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Marriage & Relationship: Dorina’s Testimony & Baptism

For those who followed the Marriage & Relationship Series, you’ll remember my friend Dorina. She joined the #Zoom discussions from Madrid, Spain where she’s been living for the last few years. The discussions did not focus on our personal relationships by design. However, in this recorded YouTube livestream, she shares some of her story before her baptism. Take a listen. Each of the four testimonies shared are encouraging.

Feel free to wish Dorina well on her faith journey in the comments.

 

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 10)

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a foul odor; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left. Even when fools walk on the road, they lack sense, and show to everyone that they are fools. If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post, for calmness will undo great offenses.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as great an error as if it proceeded from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake. Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them; and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them. If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, then more strength must be exerted; but wisdom helps one to succeed. If the snake bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage in a charmer.

Words spoken by the wise bring them favor, but the lips of fools consume them. The words of their mouths begin in foolishness, and their talk ends in wicked madness; yet fools talk on and on. No one knows what is to happen, and who can tell anyone what the future holds? The toil of fools wears them out, for they do not even know the way to town.

Alas for you, O land, when your king is a servant, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your king is a nobleman, and your princes feast at the proper time— for strength, and not for drunkenness! Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. Feasts are made for laughter; wine gladdens life, and money meets every need. Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts, or curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air may carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.

Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2010:1-20&version=NRSV

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 1)

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.

All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow.

All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us.

The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.

I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.

Source: Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%201:1-18&version=NRSV

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reFocus: August 2014

August is my favorite month of the year!

Why?

Thanks for asking! It’s the one month of the year with no holiday other than my birthday. 🙂 It’s not my favorite simply because I’ve learned to pamper myself, but because it’s a dedicated period of refocusing for me. Let’s just say that this is the month I usually recalibrate myself. It’s the time I get super reflective and do life evaluations. I think about the calendar year: Where am I in the process of goals I set for myself? What can I do to close things out before year-end?  I think about what has been accomplished or fallen to the wayside since my last birthday: What have I paid off? What needs paying off? And I think about my over-all life: Where am I? What’s next? What can I do today to get to where I want to be tomorrow?

This August, however, I am not going to focus on all that so much because this year (and last year – since my last birthday) I’ve experienced so much change and have had major adjustments (still ongoing) that thinking about it all again will just exhaust me!

What I do want to focus on is Spirit Harvest. My life business that just won’t take flight.

I want to get back to feeding myself spiritually. I want to get back to overflowing joy and sharing my bounty through my writing. Over the last couple of weeks, I have returned to the most basic element for everyone’s faith walk: I opened my Bible (went to a Bible app on my phone during my morning commute) and just started reading wherever my mind took me.

I don’t remember what the first chapters were, but I do know I needed the messages I received. This week I was lead to Romans. And I felt an overwhelming desire to share the verses that were speaking to me as soon as I could get free of the subway. After a couple of commutes reading, it crossed my mind that it would be great to just share the Word with no commentary. I have nothing to say right now, anyway. I feel as if my wisdom has turned to ashes. But even with this dryness of spirit, I am refreshed and watered by God’s Word. Straight. No fillers. No chasers.

So my challenge to myself for the month of August 2014, is to post a chapter a day. To share with you whatever God leads me to in my musings.

I’m so delighted that Ruth will kick off A Chapter of Day series. It’s fitting since I, too, am a woman looking to exit her desert and enter into a space covered by love.

I would love to hear what your experiences are with the readings this month. Please share and comment.

All of God’s best to you,

Shawnda

LaShawnda at Red Rock Canyon, NV Photo credit: Deidra Wilson Photography
LaShawnda at Red Rock Canyon, NV
Photo credit: Deidra Wilson Photography

 

“When Love Sees You (JESUS)” by Mac Powell

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The people asked for a king: Selling ourselves

God did not create man to dominate other men. Humans were created as sovereign beings with direct access to his and her Creator. We were created to be sovereign leaders of ourselves, partners in marriage, examples of right living to our children and upright representatives in our communities. We were created to live with the knowledge and understanding that God is our King, our Lord, our True Sovereign Leader. He occupies a throne no man can usurp.

