Category Archives: Religion

Faith Without Works Is Dead

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
 
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God.  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 2:14-26
 
Faith without works is dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many Scriptures that make it very clear that true saving faith will result in a transformed life which is demonstrated by the “works” we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.
 
Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and their priorities indicate otherwise.  James is simply saying that if you ‘say’ you are a Christian, then there had better be some appropriate works manifested or your faith is false. This sentiment is echoed in 1 John 2:4 which says, “If you say you have come to know Him, yet you do not keep His commandments, then the truth is not in you and you are a liar.”
 
Apparently, there were people who were saying they were Christians, but were not manifesting any of the fruit of Christianity.  Those people exist even to this day, especially those who espouse hatred toward the GLBT community.  Can this faith justify? Can the dead ‘faith’ that someone has which produces no change in a person and no good works before men and God be a faith that justifies? Absolutely not.  It is not merely enough to say you believe in Jesus.  You must actually believe and trust in Him.  If you actually do, then you will demonstrate that faith by a changed and godly life.  If not, then your profession is of no more value than the same profession of demons: “We believe Jesus lived.”
 
Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the example of Abraham and Rahab as the type of works that demonstrate salvation, and both of those examples are of people who obeyed God in faith. Saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is a life of faith demonstrated by ongoing obedience to God.
 
Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and experienced the “washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit,” our lives will demonstrate that by the way we live and our works of obedience to God. It will be evident by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in our lives and a desire to obey God and live a life that glorifies Him. Christians belong to Christ and as His sheep they hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26-30).
 
True saving faith is always manifested by good works and a life that desires to live in obedience to God. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it very clear that works do not save us but that we are saved “for good works which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” When we are truly born again you will have hearts that are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit where God’s law is written so that we might walk in His statutes and judgments. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
 
I challenge you this week to help someone out, to do some godly work.  

The Sin of Partiality

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
 
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.  For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:1-13
As GLBT Christians, James gives a very poignant message.  We are often rejected by churches, yet James discusses the seriousness of the sin of partiality.  He says that the members of the church should not look down on someone or treat someone as having less value.  This is the first sin in James in a list of sins that the first chapter tells us to “put away” (James 1:21) and ways in which we must be “doers and not just hearers,” (James 1:22) which we discussed last week.  For some reason partiality was a sin that was a higher priority for James to address than the dangerous tongue which he discusses in depth in the next chapter.
 
James takes partiality much more seriously than probably most Christians today take it.  If most of us were making a list of sins, partiality probably would not make it on the list, but as GLBT Christians, it should. In James 2:4, he says the person who does it “judges with evil thoughts” and in verse 6 he describes the partial person as “dishonoring the poor man.”
 
In our view of sin that includes “white lies” and “the seven deadly sins,” one would think showing partiality would barely make it to the status of a white lie.  However, in verses 8-11 James equates partiality with adultery or murder.
 
Why does James emphasize the seriousness of partiality?  At a fundamental level, partiality denies the power of Jesus on the cross.  The sacrifice Christ made in the crucifixion is the great leveler of humanity.  Without it we are all sinners, regardless of what we have done.  Only because of it are any of us redeemed.  Partiality is a way for humans to make themselves elevate themselves or others.  It does it by allowing us to create tiers of people who are holier than others, and tiers of people who are worse sinners than others.  When I claim to be more holy or righteous because of externalities than another believer, I am denying that it is only Jesus on the cross that accomplishes this.  When I claim someone is a worse sinner for whatever reasons, I deny that God has saved me from the exact same place through the death of His son.  When we see each other for who we are in light of Christ’s sacrifices, partiality becomes quite petty.
 
C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory made a powerful and poignant quote about who we are in light of eternity.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…  It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

If we truly see each other in this light, how can we show partiality to each other?
 
Closely related to this is that very simply, we have no justification for partiality.  We had nothing in us that warranted our salvation, yet Christ saved us.  Whatever we can think to hold against someone, God can hold much more against us.  He chooses continually not to.
 
The Bible shows us two types of partiality we should watch out for:  partiality based on appearance or titles and partiality based on sin.  Partiality based on appearance or titles is the partiality specifically addressed in this passage. In a social setting, a school setting, or any other setting we should not show partiality based on the many socioeconomic reasons we contrive to divide ourselves.  Race, fashionable clothes, income, education, etc.  Just because you may be more inclined to be friends with people you are more similar to, there is no justification or reason to look down on someone for these kind of external reasons.
 
