Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is a REAL Christian?

This is a question that I've been pondering on and off in my life, especially when someone really visible in the Christian community made the news headlines for something not so fun. Plus, it's so easy to spot hypocrisy in so many people who call themselves Christians, including myself. So yeah, it's been bothering me for a while. Then recently, I heard some sermons that helped to clear up this issue a bit and thought I'd share a summary (and semi-rant) of what I've been processing through.

Basically, being a Christian means to be a mini-Christ. That means, not only do you have to believe in God (which so many people say they do) but you have to do what He says. I think it's this second part that trips us up so much. A lot of my Christian life was spent thinking the main crux of Christianity is believing and it is. You obviously can't be a Christian if you don't even believe in God. But just because you believe He exists doesn't mean you're a Christian. I mean, even the devil believes that God exist and he's definitely not a Christian. Also, this belief is not just in the existence of God, it has to be a total belief that He is who He is and that He can do what He says He can do (ie healing, changing people's lives, etc). And this belief has to change your life and the way you act. For example, say you've never seen a chair but someone tells you about how great it is and how it can support your weight and give you a break from having to stand up all the time. Now if you really believe them, you'll sit in it. So the belief prompts an action. But if you don't want to sit in it, it's very likely that you don't believe that the chair will support you. Not a perfect example, but you get the idea. :)

Throughout my Christian life, I've heard arguments about works vs. faith re: salvation and it's still not very clear to me but I like the stance that my church takes, which is they really just work hand in hand. If you have the faith (and the belief) you will just do what God has called you to do. And if you do what God asks of you, it's pretty obvious you have the faith. (James 2) I still remember being shocked when I heard John Bevere say that he believes many in the church are currently not saved because they have no works and by that, their faith is dead. (James 2:17) But the more I think about it, the more I feel that's true....because the more I look at the church in America, the more I feel that it's so lifeless. Jesus has called us to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow and to bring justice to the oppressed, among other things. But yet, I feel the church is sorely lacking in that department. It's not merely a Sunday thing, a Wednesday night thing or something entertaining during Holidays. Christianity is supposed to be a way of life. And none of that 20% of the church does 80% of the work thing....the whole body needs to be working together. :) And the faith sustains the works - otherwise you can get burnt out quickly. That's another reason why I love the church I go to now - they are heavily vested in their community, serving them, helping them and meeting their needs. [They also preach the true gospel - none of that prosperity gospel or comfort gospel but the real thing! People need to know that Jesus died for them not to make them rich or's nothing about that. :P] And if all the churches were doing that, we would not need all these government programs that are mostly wasteful and ineffective. And truly, people need more healing than intervention, anyhow. For me, faith is such an intangible, hard-to-understand/grasp thing, that I can only look at if I'm doing what God calls me to do to know whether I'm growing in my faith. And I realize that as I really, truly believe who God is, who God tells me I am and what He can do, the more I obey and do. :)

There's also a difference between conversion and having a genuine relationship with God (being a Christian). It's more than just praying a one time prayer to believe in God and all that He has done so we can be saved from our sins. The 'sinner's prayer' (conversion) is really just the start of the relationship. My current pastor feels that, from that day forward, we have to wake up and choose Christ everyday, every moment, every decision, because it's usually not easy to make the right choice every day of our lives. Basically, 'working out our salvation' everyday by submitting to God. (Phil 2:12) And that reminder of how it's a daily thing made me finally realize what 'taking up your cross DAILY and following Me' meant. (Luke 9:23) And that kinda helped answer my question of how these great men of faith who were so close to God and did so many great things for him can fall - it might be that one day that they didn't submit to God and decided to do what they wanted to do that got them to the place where they are now. It was a reminder for me to do a good job submitting daily because I'm not even as close to God as they were. And just like any relationship, you have to do things to keep it going. The Bible likens our relationship with God to marriage, which is one of the hardest relationship to keep flourishing. There are sacrifices to be made, compromises to be made and decisions to be made. You can't just start it and expect it to grow on its own based on similar personalities, interests, attractions, you have to invest in it and fight for it...and that's what a relationship with God is like, too. Not easy but so worth it! :)

Still more to process through but I think I've already said a mouthful. :) Any thoughts?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Miracles, Part II: Kevin & Jackie's Stories

Yay, I'm back and I have 3 more stories to tell. And they're both good stories, I tell ya. ;) Anyhow, here we go.

