Tag Archives: Christ

In the Spirit of Christmas

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As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14: 1-12

This may sound odd, mainly because I love Christmas, but most members of the church of Christ do not celebrate Christmas as a truly religious holiday. Since the bible does not give us a specific time to celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate it everyday of the year. My family has always celebrated Christmas though, and it’s always been a special time of year for us.

We’ve always seen it as a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men and women agree to stop work, spend time together, and celebrate the joys of giving, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds us of the joy that surrounds us.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you? Are you willing to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world? Are you willing to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground? Are you willing to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy? Are you willing to realize that probably the reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life? Are you willing to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness? Are you willing to put aside your judgement of your fellow man, and realize that God does not wish us to judge one another? Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to consider the needs and the desires of of humankind young and old? Are you willing to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough? Are you willing to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts? Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world–stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death–and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

And if you keep the spirit of Christmas for a day, why not always? We should open our hearts and minds to all of humankind and be blessed that we are on this earth another day. We should celebrate the love that Jesus Christ brought us each and every day of our lives, not just on December 25. I had planned to expand my post from Friday and discuss more about those who pass judgement on the LGBT community, but I chose to focus on the good that we can do as people. There will always be those who pass judgement on us, but as the passage above states, they will be held accountable for their actions.

At Christmastime we should rejoice and love our fellow man, whether he or she loves us or not. We need to be the better people, for as the angels declared to the shepherds who were watching their flock outside of Bethlehem:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14


TMI: War on Christmas 2013

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1. Which religion or faith do you belong to, if any?

I am a Christian and a member of the churches of Christ. A lot of churches of Christ don’t celebrate Christmas, although my family always has. It’s not considered a religious holiday by some in the church of Christ because there is no mention in the Bible of when it should be celebrated. Most of the churches of Christ look upon Easter as the most important religious day.

2. What is your opinion of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays?

If I know someone is a Christian, I happily say Merry Christmas, but for those who are of other faiths or of no faith at all, I prefer Happy Holidays. When I used to work in retail. I always preferred Happy Holidays because it was shorter then saying ” Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Besides, the song “Happy Holidays” is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.

3. Holiday music on the radio? When and how much?

I love it. When I am not listening to NPR in the mornings and afternoons to and from school, I listen to the all Christmas music station. It plays Christmas music from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’m not a fan of every song they play, but Christmas music just puts me in a good mood.

4. When do you start decorating? Do you?

I usually decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year has been so busy that I haven’t been able to decorate much. A once I don’t think I have any specific plans this weekend, I am hoping that I can get the house decorated on Saturday.

5. White lights or multi colored?

I much prefer white lights. My mother has always preferred multi-colored lights, but I think the white lights are more elegant and classy.

6. Gift cards, cash or actually shopped-for presents?

I rarely give gift cards, never give cash, and I either shop for presents or make them. One year I did a basket of homemade cookies and mints for everyone for Christmas. Other times I have designed and made jewelry. I feel like thing that I made have more heart to them.

7. Christmas cards and or family update letters are…not really for me. I’m just not organized enough to send out a bunch of Christmas cards and I find most family update letters to be a bit tacky.

8. Snow is…wonderful to an Alabama boy because it is so rare. In my lifetime, I’ve only known it to snow once at Christmastime and that was actually a few days before Christmas, but there was just a few spots of snow still on the ground on Christmas Day.

9. Have you been a good little boy or girl this year?

Honestly, I think I have been a good little boy this year. Have I been naughty? Well, only a little. For the most part, I have really worked on being a better and more caring and compassionate person, which I hope I have succeeded at being.

10. RAPID FIRE FAVORITES:
1. Food: Christmas cookies
2. Dessert: Pecan pie
3. Drink: Champagne
4. Holiday movie: Tie between “Christmas in Connecticut” and “Holiday Inn”
5. Holiday music: “O Holy Night,” “Happy Holidays,” “Silver Bells,” and “Santa Baby”
6. Holiday tradition: Christmas Dinner with my family.

BONUS
Christmas sex: What have you done under the mistletoe? Have you caught daddy kissing Santa Claus? Have you done it a santa suit? Did you come down the chimney? Just how merry have you made Santa’s helpers?

