The Joy of Obedience

May 26, 2015

I’ve shared in prior posts that despite a barrage of negative comments, from Christians and non-Christians alike, my prayer and hearts desire was for God to bless me with a husband. I eventually learned that the decision to trust our Savior for that which we ask for must be accompanied by a willingness to allow Him full access into our lives in order that His plans and may be established. In Psalm 37:23, we are assured that “Our steps are made firm by the Lord when He delights in our way.”

Following my temporary departure from Catholicism in February 1995, I attended two different fellowships and ultimately, in May 1998, I became a member of what is now a mega-church in Brooklyn, New York.  In those days, the Word was strong and I surmised that the Lord had called me there to develop and grow in that which concerned Him. All of that was true yet God had additional things in store. 

The church had four Sunday services and typically I attended the seven am.  That would change when I joined volunteer staff, but for the moment, it suited my purpose. I had friends whom I sat with and most times we then congregated at a local diner to discuss what we had learned from the message that the pastor had brought forth. 

One year into my membership, it was my intent to forego the seven for the 11am service, and then meet my family for Mother’s Day dinner.  There were no ifs, ands, or buts. While I knew the line would be long, I had planned to get there early to assure that I would at least be able to sit in the overflow room. With that in place, I told my friends not to wait for me nor hold a seat. 
The following morning, May 9, 1999, my eyes opened automatically at 4am.  “Not today,” I said, and went back to sleep.  Minutes later, I arose again – it was 4:20.  At that point, I concluded that God, for whatever His reason, wanted me at the early service. I prepared myself, called one of my friends “change of plans…save my seat…” and drove to Brooklyn. 
I headed to the bookstore after service, and when I exited minutes later, my friends had dispersed. Since we had no plans to get together, I opted to return home.  As I walked to my car on the next block, I was stopped -literally in path – by a member of the outside security team from church. He introduced himself as Austin and remarked that while he had noticed me a number of weeks beforehand, he found it hard to make an approach as I was typically surrounded by a group of people. We began to speak – my friends passed by – I did not stop my conversation but instead waved “I’ll call you later.” Austin and I stood on that corner for 90 minutes, and later, when I reached my vehicle,  I knew, without a doubt, that my life had unmistakably changed.  
Two days beforehand, a man from the courthouse where I worked had given me his number with the suggestion that we get together. Austin and I had made no plans for a future meeting yet once I reached home, I found the gentleman’s card, and ripped it up as I said to myself “I won’t need this anymore.” That very morning, the Lord had allowed me to glimpse the character of a Godly man, and despite the fact that we were new acquaintances, I realized that I could never again settle for anything other than His best. 
To those without His insight, it would appear that my change of plans on that day equated only to a minor adjustment in my schedule. Yet my obedience to Him, in that utter simplicity, brought forth the desire of my heart.  We soon developed a close friendship, and following a Godly courtship, Austin and I were married on November 3, 2001.  

Deterrence of Purpose

December 29, 2014

In an earlier blog, I addressed the issue of having disassociated myself from those who are deliberately negligent in the pursuit of what the Lord called them to do.

There is another group to contend with and that includes individuals who, with purposeful intent, target certain persons – both in and out of the Body of Christ – in an effort to deter them from their ordained purpose. They will engage in what appears to be a God-bestowed relationship and their advice always seems specifically geared to your current situation.

I became familiar with one such person in my own life. Twenty years ago, I had occasion to meet Ann (not her real name), at a church service in suburban New York. A friendship developed and I was amazed as to how this woman consistently seemed to hear from the Lord on my behalf. Although I had accepted Jesus as my Savior 10 years beforehand, it was during this season that I began to actively pursue the things of God. Ann never wavered from encouragement and I felt emboldened by her counsel.

Ann knew of my desire to marry and months into the friendship she announced that per God, I was called me to be the wife of a certain man at church whom I will Roy. I liked Roy yet I was also aware of the fact that he was engaged to another. Ann replied that I was not to concern myself with that since the Lord already informed her that they would break up and he would soon be mine. I wanted a husband so desperately and to my detriment I chose to believe her. Shortly thereafter Ann proclaimed that she was chosen by God to marry the praise and worship leader. However, the stipulation was that unless I interceded faithfully on her behalf, my own blessing would never come to fruition. Foolishly I asked no questions, accepted the directive, and readied myself for the task.

