Tag Archives: Jesus

Second Chances

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Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalms 103

As the new year approaches we often think back on the old. We attempt to think of resolutions to help us correct our flaws, and hopefully, give ourselves a second chance in the new year. We are blessed to have a God who grant second chances. In fact, He grants an infinite number of chances. This is good news because most of us mess up the second chance fairly quickly. One of the amazing facets of God’s character is His incredible patience with us. Psalm 86:15 says it well: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

How many times have any of us done something really stupid, and realize it right after, or right in the middle of it? Do you ever get to feeling like you can’t do anything right, wondering why you bother trying as your going to fail anyway? I’ve had instances when I really didn’t mean to hurt someone, yet I did, and I didn’t know how to set it right. I must admit, I’ve experienced this on more days than I want to admit. It just seems like no matter how hard I try, things just don’t seem to work out, or not that often anyway. Yet, in each instance I look to God for guidance, and he shows me the way.

Just as God is patient and forgiving, He wants His children to be patient with and forgiving of others. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). He gives us second chances, and we must give the same to others. Jesus gives a stern warning to those who refuse to forgive, saying that if we will not forgive others, God will not forgive us. If someone is truly repentant, then we are obligated to forgive. Matthew 18:21-22 says “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness, however, is not the same thing as reconciliation. Many people struggle to find the balance between showing mercy and enabling a harmful person to continue harming. We should forgive everyone who wrongs us, just as Jesus forgives us. Forgiveness is between our heart and God’s, removing any barriers that non-forgiveness brings. When someone continues to unrepentantly violate another person’s boundaries, a wise person learns to set firmer boundaries.

Giving someone a second chance means we give him another chance to earn our trust. But that does not mean we instantly forget what experience has taught us. Trust must be earned over time, and we are foolish if we give trust prematurely. We can have a loving and forgiving heart that also practices wise guardianship over our lives.

When we have wronged someone, we have no right to demand another chance. But we should work to earn another chance by continued demonstration of repentance and change.

God does everything possible to draw us to repentance, offering forgiveness and second chances (2 Peter 3:9). But if we continue to reject Him, the offer is withdrawn and, at death, there are no more chances (Hebrews 9:27). God’s grace is our model. We can offer second chances to others until a healthy relationship is no longer possible.

In this new year, we should try to emulate God more. Just as he gives us second chances, give others a second chance as well. Maybe that someone deserves even more than a single second chance, then offer them more chances as long as they are attempting to do what is right. However, if that person is continuously hurting you, then forgive them and walk away. Just because someone has hurt you, it does not mean that it was intentional. Give them that second chance, just as God would give you a second chance. Yet, when it is intentional hurting, sometimes it is best to just cut ties. It is often difficult to do so, but it is occasionally what is best for both. Sometimes, it’s easy to just cut ties, but evaluate the situation. Could you help that person more by giving them a second chance? If so, then that is what god asks us to do.

Let God give you a second chance in the new year, and resolve to be a better person. Also, try to give someone in your life a second chance, maybe they truly deserve it. I hope each of you has a blessed and happy 2014!


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


Proverbial Giving

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Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 19:17

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 14:31

I have to admit that when I was looking up some commentaries on giving and the Bible, too many of the sources I found focused on giving to the church. I give what I can to church, which is what I think of when the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:12 “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” Many churches though use this as a means of forcing a true tithe of 10 percent. However, even though we are in the season of giving, we should be giving and helping year round to those who need assistance.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us to give to the needy:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-4

Giving is not all about what you give to your local congregation, but what you give to those who are in need. We are to love our fellow man and not judge them. If we look down on the poor, the how can we look up to God. Some people blame God for the misfortunes of the world, I blame those who do not follow the teachings of love and charity. Do you have to be a Christian to have love for your fellow man or to be charitable to the less fortunate? Of course you don’t. But I will say this, too many people who call themselves Christian often follow the proverb “God helps those who help themselves.” The phrase is often mistaken as scriptural, but it appears nowhere in the Bible.

