Being Holy vs Loving

It seems like, for many decades, we Christians often focus our efforts on one big topic – Holiness.  This manifests itself in so many ways, and in many religious groups or denominations.  When my parents met, they could not be married in the Catholic church because my mother was divorced.  The divorce made her “not holy enough” to have her marriage consecrated by the church.  Or, to state it differently, allowing her to have ANOTHER marriage would cause her not to be holy, which of course the Church could not do.  That is how it was explained to her at the time.  Further, many of her neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances shunned her because she was a divorcee during a time when most people (religious or not) believed it “was bad”.  Ah, how times have changed!

In contemporary ways, this attitude still exists.  LGBT are not welcomed in many churches – Protestant, Catholic, and others – as many view it as unholy.  Few churches restrict attendance based on divorce today, but stigmas still exist in many forms.  In addition, congregations are encouraged to present themselves in ways that show their holiness; by wearing certain clothes (suits for men, dresses for women), by avoiding secular movies or music, by abstaining from activities or winning souls door to door each week.  At the same time, if people who DO partake in said activities or dress differently were to enter the church, more often than not the congregants would not welcome them warmly.  I’ve seen that and I’ve done that.  It exists today.  This is not a religion or denomination issue – this is a human issue.

All these views or rules are in place to point us to one thing – being holy.  Now, don’t put words in my mouth – I am not saying not to be holy!  I am not even saying we should not take the direction or encouragement we receive in church seriously.  There are many scriptures that call and direct us to holiness.  But I am saying, as a society and as a Christian Body, we often look at the wrong things when we seek holiness.  Heck, even the rhetoric by many politicians and the platforms they support focus on moral directives that supposedly make this country and its citizens “more holy”.  But, my thought is that we are going about it the wrong way.

For example, a few years ago I started a new job and went out to lunch with some new co-workers.   For some reason, the story of the Good Samaritan came up, and one co-worker decided he’d share with me and my other new co-worker what the story REALLY meant.  His version went something like this:

One day a man was seriously injured and fell to the side of the road.  At the same time, a priest who was heading to his duties in the temple was walking down the street.  The priest, wanting to avoid the man, went to the other side of the street and passed him.  In the mean time, the Samaritan – who was the dirtiest of the dirty by the virtue of being a Samaritan – helped the man immediately.  He even paid the inn keeper to care for him and promised to come back and pay any amount due, as long as the man was cared for.

And the moral of the story?  The priest cared so much for God, that he knew he could not touch the man because the injured man would make the priest unclean, and then he would not be able to serve God or God’s children for several weeks.  During those weeks – God forbid – he would be worthless as he purged the uncleanness from his life.  We, as Christians, should be more concerned about serving God like the Priests of the Bible and yearn to remain clean for God.

I promise, that is what he said.  And he believed it with his whole heart.  And, on the surface, it DOES sound nice to yearn to be holy, to remain pure enough to be used by God and to serve others so they can get closer to Him as well.  But how does this story read in the Bible?  Let’s check it out.

Luke 10:25-37 ESV (as told by our Lord Jesus, but emphasis is mine)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus clearly shows here the Samaritan, despite his “poor standing” as an unclean person, showed love and mercy and was the person we should emulate.  NOT the Priest, who we assume was very holy in appearance at least, as we also assume the Levite was holy based on the additional rules and laws that applied to both.  Rules and laws direct us to Christ, but Christ directs us to Love.  And love always directs us to His Righteousness, which makes us holy.  Well, that and His sacrifice, but that is a different blog post!

So, as I have been reminded I hope to remind you – show mercy.  Be kind to the impatient traveler next to you.  Assist the mom who is struggling with two young kids as she’s grocery shopping and mentally trying to figure out how she is going to afford Christmas.  Don’t react to the tailgater who is scowling into your rearview mirror, inches behind your bumper flying at 80 mph.  Overwhelm with kindness the person who sent you a message telling you LGBT people can’t be Christian.  Feed a hungry person.  Smile at a stranger.  Ignore the loud politician who posted a harsh meme on Facebook, or your friend who shared it.  THESE things lead to holiness as we emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ, more than any 3 piece suit or hymn.  And, before WE know it, He is our focus instead of our own actions.  Let us go and react as the Samaritan reacted.  What a blessing.

An Apology to my Facebook Friends

That’s right, it’s me – Gina – apologizing to you all in a public forum, without excuse or justifications.  And the reason is, in recent months I’ve been very open about my views on Facebook (FB) about a number of subjects, including the Confederate Flag, the SCOTUS decision regarding same-sex marriage equality, and most recently the Kim Davis media frenzy.  It’s not so much that I think it was wrong that I shared my feelings – no, I think sharing when done without belligerence is often good for myself and others.  However, my sharing was manifested 100% from the heart of my natural state as opposed to the state I believe I’ve been taken as a follower of Christ.  And because this revelation has taken me a few weeks to encompass in my mind and heart, I am posting it here on my blog so that I can include my thoughts as an encouragement for myself as well as others.  Because, I think, others may easily manifest their thoughts as readily in the natural as I do.

Let me say many of these concepts I’ve personally taught at my old church and I was slapped awake by these ideas by my own notes, which I recently stumbled upon.  Many of the thoughts I derived from a sermon I heard several years ago given by Paul White.  So, I could be sad that I have “fallen from grace” and gone back to my own “law driven ways”, but instead I will just share my journey.  Thank you for reading my post and considering this trip I’ve been on.

We all like to try to take the high road, to act in an acceptable way, to be kind and loving and thought of in nice terms.  And yet, I think all of us can feel justified for responding to attacks (even if only perceived).  In that context, and to avoid a super duper long blog post, let me define three ways human actions manifest themselves on the earth:

Through the demonic – You treat me good, I return evil.  This is not just a reference to The Exorcist or other spiritually “freak me out” actions.  Instead, it’s more like a warning my mom always told me when I was younger, “Gina,” she’d warn, “never stop to help someone on the side of the road because they might be pretending to have an issue and they really are a serial killer.”  So, in this example, someone could stop to help someone on the side of the road (offer good), but in return they are killed (return of evil).  While this is an extreme example, I think there are often “demonic” activities that occur everyday where someone does something nice and someone returns a less than nice or even mean reaction.

Through the natural – this is where I usually live; you treat me well, I treat you well.  You treat me bad, I will treat you bad.  It’s pretty simple, we mirror each other and if you’re a jerk I will feel totally justified in being a jerk back to you.  I love those who love me, and despise those who despise me.  This happens often when someone cuts me off on the highway and I have no trouble showing my discontent.  In recent weeks, I have been compelled to think the very worst of Kim Davis, who I perceived as a hypocrite, judgmental and a cherry picker of scripture.  I felt totally justified in considering her a poor example of a Christian for her actions while doing many of the things I was railing against as I assembled my words of condemnation against her.  I laughed as others made fun of her appearance, I shook my head when her own sin was exposed.  In a phrase, I was just as judgmental and hypocritical as she was, just not on such a large media platform.