Christmas is probably the only time of year that sex is not on my mind, so really none of the above. Although I’d love to wake up Christmas morning to find what’s in the above picture under my tree


Thanksgiving

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Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

Thankfulness in God’s Word is a major theme throughout the Bible. But, the actual first official ceremony of Thanksgiving in the Bible is listed in Leviticus 7:11-15. “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning.” God ordained a practice of specific instructions to show gratitude. Clearly, gratitude is the door that opens peace in our hearts. God’s design for mankind is that giving thanks means receiving peace. Giving thanks in the Bible is the formula to peace because when we are truly thankful to God, we are expressing our trust in Him.

The theme of thanks in the Bible continues from the commanded thanksgiving sacrifices to the beautifully written Psalms of praise and thanks to our Lord. “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1) And, Thanksgiving in the Bible continues to be practiced with Christ, giving thanks at the Lord’s supper. Paul wrote many times of his gratitude to Christ and for his gratitude to the followers of Christ. “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.” (Philemon 1:4)

To celebrate a day of thanks is to take a day and clearly honor God in praise for the enormous blessings He has bestowed upon us. As Thanksgiving facts reveal a Biblical foundation, we know that this holiday must have more to do with honoring God than any other fact. When we look back at history, thanksgiving in the Bible, and the celebration that first took place in this country, we find that God’s people are to turn their hearts to Him, thanking Him for all things in all circumstances. Perhaps one of the most quoted scriptures in the New Testament says it best. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

Let us not only be thankful only one day a year but celebrate the greatness of our God with thanks everyday! I have realized in the last months or so, just how thankful I am to God for all that he has done for me. I thank Him for my family. I thank Him for my friends, new and old. I thank Him for my wonderful neighbors. I thank Him for this blog and the many people he has brought into my life because of it. I’m thankful to those people for sharing with me their hopes and dreams and allowing me to share mine. I thank Him for the many blessings he has bestowed on me. I thank God for his wisdom and for showing me, and all of us, His infinite love. I feel truly blessed, and I thank God for His bounty of blessings. It’s not just one day of the year, I am thankful to God each and every day.


A Good Foundation

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<blockquote>”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Luke 6:46-49

Sunday two weeks ago (I was sick last weekend), we looked at two of the problems that face us as people who have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first problem is that even though we are “like God” in our ability to know right from wrong, we don’t always know what the best thing is to do. Sometimes we simply do bad things, knowing they’re bad. But, more often, we try to do good, and it turns out for evil, because our perspective is too small.

In the above passage of scripture, Jesus tells us how he can help us with that problem. The earliest disciples gathered around Jesus because they recognized him as a teacher of God’s wisdom. In the Gospel of John, we are told they thought of him as God’s Word made flesh–Holy Wisdom in human form.

Today, we can read Jesus’ teachings and find the same wisdom in them that his earliest followers did. Thanks to the writers of the Gospels, we can be Jesus’ disciples and he can be our teacher, even in the 21st century. This is how Jesus helps us with one of the big dilemmas of having eaten for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Instead of being stuck with our own small wisdom, we can build on the foundations of Jesus’ teachings. We can become wise people, who build our houses on rock. A house built on rock is more likely to be built well, and the same is true of our lives. If we build our lives on the rock of Christ’s teachings, we will more consistently do good instead of evil, and our lives will be sturdier.

I’m not implying that studying Jesus’ teachings is the only way to know how to do good more consistently. There are other teachers who taught us right from wrong. The Gospels are only 4 of the 66 books of the Bible, and God has given us other wise people to whom we should pay attention. However, listening to Jesus gives us a good foundation to build upon.

Many in the LGBT community, turn away from God because their congregation or people claiming to be Christians rejected them. I think one of the greatest things my parents did was to raise me in a loving church community. Not all churches of Christ are as loving and as accepting as mine was. I’m really not for sure how accepting they would be if they knew I am gay; however, with the love I have seen in my church, I think most members of my church would accept it. They certainly would not ask for me to leave the church. I was taught a good foundation for my faith, and I believe that it is that foundation that has kept my faith strong and unwavering.


Be Your Own Master

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also.

Genesis 38:8-10

This is not my usual Sunday post, but I think it is certainly worth discussing. My post on Friday (Possible TMI…) mentioned that I had spent Thursday night drinking wine, watching porn, and masturbating. Some people might think that is contrary to my character as a Christian. As one anonymous commenter wrote:

Joe, As Christian, how do you reconcile masturbation and faith? As Catholic, I get incredibly guilty for wanking. Would like to know what you think and your experience.

Our bodies are a wonderful thing, and God created it as such to help us in many ways. As a Christian, though not Catholic, I do not believe that masturbation is a sin, though it can turn sinful. I didn’t feel that I could fully discuss this issue in a reply to a comment, so I promised to devote my Sunday post to the issue at hand (pun not intended).

