John 7:20-26 That They May All Be One

15 05 2013

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

(Jesus said:) “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 7:20-26 (NRSV)

I can say I’m probably not a likely poster child for ecumenism as I’m pretty set in my traditions, and I do believe correct theology is important.  However, Jesus Himself asks that believers will be one united body of believers, which is a tall order.

Some Christian groups believe in separating themselves from the rest of the world.  To a degree I can see the merit in that, but an extreme condition of separation can give rise to a superiority mentality, that we are the “clean, good, moral” people and everyone else is scummy or untouchable.

Other groups are so politically correct that their aim is not to “offend” anyone, so their brand of Christianity is so watered down that nobody gets told the hard truths and no one is challenged to take up their cross and follow Jesus.  It’s easy to be a Christian if it’s all about social gatherings and pretty music.

dana carvey church lady

The real deal is a lot more complicated than either pious separation and stringent morality rules or feel-good be nice to everyone platitudes.  Both Dana Carvey as the Church Lady and “Buddy Christ” miss the mark.

buddy_christ

Living the Christian life is messy.  It’s real. Following Jesus means being willing to cross boundaries, to forgive when we’ve been hurt, and to open our hearts to those who the rest of the world has given up on.  Even so, sometimes showing grace and love to other Christians is the most difficult thing to do- like siblings we in-fight and argue about matters of doctrine or practice that may be important, but usually aren’t essential. I can’t say I agree with some things that other traditions teach, or even some
positions held by some within the Lutheran tradition itself, but I can embrace a fellow believer. I can agree to love and pray for fellow Christians. On non-essential doctrine, (meaning pretty much anything outside the realm of the statement of faith in the Apostle’s Creed) I can agree to disagree.

There is right and wrong, joy and pain, love and discipline, and all of these things are part of the package.  It is true that by God’s grace we have freedom, but it is also true that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability.  We have to live with the Holy Spirit, Who speaks through our conscience, and at the end of days we will stand before Christ and He will be our Judge.   When a child is baptized and the pastor says the words, “You are marked with the Cross of Christ forever,” or when a person is drawn to Christ through another means of grace, it means that person belongs to God- open not only to God’s salvation and blessing, but also to His discipline and His correction.  A child of God will not live a perfect life and will not be sin-free, but a child of God will not be satisfied with life in the pig pen.  He or she will long for the Father’s House.   The thing is, we have no way of knowing who is a native of the pig pen, and who is a child of God taking a sojourn in the pig pen.

Therefore, the default for us should be to see everyone as children of God regardless of where they might be right now.  Who knows if God is putting us in the same place He put Ananias?

The apostle Paul touches on the concept of accepting and living with believers who practice differently or who observe different traditions in Romans 14:

“Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.  Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.  Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds.Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  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, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? 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 give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)

I think we will be judged more thoroughly on how we loved than on whether or not we played by all the rules.





2 Timothy 4:1-8 Itching Ears and the Crown of Righteousness

8 05 2013

 

What-I-Want

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NRSV) 

I’d have to say that the time is already here where people won’t listen to sound doctrine, and that there are plenty of teachers and preachers out there catering to the itching ear crowd.  I’m not the one to go out there with Chick Tracts or to scare the bejezus out of people with fear of hellfire.  I do believe in a real, literal hell, but I also understand that fear of hell doesn’t save- only the grace of God in Christ does.

hell_logo_white-thumb

This being said, a Christian pastor who is doing his job isn’t always going to be popular, and the sermon should make you squirm from time to time.  I can’t say that I agree with everything that comes down from the pulpit, especially when it challenges my understanding of orthodoxy, but I do understand that the pastor’s job is to preach, teach and challenge me.  If what he (they) is (are) saying doesn’t inspire serious prayer, study and reflection- even if I still don’t agree- then either I’m not listening to the pastor, or the pastor is afraid to get me where I live.   I am thankful that for the most part the pastors at my church aren’t afraid to tell it like it is and they aren’t afraid of “offending” anyone.  “Christian” is not a synonym for “nice.”

Sometimes being nice is un-Christian, especially when it is necessary to tell that truth or give that wake-up call.

truth

I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the discernment to accept right doctrine even when it seems contrary to my notions of orthodoxy, even when it’s not comfortable because it calls me out on my own sin, and to remind me that I’m not a dog.  I don’t need my ears scratched.  I need the truth, even when it hits me where I live.  Even when it offends.

