Category Archives: Religion

The Rainbow 

Rainbow Christ Prayer: LGBT Flag Reveals The Queer Christ

By REV. KITTREDGE CHERRY
Colors of the rainbow flag reveal the many faces of the queer Christ in the following Rainbow Christ Prayer I wrote with gay theologian Patrick S. Cheng
Rainbow flags were flying around the world in June for LGBT Pride Month. Rainbows are also an important symbol in many religious traditions. The Rainbow Christ Prayer honors the spiritual values of the LGBT movement. 
The prayer matches the colors of the rainbow flag with the seven models of the queer Christ from Patrick’s book From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ.
Let us pray… 
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: heaven and earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on earth. In the rainbow space, we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world! Amen.
I got the idea for the Rainbow Christ Prayer as I reflected on Patrick Cheng’s models of the queer Christ. Patrick and I each spent years developing the ideas expressed in the Rainbow Christ Prayer. It incorporates rainbow symbolism from queer culture, from Christian tradition and from the Buddhist/Hindu concept of chakras, the seven colored energy centers of the human body. The prayer is ideal for use when lighting candles in a rainbow candle holder.
The Rainbow Christ Prayer has been welcomed and used by many progressive Christian communities, but denounced as blasphemy by conservatives at Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
I first wrote about linking the colors of the rainbow flag to queer spirituality in my 2009 reflection on Bridge of Light, a winter holiday honoring LGBT culture. Meanwhile Patrick was working on his models of the queer Christ based on LGBT experience. In 2010 he presented five models of the queer Christ in his essay Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People at the Jesus in Love Blog.
In a moment of inspiration I realized Patrick’s various queer Christ models matched the colors of the rainbow flag. 
Patrick and I joined forces and the Rainbow Christ Prayer was born. With wonderful synchronicity, Patrick had already added two more queer Christ models, so he now had seven models to match the seven principles from Bridge of Light. He wrote a detailed explanation of all seven models in his book From Sin to Amazing Grace published in spring 2012 by Seabury Books.
Gay spirituality author Joe Perez also helped lay the groundwork for this prayer in 2004 when he founded the interfaith and omni-denominational winter ritual known as Bridge of Light. People celebrate Bridge of Light by lighting candles, one for every color of the rainbow flag. Each color corresponds to a universal spiritual principle that is expressed in LGBT history and culture. I worked with Joe to revise the Bridge of Light guidelines based on my on own meditations on the chakras and their connections to the colors of the rainbow flag.
The symbolism of the rainbow resonates far beyond the LGBT flag. 
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the rainbow stands for God’s promise to support all life on earth. It plays an important role in the story of Noah’s Ark. After the flood, God places a rainbow in the sky, saying, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16).
Lastly, in the Book of Revelation, a rainbow encircles the throne of Christ in Heaven.
Originally published on Jesus In Love; Image via Andrew Craig Williams

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

“We Shall Overcome” is a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The song is most commonly attributed as having descended lyrically from “I’ll Overcome Some Day”, a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley that was first published in 1900.

A couple of the usual haters appeared at Knoxville Pride yesterday afternoon to wave their anti-LGBT banners and shout abuse. Not having it was the touring Washington Gay Men’s Chorus, who encircled the haters to deliver a rousing rendition of We Shall Overcome.


Blessed

1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.
4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
5 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10 But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
11 By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen. – Psalms 41


