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HYPER-Critical Christianity

Here we are, my friends, heading into the seventh month of the Covid 19 lockdown, with still seemingly no end in sight. In the LA area, as our heat indexes rise to daily doses of over one hundred degree temperatures, our spirits seem to be dropping and hopelessness abounds for many. Have you noticed an incredible shift in the over all atmosphere of the world lately?

It is obviously evident that evil is overtaking our country and appears to be winning at times in leaps and bounds. Where does your hope lie during these challenging times? Well, if you are anything like me, you have faith and do your best to look up, pray, and believe. We know that He is working behind the scenes according to Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Still it is challenging to maintain a positive frame of mind in the day to day, when news and media outlets continually inform us all that the country and those of us in majorly contaminated cities are going to hell in a hand basket.

The political unrest can be nauseating at best while the unthinkable racial deaths that should have been prevented as well as those who have lost their battles with the virus have brought many people despair beyond repair. Hatred abounds as self-serving politicians pit Americans against each other and promote lies that many believe to be truth.

The news and media spew venom continually and bully those with opposing positions, leaving many of us wondering what is to become of us and how do we heal or carry on when the madness finally subsides?

Do I exaggerate, or does the picture I’ve painted sound about right to you at this point in time?

If that were not bad enough, Christians are criticizing each other’s ministries in leaps and bounds as well. I have never witnessed such a strange phenomenon unfolding in the daily news and You Tube feeds that continually stream on my computer or television screens.

At the present time in our world’s history, the prophets seem to have come out of the woodwork, most of them relatively unknown until this past year. All promoting their dreams and visions, some writing books, holding zoom meetings or conferences and relaying the messages God has told them to share with us all. Most have seemed encouraging, some have been disheartening, but many have called all Christians to pray for our nation, the world, and the end of the virus. We should be doing that anyway, according to 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV), “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” He clearly says “MY PEOPLE”, meaning all who call themselves Christians. It is our duty to pray without ceasing for God to keep his hand on our nation and heal the country as well as its people.

There have been COUNTLESS YouTube feeds of people, all races, all ages, from different parts of the world recounting their “rapture dreams”, which does make sense to me. We are practically living in the zombie apocalypse anyway, while people have been unusually homebound and glued to their television sets or computer screens. Images of tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires, racism, or basically the worst of humanity trying to hurt or kill each other dance across our screens twenty four hours a day. It is no wonder that people are dreaming about the catching away of the church. They all say it will be happening very soon and that we need to be ready. Ya think?

I’m not denying the validity of anyone’s dreams. It’s not my place to criticize or tear apart what they believe God is telling them. That he may be downloading a dream to an individual in order for them to relay its meaning to others in the hopes of saving a soul, sounds like a noble calling. Who am I to judge? After all, in Acts 2:17 (NIV), Luke tells us that “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” Notice Luke tells us that God will pour out his spirit upon “ALL” of his people. Not just pastors or popes, ministers or priests, but ALL of us.

I do tend to get a little twinge of disbelief for those who give actual dates that the rapture could be happening because of this, that, or the other thing which makes perfect sense to him/her as to why Jesus will most assuredly come back at that specific time. I especially have a hard time with those that claim to “know” when the catching away of the church will occur because Jesus stated in Matthew 24:36 (NIV), “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus, himself, does not know the day or the hour, so I’m pretty sure God’s not going to tell one of us mere mortals the time of the rapture, especially if he hasn’t yet shared it with Jesus.

I could whole-heartedly go along with the above mentioned dreamers on the fact that it could be any time soon or in the not too distant future since Jesus also told us in Matthew 24:42 (NIV), “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

As long as civil unrest and almost daily devastation remains, there will be many having recurring “Rapture Dreams”. I get it. It makes sense. I can live with that. It in no way shape or form means that I will watch all of their dream videos, however. If that is all we choose to watch, we may become all consumed with negativity or maybe even give up on the hope of a future at all. What we think about, or give our attention to may actually drive us to distraction or the ability to enjoy and find the good in each new day that God has blessed us with. Survival-mode is not a joyful way to greet the day and produces high anxiety levels. It’s pretty clear, though, that God is up to something.

I can truly understand hearing from prophets and those having rapture dreams during this unprecedented time in our national and world-wide history. I realize that those who believe to be sincerely hearing from the Lord also believe that they are to share what he is telling them in order to help others in some way. Their message could be shared in order that those who listen may be able to properly prepare their family for possible upcoming events or to bring others to salvation, knowing that Jesus is on his way.