Through the spiritual, aka “The Highway” – you treat me well, I treat you well.  You treat me bad, I treat you good.  Basically, no matter what you throw at me, I will return love and goodness.  And, in my own power this is utterly impossible, as I’ve proven quite well in recent weeks.  But that’s not to say it is impossible.

So, let’s establish some Truth based on Scripture.  First, I have often thought the Kingdom of Heaven or of God was far off or something I would see after I died.  But the Word explains it very differently.  In Matthew 4:23 (ESV), when Jesus first started his earthly ministry the following was said (emphasis mine):

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Notice here Jesus FIRST proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and THEN people started being healed.  He didn’t heal the people in order to proclaim/show the gospel of the kingdom.

Then, in Acts 1:1-3 (ESV), which records the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after He was crucified, died, and rose from the grave, this was said (again, emphasis mine):

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

There is power in the Kingdom and Jesus spoke about it constantly, from the beginning of His earthly ministry to the very end.  Throughout the gospels it is recorded as being said “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.  It is not far off, it is not coming later……it is as close as my hand and it is here, now.  And there is power – healing power, power to change us and the world, and it is given to us freely through Jesus Christ.  I want this power in my life.  I want to live knowing I manifest myself in the Kingdom and act as if I belong in the Kingdom……not when I die or when I reach some level of spiritual maturity as if it will show up some day like a bill in the mail.

And yet, in Matthew 5:3 (ESV) at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And with that, I often freak out because, in many ways all I try to do is be more spiritual.  To be more INTELLIGENT when it comes to scriptures and theology and loving my neighbors and walking in this Truth, etc. etc. etc.  And yet, Jesus Himself said in order to find the kingdom of heaven, I must be poor in spirit.  And He said it in the present tense “theirs IS the kingdom”, not “theirs WILL BE the kingdom”.  And I believe this truly means I need to get to the end of myself and realize…….I can’t get there.  Not at all.  I can try to be very holy, very spiritual, very cerebral even in my understanding of God and His Word, but all I ever get by my own effort and actions is the power to manifest my life in the natural.  But, when I realize this and honestly say “I can’t do it, no matter how hard I try”, THAT is when Jesus smiles and says, “Now we will get somewhere”.  Because ONLY JESUS can carry us into the kingdom of heaven (as in the right now, right here version, not the place when we die).

So, as I did a few years ago, I began to give up on trying to be spiritual, of trying to manifest my interactions with others through “the Highway”.  Because I am poor in spirit and do not have the means in which to get there.  And I will tell you, when I begin to realize and act with this Truth, when my poverty is spirit is allowed to be real, THAT is when I begin to float to the kingdom of heaven with my Lord.

Have you ever seen The Passion of the Christ?  It shows Jesus being tortured, beaten, ridiculed……it is so graphic I often cry and always get very angry.  In that anger I want so badly for Christ to call His legions of angels down and destroy the Roman Soldiers and the Jewish leadership who were persecuting Him.  I think many of us would accept and understand if Jesus reacted that way, for He was completely undeserving of such horrible treatment.  Like so many of the politicians and Christians and LGBT folk do today; we scream out and demand our rights and insist that we ARE right and that we represent God and demand others see His personality and rules and actions through our eyes and explanations.  We claim to be persecuted and declare ourselves right to demand punishment for those who have hurt us.  We demand everyone should be held accountable to our views of our religion and even expect the laws of this land to reflect those morals and rules.  In God’s name we scream and get public attention and cause thousands of online debates and rancid comments and angry outbursts and we feel justified and righteous as we do it. Many of us actually PRAY that God will strike down entire countries or groups of people who we decide deserve to be sent to hell. I could add several links to professing Christians do so over and over again, but I won’t.  So I don’t think it is far fetched to imagine Jesus jumping off the cross and laying all those who persecuted Him flat on the ground and, truthfully, many of us would cheer and scream in joy had He done so.  In our natural core, we are often Zealots ready for blood.

But if Jesus really did react like that, He would be just like you and me.  He’d be walking in the natural.  He’d say “you treat me good, I treat you good.  You treat me bad, I treat you bad.”  He’d be no different or better than you, or me, or any of us who are nothing in our own power than natural thinkers and actors.

But in reality, Jesus walked or manifested Himself on “the Highway” or “the Kingdom Way”; even after ALL that had been done to Him, the humiliation and pain He went through despite His innocence, He called out to God and said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  They treated Jesus badly, and yet He returned good by not only asking for their forgiveness, but He gave an excuse for them!  The Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders hadn’t even ASKED for forgiveness – they had not repented for their actions – and yet Jesus asked for their forgiveness!  Yet we, as Christians, often condemn others and point out their sin, emphasize their sin actually, justifying why they do not deserve forgiveness and absolutely deserve no kindness, empathy, or love.

Even before His torture, when the Roman soldiers came to the Garden to arrest Jesus and Peter cut the ear off the soldier, Jesus did not return their bad with evil.  He didn’t say “You lost your ear because you meant to harm me with this arrest, so that’s what you get.”  No, He turned the bad to good by rebuking Peter and healing the soldier’s ear, without any price or request or demands from the soldier.  He returned bad with good.

The truth is, when the controversial subjects have arisen around me lately, I have picked up the sword like Peter and started swinging.  I felt just a justified in my actions as Peter did with his sword, as he lovingly and passionately protected the Lord he loved.  I can even claim my actions are for my Lord, the but truth is those actions have moved me far away from the actions of Jesus and have placed me right back into the natural.  I have put myself in a place of direct rebuke from Jesus, just as Peter was rebuked.  In fact, I and we project “the natural” too often onto the Kingdom thinking we are standing up for what we believe or what we feel is right and pound on our chests thinking we are defending our God, when in fact we are offending His sacrifice and everything He did for and to us.

And, let me be real about something else, too.  I often tell people, especially when I feel passionate about the Word or an idea related to Scripture, that the Bible is final.  And I pull out scriptures to prove my case and walk about like I am dropping the mic as if to say “BOOM, IN YOUR FACE.”  But sometimes quoting scripture is just more of the same natural manifestation that Christ has freed us from and which we keep picking up and tying around our ankles like a chain.  For example, the law was handed to Israel in Exodus 20 and then began to get more defined in Exodus 21  In fact, Exodus 21:24-25 (ESV) justifies through the law that I can and should manifest myself in the natural.  In fact, the law takes me to the place I usually live anyway (you do bad to me, I do bad to you):

 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

But I want to live in the principles of the Kingdom.  And it is amazing to go back to the Sermon on the Mount and hear Jesus say the following in Matthew 5:38-42 (ESV):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Jesus is quoting Exodus 21 and basically saying, “You got it wrong.  My plan for you was the Kingdom Way, NOT the natural way!”  He is showing us that we should ALWAYS return good no matter what is given to us, EVEN IF what is given to us is bad/mean/hurtful.  I mean really, someone sues us and we offer them more than what they asked for?????  Do not resist when we believe someone is being evil?????  Yes, that is the Kingdom way.

When we REST in Jesus Christ and stop trying to fulfill the law in which He’s already fulfilled and instead focus on loving others and not fighting others (being poor in spirit, not relying on ourselves, not fighting for God but walking WITH Him), we begin to allow Jesus through the Holy Spirit to guide us in His ways…..in the Kingdom Way.

