Monday, May 28, 2012

Deuteronomy 15

In Deuteronomy, chapter 15, Moses lays out the new law concerning the Sabbatical Year for the Jews just before they enter the promised land. The sabbatical year comes around every 7th year, and in this year all are liberated from their outstanding debts to one another, including service in the form of slavery. Like I said in my previous post on Deuteronomy, I am excited to be reading this book because it is out of this book that Jesus uses passages commanded to turn down the devil. It is in these passages here in Ch. 15 that I can really see the heart of Jesus, and the law God was trying to mend in the hearts of his people.  A few passages that especially stood out to me were:

Deuteronomy 15:4-5
There will, however, no one in need among you, because the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today.

Deuteronomy 15:7-9 not be hard hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11
Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land."

Deuteronomy 15:13-15
Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press thus giving him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 15:18
Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons, because for six years they have given you services worth the wages of hired laborers; and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Romans 14:13-23

Paul talks about eating here, but if it serves you replace food with anything else that might cause others to stumble, food, sex, clothing, smoking, etc..

Emphasis added, verses bolded especially stood out to me.

Romans 14:13-23

 Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


Romans 14:13-23

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.  Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 
  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. 
 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Christ: A sacrifice to sin. Romans

I have been reading Romans lately to gain perspective on a lot of things, but more specifically perspective on homosexuality. But an interesting thing has been emerging for me. Lately I have been really trying to understand Christ more. I get that he died for our sins, and through him we are saved. But Paul really outlines some interesting things about Christ in his letter to the Romans. Like Romans 3:21-31

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God(AB) has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.(AC) 22 This righteousness(AD) is given through faith(AE) in[h]Jesus Christ(AF) to all who believe.(AG) There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,(AH) 23 for all have sinned(AI) and fall short of the glory of God,24 and all are justified(AJ) freely by his grace(AK)through the redemption(AL) that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i](AM) through the shedding of his blood(AN)—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished(AO) 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting?(AP) It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.(AQ) 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,(AR) 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.(AS)31 

Emphasis added)

Verse 26 there really gets me. It was here that something started stirring in me about Christ. Christ was God's sacrifice of atonement to Sin. Wow. Paul goes on in Romans to explain how, just like all of man fell to sin through one man (Adam), all of man is released from sin by God through one man (Christ). All of sin is washed away because God sacrificed His only son, Christ. Christ lived a sin- free life, which no man could do. This is why it was necessary for God to make himself into a man in Christ, for to be sinless you must be God, but to atone for the sins of humanity, you must be human. In this way, God himself atoned for our sins, through Christ Jesus, for all who believe. And all who believe are called to be a part of another Kingdom, not this world, bound by desires of the flesh (which are sinful and lead to death), but to be a part of Gods Kingdom, bound by desires of the spirit (which are righteous and lead to eternal life). 


What does this mean?  
It first means that there is a battle within us- a battle of desires of the flesh and desires of the spirit. The desires of one will always leave us unsatisfied, no matter how hard we try to fulfill them - these are the desires of the flesh. Like greed, pride, gain, self-indulgence - things that serve individuals, but are shallow and fleeting. And then there are the desires of the spirit - God's spirit, the Holy Spirit. These desires serve others, find joy in loving and caring for others, in community and in putting others first before the individual. It is this nature that is at the heart of all of us - whether we choose to live it out or not. It is the denial of this nature that leaves us hungry and yearning for more. Often times we turn to the desires of the flesh, but really it is the spirit we need to turn to. Denying the spirit and turning to flesh is the nature of sin.

However, I think it means that we need not worry about our sinful nature, that it has been overcome for us, and that if we choose to leave it behind and die to it and follow Christ, we can be a part of something greater, free from worldly desires - materialism, individualism, self-sufficiency, greed, pride, sexual immorality and many more. Instead, we can be relieved of these burdens and participate in something far greater than our individual needs and desires. We can be a participant in the glory of God, and live out a life that fills our spirit with joy and gladness - service to others, love, kindness, genteelness, community and so much more. Indeed, it is in the desires of the flesh we turn to fill a never ending hunger which will starve our spirit and kill our faith, but to christ we turn to quench our eternal thirst and find true life.