I am sincerely, however, having a real issue in understanding the continual, merciless bashings that Christians are unleashing upon other Christians in the name of Jesus. Folks, the last time I checked, there’s an enormous group of people who are already trying to take God out of everything in America. They are trying to take our God-given rights away to assemble, sing or even pray, while at the very same time, and out of the other sides of their mouths, they are applauding rioters who injure without mercy, devastate small family-owned businesses, and spread the infectious Corona Virus all over the land.

Matthew 12:25 (NIV), “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Jesus himself has warned us all that if we are divided or fight against each other as Christians, we will fail. The prince of this world is doing everything he can to defeat and discourage all Christians. He is in it to win it. He has governmental authorities and agencies trying to take away our rights as Christians at this very moment. We all, as believers, know well the devil’s tactics and tricks to trip us up, yet we still spend ridiculous amounts of time turning on and criticizing each other. Make no mistake, the enemy is laughing with delight, as he is most definitely the puppet master who is pulling the strings.

It is obvious to me that well-learned Biblical scholars have been taking on God’s job of judging the true intentions and hearts of all men and women. They hide behind the video camera and publicly shame those who are actually preaching and teaching God’s Word or messages of love and salvation. Their criticism is usually something along the lines of, and I’m paraphrasing, “how dare they say that they’ve heard from God!” What they are really saying is “how could God actually speak to you? You aren’t doing things correctly (or the way that ‘I’ would do it), or even in some instances, “you are a woman and should not be allowed to preach.” The last time I checked, God seems to frown on such “religious spirits”, which is exactly what I tend to believe these well-meaning leaders are being governed by.

Jesus, himself, criticized these types of religious leaders in Matthew’s 23rd chapter. He went on to say in Matthew 23:3,4 (NLT), “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. (4) They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” He goes on to state in verse 5 of Matthew 23, “Everything they do is for show.” These types of men are trying to gain notoriety and praise for being so incredibly holy in their exercise of showing others the error of their ways.

I’m pretty sure that “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” as clearly mentioned in Romans 3:23 (NIV). That means you, me, Pelosi, Trump, Clinton, Graham and the pope, just to name a few. EVERY single pastor, minister, priest or Biblical theologian or teacher has sinned and is a sinner. We are human, it’s part of our condition. There is but one perfect sinless specimen in all the world and world to come and that is Jesus.

The spirit of criticism is alive and well on planet earth and especially in the church. By the act of imposing our judgement on others, we are undoubtedly being hypocritical ourselves. We are also inviting God’s judgement to fall on us, as he clearly tells us in Matthew 7:1 (AMP), “DO NOT judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly].” Jesus goes on to tell us in Matthew 7:2 (AMP), “For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgement], judgement will be measured to you.” Pretty scary stuff, actually. I have to daily work on and ask God to forgive me of any criticism I have shown outwardly or inwardly. I know that I’m an imperfect specimen, so the LAST thing I want to do is to criticize someone else’s walk with the Lord. If I succumb to criticizing a prophet, seer, dreamer or teacher, I will be judged just as harshly as I have judged or criticized others. Who needs that? Have these learned scholars currently implementing judgement on others’ forgotten what the Lord himself has told us? Or do they believe to be exempt from such judgement themselves? I’m very simplistic in my belief. If God said it, it’s true. I will always believe what Jesus says over any teacher, leader or prophet. In my Bible his words are written in red, I’m pretty sure we are to do as he instructed to the best of our ability.

It is evident that God is most definitely cleaning house in the church at the present time, which is as it should be. He’s perfectly capable to do this on his own without our help. He’s the ultimate judge, we are not. In fact our greatest commission during these tumultuous times should be to do as Jesus instructed in Matthew 28:19 (AMP), “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Who’s going to want what we have in Jesus, if we continue to criticize and tear each other apart? When the world sees Christians being hypocritical of each other, that doesn’t draw them into desiring to become a follower of the Lord. It repels them, often times with disdain for our faith as a whole.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV), “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” It is not my job to judge anyone. It is my job to see each individual as God sees them. It’s my job to simply love them.

At this very moment in time, how strong could we be as believers if we banded together as a united front against evil in our country and the world? We would be unstoppable, the enemy defeated! Besides that, we know how the story ends. Most of us have read the end of the book…WE WIN!

In His love,

S.E.Woody

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Hidden Treasures

As so many of us are doing during our self-quarantining, lock-down time, we are remodeling, rearranging and getting rid of certain eyesores around the house.  Believe me when I tell you, this 40 year-old fixer upper of a California home has tons of potential to keep us busy for years after this madness has ended.

