SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIANS

Same Sex marriageYesterday the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Going forward, this country will now recognize marriage as man and woman, man and man, woman and woman.

“Love Won”, they say.

The path of least resistance is to remain quiet if you don’t agree, or else be accused of bigotry and hatred.

But what do we say in response to a ruling that is a mockery of God’s laws, a ruling that many believe will tear away at the moral fabric of this country?

I submit to you today that it isn’t ultimately about speaking our minds or having a right to do so. I believe at the heart of the stereotyping and name-calling towards Christians is a rebellion against God, but it is also a backlash on Christians that perpetuate that image by the way they relate to those who have different beliefs.

We are told to speak the truth in love, which is a loaded statement. It’s a balance of conviction and compassion that can only be practiced through God’s work in our own hearts.  My simple perspective is to look to Christ, to Him as our example. When He came upon a woman about to be stoned for committing adultery, (and just for clarity, homosexuality is just as much of a sin, Romans 1:26). What was His reaction?

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”(John 8:1-11)

It’s important to remember that Jesus approached this woman with kindness and genuine love, yet He never shied away from speaking the truth. Notice what He said next:  He said go and sin no more. It was not ok that she committed adultery. It was not ok if she continued in her sin.

Jesus was in balance. His love for this sinner wasn’t just with words, it was demonstrated.  Yet He was bold to speak the truth. I see two extremes among Christians: If we say we love, but don’t do anything to speak the truth, we can’t win anyone to salvation. There is also no salvation with a display of condemnation to someone else. It only breeds hate.Yes, I believe we as Christians must be involved politically. I will say this strongly.

There is no doubt that the government is a God-given tool to keep society from going completely berserk, and we must fight to put the right people in office. Yet spiritual change will not ultimately come as something pressing upon the masses. It begins in the heart, in preaching and sharing the Gospel. It begins from the inside out, as it does with all of us.

Then love will truly win.

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I’m challenged to examine my heart first. We must ask ourselves:

  • How do we really view those who don’t know the truth? Do we genuinely love them as human beings?
  • What is the motivation of a condemning spirit? Is it Fear? Anger? Our own guilt?
  • Are you and I prepared for the testing of our faith ahead? What should we be doing right now to understand the challenges ahead?

 

50 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN 50 YEARS

50 years 50 lessonsOk, so this will be the last time I’ll even hint that I just turned 50, but I just wanted to share a list of what I’ve learned over the years…not perfectly or completely, but God is good, and He has shown me these principles and virtues in one way or another along the way. (Apparently admitting that I’m middle aged is not one of them!)

50 things I learned in 50 years

  1. God’s mercy is new every day.
  2. Never pass up a good opportunity to keep your mouth shut.
  3. There’s a good reason for hardships, even if we don’t see it right away.
  4. Of relationships: Humility and forgiveness go a long way.
  5. Listen to the still, small voice inside you. It’s called your conscience.
  6. We are just here for a little while…Time is fleeting. Use it for eternal purpose.
  7. You can tell a lot about someone by who they say is their hero
  8. You may not think God is listening, but you always find out that He is.
  9. Life is not fair or easy
  10. Being in God’s will is peaceful and progressive
  11. God can change your plans at any time
  12. Peace is often a good measure of answered prayer
  13. Looking back, I can see how God has worked in my life to steer me towards His will
  14. Time alone with God is rich
  15. Everything, even our mistakes work together for the good
  16. Work as unto the Lord
  17. You can make a living, but it isn’t your life
  18. God uses a few people to do the greatest things
  19. Joy in the Lord is the fullest kind of joy
  20. I don’t deserve God’s grace but He gives it anyway
  21. Don’t expect from others what only God can give
  22. Finish a job you started
  23. God shows his mercy in the uneventful ways
  24. Slow down
  25. Creativity is a gift from God
  26. Those you never expect to show up will show up
  27. Say you’re sorry
  28. Solitude is underrated
  29. There’s nothing like discovering wisdom in God’s word
  30. God’s discipline tells us that we are His
  31. The less time I have to work with, the more I get done
  32. I’m not as righteous as I think I am
  33. God is kinder than I think He is
  34. I think I can do it on my own until I can’t
  35. Think carefully of the motives of anything done in the name of happiness
  36. Health is taken for granted until it’s lost
  37. When you are angry, pray before act. The outcome will be different.
  38. It’s better to woo and persuade in kindness than force with anger.
  39. Ask the right questions.
  40. If you look for an opportunity to share your faith, God will give it
  41. Sometimes the consequences are waived
  42. Humility defuses envy
  43. God has not called me to fit in
  44. Never stop doing your best just because someone didn’t give you credit
  45. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the willingness to listen
  46. Take mental snapshots. They are moments in time that won’t ever go away.
  47. I have less time than I thought
  48. I shouldn’t have made it this far
  49. I wish I’d known then what I know now
  50. I have a lot more to learn

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There’s a story or two that I could share about each one, but then who doesn’t have their own list?

