. most of his siblings persecuted him…one of his own disciples betrayed him)! I believe God allows this to keep us humble – to help us remember being a seed sower is as important as being reapers of the harvest!

The story I began with, about the man concerned for his parents’ salvation even while seeking his own…I am happy to share, shortly after that scenario, he received Jesus into his heart and began his journey with the Lord. Praise Jesus!! When we discussed his parents again, I could then relay that his job as a Believer is being an example of Christ’s redeeming love to his family – not a judge – because family is often the most difficult to reach. Even if that meant the news of the changes in his life were only shared by others with his parents (since he was shunned, they wouldn’t see him). I still pray, when it’s put on my heart, that prior to reaching the judgement seat, his parents will find the Jesus Christ at least two of their sons now know and love. The Jesus who is restoring their hearts, families, and helping them learn to lead lives pleasing to a God who loves them, despite themselves!

Because, with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) and, thankfully, we serve a patient God!

Morning Walks, Writing Down Life

Catch and Release

By | June 13, 2017 | Comments
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My Father in Heaven, he knows me. Upon creating me, he instilled a need for serenity that seems to be found best while lost (alone) in the woods. Perhaps, it is part of my genetic composure, with my Native American roots running deep into the forests of Appalachia. Or better still, a greater measure of who God created me to be; healing my soul through His beautiful creation called Earth. Despite allowing myself to grieve every loss in life, my heavenly Father still catches me trying to be more brave than I ought be. He understands what it takes to actually free my spirit for His rescue. Therefore, He catches me amidst my struggle to swim upstream, then releases me into still waters so I can breathe again.

The past two weeks I have struggled to breathe due to the decision I had to make about my dog, while also attempting to rest and regain both physical and emotional strength. My problem: Being off work, I had no desire to leave the house for long due to fatigue and grief. Not that I wasn’t active; I was outdoors exercising and running errands, but apparently the heaviness was holding me back. God knew I needed to break free so sent me out into the countryside of Southeastern Ohio on a trek. Don’t let the word “countryside” create a false image in your mind…it may be country but it is not flat!

It was time to get lost in the woods!

LIKE A RUSHING WIND

I prayed for the Lord to lead the way and show me where the day’s journey would take place, and he complied. I prayed for him to accompany me as I knew His strength and vigor would be required to carry me. He first sent me to a trail I’d been on before, one where I knew that a sign reading “trail end” was a facade. It actually continued on, marked but not well traveled. So, He sent me, alone as usual…or so I thought…until I recognized Him in the rushing wind which accompanied me. We hiked across two separate trails; when I was tired and weak, He urged me forth, catapulting my spirit into the wild, releasing me from the heaviness that had me bound.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2)

God went with me through every step and every breath. His spirit surrounded me, coming in a rushing, mighty wind. You may wonder, how I know it was God: It went before me. In moments when I stopped to be still in Him, it stopped. Nothing before or behind me was moving…I was enveloped in peace. I recognized His loving voice speaking to my heart, explaining that this adventure was his way of reinvigorating and re-instilling His strength and courage within me because I would need both in the next leg of service to Him. The Lord was reenforcing that I am still the fearless warrior he’s spent the last seven years molding from The Potter’s Clay.

The Holy Spirit unleashed his power as it urged me on through some unexpected surprises and physical fatigue, so we could reach the “mountaintop” ahead. He went before me, moving out everyone who’d been up there, just as I approached the final climb. God emptied that place out so we could meet and be alone. Not another soul ventured up for the duration of the 40 minutes we camped out atop the solid rock on which I stood – my Jesus, my Savior, my friend. 

The wind upon that place rushed about me, gusting yet not threatening. His voice in my head kept repeating ‘rest in me’. So I did. I took off my hat and released my hair. Then, I removed my shoes and socks, giving my throbbing feet a reprieve. It had, after all, already been three hours of trudging through the woods, over rocks and roots, up and down hills, in and out of the blazing sun. Ironically, or not, the 87 degree temperature was completely tolerable due to the wind. I stretched out across a bench atop Buzzard Roost Rock and communed with my Savior. Being physically spent the warmth from the hot sun relaxed me into submission.

