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Counterfeit Christianity

September 6, 2020

The phrase “God is good” is parroted by many who identify as followers of Christ. That He is without question, yet oftentimes I’ve wanted to query “Do you truly know Him??”

In late March of this year, a Facebook conversation ensued amongst myself and two members of the praise and worship team…sisters actually…at my husband’s non-denominational church. Essentially I questioned as to how they could sing glory unto the Savior and yet embrace politicians who espouse a decidedly ungodly agenda. I then referenced Matthew 7:21 in which Jesus specifically stated that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I was immediately unfriended and blocked by both which I regard as an honor, but when I mulled about the hypocrisy the following day, God spoke clearly as He said “They know not of Who they sing.”

Unfortunately, the lack of true familiarity with the Lord is a commonplace phenomenon within the Body of Christ and as Jesus perfectly stated in Matthew15:8 “these people worship Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.” In the churches of today…Catholic and otherwise…you have a host of individuals…many of whom are in leadership positions…who simply put, do not know Him. Instead, they have sought to content themselves with religious cliches and traditions versus Biblical truth. Godliness and holiness should be pursued yet sadly neither one is prioritized. Members of the clergy…pastors, priests as well as televangelists…have largely desisted from the discussion of sin as to do so would possibly cause indignation and thus have a negative impact on monetary offerings. Instead, the pulpits are replete with messages that satisfy the flesh and thus leave the spirit malnourished. St. Paul the Apostle warned about this travesty in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 when he stated “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”

You joyfully participate in “name it and claim it” but your wants have exceeded your desire for Jesus. You recite multiple scriptures, but do you know the meaning of that which you speak? You take pride that you are a daily Communicant with routine observance at every conceivable adoration in your parish yet you know nothing of the Risen Savior. You attend non-denominational fellowships and esteem yourself that you are better than Catholics since after all, your service focuses on the Bible…still, are you truly familiar with the Author? And you who pastor and preach…are you committed to convey the truth of His Word or have you chosen to utilize your assembly as a motivational center in the hope that you can satisfy the multitude? You engage a plethora of artists to entertain the masses as you ignore the reality that talent and His anointing are not synonymous. Have you deliberately aligned yourself with the world to please the world in the feeble hope that the Lord will understand? If a person comes to you in crisis, has your decision to compromise depleted you of Godly counsel whereas your contribution consists instead of baseless banalities?

In the 1980’s, there was a momentarily popular female televangelist who emphasized the tenets of the New Age Movement as she encouraged her followers to seek prosperity, power and abundance. She spoke of Jesus yet disclaimed the reality of sin and stressed that there was no need for repentance. Although her tenure of acclaim was short-lived, her refusal to acknowledge iniquity was adapted by others including the pastor of a mega-church in Texas. This individual…a New York Times bestselling author…has stated on record that he is unable to address offense as he will not disparage any individual. With the exception of a brief allude to the Bible at the beginning of his service, the scriptures are not referenced in the message that follows. Recently I watched a clip of the opening prayer on YouTube only to hear the staff member conclude with “and we pray in the name of all that is holy.” But what did she consider holy? She described Jesus as one with no vengeance in His heart. However, if He was not prefaced as the Sovereign Lord, then conceivably speaking, those present could have deemed anything of their choice as holy…the floor, the sky or perhaps their very articles of clothing. Have we become so pro-inclusion that we would deliberately omit mention of the Savior in an effort not to offend?

Similarly, there is a renowned individual…a billionaire entrepreneur…who for 25 years hosted a successful talk show on ABC and is now on cable. Although she has described herself as a Christian, she is a prominent advocate for New Age and has repeatedly extolled both their written materials and beliefs. She has also oftentimes stated that Jesus is not the only way to the Father. And still, irregardless of the blasphemy, those in the church reverence her. Prominent pastors are amongst the featured guests on her Sunday program that allegedly focuses on spirituality. Their philosophical messages have nil conviction and to them I would ask…”Are you so anxious to be featured with a celebrity…one who has profaned the Gospel…that you would forfeit His truth? Have you ignored James 4:4 which warns that “…friendship with the world is enmity with God?….”

