Tag Archives: Lord

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!


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.


Healing

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And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you.
Deuteronomy 7:15

You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.
Exodus 23:25

I still have a bad cold, though it is getting better. I had planned to write a post continuing the topic of temptation, but I just haven’t felt like typing much. Since the time in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God there has been sickness on earth. Sometimes we suffer from a common cold virus (as I do now) or maybe we are sick with a more serious disease. Regardless of the type of sickness; there are many Bible verses for the sick. I have included two such verses above. I hope that you are all doing well, and may God bless each of you.


The Faith of a Centurion

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When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Matthew 8:5-13

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

Luke 7:1-10

In the original language, the importance of this story for LGBT Christians is much clearer. The Greek word used in Matthew’s account to refer to the servant of the centurion is pais. In the language of the time, pais had three possible meanings depending upon the context in which it was used. It could mean “son or boy;” it could mean “servant,” or it could mean a particular type of servant — one who was “his master’s male lover.” Often these lovers were younger than their masters, even teenagers.

To our modern minds, the idea of buying a teen lover seems repugnant. But we have to place this in the context of ancient cultural norms. In ancient times, commercial transactions were the predominant means of forming relationships. Under the law, the wife was viewed as the property of the husband, with a status just above that of slave. Moreover, in Jesus’ day, a boy or girl was considered of marriageable age upon reaching his or her early teens. It was not uncommon for boys and girls to marry at age 14 or 15. Nor was it uncommon for an older man to marry a young girl. Fortunately civilization has advanced, but these were the norms in the culture of Jesus’ day.

In that culture, if you were a gay man who wanted a male “spouse,” you achieved this, like your heterosexual counterparts, through a commercial transaction — purchasing someone to serve that purpose. A servant purchased to serve this purpose was often called a pais.

The word boy in English offers a rough comparison. Like pais, the word boy can be used to refer to a male child. But in the slave South in the nineteenth century, boy was also often used to refer to male slaves. The term boy can also be used as a term of endearment. The term boy can be used in the same way, as in “my boy” or “my beau.” In ancient Greek, pais had a similar range of meanings.

Thus, when this term was used, the listener had to consider the context of the statement to determine which meaning was intended. Some modern Christians may be tempted to simply declare by fiat that the Gospels could not possibly have used the term pais in the sense of male lover, end of discussion. But that would be yielding to prejudice. We must let the word of God speak for itself, even if it leads us to an uncomfortable destination. And to be honest with you, the Greek noun pais is used in the New Testament 24 times and has a range of meanings that include “adolescent,” “child” and “servant.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it appears numerous times and it always refers to a “servant.” There are no occurrences of the term anywhere in the Bible that can be interpreted a referring to the junior partner in a homosexual relationship. However, that does not mean that it is not used to refer to a homosexual relationship in the context of the centurion.

The Bible provides three key pieces of textual and circumstantial evidence. First, in the Luke passage, several additional Greek words are used to describe the one who is sick. Luke says this pais was the centurion’s entimos doulos. The word doulos is a generic term for slave, and was never used in ancient Greek to describe a son/boy. Thus, Luke’s account rules out the possibility the sick person was the centurion’s son; his use of doulos makes clear this was a slave. However, Luke also takes care to indicate this was no ordinary slave. The word entimos means “honored.” This was an “honored slave” (entimos doulos) who was his master’s pais. Taken together, the three Greek words preclude the possibility the sick person was either the centurion’s son or an ordinary slave, leaving only one viable option — he was his master’s male lover.

A second piece of evidence is found in verse 9 of Matthew’s account. In the course of expressing his faith in Jesus’ power to heal by simply speaking, the centurion says, “When I tell my slave to do something, he does it.” By extension, the centurion concludes that Jesus is also able to issue a remote verbal command that must be carried out. When speaking here of his slaves, the centurion uses the word doulos. But when speaking of the one he is asking Jesus to heal, he uses only pais. In other words, when he is quoted in Matthew, the centurion uses pais only when referring to the sick person. He uses a different word, doulos, when speaking of his other slaves, as if to draw a distinction. (In Luke, it is others, not the centurion, who call the sick one an entimos doulos.) Again, the clear implication is that the sick man was no ordinary slave. And when pais was used to describe a servant who was not an ordinary slave, it meant only one thing — a slave who was the master’s male lover.

The third piece of evidence is circumstantial. In the Gospels, we have many examples of people seeking healing for themselves or for family members. But this story is the only example of someone seeking healing for a slave. The actions described are made even more remarkable by the fact that this was a proud Roman centurion (the conqueror/oppressor) who was humbling himself and pleading with a Jewish rabbi (the conquered/oppressed) to heal his slave. The extraordinary lengths to which this man went to seek healing for his slave is much more understandable, from a psychological perspective, if the slave was his beloved companion.