Tragically this occurs far too often in many churches.  How often have you seen someone get weird looks because they did not dress well enough for that churches standards, or when was the last time you saw someone being kept at a distance or avoided because they did not meet that churches standard of modesty?  We may not show partiality by bringing the person with the good clothes to the front of the room, but how often do our churches exclude whether directly or indirectly because someone isn’t dressed well enough?  With my particular church we don’t judge people by appearance, but I have seen it many times in other churches.
 
The other partiality mentioned in the Bible is partiality based on sin or perceived sin, which is the most important lesson for us.  Jesus regularly interacted with tax collectors and sinners.  Tax collectors were the worst form of the greedy bureaucrat.  They were known as thieves and extortionists, and they were viewed as traitors who were agents of Rome’s effort to subjugate the Jews.  The word “sinners” is largely a euphemism for prostitute.  It could also refer to people who lived such generally evil lives that they were known by all to be living lives of sin.
 
Matthew 9:10-13 describes the conversion of Matthew/Levi and his subsequent eating and drinking with Matthew’s friends who are described as “tax collectors and sinners.”  This story is told in both Luke and Mark as well.  In Matthew 11:19 it appears that Jesus was known by the people at large as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  In Luke 15:1 Jesus tells the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Prodigal Son after “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.”
 
These were the people who were attracted to Jesus and who he came to preach to.  Much like the pharisees did, it is far too easy for us to look down on and disassociate ourselves from someone because they are a “worse sinner” than we are.  Jesus would have none of that.  If a pastor spent his time with and ministering to cheats and sexually immoral people, would we be able to view him as following the pattern of Christ, or would we criticize him for “putting himself in the way of temptation” or for “not having enough hedges in place to guard against temptation?”  Should churches accept GLBT Christians, or do we know they will be looked down on and judged instead of loved?  Jesus rebuked those who looked down on others as being worse sinners than ourselves.  I believe that many modern Christians need to be similarly rebuked for looking down on GLBT Christians and rejecting them.
 
Everyone who is in the church is a brother—everyone stands on an equal footing before  Jesus Christ.   Wealth, status, social standing, position, appearance—none of these matter except all men should come to Jesus Christ and worship Him.  Everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ bows before Him as Lord.  The charge is clear: believers, those who truly believe in Jesus Christ, are not to show partiality or favoritism. It is strictly forbidden.  Leviticus 19:15 says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” Job 13:10 says “He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality. “

Hearing and Doing the Word

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-27
Continuing our look at James, the above passage is one of the most poignant.  When you come before God’s Word, how do you prepare your heart for reading and doing? James instructs us to receive the Word with quietness, calmness, a pure heart, and with humility. When you read the the Bible at home, when you hear it on Sunday morning, or when a brother or sister in Christ brings the Bible to you in teaching, correction, exhortation, or rebuke, receive the Word with meekness. Pray for a teachable spirit that is willing to discipline itself towards godliness.
Be doers of the Word! James has a strong call (really the thesis statement of the book of James) in the close of chapter one. He warns of false religion, a Christianity filled with marked up Bibles, but not lives marked by doing what the Bible actually teaches. Which one more describes you? Do enjoy memorizing gossipy facts more than you do memorizing the Scripture? Is it easier to discipline yourself to weekly care for your wardrobe than it is to daily spend time in Bible study and prayerful action? All true religion should lead to a deeper relationship with Christ. As we exercise our faith through the book of James, it ought to lead to a closer walk with Jesus, a closer guarding of our tongues, and a greater care for those who can’t care for themselves.
As GLBT Christians, our faith is often brought into question.  Those who question whether we can be true Christians and live a life of homosexuality or bisexuality are deceiving themselves about the Word of God.  Christ brought us a message of peace and love, not of antagonism and anger.  In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