To say that the Body of Christ remains in crisis mode is an understatement at best. We sing acclimation to Jesus at Mass and in certain non-denominational fellowships, we are invited to express ourselves as the Holy Spirit may lead. I have witnessed congregants at those particular assemblies, bolt from their seats and run around the sanctuary multiple times as they scream the Name of Jesus at the top of their lungs. However in conversation as well as on social media, these same individuals negate the sanctity of life and the Lord’s righteousness. And while their pages, phrases and messages will include various memes with the words “Trust God”, they express glee over the platform of politicians as well as celebrities who are devoted to the decimation of that which His Word holds sacred. In fact, one particular churchgoer informed me, in an utmost serious manner, that she prayed for the assassination of President Trump. Yet every Sunday she would announce to all on Facebook that she was en route to service to get her “praise on.” Indeed they are minacious empty vessels and their depth of Christianity has the profundity of lines contained in a religious greeting card.

We expect God to work in our lives yet we have ceded His presence null and void as we render ourselves content with counterfeit Christianity. 2 Timothy 3 has clearly described it as “holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.“ To continue in this unrepentant manner, with a spurious allegiance to the Lord, carries the risk that we will hear the dreaded words from Matthew 7:23 spoken to us on our last day “Get away from Me… I never knew you.”

Hypocrisy In The Pews

September 5, 2020

During the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I perused through my Facebook newsfeed and was grieved to notice that a worship leader at my husband’s non-denominational church…one who deliberately inputs the theatrical in public expressions of praise…had cheered on a leftist New Jersey senator in his dramatic rantings. There was no support in any regard for the prolife jurist despite the fabricated narrative presented by his accuser.

As I viewed the worship leader’s unabashed cheers for this politician, I mused as to how during the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s platform focused on the continuation of abortion particularly at late term. In fact, in 2015, she emphasized that Christians would have to change their belief system to accommodate this abomination under the guise of what she referred to as reproductive health care.

Abortion is not, as many would prefer to rationalize, the mere decimation of cells, but rather the slaughter and dismemberment of the defenseless unborn. Revelation 21:8 succinctly states “…as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshippers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulphur which is the second death.” Clearly the Lord is not secretive about the eternal fate of those who kill. Yet much of the church did not recoil in horror nor point to this scripture and others that would abhor this barbaric act, but instead supported Mrs. Clinton with fervency. The scenario was repeated two years later when the Governor of New York, in his bid for re-election, promised that access to late term abortion, up to the point of birth, would be signed into law. There was minimal outcry from the alleged faithful when this occurred on January 22, 2019.

The plague of hypocrisy continues to rage within the pews. God, in His infinite mercy, blessed us with a president who has voiced his support for the sanctity of life. And yet, I continue to witness religious leaders in all capacities…Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational…belittle his efforts as they joyfully endorse and affiliate themselves with individuals who by their very policies, despise the tenets of our faith. Who can forget the blatant duplicity of Archbishop Gregory as he disparaged President Trump for his visit to the Saint John II Shrine yet was aglow in the presence of a prominent, pro-abortion politician who delivered a eulogy from the pulpit at St. Matthew’s Cathedral?

Have we not been convicted by God for our attitude of false piety? How can we call ourselves Catholic….how can we refer to ourselves as Christian…how can we worship the Lord…and yet continue to support those who espouse societal atrocities that contradict His Word? We want to be relevant and in doing so, we have negated that which the Lord holds true. Indeed we have prioritized social justice over virtue which in effect has rendered the Bible null and void in our daily lives. We have deliberately neglected to address holiness for we are afraid of offense as well as loss of prestige.