Thus, all the textual and circumstantial evidence in the Gospels points in one direction. For objective observers, the conclusion is inescapable: In this story Jesus healed a man’s male lover. When understood this way, the story takes on a whole new dimension.

Imagine how it may have happened. While stationed in Palestine, the centurion’s pais becomes ill — experiencing some type of life-threatening paralysis. The centurion will stop at nothing to save him. Perhaps a friend tells him of rumors of Jesus’ healing powers. Perhaps this friend also tells him Jesus is unusually open to foreigners, teaching his followers that they should love their enemies, even Roman soldiers. So the centurion decides to take a chance. Jesus was his only hope.

As he made his way to Jesus, he probably worried about the possibility that Jesus, like other Jewish rabbis, would take a dim view of his homosexual relationship. Perhaps he even considered lying. He could simply use the word duolos. That would have been accurate, as far as it went. But the centurion probably figured if Jesus was powerful enough to heal his lover, he was also powerful enough to see through any half-truths.

So the centurion approaches Jesus and bows before him. “Rabbi, my . . . ,” the word gets caught in his throat. This is it — the moment of truth. Either Jesus will turn away in disgust, or something wonderful will happen. So, the centurion clears his throat and speaks again. “Rabbi, my pais — yes, my pais lies at home sick unto death.” Then he pauses and waits for a second that must have seemed like an eternity. The crowd of good, God-fearing people surrounding Jesus probably became tense. This was like a gay man asking a televangelist to heal his lover. What would Jesus do?

Without hesitation, Jesus says, “Then I will come and heal him.”

At this point, the centurion says there is no need for Jesus to travel to his home. He has faith that Jesus’ word is sufficient. Jesus then turns to the good people standing around him — those who were already dumbfounded that he was willing to heal this man’s male lover. To them, Jesus says in verse 10 of Matthew’s account, “I have not found faith this great anywhere in Israel.” In other words, Jesus holds up this gay centurion as an example of the type of faith others should aspire to.

Jesus didn’t just tolerate this gay centurion. He said he was an example of faith — someone we all should strive to be like.

Then, just so the good, God-fearing people wouldn’t miss his point, Jesus speaks again in verse 11: “I tell you, many will come from the east and the west [i.e., beyond the borders of Israel] to find a seat in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs [i.e., those considered likely to inherit heaven] will be thrown into outer darkness.” By this statement Jesus affirmed that many others like this gay centurion — those who come from beyond the assumed boundaries of God’s grace — are going to be admitted to the kingdom of heaven. And he also warned that many who think themselves the most likely to be admitted will be left out.

For most Christians, the debate over the sexuality of the centurion would be a non sequitur, but for LGBT Christians, it is quite significant. First of all, Jesus did not care what the relationship was between the soldier and his servant. Jesus saw someone in need, and he answered that need. Second, Jesus did not condemn the soldier, nor did Matthew or Luke when writing about the soldier and his, quite possible, homosexual relationship with his servant. They had the chance to condemn the obviously loving relationship, but they did not. Jesus healed the servant, without comment on the relationship. If he felt it necessary to comment on the relationship, then why did he not do so? I do not think that if early Christians condemned homosexuality, as so many claim, that Jesus, Matthew, or Luke would not have passed on the opportunity to comment on this.

The most important lesson is not to get stuck on the superficial issues, such as sexual orientation. I spent the majority of this post looking at the relationship to seek a connection with LGBT Christians, but it is really not the most important part of these passages. The essential part is that the centurion relied on the most important issue that faces us and that is faith in Jesus Christ. The centurion believed that Jesus could heal his beloved, with just His word, the command that he be healed. That is tremendous faith. Jesus even said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” The Bible is very clear about faith. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”


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.


The Prayer of Faith

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Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:13-20

James ends his epistle with a discussion on prayer. Prayer is communication or communion with God. It can be a petition or an appeal to Him confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness. It can be conversation with Him giving Him praise for showering us with blessings.

It can be an outpouring of thanksgiving from the innermost part of our heart. It can be a request for help or assistance for us or for someone else. It is talking to our Heavenly Father just as we talk to people around us.

Sometimes when we pray to God, we might think that He is not listening because we do not get immediate response or answer to our prayer. The Old Testament tells us that David was praying to God for help because his enemies were fighting with him, but he felt his prayer was not being heard. David said, “When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother” (Psalm 35: 13, 14).

God does hear each and every one of our prayers; however, some of them are denied for reasons we do not understand. Maybe the timing is bad or the request can be met in a better and more beneficial way. We must realize that we do not always know what is good for us.