“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:4-8 (NRSV)

righteous

At first I had to wonder what Paul was getting at, but looking a little bit deeper we can see throughout Paul’s letters that he insists that righteousness is something that:
a.) Does not come from observing the law or by our own good works.
Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law.But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21-22 (NRSV)
b.) Is found only in the mercy and the grace of God in Christ.
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NRSV)
 
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (NRSV)
So the good works that we do are merely the good works that God created us to do and that God gave us the resources to do.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)
run race
Now if you really want to get into something weird in Revelation (and now that I found it, I’ll probably have to keep digging…) check this out:
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.'” Revelation 4:9-11 (NRSV)
 
I understand that Revelation is apocalyptic literature, and therefore there is a great deal of symbolism and allegory to be had in that particular book.  There are many groups who have theories (here’s one of the more theologically sound ones) as to who the twenty-four elders refer to.  You can pretty much disregard the ones that involve monsters and space aliens, unless of course, you’re into that.  I’m not much into literal interpretations of Revelation or way-out versions of end-time prophesy, but what I take from this passage is that everything that the “great” people of God ever had came from God and all the glory goes back to God- and that worship is infectious. (in a good way of course.)




Romans 15:13 Abound in Hope

17 04 2013

Come-Holy-Spirit

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NRSV)

Hope is a word that has been bandied about far too often by the purveyors of false hope.  The confusion of real hope with false hope has dulled the meaning of the word, in much the same way as the word “love” has been over and/or misused.  I might love chocolate pie, but that’s not the same kind of love that I have for my spouse or even for my dogs.  The hope that is spoken of in political and social circles is better equated with flimsy wishes and broken promises when compared to the real hope that is backed by the faithfulness of God.

The apostle Paul is not talking about “hope” in the context of political, economic or social change.  Those things are fleeting, cyclical, and largely outside of any individual’s control.

Paul is talking about real hope- the reality that in Christ there is abundant life, and in Him is the death of death.

fruit-of-the-spirit-master

There is a temptation for Christians to go off of either end of the scale- to be so preoccupied with the ills and evils of this physical world that they neglect the fact that our true citizenship is of the Kingdom of God and not this world, or to be so preoccupied with looking forward to the world we inherit when we leave this one that we don’t care about what’s going on in this world at all.  The reality is that for now we are bound to both worlds- we are called to bring about the Kingdom of God in this world, right now, while we realize that there is a far better reality to come beyond this world.  It’s more of that “now, but not yet” paradox that we live with that the apostle Paul describes in Philippians 1:22-24-

“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (NRSV)

While we are here we have a mission and a purpose (to further the Kingdom of God on earth) even though we realize and have a valid and real hope that the life beyond this one is far better.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a bit of an enigma to most Christians.  He is pictured as a dove, or as tongues of fire, or as breath or wind.  He is the Breath of God as He breathes life into creation, and more.

Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, and Counselor, Who God the Father sends to give us the knowledge and power that we need to live as we are called:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:25-27 (NRSV)





John 16:33- Jesus Wins!

4 04 2013

 K123741

“(Jesus said:)I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33 (AMP)

Jesus understood how difficult life could be for us, and how badly we need encouragement at times.

This life is not the end, even when it is easy to get to the end of hope.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by physical pain, by emotional distress, by all of the problems that plague humanity.  It is easy to be afraid, to withdraw, to try to escape the expectations and criticisms of others.   There is more to life than the routine of: get up, go to work, go home, go to bed.  There is something beyond loss and pain and disappointment.

As a person who struggles with both depression and chronic pain, the reality that Jesus has overcome the world is good news.  Otherwise life would be completely pointless and hopeless, with nothing to look forward to other than ever-increasing physical pain, as well as ever-increasing disillusionment and disappointment.

It’s easy to let circumstances steal our joy, but we learn from Proverbs that it’s not about our circumstances:

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14 (AMP)

The Apostle Paul echoed this sentiment to the Thessalonians as well:

“Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (AMP)

On the surface it seems to me like Paul is saying that we should be slap happy all the time.  When I first read this passage I thought ot the 90’s cartoon Ren and Stimpy, in which Stimpy was a happy-go-lucky fat cat, and Ren was a nervous, paranoid and seething little Chihuahua.  In one episode, Stimpy is upset that Ren isn’t happy.  So Stimpy manufactures a “happy helmet” for Ren, so that Ren can be happy all the time.

ren happy helmet

Stimpy’s invention didn’t work out well.