So what does the Bible say? Many people would point to the story of Onan from Genesis, quoted above. Onan’s name is often used synonymously with masturbation, i.e. onanism. In the scripture, Onan was supposed to dutifully sleep with his late brother’s wife to produce an offspring for his brother. However, Onan decided that he did not want to produce an offspring that would not be his, so he ejaculated on the ground. There is great debate surrounding this scripture as an argument against masturbation, because Onan did not actually masturbate. He did actually have sex with his brother’s wife. The act he committed is actually called “coitus interruptus.” Yet, Christians who use this scripture refer to the self-pollution of Onan as an argument against the act of masturbation. Many Christian pastors have tried in vain to find mention of masturbation in Scripture so they can condemn and forbid it. Unable to find any verses on the matter, some have foolishly used the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6-10 as their proof text. To argue against masturbation with Genesis 38:6-10 is as ludicrous as arguing for masturbation with Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

Despite the widespread approval and practice of masturbation, people persist in feeling varying degrees of guilt about it. A 1994 University of Chicago survey used as the basis for the book Sex in America cites that about half of all men and women who masturbate feel at least a little guilty at least some of the time. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior released in 1993 cited that just 13 percent of Protestants think masturbation is a natural part of adult life.

Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression. God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings. He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-sufficiency. Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others. At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.

We know we are born and die sexual beings. The capacity for marital sexuality only occurs through a set period of adult life – if it happens at all. Therefore, isn’t it wonderful that God would create a self-regulatory system where we can count on ourselves to experience the benefits of sexual release when it is not appropriate for us to be in sexual relationship with another person? Isn’t it wonderful that we would have a natural drive to self-explore – getting to know ourselves – as we prepare to share a sexual life with another person? If approached within this context, masturbation can be used to help our teens and single adults keep the law of chastity in ways that empower themselves regarding knowing and controlling their sexual drives/cycles and owning their sexuality in non-shaming and normative ways. For single adults who are not married, masturbation provides this release and its healthy ramifications. It can help with loneliness when single.

There are health benefits associated with masturbation:

1. It prevents cancer. A 2003 Australian study found that men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer. Disease-causing toxins build up in your urogenital tract and when you masturbate, you flush these toxins out of your system, says Brame.
2. It makes your erections stronger. As you age, you naturally lose muscle tone … even down there. Regular sex or masturbation works out your pelvic floor muscles to prevent erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
3. It increases your immunity. Ejaculation increases levels of the hormone cortisol, according to Jennifer Landa, M.D., a specialist in hormone therapy. Cortisol, which usually gets a bad rap as a havoc-wrecking stress hormone, actually helps regulate and maintain your immunity in the small doses. “Masturbation can product the right environment for a strengthened immune system,” she says.
4. It boosts your mood. Masturbating releases a slew of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin that lift your spirits, boost your satisfaction, and activate the reward circuits in your brain.

I understand that like any normal human tendency, masturbation can become an unhealthy behavior. This is also true for eating – yet we don’t couch our physical desire to nourish ourselves with food as sinful. I believe it is unhealthy for masturbation to be done in a way which interferes with your daily functioning or quality of relationships.

As a single man, I, like most other men, have urges and sexual needs/wants. I believe that God works in mysterious ways, thus allowing us sexual release as a solo activity. So let me look,at this issue from a more theological perspective. I will turn to Rachel Held Evan’s blog and her guest blogger, Richard Beck, whom she had write about the subject. Richard Beck is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. (Abilene Christian University is a private university located in Abilene, Texas, affiliated with Churches of Christ. Most Church of Christ schools require their faculty to be active members of the Church of Christ.) He is the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality and The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience. Richard is married to Jana and they have two sons, Brenden and Aidan. He blogs at Experimental Theology.

First, I’d like to bring up the issue of Internet pornography and its relationship to masturbation. With the rise of Internet porn, the consumption of pornography has reached unprecedented levels. And it’s difficult, to say the least, to reconcile that consumption and the support it gives to the adult entertainment industry with the Christian commitments of justice and love. To be sure, many will battle with pornography all their lives, like an alcoholic fights daily for sobriety. There must be grace for our failures, but this is a battle that must be fought.

And beyond issues related to justice, psychologists are only just beginning to grasp the full impact of pornography upon our brains and how those effects are creating sexual and relational dysfunction. For an introduction to the issues psychologists are beginning to examine see Gary Wilson’s widely-viewed TED Talk.