It would be wonderful and our life would be so simple and non-stressful if we could only accept God’s answers the way children do. If we could only have the faith of a child and accept when we don’t get our way, through faith, believe God has something better.

There are times we pray for ourselves and there are times we pray for other people. We are not being selfish when we pray for ourselves. God knows our needs and He knows our wants. These two things don’t always match and many times our wants are not good for us, therefore, we don’t get what we ask for.

Should we stop praying when we don’t get results as we think we should? Are we to believe in our heart that God is not listening; He doesn’t care, the request is too small or too big, we are not worthy, or we are asking for the impossible?

The truth is that we should never stop praying just because our prayer is not answered on the first go-around. God is always listening and in fact He knows what we are going to ask for even before we ask. He cares about every facet of our life and nothing is too small or too big.

Since He created us, we are His child and He cares for us just as we as earthly parents care for our children. We should never be concerned that our request or prayer is impossible because “….with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Some people feel that it is not proper for them to pray for themselves. They believe that it is a selfish act so they ask others to pray for them or to keep them in their prayers. James penned these words: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (James 5:13). People face different mountains of suffering. One could be suffering from a sickness or an illness of some nature. The physical body could be hurting or the mind could be confused.

James goes on to say, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (v. 13). As a child of God, we are blessed in many ways. First of all, God has given us the breath of life. He keeps our heart beating 24 hours each day. He has given us an earthly family who loves us and cares for us. We have food to eat, clothes to wear, a shelter in which to live, a means of earning a living, numerous material things to enjoy, and a Savior who loves us so much He took all of our sins and placed them at the foot of the Cross.

All of us have been sick at one time or another, but how many times have we called the elders of the church? James said, “Is anyone among you sick? Let Him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). People should request the services of the minister when they are in need. In some churches, the minister and the elders will respond to a call from the sick person. It is the duty of the sick person to notify the church of their condition so that they can be placed on the prayer list and prayed for during the service or prayer meeting.

James says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” You might ask about the “prayer of faith” as to what it means. Prayer is talking intimately with God and “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It is mandatory that the person praying and the person being prayed for have a lively faith.

Faith in itself does not heal, but it is God who does the healing. Our prayers are the beginning of the healing process. God waits for our prayers which are asked “….in the name of the Lord” (v. 14) before he steps in to take care of our requests. He answers our prayers according to His will.

James goes on to tell us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v. 16). Who is a righteous man? The word righteous indicates that the man is honest, good, upright and honorable in the sight of Almighty God.

No man or woman is perfect “….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but Jesus made it possible for us to talk to God and ask for forgiveness. A righteous person who has sinned will ask for forgiveness either privately or publicly. A righteous person reflects the image of his Creator. God can and will work through a righteous person and bring about marvelous happenings.


Patience Is Suffering

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

James 5:7-12

So many of the situations that we find in life are endurable because we know what their end will be. We need to be patient, patient for the Lord. As a gay Christian this is not something that is going to be easy. We get persecuted for what we believe, some places we are ridiculed for our beliefs, and others, heterosexual Christians or LGBT non-believers reject us for our beliefs. But, we must stand firm!

Waiting is hard.

In the black nights of suffering, when ominous clouds come in from the west, it’s hard to know whether those clouds bring nourishing rain or devastating tornado that destroys a all in its path. We have no way of knowing how long we’ll be suffering from a disaster or how long our heart will ache.

Some might question why Job is given to us as a second example of patience since he did impatiently demand that God explain his sufferings to him (for example, Job 6). But Job is an excellent paradigm for us because though he questioned God, he never gave up his faith. Also, if Job is our example we can see that even the most patient of God’s servants will not be perfect until they are glorified. Finally, because Job was one of the first to anticipate the final judgment, he serves as an example for us who also await that day (Job 19:25–26).

We need to love one another, stop talking negatively about one another. Watch our tongues because what we say usually is what is in our hearts. We shouldn’t be speaking with hate, condemnation, gossiping just to tear some one else down.

We need to stand for the Lord, let others see Him in us! No matter what the consequences we need to be bringing others to Him and not making others start thinking that if that is what a ‘Christian’ is like then what’s the point?

Just do our best to remember that we shouldn’t have to ‘swear’ about these things…simply say Yes or No. That we are followers of Jesus because He has died for our sins and if we believe and have repented for our sins He will give us eternal life! This is why we follow. No arguing with others about it, no ‘swearing’ about it. Just let it be…Yes or No.

P.S. I apologize for the late post. It’s been an incredibly busy weekend, and I did not have computer access until just now.


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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