God never asked us to deny our true emotions, but He does ask that we surrender everything to Him.   He has ways of transforming us and changing our perspective when we surrender ourselves to him.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,

To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 (AMP)

We aren’t going to be happy all the time in this world.  But even through our mourning, our disappointment, our pain, in Christ there is a steady and strong undercurrent of joy- not a superficial, feigned happiness, but a true and lasting joy.

Lord, I pray that we can see through our tears and trials and cling to the joy we find in You, and lift our hearts and voices in praise no matter what our circumstances.





1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Throw Out the Old Dough

2 04 2013

fresh bread

“Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NRSV)

As part of the Jewish observance of Passover, (Exodus 12:1-28) everyone is supposed to clear out all the leavened bread (including bread starters) in their kitchen, which sounds like a weird thing to do- why would God tell people to throw out food?- but it has a symbolic significance.

Most people today don’t bake their own bread.  Those of us who do (and then only for special occasions) generally buy powdered yeast to mix in with the dough so that it will rise, and the whole batch of dough is used at once, but in ancient times there was no powdered yeast.  In order to keep the yeast cultures going, ancient bakers kept a bit of the dough back from the previous batch of bread to leaven the next batch, in the same way that people might make and use starters for sourdough bread today.

Anyone who has ever dealt with sourdough starters knows when a starter has gone south.  A pink or slimy appearance or a bad smell can indicate that the starter is contaminated with bacteria or mold, and then it needs to be thrown out, and then all the utensils and such that touched it need to be thoroughly washed.  If one uses a contaminated starter, any bread baked with it won’t taste good, and the finished bread (if it did actually rise) could also contain rather disgusting things such as salmonella, other bacterias and fungi that aren’t healthy to be consumed.

It was a good idea from time to time for people (especially in the days before refrigeration) to clear out the old bread and starters and start fresh.

Our lives are sort of like that baking cycle too.  Every once in awhile, we need to go clear out the kitchen and get rid of the stuff that’s potentially dangerous, that might make us sick, the stuff that clutters up the cabinets and gets in the way.  This is what the apostle Paul is talking about, only in spiritual terms.

I need to examine my thought patterns and confess that I don’t always bring them captive to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)  More often than not, I resort to the old ways of doing things- letting my anger seethe instead of finding loving ways to disagree, pursuing passive-aggressive revenge, and then I wonder why the only result of sticking to those old patterns is the same old rotten bread.

The rotten stuff, the contaminated thought patterns, have to be thrown out.  We occasionally have to take out the spiritual trash.

take-out-trash

In the Lutheran tradition, we sort of take a dim eye toward the practice of confession, even though selling indulgences is no longer in vogue.  I don’t think that it is always necessary to seek the sort of formal confession that is practiced in the Catholic Church (although there is nothing wrong with the way it is practiced today,) but I do see the value of it in certain circumstances.

“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NRSV)

The sort of confession that is one believer to another, in a context of forgiveness and prayer, is a good first step in throwing out that old starter and bad bread.

Lord, help me to search and be willing to throw out all the things in my heart and mind that are not of You.  Help me to pray for and with believing friends, so that we may think and behave as Your followers should.

IF

“(Jesus said:) For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 (NRSV)





Colossians 3:2-4 Heaven on Earth, Colossians 3:11 One in Christ

21 03 2013

jesus-ascension01

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Colossians 3:2-4 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

On what is your mind usually focused- on the heavenly or the earthly?  How can you focus more on “what is above?”

Perhaps this is not quite the right question, at least not for me.  I would be perfectly happy to lock myself away- just “me-‘n-Jesus”- and meditate on the glory of heaven, and anticipate the day when I don’t have to deal with all the crud and misery that this life brings. It is a huge temptation for me to set my sights on the limitless and eternal joy awaiting me in heaven and to shut my mind and heart off to the injustice and suffering that’s going on in this world.  I can lock myself up in that figurative ivory tower very easily, until I look at the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NRSV)

Then I go on to the book of James (James was likely Jesus’ half-brother, and had much to say about living out one’s faith right here in this lifetime) and he has this to say:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,  if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?  Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?   You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God.  