The Two Types of Pride

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.  Galatians 6:4

Selfish pride can be defined as “excessive confidence or glorification in one’s self, possessions or nation.” The concept is found in the Bible, along with pride itself, in words such as arrogance, haughtiness and conceit, among others, all of which are opposite of Godly humility. The wrongness of self-centered pride is essentially twofold. On a spiritual level, it inevitably leads to disregard, disrespect and disobedience to God i.e. self-centered pride is primarily what transformed the once-righteous Lucifer into the wicked Satan after he became too impressed with himself: “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). On a worldly level, selfish pride very often results in self-destructive behavior because, while a form of self-delusion, it isn’t necessarily as much an overestimation of one’s self as it is a dangerous underestimation of others, hence “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
The Bible warns us about the dangers of pride, by which it means an arrogant, haughty, self-centered attitude that looks down on others and feels no need of God.  This kind of pride is wrong in God’s eyes because it can make someone act as if he/she is the most important person in the world. That cuts us off from others; no one likes someone who’s constantly acting as if they’re better or more important than anyone else. A prideful attitude also cuts us off from God, because we think we can get along without Him. But the Bible warns, “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low” (Isaiah 2:11).
The Bible also speaks of a good pride, but it differs greatly from selfish pride, what we might call a healthy understanding of what God has given us, and a humble determination to do our best for His glory. This can be good, giving us the confidence we need to meet challenges and undertake new tasks. The Bible says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4).
Be on guard against a self-centered pride that ultimately will destroy you. Instead, see yourself the way God sees you, and humbly accept the gifts He has given you. Most of all, humble yourself at the foot of the cross, and commit your life and your future to Jesus  Christ.
As LGBT Christians we should take pride in keeping the faith, even when others tell us we are not wanted.  A friend of mine sent me a quote the other day, that I found very inspirational and I believe it is a perfect example of why we should look at pride in a different way.

Maybe our journey in life isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can become who you were meant to be in the first place.

Our experienced help shape us, but they don’t define us.  Sometime we have to unlearn things or peel away those things that hold us back.  We are taught by most ministers that pride is evil, but can we not have a humble pride? We should take pride in God and the life he has created in us.  For me this type of pride is about glorifying God.  We are made in the image of God, and we should take pride in that.  We are a witness to God’s radical love, and his love is everlasting and unconditional.  God promises us eternal life, but we must believe and have faith and follow his word (as a member of the churches of Christ, I feel compelled to say “and be baptized” but I know not everyone believes in the necessity of baptism). Our faith is miraculous: as LGBT Christians we are constantly told that we are the living embodiment of sin, but we have kept the faith, because our loving God encourages and guides us to the truth. We are called to transform the world:  it is our duty to show others that God’s love is everlasting and unconditional. God journeys with us, and He is with a us at all times, in good or bad.  Our experiences teach us how to love authentically and not to listen to those who are naysayers or preach hate. As LGBT Christians, God has freed us from shame for we have nothing to be shameful of, because we have kept the faith. By embracing ourselves, we bring inner peace because we know who we are and we have “unbecome” what others told us to become because we have followed the path of God’s truth.  We are unique creations of God.  Without that uniqueness we’d all be the same, and God made us all diverse and wonderful people who are filled with the capacity to love.
Some gay people find pride to be one time of the year when they do not feel alone, isolated, cut-off, rejected, hated and despised. Pride helps gay people feel they are not a tiny, powerless minority group. Through pride, many gay people find a sense of belonging, a sense of being worthwhile. Society has long taught gay people to hate themselves. By taking pride in who they are in Christ, gay people can start the long process of overcoming self-hate. Standing side-by-side with God, gay Christians are an accepted, loved, connected and powerful majority!
Gay Christians can find meaning in pride. They are start to feel able to freely and openly celebrate who they are in Christ. God wants that! God wants gay people to stop hating and fearing themselves, because those who live secret lives of pain are not able to fully celebrate their identity in Christ. Through gay pride, God calls gay Christians to live as though the world waits for them, waits for them to passionately praise God, to love as faithfully as God loves and to celebrate life, as they walk hand-in-hand with Christ into eternity.
So take pride in our struggles.  We need that good, unselfish pride to show others the true light of God.  So as we celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, with Gay Pride Month coming to an end, and next Friday, we celebrate the pride we feel in the independence of the American spirit, we should rejoice with others that God allows us that feeling of warmth in our hearts that is our unselfish pride. 
The picture at the top of this post is the reaction to this group of Chicago Christians who showed up at a gay pride parade to apologize for homophobia in the Church.

Grace Works For Us Too!

“Grace Works For Us Too!”
By Pastor Charles Curtiss

All I heard while growing up as a kid was that salvation was attained through faith in Jesus Christ. One must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary and rose again on the third day so that we might be saved from sin. Apparently, this truth applies to all but the homosexual. In spite of the fact that many Gay-Lesbian people embrace this truth by faith, they remain lost, according to so many, because of the fact that they are Gay or Lesbian. If only they were or had been born heterosexual, THEN they could have easily been saved. Foolishness! I have believed this wonderful message since I was a child, and my being Gay has not changed that fact one bit! The same stands true for millions of Gay people the world over.

