Fundamental Lies: Abstinence

5 12 2017

Abstinence was a term I heard in church long before I even knew what sex was.  I mean, I heard the term and I knew I wasn’t supposed to participate in such an event, but in my ignorance, I thought it was some sort of thing that people did at parties.  Bad people.  Boy, was I wrong!  Then, I found out what it really was, and after my horrible embarrassment, I was reminded that I should remain abstinent until marriage.

From many different directions, I heard about abstinence.  I heard about all of the diseases you could catch from school.  They showed me the terrible pictures, and they still do show the pictures to 8th graders each year.  In church, I was told that marriage is the only context in which God approves sexual activity.  According to what I valued, I took more of what my spiritual leaders said to heart, rather than questioned it.  And I took the evidence of STDs as God’s signal to his people that sexual activity before marriage was wrong.  Without question, I followed my spiritual leaders, and it never occurred to me that they would lead me astray, after all, they were following God.  It never dawned on me that they couldn’t be trusted to tell me the truth.  I expected them to guide me and never lead me wrongly.

It just so happened that all of the churches in the area gathered together and they decided to have an event that is called “True Love Waits.”  If you don’t know what it is, it’s an abstinence-advocating program.  Their main purpose is to press upon students in middle and high school that they are instructed by God to remain sexually pure until marriage.  They passed on their belief that the only person that I was to have relations with, was the person that I would marry.  I was taught that this was God’s will for my life.  They combined this event with studies that led up to this event, all about being pure and having right intentions and of course, abstinence itself.  So weeks and weeks went by and we “studied” a particular passage that my particular spiritual leaders found and decided to use.

What I was Told:
They decided to use the story of Tamar and Amnon as their chosen source text.  We studied this story in several sessions.  In the sessions, we talked about Amnon wanted Tamar, and they told me it was a consensual relationship and they chose to sleep together before they got married.  After it was over, there was a hatred that was given by God to show God’s disapproval of sex before marriage.  I accepted this version of the story without question as gospel, because that was what I felt like I was supposed to do.  Even after I left this leadership and transitioned to a new period of my life, I hung on to that belief concerning sex.

Deconstruction:  So, what DOES the Bible Say?
Part of deconstruction is thinking about what people have told you all of your life, and figuring out what you think.  It has grown very important to me in the recent years, that I know what I believe and why I believe that.  I grew older and started needing to examine the belief system that other spiritual leaders had put in my life, and I compared that to what I thought and felt was truth.  One of the ways that I have done that is in companion to studying the word of God.  I have remained studious about studying what the Bible says.  If you want your belief system challenged, then start reading the Bible and use your personal relationship with God to determine if those beliefs are correct.  It’s an evolving process, one that I am still doing to this day.  Sometimes, what the Bible says and teaches really disturbs my soul, and it is very different from what I’ve been taught.

So I was reading the other night because I am journeying through the Second Book of Samuel in my personal time and as I started reading, I was excited to read a familiar story.  Except, it was very different.

2 Samuel 13 1-22 (NIV)
In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar,the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.  Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”  So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.” David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat. “Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.  But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”  “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.  Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”  “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”  But he refused to listen to her.  He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.”  So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.  Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.  When King David heard all this, he was furious. And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

The Differences, Do they really matter?
Between what I was told and what is really there, I notice several differences.  The first of which is that Tamar and Amnon are brother and sister.  The way it is written leads me to think that they are not biological brother and sister, but at least half-brother and half-sister.  They share the same father, David, and have different mothers.  It doesn’t give us much insight into their background other than that.  In Hebrew law, it is forbidden for siblings to have relations.  But don’t take my word for it, you study and figure it out for yourself.  The error that my spiritual leaders made, is that they did not mention this familial relationship that these two had.  In choosing to ignore this fact, they taught instead that this was an appropriate relationship.  Does this matter?  Yes!  Absolutely!  You’re not dealing with a relationship among adults that could one day marry, you’re dealing with step-incest.  By not including this fact, they completely ignored the violation of this Hebrew law.

The second truth that I see here that is different from what I was told is that this was a rape, not consensual.  Here, Amnon fell in love with her, and my leaders were correct in that he loved her.  However, my spiritual leaders failed to mention that she did not return his affections.  She protested.  The only reason that they had sex was because he forced himself on her.  It is evident in the scriptures that otherwise, they would not have had relations.  Does this difference matter?  Yes!  This text clearly says that it is wrong to rape other people, and it is absurd that we have to have a law (in my opinion) in the Hebrew Bible that tells us that it is wrong to rape someone.  We see here a Biblical principal being violated, and the belief that someone’s purity is worth keeping sacred and special.

The third difference that I see here between what my spiritual leaders taught me and the truth of the Bible is that Amnon didn’t hate her because they had sex, he hated her because he hated himself.  Earlier, I told you that I was given the impression that this relationship was consensual.  And after they had done the deed, so to speak, Amnon was filled with hatred.  My leaders said this was because God disapproved of sexual relations before marriage.  Instead, I’d like to think that he hated her because he hated what he had done to her.  He realized that he had done something that could not be undone.   She said to him that what he had done was awful, and to send her away and try to ignore what he had done would be worse.  I had to stop, and look at my Bible and see what she meant by that.  In one commentary, it explains that her robe was a robe similar to what Joseph and other dream interpreters would wear.  She was a virgin dream interpreter, probably respected not only as the King’s daughter, but also because she interpreted dreams and lived a life of purity, and life that was marked in its specialness.  A life that was concerned with being holy and being that example for other people to follow and to look up to.  He had stolen that from her.  I think he hated her because he hated himself, and he realized what he had stolen from her, and the consequences for her.

