A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: Preamble to Lesson One

Whether you’re living under a medical dictatorship (as I am now) or in relative freedom, the Ten Commandments don’t change. God doesn’t give you permission to kill and steal just because the government does. The Ten Commandments don’t change any more than your requirement to abide by them changes, regardless of the circumstances.

Regardless of the circumstances.

That’s why it’s so important that you first and foremost know precisely what the Ten Commandments are – not the politically correct version that’s presented in the worldly denominational churches, but the pure version as taught by Jesus. It’s possible that you might be breaking one or more of the Commandments without even knowing it. And if that’s the case, and you’re genuinely a follower of Jesus, you’ll want to know you’re breaking the Commandments so you can stop doing it.

The main purpose of this foundational tutorial is to reacquaint you with the Law. At the same time, we’ll be digging deeper into the meaning of each Commandment, based on Jesus’ teachings. As we know from the Gospels, Jesus was a huge fan of the Ten Commandments, so he talked about them a lot. But I warn you – the tutorial is very likely going to put some spiritual noses out of joint. I won’t be watering down the Gospel message any more than I do at any other time. The Commandments will be taught as Jesus taught them – straight up, with no chaser.

If you’re willing to come along for the ride, I’d suggest doing a little background reading before starting the tutorial. At the very least, reread the Commandments as presented by Moses in the Old Testament. Even better, reread the Commandments and then reread the Gospels, with an eye to how Jesus taught the Commandments. They’re interwoven with his other teachings; sometimes he mentions them by name, and sometimes he doesn’t, so doing a quick reread of the Gospels is the best way to approach these lessons.

As I mentioned in my first announcement a few days ago, we’ll be doing the Commandments as a count-down, starting with the tenth. So along with prepping by rereading the Ten Commandments and the Gospels, it would also be a good idea to spend some timing thinking about the concept of coveting and how it plays out in the world today. If you don’t have time to do any background reading as preparation for the tutorial, that’s OK too, but keep in mind that the more you put into learning Jesus’ teachings, the more you’ll get out of them.

Finally, it’s critically important to understand that the Commandments were written for you. They’re meant for you, so you need to take them personally. When God commands not to covet, he’s talking directly to each one of us by name. I hear the Command as: “Charlotte, don’t covet”. I make it personal because God meant it to be personal. The Commandments are not so much decrees as they are pleas and strong advice and reminders and wise words of caution. God has imprinted them on our hearts, and every time we call the Commandments to mind, we retrace them and imprint them deeper.

I’m reminded of old tombstones that after a while can’t be read anymore because the stone around the words has been worn away. We don’t want our hearts to be like those tombstones; we want God’s Commandments to remain vivid and legible for the rest of our time on Earth. To accomplish this, we not only need to know God’s Commandments, we need to keep them, and we need to teach them, as Jesus taught us.

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O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

Psalm 119: 97-98

TO WHOM IT CONCERNS: I AM NOT AN ANTI-VAXXER

I have been called an “anti-vaxxer”, but that label is inaccurate. I’m against all chemical drug-based medicines, with very few exceptions. I believe that some medically-applied chemicals have palliative value, mostly as pain-killers, but even those should be rarely used, and only at nominal levels that do not impede the ability of the person taking them to make informed free will decisions. I do not believe that people should be forcefully medicated or prescribed medicine that will make them do things they would otherwise not do.

God is my physician. I go to God for healing, and he heals me through the power of his Holy Spirit. Healing that comes through the power of God’s Holy Spirit is miraculous, not earthly. There are no chemicals involved. This option to be freely healed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit is the God-given right and inheritance of all God’s children, who today are known as born-again followers of Jesus.

So, no, I am not an anti-vaxxer. I’m a born-again follower of Jesus. If you need to put a medically-related worldly label on me, then call me an anti-drugger. I’m also anti-coercion, including when it comes to forcing medical advice or interventions on people. I do not force others to go to God for healing, so I do not expect them to force me to go to a state-sanctioned drug-pusher for healing.