Months passed and our promises, allegedly from God, appeared to reach a level of stagnancy. I labored consistently on behalf of us both yet the Lord was seemingly silent on this topic. Although Roy, my designated spouse, did break up with his fiancée, aside from chance encounters in the church lobby, literally nothing transpired. It was worse for Ann as her purported mate did not even acknowledge her. Her rage spilled forth as well as the accusations in that I was inept both as a prayer warrior and friend.

By the end of the summer, there was still no communication between Ann and her professed suitor while mine had already moved on to another relationship. Her fury seemed unrelenting and it was now expected – demanded – that I spend each moment in prayer for us both. Did I not realize the dire seriousness of the situation at hand? If I neglected to bring this forth in my petitions before His throne, the consequences would be severe. My longing for a spouse was ever present and Ann’s words appeared to hold what I wrongly perceived as God’s authority.

Just a few weeks later, on a glorious fall morning, I was in angst over what I perceived as my failure in my role as an intercessor. As I prepared for work, with my makeup in hand, I distinctly heard the Lord say “Your friendship with Ann is in idolatry.” And at that precise moment, the anxiety, fear, and confusion that were so prevalent over those last several months, literally dissipated with His Words. I knew then, with complete clarity, that I was to sever my association with Ann.

I never did see Ann again though she did call periodically over the next few weeks. “…Did I wish to get together?…Cat food is on sale…can I pick up a bag for you?” I declined graciously. The Lord had freed me from that abyss and I had no desire to return. Ultimately all contact ceased and while it took a tad longer, I finally came to the realization that Ann’s words, regarding my intended mate, were not of God. That was further evidenced when one subsequent night in church, I learned through casual conversation with an acquaintance that Roy and his wife had relocated to Georgia.

It was after I married five years later, that the Lord imparted upon my heart that I would have remained single had I continued in the friendship with Ann. I have trusted Him to direct me in every regard and I am filled with gratitude that He allowed His perfect plan to be made manifest in my life. I have also thanked Him for the gift of Godly wisdom whereas when people now say “The Lord told me to tell you…”, I measure their words against His Word. Indeed, I am more than aware of the dastardly results that can come about with intentional false prophecy and deterrence of purpose.

Mistakes Of Twenty Something

October 24, 2014

First and foremost, I have always been open about my age. I am 61 years old and I have never deviated from that fact nor have I endeavored to place myself in a bygone era. And while I have no desire to return to my youth, or my much younger days, I look back to the person that I was at that particular time, and what I would do to change her.

I was a very homely, awkward teen who struggled through that period of life. If ever I thought differently about myself, there were a bevy of individuals on hand to remind me that I was indeed homely with few, if any, redeeming qualities.

Things changed on the cusp of my 20th birthday. I did not become a raving beauty by any means but instead I developed a biting wit, an outrageous nature, and a vivacious personality, all of which caused my circle of friends and associates to expand. Still, the Margaret that I knew then made a desperate search for love in the faces of the various men who appeared before her. My choices remained dastardly and pulled me even further away from the most fervent desire of my heart.

Although I was quick to profess Catholicism when asked about my religious beliefs, my actual knowledge of God was nil. I had no relationship with Him and my Bible was relegated to the bottom of the closet along with other antiquated, discarded items. It had little meaning for me and aside from the Crucifixion, I regarded much of it as relevant as Alsop’s Fables.

Born-again Christians were to be laughed at – indeed, was anything funnier? Nevertheless I was outwardly polite and would always accept an offered tract. In my last semester of college, I had a lunch date with a man of interest. Carl was a cop and I liked him but he quickly let me know that we would first attend a meeting of The Seekers, the on-campus Christian group, after which we would then have lunch. I did all I could to dissuade Carl from this seemingly preposterous idea…”You’re Catholic…I’m Catholic…what if someone were to see us??”! However Carl was determined and with an air of resignation I went with him. Someone played a guitar as all the attendees sat in a circle. There was prayer, Bible study, and one hour later it was mercifully over. I was not moved and when Carl remarked “Margaret, I feel something”, I was quick to retort “You’re hungry…that’s what you feel!!”

I don’t know if Carl ever returned to the Seeker meetings. Graduation came soon thereafter and while I remained behind for the MA program, Carl disappeared from campus.