Until we attempted to take the throne for ourselves, or alternatively, put someone else upon the throne to rule us. No man can usurp our authority, but we can certainly surrender it.

The most pivotal Bible moment for me in understanding my life today as a black woman in America who is constantly in remembrance of my country’s history of slavery and its legacy of racism, is when I read how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of their jealousy of him. And how that one hateful act eventually led to four hundred years of indentured servitude (slavery) for the Israelites. What struck me in this story is that the Israelites made themselves slaves. They were not conquered. There was no war. No battle happened. The hatred and jealousy of ten brothers led them to commit a despicable act against their younger brother. That one act has had repercussions that we still feel today.

How does that compare to enslaved Africans in America? Africans did the same as the Israelites. They sold themselves into slavery. Intertribal wars, in some cases, led to the victors enslaving and selling off the losers. They warred against each other and in many cases the victors stole the natural freedom of their defeated foes.  However, the arrival of the white man added a whole new dimension to the slave trade on the African continent. Before that, people were enslaved through conflicts and for service primarily to the enslaver.  However, after the white man got involved, people were captured and enslaved for profit as a part of a transatlantic industry. This would not have happened if not for the will of the people who sold their own.

In 1999, Matthieu Kerekou, then president of Benin, put out a message to African-Americans:  “His compatriots are sorry for their ancestors’ complicity in the slave trade. During December, he’s going to tell them that at a special Leadership Reconciliation Conference on his soil.” He said intertribal hostility over the slave trade still exists. Many of his people have never seen descendants of their forebears who were shipped off to the Americas (Wright, 1999). He says the problem is in human hearts. ” ‘All have sinned,'” he claims, quoting the New Testament. “All of us need to confess our wrong and appeal to [God] for forgiveness.”

Quite honestly, I don’t remember hearing about this at the time. I studied African-American literature and history in college and I don’t recall this apology ever coming up in conversation. I don’t recall seeing it in the news. I’m certain I would have remembered. It received so little media attention, even now it’s hard digging up stories online. In July, 2003, Benin Ambassador Cyrille Oguin toured schools and churches in the United States to offer an official apology from: “In the name of the government and the people of Benin, on behalf of President Mattie Ke’re’kou, I say to you all, we are sorry. We are deeply, deeply sorry…. We believe it is easy to say that those other people did it, but we also believe that if we are not helping them, if we did not assist them, if we did not play a role in it, it would not have happened.”

“The president of Benin, the people of Benin have asked me to come here and apologize for the government, for the Benin people and for Africa for what we all know happened. Where our parents were involved in this awful, this terrible, trade…. Reconciliation is the first step to healing old wounds and opening economic development. [President Ke’re’kou] knows the damage on our side that came from slavery. He knows how this robbed our own society at home, how it turned us against each other.” (Miller, 2003)

Often, humans are unaware of their own strength and power. If you have no awareness of your own power, how can you imagine yourself a king? How can you imagine yourself as a created vessel of the Lord God Almighty, knitted together in such a way that God can channel His creative power and purpose through you without destroying you? How can you imagine if you aren’t even aware?

In our ignorance, we seek to put others above us. In the process of putting others above us, we dethrone God in our lives. We may look to our own self to be everything we need. We may look to ideals, institutions, governments to provide everything we need. We may hold other people up as examples of what is good and worthy for us to be. We may look to leaders or loved ones to save us. We may put our hope in religious practices and traditions while expecting the leaders of such to guide us.

Time and time again, the Israelites put a man between them and God. They had direct access to the source of life but they wanted it diffused. They asked for a leader. They sought other gods. They asked for a ruler (judge). They asked for a king. God took this as a direct rejection of Him as their King (1 Samuel 8:7-9).