This is what I believe, and I express my beliefs as my opinion. I do not expect you to share my opinion or even to respect my opinion. However, I do expect you to respect my right to hold an opinion, just as I respect your right to hold an opinion. These rights – both yours and mine – are inviolable, as they’re God-given. No law is above God’s law. This is what I believe.

I will not be coerced into taking drugs. That doesn’t make me an anti-vaxxer; if anything, it makes me an anti-drugger. The root of my opposition to taking drugs is that God is my physician. God heals exclusively by the power of his Holy Spirit, not by drugs.

God is my physician. He is also my Father. He advises me against taking drugs, and I abide by his advice. This doesn’t make me an anti-vaxxer. I am not an anti-vaxxer: I am a child of God and a born-again follower of Jesus.

Amen and yours truly,

Charlotte

WELCOME TO SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP!

When you tell God that you want to give him everything you’ve got, watch out! He’ll test you to see if you actually mean what you say, and if he finds that you do – watch out even more! Jesus, at the start of his ministry, was driven into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, and not in a chauffeured limousine. No, he arrived on foot, tired and hungry and dirty, but he would have to suffer 40 more days and nights of that. There was no 5-star hotel waiting for him. (There wasn’t even a Motel 6!) And just when he thought he couldn’t take any more – when he was at his absolute physical weakest and likely feeling as if he was nearing the point of death – the devil himself would pay him a visit.

When you tell God you want to give him everything – watch out!

In scripture, we see the same thing happening to others. David fled for his life and lived on the run with a death warrant on his head until Saul died. Moses lived in exile for 40 years. One prophet after the other was imprisoned and tortured and slaughtered. The same happened to many of Jesus’ disciples and early followers, especially Paul.

It continues to this day.

When you tell God that you want to give him everything you’ve got, you enter into a form of spiritual boot camp where your mettle is tested to find the weaknesses and to purge what doesn’t belong. You’re essentially being made fit for ministry leadership. This process can go on for a long time and is rarely physically enjoyable. Jesus wasn’t partying out in the desert; David was partying when he was on the run. And you won’t be partying, either, in your spiritual boot camp. In fact, you might at first be wondering what you did wrong to bring so much hardship on yourself.

The good news in all this is that God has a tight hold on you while you’re going through the boot camp process. His Spirit is with you every step of the way, guiding and comforting you. David wrote some of his best psalms while he was on the run, and none of them were about despair. On the contrary, David wrote about his love for God and of his certain knowledge of God’s protection. Rather than grow weaker under suffering, David’s faith in God only grew stronger and stronger and stronger.

And this, I believe, is the main reason for the suffering. Ministry leadership requires unshakeable faith, and the best way to build your faith is by getting into a position where you have to rely on God for all your needs. If you rely on yourself or others, there’s no faith-building process involved. In fact, relying on yourself and others weakens your faith in God. In the desert with no food, water or shelter, Jesus had to trust God implicitly that he wasn’t going to die under those circumstances. Likewise David, while living on the run and constantly under threat of death, had to rely on God to guide his steps and keep him from being caught by his enemies. Sometimes this even required him to pretend he was insane or to make allegiances with enemies other than Saul’s people. These were things that David would never have done on his devices or when he was still in Saul’s good graces.

The suffering brought on by spiritual boot camp is not an end in itself. It does, however, serve to purge from you whatever doesn’t belong in a ministry leadership role, and it forces you to rely 100% on God for all your needs, which builds your faith exponentially. At the same time, in your straitened circumstances, you’ll see clearer. This clarity of vision is a great gift. And if you endure to the end of the process, you’ll be rewarded a thousand-fold for whatever it is you suffered or gave up.

How do I know this? Because scripture tells us. When they emerged victorious from their respective spiritual boot camps, prophets became great prophets, David became king, and Jesus became the Messiah.

What will you become?

*** PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT *** FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he decreed that they, along with the rest of the laws, should be revisited once a year in the form of a public recitation. It was important to God that his people be reminded of these foundational laws, and that the reminder be done in a very public way, with everyone in attendance.