Kev has had some good intolerance issues since med school. It started with milk intolerance, which we chalked up to being Asian. I mean, really, I think I know more yellow people that can't drink milk than can drink milk. :) Anyhow, then it was certain green veggies.....and other green veggies, to the point where he was barely eating any green veggies. Which to me, a registered dietitian, was really sad because I love green veggies and all their health benefits. :( Plus, I worry about the kids saying they can't eat them just because Kev doesn't. Well, then it was other foods and things were getting bad. The discomfort would keep him up at night and make him wary about all kinds of foods. All this while, we had been praying and praying and trying different kinds of supplements: enzymes, probiotics, lactase, smoothies, keeping a food dairy, you name it. But nothing was really helping. So we kept persevering with prayer and learned new ways of praying re: healing and being careful of what we say and agree with. [More on that later.] But just since the Spring of this year, his symptoms mostly disappeared!! He can even eat moderate amounts of ice cream without problem, which is such an awesome gift. :) And it was funny that we didn't even really notice Kev being healed until one night we were praying together before drifting off to sleep [we try to do that every night] and was going to pray about Kev's symptoms but realized that it had been a few days where we even talked or thought about it because he hadn't been bothered by it. And he hasn't been bothered by a bout since. Yay! What an awesome thing is it to be able to enjoy all the good food God has created...because man, we love food! :)

I have 2 stories to share about myself: Ever since I was little, I got sick a lot and had quite sensitive skin. One kinda random thing was that I couldn't even eat any seafood that wasn't freshly caught that day. If I did, I would break out in hives right away. I think I started getting a reputation at the restaurants we used to frequent when I was little....they made sure they had fresh seafood for me...haha! Anyhow, I had struggled with unexplainable hives/rashes at several different times in my life, for sometimes years at a time. Even during track season and all these very healthy times in my life I would experience bouts of it. It also puzzled every doctor I went to - I tried western medicine and chinese medicine, both of which did well to suppress the symptoms but it would inevitably come back. I also had gotten prayer for it from family and friends, which was helpful. So, when we went to the healing rooms I had mentioned this history and the fact that I was suffering from a bout of it and got prayer for it, as well. And,  yay, no more itchies for me, either. :)

I remember getting migraines starting from my teenage years. Those annoying swirls that would come, which foretold of a pounding headache and the nausea that would follow. Anyone who has gotten them can tell you they are no fun. Pain medication would only take the edge off and the only thing that would really help was a good nap and lots of fluids. Thank goodness I wouldn't get them very often in the beginning, maybe 5-6 times a year, though they showed up really frequently during the first trimester of almost every pregnancy....sometimes even 2-3 times a week. And sure, they were annoying before I had kids but after I had kids, it was really frustrating since it put me out of commission for 2-3 hours at a time and which toddler can understand why Mommy can't play with them or barely hold them for hours at a time? And, ugh, having to cook while having one was the worst. Anyhow, I knew a bunch of people that get them and had resigned myself to the fact that I was just one of those people that got them. But lately, my thinking changed. Why do I have to be the one to get them? I don't think God wants people to have them! And I don't think I have to have them, either! So I emailed the prayer team from the John G. Lake Ministries [they are the ones that trained the healing teams at my church] and asked them to pray for me about it. They emailed me back a prayer, along with some helpful videos to watch re: healing. And I haven't gotten one since...and just before that email, I was getting them more regularly, which was such a pain! This is such an awesome miracle for me, I can't tell ya! Though truthfully, I am still amazed that I don't get them, esp when I'm dehydrated or super tired - both of which I was this past week. God is so good!

All this to say that all these healings have gotten Kev and I very interested in the healing ministry and to learn how to pray for other people so that they can get healed, [and saved] too. We've been watching some teaching videos straight from John G. Ministries and it's been really mind-blowing! [The guy in charge of the ministry, Curry Blake, goes into debunking lots of doctrine that I've learned about healing and how they're not true nor biblical.] Check them out if you're interested!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Miracles, Part I: Jana & Cara's Story

Wow, it's been a LONG while but I'm still here. Just been losing my blogging oomph a bit. Thought about posting a bunch of times but wanted something worth saying on here. :) Anyhow, our family has been learning so much about God lately and it's been sooo good! I hope to share most, if not all, that we've learned but wanted to start with some of the miracles that we've experienced here and give testimony to our awesome God!