Today’s king is celebrity culture. Many are voluntarily enslaved to it. The pervasive idea is: You’re no one unless a lot of people know you and want to be like you. People worship at the altar of images. People aspire to wealth for no other reason than to consume at a more extravagant level. People condition their bodies for exposure to the masses. This is all in the pursuit of self-glorification or other-idolization. People either want to be idolized or they want to idolize others. Such fanaticism is an affront to God. And because it’s an affront to God, it is also an affront to humanity. You cannot raise up a few without keeping the masses down.

My reasoning may appear to be a direct contradiction of the instruction to “value others above yourselves” but it’s not. The first part of that verse instructs us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). In addition, giving the best of myself in service of other people has nothing to do with their status, income, social standing, physical attributes or what they can do for me personal. Giving the best of myself to the people I encounter has everything to with my True King, my Heavenly Father and everything He channels through me that represents His Character, Nature and Spirit.

When we are not channeling God, we are essentially channeling the spirit of the world that is represented by whatever culture we are predominantly exposed to. Two thousand years ago, we were forever saved from the dominance of the ruler of this world, when God gifted us all with a Savior King for eternity.

I hope to post more in the coming weeks to address our choice for indentured servitude (either by hurting others or demeaning ourselves), and the King God has made available to everyone. King Jesus came to lead the world out of bondage and into eternal freedom.

Referenced:

Reconciliation: Benin Conference (transcribed speeches):  http://www.dbq.edu/library/FacultyPubs/JohnHatch.cfm

http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4223655/k.90ED/West_Africans_to_AfricanAmericans_We_Apologize_for_Slavery.htm

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/07/10/african-ambassador-apologizes-for-slavery-role/

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Seven-year itch: Where did my zeal go?

I can say this about them: They really try to follow God, but they do not know the right way.

This is what the Scripture says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” That is the teaching of faith that we are telling. ~ Romans 10:2, 8, NCV

I’ve had to face some harsh realities recently. They came in the form of mental asides and afterthoughts, mild irritations and frequent frustrations.

Occasionally, my Facebook feed will display the rapturous updates of young Christians – early to mid-thirties, who have committed or re-committed themselves to Christ after having loads of fun in the world. The cynic in me remarks how great it must be to have been able to do everything they wanted to do in their adult life and still have the opportunity to return and declare their love for Christ. And the weary Christian in me remembers when I, too, was extremely passionate about my love for Christ.

I think my image of Christianity has gotten me down.

In the world the “church” is all about fellowship meetings – eating and singing – and telling your neighbor (the person or people standing next to you in service) that you love them or you’re glad to see them. “Church” is about ministry outreach to the poor, to the broken, the injured, the rejected, the spiritually lost. It becomes about missionary trips, church planting, fund-raising, and sister or satellite churches in far-flung locations. “Church” is about being seen and having the right friends or simply: fashion, socializing and getting a whole bunch of “Amens” for paraphrased scripture. It has become about obeying man or men who imagine they have a corner market on God’s Word.

In the world, “church” is about a network. A network of a group of people who will stick together as long as they have the same confession of faith and nothing is expected of them outside of the church walls that isn’t well-publicized far and wide for the effort.

“Church” mimics the world. Lights…camera…action! You’re on…now perform! Perhaps that’s why I’ve become so dissatisfied with the people I encounter in “church” and the “churches” I’ve attended and even in people who just claim to be Christian. What I’ve noticed is that people repackage worldly goods and try to sell it to Believers as godly fruit. Personally, I don’t want to use anything the World had first as an expression of my faith life. And before you think the world had Jesus first, I’ll remind you that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.

I’ve been looking for the Christ in Christians and as diligently as I’ve looked I’ve rarely encountered Christ in the “church” – but I’ve certainly encountered Him in many other places.