Sadly, we’ve lost this tradition as Christians, so I’m here to bring it back.

Starting next week, I’ll be revisiting the Commandments one by one, and discussing them based on Jesus’ teachings. I’ll be starting with the tenth Commandment and working my way down to the first.

But I warn you – this tutorial will not be sugar-coated. I’ll be digging deep into the gospels to find out what Jesus taught about each Commandment, not what the Pope teaches or what rainbow church ministers teach. This tutorial will be God’s Truth served straight up with no chaser. As such, it might be too strong for some of you, but then again it might also be just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you’ll drop by for all ten.

In the meantime, it might be a good idea for you to prepare for the tutorial by rereading and thinking about the Commandments, and by asking God to show you if you’re in violation of any. You might be surprised by his response.

I certainly was.

As a heads-up, the first tutorial will be about coveting – what it means, what it looks like in the 21st century, and how you might be in violation of this Commandment without even knowing it.

Stay tuned!

THE REVOLUTION OF ONE

Scripture shows us that all revolutions that come from God start with one.

Abraham was one, Moses was one, David was one, Jesus was one.

In between, each of the prophets was one.

There was no group and no consensus model in these revolutions: There was only the one.

We, as born-again believers, are the inheritors of the revolution of one. We are called to carry on the battle not as a group or a congregation, but as individuals aligned with God through his Holy Spirit. We are believers not as a consensus, but as individuals. We are known to God not as a group, but as as individuals, and as individuals we will stand before him on Judgement Day to be judged individually, not as a group or a collective.

This is crucially important to understand, as the world is currently and very rapidly shifting to a mass collective consensus model that is not from God. It is very much not from God. Our response to this shift should be the same as that of all God’s people through the ages: To stand unmovable on the Rock of God, even if it means we stand alone.

The powers-that-be don’t fear a revolution of a group; they fear a revolution of one, because they know that it only takes one tiny spark to light a flame, and one flame to light a fire, and one fire to spread into a holy conflagration that is unstoppable. Groups that conspire revolutions are easily swayed and disbanded, as they rely on consensus, which is mostly half-hearted, reluctant, and grudging agreement. Consensus is a model developed in the deepest pit of Hell.

But revolutions that start with one and that are sparked by God’s Holy Spirit cannot be quenched. This type of revolution is a holy fire that burns with righteousness and draws people not only by its light and warmth, but by its Truth. And Truth is a flame that burns forever, as it is lit by God and maintained by God and is God.

This is the revolution we are called to as born-again followers of Jesus – the revolution of one. All of God’s people since the time of Abel have been called to this revolution: To stand as individual children before God and as individual believers before the world. The congregations have been deeply corrupted, and those who set themselves up as leaders in the worldly church have become emissaries of Satan, not of God. There is no Truth in them. When you stand in a worldly congregation, you stand in the synagogue of Satan as followers of the fallen, not of Jesus. And if you’re a follower of the fallen, what are you doing on this website?

Each of us is called to be a revolution of one, to stand as individuals before God and before the world. That is the calling of born-again believers graced by God’s Holy Spirit. Collectively, we are the one and only and true church established by Jesus, but even if there were only one of us left here – one single individual born-again follower of Jesus – there would still be a church on Earth.

We do not need each other to be a church – we do not need a group, we do not need a building, we do not need a creed, and we do not need a collective. To make a church, we only need one soul to say yes to God – one soul to be lit by God’s Holy Flame and to stand before God and before the world as his witness.

One soul alone is enough to make a church that can stand against all the powers of Hell.

That is the revolution of one, and that is our calling as born-again believers.

YOUR GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO SAY NO

I hear a lot of people these days claiming that they didn’t have a choice. They did what they did because they “didn’t have a choice”. They did it to keep their job or to travel or because everyday life would be too difficult if they didn’t do it. The fact that they always had the option to make the opposite choice never seems to occur to them. It’s as if they’ve lost their understanding that they have God-given free will, and that their free will is inviolable.