I have seen this absurd contradiction all my life. I remember, even as a young man, called to preach at the age of 8, that I had a problem with the notion that God’s simple plan of salvation applied to some but not to others. You see, the fundamental problem with this “selective salvation” teaching is that it assumes that one’s sexual orientation is enough an issue to prevent them access to God’s love and grace. It also assumes that believers are somehow made perfect, and somewhat extra-human, after they have been converted from unbelief to faith. This notion is erroneous and idiotic. Faith in Christ does not make one perfect, it puts us on the role so that one day we might be perfected!

I hate to see Gay-Lesbian people roped into the false notion that grace does not apply to them “as long as they remain in their sinful lifestyle.” The Lord Jesus Christ Himself clearly taught that divorce was a man-made device that had no part in God’s original plan for humanity, from the very beginning, yet what churches today tell divorced people that they cannot be saved as long as they have been divorced? EVERYONE alive remains in sin, so long as they have breath in their body and are subject to earth’s gravity. What we become immune to are the penalties and jurisdiction of sin, by faith in Christ. It’s not that we no longer live with sin, but like a foreign diplomat in his host country, we are not subject to the laws of that country, but rather to the laws of our own! That is a fact. Even the apostle Paul acknowledged this reality.

Romans 7:14-25
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

If sin, according to the Bible, is defined as the “transgression of the law”

1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

…and for one to be guilty of one transgression of that law is the same as being guilty of transgressing all the law,

James 2:10
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

…then the sad reality is, we cannot ever fully satisfy the law in total, regardless of who we are or how holy we perceive ourselves. This then is why the Word of God clearly states that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Our best efforts don’t even begin to amount to the least possible effort in the eyes of God.

Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Many Christians have deceived themselves into believing that they are somehow perfect. They have allowed themselves to believe that their heterosexuality alone puts them in a better standing before the Lord then their Gay or Lesbian neighbor. This is nothing short of absolute deceit! No one stands before God perfect, before or after conversion! No one is capable of earning salvation, before or after conversion. No one is fully able to live above the influence of sin. It is not possible. But what faith and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ does do for humanity is this – It allows us to stand perfect and holy before God today in anticipation of the day when we shall do so in reality, after our very nature has been changed and we appear before the Lord recreated in His likeness, according to man’s original design.

Psalms 17:15
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

1 John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Thankfully, while we do not yet appear as we shall one day appear, our loving Heavenly Father looks upon us as though we did. He sees in us that which He Himself has promised to make us. Because His Word cannot possibly fail, and He has promised us, if we will walk in faith and obedience to His plan of salvation, that we shall one day be made to look just like Him. And today, because of our faith, He already sees us in that light and not in the context of the sinful, failing, frail human creatures that we are.

I know the struggle of going back-and-forth, trying to satisfy family and the church. I have been down that road where one tries so hard to not be Gay, even going so far as to marry a woman. But as I try to tell Gay-Lesbian believers all the time, “IF YOU THINK THAT YOUR BECOMING STRAIGHT IS SUDDENLY GOING TO THRUST YOU INTO THE REALMS OF PERFECTION, ACCEPTANCE, AND APPROVAL WITHIN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD – YOU ARE SO VERY WRONG!” The truth is, many Gay-Lesbian people try so hard to do this in an effort to win the church’s or their family’s approval, only to find in the end that the church still is not satisfied with them. The preacher is still preaching their unworthiness. The church is still inventing new rules, regulations, and standards that they must yet arise to meet. So in the end, they finally realize that their self-loathing and inability to understand and accept God’s grace for them as gay-lesbian believers is only a small part of the overall problem. That problem being, a failure on the part of God’s church to fully and truthfully understand and apply the truths of love and grace! Many will then become so discouraged and despondent that they will simply stop trying to even serve the Lord at all. But the sad part of this story is, it was not at all necessary that they even go down that road to begin with!