Upon the removal of a hodgepodge of ugly bushes, an ancient birdhouse was discovered, smack dab in its middle.  Ok, maybe not exactly “ancient”, but extremely old and rusted.  It looked as though it had fallen a long time ago and the previous owners just let the bushes, at least I think they were bushes, grow in all around it.  They made no attempt to pick it up or move it to a safe place.  They just left it.  Interesting.

I’m sure in its prime, the birdhouse was a safe and happy haven for some neighborhood birds as a comforting stop in their daily routine.  I wonder how often they looked for it after its fall before they gave up and changed their daily habit altogether?

Now, of course, it is less than appealing.  Seems to have out-lived its usefulness.  Maybe it was best that it was hidden from view after all.  Selah.

There is no doubt that we are living in extremely troubled times, where hatred and unbearable losses have become a daily occurrence.  We are forced to stay in and socially distance ourselves from those we love and care about.  We have found ourselves feeling lost at times, hidden from view, and even depressed.

Earlier today, a dear friend of mind mentioned her deepened sadness and over all feeling of being “drained from life”.  I believe that so many can relate to that feeling.  We daily wonder if things could ever get better?  We may feel helpless or hopeless at times.  We may even decide to stay hidden, which is a luxuriously comfortable and tempting idea to those of us with introverted tendencies.  We can just stay in our safe, comfy home-based cocoon and focus on ourselves while the weeds or bushes of the world just continually grow up all around us until they completely take us over.  As they hedge us in on all sides, we may become even more afraid to venture out, have an opinion, or live our lives as God intended.  We can stay well-hidden for years, just like the ancient birdhouse in my yard.  Or maybe we can sleep for twenty years like Rip van Winkle, as the world moves on without us.

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  Mathew 5:15 (NIV)

Jesus said that YOU are to be the light in the world!  YOU are the salt of the earth!  You are unique and well-equipped for exactly the time you are currently living in.  You were not meant to live a less-than life,  always silent and hidden from view, much like my poor wretched little birdhouse.  You have a heart, you have a voice, you have a passion and a God-given destiny.  It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to admit to a day of feeling hopelessness and despair.  We all have them.

If we have learned anything positive during these difficult times, I’d say we’ve become masters at staying connected to those we love.  We’ve become creative in our ways of encouraging each other and discovered the ease of video chatting for work as well as quality family time across the nation.

Now is not the time to grow silent and hibernate.  Someone needs your voice,  your beautiful happy face, or your ear to simply listen.

YOU are the HIDDEN TREASURE.

Don’t stay hidden.

Be the light in someone else’s darkness.

Your blessing is right around the corner, and you may miss it if you are hidden.

Never be afraid to let your light shine.

Namaste.

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My Father’s Eyes

An unpleasant Memory re-surfaced today.  I thought I’d share a little in the hopes of encouraging those who find it difficult to forgive.

Years ago, I was continually thrown into social gatherings with a person who clearly couldn’t stand me, and who seemingly enjoyed trying to make me feel inferior every chance she got.  Though I have to admit, her distaste stung at times, I chose to ignore it as much as possible.  Until the day it affected my young daughter.  When adults purposefully hurt each other that’s one thing, but when someone hurts your child-the mama bear claws come out.  Believe me when I say, It’s almost impossible to forgive the ones who hurt your children, and negative words spoken in hatred can last a lifetime.

But God.

Something interesting happened.  One evening I sat around the table with a few friends and my arch nemesis as the topic turned to faith.  It was then that I learned the truth about this lady.  We were discussing Bible studies and wanting to have a deeper relationship with the Lord when she spoke up and stated that she had no desire to ever read the Bible, let alone study it.  She had no time for God and saw no value in pursuing him at all.

Right then and there, my heart broke for her.  I understood her completely.  She didn’t know the Lord, at least not intimately.  She was lost.

Though lovely on the outside, affluent and appearing to have it all, she actually had nothing.  Nothing lasting anyway.

She had tried so many times to hurt me, make me feel inferior, etc., because she herself felt insecure.  Less than.

I like to say that the devil tipped his hand that day.  Because she actually spoke up, I knew exactly how to pray for her.  That’s my “superpower”, I pray.

One of my prayers is “Lord, please allow me to see others the way YOU see them”.  Just like “My Father’s Eyes”, a beautiful song recorded years ago by Amy Grant:

“Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around.

Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found.

Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.

Knowing what you’re going through, and feeling it the same.”

She ends the song by saying, “And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done, good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone.  And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me, more than anything I know, I want your words to be ‘She had her Father’s Eyes.”

That’s my prayer for you.  That before you judge, you choose to see others with our Father’s eyes.  Eyes full of love and compassion.  Forgive them, they are the ones truly hurting on the inside.  Life’s too short not too.