During the intervening years, I was able to progress in both my education and employment. My ways, however, remained restless, and though I was now an active participant in my childhood parish, I continued in my pursuit of love. Fornication and adultery, to me, were not sins particularly if either one or both would serve to bring about what I desired most which was a husband. I no longer wanted to be outrageous and sought to settle down. I also became weary of looking for love in all the wrong places, but I knew not what else to do.

Carolyn became my coworker in November 1983. She had a peaceful countenance and for the first time in my then 30-years, I encountered a Christian who spoke the truth as to the factors that led her to Christ. Most whom I had met previously appeared to have existed on chimerical clouds both before and after their conversion. In my very fractured state, Carolyn’s counsel generated into my heart and in March 1984, I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Through His grace and through His mercy, I was also freed from sexual sin. I chose to live as a new creature in Christ. I also knew that He had a plan for my life and as He reminded me in Psalm 37:4, if I delighted myself in Him, He would give me the desires of my heart. However we are flesh…we are human…and while some old habits die hard, He is there for us, as He was for me, on the path of spiritual maturation.

Though I sometimes reflect on the young Margaret and what I would say to her if afforded the opportunity, I try not to do it often as we are told in Isaiah 43:5 “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” In this present age, there are so many who have walked an identical path and the gift of God is the ability to share with them the hope for change and the new life that can be found in Christ Jesus. He is not a myth, nor is He relegated to mention in a Sunday service only, but He is real and His Word can change the very course of our existence.

Lack of Purpose

October 17, 2014

As I walked to the subway a number of weeks ago, I encountered a scene in front of a local deli. Two men stood there and in a conversation replete with profanity, discussed the weekend baseball scores.

First and foremost let me state that I’m not the type of sanctimonious Catholic/Christian who is of the belief that sports are ungodly. Quite simply I hate to see human life wasted and I become rankled when I encounter individuals who merely exist without any regard for their God-given purpose. One of those men whom I referred to, can typically be found on White Plains Road as he struts the area aimlessly or lounges in front of the deli by himself as well as with others.

In the 1955 drama Marty, the lead character, played by Ernest Borgnine, congregated with those who preferred to whittle their days in aimless pursuit. The famous dialogue in that film centered on “What do you want to do tonight?…”I don’t know…what do you want to do?” For myself, I have chosen to disassociate from friends such as that. My own epiphany occurred 20 years ago, on November 11, 1994. I had visited a family member and on that Friday evening, as we wandered aimlessly from one suburban strip mall to the next, I cried out inwardly “There has to be more than this!” I realized then, as I do now, that time is a precious commodity given to me by God. I refuse to squander it in laziness and futility. I also came to the awareness that the Lord, on the day that I stand before Him, would question as to how I utilized both the gifts and years that He bestowed upon me. It therefore became necessary to adjust my inner circle and eliminate those with low expectations and who wanted nothing more from life other than a constant influx of social media, television, shopping, and dining out.

Psalm 91:16 states “With long life I will satisfy them and show them My salvation.” I thank the Lord for that promise but it would grieve me to have arrived at old age only to be confronted with the fact that I had never disengaged myself from the ordinary in order to embrace significance. That of itself has prompted me to seek Him on a daily basis, and then obey that which He has directed me to do.

Catholic

August 16, 2014

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and continue to live a life of purposeful sin for to do so is an affront to God. Hebrews 10:26 states “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and yet continue to live in sexual sin with the excuse “I have needs. I’m a good person and God knows my heart.” The Lord specified in 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and yet continue to live in adultery with the excuse “Every situation is different and we truly love each other. Besides, his/her spouse doesn’t understand them.” Hebrews 13:4 states “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and yet continue to use profanity in my conversations with others. It is not of God and it draws us away rather than into His presence. James 3:10 states “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and yet continue to hold unforgiveness in my heart. Matthew 6:14 states “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespassers.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and trust God with all my heart yet I continue to consult horoscopes and psychics regarding my future. Their prophecies and guidance are governed by something other than the Lord. Indeed, to heed the counsel and directives that are brought forth from both venues is to expose yourself to the demonic. Isaiah 47:12-15 state “Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed, perhaps you may inspire terror. You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars, and at each new moon predict what shall befall you. See, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before! Such to you are those with whom you have labored, who have trafficked with you from your youth; they all wander about in their own paths; there is no one to save you.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian and yet my church attendance is sporadic not due to anything else but laziness. The Lord asks that we fellowship with Him for one day out of the week but even when our houses of worship are in nearby proximity the excuses are endless “It’s too hot…it’s too cold…it was raining…I rest on Sunday’s….I watch Christian television…I have church in my heart…”And on and on they drone. In Matthew 26:40, Jesus chided His apostles for their inability to stay awake with Him for one hour only in Gethsemane. Moreover, in Hebrews 10:25 we are told “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian yet my daily routine includes nil time spent with God or His Word. To limit my interaction with Him to Sunday only is to my own spiritual detriment. It is during that period of fellowship with the Lord that I commune with Him and receive His directives. Psalm 16:11 states “You show me the path of life. In Your presence there is fullness of joy; in Your right Hand are pleasures forevermore.”