My “church” experiences have not been about showing love or being love. They haven’t been about openness, honesty or availability. I’ve experienced more rejection in the “church” and by “church folk” – through relationships and service in ministries – than any other area in my life (and I’ve certainly known great rejection in other areas). In my experience, church organizations choose to operate like businesses but aren’t nearly as conscientious with their human capital as businesses are.  I’ve had more difficulty trying to volunteer for various ministries in various churches than I’ve had volunteering for senate campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s 2006 Senate Campaign required a background check, a phone interview and an in-person interview. A bit much in my opinion at the time, but her husband was a former president. I got over it. However, that’s nothing compared to the steps required at my current church. We have to apply online (if you can’t apply online, dates are provided for when you can apply in person). We have to attend a monthly interview session and fill out a four page application on site. This session is followed by a new believers session the same night to hear about the “church’s” beliefs. Two references (of people “in the same church who know you well”) have to be provided; if the references pan out, we then have to attend an in-person interview within the next month or two. This can easily turn into a two or three-month process. That’s effectively as much or more of a process than I’ve done for any job I’ve worked on. Volunteering at church shouldn’t be so difficult or drawn out. I’m a seasoned believer and I felt like giving up in the process!

I feel like “church” is geared towards conversion and beginners in the Word. There’s very little focus or substance for the seasoned Believer.

Indeed, where is the church for the Believer with no intention of returning to the world? The person who’s just trying to get through a humdrum day, week or month? Where’s the church for the person who isn’t lacking in faith, but may simply be in an in-between time, waiting for the next assignment? Where’s the church for the Believer who simply needs a hug because it’s Wednesday? Where’s the community that actually reaches out within itself? To the Believers who are still hurt or newly hurt? To the Believers who need more than words, who need to be shown how loved they are? Need to know how much they matter in the chain of events that surround their life. Where’s that community that focuses on itself, embraces itself and then radiates itself to surrounding communities? If church folk actually took the time to get to know, and made the effort to appreciate, their neighbor, instead of just telling them that they’re glad to see them on Sunday morning, they would be a much more gracious people when they encounter the world outside of their community. They would be much more radiant in their workplaces, on their travels and in their politics.

I’ve been frustrated because after seven years of actively desiring and seeking a Christian community, I have nothing of substance to claim in terms of relationships with people. I attended my first church for about four years. I committed my life to Jesus Christ there and was baptized as an adult there. I was consistently active in at least four ministries at a time and attended nearly every monthly special event. I was there for most Sunday morning services and Thursday night Bible Studies. My life was the “church” for the time I was there, and boy did I grow! But I didn’t conform to every part of that congregation’s culture.

The best thing I learned during my time in that congregation was “to study and show myself approved.” I am a literal learner and doer. If the Teacher is telling me that everything I need for my life is in the Word of God, and all I have to do is study the Word, then that’s what I will do. So indeed, growth was miraculous when I went from not reading my Bible to studying it faithfully. Every word was the most succulent bite for me. It was a new world. That’s where the rapturous passion came from – breathing in the life of God’s Word was the source of my zeal. Experiencing God’s Word as refreshment sustained me and propelled me forward. {See Combating Spirits in the Church}

The second church I attended in New York was much smaller. I later looked at it as something of a cult. For six months I attended one or two small group sessions a week in addition to Sunday service. My take away from that congregation was an awareness of how important it is to maintain independent thought. The small group sessions became a forum for the leadership to exercise more control over the thinking (therefore, the beliefs) of the attending congregation members. I spoke up with questions, opinions and requests. I was shut down each time and eventually shunned from the groups. They thought my pointing out scripture was disruptive to their teachings. My simple response: If you’re mis-teaching the Bible, and I’m sitting in front of you, yeah, I’m gonna say something. After speaking with the pastor one-on-one (he also led one of the small groups), I decided that I needed to preserve myself and find another congregation. {See Some Thoughts on Challenges}

I’ve been with my current congregation for about three years. For more than a year, I just sat in the services and soaked in the teachings. I didn’t want to get involved. I greeted the people next to me and sometimes in front of and behind me. At the beginning of my second year, I went to Israel with a couple of other people from the congregation. {See Stand Bold Against the Spirit of the Anti-Christ.} Our small group was joined to other groups from around the world. I thought it would be the beginning of great relationships. Not. I speak in passing to the folks from my congregation when we see each other in service. Last year, I got out of my seat and volunteered for the children’s ministry. I can’t tell you how excited I was to teach the children! But the head of the children’s ministry needed to control my schedule and because I was only able to offer one Sunday a month later in the year, she took that as a lack of availability and told me I wasn’t a fit for the ministry’s needs. It took another year before I even considered applying for another ministry. Last month I applied for the wwpray ministry for the specific reason that I can do it remotely and won’t have to deal with people directly.