If we both hear the Word and do the Word, we are following the teachings of Jesus, and on the Judgement Day, Jesus will say to us, “We’ll done, my good and faithful servant.”  However, if we listen to the false teachings of Christ that have been defiled by the hearers and not the doers, then we will fall away from God’s grace.  We must persevere, we must hear the word, do the word, and resist the false teachings.  If we do these things and accept the word of God with meekness, then we can be doers of the Word. 
When we hear our detractors, we must be quick to hear the true word of God, slow to speak so that we are not taken by our passions, and slow to anger so that we may prove our heavenly spirit.  When I see news stories like the one this week in which Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk blaming the Oklahoma tornadoes on God’s wrath over the support of GLBT equality, it angers me partly because I know they are wrong and partly because they are merely adding to the suffering of those who have already suffered so much.  I think it should anger most people who believe in the true word of God and the teachings of Christ.  I then calm down and think of what Christ tells us to do and as James tells us, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  For people like Westboro Baptist Church, I can only pray that one day they will see the error of their ways.  It may only come in the afterlife when they are punished for their hatred, but one day, they will realize what they have done wrong.  They have been false teachers the ones that James warns of as followers of a false religion, a Christianity filled with marked up Bibles which only focus on a few incorrectly interpreted passages, but not lives marked by doing what the Bible actually teaches.  
I probably sound judgmental here about WBC, but I don’t mean to sound that way.  I am using them as an extreme example.  I believe strongly in “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” However, I did want to use an example of what I believe James is speaking of in the passage above.  Jesus was a champion of the meek, and I believe that if he walked the earth as a man today, as he did 2,000 years ago, then he would welcome GLBT Christians with open arms.  After all, we are Christians who believe in His core teachings of peace and love.

Testing Your Faith 

My preacher often tells the story that each time he asks his wife what he should preach on this week, she always answers, “The Book of James.”  I’ve yet to hear him preach on the book of James, but there are some wonderful passages in James that I would like to share with you over the next few weeks.  The first passage is known as “Testing Your Faith.”
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
James 1: 5-18
James regards trials of life as inevitable. He says when, not if you fall into various trials. At the same time, trials are occasions for joy, not discouraged resignation.  I know that sounds like a difficult task, but if we believe that God has a plan for each of us, then we know that the trials will lead to something greater.  We can have joy in the midst of trials, because trials are used to produce patience.
Patience is the ancient Greek word hupomone. This word does not describe a passive waiting, but an active endurance. It isn’t so much the quality that helps you sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room as it is the quality that helps you finish a marathon.  The ancient Greek word hupomone comes from hupo (under) and meno (to stay, abide, remain). At its root, it means to remain under. It has the picture of someone under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape. The philosopher Philo called hupomone “the queen of virtues.”
Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal what faith we do have, not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but to make our faith evident to ourselves and those around us.  If trials do not produce faith, what does? Romans 10:17 tells us: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith is built in us as we hear and understand and trust in God’s word.
Trials don’t produce faith, but when trials are received with faith, it produces patience. But patience is not inevitably produced in times of trial. If difficulties are received in unbelief and grumbling, trials can produce bitterness and discouragement.  The work of patient endurance comes slowly, and must be allowed to have full bloom. Patient endurance is a mark of the person who is perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The act of faith and patience is given to us through God’s infinite wisdom.  If we have faith in God, then we can ask his for his guidance.  In my nightly prayers, I always begin with “Lord, please forgive me of my sins.  Help me to be a better person and to follow the path that you have chosen for me.”  God knows that path, and he calls us to follow it. Matthew 7:13-14 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.”
Life is filled with trials and temptations but our faith can guide us through that narrow gate.  We must remain steadfast and patient, for God says we must stand the test to receive the crown of eternal life.  We will be tempted and lured and enticed to follow our own desires, but if that desire is given birth through sins, or if desire gives birth to sin, then we must have the patience to resist.  If we resist, the rewards will be great.
We must remember that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” which comes down to us from our God in Heaven.  So the next time that you are feeling like there is no hope, that the world is against you, or the trials seem too burdensome, rejoice in God and he will lead you through the troubled times.  Have faith and patience and you will receive joys and eternal rewards.


Temptation 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, 

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, 

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ 

and 

“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, 

‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”. Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” 

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:1-11
As the passage above shows, Christ faced temptation, though because he was God in flesh, he only faced temptation by Satan, but was not tempted. Temptation is something we all face as Christians, no matter how long we have been following Christ.  There are a few practical things, however, that we can do to grow stronger and smarter in our struggle against sin. We can learn how to avoid temptation by practicing these five steps.

Recognize your tendency toward sin.
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward avoiding temptation, is recognizing our human tendency to be tempted by our own fleshly desires. Temptation is a given, so don’t be surprised by it. Rather, expect to be tempted. Be prepared for it.