We’ve all had our battles and the scars to show for them, but with each we carry away the priceless bounty of new faith and insight we may not have gained any other way. Am I right?

As believers, I realize that He also teaches in His patience and kindness, in answered prayer that we don’t deserve, and in His rich fellowship as we walk in obedience with Him. Most of all, He teaches us clearly in His Word, which we can all look to in order to address any life circumstance and know Him more deeply.

As long as we live and breathe, we know that God isn’t finished with us yet. He has barely started with me, a work in progress.

What are some of your hard-learned lessons?

Can you relate to any I’ve listed?

How did you come to learn them?

What’s your greatest challenge in the Christian life?

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH: EIGHT QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF CONCERNING CHURCH FAVORITISM

I recently noticed a stone displayed on a coworker’s desk. it was a geode, which is a type of sedimentary or volcanic rock, usually rounded in shape:

Rocks - box

It brought back a long-forgotten memory of the first time I saw  this type of rock. It was many years ago in grade school, when a guest brought in a bag of them to show the class. He downplayed it pretty well. He took one out, saying, “What an ordinary rock. It’s grainy, rough, kinda like cement…who wants one?”

We went along with his assessment.

“Not me!”

“You sure you don’t want one? Don’t you think they’re pretty?”

“No way!”

Laughter ensued.

“Ok,” he said, “guess I’ll have to keep them all”.

With that, he began to cut one with a saw, saying he was just curious what it looked like on the inside.

Of course, you may know where this is going. A geode is a type of rock that has a hollow internal crevice lined with minerals. They are formed when air bubbles are trapped in volcanic rock. When rain falls on the bubble, the chemicals inside the volcanic rock are released, forming crystals inside the rock.

The results are beautiful:

Rock - small purple Rock - small gray Rock - large purple

 

What an unexpected contrast! Needless to say, we all wanted one after that.

Why am I sharing a children’s lesson? I believe it’s a message we have to keep learning, whether we’re 8 or 78 years old:

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

We see it every day in this world. People create a ranking system based on superficial criteria such as beauty, status, wardrobe, or prestige. I believe is all over our society due to evil pride, a constant desire to boost ourselves by looking down at others, not taking the time to see what may be on the inside.

It’s not easy to admit, but let’s face it. We see it in the church as well.

Yes, we as believers have the Spirit of God within us, and therefore we have the capacity to reflect God’s complete impartiality.

2 Chronicles 19:7 says, “There is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons.”

In other words, God does not show favoritism.

Yet without obedience to Him, we behave no better than anyone else. We aren’t showing God’s character when we seek out others based on what we see on the outside.

Apparently this was an issue in the early church as well. James (thought to be the brother of Christ) writes directly to the issue in his epistle:

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (James 2:1-4)

If we are one body in Christ, shouldn’t we reflect His character?

Here are a list of questions we must ask of our church, but more importantly, to honestly ask of ourselves:

  1. Do we (I) divide ourselves (myself) socially based on social status?
  2. Is my church diverse when it comes to race and background? Do I make a point to befriend members from all walks of life?
  3. Do we (I) sit myself apart from the outcast at the end of the pew?
  4. Who do we (I) talk to at the end of a service?
  5. Are there distinct cliques in my church? Am I a part of them?
  6. Does my church resemble a fashion show more than a church gathering at times? Who am I dressing for when I go to church?
  7. Do I or church leadership favor the popular over the not-so-popular for positions of service?
  8. Do the sermons at my church (more than anything else) focus on status and riches as indicators of God’s blessing? Do I often believe that favor is measured by wealth?

Friend, God is not interested in your beauty, your wardrobe, or your bank account, no matter how little or much you possess.  I believe there will come a day when the body of Christ will truly be united, whether it is through sanctification and/or necessity. May it be sooner rather than later.

“….man looks at the outside, yet God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel  16:7)

 

 

 

ON THE RECENT DUGGAR CASE

Duggars

Like many “19 Kids and Counting” viewers, I’m saddened to hear of Josh Duggar’s confession of sexual molestation of 5 girls, 4 of which were his own sisters. Over the weekend, I’ve read many articles and comments that either sweep it under the rug by saying “forgive, it was a mistake”, to downright glee at his downfall. Both are disturbing to me because they represent reactions written from emotion and bias. Yet, with as much talk about this right now, I can’t be silent not to address this issue. It’s a very public, real-life  circumstance that has generated a windstorm of assumptions. It’s brought up questions concerning forgiveness and accountability, honesty and moral dilemma. How do you and I, as Christians response to such a crime committed by a professing brother in Christ? This story seems to beg the question. I’m writing today in hopes to offer a clear-headed, balanced response.