That’s where my zeal has gotten me in the “church”.

What a sad waste. I have a heart of light I want to share and it has been rejected at every turn by people who profess Christ. That’s a struggle for me. How much do I push back? How long do I sit out? How long do I just keep to myself?

I’m not interested in burying my talents, but I never thought that my biggest spiritual struggles would be within the congregations I consider myself a part of.

Over the last few days my musings have led to the beginning of a revelation. Stay tuned….

We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths that we believe, and so we are saved.  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.”  ~ Romans 10:10-11, NCV

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Questioning the “equality” of “marriage”

Questioning EqualityA Pop Culture v. The Bible Post

The naming of a thing is important.

What is in a name?

The promise of character and the hope of destiny.

I believe that every living person has the right (a God-given right from creation to the end of time) to choose how they live their life. That is a deep belief that is upheld by my reading of the scriptures and God’s constant entreaty to His people that we CHOOSE Him. His desire that people make life-giving choices during our time here on earth.

By the same token, I also believe deeply that there is an order to creation. That there is a purpose for creation. It is not by chance that any given man and woman can have a good possibility of procreating while no combination of man/man or woman/woman can naturally produce a child.

Now that’s not to say that marriage is only for the purpose of having children, but this example is illustrative proof of the natural order and intent of creation.

Marriage  

“Marriage” is a spiritual concept that is the foundation for family, community and society. “Marriage” is a covenant between God, man and woman. “Marriage” is a relationship in the physical that represents our spiritual relationship with our Creator. It’s an institution God created with the instruction to the man and woman to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. As with all things, this you have to believe to even begin to understand.

Equality

equality:  the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability; uniform character

 “Equality” is a legal term. This is where the arguments for and against “marriage equality” become convoluted. People are attempting to reconcile a term that embodies legalism in world society with a spiritual term that predates any world order.

Marriage ≠ Equality

Marriage was not created to be an equal institution. Nor was it created for equal individuals. Marriage was created to be a joining of two people into one unit. And that, my friends is something only God can do. There is no equality in the Bible. We have not equally received characteristics that will determine how well we navigate this world. God breathed His Spirit into us, but we each have varying measures of faith, joy, hope, understanding, knowledge, patience and love. The role of the Spirit is to take us through our worldly challenges in a way that will build our character and keep us on track to fulfill our destiny.  The role of government is to level the field of access so people can be active, contributing citizens in society.

Some people say that this is not a “religious” argument. Folks are citing the many different faith-belief systems in America and suggesting that Christians are imposing our will on the rest of America. I, personally, feel as if the rest of America is imposing its will on me, but that’s another post. Regarding other faiths, I have not come across any creation story that involves only two men or two women – please share if you know of any. The sanctity of marriage is a concept many hold. People are arguing that God has nothing to do with our government because of the separation of church and state. To those people, I ask: What principles do you think the American government is based on? You can trace western superpowers back throughout history and you will find that they all have built upon the foundation of Biblical principles.

A society may seek to redefine marriage, but a society cannot recreate marriage in its own image. We are created beings that come to a better understanding of who we are when we look to our Creator rather than focus solely on ourselves and our own desires.

We really need to know what we are talking about and what we are claiming. Most of the arguments for “marriage equality” amount to entitlement claims from citizens of a prosperous democratic nation (i.e. America): I have the right…, I deserve…, I want…, I was born this way…, etc. No one is “entitled” to marriage. The Constitution doesn’t guarantee any citizen “marriage”. If it did, I would be filing a suit against the United States of America for withholding my husband for these many years. Acting as if marriage is an equal human right the government is obligated to make provision for is a disservice to people actually suffering human rights atrocities. It’s a disservice to men and women who enter the bonds of matrimony with the hope and expectation that their commitment to honor and serve one another is an expression of honor and service to God and their faith community.  