Run away from the temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are face to face with temptation, look for the way out that God has promised and then run as fast as you can.

Resist with the Word of truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.

Though it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Word daily, so that eventually you have so much of it inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes. If you are reading through the Bible regularly, you will have the full counsel of God at your disposal.

Refocus with praise.
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worship to the Lord? Praising God takes your focus off of yourself and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praise. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation. May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start.

Repent quickly when you fail.
In several places the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we all fail from time to time. We fail to flee. Notice I didn’t say, repent quickly if you fail. Having a more realistic view—knowing that at times you will fail—should help you to repent quickly when you do. It is not the end of the world when you fail, but it is very dangerous to persist in your sin. Going back to James 1, verse 15 explains that sin “when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The following prayer may also bring some solace when we face temptation:
Dear Lord, 
You know the temptations that I am facing today. But your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear. I ask for your strength to stand up under the temptation whenever I encounter it. Your Word also tells me you will provide a way out of the temptation. Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to walk away when I am tempted, and the clarity to see the way out that you will provide. Thank you, God, that you are a faithful deliverer and that I can count on your help in my time of need. 
Amen

The Old Rugged Cross 

This is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, hymns. “The Old Rugged Cross” has always been a song that fills my heart with emotions of love, joy, and nostalgia. It’s a very spiritually moving song, and for me it is the epitome of Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to The Lord.

The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

This popular Christian song was written in 1912 by George Bennard, an evangelist and song-leader. Though a native of Youngstown (Ohio), Bennard was reared in Iowa. He retired to Reed City, Michigan, and the town had honored him by maintaining a dedicated museum relating to his life and ministry.

As a Methodist evangelist, Bennard wrote the first verse of the hymn in Albion, Michigan, in the fall of 1912. He was helped by Charles H. Gabriel, a well-known gospel-song composer with the harmonies and it was published in 1915.

The song was popularized during Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns by Homer Rodeheaver and Virginia Asher (members of his campaign staff).

The hymn tells about the writer experienced as a Christian rather than his adoration of God.


The Power of Prayer 


“Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” – Matthew 21:22 

 We can never underestimate the power of prayer. When we are praying according to God’s will, our prayers are unstoppable. Jesus made this promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7).
First John 5:14–15 says, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”
Therefore, we should never give up or back down. We need to keep praying. That is why Jesus said, ” Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8). 
Jesus is very clear that prayer is very powerful, but it’s not for just when we want something for ourselves.  It can also be for guidance or wanting something for others. Often we pray because something bad has happened.  Hardships and tragedies are a constant reminder to keep connected to God through prayer, reading, and reflection. It’s important to keep our hearts open so we may reach out to others who may be in that same kind of situation we found ourselves. In helping them, we provide someone in need with the remedy that will soothe their broken spirit.
To maintain God’s peace, we must give up the need to be right, along with the need to control. We must humble ourselves and give it all to God, trusting that we will be shown the way to whatever it is we need to know, as well as Who is in control. God always answers our prayers, but it might just be “no” on occasion.  The most important thing though is that it is always God’s will.

Psalm 112

Psalm 112

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honor.
The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Reflection

Those who respect God, those who follow the Lord, and love God do not need to live in chronic anxiety of bad news. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians do not need to live in constant, debilitating fear of the unknown, of being discovered.

The pslamist tells us that God has given to the poor. Compared to straight people, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people have little power. The God who reigns over the earth is pouring out blessings on the poor, on the powerless. God’s blessings are being poured out on the Creator’s gay, bisexual and transgendered children. Just one of those blessings is salvation. 

God Loves You

Can a gay person really be saved? What does the Bible really say? According to the Bible, I found that the answer is yes! Furthermore, you don’t have to “stop being gay” in order to be considered righteous by God!

This article is based on two assumptions:

First, God sent his Son into the world for all of us. According to John 3:16, 17 there are no conditions on God’s love. The only condition set on obtaining everlasting life, or salvation, is to believe in Jesus.