That issue duly noted, let me get to my main points:

I think it is important to recognize how masturbation functions in the life of those who are single. And even for those who eventually get married, we need to note how marriage has become increasingly delayed in Western cultures. A 2011 Pew Report found that the median age of (first) marriages was 29 for men and 27 for women. In the 1960s the median averages for both genders was in the early 20s, and in ancient cultures we married as teenagers. Given this delay, how are we to manage our sex drive from the onset of puberty to wedding night? To say nothing of the sexual challenges involved in lifelong singleness.

All that to say, masturbation may be a vital aspect in how single persons cultivate and achieve sexual chastity. That is, masturbation may be a critical part in how a single person achieves emotional and sexual well-being if they hold to an ideal that sexual relations should only take place within a covenanted, life-long, monogamous relationship.

In short, I don’t think the physical act of masturbation should be moralized. The real issue in this conversation, the big elephant in the room, is Jesus’ prohibition against lust (cf. Matt. 5.27-28). Masturbation per se might not be a sin but what about the attendant lust? Can you masturbate to the point of orgasm without lust being a part of that experience?

And yet, I think this observation shifts the topic away from masturbation toward a theology of lust. What does it mean to lust? Should transitory erotic feelings be considered lust? Or is lust something more obsessive, persistent, greedy, covetous, acquisitive, and possessive in nature?

Because if transient erotic feelings are not lust then let me make a somewhat counterintuitive point: masturbation might be a great tool to combat lust.

Sexual arousal can be come psychically consuming, and debilitating, if not given a quick physiological outlet. We’ve all experienced this. When sexually aroused, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Our mind is fixated on the object of arousal. And trying to repress these feelings often exacerbates them. How, then, to get past these feelings and impulses? Physiological release can help here. Masturbate, clear your head, and move on with your day. When masturbation is treated in this almost perfunctory manner, as a physiological catharsis, it can be a very healthy means of quickly ridding yourself of unwanted sexual feelings and distractions.

To be sure, if masturbation isn’t being used in this perfunctory manner and is being accompanied by regular and possessive fantasies toward someone who isn’t, say, your spouse, then more might need to be said, (along with what I said above about pornography). But again, the issue then is less with masturbation than lust and how that lust might be symptomatic of relational issues that need attention.

Remember, we need to master our behavior, or else sin will master it for us. Even a good thing can become sinful without the right heart. Even if we don’t believe that masturbation is a sin, if it is controlling us then it is a sin.

1 Corinthians 6:12 –”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will nor be dominated by anything.

Even though there are scriptures used as an argument against masturbation, they do not necessarily make masturbation as a sin very clear. Yet, it is important that a person look at the reasons for masturbation to see if the desire behind the act is actually a sin. Some Christians believe that, because masturbation does not hurt others, it is not a sin. However, other Christians ask a person to look deeper within to see if masturbation is building a relationship with God or taking away from it.

I see masturbation as a release. Yes, lust is involved, which is where the porn comes into play. Do I believe this separates me from God? No, I don’t believe it does. I do not sleep around with every man I meet, not that I meet that many. I also don’t have anyone to whom might be a potential partner. Therefore, I masturbate. It curves my lust, makes me a little less lonely, and it boosts my mood so that I remain a more positive individual. I do not find masturbation to be a sin; otherwise, there will be no men in heaven and relatively few if any women. I’m sure there are some people who’ve never masturbated, but they are few and far between.

Related Sources:

-Christians & Masturbation: Seven Perspectives – Rachel Held Evans (rachelheldevans.com/blog/christians-masturbation)
-Masturbation And The Bible by Lambert Dolphin (http://www.ldolphin.org/Mast.shtml)
-Bible Verses About Masturbation (http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Masturbation)


Worry! Worry! Worry!

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

It seems that, sometimes, all we can do is worry. How are we going to pay the bills? When will the government reopen? How bad is Tropical Storm Karen going to be when it hits? How can I deal with he frustrations I’m having with the apathy of my students? There is so much to worry about. Everywhere we turn there is a new fear, concern, or trouble. With the state oft he world today, and the state of our own country, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the fearful thing around us. If we aren’t careful, we can spend ever waking our of everyday worrying about or being afraid of something.

Be encouraged! In the above passage, Paul encourages us to stop our needless worrying and deliver those worries to God through prayer. It is good to know that in these uncertain and ever changing times that God remains unchanged. It really doesn’t matter what the situation is, God is and always will be on control.

