By far the most important bit of information I can share with anyone is this. If you spend all your money and time and effort on healing your child from autism, ADHD, or whatever effects your family, and yet don't know where your child will go the day they leave this earth, it will all be worth nothing.
The fact that I spend a lot of my time researching and cooking, has less to do with healing my children for their physical well-being, as it has to do with their spiritual well-being. When I saw my daughter begin to struggle with her speech and cognitive understanding, I was heartbroken. She wouldn't let me read the Bible to her or pray with her like my older son would. She would become angry and cry. I wondered how would she be able to read and understand God's Word and how she would be able to understand the idea of salvation and have a relationship with Christ.
We put her in Early Childhood through the public school when she turned 3. We were told that by Kindergarten, she would be all caught up and be able to enter a mainstream classroom and probably be ahead of the other kids. However, instead they thought she'd do best in an Integrated Kindergarten classroom setting. We had planned on sending her to a Christian school with her older brother, but God had other plans. We were told it wasn't going to be a good fit, so she will be entering First grade at the public school. This was not my plan. I am adamant about my kids getting a Christian education and being surrounded by the love of Christian teachers and friends.
Luckily, my daughter is not easily influenced by her peers. She has improved greatly over the last year through diet and biomed, and no longer qualifies for any school services (praise God - no more IEP's!). My desire is that some day she will be able to get a Christian education, but my utmost desire is for her to know Christ.
-A week after I wrote the above paragraph, I started reminding my daughter that she would be starting school again soon. She started to cry and said she wanted to stay home with me and wanted me to homeschool her. I shrugged it off thinking she was just having a bad day. A few days later I talked to her again about going back to school. She started to cry again and said the same thing. She wanted me to homeschool her. She didn't want to go back to school. So, I looked into homeschooling on the Internet, and liked what I read. My husband didn't care if I did or not, so I prayed about it. I'm not very organized. I'm not creative, and I lack patience at times, but I prayed and told God that if He wanted me to homeschool, he was going to have to provide me with the strength and ability to do so. Of course, He always provides. So, we are now homeschooling. I'm so glad that my daughter will be able to get a Christian education after all and be surrounded by a teacher that loves her! :)
I grew up in a Christian home, attended Christian schools my whole life, went to church three times a week (yes, I grew up in a Baptist church where you go to 4 hours of Sunday school and church in the morning, then come back at 6pm for the Sunday night service), attended Awana on Wednesday nights and Camp Awana every summer. I followed all the "rules" of being a good Christian and of course when I was old enough (4 or 5 years old), I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I really didn't understand what that meant other than I thought it meant I wouldn't go to hell. Didn't want to go there. I went to Wheaton Christian High School (now Wheaton Academy), receiving probably one of the best Christian educations out there. I read my Bible every day. After high school, I started to drift away from God. I was no longer surrounded by Christian friends and teachers and I stopped reading my Bible and going to church, and even praying.
In 2000, my parents met a man from Africa who had a vision for starting a Christian ministry in Malawi that took orphans off the street (now Children With Hope and Destiny). My parents were so moved by his own story of poverty and life as an orphan, that they decided to help him start a non-profit organization in the U.S. so he could start accepting donations to start the organization. Since my mom didn't know much about computers, she asked me to make a spreadsheet to help them keep track of donations. I did that, but they didn't know how to use Excel, so I ended up keeping track of donations myself. Eventually, I took over everything. I started writing some of the newsletters and corresponding with sponsors, and developed a friendship with the missionary from Africa and his new wife who was the same age as me.
In 2004, they planned a trip to the U.S. and planned to stay with us for a week. This kind of freaked me out. I felt like Jesus was coming to stay at our house. I started to think about how we lived and even the shows we watched on TV and the radio stations we listened to in the car. I remembered my Dad listening to Moody radio when I was little, so I figured I'd tune in and see what was on in case I had to have it on. I remember always thinking how boring it was when I was little.