By any other name… 

On the flip side, I would probably have little or nothing to say on this topic if it was called something other than “marriage equality” or if “marriage” was not part of the naming. As a citizen of the United States, I think that same sex couples who legalize their relationship (register with a governmental agency for legally recognize status) should have the legal right to identify their life partner and have their relationship legally recognized wherever they choose to live. These legally recognized same sex couples should have access to all the legal benefits and responsibilities that pertain to legal relationships in the United States. Here, I’m talking about family planning, succession, property ownership, inheritance, death benefits, responsibility to provide care and protection to family members, healthcare choices, etc. All this can be obtained without legally calling a long-term same sex relationship “marriage”. Such a relationship is not a marriage. It’s simply a different type of relationship. And I suspect from the perspective of same sex couples, different is better. After all, if same sex couples truly wanted equality in marriage, they would marry people of the opposite sex. (Tongue in cheek moment….)

So, I’m questioning why the push to call same sex committed relationships “marriage”? If same sex couples are already forging their own way to a lifetime commitment, why not name their relationship in a unique way to express what they hope to achieve with their commitment? Why insist on calling it “marriage” if their relationship is by nature the antithesis of what marriage was created to be?

Related posts:

OBAMA + MARRIAGE EQUALITY

An oxymoron in teaching about sin: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

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An oxymoron in teaching about sin: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Perhaps what’s so difficult about loving a person who is exposed in a sin you hate, is the hate part. I think people get caught up in the hate. Once hate is part of your thought process, it becomes the emotion that filters your responses and reactions. So even though your mind is telling you to love someone who has become vulnerable to sin, when you agressively hate their lifestyle, you are also actively hating the person.

The New Living Translation of Romans 12:9 says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

Christ followers who sprout on about “loving sinners” while “hating their sin” are viewing “sinners” as something other than themselves (the lovers and haters), other than people that God loves as He loves those who attempt to obey His Word faithfully. Members of the Body of Christ who label other people in judgement are saying to those people that they are less deserving of God’s grace and mercy than those whose sins are not as visible.

Romans 12:9 does not focus on what is evil or wrong. It focuses on love and what is good. The phrase, “hate what is wrong/evil” is introduced and followed with phrases of love and acceptance. If we, Christ followers, are to truly obey the Word of God, then we focus on the person – not the sin in the person. And we hold on to the person that God created in love just as He created us in love.

Jim McGreevy’s Note to Self

I watched the below video and read Jim McGreevy’s Note to Self. I immediately wanted to speak in defense of “the church” he mentions or leave a comment asking him to rephrase the line stating “how crushed [he was] because it was the church [he] so dearly loved, who hated [him] so deeply. But a quick check of myself and my own experiences with “church folk” left me with no defense of people who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior while mistreating other people Jesus also died for. I am saddened that Jim McGreevy’s early experiences with members of Christ’s body were such that he resorted to hiding himself and living a lie for as long as he did.

Watch Note to Self: Jim McGreevey

I encourage you to listen to Jim McGreevy’s Note to Self and ask yourself: How are you representing the Christ in you when you come face to face with a sin you abhor? Paul may have wrote to hate what is wrong, but Jesus says that such instruction belonged to the law that He came to replace. Jesus simply instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The greatest commandments he gave us are: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) A heart that loves God completely has no room for hate of any kind. Jesus instructs us to love everyone as we love ourself. We are to love people (patiently treat them with gentleness, kindness, mercy and grace)– yes, even those consumed in their sin – and pray for them. That’s it. Don’t waste energy hating other people’s sin or trying to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Who has time for that? Put your energy into loving the person and praying God gives them the strength and will to overcome the obstacles in their life. Chances are you need the same prayer.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.  ~ Matthew 5:43-48, NLT

Questions: Are you better than a pagan? Are you perfect in love?

Go out and be a blessing.