So, as I think about Kim Davis and her actions, and more importantly myself and my reactions to situations such as her recent claim to fame, I also think on Matthew 10:11-13 (ESV) (emphasis mine):

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 

This scripture brought it home to me, in relationship to all I’ve shared here.

  • Jesus died for me, providing His righteousness and power now, in His kingdom
  • The Kingdom is powerful and is here, close at hand, now
  • I am poor in spirit – I can’t get to the Kingdom Way/Highway on my own but Jesus can take me there once I admit I can’t do it with my own power or actions
  • He showed me my reaction can ALWAYS be good when I rest in Him and His love, even when others seem to be sending me bad things
  • Finally, I can always have Peace in my life.  Because, as Matthew 10 says, if I send out peace, then others can send me peace back (I am good to you, you are good to me)……but if I send out peace and it is not received, my peace through Jesus Christ comes back to me (I am good to you, no matter what you do the Peace comes back to me……because if you send me evil I will always return good through the love of Christ).  Either way I have Peace.  It isn’t about worthiness or unworthiness of others, it is about the Peace of Christ and its power above all things in the natural.

So, again I am sorry that I have been walking in the natural and feeling justified in doing so.  I thank God that He has reminded me that He has provided the means to get to the Kingdom Highway through His power and that if I rest in Him, He will keep me coasting on the Kingdom Way.

Peace.

 

 

Condemnation is a Four Letter Word

If you talk to any of my 2.78 regular readers, you may learn that the topic of condemnation is prevalent on this blog.  Oh, I might not use that specific word, but it threads its way throughout many of the themes and stories that I’ve shared over the years.  And that got me to thinking……why is that?  So, for several weeks that has been rumbling through the recesses of my mind, popping up here and there with epiphanies, to the point I decided I MUST write something about it TODAY.

So here I am.  Welcome to the recreation of my mini-journey, at least in part.  Sit back, grab your coffee, and let’s roll.

You may remember my post A Response to “A Friend in Christ” last year.  This situation still slightly haunts me today, as I have no clear evidence (though plenty of speculation) as to who sent me the letter and DVD.  I still have varying emotions (anger, sadness, and such) when I think of the words that exist in the letter I received.  More often than not, I feel the need to write additional responses – at least mentally – throwing out my detailed thoughts about how wrong it was to send that letter to me and how it was, at best, worthless condemnation on my life.  The amount of anger that is involved in my emotions at the time is directly related to how biting the words I mentally create in my response are.  And really, if I’m honest with you, the more biting they become, the more justified and happy I feel.  And that was my first realization.

Condemnation breeds condemnation.

The most satisfying feeling related to this situation – when I am living in my flesh at least – is when I lay down condemnation toward the person that wrote that letter.  Even though, when I first received it, I believe with my whole heart Jesus taught me I was doing this and that it was a mirror of the person’s letter.  That I was guilty of the same sin of condemnation towards them as they were towards me.

“But Lord,” I thought, clinging to my anger…….”they were wrong!”  As if my condemnation was somehow…….okay.  Righteous even.

So that got me to look around my life beyond this scenario, even to others around me, both those I know and those I know of.  And it became pretty clear very quickly…..

Condemnation breeds condemnation.

Don’t believe me?  Check out just a few examples:

  1. Fred Phillips, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, famous for the “God Hates Fags” message and for picketing numerous events including military funerals, was nearing death.  SO MANY rejoiced when hearing of this news, saying he would burn in hell, that his funeral should be picketed, etc.
  2. Read anything online about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and you will read a rainbow of views, across the board, many of which just spew hate – more towards the people who share their views than anything else.
  3. Spend more than 5 minutes on Facebook, and probably see extreme political memes such as these.  And they do nothing but encourage those who are condemning, or giving the other side reason to retaliate with their own condemnation.liberal_logic_101_3091 60625_567855706569632_2120092106_n
  4. Religous actions and debates in thousands of online chat rooms, Facebook feeds, or online news comments filled with hate in the name of Christ (for and against topics).  Here is but one sample article and extracts of comments (more mild ones, too!).  In fact, there were over 175 comments on this article alone and most were arguments between commenters.For Against

 

So far I have offered examples outside of myself.  But I must be real with you – I am the Queen of Condemnation.  It should not be so, as I often decry the condemnation that is often directed at me for my “lifestyle”.  As I stand proud, ready to fight themes like “Lordship Salvation vs Grace” and other seemingly holy interactions.  And yet, the last few weeks have revealed that, alas, I am no better than those who contact me.  If someone is in my face about a topic (political, religious, or otherwise) I have NO PROBLEM getting right back in their face.  In fact, if I’m honest, I will say I rather enjoy it.  And at some point, it even becomes a competition – who can be the best at condemning the other?  Oh, we are usually VERY good and veiling our words in polite discourse, even spiritual vernacular or via holy scripture.  We feel justified in our personal doctrines, the dogma we adhere to, or in the developed belief system we encircle ourselves in.  But the fact remains, we are going for the kill and usually feel completely righteous in our stance, even if there are no survivors when it is all said and done.

And, to make this clear about how painful this revelation was to me……I claim in word and “deed” that my dogma, my world view, my Christian Walk, is centered in Grace.  In Love.

And yet – condemnation was the root.  The focus.  The action.  The idol.  I cannot deny it any longer.

That got me to realizing a lesson I’ve learned before, I have even taught it!  We humans, we Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, too often walk in our own fleshly nature and not that of God.

OUR nature says that it is right and good to act out based on the actions of those around me.  You are good to me, I am good to you.  You are bad to me, I am bad to you.  You agree with me, we are good.  You don’t agree with me, it’s okay to annihilate each other.  Even in the name of God.  That’s even in the SCRIPTURE!

Exodus 21:24-25 ESV, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Leviticus 24:17-22 ESV, Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.”

Deut. 19:21 ESV, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

See?  We obviously know these words so well as I have shown we function in this cycle very well in our society!

And yet…….as Jesus so lovingly reminds me almost daily and which I think I learn before stepping back into the law (flesh) and away from Grace……there is a Better way.  Because, time and again, He pointed out that we TOTALLY MISUNDERSTOOD THE CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE!  If you don’t think that’s the case, then why did Jesus have to say so often “you have heard it said, but I have said” and then corrected our understanding?  And so He did……..

Matthew 5:38-41 ESV, You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Jesus then ups the auntie by saying this:

Matthew 5:43-48 ESV (I often quote this…..pay attention Gina), You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And to just be clear what I believe Jesus meant to model the “Christian World View” on, let’s review this.  We should NOT base our actions on the old way (the law) as IT BREEDS CONDEMNATION.  In fact, the Apostle Paul himself referred to it as such and then turned around and refers to the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ as the ministry of righteousness.

2 Cor. 3:4-11 ESV (emphasis mine), Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.  For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”

So the letter (old covenant), which I seem to use in my life most often as I feel justified in “fighting back” or retaliating with those I choose to fight with, is clearly a ministry.  A ministry of death.  A ministry of condemnation.  It has “no glory at all”.  And Jesus meant for it to end.

