Tolerance, Diversity, Forgiving

What a wild, wacky world we inhabit. Tolerance and diversity seem to be the catch phrases in the U.S. today, but what I see most is in-tolerance and un-forgivess. By definition, ‘tolerance’ means “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

‘Diversity’ is defined as “the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion. … the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” (Dictionary.com)

Finally, forgiveness. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. … Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. (Greater Good magazine)

And this is how Paul explains it to the church in Ephesus:

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as GOD through CHRIST has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Being intolerant and unforgiving became a part of the human experience all the way back to the first man and the first woman and their children – our ancestors; the father and mother of the entire human race. Look at Cain and Abel in Genesis, chapter 4. Jealousy, anger, intolerance and unforgivess…. just because Able was different from his brother, Cain killed him. If we stick to the dictionary for answers, whenever we announce that we are tolerant, or liberal-minded, then we should be living the these things: Acceptance, open-mindedness, broad-mindedness; forbearance, patience, charity, indulgence, understanding.

Instead, we have redefined liberalty to mean tolerance of all views except our own. We offer charity and indulgence to people who agree with us, and woe to anyone who opposes us! Christians and non-Christians alike, man and woman, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, old or young; Baptist, Catholic, atheist….. it doesn’t matter what group or demographic you look at, you will find plenty of intolerance and unforgivess.

All of this begs the question, what can we – what can I do to break the chain of ugliness? I don’t know that we can anything, but each of us, individually, can stop it within ourselves. By proclaiming that I am a follower of CHRIST and that I was raised a Baptist (AND a Preacher’s kid!), many people assume that I am a goody-two-shoes, with a holier-than-thou judgemental attitude. People who really know me and my family would scoff at that label! I’ve done my judging, but it’s been aimed more at the ‘church’ than the world. I’m a hypocrite. I’ve done my share of causing pain to others. I am so far from perfect, I’m not sure it could even be measured.

No matter who you are, you are not perfect. The most liberal-minded liberal is intolerant and unforgiving. We all have the same opportunity to rid ourselves of all the negativity and ugliness in our lives, and that opportunity comes through our LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. He doesn’t care about anything that defines you; He only cares about the state of your heart. Listen to the hymn Amazing Grace. No matter what we are dealing with in this life, or what we will go through in the future, JESUS has our backs.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.

“For this is how GOD Loved the world: He gave His One and Only SON, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. GOD sent His SON into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:16‭-‬17 NLT

Are you a liberal in GOD’s eyes, saved by Grace and following His Son, or are you a Liberal in the eyes of the world, intolerant and unwilling to include Christians in your diversity?

Attention Church Leaders: Is It A Trend?

We are very trendy folks. Look around at the mega-churches, the television preachers with their fancy sets and stages, the pomp and circumstance that consumes many services. Are they leading people to Christ, or are they leading people to an eternity without Him? Maybe It’s just me, but I really don’t see how having an affluent lifestyle with thousand dollar suits and expensive hair and makeup, or driving a fancy car and owning a big expensive house is leading people to Jesus. I’m not saying that pastors should be impoverished, but they shouldn’t be the fashion plate the community looks to, either. They need to be leading by example, showing the satisfaction and contentment of following our Saviour.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all. But GOD had Mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His GREAT Patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive ETERNAL Life.” – 1 Timothy 1:15‭-‬16 NLT

It is so painful to see some preachers as they prance around on stage, using showmanship and charisma to draw people in, rather than teaching the Salvation of Jesus Christ. It hurts to see leaders of the church arrested for embezzlement or affairs. I see so many leaders lording it over their congregations, and leading them down paths of disrespect for the Word of God. What kind of example is this for the people who don’t know the Saving Grace of our LORD?

“So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world Lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His LIFE as a ransom for many.” ” – Mark 10:42‭-‬45 NLT

There’s definitely a trend in the scriptures! Over and over, first jesus and then His Disciples, preached that the role of a leader is to serve. They emphasized servanthood over being anything else. Even as Jesus, the most Royal person to ever be on this earth, stooped to the task of the lowest servant in order to wash the feet of His followers. He became the servant, leaving His throne and His crown behind. Not long after I returned to Christ, the Pastor of my church, alongside his wife, illustrated this by washing the feet – literally – of people in the congregation. They chose people who had troubled pasts and who may have been looked down on by some of the more righteous of the people there, it was both an incredibly humbling and exalting experience for me. They took (take) God’s Words quite literally.