I cannot say that I’m a Catholic Christian yet I continue to seek and derive counsel from those who walk apart from Christ. While their guidance may appear to be sound, it is not rooted in God and oftentimes runs contrary to His Word and mandates. But we, as humans, are prone to instantaneous gratification and for that reason we seek immediate advice from those around us, despite the caliber of their own lives. The Lord’s way, however, is exemplified in Psalm 1:1-2 “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law they meditate day and night.”

Single And Christian

August 1, 2014

I was 30 years old when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. With that decision came the desire to change my life as I was weary of the relentless dating and the non-committal relationships. The reality of the situation was that I wanted to be married. Period. I was ready – or so I thought – and I sat down to wait for what I reasoned would be a relatively short process. I just knew that all I had to do was to pray and God would bless me with Mr. Right in an instantaneous manner.

That was in March 1984 and I was married in November 2001 at the age of 48. Clearly the fulfillment of my prayer was not immediate and initially I was unable to fathom what caused the delay.

In the early days of my walk with God, I was under the mistaken assumption that other Christians, particularly those who were married, would render emotional support. That, however, was not the case as I oftentimes heard the worn out refrain “How do you know that the Lord wants you to be married?” One particular person said “Why would you want to bother Him with that? Don’t you realize that the world is going to end soon?” And on and on they droned. Obviously discouragement set in but it was through those experiences that I learned the wisdom of restraint. Not everyone can nor should be afforded the privilege to know the longings of your soul or the Savior’s plan for your life.

There are a multitude of books on the Christian market that deal with single hood and the prospect of marriage for those who wish to meet their mate. Thankfully some of the advice was based on common sense such as the maintenance of personal hygiene, a change of style, and freedom from debt. That was all well and good. Others authors suggested a closet full of new lingerie, flowers about the house, and a place setting at my dining room table for my soon to be beloved. Though I speculated that the goal of those persons was to bring hope and healing on a sensitive issue, admittedly I regarded their pointers as fantasy counsel.

As one who waited over 17 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise, I will readily attest to the fact that there is no set formula nor does the Lord necessarily adhere to popular strategies such as “10 Ways To Meet Your Mate.” What ultimately brought my desire to pass was my decision to trust my Savior with every facet of my life. Psalm 37:4 states “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I also sought to be holy and to live in a manner which exemplified His Word. He had already freed me from the enslavement of sexual sin and I had no wish to return to that which displeased Him.

In the summer of 1993 – six years before I met my husband – another single friend and myself comprised a list of the qualities that we expected from our future mates. One which I held onto for a long while focused on my mandate for a professional man. I had no inclination at all to consider anyone with less education and a lower social ranking than mine.

I had noticed my husband at church and spoke to him for the first time on May 9, 1999. I was affected by his conversation for it was more than apparent that he was indeed a Godly man. Dismay set in when I subsequently learned of his non-college status and work position. As I mulled over this one morning, I distinctly heard the Lord say to me “You may have more education than Austin but he is way ahead of you in character.” I repented before God and embraced Austin’s friendship which led to a relationship and then marriage on November 3, 2001.

To say that God is faithful is not a cliche. When we prioritize His presence and commit to His Word, we can expect a fulfillment of His covenant blessings.

The Abuse of Grace

June 11, 2014

To say that the grace message has been abused is an understatement at best. Though the original intent was to show God’s willingness to forgive our sins, it has instead parlayed into a teaching which eliminates our responsibility to live Godly lives.