Be thankful! Paul also reminds is to submit our prayers to God with thanksgiving. We always have tot hank God for His grace and mercy. Chief among our requests should be that God’s will be done.

Be peaceful! If we are encouraged and thankful, our hearts and minds will be guarded by he peace of God, a peace that comes from knowing that God is interested in us and the things that happen to us.

So think about this: if your heart is full of worry, then you leave no room for the peace of Christ.


The Great Commission

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Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 16-20

Since I have been writing about my religion, beliefs, and faith on this blog, I have often encountered those who either do not understand how a relatively intelligent person could still have faith or how I could remain faithful when so many “so-called” Christians spew hateful messages against the LGBT community. The evil spewed by people who call themselves Christians, yet do not follow the teachings of Christ, leaves a bad taste int he mouth of many in the LGBT community. Bad experiences can turn people from their faith, but I have kept mine and encourage my readers to keep theirs. For me, any person who calls themselves a Christian, yet spews hate and judgment, are not true Christians and their behavior is unforgivable. Instead of following the “Great Commission” to bring others to Christ, they are driving people away. Therefore, in my humble opinion, they are doing Satan’s work, not the work of God.

I am not a Christian because I believe that Christians have a monopoly on moral values and righteous living. I believe that all religions have their place, and all religions and ethical philosophies that I have studied have at their heart the ethics of reciprocity, more commonly known as the golden rule (One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself). I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. My faith has been made even stronger by the wonderful church community in which I was raised.

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It is not up to us to prove that Christians have the exclusive rights moral behavior. However, what we should do is to encourage those around us to keep the faith and allow Jesus into our lives. W e need him and he can bring us great comfort. Just because someone claims to be a Christian, does not mean that they follow the teachings of Christ. Christianity is not about “being holier than thou,” but instead, it’s about Christ. It is about God’s infinite love.

By not focusing on the behavior of other Christians, we can focus on the most important thing: Jesus Christ. When we talk to others about our faith, we should have to defend Christianity, we should talk about our personal faith, because we are the Christian we know best.


Laboring in God’s Word

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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:1-14

When you read what Philip said in verse 8 of John 14 does it seem like an unreasonable request? To the contrary, one might conclude that it was commendable. After all, what could be wrong with expressing a desire to see the Father whom Jesus often spoke about? Furthermore, Jesus had just mentioned that He would soon depart to go to the Father’s house and would come back for the disciples to take them there (John 14:1-3). No doubt this peaked the natural curiosity of Philip. What is the Father like? Yet, when we look at the reply of the Lord to Philip it is troubling. Philip was not commended, he was rebuked for his ignorance.

The end of the Lord’s public ministry was near and he did not fully grasp the most vital truth concerning Jesus – the manifestation of His Divine nature, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Jesus had given proof of His Divine power throughout His ministry. Was it not Philip who said, “we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write” (John 1:45). This led me to question how well the disciples of Jesus in our day know him? Do they understand all of the necessary truths that reveal the person and work of Christ revealed in God’s Word.

The early church father Jerome said, “to be ignorant of the Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ”. What I learn from the inquiry of Philip and Thomas (John 14:5) is that the duration of our exposure to truth does not guarantee that we are mature in the faith.

Last Sunday I mentioned that we must be hearers and doers of the Word. In Jesus we have the opportunity to overcome the nature of man. We can have the victory over the flesh by learning and applying the words of the truth. The path we are to follow is not the traditions of man, but the truth of the gospel of Christ. Seek His ways and you will find a path where there is no defilement. We must give ourselves to the “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

As far as I can tell the problem of Biblical ignorance is not due to a lack of resources. We have Bible dictionaries, systematic theology books, commentaries, lexicons, study Bibles, Christian internet web sites, books and more books from gifted authors. There is no end to the study aids at our disposal. However, all of these are of no use if we do not utilize them. They are tools to Bible understanding, but tools perform no work unless they are in the hands of the workman.

To study means to labor to discover the correct interpretation of a text. The problem is not ignorance, the problem is laziness and misplaced priorities. Some are like little babes who cannot feed themselves. This crowd is dependent on the spiritual food that comes only from the study others have done. The voice of their favorite Bible teacher has replaced the voice of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to the truth of His inspired Word through diligent personal study. Others are like Martha who was “troubled with many things (Luke 10:41).”