I sat in awe of the beauty before me, while breathing in God’s presence and the luscious clean air. It was a powerful moment like many I’ve been humbled to have, being overcome by Him so he could move mountains blocking the way.

 

As the Turkey Buzzards swarmed and glided overhead, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought: what if they take me for dead? What if they swoop down and start pecking at my still body? I moved a bit now and then to ward them off because one kept flying pretty close! Honestly, being alone up there, with the foul of the air in all their gracefulness, was awesome. They were free and God used the buzzards flight as a reminder: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

I finally felt as though the time had come to make my way back down the trail. Nearly an hour later, despite a gnawing pain in my left leg, I made it. Twice during the week prior, I received Isaiah 40:31, and although the desire to sit down and rest was overwhelming, instead I repeated the verse over myself: “But they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary and they shall walk, and not faint.”

I praised his name over and over, relieved upon finally reaching the end of the trail…

While recognizing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I managed after a 5+ hour hike through the forest, to make it home safe and sound, feeling rejuvenated and ready to face whatever is put before me, as well as less sad…for God’s sake. My roots felt deeper and strong, like those of wildflowers having weathered many storms!

PRAYER:

OH, heavenly Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus in humble gratitude of the intimacy of our relationship. Never have I felt so “known” and cared for as I do when your hand is upon my head. I pray You continue to send me down un-tread paths in order to gain courage in all Jesus is, and all he is not. He is strength when we are weak. He is breath when we cannot find our own. He is the release of our spirits on a blood stained cross, for our flesh is bound to this earth; but through His life, through the sacrifice, our spirits are replaced and indwelled by the Holy Spirit…our guide and comfort here on planet earth. I sincerely do not know how I ever coped without knowing You for so many years…however, what I know for certain: I never want to do this thing called life without You holding my hand, ever again! My most heartfelt prayer is for those who burden Your heart because they are currently absent from the Kingdom of God. Despite the weariness experienced over the past several months, I may not have actively gone out; instead, You had me laser focused on one or two lost sheep. I thank you for always “sending” me, no matter my state, so I may be used in fulfilling the Great Commission and help lead Your lost sheep back to the flock. 

Today, I had a mental vision of why you came to earth that maybe someone needs to hear, and I am meant to share for even ONE person: God came to this earth, born a human and grown into a man named Jesus of Nazareth, because you, God, understood that your creation kept failing and needed a tangible example of how to live a life pleasing to you. You, God, gave us yourself as a witness to this world on how to love, minister and heal through YOUR power so until the day comes that the Lord returns and this place falls apart, we the people could follow in Your footsteps – straight to heaven.

For those who only half pretend to walk the walk of purity and love, are fools – because the only part of people that is “good”, is that within us that is of You (because people are not inherently good). I pray this sinks deeply into the minds of those who don’t know you, or don’t know you as intimately as You desire! 

You are a never ending light at the end of every tunnel, one I try my best to truck toward no matter the cost because YOU, Lord Jesus, paid it all, and would have, even if for only one soul…how could I not want to do Your will. Thank you Father God for loving mankind despite ourselves! You LORD GOD are so worthy…thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! 

“You may be the mouthpiece for God’s truth to the unsaved, but you cannot nourish the flock of God which is among you unless you are rightly related to the Shepherd, unless you are willing to let God use you as broken bread and poured-out wine to feed His sheep. ” –Oswald Chambers, in Workmen of God from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.

Morning Walks, Writing Down Life

Release the Rain, Released into Heaven

By | June 9, 2017 | Comments
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“RELEASE THE RAIN, RELEASED INTO HEAVEN”

Written by: Stacey Louiso, June 7, 2017: In memory of my beloved dog, Zeus…

Staring out through dirty panes of glass

Eyes resting above the tree line

Lingering, dark clouds rest

Wondering glances interrupt processes

Waiting for rain to be released down upon this place

Hoping for a cleansing, sitting in painful memories

Desiring rain to wash clean what remains

Early morning on a late Spring day

Normally warmth the sun creates

Yet, these past few days a present chill

Resting on my skin, sensing You are near

Helping to release what pain remains

Stagnant, the clouds remain – withholding

Your will be done here

However, for now, emotions remain close

Stifling thoughts, inability to move

While waiting for rain to be freed of the clouds

Just as you, beloved, are now freed into heaven