That God will judge the unrepentant is indisputable. In Genesis 6, Noah, a righteous man, found favor with the Lord who informed him of his intent to destroy humanity because of lawlessness. Subsequently, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord promised “if My people who are called by My Name, humble themselves, seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” With this, it is vital that we heed His warning and submit ourselves to the Savior for we have learned that failure to do so does in fact bear devastating consequences.

A Transformational Journey

July 17, 2020

I will always thank God for His gift of life, and with it, the capacity to change. His Word succinctly states in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “If any person be in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things shall become new.” That verse has applied to my life in every extent, nevertheless there are times that I grieve in my recollection as to what and who I was prior to my commitment to the Lord. When I do dwell on that person, I shake my head in dismay at her recklessness, her unmasked cruelty towards others, and her fervent willingness to embrace promiscuity as an endeavor to obtain love.

My devotion to the Lord was actually fostered in childhood and as a Catholic grammar school student, it became commonplace for me to attend daily Mass. To be in His presence and to pray was an absolute joy. However as many individuals tend to do, I saddled away from God and into a lifestyle that can only be described as profane. Of course I didn’t view it as such and sadly I continued to pursue depravity particularly after I left home to share a Manhattan apartment with two roommates. And yet through it all, I oftentimes found myself at Sunday Mass. Clearly it was not for repentance of my ways since I was of the deluded mindset that my actions were of necessity in my quest for a husband. The circles in which I engaged…indeed the men that I knew…would have laughed at me outright had I suggested abstinence from sexual involvement until marriage. God understood that…did He not?

By early 1979, I was in grad school and employed at the Manhattan DA’s Office. The parade of suitors continued and I had just ended an affair with a man…an old friend actually…who had returned to his wife but nevertheless wanted to continue our relationship. I thought it could work and the plan was that if his spouse was home when I called, he would simply reply that I had reached the wrong number. In theory it sounded plausible but I was cut to the core when it ultimately occurred. Soon thereafter I was besotted with Frank, my latest interest who, though separated, was still in anguish over his marital estrangement. Chris, my coworker, sensed my despair over yet another futile situation and repeatedly urged me to visit his Catholic Renewal prayer group. I finally agreed to go and off I trudged with him one Wednesday evening…June 6, 1979…to Fordham University in the Bronx. Upon our arrival, he introduced me to his friend Evelyn, along with others, at which point we made our way inside. I enjoyed the service and when Confession was offered, I momentarily pondered…should I? I did and after I spoke to Father Bert, I definitely sensed that a burden had been lifted. I purposed then and there that I would live my life for God. My resolve lasted until Saturday evening when Frank, my love, made a surprise appearance at my job and headed home with me. Two months later, little had changed in our relationship. I had made plans to attend Fordham’s Charismatic Mass with Chris and Evelyn on Sunday, August 19th, but instead Frank had stayed over. As I started to awaken, with Frank still asleep, I had a dream…or was it a vision?…of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her direct expression was one of anger and I instinctively realized that my lifestyle had provoked her displeasure. I frantically implored “What is it?” followed by the words “You’re angry about Frank…I’ll give him up.” Her immediate response was to gaze at me with a beatific smile before she disappeared.

Frank left almost upon the moment that he arose and I was sorry…completely so…that I had not made the effort to go up to the Bronx and meet with Chris and Evelyn. Instead, I spent the day in abject despair. Frank did not call and it was impossible to ignore the fact that our bond was limited to our sexual encounters. And once again I was forced to ask myself…was this truly how I wanted to live my life?

Mercifully the summer ended as did my relationship with Frank…somewhat. He continued to make sporadic appearances and on one particular night, our intimacy resumed. The following morning we went to breakfast at a local diner and again I was despondent as I knew that our rendezvous meant nothing to him other than his self-gratification. By that point it was April 1980 and graduation was a month away. I had also decided to return to my parents house. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision but I wearied of the life of a single woman in Manhattan with its mandated activities…buying the Sunday Times, involvement in various cultural and/or social events…anything to land a man and inevitably always alone.