No-one can force you to do something against your free will, and no-one can take your free will away from you during your time on Earth, not even God himself. In fact, your free will is you: it bears the record of everything you’ve done while you’re here, and in large part determines the course of your life now and your eternal reward later.

Your free will is you, and there is never a circumstance during your time on Earth when you can’t exercise it. So if you say “I didn’t have a choice”, what you really mean is that you used your free will to choose something you didn’t fully agree with. But you did have a choice. While you’re here on Earth, you’ll always have a choice.

When I was an atheist, I made a lot of bad choices. I then lived the consequences of those choices, so I had a pretty crappy life. Like many people today, I also claimed “I didn’t have a choice” as a justification for choosing what I knew in my gut was wrong, but which I thought was the best way forward at the time.

For those of you thinking that you don’t have a choice, I’m here to remind you that you do. If you feel you don’t have a choice, it’s either because someone’s lied to you by telling you don’t, or because you’re thinking short-term.

You always have a choice. Your free will is God-given, inviolable, and quality-controlled at the gut level.

Use it wisely.

HEALING AND HEALTH

We read in scripture that when Jesus healed someone, he often warned them not to sin again. He tied their healing to forgiving their sin, and their restored health to their repentance. In other words, the illness was the physical manifestation of sin on the person’s soul.

There’s no reason to believe that this physical/spiritual connection doesn’t still exist today. Scripture clearly demonstrates that our physical health is a reflection of our spiritual health. In the same way, the state of a nation also reflects the spiritual health of its citizens. If you have a country full of people whose souls are heavy with sin, you have an unhealthy nation that’s plagued with all manner of ills, from the political to the social to the economic. The greater the collective burden of sin, the greater the nation’s problems.

Unfortunately, this spiritual fact flies in the face of today’s victim culture. The prevailing belief in the world is that other people randomly or systematically do bad things and you suffer for it. There’s no connection made between the bad things that you do and your suffering, so there’s no conception of your need to take personal responsibility to avoid present and future suffering. At the same time, paradoxically, the world has no problems connecting the dozen alcoholic drinks consumed last night with the hang-over today, or the extra sweets consumed over the Christmas holidays with tighter clothes in January. Those connections are clearly acknowledged by the world. Why, then, is there such a blind refusal to make the connection that sin leads to suffering, and that bad choices lead to a physically and emotionally unhealthy life?

When God purges sin from a soul, every degeneration goes with it, from the spiritual to the physical. When I was born-again, even the few white hairs I had at the time turned brown again for a while. I was brown-again (lol). There was a complete rejuvenation from the cellular level all the way up to the spiritual one. Such a thorough degree of healing can only come from God, through his Holy Spirit. This was the way Jesus healed during his ministry years, and this is the way he still heals supernaturally, through God’s Spirit.

There are few things sadder in life than to see people suffering because they refuse to accept the reason for their suffering. By refusing to accept the reason for their suffering, they not only prevent themselves from being healed, they ensure that their suffering will continue. They also live in fear that bad things can happen to them out of the blue at any time. Most of the world lives like this. I myself did for years, until I was finally healed through rebirth. I understand the mindset of people who live in constant fear and blame others for their problems; I just no longer share it.

As born-agains, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that our physical ills are separate from our spiritual state. The world operates under that delusion, but we shouldn’t. If we’re physically ill, we need to go to God for healing in the same way as we go to God for healing when we’re spiritually out of sorts, because the physical is the manifestation of the spiritual. In other words, our physical ailments, like our spiritual ones, also require our faith, our repentance, and God’s healing grace.

“IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS”

One of God’s most endearing qualities as a Father is his obvious love for plain-speaking. He doesn’t sugar-coat his Truth, and he delivers it precisely when we need to hear it.

I mention this because God recently brought to my attention (again) that what’s going on in the world with regard to restrictions and limitations is none of my business. The Anglican church in my home province of Nova Scotia shut down a few days before Christmas and cancelled all services until further notice. At the same time, the Nova Scotia government introduced restrictions that forbid churches from operating above 25% capacity, and decreed that all attendees be masked, stand at least 6 feet from each other, and not sing during services. Only one person in the whole building was allowed to sing; no-one else was allowed to sing, even on Christmas Day.

