Den of Vipers – Introduction

I have been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to assist many people I encounter, with a focus often being with LGBTAI+ people of faith who struggle to feed both realities of their faith and sexuality within their lives. This area, while very important to me for over 10 years, has been dormant for a while. So, its reawakening has been very exciting, though has also opened the doors I thought I had nailed shut pretty strongly. These doors were to hold back many friends and family who feel very comfortable telling me I am NOT a Christian, that homosexuals cannot be Christians, etc. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I get angry and hurt when this happens. However, despite these opinions, the truth is I DO have the Holy Spirit within me and He is directing my path and that it worth ALL of the negative responses I may encounter!

One indirect (okay, passive/aggressive) post I was exposed to recently involved a Pastor speaking about the sin of homosexuality, and specifically how Pete Buttigieg claimed to be a Christian and “attacked” Mike Pence, calling him a Pharisee. The Pastor went on to say that Pete could NOT be a Christian, and that Mike Pence (who he knew personally) was a wonderful man, a great Christian, and followed the laws of God. He emphasized that it was “horrible” that Pete suggested Mike was a Pharisee, which was offensive and wrong.

Now, let me be clear – the following series is NOT a reflection of Pete Buttigieg or Mike Pence; I do not propose to suggest I know either man’s heart and I will certainly NOT declare either of them a non-Christian! The Bible is clear that we cannot know the heart of man and that those that appear holy can have evil hearts and those that appear retched love God. But this DID make me think long and hard about Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and how it impacts our interactions today. So, over the coming days I’d like to review each of these interactions from Jesus and try to see how ALL of us can benefit from His words. I would love to hear from any of my 2.78 readers for their thoughts as well!

WWJD?

I want to admit something to you.  Maybe this won’t shock many of my friends, but in the last year I’ve had trouble reconciling my Christian faith with the love of Christ.  Well, that isn’t exactly right.  I’ve been having trouble reconciling my Christian faith with many (but not all)  CHRISTIANS, and because of that, I’ve distanced myself from Christians in many ways.  I usually refer to myself as “a follower of Christ” instead of a Christian……maybe that’s not fair.  Maybe it is not kind that I don’t want to be pulled in with what I perceive as a group of (usually American) people who spend most of their time condemning others, closing church doors to people, and otherwise seem to focus on rules and regulations instead of “loving others….including your enemies”.  I’ve written on this blog about many of the ways the American Christian Church has acted toward me as a lesbian, or towards “other” including people of color, non-Evangelicals, progressive Christians, or anyone that doesn’t fit into the little box of Evangelical Christians as defined by many in this country.

But, I have to admit as well, that I have missed the ever-present discussions of how amazing Christ really is.  I have missed ongoing discussions of the Power that Christ represents to me, and even the worship that feeds my soul more than I can express in words.  I have missed that fellowship.  Not that I have left anything – believe me, I fellowship with Christ often and am blessed EVERY DAY by His love.  No, I am not referring to Jesus……I am referring to the human fellowship of the Church, the ones who too often seem to rather say to me that I am going to hell or am somehow deficient in too many ways to TRULY be a follower of Christ.

Yes, I hear often that I CAN’T be a Christian, because of many reasons.

And yet, He has not forsaken me.  He has not stopped loving me, at all.  He is present in so many ways that even if I TRIED to put distance between us, I would fail.  I have been grafted into His life, and no one can change that.