Same Sex Marriage- Respectful Conversations

Still thinking and praying heavily on this issue. I read an article in the Star Tribune today on the "Respectful Conversations" campaign the Minnesota Council of Churches is doing. I thought it was interesting, and am hoping to get more involved in these conversations. I think there are a lot of confused christians out there, who aren't totally sure how to love their brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ...

Same Sex Marriage- Romans

Read out or Romans today. Paul talks about men and women being lead away from God, and a sign of it being sexual immorality, with men and women choosing un-natural relations with one another, specifically homosexual behavior. I think this is a passage that could be used to say that homosexuality is a sin. It is important to note though, that just before this Paul discusses that people are led away from God so that others can see what it is to be called to God. He also states that many are led to God after being away from God, like the corinthians themselves whom he is writing this letter to. He states after this that all will be saved by grace. That we are not to concern ourselves with the behaviors of others our ourselves or the law, but with the state of our heart, for out of our heart comes our salvation by faith. It makes me think that there really isn't much point in worrying about saving others, the point is to live out the faith you have by loving others and exercising the gifts of the spirit granted to you by God. This whole issue of same sex marriage being a 'christian issue is so absurd to me. Everyone is lost in sin, why are so many people hung up on this?  There is so much here, just read it. Tell me what you think.

Same Sex Marriage - 1 Corinthians

I read out of 1 Corinthians today to try to get some more insight on biblical perspectives on this issue. In it Paul writes how Christians are part of the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world. It just made me realize even more how Christian Theology is not meant to be a part of the State or the government of this World. Christians are not called to follow the law or form the law, but to be lead by the Spirit. Even more so, we are not called to judge, but to love.  I encourage you to read it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

LGBTQ-AC-XYZ... same sex marriage

Brothers and sisters, I want to begin by stating that we, as Christians, are not called to live by the Law, but are called to live by the Spirit, given to us by the grace of God. There is nothing you can do to deserve this grace, or to lose this grace, you can only accept it. Whether black, white, gay, transexual, inter-sex, married, unmarried, man or woman, or anything else for that matter. If you were created by God (which you are), then you're welcome to this grace. You cant earn it and you can't do anything to deserve it. There is simply nothing you can do. Nothing. Except accept it.

If you are so freely welcome to it, indeed your brother and sister next to you - no matter how uncomfortable it makes you - is also welcome to it.

So stop judging them, stop telling them they need to be saved. Stop telling them they are lost or some how inferior to you and denied your grace. Remember, you did not earn it, and neither can they.

No. Our God freely gives this grace, this spirit, this unconditional un-dying love - to anyone, anyone who chooses to accept it.

Whether you like it or not.

In this light, I believe, the law is irrelevant. Jesus made the law- which leads to death- irrelevant. To follow the law is to lead yourself to death. Be free. Leave the Law behind. The law that condemns you will condemn you to hell. You will never escape it or please it.

But there is good news- there is Gospel!

 You can be free of the law. Christ has come and He has risen! He has put the law to death and given us the spirit to live by - living through and by the spirit leads to life. And this spirit sees everyone as loved by God. As a perfectly imperfect impression of God and His love, and this spirit loves unconditionally - just as God does. It knows not how to hate or judge or condemn, but only to love.

The true mark of this Spirit within you is unconditional love for all. No matter what. No matter if this person is loving another, or torturing you. You are called to love them, to welcome them with open arms, to validate them as Gods child.

So my challenge and question to Christians is this - 

Christ says from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

What comes out of your mouth?

Check yo self.

This being said, below is an exploration of my diving in to the Bible to see what the Bible has to say about same sex marriage. Above is my conclusion- below, and in the posts that follow- is the evolution.