Political commentator Bill O’Reilly employed the phrase, in responding to Jim McDermott, the Democratic U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district, who argued, “This is Christmas time. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family. That’s simply wrong.” O’Reilly argued for a more selective approach to unemployment benefits, and the importance of individual responsibility, concluding “while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?” Political comedian Stephen Colbert parodied him in response, concluding in character, “if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition; and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” Colbert may be a comedian who is often irreverent, but he makes a good point.

For the vast majority of us, misfortune finds us at one point or another. Various people have helped me during those unfortunate times, and I do my best to help those in need when I am able to help. Giving is not just for the red buckets of the Salvation Army during Christmastime bit for all year round. It is also not about gifts and money, because not all of us are able to do so, but it is about giving our love to those around us. Love is the greatest gift we can give.

Peace, love, and charity!


God’s Will

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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

The other day, I was reading an article by Ben Liebing on the blog Thought Catalog called “3 Things Christians Could Learn From Muslims.” The thing is this is an argument that I’ve made before, but I had five reasons. Liebing lists his three: 1) Prayer, 2) The Abaya, and 3) Insh’allah. I will explain these further in a moment, but it wanted to remind my readers who may not be familiar with the Five Pillars of Islam. The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam. The Five Pillars consist of: 1) Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith, 2) Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day, 3) Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy, 4) Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan, and 5) Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca. Liebing’s three things are pretty basic. As Christians, we should take prayer more seriously instead of using it as a last resort. Second, the abaya, the long, flowing, usually all-black robes or coverings worn by the women, are an example of modesty. I agree with his point that often in the West, women and girls tend to dress in what I consider scandalous fashion. I see it each day at school when girls come in with skirts, dresses, or shorts that are entirely too short, or shirts that are entirely too low cut. I, personally, believe in more modest dress. That doesn’t mean, women, or men for that matter, should be covered from head to toe, but there should be a judgement of decency involved. The last point, I will cover later in the post, because it is my main point. To switch gears a bit, I have often told my Christian friends and relatives who harp on the zealous and fundamentalist behavior often shown by the media of Muslims that there are things we can learn about Islam. We can merely look at the Five Pillars to realize that Christians are not so different than Muslims (both claim the same religious heritage and God). The Shahadah is a statement of faith: “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The first of the Ten Commandments is “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3). Furthermore, the New Testament tells us that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. So our own statement of faith is that God is the one true God who “…so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18). The other four Pillars can be more succinctly applied. Salat is the instruction to pray five times a day. Most Christians do this as well, or at least should: we pray as we wake up, give thanks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and pray before bed at night. We also pray five times a day. Zakat is giving alms to the poor, something that Jesus instructs us to do in the Sermon on the Mount: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-4). The last two Pillars are not commanded of us by God, but many Christians feel it shows their faith. We do not fast during the month of Ramadan, but many Christians fast during Lent or at other times of the year. Furthermore, everyone who I have known who traveled on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land has returned with a new and renewed sense of faith. Those are all my reasons for things we should learn from the Islamic faith, but I think Leibing’s third reason is an important one: Insh’allah. Insh’allah is Arabic for “if God is willing.” This a topic that I discussed before when I was studying the Book of James, therefore the rest of this post will be rehashing something I’ve already written about on this blog. However, as I celebrated my 36 birthday yesterday, and “God willing” will celebrate many more, I think it is important to remember that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Because God wills it, our lives are possible and we should thank him each day for our lives, our friends, and our families. There is so much depth to James 4:13-17 to remind us of just what God wills. 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. James chapter 4, 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. In verses 16-17, James reminds 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. With this post, I hope I make one important point: we can learn from others. If our religious hubris follows only what we are told by our preachers and religious leaders, then we are occasionally going to follow false teachers. If we look at the universality of religions around the world we will see that there are certain basic tenets applied by all. A comparison of the Judaic, Christian, and Islamic traditions should strengthen our faith for all three have the basic foundation that God is our ultimate guide and He is our foundation. We should allow His love to shine through us each day.