I have to admit that I was furious when I first read about these restrictions. I pounded out a few blog articles and letters to the editor and then deleted all of them, knowing even as I was banging away at the keyboard that my anger was misplaced. It was around the same time that God told me that what’s going on in the mainstream churches is none of my business. I don’t go to those places anymore, I don’t support them, and frankly I don’t respect them, so why should I care that they’ve been slapped with limitations that would make Herod proud?

Anyone who genuinely loves God and is genuinely following Jesus has already left churchianity. The people remaining in those organizations are not Christians in the true sense of the word. You cannot love God and follow Jesus and at the same time stand before God with your face covered out of fear of an illness and/or state decrees. The level of cognitive dissonance required to do that is mind-boggling. You either fear God OR you fear an illness and state decrees. You can’t fear both, as the fear of one cancels out the fear of the other. And if you don’t fear God, what are you doing in a church?

There were countless restrictions in place in Jesus’ time, most of them just as capricious and demoralizing as the ones in place now. But Jesus didn’t defy them or demand they be removed; he ignored them. They weren’t his concern and they weren’t his business. They were like rocks in the road that he had to step over or around. His job wasn’t to protest perceived injustices or make the world a better place; his job was to tell the world about a better place.

Most of what’s happening in the world today is none of our business. There was just as much (or even more) slavery, poverty, abuse, government corruption, misuse of power, colonialism, bigotry, racism, sexism, etc., in Jesus’ day as there is today, but Jesus never addressed any of those issues in his ministry work. They weren’t his business. They weren’t what he came to rectify. He came to free people from spiritual chains, not physical ones. He came to feed people spiritually, not physically, though in feeding those who wanted to be spiritually fed, he extended it to feeding them physically as well, as a reward for choosing righteousness. The spiritual realm was Jesus’ sole area of concern, just as it should be ours.

Which brings me to my final topic of conversation for today. Jesus helped all those who came to him for help and who specifically wanted the kind of help he was offering. He didn’t beg people to let him help them; he let them know he was there, and then waited for them to come to him, if and when they were ready.

People can only be helped by God if they put no restrictions on how God can help them. If you say “I want help” while at the same time adding “but I don’t want to give up (this) or (that)”, then you don’t really want help; what you want is the rewards of repentance without actually repenting. You want your sin to be accepted rather than purged. Lots of people come to God looking for help while putting restrictions on how much they’re willing to give up to get the help. Think of the rich young ruler who wanted to enter the Kingdom, but didn’t want to give up his stuff. God can’t do much to help those people, and neither can we.

To sum up, government-imposed limitations on our freedoms are not to be defied; like rocks in the road, just step over them or around them and don’t give them a second thought. They’re none of our business. In fact, most of what’s going on in the world today is none of our business. However, we should help all those who come to us specifically for help, as long as they genuinely want to be helped and put no restrictions on how we can help them.

The setting of restrictions belongs to the world, not to the Kingdom.

TREASURES ON EARTH

I have a houseplant named Florence. She’s a poinsettia. My mother gave her to me last Christmas. I’ve moved 6 times since last Christmas, and each time Florence has moved with me. She just had her first birthday on Christmas Day, celebrating in grand style by showing off her brand new red leaves.

Poinsettias are fascinating plants. Many of us buy them at Christmas time and then discard them before Easter, but I can’t kill things that are still alive and breathing. Not even bugs. I let them live until God takes them home. So Florence will be with me for as long as she keeps breathing.

I didn’t know much about poinsettias until I got Florence. As you may or may not know, poinsettias are native to Mexico, so they’re not big fans of the Canadian climate. Florence would die if I planted her outside, even in the summertime. She was born in a pot and she’ll die in a pot.

Plants can teach you many things about life. I’ve moved so often over the past several decades that I’ve never bothered to get any plants. It wasn’t practical for me to have them. The few plants I did get were given to me by my mother, maybe in a subconscious attempt on her part to get me to stay in one place for more than a few months. So when Florence was deposited on my doorstep last Christmas, my first impulse was to give her away. I’m glad I didn’t. Here’s what she’s taught me so far.