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (KJV)

Second, what we are to believe about Jesus is that he died and was raised from the dead on the third day. If we believe this with our hearts and confess with our mouth that “Jesus is Lord” then we will be saved according to the Bible:

Romans 10:9-10

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (KJV)

TRADITIONAL TEACHING: Gays are an abomination…

According to the general Church community gays are an abomination. Gays are told that they have a no hope in God; they will end up like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah; and they are treated as though they embody all evil. A Christian co-worker once told me that the antichrist is going to be a homosexual man. She believed that he was going to be in the closet at first to make everybody like him. She said that when the time comes for him to show his evil he will come out of the closet. I want to proclaim to you that the concept that gays have no hope in God, as gay people, is not a Biblical teaching but a traditional teaching.

Colossians 2:8

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (KJV)

There are many examples of traditional teachings that served no other purpose but to separate people from God.

  1. Galileo discovered that the earth revolved around the sun. The Church considered this heresy according to their misinterpretation of Genesis 1. They sentenced him to life imprisonment under house arrest.
  2. The Church used Genesis 9:21-27 to “prove” that Blacks were cursed by God into a life of slavery in order to justify what was done to them during the plantation days and to justify racism. The fact is that the curse fell upon Canaan, one of Noah’s grandson’s. Canaan was one of four brothers. His three brothers settled in Africa but Canaan settled in the Middle East.
  3. Another example of a traditional teaching with no basis in Scripture is the hatred of Jews. Some think that God condemned the Jews because they killed Jesus. If it were not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there would be no salvation. Jesus himself was a Jew!

Finally, the Church community is wrong when it uses God’s Word to condemn you for being gay. The fact that you care what God thinks about you, proves them wrong! The fact that you have suffered hurt, humiliation, guilt, rejection and shame at the hands of these people proves that they are misrepresenting God!

The God of the Bible is full of justice, mercy and love. Yes, He has gotten and will get angry with people, but this anger is always precipitated by three things: abandoning Him in exchange for another god, abusing others morally, financially, sexually or otherwise, and abusing ourselves in the same manner. You will see this consistent theme from Genesis to Revelation.

SOURCEInspiritus


A Christian Dispute

When it first began, The Rick and Bubba Show was a harmless morning radio show about two Alabama bubbas and the funny stories they told. However, since the death of Rick Burgess’ son several years ago and the election of President Obama, it has become a show about conservative politics and even more conservative religious views. Here are two stories from al.com:

Brandi Burgess, bisexual daughter of Rick & Bubba host: ‘I am praying for my father’

By Brandi Burgess, daughter of Rick Burgess of Rick & Bubba, and an actress and activist living in Philadelphia

I have always believed stories carry healing powers. Bible legends of heroes and outcasts. Fables with neatly packaged morals. That friend at every gathering who lit up the room with fantastical tales, the one who left my sides hurting and my eyes streaming and made me think, “my god this is my life, it is so ridiculous and wonderful.”

My first memories are of me sitting under my father’s radio desk, listening to him talk. Rick Burgess has built an entire career sharing the stories of his life. He has amassed an incredible following, because he speaks his truth. People love him. People hate him. His boldness has always inspired me.

As I grew older I became a prominent character in his stories. I was the exuberant softball player whose passion got her thrown out of games, the angsty teen late to church, the young woman in Israel almost traded in marriage for 40 camels. I was a punch line, a glittering prop, a cartoon.

Then – in his eyes — I failed him.

Gone were the stories of my boyfriends being taken down “to the hunting room” before first dates. I was erased. Recently, I’ve returned, cast as the prodigal daughter.

The story my father tells is one of a lost lamb, covered in shame. In his public musings, he speaks of my sin. Without my consent, he uses me as a cautionary tale.

For the past three years, my father and I have been debating God’s stance on homosexuality. It started with my Instagram post at a Pride parade: a picture of a mother holding a sign saying “I love my gay son.” I got a text demanding its removal: “How dare you compromise my platform!?”, “Remember who you represent.”, “Are you a gay?”

I have been praying, researching and meditating on the many emails, sermons and verses my dad has sent me. I always come back to the same conclusion. Love is love.

I shared this with him. “I love you. I’m sorry. I still love God.” I promised to be discrete.

This led to a constant barrage of shame. “You think you’re so mod, so special. But you’re nothing. You’re typical.”

I blocked everyone in my family from my social media because it was “killing my grandmother.” I grew silent. I mourned my family. I believed I was selfish, a fraud.

I visited home this summer. I wasn’t allowed too close to my siblings, for fear of infecting them with my queerness.