I started listening to the station here and there and one night as I was driving by myself, some Scottish guy was talking and he started talking about Matthew 7:21-23 when Jesus says "Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
I was deeply convicted and full of sorrow. I thought, if I died today, Christ would say to me, "I knew you at one time, but I don't know you now." I knew I was not doing the will of the Father because the only way to know the will of the Father is to be in relationship with Christ and read the Bible, because the will of the Father is revealed to us through His Word. I wasn't living my life for Christ. I was just living my life. I hadn't prayed for a long time, other than quick get me out of trouble prayers. I remembered the verse, "Come near to God and He will come near to you", James 4:8. I told God that if I came near to Him, his Word said he would come near to me, and asked him to come near to me, as I felt very far from God at that time in my life. I made a conscious choice that day to come back into a relationship with Christ, and I never wanted to turn back again.
I continued to listen to Moody. Some of the messages, I had heard before growing up, yet it seemed like they suddenly took on new meaning. I was actually kind of annoyed and was asking myself why I had never heard it preached like this before. It seemed like I was hearing it for the first time, yet I knew I had heard it before. I think it was because I now had the Holy Spirit "interpreting" the Word.
One day a preacher was talking about baptism and how Christ commanded his followers to be baptized as an act of obedience and a public proclamation of their decision to follow him. I felt convicted. I had never been baptized and for all Christ had done for me on the cross, this was all he asked of me. I wasn't going to church and wanted to find a church to go to so I could be baptized. I was also hearing on Moody preachers talk about how important it was to be a part of a church. I started going to church every week and was baptized six months later.
Meanwhile, my oldest son was almost 5. I started talking to him more about God and being a very curious child, he was asking a lot of questions. It's amazing how once you have kids, the thought of eternity suddenly becomes very important. It's easy to dismiss God and live your life the way you want to, but when it comes to your kids and where they will spend eternity, you suddenly become very interested in the subject and need to come to grips with what you yourself believe in order to teach them. Cody told me he wanted to read the Bible cover to cover, starting where else, but page 1, Genesis 1:1. We could not skip around. Of course to a child it probably seems odd not to read a book from beginning to end, so I obliged. We read about a chapter a night. He was very intent about reading the entire Bible and would get very upset if it was bedtime and he hadn't read his Bible yet. Still does. This was a good habit for me as well.
So anyways, back to my point. First let me preface by saying that everything that I base my beliefs upon come from the Holy Bible. I believe the Bible to be the absolute truth and inspired by God. If you don't believe the Bible to be true, then nothing I say will mean anything to you, but if you are seeking more information, the book "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel might interest you. Over and over scientists and other people have proven things that are spoken about in the Bible to be true and to have actually happened. If you don't believe the Bible to be necessarily without error, but believe there might be a God - you are right. Ask Him to reveal himself to you. What have you got to lose?
Anyways, most people believe there is a heaven and a hell, and most people want to go to heaven, and they most certainly want their kids to go to heaven. I used to think that all you had to do to get to heaven was utter the words "Jesus, please come into my heart and forgive me of my sins." While that's not a bad start, I don't believe just merely uttering those words means you are saved. I'm sure people may disagree with me, but Jesus said himself, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." - Matthew 7:13-14 "...only a few find it." Those words stick out to me. Jesus has a similar conversation in Luke 13:22-27 where he talks about entering heaven through the narrow door. I heard one elderly preacher say he believes that heaven will be filled with far fewer people than people think. In other words, there are many people who think they are saved, who are not. I completely agree with him, though even on Christian radio, you don't hear this said often. When dealing with salvation, I pay great attention to the words of Jesus in the Bible, (though I believe everything in the Bible to be the words of God), but if anyone knows more about who will get into heaven and who won't, it is Jesus himself.