Despite my return home, old habits tend to die hard and it did not take long for me to become involved with a much older man whom I had met at work. Ed, divorced and the father of three, made it quite succinct that he merely wanted a companion and not a wife. That was fine as I had never considered him in any role other than a temporary dalliance.

Things remained status quo until late September when the Lord used Chris once again to intervene. He called me on the evening of the 25th…was I free that weekend? A spot had opened up at the Charismatic Renewal retreat that was to be held from the following evening to Sunday afternoon. He thought I would enjoy it particularly as Evelyn was scheduled to attend as well as his girlfriend Gerri. I had no alternate plans, therefore my attitude was “okay…” And so with that, I packed a bag as I would head to Jamaica Estates directly from work.

The retreat in itself was amazing and I resolved that my life would align with His. Moreover, by Sunday morning, a conviction had settled within my spirit and I promised the Lord that I would refrain from all sexual activity until I was married. To Ed’s profound disappointment, I refused to renege on that vow and the relationship concluded. Soon thereafter I was invited to become a Eucharistic Minister and eventually I became involved in a myriad of parish activities. My fervent prayer was for a husband but in the meantime, life went on. By the fall of 1981, I had departed the DA’s Office for a position with the Department of Probation and with that, I was happy.

Of course being Margaret, a crisis ensued one year later which in essence could have been avoided. A visiting priest, whom I’ll refer to as Father Alejandro, was assigned to the parish and foolishly…stupidly…my heart opened up to him. A strong mutual attraction developed and a degree of physical contact was exchanged after which I was reprimanded by the good Father. I was devastated, still besotted and ultimately relieved when he returned to his native Peru a few weeks before Christmas. A permanent separation however was not in order since the duplicitous Alejandro gave me his address and encouraged me to write which indeed I did.

As the spring of 1983 approached, I was soon to become involved with John, a married but separated co-courthouse employee. I also remained desperately in love with Alejandro. Dawnne, my colleague and then best friend, had embarked on an adventure of her own with a former neighbor and therefore encouraged me in my South American pursuit. Upon her recommendation, I purchased The Thornbirds, a novel which focused on a decades-long love affair between an ambitious priest and a woman who bore his son. Within that period, the mini series based on the book, had premiered on ABC. Bolstered by Dawnne’s support, I was convinced that my cleric would eventually do the right thing particularly as his letters were constant and endearing. Nevertheless, Dawnne and I were desperate to peer into our respective futures. It was at her suggestion that we went to a psychic in midtown Manhattan that Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Neither one of us had any concept of Deuteronomy 18:10-13 which states clearly “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire or practices divination or is a soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, or one who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does these things is an abomination to the Lord and because of such abominations the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you.” Devoid of knowledge re this aversion to the Lord, I entered the premises with hopeful anticipation and no sense of caution. I was soon paired with Miss Marguerite, whom, once she had cut the tarot cards, declared in part that I was in love with a man who had another commitment. Furthermore, according to Miss Marguerite, a relationship with a light-eyed gentleman awaited me. That, most definitely, was not John, who had taken me to lunch for my 30th birthday days earlier.

Dawnne’s dalliance became serious to the point whereas she made plans to desert her live-in companion and relocate to Cincinnati in order that she and Archie could wed. I left work early that Friday afternoon of July 15th to lend my assistance and found the apartment to be chaotic with things tossed about haphazardly. As I helped her pack, I once again listened to the monologue as to why I too should consider a move. Her coaxing was partially fueled by the fact that she detested John…for unknown reasons…and emphasized that a romance between two Gemini’s could never work. Moreover, she was anxious for me to meet Archie’s colleague, Manny, whom she thought had the light eyes foretold by the psychic. Late that night her friend arrived to drive both Dawnne and her belongings to Ohio. I said goodbye and promised that I would visit her in two months time once I returned from a planned trip to Spain.