I don’t know Josh Duggar nor anyone in this family. I don’t know all the details and I never will. I can’t read anyone’s heart or mind. What I have pondered are some general thoughts and principles I believe are to be considered:

  • First and foremost, Josh Duggar committed a horrific crime. It was committed deliberately and repetitively. You cannot shrug it off simply by saying “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Are you saying that because he professes to be a Christian? Would you say that about anyone in his shoes? He wasn’t a “child” at the time and knew exactly what he was doing, and was NOT just a “mistake”. For that, he needed (or still needs) extensive help, and needless to say, a punishment worthy of the crime. Accountability and Forgiveness are not the same thing. 
  • Josh Duggar is a sinner. He possesses the same origin of sin as any other child molester, any murderer, any thief. Let me ask you this—(because I see it in myself also) —have you ever noticed that our jails are full of such criminals that most Christians never evangelized, nor visit with the gospel? Yet when, and if, they show an interest in God are suddenly extended a hand of fellowship or a pat on the back? They are suddenly humanized because they have stepped over on our terms. Why aren’t we seeing the same potential of repentance in them as we think we see in Josh Duggar? Why is there such a double standard? 
  • Don’t trust appearances. Even the most pristine family may not always be what they seem. Now, I admire what the family and their show stood for; I share their values and I definitely rooted for their success and witness in the middle of a world waiting for them to fall. Yet, even before this came to light, I never thought it was wise to publicly hold anyone up on a pedestal.  On a large or small scale, men will fail us. Whether they are reality show stars, Sunday school teachers, or family. I’m not saying to throw trust out the window, but that our standard and confidence is ultimately only One, and that is Jesus Christ. 
  • I’m grieved that this very public incident has hurt the body of Christ as a whole. By being so much in the public eye, this family was under a microscope. As such, their credibility is under question. I support TLC’s decision to take them off the air, at least until some restoration or restitution can be made. I cannot speculate on this point, but if the parents knew the history with Josh, I question the wisdom of the decision to have a show, knowing the damage this revelation would do in the long run. 
  • I believe in restoration of the sinner. I believe that if Josh Duggar is truly repentant, if he has truly mourned over his sin, if he has dealt with it in his heart and before his victims, that God has forgiven him. I believe that about anyone in his shoes. Does that mean that just because someone is repentant that there are no consequences? No. Otherwise, we might as well let everyone, even those who are truly repentant out of jail. Additionally, even if this repentance has already taken place, as someone in the limelight, he has a responsibility to his viewers to prove that repentance. I don’t know what that looks like, God does. 
  • Our job is to pray…pray and understand that all things work together for the good for the Christian. (Romans 8:28). Pray that their eyes would be open to any false doctrine or wrong teaching, and any dysfunction in the family would be corrected if there are any. Pray for the victims, that they have healed and will heal from this present crisis. I think it’s wishful and probably unlikely that all is well across the board, but who knows – maybe God will choose the right means of restoration to create an honest and even more transparent witness for Him. Otherwise, pray that He would use this in the individuals that were more directly effected in ways that we will never know.

A DOSE OF AMAZING!

 

moon cropped

Dear Friends,

I took this shot of the moon a couple of weeks ago, as seen through a telescope over Burnet, Texas, in  the heart of the Texas Hill Country. It’s the same moon I barely noticed back home in the urban hot mess of Houston, where the streetlights wash out the sky, and I’m usually too preoccupied to look up anyway. Now, as it hung over “God’s turf” it seemed to be coming out of the shadows and into the spotlight, a generous, beaming presence. I had to capture the view at that moment.

The Universe is amazing. I got a glimpse of the Orion Nebula (a cloud of gas and dust just below the constellation of Orion’s Belt), the birthplace of a thousand stars. Venus was so close that it overshadowed even the  brightest star on the horizon…but it was Jupiter that really blew me away. Looking at it with the naked eye, it looked like a star. However, through a telescope it was a perfect white globe, trailed by four very distinct moons, all lined up in a row. This isn’t my pic, but very close to what I saw:

Jupiter-moons-in-scope

Jupiter and its four brightest moons seen in a small telescope. Credit: Bob King

I’ve been obsessed with all things Space-y ever since.

For instance, did you know that:

A lot of what I tried to comprehend was pretty much over my head (no pun intended): The mathematical calculations of why the speed of light is always constant…The physics of interplanetary gravitational pull…The chemistry of why only a teaspoon of imploded star matter will weigh over a ton.