And yet, here I am.

Instead, I want to live and walk in the spirit of Matthew 5.  If someone doesn’t agree with me – heck, call them my enemy – I will turn my other cheek.  IT SHOULDN’T MATTER.  In fact, I think Jesus was radical enough to say I SHOULD NOT RESIST THEM!  Okay, you want to say I am going to hell?  I don’t agree but you have that right and it is not my job to fight with you.  To convince you.  You have your political views?  Amen.  But my point is, we as humans/Americans/Christians/Name here spend far too much time condemning others.  And we should stop.  We should disagree, sure.  We should hold our beliefs and probably even hold them to heart, but that has NO bearing on how we interact with each other.  Vote for whom you vote, donate to whom you donate, but our hearts should be open and love should be our first thought. Empathy our second.  Respect our third.  But not condemnation.  Ever.

So, to sum it up, the HEAVENLY WAY of acting has no room for condemnation.  No more living in my flesh, of condemning others in the name of God or otherwise.  I want to live in the Spirit, where love reigns.  I will leave the rest of this summary to the Apostle Paul.  Peace to you!

Romans 8:1-11 ESV, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

 

A Response “To My Friends Who Identify Themselves As Homosexual”

This blog post is a direct reply to this post, which I came across when a friend of mine posted it on their FB page.  The friend was upset by this post, and truth be told, I was too.  My first reaction was to come out fighting, but due to the late hour and the importance of the message, I put it off until today.  I am glad I did.  

Helpful hint if you so choose:  you may want to read Mr. Howell’s blog before proceeding so that you can have a reference.  Or bring it up so that you can refer to it as I post.

Before I begin, I welcome your comments and viewpoints.  I offer this perspective not only as part of my own freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but as one who is not afraid of varying views.  Further, I am NOT interested in dictating how you should think or believe.  I just offer this as my own view on the subject.

First, the person who wrote it is an American.  As such, I affirm he has every right to write the post, express his personal convictions, and believe what he wants.  I am GLAD that he has this freedom and applaud the time that he took to write it.  He should not be censored.  That is the American Way.

Having said that, I must also say that too many people feel that, in America, everyone must follow the Christian faith to BE American.  Even as a Christian, I must emphasize that this is NOT the American Way.  Everyone in this country has a right to believe whatever they want, or nothing at all.  To impose, at the national or state level, the idea that the Judeo Christian Bible dictates the parameters in which all citizens must adhere is inherently wrong.  Further, it defies our very constitution, which states very clearly that religion is allowed but does NOT define the laws of this land nor subjugates the law to it.  This is well documented and has been ruled on in our country in great detail, an example of which is noted here (with links to the mentioned decisions if you’re interested)  Note, emphasis was done by me:

“Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” Chief Justice Waite wrote in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The U.S. Court found that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, laws can be made to regulate some religious practices, e.g., human sacrifices, and the Hindu practice of suttee. The Court stated that to rule otherwise, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.”[1] In Cantwell v. State of Connecticut the Court held that the free exercise of religion is one of the “liberties” protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and thus applied it to the states. The freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act is not absolute.[2]”

So, my first point is that Mr. Howell has every right to believe and post about his beliefs, but that in no way means he can legally impose those beliefs on ANYONE in this country, even if he believes he holds the right to do so.

But here’s the deal, I AM a Christian and hold very strong convictions based on the Bible, just as Mr. Howell does.  And I personally am brought almost to the brink of tears when the Bible is used in such a way as to condemn others, especially when the condemner appears to be doing so in what they claim is love.  And HEAR ME, I don’t know Mr. Howell and therefore I put “appears” because I honestly do not know his heart.  I don’t know ANYTHING about him.  So, in large part if he says he wrote that blog in love, we should try to accept that.  However, there are very specific things he says about the Bible I would like to talk about today, as a Christian and as an American.  This may take a while because I feel like I have to respond point to point (as my 2.78 readers know  is my modus operandi).

Mr. Howell’s assertions are in bold, my responses follow each point he makes.

First, I believe that the God of heaven, the God we read about in the Bible, created the universe and all that is in it, through His son Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-18). 

As a Christian, I affirm this view of creation (though I do adhere to the scientific idea of evolution and such) and I look to God the Father and His Son Jesus as the supreme rulers over my life.  However, I personally think it is wrong as Christians to stand like a toddler stomping his or her feet demanding that everyone else bow to the same God or belief system.  “GOD IS IN CHARGE AND YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE.”  I mean, don’t you hate it when a vegan sits in a restaurant and verbally decries how gross all of us carnivores are?  I mean, dude, why you wanna be all up in my lunch?  If you don’t eat any animal products, high five, now let me eat my steak in peace!  I think it’s taints the awesome testament of my belief system when I push my very personal and very intimate and very wonderful feelings of Christ especially to the point of making others feel wrong or guilty for not seeing things the way I see it.  And I believe that Christ never operated in that way.  If He did, he would have called His legions of angels to knock the Pharisees and the Roman Leaders down when He was being tried and ultimately crucified.  Instead, He was quiet.  He was humble.  He spoke only love to those who condemned Him.

And I contend that, if Muslim stood up and demanded that we follow his beliefs because the Quran stated this or that, many people such as Mr. Howell would have a heart attack.  Well, my friends, many in this country react the same way when we pull out the Bible and say “listen up, you gotta follow this”.

Second, I believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant communication to mankind. It tells us of his power, love, and grace, but also of his judgment. It tells us of what he wants from his creation, but also what he does not want. It is by the words of that book that the entire world will be judged in the end of material existence—even those who rejected those words (John 12:48).

First, the Bible will not be used to judge us.  Based on the Bible, CHRIST will judge us.  Now, let’s not split hairs, the Bible is clear that the Word is Jesus.  But to suggest that the laws will be used and what not for CHRISTIANS is not Biblical.  The Bible is clear that, for those in Christ, the blood of Christ will be sufficient and no other “words” of the Bible will be manifest in the judgment.

Second, the scripture shared above is clear that Jesus was saying if you reject ME, judgment will be upon you.  Again, Mr. Howell and I may believe that, but we need to accept that others may not, and often times do not.  It’s like saying I believe aliens are real, and to prove it read this book my dad wrote about aliens being real.  To insist a truth based on something that others don’t even accept is kind of silly.  Basically, you’re saying “you better believe the Bible, which I know you don’t, because it says you’re toast if you don’t!”

But, again, I DO believe the Bible, and I DO believe I am no longer “toast” because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  But Mr Howell’s comment about “God’s inerrant communication” ticks me off, to be blunt.  Too many Christians spout off this statement even though it is bogus.  Hey, chill your heels, I am not saying the Bible is WRONG.  It may have been pristinely communicated by God, but unfortunately it had to go through humans, which has been proven for all time are errant!  Furthermore, we stupid humans have either bastardized the message over time, or may have maliciously changed it to meet our agenda.

What?

’Tis true.  My first offering of evidence is Jesus Himself, spoken thousands of years ago.  After beginning His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 to teach His thousands of followers “The Way”, He began to RE-educate them on things that had been documented IN THE BIBLE, but which THE PEOPLE HAD COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTOOD.