Despite her status as my confidant, I was not bothered by Dawnne’s departure and I realize now that the process of separation was evidence of God at work in my life. On Monday morning, John, who somehow had sensed Dawnne’s exodus from New York, asked me to lunch and subsequently other dates followed. Summer became fall and days after I arrived home from Madrid, I boarded a plane to Cincinnati. Manny was at the airport along with Dawnne and Archie. The four of us spoke and minutes later, I had a date for the evening. We went to a club but there was no compatibility nor did Manny have the predicted light eyes. I remained in Cincinnati until mid-week and despite Dawnne’s disappointment, I was anxious to return home to New York.

Back then, had you had queried about my life, I would have rendered a description of deliriously happy. I was a daily Communicant who was quite active in my parish. I had also been promoted to probation officer and my involvement with John had increased in intensity. We ultimately reached a certain level and initially I was plagued with guilt. As I remained Biblically illiterate, I was unfamiliar with the multiple scriptures that abhor both fornication and adultery. Still I remembered my promise made at the retreat. I knew that to consider John as a potential husband was an impossibility since he had repeatedly remarked that he had no plans to divorce his estranged wife nor remarry. In distress, I sought out the advice of a friend, another parishioner, who assured me that God would not be angry as long as the intimacy was limited to one man. Did not the Lord state in Matthew 15:14 that if a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into the pit? Nevertheless her counsel sounded reasonable and off to the races went I.

Throughout it all, Alejandro and I continued to maintain contact. I called him that first Saturday evening in December and during the conversation, what I considered to a miracle ensued, when he invited me to Peru. I was overjoyed, immediately made my reservations, and the wait for my departure on February 9th seemed endless. In the interim, I reached out to another psychic, Miss Margot, whom I had patronized twice in 1980 and I was exhilarated when she gaily declared over the cards “My dear, you are going to get married and it is going to be as a result of this trip.”

The beginning of 1984 brought a somewhat unwelcome change. John and I had gone away for the weekend immediately after the New Year, and when I returned home late Sunday afternoon, I knew with certainty that our relationship was over. I consoled myself that it mattered little since within one month, I would be with my beloved Alejandro once again. I was convinced that he was prepared to leave his Order and marry me for why else would he have suggested that I visit? However within hours of my arrival, the joy I had turned to despair as I was forced to acknowledge the reality of his intent. Nothing changed for the duration of the next 16 days and my grievous return home was accompanied by the bitter realization that each one of my fantasies had been irretrievably broken.

Though outwardly all seemed normal, I found it difficult to function over the next few weeks. My intake of food was minimal and sleep was impossible for I was besieged by dreams of Alejandro whenever my eyes would close. And it was during that period, through the magnificence of Jesus, that my coworker Carolyn reached out to me. She had arrived at Probation a few months beforehand and with the exception of pleasantries, no other words of substance were exchanged. Nevertheless Carolyn knew something was off with my robotic demeanor and it was then that she began to speak me about God. I was intrigued since the manner in which she described the Lord was a depiction of one who had a personal intimacy with Him that I had yet to experience. Still, not long thereafter, I made a return trip to Miss Margot who assured me that in a matter of time, Alejandro and I would be wed. I excitedly mentioned this to Carolyn the next morning whom, after a moment of silence, began to share the danger of psychics and astrology. Essentially what she stated, and what I know now to be true, was that both were governed by the demonic while prophets who were called of God, operated under the unction of the Holy Spirit without need of instruments such as cards or tea leaves. In response to my declaration that both Misses Marguerite and Margot provided some accurate details which I most certainly had not discussed with them beforehand, Carolyn replied that a tactic of Satan was to render a segment of the truth in an effort to enslave an individual. From that moment on, I heeded her advice and never again did I read my horoscope, identify myself by an astrological sign, or visit another psychic. And though I periodically heard from Dawnne, who by then had married Archie, I no longer confided in her as I yearned for Godly counsel which she was unable to provide.