Earlier in Luke chapter 13, Jesus says not once, but twice, "But unless you repent, you too will all perish." I've heard salvation described as ABC = Accept, Believe, Confess. Accept and believe that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God and accept him as your Savior from your sins, and confess that you are a sinner and need salvation. OK. Well, some people could interpret that as sure, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I don't think anyone can deny that they have sinned, so it would be easy to confess and say, yes, I'm a sinner. But where's the "R" in the ABC? What about repentance that Jesus, John the Baptist, and others in the Bible talk about? Repentance is not the same as confession. Confession is agreeing with God that what you did was sin. Repentance is the sorrow and remorse that you feel for disobeying God which leads you to make a change in the way you are living. Repentance is turning from your sin. Repentance = Change. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3b, "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." If you were walking down a path of sin, repentance is stopping and turning around and heading the opposite direction. It is not stopping and saying, "Yes, I'm a sinner. Please forgive me.", and then going along on your merry way down that same path of sin. That is not repentance and Jesus says that unless you repent, you will perish, meaning you will go to hell. Not a pretty picture, huh? That's probably why it's missing from so many church sermons. But Jesus tells us out of love because he doesn't want anyone to perish. He knows how horrible hell is and loves all of us and doesn't want to see anyone perish. But He is the only way to heaven. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6. Jesus is the only way to the Father. You cannot get there by good works (though if you are a Christ follower, good works are evidence of your salvation). You cannot get there by simply being a "good person." God is such a Holy God, that no one could be in his presence who has sinned even once. That is why Christ died on the cross for our sins, so that through his atoning blood, we could washed of our sins, and stand in the presence of God some day in heaven. Apart from Christ, there is no other way to heaven.
Why do I believe that believing is not necessarily enough? James 2:19 says, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder." Yes, there are other verses in the Bible that say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved" - Acts 16:31. In this passage, Paul and Silas were in prison. The passage goes on to say that they were miraculously released from prison and then spent the night preaching to the prison guards and their families. So they probably further explained what it means to believe and have a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be a follower of him.
Is faith enough? A qualitative yes. Many say that faith alone will save you. I agree with that. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to the man next to him on the cross, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43. Why did he say that? Because of the faith that this man had. His faith saved him. We didn't hear of him uttering a prayer. What we do hear is this in the prior two verses, "Don't you fear God, he said (to the other criminal next to him), "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." These few sentences tell us a lot. First, the man believed that Jesus was the son of God, and he feared God. Second, he realized that he was sinner and deserved punishment for his sins and probably felt sorrow and remorse for his sins as he looked upon Jesus, who knew no sin but was being punished for the sins of the world. Thirdly, he asked Jesus to remember him when he entered his kingdom. I believe that had he lived, he would have turned from his sins and followed Jesus and God's ways. Only God knows the heart of man and if their faith is genuine or not. This man obviously was sincere and genuine because Jesus told him he would be with him in heaven that day.
So how do you know if you have a genuine faith? The Bible speaks about this in several different passages. In John 15, it says you will know by their fruit. Followers of Christ bear good fruit. What is this fruit the Bible is speaking of? Loving God, loving others, and obeying God's commands are a few of them. In Galatians 5, it says the fruit of the spirit is: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Does this describe you? Every person produces either good fruit or bad fruit. Examples of bad fruit are selfishness, drunkenness, fits of rage, hatred, idolatry (loving something more than God), jealousy, factions (problems in relationships), sexual immorality (pornography, infidelity), impurity, and the like. Does this describe you? Galatians 5:21 says, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." This again alludes to the fact that genuine saving faith leads to repentance of sins, not a continuation in them.
In I John 2:3, it says, "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands." What are God's commands? Well, if we read the Bible, it will become clear. I believe it would be very hard to follow Christ if we don't read his Word. God speaks to us through his Word. We speak to God through prayer. God's commands are for our own good. He doesn't want us to suffer. Rather, He wants to pour out His blessings upon us. In our church, our pastor says, "Choose to sin. Choose to suffer." Jesus said the greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. In I John 4:21 it says, "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Throughout I John 4, it says we will know if we belong to God if we love one another. No one can say that they love and know God, but then say that they hate their neighbor. The Bible says, if they say that, they are a liar and the truth is not in them. The "truth" being Jesus Christ. This means they are not saved.