“Care for the flock that GOD has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve GOD. Don’t Lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” – 1 Peter 5:2‭-‬4 NLT

“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11‭-‬12 NLT

Pastors and church leaders, I plead with you to be as Jesus said: serve your people, show genuine care for the least of them, and show humilty in your lives. You don’t need the external trappings of expensive clothes or hair or makeup. The most important thing you can have is an outstanding love for our LORD; humility and true leadership will come through His Word. This last verse is one that we all should be sticking t.o

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the LORD JESUS – the work of telling others the GOOD NEWS about the Wonderful GRACE of GOD.” – Acts of the Apostles 20:24 NLT

AMEN.

I’m Not Religious

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what GOD has prepared for those who love Him.” …. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9‭, ‬14 NLT

I don’t really care for people calling me “religious.” To me, religion is something people do to show to the rest of the world how “good” they are. I’m not “good”, and there is no way that anything I can do is going to get me to heaven. There aren’t enough Hail Mary’s, and there aren’t enough sacrifices or prayers to wash me clean enough. No, I have enough sin in my past to keep me as far away from God as there is distance. Blessed be His Holy Name, this is exactly where Jesus Messiah meets us! I can’t do enough, but He can do EVERYTHING. My mind can’t comprehend any love that big, and that’s exactly what verse 9 is telling us. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what GOD has prepared for those who love Him.” I can’t see it, I can’t hear it, I can’t even imagine what God has for me. It’s difficult to even think that He loves me; that Jesus LOVED me, enough to leave heaven and come here to cover me with His saving Grace.

Think about this. If Christians have a hard time understanding how deep and how wide our Saviour’s Love goes; how all-encompassing His Love is, how can the unbeliever, the spiritually parched, believe it? LORD, don’t let me be perceived as religious by the world. I pray that the unbeliever will see a difference in me, and that they will want to know how to achieve that peace for themselves. Especially through this time of trial, help me to remain faithful to You and Your commandment. Help me to maintain my faith in You, and my belief in Your faithfulness to me. As I stumble through this time, I know I am not alone and I pray that I recognize Your Strength as You carry me. Show me how to be spiritual, and not religious. Help me remember this: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” – Psalms 103:12 NLT AMEN.

Why December?

Why NOT December? Scholars and theologians debate the month, date, and year that JESUS was actually born, but really, why do they think it matters? Do YOU think it matters? For myself, it doesn’t. His actual birth date is irrelevant. The thing we should be focused on is the FACT of Jesus’ birth. Historically, we know He was born in Bethlehem, we know that He entered Jerusalem (triumphantly!) when He was 33 years old, and that He was hung on a Roman cross like a common criminal. History supports His empty tomb, and the multitude of eyewitness accounts support His resurrection from the tomb.

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” ” – Matthew 2:1‭-‬2 NLT

“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” – Luke 1:1‭-‬4 NLT

No matter when you choose to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, what counts is that you celebrate it. It could be as simple as a single candle for His Birth day, and it can be an all-out decorated extravaganza, as long as we remember the reason we are celebrating. The food and trees, the lights and decorations and presents are all great fun, but the WHY…. that is what truly counts.

Merry CHRIST-mas!

“__________” Lives Matter

“For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1:24 NIV (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Remember singing this as a child?

“Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight, Jesus Loves the little children of the world!”

We should be singing this every day, but substituting the words “all tbe people” for “little children”. He loves us, ALL the children …. He LOVES us!! He doesn’t care what color I am on the outside, because we are all the same without our skin. I find myself discriminating against people more for their appearance than their color, and that is just as bad as discrimination for color. We are called to love EVERYONE, regardless of color, or appearance, or political beliefs; EVERYONE, regardless of actions. I know firsthand how difficult is when a person has hurt you. Proverbs 10:12 says: “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The LOVE of JESUS covers over ALL wrongs…..” This is so true. When I stay angry, or tense, or full of hatred, it REALLY affects me. Mentally, it gives me worry and stress headaches, and physically, it gives me stomach cramps that lead to ulcers. Does it hurt the person who harmed me? No, not all. They go on with their lives while I pay the price in my body with the hatred I carry. Just say “A pox on them!” and let it go. Remember this:

“For GOD Loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish….” – John 3:16 NLT

Do I believe that this gives people who intentionally hurt others a pass? Absolutely not; I know that anyone can accept Jesus and experience His salvation (Hallelujah!), but we still have consequences for our actions. I can’t imagine how that will work when we stand before the Great White Throne for judgement by the Supreme and Almighty LORD of the Universe. All I can say for sure about that time, is that I know my Advocate is Jesus, and that I get to spend eternity with Amen.

ALL lives matter to Jesus. Red, yellow, black, white, blue. All the people of the world.

Ministry

I am not a great orator, nor have I had the opportunities to speak to groups – although I would like to. I do not have a congregation or a classroom. What I do have is social media, and my prayer is that I may spread the teaching and love of Christ, the Truth of our LORD, through this source to someone who may not otherwise hear it.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the Light of the Gospel that displays the Glory of CHRIST, Who is the Image of GOD. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as LORD, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For GOD, Who said, “Let Light shine out of darkness,” made His Light shine in our hearts to give us the Light of the Knowledge of GOD’s glory displayed in the Face of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4‭-‬6 NIV

It breaks my heart on a daily basis to see the misery that we/humans inflict upon ourselves. We have worked ourselves and our world into untenable positions by continually choosing the enemy and his enticements over the God Who created us. It somerimes amazes me that even with history to refer to, and the examples across millennium, we make such bad choices for humanity. Everywhere I look, I see people who are out for themselves, no matter the cost to those around them. We create circumstances for ourselves, and make choices, that make our lives a living hell at worst and just scraping by at best. How can I say that? I can say it because I live it. My choices have put me into a situation where I am so overextended that I cannot meet basic expenses. If not for a very good friend who has been paying the mortgage and car payments, I would be without a home or transportation. If my life choices had been better, my “retirement” would at least be tolerable. So many others are in the place I could so easily be …. I know that there, but for the Grace of God, go I.

We must be so careful of judging others by appearance. The blinders offered the enemy can prevent them, and us, from seeing the Truth of our LORD, JESUS CHRIST. The god of this earth, our enemy Satan, works diligently to hide the Truth, and we as Christians assist him by being fearful to share our faith and the Truth. We fear rejection from our peers. We want to fit in with our friends, and we don’t even try to put Christ first because it is inconvenient. Dare to be different. Stand up for Right, even if it puts us at odds with our friends and family. Jesus said we would be persecuted and ostracized for our faith, just as He was. Do you dare?

Anonymous

The group calling themselves Anonymous is all over the internet, spreading their truth and their reality around the world. Who are they? They hide their identities behind masks and electronically altered voices.

The Ku Klux Klan, better known as the KKK, has pushed their agenda for years through fear-mongering, hiding their faces and identities behind robes and hoods, spewing hatred and persecuting anyone who disagrees with them.

Anonymity is a standing principal in AA and other recovery programs. You can call in tips to the police tip lines anonymously, and most companies have policies in place to protect your identity so that you can report unethical behavior.

These are just a few examples of anonymity in our world. I think Christians make up the biggest anonymous group in the world. We don’t talk about Jesus for fear of offending someone. We aren’t insisting that prayer be reestablished in schools. The Christian flag is missing from our churches….. and we no longer use the world ‘sanctuary’ to describe our main meeting room. Look around your church and your home. Is there a Bible in sight? Will the books and games and DVD’s convince anyone you believe in the Almighty God, and that you are a child of the Most High? I am vocal about my beliefs, but for years I hid them. This verse describes how our Christianity should ‘fit’ those who call themselves Chistians:

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NLT)

“Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” ” (Mark 4:21‭-‬23 NLT)

Anonymity may serve us well in certain situations and circumstances, but it is NEVER beneficial to be an anonymous Christian; in fact, isn’t that an oxymoron? By the words and example of Jesus, our mission as Christians is to spread His Story and ensure that every person has the opportunity to hear it. We can’t do that anonymously.

Just some thoughts that were on my mind this morning…..