Shawnda    

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OBAMA + MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Questioning the “equality” of “marriage”

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Pop Culture v. The Bible: OBAMA + MARRIAGE EQUALITY

You have become weak, so make yourselves strong again. Keep on the right path, so the weak will not stumble but rather be strengthened.

Try to live in peace with all people, and try to live free from sin. Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord. Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace and begins to cause trouble among you. A person like that can ruin many of you. Be careful that no one takes part in sexual sin or is like Esau and never thinks about God. ~ Hebrews 12:12-16

I try to keep politics out of my blog because any opinion I have is strong and I prefer to keep my posts focused on God’s developing of me as an individual. But today’s political hot topic crosses directly into the territory I am led to write about – relationships.

Last night, before bed, I saw on my FB feed a comment by a pastor suggesting many Christians were about to get angry over President Barack Obama’s recently declared stance on same-gender marriage. This morning I woke up and saw another pastor’s outraged claim that it is a “sad day in America” because Obama has made an “anti-God decision” when he announced to the world, “I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.” This pastor went on to claim that this country has gone far afield of our “founding father” Christopher Columbus’s Holy Spirit-led vision for America. The reference to Columbus as being Holy Spirit led had me dismissing his whole statement with an incredulous laugh. Which must be how others see and respond to Christians when we raise ourselves so far above the world that we can no longer see the road we took to God.

Even as I contemplated the above two response examples of congregation leadership here in the United States, a quiet voice was whispering to me, “Let he without sin cast the first stone….”

Christians are so “good” at judging others. So “good” at trying to control the world. So “good” at telling others how to live and how to please God. But these are the same “Christians” that aren’t all that great at believing and trusting God in their own lives. They aren’t so great at allowing God to be God in their own environment and homes. The Bible has a word for that – hypocrite. Your sin is no less egregious than the sin you’re condemning with all you vitriolic energy.

If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us.But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and we do not accept God’s teaching. ~ 1 John 1:8-10, NCV

Christians do not have the right to dictate how other people live. We have the edict to show the Christ in us through the way we choose to live. We are exhorted to set ourselves apart and be living examples and testimonies of Jesus Christ. From this perspective, it doesn’t matter what the world does, because our assignment is to present Christ to the world and help world-dwellers find their way to Christ. We can’t do this if we’re angry and disgusted and thinking the people we should be serving are getting more than they deserve. Remember – the sin you confess is not a better caliber sin than homosexuality.

Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God’s kingdom. Do not be fooled. Those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob—these people will not inherit God’s kingdom In the past, some of you were like that, but you were washed clean. You were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Though none of my sins seem exceptionally big to me, any spot or blemish I allow in my life is an affront to God. My not-so-big-sin is the same as the next person’s HUMONGOUS sin – in God’s eyes. Homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God – and neither will liars. How often have you neglected to speak the unvarnished truth? Adulterers are listed as those who will never attain the Kingdom of Heaven either… as are people who get drunk. When’s the last time you got a bit tipsy? First Corinthians 6:9-11 is not a list of sins that’s meant to condemn people, it’s a list that’s meant to offer hope to those who still live in darkness. As long as we breathe, we all will fall short of God’s glory. Those of us who have exited the darkness, repent quickly when needed and bring ourselves forcefully under the dominion of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to share our experience of God with those who are still in darkness (i.e. still sinning). But if we’re condemning them and insisting that they are less than we are in God’s sight, they aren’t going to heed us, and worst, we’ve forfeited our commission before we’ve even gotten started.

Remember the verse that pulled so strongly at your heart, John 3:16, God loved the WORLD so much that He gave His only begotten Son. It doesn’t say that God loved those who loved Him, or that God loved those who set themselves above others, or that God loved those who believe on His Son…. No. The word says that God loved those who were in darkness so much… He loved those without hope so much… He loved those who did not know that they were dead so much that He sacrificed Himself so that those wretchedly lost people will know life.

So if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars and do not follow the truth.But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. ~ 1 John 1:6-7

Before you and I confessed Christ, we were one of those wretched souls dying in darkness. Remember that – it will keep you humble when you encounter those who are just trying to get by with their knowledge of the world. And remembrance will keep you prayerful when you are called to minister to these same people.