So, as I sit as a lesbian on my new porch, smoking a cigar and listening to the evening songs the birds are singing to me…….drinking water and considering the rich blessings that He has provided for me…….I came across this on Facebook:

WWJD?
What DID Jesus do?
1. He openly questioned the religion of his upbringing.
2. He quoted scripture from his ” Bible” said it was wrong and did otherwise.
3. He encouraged others to move beyond the commandments in scripture to follow their heart.
4. He openly embraced people his ” Bible” forbade him to associate with and he was NOT trying to convert them to his religion.
5. He never asked to be worshiped and did not start a new religion.
6. He did not believe scriptures were the “Word of God.” (He clearly called them “The word of Moses.”)
7. He was shut out, shunned and eventually killed by religious leaders.
8. He never asked anyone to pray a “sinner’s prayer” or to ask him into their heart.
9. He rarely attended religious gatherings and, when he did, it was often to denounce their practices.
10. He put “meeting human need” over any kind of religious activities or exercises.
Maybe you SHOULD follow Jesus after all!
Robert Rutherford

This might sound weird to you, Christian who has not been struggling with religion being used as a club against other humans, but the above restored some hope in me.  It reminded me of the beauty that first pierced my heart when I was 16 years old and KNEW that the Love and Grace of Christ wanted my held safely in His arms.  It restored my hope of being loved, period.  It challenged me to walk in the Truth that I am a King’s Kid, saved beyond any indictment or conviction.  That I did nothing to receive this amazing gift, but also that no human could tell me I am not protected.  I have once again been challenged to look at every human – yes, even those who spew hate at me and mine – as also King’s Kid, even if they’ve not professed their acceptance of the King.  I recall that I am to love even the most vile person, as Christ did, though am so tempted to call out the self-proclaimed “religious elite” as a den of wipers as Jesus did.  I have been challenged to truly try to emulate Christ and look at each person as someone of value, even if we have very different world views or even religious beliefs.

Because, that is what Jesus would do.

Rest

This week I received a long overdue massage, a 90 minute one in fact!  Myriad stresses have done their toll on my body, so I practically apologized to my therapist knowing he was sure to find my muscles a mess.  I had prepared mentally for the massage all day – cleaning my mind to enter into as close to relaxation as I could, focusing on the stress and knots of my muscles being released as I planned to control my breathing.  In……out…….easy…….feel the stress being released…….clear all thoughts but the feeling of my therapist’s hands press out the tension from my body.

Focus.  Relax.  Breathe.  Repeat.

It was about 45 minutes into this process, and I was feeling pretty good I might add, a thought hit me.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  The thought was loosely based on the following verses:

Matt 11:28-30 ESV  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

When I get a massage, I do not focus on the knots, the aches and pains, nor the stress that has wound me up.  No.  I focus instead on relaxing.  On the releasing power the therapist’s hands and the impact they have on my body.  The feeling of the cleansing breaths that I take, the feeling of the air exiting my lungs as I envisions every cell of my body getting loose and relaxed.  Of how healthy I feel.  How strong I am in the relaxed state.  Of how slowly my heart is beating as the blood begins to flow at a more effective rate throughout my body.  And as I realized that, I also realized that maybe God doesn’t want us to be these uptight followers that focus only on “being this” or “doing that”, but instead “resting in Him”!

I think we Christians focus way too much on creating a mechanism of our own efforts to make ourselves holy.  We go to church multiple times a week.  We present ourselves in such a way that we cannot be pointed at as sinners.  In fact, we separate ourselves from “sinners”, maybe avoid places like movie theaters or bars, and then we decide at some point that we are suddenly holy.  Or maybe we never feel holy and then get sad or mad or frustrated.  Maybe we get a little arrogant or self-righteous.  But through it all, the efforts are all ours.  I am NOT saying any of the efforts are bad – hear me – I just think perhaps they are the wrong things to focus on.

Instead, I think Jesus was trying to explain a few things.  I don’t know, I mean He said He fulfilled the law and covered our sins and, because of that, we are saved.  He said above that His yolk is EASY, His burden is LIGHT.  We get so busy trying to be what we think we need to be to seem acceptable to Him (or maybe the others struggling within our churches, let’s be real), that we forget to even SIT next to Jesus, let alone REST in Him!  And, as the massage and this idea rumbled quietly in my head I realized that this Truth is bigger than I anticipated.  We don’t necessarily always need to DO anything!  Sometimes we just need to  rest, and when we do we actually LEARN from Jesus.