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” James 2:14-26 (NRSV)

I will say that it is good to find solitude and meditate on the things of God, but one must find a balance between contemplation, solitude and prayer and living the Christian life in this corrupted, complicated and discouraging world.  Faith necessarily leads to action (as Martin Luther said) just as light necessarily generates heat.  Good works are inevitable byproducts of faith.

Unlike a majority of people, I am at home with solitude, contemplation and study.  It is a bigger challenge for me to get out and be the answer to living out God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven;” to keep one foot in the Kingdom that is to come, and the other in that we are called to help build here on earth.

Lord, help me live out Your Kingdom here on earth.

jesus_loves_the_little_children_song_1

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” Colossians 3:11 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What cultural differences are you allowing to separate you from others who are part of Christ’s body?

All human beings alive today are hypocrites, and I am definitely included in that classification.  The idea of people of all races and cultures and ideologies living together peacefully sounds so wonderful in theory, but the devil is literally in the details.

I grew up in a very rural, very white community.  Virtually everyone was some kind of Christian, be it Catholic or Protestant.  Most of the people I grew up around were just like my family- their families were of mostly northern European descent and had been in this country for generations.  I was in third grade (7 years old) before I actually encountered a real live person who was born in a foreign country- a girl from Korea who had been orphaned and then adopted by a local pastor and his wife.  She spoke absolutely no English.  On her first day in school, she would not drink the cafeteria milk (prepackaged, in a half-pint carton, from a local dairy) until someone else drank out of the carton first.  She told me later, as she eventually learned to speak English very well, that she wanted to be sure no one was trying to give her poison.

I remember feeling very sorry for this girl, at first, but my pity didn’t last very long.  I was very impressed with how quickly she learned English, (it was really important for her to learn, because no one within probably a hundred miles or more could speak Korean) and with how other people helped make her feel comfortable in her new home.  I was one of the kids who volunteered to help her learn English, using picture flash cards for names of common objects and helping her with correct pronunciation.  Within a year her English skills- both spoken and written- were almost as good as the rest of the kids’, and she no longer needed extra lessons and tutoring.

Growing up, I never had too much of an opinion of other people based on their race or customs, because almost everyone that I was exposed to growing up was white and of northern European descent just like me.  The few “different” people I met up with- we had a few black and a few Asian families in town- seemed to be just fine too.

I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock I got when I moved to Columbus in the mid-1990s.  I was now a part of a much more racially and culturally diverse community.  Not (almost) everyone was white. Not everyone was Christian.  Not everyone was straight!

I have to admit that sometimes when I see young black men milling about in a parking lot with their pants half way down their patoot, I hit the remote lock switch one more time just to make sure the car is locked.  Of course, not all young black men are thugs on drugs who are just waiting for the opportunity to pilfer through my car.  Most probably are not. Worse yet, when I do this I am acting out of racism, which goes against what the apostle Paul teaches.  Black or white shouldn’t make any difference, but in spite of myself, sometimes it does.

After the tragedy of 9-11 I admit I have been very wary of those of the Muslim faith.  When I see the women wearing the long dresses and veils, I know they are Muslim, and that more and more immigrants from other countries who are Muslim are making their way to central Ohio.  Being around Muslim people makes me uncomfortable, and I have a very real fear of those who subscribe to radical Islam, even though I am sure that it is not every Muslim’s aim to destroy this country and kill every Christian.  Even so, I admit, I am afraid.  I believe it is a justifiable fear, because there is much in the Quran and other Islamic teachings that advocates the persecution and murder of Christians.  I pray that Muslims will see beyond the deception of Islam and hear the Good News of Jesus, but I am still afraid of them.

I never encountered openly gay people until I moved to Columbus in 1994.  Since I come from a very conservative background, where homosexuality is regarded as an unspeakable sin, at first it was very difficult for me to be around people who are gay.  Then I remembered that God is my judge, and everyone else’s.  We are accountable to Him for who we love, what we do, and for what we accomplish with our lives.  Even though I struggle with how a Christian should regard the condition of homosexuality, the answer for me is to love God and love people- straight and gay.