Jana had perfect skin as a baby and had no allergies symptoms...until she was two. After we got back from our Taiwan trip, she started getting these funny bumps on her palms and in between her fingers. Sometimes it would pus, sometimes it would get raw and red and bleeding. :( And it would itch her to no end, which caused her to scratch it and create open wounds on her poor little hand. Sometimes it would get so raw that we would have to bandage her whole hand...and can you imagine being 2 not being able to use both of your hands. It was a sad state of affairs. So we tried out best to manage this situation. We tried aquaphor, neosporin, heavy duty moisturizers, cortizone creams, chinese stuff, and a host of other things topcially but nothing really helped. We were praying over it and had lots of people praying, as well. Then we tried the elimination diet but even that had no pattern to it. And we also found out she started having itchy patches on the back of her legs and arms and that one of her fingernails started getting all warped due to the rash. :(

So, we decided to take her to the dermatologist and the allergist. The dermatologist, predictably, told us it was ezcema and started her on a regimen of cortizone creams for flare-ups and a new antihistamine that worked well for skin issues. The allergist simply found dust mites as the only culprit for her skin condition. I thought, great, dust mites, sometimes you can't even really avoid. Ugh. Anyhow, we were hesitant to start the cortizone esp of the side effects, esp with long term use but we did a bit only during flare-ups to give her skin a break. We also cut the dose of the antihistamine to 1/3 [esp after reading the insert...scary!] to also give her skin a break. We were hoping that maybe her skin just needed a break to start healing itself since antihistamines/cortizones only suppress the symptoms. We also started washing her sheet more often, putting those dust mite containing covers on all her bedding, and vacuuming with this UV vacuum that we got. Yeah, we got hard-core...haha! Anyhow, after all that, her symptoms would only go away if she continued with the antihistamine and she would still get flare-ups now and then. So we knew that we had to do something else.

We had heard about this renown Chinese medicine doctor who specialized in skin issues and kids with eczema did great when seen by him, so he was our next hope. She was put on a regimen of chinese herbal medicine AM/PM and then topical chinese ointments for flareups. This was supposed to treat the root of the problem, so the doctor assured us that this regimen would not be forever. Jana was a real trooper and ate that really yucky tasting chinese medicine mixed in applesauce for a few months. She would even remind me about it, if I happened to get too busy and forgot. ;) Anyhow, this routine helped a bit but then there would be those big flare-ups and then no more improvement. I was getting so upset because she would wake up in the middle of the night because she was itchy and ask for medicine or crying from pain because she had scratched her hands til they were bleeding. Plus, she wasn't getting a good night's rest, which made her even crankier. She was also starting to use the itchiness as a stalling tactic at night. Sigh.

Now, Cara had no skin issues til she was 6 months. It was around that time, that she started getting itchy, dry patchs on her wrists and ankles. Then these spots started travelling up her leg. She would also start getting hives on her torso for no apparent reason. Thank goodness she was a good sleeper and didn't let those things bother her but while she was awake, she would try to scratch them, even through her clothes. Poor thing. :( We also tried a bunch of the same things on her and even cut out most of the dairy and started giving her coconut milk, which cut down on the severity of it all. She was also on the chinese medicine and responded to it somewhat but the itchiness would never really go away. So, now we have 2 itchy girls on our hands.

Then we heard about the healing rooms at church. Every Monday night at The Church of Grace & Peace, where we now go, there is a few hours set aside for people who are seeking healing to get prayer for it. There were teams training in how to pray and I heard they were getting great results. Plus, it was free!! :) So I thought, what do I have to lose? Kev and I took the kids and waited in line. Then we were ushered into a room where a healing team heard our story and prayed for us in the way they saw fit. It was nothing dramatic and very simple. The kids all did very well waiting around and getting prayed for. :) And then we went home.

But within a week, Jana's hand got about 90% better! We took her off the Chinese medicine [the antihistamine regimen was stopped a long time ago] and all the topical stuff and it still looks great! Her funny fingernail is back to normal and she sleeps well through the night. We even stopped vacuuming so often and zapping everything with the UV wand! Cara is 100% better and has not had a bout since. Praise the Lord!

It is really so freeing to be healed and not have to deal with just managing the symptoms and hoping that it would just go away when they are older. We've just been learning so much about healing lately - that even if it is something that's bee plaguing someone for a long time, they don't just have to accept it as a part of themselves. They don't always have to have that condition. For me, I was starting to think that Jana is just someone with sensitive skin who is affected by ezcema...but now I think she is a healthy child that had some symptoms that God wanted to heal her from. I remember praying but always thinking, would God heal her? And in the back of my mind, can God heal her? But now I know I have made God so small and He is not small. And because He is a good God, He always wants to heal. Slowly, my mind is being taught to rethink some old ways of thinking and I feel like I'm understanding God more. And it's a good thing. :)