And, when that lightbulb turned on, I thought of the last 4 visits/days I had with my Mom. Usually I am the project manager in all things; I talk to doctors, I get nurses to care for her better/faster/more diligently, I update family members and buy groceries and arrange for this and for that and whatever.  I was a bit irked with myself the last 4 visits though, because I was out of character and just stood or sat right next to my mom.  I didn’t really get ANYTHING done.  I didn’t even work remotely on my computer.  I felt WEIRD and I felt unproductive.  I almost felt worthless.  My character was so out of place.  And yet, those 4 days with my mom I will cherish FOREVER.  I said more to her in those days than I have in years.  I learned tidbits I had never heard before.  And I told her the most important things I could about how I felt for her.  When I just rested beside her, everything fell into place.  And now, weeks later, I know I will never have that time again, and it makes it all the more powerful to realize…….thank GOD I was out of character!  Action and doing are not the devil, by any means, but they are not a deity either that needs to be adored.  Take time to rest in Jesus, and to rest with those you love.  And maybe even rest when getting a 90 minute massage.  The Lord said it, not me!  🙂

Retribution

Full disclosure, I like the whole idea of retribution…..at least when it is directed at others.  If someone wrongs me or wrongs someone I love, I totally love the idea actually.  At least, in the flesh that is my humanness.  I think many of you, if you’re honest with yourself, would admit the same thing.  We inherently want and NEED people to get what they deserve.  Stab me in the back?  You’re gonna pay!  Drive like a jerk, I hope you get a ticket!  It aligns with the whole “eye for an eye” idea right out of our beloved Bible!  And yet, when the table is turned and retribution is pointed at me, I suddenly and completely value and live dead center in the land of grace and forgiveness.  Whether or not I have a contrite heart about the offense I caused, I will more often than not beg to not receive what I absolutely deserve.  “I had a bad day!”  “I didn’t sleep well last night!”  Even, “Wow, I was a jerk to do that, it was horrible of me.  Please forgive me.”  In every scenario, everything in me accepts that retribution is not God’s plan and forgiveness is superior in every way.

What is right?  Where should we live?

In society, this gets a little tricky for me.  I mean, seriously, if you drink and drive there will be consequences.  If you murder someone, there are and should be consequences.  To do otherwise would be a detriment to us all.  I am not advocating the removal of laws and punishments in the realm of society, rules at jobs, and that sort of thing.  I think we can all agree that, though some laws may be applied in an unequal fashion, they are important to our safety and wellbeing as a community.

But how does it look in relation to our religion?  Since I am a Christian, I will focus on what I know best – MY religion.  In MY religion, there are tons of scriptures that tell me to forgive people.  Colossians 3 says to forgive others as Jesus already forgave you.  Ephesians 4 goes further saying “hey get along, stop being jerks, and show compassion and forgiveness”.  It even says in John 20 if we withhold forgiveness, it will be withheld from us (among other Gospels)!  However, several Old Testament verses clearly created the means in which people could and should face retribution for their actions.  Exodus 32, Leviticus 26, and in Deuteronomy 7:9-10 ESV it says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.”  Pretty serious retribution right there.

So, I know Jesus calls me to forgive, but God clearly established that maybe I CAN and SHOULD hold people – especially those who don’t agree with me – to a level where I am totally justified in hating and condemning them.  I mean, God set the standard and I want to follow Him, so doesn’t that just seem like a natural progression?  Well, that just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So, I offer up the following to consider in relation to the whole retribution thing.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matt 18:21-35 ESV

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

ALL of us do not deserve the amazing gift of Grace that Jesus Christ provided to us.  We can never go to church enough, tithe enough, or do anything enough to earn the gift we received.  And really, Jesus never INTENDED us to earn it!  So we have no room to judge others nor real room to expect retribution as we have avoided it ourselves.  At least, that’s where I am in this thing called life.

What are your thought?

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.”