Verse 38 starts with “you have heard it said”, and all the verses around that are clear corrections to misinformation or misinterpretation.  Jesus straight out says, “BUT I SAY” and I will paraphrase “you got it wrong people, let me set you straight!”

Jesus quotes SCRIPTURE that had been followed in a certain way for THOUSANDS of years, and says, “I am telling you, what was REALLY meant was…….”

Example 1 (Matt 5:38-42):  And eye for an eye, meaning you mess with me, I will mess with you (taken from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).  This had been practiced by the Jewish nation for thousands of years and they used scripture to justify it.  Jesus clearly says in Matthew it doesn’t matter WHAT someone does to you, you turn the other cheek and leave any retribution to God.  And Jesus takes it further……they steal something from you?  GIVE THEM MORE!  Because the REAL way to being my follower is to LOVE.  When you’re good with THAT, then you can go ahead and start playing God.

Example 2 (Matt 5:43-48):  Love your neighbor, but hate your enemy.  This was how the Israelites followed the Bible and felt justified in doing so because “the Word was inerrant”.  But Jesus CLEARLY goes on to say “you have it all wrong”.  The human interpretation of the Word had been flawed, and Jesus had to correct that incorrect belief system.  Jesus is clear you love EVERYONE, even your ENEMIES.  And He doesn’t qualify that by saying “as long as they don’t sin, then love them.”  There is NO qualification.  We need to love, period.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The fact remains that the Bible was not written in English, and even after it was translated to English it has been translated many times and on too many “platforms” that often had nothing to do with God.

Example 1:  the word “homosexual” does not exist in the King James Bible, the most famous of the first English translations offered in 1611; the term homosexual was first added to Bible translations in 1946.  Some argue that the term “homosexual” didn’t even exist until the late 1800’s, so where it didn’t exist it could not be used and that the Bible is clear that the “action” was what we now call homosexuality.  However, those who are honest with themselves admit that some of the original Greek terms used, especially by the Apostle Paul, have no definitive English translation and that we – with agendas or perhaps limited understanding of God and His Omnipotence – have said “meh, Paul must have meant homosexual”.  Completely ignored is the fact that Greeks had forced homosexuality practice in place during Paul’s life (men forcing young boys to be their sex slaves) as well as non-Christian, pagan temple homosexual activities to pagan gods.  Words that were used by Paul – such as arsenokoitai – didn’t really exist in his culture’s vernacular and if we’re truthful we’d admit we know not much more of its meaning today.  And really, if Paul REALLY wanted to say “homosexual” he could have used a word clearly understood in his culture such as paiderasste.  There are TONS who understand Greek and the etymology of this, so I encourage you to do a bit of research.

But ever further, within the last few years conservatives have decided that there needs to be a CONSERVATIVE Bible published!  They said that there is “too much liberalism” in the Bible and that the “true intent of the Word” needs to be shown.  Basically, they want to make the Bible say what they believe to be the truth.  THAT IS DANGEROUS MY FRIENDS and just one example of error being added to the Word of God in print (not even talking about the errors added at pulpits day in and out! Can anybody say “Westboro Baptist Church”?)  So exclusively quoting scripture and saying it is the truth because it is in the Bible is not the best platform to have.

As to the judgment piece…..um, holy cow!  MY belief system states that every person will be judged, but NOT BY ME!  The Bible is clear when we focus on the words of Jesus that we SHOULD not judge and if we DO judge, we are toast!

Matthew 6 is clear that if you don’t forgive others, you will not be forgiven.

Matthew 7 is clear that Jesus views us as hypocrites if we judge others while ignoring the fact that WE are sinners, too.

And let’s be real, Romans 3 is VERY clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of God.  You.  Me.  People who are heterosexuals.  People who are homosexuals.

So, TO ME, calling out ONE type of group in our society and implying they have fallen short, while NOT acknowledging that truly everyone else is in the same boat, is short sided, hypocritical, and a gross misrepresentation of the Lord that I have chosen to follow.

But that’s just me.

For everyone, what the sovereign God of the universe has said are the words of (absolute) “truth and reason” (Acts 26:25; John 17:17)—even if you choose to reject them.

This means that if I am going to be consistent in what I believe, I have to speak out against sin. Just because you don’t believe in God’s existence or that the Bible is his word doesn’t mean that it does not apply to you.

If I know that God will judge the deeds of every man and woman at the end of time, then I am compelled to speak about the matter. I have to persuade people to stop doing the things that are against God’s will, and that will ultimately harm them physically and spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Ephesians 5:11).

First, see my previous comments about using the Bible to make your point to people who don’t accept the Bible. Remember, Americans have rights in this country, and for me or anyone to say “yeah, you have rights but anyway, my beliefs trump them” is not cool.

Second, the Apostle Paul is clear that we should not judge those who are not believers and we should NOT tell them they are sinning.  How can we hold them to a belief they don’t even acknowledge?  This is clearly stated in 1 Cor 5:12, that those who do not believe can’t be held to it.  It’s like saying we Americans have to live by and accept Sharia law that is prevalent in Iran!  It does not apply to us as Americans, and it is not Biblical to demand non believers follow the Bible.

However, although 1 Corinthians is clear that believers in the church CAN be judged based on the Bible, I believe the context of this scripture are those that are causing strife and darkness in the church.  And, I truly believe those who are in Christ no longer have their sin held against them as it is covered by the blood of Christ.

You are my neighbor. If I knew that you were about to step into danger, but instead of warning you I just stood back and let you be harmed, what kind of neighbor would you think I am?

Really, do you believe that getting in people’s faces change hearts?  I have written about this before, but if a personal trainer came up to me in a restaurant and said “I noticed you’re overweight, you really need to eat less and I can show you how to get off your butt and exercise more” they would be telling the truth but I would still kick them in the face.  IN FACT, if someone came up to me and said, “The Bible says gluttony is sinful” THEY would be right.  Or that Jesus Himself said if you divorce and remarry, you are committing adultery……and oops adultery is right next to the more recent translation of homosexuals and is part of “the group” that cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But do you think, when people come up and share in this way, it would change anyone’s heart?

I contend that changing hearts is what we should be doing, and in doing so, actions follow.  But then that exposes the fact that OUR actions pretty much suck, too.  And that is not as easy to acknowledge, it is MUCH easier to point out the failures of others.

Further, why is homosexuality almost always the platform for this action when divorce is WAY more prevalent and “dangerous” to our faith community, based on many factors including the percentages that exist today in Every…….Single…..Church…….in comparison to homosexuality?

I would rather you be the neighbor, as a Christian, that Christ has called you to be.  For He called you to love me, as noted in Matt 22:39, like you love yourself.  And I am pretty sure you don’t start each day standing in front of the mirror reciting all the reasons you’re going to hell.  I would hope that you loved me as Christ loves me, as He called us to do in John 15:12.  And how DID Jesus love us?

