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
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  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.

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.

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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!