My desolation did not immediately ease but as I continued to seek guidance from Carolyn, I was able to grasp the fact that the Lord had an amazing plan for my life…infinitely better than my own…if only I would trust Him to bring it to pass. That in itself was imperative for without a full surrender to the Savior, my existence would continue as it had previously with failed relationships and futile endeavors. I was soon to be 31 and knew without hesitancy that He had placed Carolyn in my path for that particular season. And so I said yes to God.

Although I had repented of my sins during the process of surrender, transformation is difficult at best. Still I was more than aware that changes had to be made. Months earlier, to prepare myself for John, I had opted to go on the birth control pill which I continued to take following my return from Peru. Suddenly one morning, while at my desk in late March 1984, I had a personal epiphany in that I questioned myself as to why I would even bother with the pill. I was now more than cognizant that premarital intimacy ran counter to God and once again I purposed to abstain from it all while I remained single. With that, I grabbed the packet of pills from my purse and rushed to the ladies room where I popped each and every one from their foil enclosure into the garbage.

There were many factors that I admired about Carolyn, one of which was her candor when she discussed her past. Too often, when individuals endeavor to lead others to Christ, they sanitize their lives whereas the person to whom they speak is of the belief that their own mistakes have rendered them too far gone for God’s forgiveness. One person actually told me that she had never done anything wrong prior to her walk with the Lord. For an individual such as myself who had struggled in multiple areas of sin, that was indeed disastrous counsel. Still I persevered in my commitment to the Savior despite the innumerable mistakes that I made along the way.

I did not intend to leave my parish even though I was repeatedly told that Catholics were essentially ignorant of Godly understanding while those who attended Bible-based assemblies exuded knowledge. I can state with certainty that there is little veracity to that fallacious claim. Still, I wanted His truth and therefore at the suggestion of friends, I visited those particular churches during which period, the “name it and claim it” move was in full motion. All that I was required to do was to choose anything that I wanted…literally anything…and God of course would be obligated to bring it to pass. And while Psalm 37:4 clearly states “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”, it appeared that the crescendo of wants echoed by the masses became prioritized and in fact superseded any true intimacy with God.

Ultimately I left Catholicism and during my 16 year absence…1995 to 2011…I attended non-denominational fellowships on an exclusive basis. I learned much about the Word of God for which I am indeed grateful. However it was impossible to ignore the fact that a number of self-identified Christians within the pews had so little passion for Christ and seemed to be devoid of most things as they pertained to the Savior. Moreover, the unwillingness to address sin from certain pulpits became obvious and with that, God’s mandate for holiness decreased by a number of prongs. It’s grievous to note that this has continued to present day. Many pastors, as well as certain televangelists, have obviously taken the stance that to present Biblical truth would lead to offense and thus have a debilitating impact on monetary offerings. However in Romans 6:1-2 Saint Paul stated “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?” And yet we have ignored Paul’s warning and instead embraced the concept of hyper grace whereas every transgression is immediately pardoned without need of repentance. Had Carolyn not called me out on sexual immorality and my involvement in the occult, I would have remained under the delusion that my actions were pleasing to God when in fact they were reprehensible.

Many changes have transpired since 1984, but one vital truth is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. I sought Him, pursued Him, delighted in Him, and in November 2001, at the age of 48, He blessed me with my husband. God, in His infinite wisdom, oftentimes does not show us every upcoming detail of our lives as He would require that we follow Him in faith. When I disposed of my birth control pills in March 1984, and resolved to abstain from sex until marriage, I did not understand that my wait for a spouse would exceed 17 years. If I had known that, with my then state of mind, I may have resisted with “…just one more encounter Lord…” Realistically speaking, my interlude was lengthy because I existed in a state of romantic fantasy which left me unprepared to be a wife. Moreover, my character was in dire need of adjustment. However one thing is certain…He is not a respecter of persons. He transformed my existence…literally…and what He did for me, He will do for anyone who makes the decision to align their life with His.

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.

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.