He did not come to condemn.  John 3:17

He died for EVERYONE, even those who are the filthiest there is.  Even those that do not deserve it, and He did it with no strings attached, in that He’d do it even if no one accepted Him as savior.  1 John 2:2

Even as He lay hanging on the cross, beaten for something He was not guilty of, falsely accused and abused, even though they did not repent of their actions and certainly not because they deserved it……He said “Father, forgive them”.  Luke 23:34

And I would like some example where Jesus called out the sins of anyone that didn’t have a platform of claiming they knew the heart of God, such as the Pharisees.  It just didn’t happen.  So, as a follower of Christ, I will focus on love and not judging because the Lord I claim to follow did not call out the sins of others.

So in order to be consistent with what I believe, I must speak out against homosexuality.

Wow.  What about the other sins?  You must be hugely busy because there are LOTS of things you must speak against.  Like I don’t know…..not honoring the sabbath?  I mean, that comes STRAIGHT from the 10 commandments!  Homosexuality doesn’t even hit that level, and yet unless you start at sundown on Friday and follow the BIBLE through sunset on Saturday, you are sinning.  And since your own blog put it this way  if you follow the Bible, and the ten commandments, I am sure this is something you also talk about quite often and try to share with your Christian friends especially since we probably all meet predominantly on Sundays.

Certainly, I imagine you warn people how to handle black people (aka slaves) as that is clearly in the Bible, right?  Further, I am sure you make sure all women follow scripture and advise them to leave their homes when they have their period.  I am CERTAIN you encourage fathers to stone their daughters to death if they find out they have been sexually active before marriage, as the Bible demands.

I am sure that’s what you meant on your blog when you said your truth is absolute and unwavering and that you must speak out against sin.

Jesus is clear throughout scripture that He died to save us.  He provided GOOD NEWS, and yet most of the time all I hear out of the mouths of Christians is condemnation and judgment.  You think homosexuality is a sin?  DO NOT DO IT!  But I think the Bible has many more scriptures about not judging other’s “sin” while we all have pretty full time jobs working on our OWN sins.  And again, let’s be honest here…….we all do sin every single day.  As Christians though, we need to shut up about hell because we believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  And because of that belief, we need to acknowledge those sins are COVERED ONCE AND FOR ALL.  Homosexual or not.

I believe it is far more Biblical and important to not waste time, energy, and lives talking about our views of sin, other’s sin especially, and focus on loving each other.  We should edify, encourage, and lift up those around us – NOT condemn them and focus on penalties and hell.  Romans 14:1-13 is clear that we should not argue over things; let one believe this and another believe that, but we are called to LOVE each other and exist with each other.  In fact, I will share verses 10-13 as they sum up this entirely:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;every tongue will acknowledge God.’”  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Mr. Howell’s blog says, in essence, that he MUST be intolerant because his faith demands it, and that we need to tolerate his intolerance or else we’d be hypocrites.  I am just saying, to me the Bible is clear that we need to focus on our OWN lives and sin and stop dictating or pointing out the sins of others, perceived or otherwise.  And I truly believe, in doing so, we do more for spreading the Good News and representing the God we claim to follow.

Psalm 1:1 (which, to be clear, are DIRECTIONS to help Jews and ultimately Gentiles, not LAWS) says we should not stand in the way of sinners nor be scornful, and I will paraphrase by saying this “Dude, walk in righteousness and follow God, but don’t worry about those sinners around you.”

I’m not going to stop telling the truth. 

Again, “the truth” of the Bible has already been proven to be potentially questionable, as part of understanding or malicious tampering.  But even within the Protestant faith, WHOSE truth are we talking about?  Lutheran?  Assembly of God?  United Methodist? Should we speak in tongues or not?  Is baptism required for salvation?  Should be abstain from all wine, or is it okay as long as we don’t get drunk?  What about women in pants?

I bet there are dozens of truths just on the subjects I’ve listed above.

So, in sort of the same vein as Mr. Howell, I will share the platform of MY truth, based on two areas of the Bible and fully acknowledge others who believe the Bible may not interpret these scriptures as I do.

Matt 22:34-40 (emphasis mine):

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Gina:  basically, if you can’t love God and others where they are, then the rest of the laws should not be our focus and, in fact, do not exist.

1 Cor 13 (emphasis mine):

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Gina:  Basically, we need to love……our neighbors, our enemies.  We need to act in ways that don’t make sense like giving those who steal from us more or letting someone who smacked us in the face hit the other side.  Because, when we’re real about it as Christians, we deserve NOTHING Jesus did for us and yet He did it, anyway.  And when we can collectively do that without focusing on sin so much, or our perception of sin and needing to “correct” those sins in others, ONLY THEN will our beliefs begin to spread into the hearts of others around us.  Love wins.  So stop using the Bible as a weapon to push others away from the very thing you want others to accept.

A Response to “A Friend in Christ”

On Friday, September 13th I received a packaging in the mail.

  • There was no postal “canceling” stamp to indicate where it was sent from, though it looked beat up.
  • There was the proper amount of stamps on it, but was it really mailed?
  • There was no return address.
  • Inside was an envelope with my name, inside of it a letter written on lined paper.
  • (UPDATED 9/17) Also inside was a DVD, enclosed in a case, with the name GINA written on it.  This dvd includes two sermons from Mark Driscoll preaching about the proper roles for women and the sin of homosexuality.
  • I have attached a picture of the letter below for reference.

First, I am the first to acknowledge that, “sharing tough love” is not easy.  I have been approached by people who have addressed aspects of my life in the name of Christ, and I respect them for it.  I can admit that often people who come to me to address my life have the best in mind, but often I can comfortably respond to them and affirm that I am good with where I am in Christ, my life, etc.  But my point HERE is that I respect that they came to me, in love or otherwise, and had a face-to-face conversation with me from their heart – even if it was hard.  And those people remain my friends today.

However, an anonymous, no name, no return address, no NOTHING letter communicates cowardice to me.  It communicates not love, but judgment and condemnation.  It communicates that you are fearful, and if you are reaching out in love (even if the message is hard), why is there fear?  So if you sent the letter to me, please reach out to me as a real person with a real identity.  Those of my friends who have done so in person, in the past can attest that I am not belligerent, I am not unkind, nor will I attack.  They will also tell you that the love of God comes into the LIGHT and does not hide behind curtains or anonymous letters.  If you do decide to come forward and address me openly and personally, I will not reveal your name publicly or otherwise chastise you.  If you approve me sharing your name, I will, but that is the only means to which I will share it.

So, on to the activities today.  Because I don’t have your name; because you’re hiding behind the fear or judgment or whatever, I have to respond publicly to you.  I am sorry that it has come to it, but you’ve given me no alternative.  I often fail in approaching things logically and with the least amount of emotion when I have been made to feel attacked, but know that I have prayed hard and know that I write this from my heart.  Forgive me, but this will be long because I must address almost every line of the letter you sent.

But know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that your letter has violated me and my family.  Love does not do that.

You wrote, “Dear Gina, I am writing to you because I wanted you to know that Jesus loves you Gina.”