As for me?  Well, every now and then I get a little painful reminder of someone who has hurt me or one of my kids in the past.  The tinges of wounded feelings have lessened as I pray for the ones who have inflicted the pain, and I pray for those who I may have hurt as well.  I forgive as quickly as possible and pray for my own forgiveness.  It’s how we heal, cope and move on.

The future is too bright and full of hope to hang on to past hurts.  God is up to something, and it’s not just good—it’s going to be AMAZING!

Please let me know if there is something on your heart that I can pray for you about.  It would be my honor to lift you up in prayer.

 

Namaste.

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Go BIG or Go Home

The first time I had ever heard these words of great wisdom were from a lady by the name of Georgi, the trainer of all trainers. Georgi epitomized the perfect trainer. She was basically one big muscle, not an ounce of fat to be found on her body, knew her craft well, and was soft spoken but ornery beyond belief. I knew within a moment of meeting her, that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up, still do and I’m currently fifty-ish! Needless to say, “Go Big or Go Home” has been deeply embedded into my soul ever since.

Georgi was a wonderful mentor and example of what hard work, diligence, and discipline could accomplish. Giving up was never an option to her. The word “can’t” wasn’t even in her vocabulary. I took her words to heart back then, and long since have remembered them on the days that I felt like quitting or giving up.

I’d like to believe that Georgi coined the phrase around twenty years ago in Rockford, IL. The truth is that trainers had been saying it for many years. We ever so lovingly egg each other on during a workout with the phrase, which ultimately would encourage us to push ourselves a little harder. If we’ve said it to you or our clients, that just means that we like you and believe you can do it.

Georgi’s reminder has been popping into my head daily for quite a while. If you’ve followed my previous blogs, you know well that ideas need time to percolate in my mind before a story or message unfolds and allows me to write it down on paper or send it out into the world wide web. So the studies and possibilities ensued.

Another truth that complements Georgi’s words of wisdom are found in Luke 1:37 (NIV), “For nothing is impossible with God”. Nothing? Really? Of course, if you are familiar with this verse at all or are looking it up at the moment, you will see that these are the last words an angel spoke to Mary, Mother of Jesus, before leaving her. He told her that she would miraculously give birth to Jesus, as a virgin. The angel also let Mary know about her cousin Elizabeth, who was believed to have been unable to have children and was at that time six months pregnant with John the Baptist. I’m sure you would agree that these are extremely big and amazing miracles that happened so long ago. But what can that mean for us today? Are God’s miracles only for the past in Bible times or are they applicable and even possible today? Well, I’m relatively sure that the birth of our Lord and Savior is pretty much a one and done kind of event.

I have to admit that there have been more days than I could count where this scripture stating that nothing is impossible with God has seemed so very far out of my reach.

We are taught in church that God answer s prayer and I believe he does so even today. Our church teachers or pastors often explain that his answer may be “yes”, “no”, or “wait”. My magic 8 ball toy from long ago tells me the very same thing. If I don’t like its answer, I can just shake it a little until I get the answer I want. Sometimes I wish that worked with my prayers.

I have recently heard from one of my favorite pastors that God never tells him “no”. This line of thinking goes against everything I had previously been taught. How can that be right? This man is most definitely exemplifying and living out in true fulfillment the title of this blog, “Go big or go home”. He has often quoted James 4:2 (KJV) “you have not because you ask not”. Consequently, he asks big. Mega-big, and he always gets what he asks for. What’s his secret? It’s probably not what you’re thinking. It’s not clean living or living an exemplary life. He’d be the first to tell of his heathen upbringing and his rock-n-roll band playing days. His past is less than ideal and even as a pastor he’s not perfect. (no-one on this earth is). The thing I admire most about this man is his relationship with Jesus. He talks to him as a close personal friend. His prayers get answered. He fully and whole-heartedly speaks to, relies on, listens to and gives glory to the Lord at all times. He’s divinely dialed in and feels God’s presence every single moment of his life. He seeks God’s face not his hand. God supplies all of his needs according to his riches and glory by Christ Jesus, as stated in Phil. 4:19 (paraphrased NIV).

Acts 10:34 (NIV). Then Peter began to speak, ” I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” What God has done for our heroes in the Bible, he can do for you or for me. What God has done for the above mentioned pastor, he can do for you or for me. Knowing that all we have to do is ask and receive, why do our unanswered prayers and dreams often still seem so far out of our reach? Could it really be that simple? This doesn’t mean that we go to God with our wish list and expect to get everything we think we want or have to have. He’s not Santa Claus.