I admit that I am still working on my attitudes toward people who aren’t like me.  It’s easier when they are also Christians, but what about loving the unlovable? What about loving people who have been taught that it’s OK to kill me?

I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the right attitude and help me to see people the way God sees them.





Colossians 3:5 My Will vs. Thy Will- Get Rid of What is Not of God

14 03 2013

Hieronymus_Bosch_Seven_Deadly_Sins

“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” Colossians 3:5 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What worldly passions do you struggle with the most? What needs to happen for you to have a victory over those passions?

“Sin” isn’t a very politically correct word.  Heaven forbid that we tell ourselves that something we’re doing is bad or wrong- or only that it’s bad or wrong because it’s out of context or to excess.  Criticism might hurt our little self-esteem.  Unfortunately there are times the word “sin” is exactly the word we need to hear, and we need to take the admonition of Scripture when it comes to correcting our behavior, even when it’s not politically correct or “nice” to point out the ways in which our behavior falls short of the glory of God.

The apostle Paul didn’t exactly come up with the same Seven Deadly Sins we know today.  But as a fan of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I see the Seven Deadly Sins as being helpful in understanding human nature, and the nature of sin, and for examining my own sin.

The most comprehensive list of noteworthy sins that the Apostle Paul enumerated can be found in Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV)”    The Apostle Paul wasn’t one to either be politically correct, or to mince words.

seven deadly sins

The current Seven Deadly Sins list actually goes back to Pope Gregory I, who was working from an earlier list of sins – “Eight Evil Thoughts,” written by Evagrius Ponticus back in the 4th century.

While the specifics of fleshly lusts to avoid are different in both the Colossians and the Galatians text, and the Apostle Paul does not specifically mention pride, he does mention idolatry, which is a form of pride.

Pride is the root of all sin, and it was the heart of the original sin of the Garden.  The serpent promised Eve that she would be as God.  That desire to take the place of God, is the definition of pride, and is idolatry. At the center of the heart of human sin is one primal and fatal desire that says: “I want my will, even when it is contrary to God’s will.  I want to be in the place of God.”

I’m guilty of idolatry when I put anything I want, anyone, or anything above God.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I assume my way of doing things is the best way.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I think that somehow I am above judgment when I indulge my lusts even when I know that what I want is wrong.

beanie babies

No, I am not into Beanie Babies, but I can’t think of any logical or sane reason to have this many of them.

I may not have 1000 Beanie Babies cluttering up my shelves, but I am guilty of the sin of greed when I stock up on things I may not really need because I am afraid of running out, or that I might miss out on something “everyone else” already has.  I know full well nobody on earth needs 100+ pairs of shoes- but I have them nonetheless.  Having too much stuff is a problem for me.  It comes from growing up poor and always being worried about not having enough food or appropriate clothing or other essential needs, but what makes the acquisition and stockpiling of stuff wrong is that it demonstrates my lack of faith in God’s provision.  Jesus said He would provide for my needs and I shouldn’t be obsessed with the overwhelming need for anything.

(Jesus said:) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)”

at The Sixth Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball. The Home of Susan Harris and Hayward Kaiser, Mandeville Canyon, CA. 06-02-07

Didya think I would show a pic of a chick when I’m talking about lust?

I am guilty of the sin of lust when I am consumed with desire for something- or someone. (No, I don’t lust after Charlie Sheen- any more!)  Lust is not as huge of a problem as it was for me at one time, and I’m very thankful for that.  As someone who is married and involuntarily celibate, lust is a huge temptation.  It is only by the grace of God that He has kept me from making unwise choices that might seem exciting and fun at the time, but that I know I would regret later.  I’ve been down that path in the past, and it leads to nothing but guilt and shame.  By the grace of God, I don’t want to go there ever again.

In all seriousness, I’m a work in progress.  I know I need to go through my stuff and get rid of those things I really don’t need.  I have issues with the acquisition of stuff and I am bound up in the tyranny of stuff.  I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t need to stock up on every single item that goes on sale even when I have the means to do so. I struggle with scarcity mentality every day and it’s difficult for me to trust God for my provision. When I’m struggling to pay for scripts and bills it’s really hard to trust that God will provide even though I know He does, and He will.