My response:  Thank you, though I have full knowledge of and an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who is not only my Friend, but my Savior.  I spend time with Him, I talk to Him, I think of Him, I read His Word, and above all I rest securely in the center of His Finished Work.  His Love is so powerful that I cannot separate myself from it even if I tried.  It is eternal and I am saved, period.  IT IS FINISHED.  This is affirmed in John 1, John 10, Acts 20, Romans 3:20-24, Romans 4:15-17, Romans 5:1-2, Eph 2, and many, many more.  You may think, from where you sit in your “perfect life” that YOU know Jesus and I need to know Him like you do.  Rest assured, I already know Him and He loves me.

You wrote, “We as Christians must humble ourselves before God when we pray.  If you ask God for a good and godly husband, who will love you and cherish you, God will give you the desire of your heart.”

My response: Okay, know that I am humbling myself right now and praying to God, sincerely, because the offense to me and my family with these words is huge.  I am confident that my Lord can keep me from responding in the flesh, though He is encouraging me to be real and truthful.  First, I AM MARRIED – both legally (though only recognized in 13 states and by the Federal Government currently) and spiritually.  My marriage, whether or not you acknowledge it, is Biblically, spiritually, legally, and physically binding.  It is monogamous, prosperous, harmonious, and has been so for over ten years.  I am exceedingly cherished and treated far more lovingly than I could ever imagine.  And to that, which is a direct answer to prayer, I can affirm and Praise Jesus that HE DID give me the desire of my heart!  I have a beautiful and loving wife, five beautiful children, and His everlasting peace!  For you to suggest that, 1) this was not really, truly the desire of my heart and 2) to REALLY be fulfilled, I need to desire and marry a man is OFFENSIVE to me!  And, for what it is worth, I would never EVER suggest that you marry a WOMAN (assuming you’re a woman, which I base on the writing of the letter) if that is not how you were born.  Further, I certainly would not write to a person I knew was married and say they needed to pray for a DIFFERENT person to marry.  It is an affront and there is no love in these comments!

You wrote, “Philippines 4:6 (you didn’t note it, but this is the NASB version) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

My response:  I happen to love this verse, and just like the Bible teaches elsewhere, the Word does not return void.  I do thank you for this verse, but not in the context you meant it.  You see, I trust that the Lord, in His perfectness, knows that I come to Him as a broken vessel which is only made whole through His Life.  And I will confess to you in this letter that I went to Him specifically about your letter and to help me not cry from it – to not spiral from the pain it caused me and my family.  To not allow the yoke of condemnation in your words to suppress the love of God.  And then, I asked that my building anger would not boil over like a storm.  And THEN I went on to pray that He rebuke you as a person sitting in judgment, throwing stones from the dark at me and my family.  I confess that I called you a hypocrite and accused you of lacking love for others (especially me), while you claimed the name of Christ under the guise of “love”.  I shared with the Lord that you wrote to me for no other reason but to condemn me and to insinuate that I am somehow incomplete because I don’t have a husband.  And as I spewed out all these things to my Lord, Jesus showed me that I was acting just like you – the very thing I was ranting against –  in my anger and condemnation, and that made me cry all over again.

You see, Jesus does want us to follow Him, to not sin.  But we often forget that He covers our sin and only wants us to FOLLOW Him, and in doing so His spirit works its way and soon enough we sin less.  We become more like Him not by OUR power, but by HIS.  And He made it clear that the Royal Law is to love God and love others as ourselves (Matthew, James, John – tons of scriptures support this).  He even said to love our enemies!  And I will tell you here, your letter did NOT do that.  It did not show love, for love would never have sent it.  And my reaction was not loving, for love does not think of the weaknesses or failures of others as a means to justify punishment.  So yes, this verse is good to remember this ideal established by Christ, and to remind me specifically to always pray with supplication for Jesus to lead me in HIS ways, which is to love.  Period.  Especially for those who maybe don’t deserve that love.  He said in Matthew 5 that all the laws and the prophets hang on LOVE.  And I hope that when YOU truly approach Him in supplication, you hear His leadings about letters such as the one you sent me.  Maybe He will direct you to not send them, or to sign your name, or maybe to just pray for the people He leads you to.  That is between you and Him.  But I will say again, nothing about your letter spoke love to me.

You wrote, “It is hard for a man to find a good-hearted woman, such as yourself.  You have always been a beautiful woman inside and outside.”

My response:  Again, since I am married already, this comment is inappropriate.  I don’t think it is Biblically sound to encourage a married person to seek out another person other than their spouse.  Even still, if I were “on the market” I think it is a misfortune to tell me (or any woman) that I need to “help a guy out” because it’s hard for a man to find a good-hearted woman.  It is just as hard for a woman to find a good-hearted man, and yet I would not think to write to my single male friends and tell them they better get with God right away because of it!  Women and men don’t necessarily need the other to be complete or fulfilled.  It is an affront to singles today to say so.  And affront to God’s plan for their lives.  Paul wrote that some are called to be single, others to marriage.  Who are WE to say what is “normal” or “right”?  We need to stop acting for God and saying what others need to do or pray for.

So I am ASSUMING the real concern here is that I am married to a woman, which is clearly a sin in your eyes.  To that, I would like to say with all sincerity that I am not called to convince you to think otherwise and I appreciate that is the view you  may hold.  However, I will not bow to your view that I am somehow not a full woman or a full Christian.  I am actually quite complete and fulfilled and again, rest in my place as a Child of God and accept the full inheritance His has given me.  I will also refrain from thinking you’re less of a Christian for your letter, though I am still working on that and am concerned that your stance damages the testimony of Christ to non believers and those who are jaded by Christians such as your letter presents.  Thank you for your comments about me being beautiful, however.  I wonder, truly, if you even know me though.

You wrote, “I hope these words find there (sic) way into your heart and encourage you to seek the Lord.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you say and do.”

My response:  Your words broke my heart.  They offended my heart, for I approach my marriage seriously and with my entire heart.  They did NOT draw me closer to God in any way, shape, or form.  It was the Holy Spirit in me that drew me to Him.  And I praise Jesus for His encouragement despite your letter.

And yet, it is obvious that you believe, to be a REAL woman and a REAL Christian, I am in need of a man as a husband.  And by your words, I need to “seek the Lord”.  I can only assume you mean I need to understand that I am in sin because I am in a same sex marriage.  Again, it is not my calling to convince you to believe otherwise.  But I WOULD like to ask you this – let’s say you once were a heroine addict, took part in orgies, were married and divorced and remarried, even took heroine during your first pregnancy that resulted in altering your child’s life when born.  If I sent you a letter saying “you need to seek the Lord and marry a different man”, do you think that would make you run to Jesus?  How about if you were fat and I walked up to you and said, “you need to seek the Lord because your gluttony is a sin, and for heck sake take that food out of your mouth” would that make you want to hug me and say “Praise Jesus?”  Show me an example in the Bible where Jesus condemned anyone but the ones that thought they understood God such as the Pharisees or those selling goods in His name in the Temple?  The woman caught in adultery He forgave and said “go and sin no more” and then gave her the means to stop sinning by dying on the cross!  The woman at the well He told her she was living with a man, and yet He never said “but you need to change your ways.”  We can both learn from this my anonymous friend.  ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  You.  Me.  Everyone. We are NOT called to point out the sins we both commit or see each other doing, but to LOVE.  Period.  And if you honestly think your letter encouraged me to CHANGE, you are seriously mistaken.  Instead, it has made me more aware of the pain caused by people who profess faith with their mouths (or pens, as it were) yet lack its power in their deeds.  For Jesus said His yoke is easy, and His LOVE endures forever.  Show me the LOVE.  It doesn’t reside in your letter.