With the marriage amendment coming up soon, I have been thinking and praying a lot about same sex marriage. As a christian, this shouldn't be, but is a tough topic. Sure, the Bible says same sex relations are an 'abomination'. Google search defines abomination as

  1. A thing that causes disgust or hatred.
  2. A feeling of hatred.
 Yes, indeed it is. One only need to look at a few headlines today, like this one, or news stories like this one to see that same sex relations do indeed cause feelings of hate or disgust. But this is a shortcoming of people, not of God. God loves all, everyone, all sinners (which we all are).  If he accepts any of us (even just one), he must accept us all. For no sin is greater than another, and we are all sinners. Jesus atoned for our sins and gave us new life, new freedom from sin if we follow him. Christians are called to follow Christ, this means to love others as Christ did, and judge not. Although we may not all support same-sex relations, we are not to judge or condemn those who engage in them (whether they be 'right' or 'wrong'). And, we are especially called to love them just as we are called to love everyone else; by serving them, not by condemning them.

Some christians argue that to not take a stance against same-sex marriage is to support same sex marriage, and because of their religious convictions they must take a stance against it. To this I say that we, as Christians, are not called to force others to carry our own convictions. Religious convictions should not be the same as the convictions of the state. As Christians, we are called to be a part of God's Kingdom, not of this world. It is not our call to force our will upon others. It is our call to love them, radically. True love is never forced. Because we are not citizens of this world, if this world condones same-sex marriage (even if you think it's wrong) it isn't on your hands. We are not responsible for the behavior of others (not even other citizens of Gods Kingdom). Especially not those of this world. Why? Because we are not called to pledge allegiance to this world. Does this mean we are not responsible for our own behavior? Absolutely NOT. But, because we are not of this world, we are not responsible for what this world governs as legal, or illegal.

We are not to abide by the law of this land, but instead to abide by God's law. But not through force, through love and by choice. Through a decision and a desire to follow Christ. Does God force us to love Him? No, what kind of love is that? Forced love is no love at all. We are allowed to choose our relationship with God. God wants us to choose a relationship with Him, because He knows that through choice comes willingness. God does not seek forced relation, but willing relation in which we desire to have God move in our lives and change our hearts. It is through this willingness that we are called to follow God's law obediently. If we obediently follow Gods law, to love radically, there is no need for worldly laws.  One whose heart and will are aligned with Gods wants the best for all and peace (at the cost of their own life, not the life of another). It is a heart of service, not of force.  We are to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, here on earth. Just as if we were to travel to a foreign country. It is not our duty to force the world to conform to our beliefs or standards, but it is our call to love the world and to live by Gods standards, regardless of what the world thinks or does. Are we called to live differently? Yes. Absolutely. But this does not mean forcefully. And this does not mean denying others the right to a relationship through the state.

Others say that if the State allows for same sex marriage, but the 'church' stays against same sex marriage, that the 'church' will be seen as actively engaging in acts of discrimination and hate. This deeply saddens me. The church should have never been made into an institution. The Church Christ talks about is a living, breathing body of people who believe in and follow Christ and His teachings. It is you, and me. It is your hands that Christ uses to feed the hungry, your eyes through which He sees the world, your feet on which He walks. It is us, individuals, who make up the body of Christ.  Not an institution. However, yes, the church (little c for the institution) may be seen in this light, and that's a tough situation to be in. In my opinion, if the church is seen this way it is a failure on behalf of the church. The church is called by God to love, and to be seen as a place of hate or discrimination shines a light directly where it needs to be shined. For my brothers and sisters, our greatest failure as a Church will be where we have failed to love.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Conversations with Mormons

There have been two mormons that continually come to my door. I have begun to learn about the mormon faith because of them, and the more I learn the more I pray for them.

I had, before today, wrestled with the call of God to be Christ to those who come to us seeking. To me, I wondered if that meant opening my heart and home to these Mormons, despite their attempts to convert me and test my faith. Aren't we to open our hearts and homes and give anything asked of us to give? Surely, if these Mormons were Atheists, I would talk with them about my faith, and welcome them with open arms. Wouldn't I? Through prayer, God led me to reach out to a good friend of mine, who directed me to 1 John 4. As I read, I continued to 2 John and it was in this passage the Spirit spoke to me.

"Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do no receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person" (2 John 9-11)

I realized, through this verse, that God calls me to meet other peoples needs. If someone comes to my home seeking food, shelter, water - I am called to give it to them, and regardless of if they were Mormon, I pray that I would. If someone comes to me seeking to find God, well they should not come to me to find God but, I believe I would be called to share what I do understand, and I pray that I would. However, if someone comes to my home to deliberately try to lead me away from God, and is not eager to learn what I have to share, then I am not obligated to welcome them into my home and listen to their false teaching. They seek from me what I cannot give- my faith in God. Indeed, to welcome them in to critique my faith would greatly increase the chance of me perpetuating their own Theology (by noticing the 'shortcomings' of my faith), and lead them on to continue to try to pursue me and my soul. I am, still, however, called to treat them with kindness and dignity. Lord help me do so.

I had arranged to meet with them today around 1:30, but upon reading 2 John, I resolved to write them a letter. Below is that letter.

Dear Elders,
     I have prayed much about you and our time together today. I am sorry that I am not here at our planned meeting time, but I have chosen to go spend some time with a dear friend of mine. I believe you will be disappointed, and I also trust you might se my choice as an act of fear. The truth is, I do fear. I fear for you and for your souls, but I do not believe you want to hear this, so I will give you space and allow you to go the way you choose, but if you choose to listen to me here, there are some things I do want to tell you.
    We are all saved by grace, not by works. Grace is something we receive, that we do not deserve. Sometimes, often times, this feeling of un-deserving leads us to believe that we must 'earn' Gods love, honor, favor. But, you cannot. God is not a man. He did choose to make himself smaller than He truly is, and came to reveal himself in a man, Jesus Christ. God birthed himself, through the VIRGIN Mary, His own spirit in flesh - this his Son, Jesus the Christ. He did this to show us, through living example, what perfect relationship with him looks like between people and Himself. He showed us and taught us that it is through loving God and a personal, intimate relationship between ourselves and God, that God works within us and makes us whole. It is God alone who can do this, all you can do, are asked to do, is to be willing. This takes great faith, and great love, and you (just like I) cannot, CAN NOT gain salvation or lead yourself to salvation. But, if you are willing to trust God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit within you, God will save you; if you choose.
    I fear you have lost this message. It is by deeds, acts and behaviors, you have been told, that you will one day become like God. Brothers, truly I tell you that God and all His glory dwell inside you already. There is nothing you need to do or can do to change that. Why would you want to be like God, or be 'another God" (there is only 1 true God) when you already participate in being God already? Do not be tempted by teachings which promise you power, for all power is Gods and His alone. It is satan who tempted Jesus with the power of all of the heavens and earth, why do you not believe it is satan also who tempts you with the same promise? But you can turn away from his temptations, with Christ behind you. If you choose to ask him, He will give you the same strength he had when He told Satan "away with you satan! for it is written 'worship the Lord your God and serve only Him" (Matthew 4:10). 

    It is your choice whether to truly listen here, and I will love you regardless, as will the Lord. No matter how much you try, you can never lose, or gain, His Love. I pray that in your walk, you truly find Christ. I pray that one day you seek His glory, not your own, but it is your choice. If there is ever a day, when the day comes, you are burdened by the load of seeking to be 'god' or "a god", Christ will be there to carry the load for you. For it is his burden alone to carry (the burden of being God) and His deepest desire that you surrender and let Him, trust Him, and have faith in Him, that He is God, and you do not have to keep trying.    

With love,

I realize as I type this that there are errors, and I deeply regret that I did not stress the importance of Christ dying on the cross for our sins. But these are a hard people to reach, because in our first conversation in person they claimed to know this and to believe this. They teach that after Christ was resurrected he came to the Americas to teach the natives (which had no cultural context in which to place Jesus, nor a history with which to place him in...). So they believe this already. My stress, as I wrote this, was to try to emphasize that the desire to be God, to rule over kingdoms and planets, is not a call of God but an allure of the human Ego. 

I may never know what comes of this. I pray that God uses it (and any of my foolish mistakes) for His ultimate Good. That they find freedom and peace in Him, and turn from trying to earn it for themselves. They already have much of what they seek, they have just believed otherwise.