Monday, June 13, 2016

Everyone Under the Rainbow is my Neighbor

Wow. What a day.

To hear the news that (at the time of this writing), 49 were killed and 53 were injured at a nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida is heartbreaking. It is the worst mass-shooting in American history. This marks a sad day indeed.

After the initial shock, I became angry. How can anyone justify taking another life? HOW?!
I’ve fallen back into despair, so I’m not able to conjure the full-blown rage I felt earlier. Now, I’m sullen and reflective on the loss and grief surrounding our country and the multiple communities affected by this world-wide.

I hardly know what to say, except this:

Love thy Neighbor.

Love thy Elderly Neighbor
Love thy Homeless Neighbor
Love thy Homosexual Neighbor
Love thy Transsexual Neighbor
Love thy Homophobic Neighbor
Love thy Poor Neighbor
Love thy Rich Neighbor
Love thy Black Neighbor
Love thy Islamic Neighbor
Love thy Atheist Neighbor
Love thy White Neighbor
Love thy Immigrant Neighbor
Love thy Jewish Neighbor
Love thy Disabled Neighbor
Love thy Christian Neighbor

Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV)
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

The greatest commandment does not say “Love your perfect neighbor.” It doesn’t command us to love only those who agree with us, practice our faith and vote for identical ballots. It doesn’t command us to hate people. We are commanded to LOVE. Christian or not, humanity depends on each of us being kind, respectful and loving one another. We cannot and will not survive as a society without love.

Love = Eternal Life.
Hate = Eternal Death.

Nothing qualifies us to judge each other. Minister to those who oppose you with love. Only love can lead the misguided into God’s light. I implore you to beg God for a listening heart. Shut out the outside voices and influences and focus solely on God’s guiding force. Be a positive force for God’s army and lead with a loving example. Hatred toward your fellow man will only breed more hate and hate is the greatest of all sins.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

God Made Us

Shouldn't we be happy as God made us? Clearly, He had a plan and all of what makes us is part of that.

I saw a meme on facebook today, demanding that foreign born people renounce the flags of their birth country, if they were to become citizens of America.

How does this make any sense?

Would an American renounce the American flag if they moved anywhere outside the country? Would most American's stop speaking their native language and immediately start to adapt to that of which they traveled? Shouldn't we be proud of how God made us? He is our leader, ruler, king. We have no right to hate anyone and their race, ethnicity and location of birth shouldn't even be a factor in how we view a person.

Why do so many Americans view themselves as superior to a person born of another country? In many ways, it's a blessing to be born in a "free" country, such as this, but it doesn't make us better or worse than another. For one moment, have empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of the refugee who was displaced because of war, famine and disease. Imagine being parents raising daughters in a country where they have no rights to an education. America is the land of opportunity--who are we, as citizens, to squander it?

We are all God's people. Remember that if He can love us all, we can make more of an effort to love each other.

Money, fear, prejudices, resentment, anger, confusion and ignorance shouldn't keep us from loving our fellow man. It is our duty as Christians, as HUMANS, to care for one another. You don't know what's in another person's heart, so don't attempt to judge it by their external appearance.

We should each take pride in how God made us and where He chose for us to be born. It shapes who we are and reflects part of His divine plan.

Mark 12:30-31New International Version (NIV)

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

John 13:34-35 Love one another (even if you don't agree with them)

John 13:34-35New International Version (NIV)

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As Christians, we are commanded to love ALL, not pick and choose who we deem fit of such love
I'm inspired to write today because of a conversation I had with an pastor yesterday. He had been telling me we should show respect to ALL and that is how we follow God's command to love. We don't have to agree, understand, even like another person, but we should respect them. I agree 100%. However, the conversation soon shifted to the currently popular topic of transgender bathrooms. This same man immediately shifted gears and called transgender people "perverts"; his wife joined in agreement, saying they should "keep away" and "have their own bathrooms then". Can anyone else see the irony here? How terribly hypocritical! Love thy neighbor....unless it makes you uncomfortable?? No. That's not what it says.... Jesus loves us all without fail! 
We can and will fail, but it's our duty to love and respect one another. I know there are Biblical teachings that outline immoral acts, which guide Christians. However, your real duty is not to judge, but to see opportunities to minister. Regardless what your view of transgender people is, your duty as a God-fearing Christian is to love and therefore respect them like any other. It's likely that you don't have the slightest idea what it's like to be in their situation. It's possible you don't know anything about a person besides what you can judge of their appearance. What if that "obvious" transgender person was SAVED? What if they run an organization aiding cancer patients? What if you're talking to a transgender person and don't even know it!? My aunt was born male and hard surgery over 40 years ago to become a woman. This minister I spoke with has met her many times and continues to be oblivious. You must also remember that you don't know who you're hurting with your judgement. You're not just hurting the one you judge, you're hurting their loved ones, family members and friends. You're hurting God with your hatred. 

You don't know--only God does. Only God has the right to judge.

Minister to these people with kindness. Be a beacon of God's love and light. Lead others by example. We must lift each other up to be cast in God's grace. 
Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

First John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Monday, February 29, 2016

Christian Politics

I take a lot of criticism at times for being Christian, which bothers me a bit. Why is it acceptable to condemn my faith while it's much more "taboo" to put other groups under fire?