There is not a heterosexual Christian on this planet who does not recognize that they have sin and issues within their own lives which they cannot change, no matter how hard they try. And these same Christians will come to the place where they reconcile their faith with their humanity, and learn to accept the grace of God for themselves. But, they do not want to extend this same courtesy to the Gay-Lesbian believer! For one thing, looking at the issue of homosexuality as this huge sin and horrendous transgression helps to reduce the size and scope of their sin, at least in their own feeble eyes. The worse they allow Gay-Lesbian people to appear in their eyes, the better they appear in their own site, even with their faults, failures, weaknesses, and sins. So the Gay-Lesbian population becomes a tool whereby they are able to reduce their own failings and elevate themselves, by putting the other down!

Dear reader; the requirements for salvation are applicable to one and all. There are no exceptions. If you can believe the message of the Gospel and have the faith to obey it’s simple mandate, you can be saved. Who you are is not an issue with God. What you believe is!


23rd Psalm


23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Mother’s Day

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The Virtues of a Woman/Mother

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 

She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 

She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. 

She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. 

Proverbs 31: 10-31

I hope that we all think of our mothers today. I love my mama, but like all mothers, she drives me crazy sometimes. She has been in a long period of depression since she found out I was gay, but that was relieved somewhat by the birth of my niece, so she now has the grand-baby she always wanted. She is still convinced I am going to hell, but she doesn’t say it as much anymore. As long as it is a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t discuss” situation, we get along great.

So even if your mother drives you crazy, I hope that you still have a good relationship with her and tell her how much you love her today.

I love you, Mama.


(She would surely die if she ever saw this blog, but I did choose a picture of sunflowers because they are her favorite.)


Quotes for the Day

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:18

Save those who persevere and do good works. For them is forgiveness and a great reward.
Qur’an 11:11

Turn yourself not away from three best things: Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.
Zoroaster

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
Hillel the Elder, Pirke Avot 1:14

These four passages speak volumes. Let’s look at each one. In 1 John, we are told not to love only throughout words, but to love truly and in what we do. So many people claim to love their fellow man, but they don’t do anything about it. They don’t show their love and it is not a love in truth. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” God loved the world and he did something about it, he brought us a Savior to wash away our sins and to make us one with God. If we are to emulate God, then we must show our love in deed and truth in the same way he showed us. Sometimes that means we must sacrifice something of ourselves to make the world a better more loving place.

Likewise, the Qur’an says that if we persevere and do good works, then we shall have great rewards. That reward is forgiveness; forgiveness of our sins, because we need God’s forgiveness to have eternal life. Remember, God gave his only Son so that we may have that eternal life so forgiveness is the greatest gift he can give us. It is why I begin all prayers with “Lord, forgive me of my sins and help me to be a better person.” It should be first and foremost in our thoughts and deeds. Not only should we ask God for forgiveness but we should also forgive our fellow man for his transgressions. We must show forgiveness in order to attain forgiveness.

Zoroastrianism can be summed up in this phrase, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.” God tells us if we think of a sin, seriously contemplate it, then it is just as sinful as doing it. We must have good thoughts, not only for ourselves but for other. We must speak good words for if we are truthful in our speech then we can make a difference if we only speak good words. And of course, none of this is worth anything if we don’t also do good deeds to back up our good thoughts and good words.

The last quote if from the Pirke Avot translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers. It is a compilation of the ethical teaching and maxims of the first period of Rabbinic writings. It says that we must be our own advocates because you cannot count on others to advocate for you. In turn, you cannot only advocate for yourself but for others as well, because if you do not advocate for others then you will lose who you are. In the last part of this quote, it tells us we must do this now, for if not now when will we have the chance.

These four scriptures/quotes tell us that we must love truthfully and with all our heart, not just showing that in words but also in deeds. They tell us if we do this and do good works then our reward is forgiveness and eternal life. The best things in life are good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Also, we must not only advocate for ourselves but for others as well. These four quotes came from a book I am reading about a woman who worked to get an Iranian woman off death row for stabbing a man who tried to rape her. Her actions are summed up in these four quotes as she was an advocate for others, and showed love in truth and deed through good works. Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.