I’ll leave that to all of you science wizards, but I will say this…the debate between intelligent design and science comes down to origin. Christianity doesn’t reject science, we just acknowledge the One who invented it. In fact, I really don’t think that science is that much at odds with what God has revealed in His word.  I checked out what the Bible says on creation and found that science has determined what God’s Word already confirmed long ago:

On the number of stars:

 “As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured…”

(Jeremiah 33:22)

On the shape of the Earth:

“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers…” (Isaiah 40:22)

On the free float of Earth in space:

“He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing”. (Job 26:7)

On creation made of invisible elements:

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”.(Hebrews 11:3)

On the expanding Universe:

“…He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (Isaiah 40:22)

The next day I woke up to a stunning and cloudless day. The Hill Country is gorgeous this time of year. The bluebonnets cover the ground like a purple carpet, and the breeze is just enough to cut through the heat. There’s a certain peace in walking through a meadow — to the tune no louder than the chirping of the birds.

IMG_0625

 IMG_0621 - Copy

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It’s mind-boggling to think that we are on a hanging globe, spinning like a top in this dynamic, inhabitable cosmos when our immediate surroundings can seem so serene. Yet here we are, sustained and cocooned in our little world. It seems we are oblivious in our day-to-day lives to this far greater reality. Heck, I hardly noticed the moon in the city! It’s only when we stop long enough to realize that our God is never oblivious of us that we are truly amazed.

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Now that’s out of this world.

A DAY I MADE A LOT OF NOISE

I was having lunch with a friend, rambling on and on about the different resource for Bible Study that I’ve discovered. I was barely giving myself time to take a bite of my sandwich before I’d launch into another monologue on Theology and Hermeneutics. Sure I was sincere, but I began to see that she was looking away from time to time. I didn’t stop to ask her why, I only thought that it was annoying me, and I was about to be offended and…

“Do you see that guy?” she said, interrupted my thoughts. She was looking just outside the restaurant window, at an old man who was walking with a gasoline container. He looked tired and distressed. His hair was falling forward and his shirt was untucked. He had no business being outside in 95 degree weather.

“No, I didn’t…” I said, slowly turning a degree to see what she was talking about.

“Looks like he ran out of gas or is having car trouble”, she added.“He’s been out there now for a while – he walked from across the street.”

A while?” I thought. “How long? 10, 20, 30 minutes and I hadn’t noticed?

My friend proceed to approach the man and offered her help. Then it occurred to me that I was so busy talking about “what we believe” that I didn’t even notice the opportunity to live it out!  It was what Paul was talking about in I Corth. 13:1 when he said:

 “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Not to minimize the importance of studying and understanding scripture. I’d be the first to tell you how important that is. It’s my joy and passion. I love to examine the scriptures, I love to reason and discuss the depth of meaning of a passage. And the lesson was just as loud and clear to me: In our zeal for the knowledge of God’s word, are we missing it’s application even as there are opportunities all around us? Are we letting it come out of our mouths more than allowing it to come into us and effect how we act, think, and live?

Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t answer that. I’m already a walking drum set.

 

One man band

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 What are your thoughts on “walking the walk” and “talking the talk”?

 

 

A MEMORY OF MY MOTHER

“Hi Mom, anybody home?”

I knocked on the door and walked in at the same time.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming over!” she’d call back, slapping her face for added drama.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t because I didn’t want you to feel like you had to make any food for me.”

“But it’s not right not to have anything for you!” she’d always counter back at me. “HarRAM”, she’d say in Arabic, a phrase she used, which loosely translated means “you poor thing!”.

And on we’d continue. This particular conversation would be repeated many more times between my mother and I while she was alive.

She was the type that always gave of her time and talents, and boy, was cooking one of them!

Cabbage rolls, stuffed grapevine leaves, pan-fried fish that was all so filling, so comforting. She made the best grilled eggplant that I tried to duplicate once but failed miserably.

I didn’t want her to fuss, really…because I knew she would, and that wasn’t fair to her.

What I didn’t realize was that she took joy in serving, that she wasn’t just being polite, she really felt distressed that a virtual spread wasn’t on the table to meet me at my surprise appearances.

Even in her last years, when she couldn’t stand for long periods of time, I would see her seated at the stove, doing the best she could.

…and when we gave back just a little to her, you would have thought we gave her the moon by the way she would go on and on in gratitude.

Stranger, friend, or family — Give her an ounce of kindness and she’d repay you with an extra amount.

She loved her family, and she loved the Lord. She gave her life to both, fully and without holding back.

Now, exactly two years to the day she left us, I can see her smiling at peace, living in the mansion God prepared for her, seated at the table, serving, laughing, feasting in Heaven.

Picture of Mom (2)