Grace and Peace

Are you searching for a way out of the chaos and messiness and the ugly of your life? I relate to that, because I was stuck in all that for many years. Chaos isn’t easy to walk away from. An acquaintance made a comment once, regarding a woman who was in an abusive situation. Her comment was that the woman was just stupid and weak for not leaving her abuser. It isn’t easy to leave. You may not be physically or verbally abused by a partner, but there are many things that create chaos and ugliness besides that abuse. Your physical state, or a mental disease or syndrome like autism or PTSD, can create plenty of messiness and chaos. We can’t just walk away from those, either. Maybe it’s an extreme example like Stockholm syndrome, or muscular dystrophy. It could be hidden, like a mild form of autism, or fibromyalgia, ….. or the threats you have received that if you should even attempt to leave a situation, you, your children, you family/friends will be hurt or even killed. Extreme? Yes, and no. There are counselors and psycologists, psychiatrists and physicians and other health care practitioners to assist us, but first we have to acknowledge and admit the issue. That can be excruciatingly difficult, especially when we think It’s our fault – for whatever reason. There is also the stigma that is attached to many of our situations. Many times in my life, I’ve wanted to run screaming to get away from something or someone, but i didn’t have the mental or physical strength to do it.

The first step is to admit we cannot ‘fix’ it ourselves. We have to admit we are broken. True healing, after we acknowledge our brokenness, comes only from GOD through His Son Jesus.

“May GOD THE FATHER and our LORD JESUS CHRIST give you Grace and Peace. Jesus gave His Life for our sins, just as GOD our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. ALL GLORY TO GOD FOREVER AND EVER! AMEN.” (Galatians 1:3‭-‬5 NLT)

It is never easy to admit there is something we cannot fix ourselves. We should be SELF sufficient, and not rely on anything or anyone to help us …. Right? No. Wrong. Humans were created to desire fellowship with one another, and especially with our LORD. Without Him, our lives will always have the hole that we try so hard to fill up with relationships or booze or drugs or food, shopping or sports or material things. ONE answer, and ONLY one, will satisfy our souls and give us the Grace and Peace we so desperately are looking for. The Name of JESUS. Can I get an Amen??

It’s A HEART Problem…

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:12 NLT

Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem, not a rock problem. OJ, a black man, killed his wife Nicole, a white woman, with a knife. It’s a heart problem, not a skin color or a knife problem. One person gets angry and shoots another person. It’s a heart problem, not a gun problem.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” – Jeremiah 17:9 NLT

Who can know another’s heart? Certainly not me; my “picker” has chosen badly too many times! I see what I want to see, and for years I was in ‘rescue’ mode, trying to save the next lost puppy (that’s a euphemism for a man, rather, a little lost boy in a man’s body). In the process, I lost money from buying things for them (computers, vehicles, tools, etc.); I lost emotionally through lies and cheating and affairs. My strays were not all men; there was a woman I befriended who thought nothing of using her friends to clean up her messes with their time and money and emotions. Through all of this, I forgot the faith I had grown up with, and wandered through it on my terms, without my Lord. Oh, I knew Him, and I prayed and called on Him for help, and He delivered me time after time, but I didn’t fully rely on Him.

Jeremiah had it right about the human heart. From the very beginning of humanity our hearts have gotten us into trouble. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Their firstborn, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel. The Old Testament is full of man’s deceitfulness, and even within the twelve men privileged to be with Jesus on earth there was the deceiver, Judas. Every man’s heart, every woman’s heart, is full of deceitfulness and wickedness. If you don’t believe me, just look at the around you. Everyone lies, everyone cheats, everyone deceives. It’s in our DNA, from the beginning. The GOOD NEWS is that we don’t have to sit back and take it! We have the Power of Jesus, the Power that calmed the raging sea, the Power of the burning bush, the Power that rolled away the stone that was holding His body in the grave…. we have access to the good faith, the true Faith, that comes though Jesus Christ. It is up to us, to those who have that Faith, to share it with the world. Fight the good fight. Hold tight to the LORD. Declare His Love and His Faithfulness to your world, without being self-righteous or condescending. Remember that there, except for the Grace of God, goes me, or you.

Don’t let your HEART problem keep you from the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.