Warning to the Wealthy

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

James 5:1-6
The greatest commands are to Love God and love your neighbor.  These cannot be separated; they go together and impact each other.  Whatever God blesses us with, He intends for us to share it with others.  If we are blessed with wealth, it is for the purpose of blessing others with our resources.  If we are blessed with talent, we should use that talent to benefit others, If we chose to hoard our wealth or other blessings from God, then God becomes very displeased.
James has already chastised the “rich” of looking down on the poor, and he had rebuked them for the arrogance of making plans without considering what God wants them to do.  James attacks this issue from two different angles at once.  first, the issue of hoarding, which means that we are not sharing God’s blessing with others who need it much more than we do, and second, on the Day of Judgment, all things with be made right, justice will be done regarding all inequities.  By not sharing God’s blessings, this is interpreted as pure defiance towards God.
To me this is saying that those that do not help others, that always worry about themselves, making sure they are taken care of and treating the ones that are ‘below them’ with hatred, harshness, callousness, and like they are trash.  They try there best to cheat people so they won’t have to pay the full price for what they truly deserve.  Like they are nothing and not worth the time.  They hired them so they should pay them fully.  They are defying God’s wishes. 
James is not just speaking of monetary wealth but also the wealth of God’s blessing.  There are also those Christians who look down on LGBT Christians, not making sure that LGBT Christians are met with loving embrace within the church and instead treating   LGBT Christians like they are ‘below them’ with hatred, harshness, callousness, and like we are trash, undeserving of God’s love because we love someone of the same sex.  Christians who reject other Christians for whatever reason believe themselves to be rich in God’s love, but they are hoarding God’s love all for themselves.
Christians should stop hoarding God’s blessings and start giving it to some that need it, such as charities, children’s hospitals, etc.  When we die, none of this will go with us, and we will be judged on the things we did, or did not do, while on this earth.  Only God’s record of our good works and faith in his love will follow us to the afterlife.

Boasting About Tomorrow

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:13-17
 
There is so much depth to these five verses. In the big picture, do we include God in all of our plans? Do we include him in our career or educational plans? Do we pray about the path He wants us to take?  When we make plans and exclude God, no matter what the plans are, it is as if we are boasting in our own abilities.
 
Verses 13 and 14 refer to making future plans for prosperity without consulting God. Even if the plans are honorable and righteous, God may have other ideas. Our lives are but a blink of God’s eye, “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” God wants us to consult with Him for all plans.
 
I plan ahead.  If I do not have the next step or two thought out before I get to them, I feel behind and unorganized.  However, God does not work this way.  Ever since I gave Him full rights to my life, I cannot seem to plan anything too far in advance.  He is the ultimate schedule shifter.  James notes, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”  I have to remind myself of this.  Life throws sudden changes at you.  Yes, I still plan ahead to the best of my ability, but I now make flexible plans instead of rigid ones.  This is one way I submit my life to God, by giving Him free reign to jumble my schedule.  In the end, I trust God has a better idea of what I should do with my life than I do since He sees the entire picture.
 
I remind myself that God has a plan for me in my prayers.  I begin by asking God to forgive me of my sins, then I ask Him to guide me down the path He has chosen for me before asking Him to bless my family and friends.  I pray for guidance down the path God has chosen for me, because I know it is not an easy path.  In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
 
I’ve learned to use verse 15 in all planning. “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” There is so much each of us wants to do with what time we have left in our lives, right? Personally, I would love to travel to Europe again, write a book, get in better shape, and be healthier. With each thing I want do to, I pray about it and say, “Lord, if it is Your will that I do this, then I will do it.”
 
Psalm 37:4 states: Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. This is a Scripture of hope.  We think, “I love the Lord and so He will give me whatever my heart desires.” That sounds great and all, but what about this:  if we love the Lord and become very close and intimate with Him, very soon His desires become the desire of our hearts. Ask the Lord if your desire is His will and you may find that His will truly becomes your desire.
 
Verses 16-17 remind us that boasting in our arrogance is evil, and goes on to say that if we know the right thing to do and fail to do it, we are sinning.  If the Lord places something upon your heart, and you do something else instead, verse 17 tells us that it is sin.  In 2 Corinthians 1:12, Paul writes, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
 
Boast in the Lord and proclaim to everyone: “My God has blessed me abundantly, and He directs my path.”  In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” There is satisfaction in doing God’s will. To actually do good is filling food. The more we eat the keener our appetite becomes. Dissatisfaction is a sure sign that we are not eagerly doing the will of God. It is a symptom of spiritual immaturity. The only way to discover the point of Christ’s teaching is to practice it. The only way to godly contentment is to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

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