The maddening pace of the modern age is taking a toll on our lives, not only physically, but spiritually. We must learn from the great example set by Mary who “sat at Jesus feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:39). Take time today to sit alone at Jesus feet with your Bible and learn from Him. Consider this thought from the pen of William Whitaker, “God willed to have His truth, so sublime, so heavenly, sought and found with so much labor, the more esteemed by us on that account. For we generally despise and scorn whatever is easily acquired, near at hand, and costs small or no labor. But these things which we find with great toil and much exertion, those, when once we have found them out, we esteem highly and consider their value proportionally greater” – Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker 1588.


Questions and Answers

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A church of Christ minister emailed me a few weeks ago with some question regarding my posts about gay Christians and my views about the Church of Christ. In his comment, he stated:

I found your site interesting to come across. There certainly should be a place of discourse about homosexuality. I am a minister in the Church of Christ, and I do find that all sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and contrary to Christ’s words. I do know that many Christians can struggle with difficulties that make them feel on the edges of their church and faith to which I can relate. I think we can help each other. I do have some questions that I hope you can consider and respond.

In his comment and his subsequent email, he asked a number of questions which I will endeavor to answer. In my first email to him, I wrote:

I have struggled for many years to try and understand why God created me in a way that I do not have an attraction to the opposite sex, but an attraction to my own sex. I once asked myself if God made a mistake, but God does not make mistakes, therefore he had a purpose in the way he created me and those like me. I prayed and meditated. I read the Bible, searching for meanings of passages that were difficult to understand, even though some stated that their meaning was very clear and simple. God guided me in that study, as he guides me throughout life. I came to understand and believe that God created me the way I am, that the verses about homosexuality do not pertain to true love between human beings of the same sex, but as perverse sexual acts that are contrary to the teachings of Christ and the worship of Christ.

In what I have read of your views on homosexuality, which I plan to take a closer look to, you equate homosexuality with sexual practices only. Homosexuality is not all about sex. I can be a homosexual and still not engage in sexual practices. There are many who do. However, we are judged by our perceived sexual lifestyle. I am not denying that I have never fornicated, but I have also sought forgiveness for my prior indiscretions.

In his response, he asked how I knew I was born homosexual. While it is true that most people do not develop sexual attraction until puberty, there is more to being homosexual than sex. Though I won’t claim that I was always aware of my homosexuality, it is more because I did not understand. I had no concept of homosexuality, but I certainly knew that I was different. Most homosexuals felt the same way growing up. Most of us did not have the same interests as other boys. I preferred to play with the girls when growing up. I never enjoyed playing sports, though my parents forced me to. So you might ask, how I came to understand my sexuality. It was not easy. When sexual interests began in puberty, it was an attraction to boys not girls. My dreams and fantasies were about boys. Though I tried to think of girls in the same way, it did not arouse me. It took a lot of internal wrestling to come to terms with my sexuality.

Some of the other questions my commenter had that I would like to address:

What do you think it would be like to be a Christian without the desires of homosexuality? How would life be any better?

If I were not homosexual, then I would not have struggled with coming to terms with being gay and Christian. My parents would not worry about me because their concept of Christianity believes that I am damned to hell. In ways, life would be better, but I am the way God created me. I firmly believe that God created me as a homosexual and guided my strong Christian faith because he had a purpose for me. We all have trials and temptations. God tests our faith, as he did Job and Abraham, and so many others. James 1:2-4 says “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.” However, being homosexual strengthens my faith, not lessens it, and I take joy in that, just as God commands.

With many Christians struggling with temptations of sexual immorality, did you ever see yourself as enslaved your homosexual desires as sin?

Before I studied the scriptures and understood the true meanings of its words, yes, I did feel that I was enslaved by my homosexuality and sin. However, when I studied the true meanings of the words, with faith that God was guiding my study, I came to believe differently. I will not repeat this journey, but instead I urge you to go back and read my post “Abusus Non Tollit Usum.”

Do you still think that sexual desires can be deceptive and entice someone to sin (Jas. 1:14-15, 1 John 2:15-17)?

Yes, I do believe that sexual desire, as well as all other desires of this world, can entice someone to sin. However, this is universal, and does not pertain to homosexuals alone, but to all Christians regardless of their sexuality. When we take verses and place a sexual meaning to them, especially when it has such a wider meaning, then we are perverting the Word of God.

Regarding Jesus, what do you think Jesus means concerning sexual immorality defiling the heart in Mark 7:20-23? What sexual immorality would He have in mind and how would we know what He meant?

This was the last of the questions asked, and I think I deserves a post of its own, so I will continue this next Sunday.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and may God bless us to live in His love.


Boasting About Tomorrow

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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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