Lots of Christians misrepresent themselves by taking Biblical text out of context. It's the same with any faith. All language, spoken and written, is subject to interpretation. I get that and I expect it. However, it's never okay to criticize and condemn anyone for their faith or lack of faith. It's pretty simple: Treat others with respect. Don't be an asshole. If you don't spend as much time as I do studying the text, and it's application to life, you shouldn't have much to say on it.

It's hard to understand being a Christian, even if you are one. Learning from the Bible is a life-long pursuit. It's not as though you can read it and finish the lessons inside. It's complex, often out of chronological order (which can confuse things) and written over hundreds of years by hundreds of hands. Basically, it's easy to mess up and it's expected.

The goal of a "true" Christian is to never stop learning and growing in faith and your relationship with Christ. He sets the ultimate example of love and tolerance.

Sure, there were times in the Bible when Jesus showed anger and despair, but His actions were all done with purpose and reason for later generations. As my atheist brother once said, "He had to kick over tables to drive home a point once in a while, but He was a good guy."

Overwhelmingly, we know that Jesus was loving and tolerant of all people. That, simply, is the example in which we are taught to emulate as Christians. Christians = followers of Christ. I know there is a lot of Biblical content regarding violence, sin, oppression, etc., but the true calling we have of this faith is to FOLLOW CHRIST and Christ represents LOVE. Do we have to like everything and everyone? No, but we do have to love them as God and Christ love them. If that means leaving them to God, then leave them and walk away. We are flawed and won't always care for the people we encounter, but we love them by showing respect and dignity.

Politics muddy the waters. It's difficult to find a candidate that totally (or even partially) aligns with your faith. That's because the field of choices is narrow and from their perspective, faith is oftentimes something they can't stand to forcibly on when interviewing for the highest job in our country. We're not a country of one faith or another. Morals are important, but that doesn't mean our individual moral compass points in the right direction for all people at all times. Responsible, intelligent candidates understand that they have to view things in a broader perspective.

That is where Donald Trump comes into play. I don't yet know which candidate I will vote for, but I'm sure of which one I absolutely will not.

Donald Trump represents all that is wrong with America. He's egomaniacal and full of hatred toward almost all walks of life. Worst of all, he's building a platform of hate and taking advantage of the under-educated, misinformed and angry people. The only thing "different" about Trump is that he's unashamed to show his bigotry. I know some of you may point out that I'm being hypocritical to criticize him, and maybe I am, but the difference is that he embraces that ill-behavior and stands upon it to make himself taller. He's no Christian--he only plays one on TV.

I'm troubled by my Christian counterparts who support him. We all have our prejudices and hatred, though we are meant to fight against them, not embrace and feed them. In good conscience, we should not and cannot support a man who flaunts his moral flaws as though they were his strengths. If they are indeed his "strengths", that should convince you above all that he's not competent for the job. He blatantly mistreats women, immigrants (Christians included), Muslims and anyone else he deems "inferior" to himself. Wouldn't that mean he'd mistreat YOU if he had the chance? Someone like Trump, exhibiting egomaniacal behavior, cannot and will not treat others with respect. He can only think of himself at all times and has no concern for others opinions of him. Don't you want a political leader to take others opinions into consideration? Including yours? This is not leadership material, it's dictatorship. That is not even remotely close to what this, or any other country needs.

We cannot award his behavior by electing him into the highest job in the land just because he's a loud-mouthed bully with a lot of money (I'll ignore for now his 4 bankruptcy filings and that he was born into wealth).

Morals are universally good by definition. It doesn't matter what the individual faith (or lack thereof) is for the person elected president. What matters, is the person be a leader through respect and dignity (not bad behavior) and they can treat others well. Donald Trump is a C-list celebrity, nothing more. It's time we stop giving him the attention he craves and force him to answer the "tough" questions he begs reporters to avoid asking him before interviews.

Search your hearts as Christians and see that his man holds none of the virtues we hold dear. One day, he might, but he's not there now and shows no interest in doing so. It's time to put our focus on viable candidates.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Addiction Comes in All Forms

Yesterday's sermon was what I needed to hear and God knew it.

Pastor is beginning a new series, "Addiction."

Psalm 63 King James Version (KJV)

63 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

We are made to crave. We're in earthly, fleshy bodies that crave fleshy items, when our craving should only be focused to God.

One young man who plays in the band, bravely and humbly admitted after his song, that he'd been "too distracted" by trying to achieve the finer things in life. A better job, more money, ect. He admitted that being part of the church band "became more of a chore" to him. Shortly after the men's retreat, The Holy Spirit spoke to his heart and he realized how distracted he'd become. He realized that without putting is primary focus on the Lord, he'd NEVER be happy with anything he achieved and, in fact, might not achieve any of his fleshy desires at all. He cried and I cried with him. I've also been guilty lately of losing focus. Prayer has become a "chore" not a pleasure. My heart wasn't open, I was only chanting the words I always do without real consideration.

Pastor then began speaking about addictions and all their forms. While I don't harbor addictions such as smoking, drinking or gambling, I do have an addiction to negativity. One thing that I'm plagued with is a near constant doubt and self criticism. I question every twinge and torture myself with google searches. My anxiety grows and I know it's a cycle which is hard to break--now it's clear to me why. I'm addicted. I've seen it in others and I failed to recognize it in myself. I will trust You and focus on improving my spiritual self, rather than get caught up in my body and mind.

Thank you, Lord, for ensuring I'd hear this message and for opening my eyes. My focused is renewed and I instantly felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Be Still And Know That I Am God.