You wrote, “Sincerely, A Friend in Christ.”

My response:  If you were really my friend, you would have signed your name.  If you were really my friend, you would not tell me to leave my wife, break up my family, and become whole by marrying a man.  You would not cause me to turn my heart from the person I committed my LIFE to, for richer or for poorer, through sickness or in health.  I assume you hold marriage in high regard, and yet your letter tears marriage to shreds.  You have no respect for the sanctity of marriage or all it stands for.

So here are some Biblical scriptures.

Luke 6:31 NIV “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:37-42 NIV “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

James 4:12 ESV “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Romans 14:1-10 NIV “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.  One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 

1 Cor 13 NIV (emphasis mine)  “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

THE DVD You Sent

Mark Driscoll is not my pastor.  I personally find his view of the Bible as slanted and misogynistic.  In the future, if you want me to “get” what you’re saying, you probably should not send me something that Mark is speaking on.  I affirm your right to esteem his views and words, and I know that God works out all things for those that love Him.  I know Mark claims to love Jesus, so that is enough for me.  However, I choose not to follow Mark’s teachings.  Thanks.

Again, I encourage you to reach out and tell me who you are so that you can be removed from the darkness and come into the light as followers of Christ are called to do.

Anonymous Letter

Duplicity

We humans, well…..we’re just plain crazy. We manifest our zaniness in multiple ways. We are scared of eating sushi yet we pay big bucks to ride on roller coaster that propels us against gravitational pull and high speeds. We buy things of lower quality to save a few bucks and then charge that purchase on a credit card that has a high interest rate.

Sometimes, in our supposed intelligence we’re just plain……SILLY!

The area where I most notice this duplicity is in realm of faith. I am not proclaiming views as right and wrong, but let’s be real – with the same-sex marriage, gun control, and even abortion debates there is PLENTY of duplicity. “God Hates Fags” being held by a church member who also swears that the sign is showing love to his neighbor because, if he “didn’t know the truth, he wouldn’t know he was going to hell”.

But this post is not really about political duplicity in the context of religion as noted above. Because, I feel there is a much more dangerous threat of duplicity in our lives, especially in our churches. And it scares the hell out of me, no pun intended.

You see, in the last year I have been taught from very loving and caring people some of the following concepts:

Idea #1 – It’s important to use your words to share the truth, even if what you have to share is not “politically correct” or is “viewed as judgment”.

Idea #2 – It’s important to NOT give satan power by using or believing words that are lies.

Let me give you examples of both of the above so that you can understand them in context.

Context of Idea #1 – We need to tell church members that they’re not doing enough to be considered a “good Christian”.  Francis Chan likens this to being a lukewarm Christian, that which will be spit out from God’s mouth as noted in Revelation.  

This concept is great in many ways, of course.  Show me faith without works and all that.  The pastor in question went on to say that we ALL should not only seek out the truth, but not be afraid of it.  His example was that when you go to take your car to the dealership to be repaired and the brakes need to be replaced, you want to know the truth and details so you can address it.  Or when we go to the doctor, to get the real news about what’s up.  You do not want the dealership, or your doctor for the matter, to tell you “good” news if the news is really bad.  You want the truth so that you can deal with it appropriately.  More on this topic in a minute. 

Context of Idea #2 – Satan wants us to believe lies so that they can take hold in our lives.  For example, falling for the lie that you have cancer; if you verbalize this if you’re told it will take hold.  Satan lies about illness and we, as Christians, have been healed by our Lord and Satan wants to get us to buy into the doctor’s lie about illness in our life.

This concept, when presented in a way that is encouraging, can really get people fired up.  It reminds us in many ways about how much we don’t trust in our Lord and believe in His power!  It tells us to lean not on our own understanding but trust and WALK in the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It becomes more problematic, however, when a person progresses in the diagnosis.

______

And here is my point – how can we both seek the truth AND deny what is told to us?  Given the above scenarios, how can you get the truth about the diagnosis, for example, and then immediately refute it as a lie from Satan?  Even if you do refute it as a lie from hell, if you get treatment from your doctor, isn’t that sort of giving into the Satanic lie that the illness is really there?  And if you DON’T get treatment, then what?  Why even go to the doctor to get “the truth” in the first place?  Further, I have seen where the teaching of #2 cause good, honest, but scared Christians to even SHARE that they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or other serious illnesses because they are afraid that having people even THINK the words would give a stronghold to Satan to push the illness in their lives.

This not-so-sublte duplicity – seek the truth and then push it away for fear of allowing Satan to run with it – is damaging to so many lives.  To say in one breath “you need to know what to pray for or ask prayers on” while also saying “don’t you claim in word that you have cancer!  don’t you dare do it” is DUPLICITOUS!  It is mean.  It is painful.  It is dangerous.

I bring cancer into the mix because I have lost 6 lives to cancer in the last two years.  In my own walk I have feared asking for prayers from some of my sisters and brothers in Christ for this very reason; I was tired of being told that I was propagating the illness by my insisting that the doctors were correct with their diagnosis.  I felt both insulted and as if I relied too heavily on my intelligence and not enough on my faith.  I seriously QUESTIONED my faith!  And that of my loved ones – both in my family and in my church – who got more sick with each passing day.

And yet, when the deaths came, the words changed to “God just wanted them in heaven”.  That’s a whole different duplicity, because hello – we are ALL going to die someday right?

But I digress.

Let’s just stop putting these rules on life people.  Let’s stop putting parameters on faith.  When someone is scared, don’t pummel them with indirect chastisements because they lack the amount of faith they should have (by saying they have cancer, or admitting they’re scared, or for throwing out the F word right after the C word, or anything else).  Let’s remember that Jesus Christ CRIED and BEGGED God to take away the needed death He was facing.  He was so freaked out that He sweat blood!  Let us have those moments of fear and begging out to God without your judgment and supposed “God Hates Illness” signs.  Stop insisting we cannot speak our fears audible or share facts received by medical doctors with intelligence provided by God by saying we are putting more faith in doctors than the Bible and God which says we were healed by the stripes Jesus took.  (Again, not to say we weren’t healed, or can’t be healed of cancer, but saying “hey, my doctor says I have cancer” doesn’t negate a dang thing).

Anyway, I am getting fired up and that means I am no longer logically approaching this subject, so I will leave it at that.  Feel free to comment about how wrong I am.  This is a free country and, to avoid being duplicitous, I don’t want to tell you not to use your words.  🙂

God’s Eyeglasses – My First eBook!

I am happy to announce my first eBook, and it’s FREE!  It’s not even that long!  The only catch – it’s available through iTunes only at this time.  You either need to download it to your iPad or to your computer using an iTunes account.  However, I’d love it if you’d download it and let me know what you think!

God’s Eyeglasses – Based on Faith, The Word, and Basketball.  Find it here.

Thanks!