Plants have friends. When I first moved out to the country, I rented a furnished house that came with a live potted cactus. It was just a little wee thing that I called Shorty. I set Florence down next to Shorty, and over the next few months, the strangest thing happened: They started growing towards each other. I had set them in front of an east-facing window, but instead of growing towards the window, they grew towards each other until their leaves were touching. At one point, I turned the plants around so that their “backs” were towards each other, but their leaves on that side started doing the same thing. They were friends.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Shorty behind when we moved to where we are now, but that was a life lesson for Florence, I guess. She’ll make other friends someday, and she’ll see Shorty again when she gets to Heaven.

Plants need down-time. Poinsettias are primarily green plants when they are thriving. They only turn red during their down-time, which is the cooler and darker months of the year. The red color of their leaves indicates an absence of chlorophyll. In the cooler darker months, poinsettias shut down most of their chlorophyll production in order to survive as a plant. The lack of chlorophyll results in the brilliant red leaves that are the plant’s calling card. So what we’ve come to associate poinsettias with (brilliant red leaves) is actually a sign of their partial hibernation in survival mode. Poinsettias turn red for much the same reason as trees turn red in the fall.

To get Florence to turn red for her first birthday (December 25), I had to give her her own bedroom and put her to bed at sundown every day, starting in October. She needed total rest and darkness for at least 12 hours out of 24, followed by indirect sunlight only, so I gave her the northeast-facing bedroom. She seems to like it there. I’ve been rewarded for my diligence with a burst of red bracts just in time for Christmas.

Plants do not like to move. They are rooted for a reason. Every time I move Florence, she weeps white liquid and her leaves completely droop. I guess that’s her stress response to rapid changes in lighting, humidity, air pressure, etc. As soon as I set her down someplace that isn’t moving, the weeping stops and her leaves slowly return to their normal position. Florence doesn’t even like a breeze. I set her outside a few times in the spring, on warm days with the lightest of breezes, but she completely drooped then, too. She is decidedly a houseplant.

I was a reluctant plant-mother, but I’ve grown into my role nicely. Poinsettias are a relatively low maintenance plant-child. The only other time I had a plant was when my mother gave me one to put into a hanging pot outside of a house I was renting one summer in downtown Halifax, nearly 10 years ago. I didn’t have a place to hang the plant, so I would set it down on the doorstep each morning and take it into the house each evening (I didn’t want it to get stolen). I called the plant “Flower”, and that was that. Once you name them, they’re yours for life.

Unlike Florence, who is growing upwards, Flower was a spreading plant. It was her nature to spread out. Within a year, she’d outgrown three pots, and by the time I moved her to her final resting place, I had to move her in a wagon on the back of a pick-up truck (lol). I had bought the wagon specifically for her.

Flower’s in Heaven now. Shortly after her first birthday, I planted her in a location that she did not take to, and she died soon afterwards. I guess, like Florence, Flower was a houseplant at heart, too. I know for sure she’s in Heaven and flourishing, and I’ll see her again when I get there.

God surrounds us with living things that we can share our time on Earth with. Each of these things we can have a relationship with and learn from. We can show them good stewardship and treat them as we would want to be treated, if we were them. If God puts them into our hands in some way, he wants us to look after them, so we have to look after them. They’ll look after us, too. Then, when it’s their time to go home, God will take them, but we’ll see them again when we get there.

I have lots of treasures in Heaven. Jesus says that Heaven is where we should be storing our treasures, so that’s where I’m storing mine. Flower’s in Heaven with Pumpkin (my pet cat) and Priscilla (my pet fly), and someday Florence will be there, too, waiting for me. They’ve all shared their life with me, as I’ve shared my life with them, some for a short time, and some for a longer time. In Heaven, we’ll be together forever. That’s the joy of it. And that’s a big part of what draws me home.