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.


Eating from the Tree

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Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Genesis 3:1-7

Most of us probably think we know this story. God says, “Don’t eat the apple.” Adam and Eve disobey god and eat the apple — and sin comes into the world. The story has depicted in so many paintings and children’s books that it has become part of our subconscious. We know this story even if we weren’t raised in a church or never opened a Bible in our lives. However, I’d like for us to take a fresh perspective on this passage.

Before I go any further, I should probably say something about myth, which is the type of story this is. Being a myth doesn’t tell us anything about a story’s factuality, but it does mean that people who first told it thought it was true of every human. This is a story that happened, that happens, and that will always happen. As a myth, this passage says as much about us today as it does about Adam and Eve. Just like those earliest humans, each of us has eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Reading the story carefully, what are the consequences of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? God says if we eat of it, then we will surely die. The serpent says we will be like God, knowing good from evil. I believe both God and the serpent told the truth.

Unlike the rest of God’s creations, humans have the ability to know moral good from moral bad. We usually begin to gain this knowledge around the age of four. So eating from the Tree of Knowledge means that each of us is like God in that we know good from evil, but it also means that we will die. This causes profound problems for us.

The first problem is that, while we know good from evil, we don’t always do good. Although we are “like God” in our ability to differentiate between good and evil, we don’t have God’s perspective, so even when we think we are doing good, we make mistakes. This can paralyze us when we need to make decisions about what to do.

The second problem is that we fear death. The fear is not always strong, but the fact of our mortality is always with us, just under the surface. Sometimes the realization that we are mortal can paralyze us. We are afraid to things we know we should, because we don’t want to risk death.

I believe Jesus helps us to overcome these two problems. In the next week or so, we will look at how Jesus counteracts the effects from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.


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.


Remember Who We Are

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And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16

When Michelangelo created a sculpture, he could see the sculpture within the marble before he began. When asked how he created a piece of sculpture, he answered that the sculpture already existed in the marble. God had already created the Pieta, David, and Moses, Michelangelo saw his job as getting rid of the excess marble to reveal God’s creation.

We are the same way. We don’t need to create the perfect “self,” God has already created it. Our perfect self is God’s unconditional love that lives within us. Our job is to allow the Holy Spirit to remove the fearful thinking, limiting beliefs, wrong conclusions about the past, and any other negatives that surround our perfect self, just as Michelangelo removed the excess marble to create his perfect sculptures.

God’s love for His children reaches beyond our behavior, our circumstances and our sin. In her book A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes:

To remember that we are part of God, that we are loved and loveable, is not arrogant. It’s humble. To think we are anything else is arrogant, because it implies that we’re something other than a creation of God. Nothing we have ever done or will do can mar our perfection in the eyes of God. We are deserving in God’s eyes because of what we are, not because of what we do.

What we do or don’t do is not what determines our essential value. It may determine our personal growth, but not our value. That is why God approves and accepts us as LGBT Christians. We were not created in sin; we were created in love.

In reality, our personal spiritual journey, is not so much a journey toward as it is a return to love. It is that same pure, simple, guiltless, perfect love that we came into the world possessing. It’s time to “remember who we are.” We should turn to God and exercise our free will by telling Him that we are willing to look at our lives, our circumstances, our feelings, our relationships differently. This “different look,” with consistent focus and intention, will allow the Holy Spirit to being healing light into our heart and mind. This light will dissolve away all that is not truth, all that is not love, returning us to the true essence of Christ, being one with Him. Then we will experience God’s peace, the peace that cannot be put into words.

We need to remind ourselves that God created us in love and in His image. We have everything we need to overcome the fears that have accumulated in our lives. Through God, we have access to the wellspring of perfect love.


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