I do believe homosexuality is a sin. God’s word says so. But I also believe that a homosexual person has the right to choose their life-path and live how they choose to live. From the beginning of time to this day, God has not stripped one person of the responsibility of choosing between life and death. Nor has He burdened anyone but Jesus Christ with another person’s sin. We all will stand accountable for our own choices in life; therefore we have the right to decide how we live our life. If a person chooses to spend their life with a person of the same gender, it is their God-given right to make that decision.

Governments should not make personal decisions for anyone – however, I do appreciate that a government may take steps to protect people’s right to make personal choices.

Church’s cannot make this decision for anyone – though congregations of the Body of Christ throughout the world should be beacons of light, love, mercy and grace actively urging everyone in the world, not just homosexuals, to seek God for themselves.

I do believe that the marriage of the Bible is between one man and one woman. That’s how God defines it (Genesis 2:22-24). But because God did not stop Adam and Eve from sinning at the beginning, I also believe that no person has the right to impose their will and preferences on another person.

Marriage should be honored by everyone, and husband and wife should keep their marriage pure. God will judge as guilty those who take part in sexual sins. ~ Hebrews 13:4

Yes, marriage is an honorable institution and it should be honored by everyone, but it’s important to keep in mind that a marriage isn’t holy simply because it’s a man and a woman. It’s holy because God makes it holy – when He’s in the center of it and guiding it. I have known many heterosexuals that have had abominable marriages – marriages centered on selfishness, abuse, adultery, abandonment, division, abortions, putting everything and everybody before one’s spouse and family, etc.

If you’re standing on God’s word, fine, continue to stand on the word and love your neighbor – treat others as you would be treated.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They forced her to stand before the people. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband.The law of Moses commands that we stone to death every woman who does this. What do you say we should do?” They were asking this to trick Jesus so that they could have some charge against him.

But Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” Then Jesus bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Those who heard Jesus began to leave one by one, first the older men and then the others. Jesus was left there alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus raised up again and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She answered, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”  ~ John 8:3-11

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Song & Verse: One and Only by Adele

A Pop Culture vs. The Bible post

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  ~ John 14:6

Adele’s voice moves me. The emotion she pours into her music stirs similar emotion in me — but that’s nothing new; that’s what makes music so powerful. From the first time I heard her song, One and Only, I envisioned Jesus serenading me – serenading us all, actually: Come on, let Me be your one and only. I promise I’m worthy to hold in your heart. I know it ain’t easy giving up your heart… but you’ll get all of Me in return – so come on and give me a chance…. In my mind, I accept Jesus’s serenade and offer the same words to the one God allows me to love.

“Surrender” is the word that comes to mind. Full, sweet surrender to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and my mate in life. Everyday, in every way necessary to maintain the vibrancy of our relatinship. Surrender. In giving up (offering) yourself, you gain so much more.

“…Surrender is one of the most important words in all of Christianity. Do you want to know just how important the act of you surrendering is?

  • Surrendering to Jesus Christ is another name for “being born again.”
  • Surrendering is allowing Jesus Christ to live inside you.
  • Surrendering means living a life (a Godly life) that is pleasing and acceptable to Jesus Christ.
  • Surrendering is you confessing your sins when you sin and really repenting and turning away from them.
  • Surrendering is the thing that allows you to accept the free gift of grace that God wants to give you.
  • Surrendering is the one thing that will allow you to have eternal life.

So surrendering means giving up pride, giving up control, giving up independence, giving up all those things in our life that we have deemed important and precious and have placed ahead of Jesus Christ. Surrendering to Him means allowing Him to guide your life, it means bearing our crosses for His sake, it means acknowledging Him in all things, it means realizing that everything we have in this life comes from Him. And most of all it means that we finally understand that we cannot make it without his constant guidance and protection.” (Bob Wells, http://robertwells.tripod.com/surrender.html)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  ~ Romans 12:1-2

Do you translate any secular songs with your Kingdom ear? Please share.