My spirit grieves as I witness those who, though they profess Catholicism/Christianity, render the Lord to an eunuch status. They’re comfortable in their efforts as they adjust His Word to adapt to society’s norms as well as their own wishes and desires. Gone is the fear of God or the concept of holiness as they readily describe themselves as “a work in progress.”

As humans, all of us are subject to temptation and frailties. It is also true that none of us have yet arrived at the pinnacle of God’s knowledge. However, we do have an obligation, once we accept Jesus as Savior, to pursue that which pleases Him. We’re told in Romans 6:1-2 “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?”

Simply put, the gift of grace does not permit us to live in purposeful opposition to the Lord or His Word. A decision to persevere in compromise is deception and bears its own spiritual consequences.

The Route To Eternal Life

May 9, 2014

A popular teaching of today, which is generally referred to as Universalism, purports that a relationship with our Savior is not a prerequisite for eternal life as all will be welcomed into heaven by a merciful God.

The Lord states in John 6:40 “This is indeed the will of my Father that all who see the Son and believe in Him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Quite simply, eternal life does not exist apart from Jesus Christ. He is not just “one of the ways to God”, nor should He be relegated to a place in the line of the “great masters.” Our Savior is Lord…period. The issue is whether you believe Him or opt not to.

The Necessity For Evangelization

April 16, 2014

I live in Bronx County, and almost every morning as I race to catch the subway at the East 233rd Street Station, I see the Jehovah Witnesses both near the outside entry and the turnstile as they proselytize to the masses. To them, Jesus has been relegated to a divine spirit creature, still they are successful in their efforts to win souls and enlarge their flock.

As Catholics, we need to become passionate about the Lord and speak His truth to the individuals whom we encounter. In doing so, it would be required that we become familiar with God’s Word. To hand out artifacts is a nice gesture, but knowledge of the Bible is a necessity particularly when those from various cults, in their own endeavor for converts, present a maligned interpretation in what appears to be a definitive manner. Each day we lose people to false concepts of Jesus, yet we burrow ourselves in comfort and rationalize that priests and preachers have been called for that assignment. In essence, we have ceased to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom.

Immediately before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus, in Mark 16:15, instructed His disciples “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” The Catholic Church has always accepted this challenge and since 2012, the New Evangelization has been a primary focus. Though the methods vary, His message has not wavered.

Our Eternal State

March 4, 2014

When a person dies, or the anniversary of their death is commemorated in the newspaper and social media, it is commonplace to hear or see various phrases “rest in peace…happy anniversary in heaven…watch over us…” and so forth. The assumption is made that the decedent is in heaven and while we miss them, he or she is now in a better place.

Contrary to popular belief, heaven is not an automatic destination for the departed nor does our Catholicism alone provide a ticket for immediate entry. Instead, the one mandate that holds true for each one of us is whether we have confessed Jesus as Lord and live our lives according to His purpose.

Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” He went on to say in verses 16 and 17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

Despite God’s directive, I’ve heard individuals say “Well, I don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven…I’m a good person…there were other prophets in addition to Jesus and they also spoke the truth…God is too loving to condemn me to hell…hell doesn’t even exist…well, i’ll get it right with God when I’m old.”

I read a story a number of years ago where a group of teenagers walked into a church during an evening service. An altar call was given and when one of the young men stepped forward to give his life to Christ, his friend loudly whispered “Sissy!” The young man returned to his seat and as the minister approached him, he said “You keep praying for me and I’ll think about it.” At that point, he and the other teens began to laugh as they exited the church. Not long afterwards, a car attempted to go over the railroad crossing and was destroyed by an oncoming train. Each occupant of the car was killed all of whom were the young boys that had left the church minutes earlier.

A few weeks ago, my husband went to a wake for a family member. He knew that the decedent had lived apart from God and it troubled him to hear the minister laughingly announce that she and all creation would be welcomed into heaven by a loving God…no matter what. My husband remarked to me “Unless she accepted the Lord as Savior before she died, the prayers and accolades are for naught.”

As Catholics, we need to realize that adherence to our traditions without a personal relationship with Christ means nothing. The Lord created each one of us to enjoy eternal life and fellowship with Him. However, the choice to accept His gift rests completely on us.


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