GETHSEMANE AT CHRISTMAS

It’s a strange thing to think about Jesus’ death a few weeks before the holiday commemorating his birth, but we don’t always get to choose our thoughts.

Jesus didn’t want to have to suffer in order to do what he knew he had to do. So he asked God if there was some other way to accomplish the same ends. God told him gently “No”. God told him gently “No” three times before Jesus’ resolve finally kicked in. Thank God it did, because then Jesus was unstoppable.

It’s critically important to understand that JESUS DID NOT WANT TO SUFFER. If he had wanted to suffer, it would have been an indication that he was spiritually unwell. People who are spiritually sound do not want to suffer. They may choose to suffer because they know it’s part and parcel of what has to be done, but they don’t rush up to volunteer to suffer with a big grin on their face, waving their arms in the air and yelling “ooh ooh ooh, pick me, pick me, I want to suffer!”, and then proudly displaying an “I suffered for YOU!” sticker on their shirt.

People who self-flagellate or have themselves crucified are not well souls. God doesn’t ask us to voluntarily suffer or to hurt ourselves as a grand gesture in his name, though sometimes suffering is part of the package deal of doing God’s will. In those cases, the suffering is a means to an end, like it was for Jesus, not an end in itself.

We’ll all be in our own Garden of Gethsemane at some point in our lives. When you find yourself there, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t want to suffer. Don’t think that you’re somehow spiritually inadequate because you want to find a way around the suffering in order to get where you need to go. It’s OK not to want to suffer. It’s OK to ask God if there’s some other way to do what has to be done. It’s OK for your whole being – body and soul – to recoil at the prospect of what lies ahead. It’s OK to ask God not once, not twice, but three times or more if there’s some other way around the suffering. God understands. Maybe there will be a way around it for you, or maybe there won’t.

Jesus did not want to suffer. He chose to suffer, but he didn’t want to do it and he hated every second of it. He did it because it was the only way through, not because he wanted to suffer, and not because he saw suffering as an end in itself, like some form of masochistic self-sacrifice.

There are very few things I find more repulsive and aggravating than when people claim that being a Christian means embracing a life of self-sacrifice, self-effacement, and humility. This could not be farther from the Truth. Being a Christian means we’re to follow Jesus’ example of how to live life, and Jesus lived every day to the full – when he was hungry, he ate; when he was tired, he slept; when he was angry, he let loose; when he had a Word to preach, he did it without restraint; when he wanted a drink, he went to the pub; when he wanted some alone-time, he went up the nearest mountain – this is not a man who lived a life of self-sacrifice, self-effacement, or humility. On the contrary – this was a man who was his own person, who made his own decisions, who did not suffer fools gladly, and who hated suffering, because God made us to hate suffering, not embrace it.

Jesus was a healer: He healed people, he didn’t hurt them. He preached and practiced healing, which is the opposite of suffering.

Which is why Jesus’ agreement to suffer the worst kind of death for the sins of others is so monumental.

God is not asking us to suffer for other people. That was Jesus’ job at the end of his ministry, and it’s over and done. Our job is to treat others as we want to be treated and to pray for them. Suffering is sometimes part of the job, but it’s not the job in and of itself.

When our Garden of Gethsemane moment comes (and come it will for each of us), remember how Jesus dealt with it. Remember how he was up-front with God about not wanting to suffer. Remember how he asked if there was some other way around the suffering, and then remember how he accepted that it was God’s will that he suffer for a brief time, and how rock-solid his resolve became after he accepted it. This is our model. This is how we need to respond when the time comes.

But willingly choosing to suffer for the sake of suffering? That is not what Jesus did and that is not what God requires of us. You do not get spiritual brownie points for willingly choosing to suffer when you don’t have to. In fact, you only get the spiritual booby prize – the same prize that people get when they trumpet their charitable acts for others’ approval or pray standing up in public for all to see. As Jesus said, they have their reward.

When you give charity, do it anonymously so that only God knows; when you pray, do it privately, so that only God hears; and when you suffer, do it silently, so that only God sees.

I hope you have the best Christmas of your life.