My stepmother took me out to lunch. She told me about a recent vacation with my father. “He couldn’t go in the water. You know he has panic attacks around water ever since your brother drowned.”

Why didn’t I know that? Why couldn’t my father let me hold him, tell me his fear. I would have given him rest, said, “Me too, dad. When I babysit, I have to tell the parents that I can’t take them to the pool. I know exactly how you feel.”

As I was pondering this, Sherri asked me “are you seeing anyone?” I took a deep breath, and held on to hope. The Greek word for hope means “cord.” My dad taught me that.

“Yes. I am. I am deeply in love. It is….not with a man.” I had my speech ready, about fluidity, non-binary queerness, Lin-Manuel Miranda quotes, etc.

“No. You choose this or you choose us. After all your father’s done for you, how could you do this to him?”

I was whisked away to the Rick and Bubba office. Dad was waiting, bible in hand.

I believe that my father’s actions were intended as love. I believe he can’t know how powerfully he hurt me.

My story is not that of all queer people from an evangelical home. I have the privilege of now belonging to a safe community. Yet, I let my father’s message of shame define me. I hated my body, sabotaged relationships, believed I was unworthy of love.

So now, I am writing to the young women who feel like they don’t belong in their bodies, to the boys who want to kiss boys, and those on the spectrum between:

Perhaps you have heard my father on the radio and it makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

I love you. Your worth is untouchable. Find a good friend. Invest in therapy. Dance in the middle of the night and hold yourself accountable to the life you’ve always wanted. At the root of all this hate speech is fear. This is not your fear to carry. Release it.

I am redeemed. I have surrendered to the beautiful mystery of God’s love, have witnessed its vast complexity.

My partner whispers to me as I fall asleep: “Your worth is intrinsic, your beauty immeasurable.” Their love is divine, it is of God. I know this in my bones.

I am telling you this because I can no longer avoid my own eyes in the mirror.

I am praying for my father. I am holding onto hope and it is outstretched toward him. Perhaps he will take hold. Perhaps we will find we were holding the same cord.

Here is an article about her father’s very unchristian response:

Rick & Bubba’s Rick Burgess speaks about his bisexual daughter

Rick Burgess of the Rick & Bubba Show was asked this week to comment on his daughter’s choice to speak out about her bisexuality. He declined, saying “God has given me my own platform in which to clearly state my views on this issue that is impacting our society and the church.”

He and his wife, Sherri, addressed the issue on the radio show this morning.

The comments were largely focused on scripture, and Rick said he hopes his daughter, Brandi Burgess, finds her way back home to God. He said he and Sherri have “taken on the role of the father of the Prodigal Son.”

To Brandi, he said: “I told you before and I’ll say it again you’re my daughter and I will always love you. But I love you enough to tell you the truth. I’m not going to come up with some version of love that really isn’t love at all, that pats you on the back to justify you all the way to hell.”

He said Brandi is misguided.

“This has become a new version of Christianity which is not biblical in any way shape or form,” he said. “Sadly our daughter and others have bought into this new hippie version of Jesus.”

“Quit making up a version of God which is your own – which is idolatry,” he said

Sherri Burgess, Brandi’s stepmother, said she didn’t believe Brandi when she initially said she was bisexual.

“I just didn’t believe it but over time she’s convinced me she really does feel this way,” she said. “This is not a battle between Rick and me and our daughter. It’s a battle between good and evil, the Bible versus the world, God versus the world.”

On Brandi’s comments about her own journey, Rick said “we now release you to that journey and we pray and we hope that it brings you back to repentance.”

Sherri said she advised Brandi not to live according to human passions, but according to God’s will.

“I don’t care if you’re happy. I don’t care if you’re healthy. I care about your eternal salvation,” she said.

“I know there are people out there who really struggle with this and it is hard. But Jesus is there not only to forgive you but to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.”

Rick said “We love her with all our heart and we love her enough to tell her the truth, but in this article instead of declaring the Lord Lord, she’s declared herself Lord.”

He asked people to be kind.

“I would just say again I know how these things can get ugly because Bubba and I have been in the crosshairs … Let’s see if we can stay away from that, please. It may upset you. You may be offended. You may say this is disrespectful, and certainly we’ve gone through those feelings ourselves. But please just understand she’s lost. She’s just got scales on her eyes and she needs those to fall.”

Rick forgets that Jesus condemned divorce, while never condemning homosexuality. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.


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