I personally believe that the closer our relationship grows with the Lord, the more our wants or desires will change. Our desire to know him grows and we begin to want what he wants for us. He is the God of health and restoration. The God of abundance. Since every good thing comes from the Lord anyway, why not ask big? Why not dream big?

We are limiting our own potential by staying “status quo”, settling for less than God’s absolute best for our lives. He is God of the impossible.

“Go BIG or Go Home”!

With God on your side, ANYTHING is possible. We need to set bigger goals and dream bigger dreams.

So maybe, our new mantra (or battle cry) should be “Go big or go home”! I’m all in, are you?

Thanks for the reminder, Georgi!

Namaste,

~the Fitness Dr.

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It’s the Thought That Counts {AKA: Thoughtless Gestures}

“Familiarity breeds contempt” by Geoffrey Chaucer, excerpt taken from “Tale of Melibee” 1386.

A few evenings ago, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who was having an extremely challenging night. As she unraveled just a little, I listened intently and the wheels in my head began to spin, some out of sadness and a little out of anger. She was definitely hurting and I felt powerless to help her.

As human beings, I believe we have such a huge capacity to show love and genuine care or concern for others. On the flip side, we can instantly do irreparable damage by thoughtless words or negative actions we may, or may not take.

I wonder if Chaucer was on to something when he stated that “familiarity breeds contempt”? Perhaps we can amend his statement slightly and say that familiarity has the capacity to breed contempt. I get what he’s saying and as it is, his version could most definitely pertain to marriages, families, friendships or even workplace relationships. Could it be that the closer we become to a person, learning everything there is to know about each other, the easier it could be to take the relationship for granted? Maybe the nervous tick he has or her habit of humming when she’s happy, once considered endearing, over the years have become a source of unbearable torture. Could we become too familiar with each other that we cease to see each other’s needs or value? A damaging result could be the ending of healthy communications, as we begin to think only of ourselves. The doubts in our mind begin to form and we may think that we are no longer a priority in the relationship. This feeling could build until we have an overwhelming urge to either end the relationship, ignore the person completely or cry ourselves to sleep. Ever been there? Anyone dare to admit that they have? I am in no way, shape or form, a relationship expert. I just have to believe that there is a way to come back from this.

I have a few ideas of what will not work.

A little quiz for you:

It’s your 25th wedding anniversary. Do you: a) A month or at least several days before the date, purchase a meaningful card and special gift or make reservations at his/her favorite restaurant. b) You know the date is coming, so you make a special coupon booklet full of things he or she likes to do. That you can do together. c) It’s the day of your anniversary. You run into the nearest store, grab a card and whatever you can find to give to him/her a few hours from now.

Be honest. What did you pick? What kind of giver are you? Do you give out of love or out of obligation? Do you give without expecting anything in return, or do you give in the hopes that the receiver will like you better or even favor you at some point in the future? Do you genuinely and truly just love to give and bless others? Or are you a wait until a couple of hours before the big event to grab whatever you can find as your gift, kind of giver? Do you just get a “good enough” kind of gift? I mean, at least you got something, they should be grateful, right? Make no mistake, the big event means a lot to the person it’s about.

I know it may sound as though I am majorly materialistic. Maybe my friend is the materialistic one and I’m just defending her. Whether you choose to believe it or not, our focus is not on the materialistic gifts themselves. Though cliché to admit, it is the genuine thought behind the gifts that truly matters. It would be better to get nothing at all than to get a thoughtless gift. More times than I can count, I have proudly displayed a bouquet of beautiful dandelions that one of my little ones had hand-picked for me. I’ve happily worn macaroni necklaces and priceless painted beaded bracelets. I’ll bet you have as well. These were tokens of love and didn’t cost a penny, but meant more than words. At that moment, you knew that little one had you on his or her mind and your heart just melted with love. Those are treasured, priceless memories.

Likewise, a thoughtless token gift given speaks volumes and unfortunately may end up in your mind palace for years to come. This could, in fact, widen the growing gap between two people in a relationship that could already be suffering.

If you can relate to any of the above, take heart. There is always hope. Hearts can mend, relationships can be restored. Sometimes counseling from a licensed professional can help you along the way. Opening the door to healthy communication is not only key, it’s vital for your relationship and overall well being. Make sure to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, exercise, healthy living foods (fruits & veggies), plenty of water and remember to laugh.

A final thought before I close: One of the very best gifts we can give to those we love or care about is the gift of our time. Undivided and intentionally focused attention could go a long way to strengthen and ultimately repair relationships.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And so do I 🙂

Namaste,

~the Fitness Dr.