Being a Christian is more about having a relationship with Christ, than it is about following rules or saying the right words in a prayer. Jesus said, if you want to follow me, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me daily (Matthew 16:24). It's not something you do once in your life, or once a week at church on Sundays. Jesus says to follow him daily. That's why I'd rather say I am a Christ follower than a Christian because I am choosing to follow Christ daily, letting him lead me wherever he wants me to go, because he promises to lead me to green pastures and still waters. :) I like the sound of that.
If you have a genuine faith in Christ and have placed your life in his hands, good works and fruit will flow from your life naturally. Obeying God's commands will not be a burden or a restriction. It will be something you feel compelled to do because of your love for Christ. It doesn't mean you won't struggle with sin, but you will likely have the prodding of the Holy Spirit who will convict you of your sin and lead you ultimately to repentance. If you live a life of sin and feel no guilt, you undoubtedly need to question your own salvation. God's Word speaks clearly that those who practice these things will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Meaning, if those sins are not just one time slip ups, but rather a repeated pattern or are characteristic of your life, you might want to think twice about your eternal destination.
Thanks for reading this far! Can you tell why I would have problems sharing the gospel? I can't summarize for the world! Some people may have a much simpler belief of what salvation means, but I would much rather err on the side of heaven. :) You can take one verse and say that this is what salvation is, but I believe we were given the whole Bible, and we should look at it in its entirety and within context. Salvation is spoken about in several different places, and we should pull all those verses and look at all of them, not just one verse from the entire Bible to base our beliefs on salvation. Someone long ago picked the verse John 3:16 as "the" verse in scripture that sums up salvation. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Yes, this is a great verse, and tells us a lot, but suppose someone had chosen the words of Jesus, "Repent and live" as the key verse in the Bible on salvation. The Bible doesn't contradict itself. I believe both statements to be true. If you truly believe in Christ as your Savior, then you will repent of your sins and start to lead a new life. II Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" I believe that some people read the verse John 3:16 and oversimply salvation. My pastor calls this "easy beliefism." This is probably Satan's greatest scheme and he is probably very successful with it. He wants people to think that they are Christians. If they think they are, they have no reason to pursue a right and true and life saving relationship with God. They are walking through life thinking they have nothing to worry about and that when they die, they will go to heaven. But, if they read scripture and really look into what God's Word says about salvation, they might find something different. When people buy into "easy beliefism", they pretty much think they say a quick prayer and they now have life insurance and a ticket to heaven. I would say to that person, to really search your soul and search the scriptures and see if God's Word aligns with that definition of salvation. You are risking way too much to take your chances on this one. Eternity is a long time.
So, if I had to summarize, I would say my beliefs are that salvation is:
1. Believing that Christ is the son of God, sent down from heaven to take the punishment for our sins.
2. Recognizing the sin in your own life and having a heart and attitude of repentance, and then acting out that repentance (ie. turning from sins).
3. Having a conversation with God that reveals your heart change and your desire to follow Him and be one of his children. I don't believe there are certain key words that are necessary because God knows the heart, but the important part is to have a changed heart.
4. If your faith is genuine, it will be evident in your actions. God will start to grow you to become more and more like Him through his Holy Spirit that he gives to those who accept him as Savior in their lives. Our church describes a life before and after salvation as this: I WAS (once like this)... BUT THEN (Christ entered my life), and NOW (God has changed my life).... When there is true repentance and salvation there is a before and after. You become a changed person. You no longer live like you once lived before you knew Christ. If you see no change, or others in your life notice no change, then you should ask God to reveal to you whether or not you are really saved. He is a loving God and longs to have a relationship with all of us and to forgive us of our sins, if we are willing to accept his free gift of salvation.