The final difference I see here is that he was following a crooked example.  Amnon was David’s eldest son and his heir.  David had just had an affair with Bathsheba, and Amnon saw how his dad had tried to cover it up and he didn’t have any consequences to his actions.  Amnon was following a corrupt example.  He probably thought that because he was the king’s son and heir, he would not have any of the moral repercussions of his actions that he had.  But he did.  He immediately realized he did wrong, and he couldn’t make it right by marrying her.  He sent her away, and she went mourning, but he had to deal with the emotional consequences.


This passage doesn’t really deal with sex as a consensual experience, shared by two people in love, but rape.  Rape causes this hatred, guilt causes this hatred.  The hate was not caused by the fact that they had sex out of marriage, but because he ratped her.  My leaders really had it wrong.  I would hope that they wouldn’t intentionally try to lead me astray.  But the fact is, they had a wrong approach to teaching abstinence.


So, I’ve marinated on it, and I’ve arrived at several conclusions in this process:

  1. If you are a spiritual leader, make sure that what you are teaching is indeed Biblical and it is the whole truth.  You will play an important role in someone’s life by being in their life as a spiritual leader.  Take it seriously.  You might be responsible for their blossoming spiritual life or their destruction of their spiritual life.
  2. If you are a spiritual leader, don’t use the Bible and twist it for a cause.  Twist the cause to meet the truth.  You owe it to God, who is using you, to paint an accurate picture of love.  So make sure you do that.
  3. If you are being led by a spiritual leader, don’t make the same mistake that I did and believe them without question.  Test and make sure that they are teaching truth.  Read your Bible, look at their references.  It takes a little more work, but it is so worth it, to make sure you are getting truth.
  4. Don’t follow spiritual leaders as a substitute for your own spiritual growth.  Invest time in prayer, invest in study.  Spend time thinking and trying to figure out the meaning of the scriptures.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand, but discipleship is worth it.
  5. Hold everyone accountable.  Hold yourself accountable if you’re teaching.  Hold yourself accountable for what you’ve been taught.  If someone tells you wrong, then tell them the truth.  Don’t substitute half-truths for whole truth.  Don’t let an agenda be your doctrine.

Conclusions:
Don’t take my word on all of this.  You study this passage.  See what you think.

Advertisements




It’s Okay to Be Lonely as Long as You’re Free

1 10 2017

Today’s title comes from a Rich Mullins song.  If you don’t know the Rich Mullins story, or you don’t know the following song, at the very least, please listen to that song, or research a little bit about him and his life.

I love that line that I reference in the title.

Something that Rich knew all too well, is the loneliness of life.  Many people know about the loneliness of life.  You see singles post about it on Facebook around Valentine’s Day.  Weddings always have the single people lining up to catch the trophy in hopes that they will be next.  Singleness as a calling is discarded in favor of creating a family and sharing your life with another person.  A lot of people will moan and complain about being lonely, and how they have no one to share it with.  People will slip into a depression over their loneliness.

Even people in relationships find themselves lonely too!  And this is the reason that I write today’s entry.  Despite the fact that I am in a loving, healthy relationship, I too, experience the pangs of loneliness.  I too, deal with the worrisome condition that plagues all of humanity.  My loneliness doesn’t just disappear because I’m in a relationship.  And it’s nothing on the fault of the other party or the nature of our relationship….honestly, loneliness is a concept that exists beyond just being in a relationship.

Loneliness, like sadness, is a universal feeling.  You’ll experience it many times in your life.  Regardless of marital status, loneliness can hit you.  Many people use other people to cover up their loneliness, or to make them feel not so alone.  Unfortunately, this is a band-aid over a bullet hole type of solution.  Having someone there does not permanently solve the problem of loneliness or eliminate the feeling.  You can even be lonely when you’re with other people.  That’s been me this week.  I’m surrounded by wonderful people.  I love the people I work with.  I like my job most days.  I’m constantly improving and getting better at my craft.  I’m very happy at work.  And then the bell rings, the kids go home, the classroom is empty and I’m alone.

At first, the pang of loneliness wasn’t like a wave.  It was just a twinge.  A small droplet of emotion.  I could curb it.  But if you allow enough drops to build up over time, it becomes a bathtub full of water.   And that bathtub becomes a wave when the drops become rushing amounts of water.  There’s nothing to do about it, but to let yourself drown in it.  In that moment, as I experienced this week, it’s hard to understand why the emotion you’ve pushed down for so long suddenly breaks and you have to figure out how to live with it.  I’ve been hyper aware of my loneliness this week.

I think loneliness because it is a universal emotion, and because we experience it when we’re around people, I think it’s a deeper issue than just being alone.  I think there’s something more to it.  I think these loneliness pangs point us to another fact about ourselves entirely, that this loneliness is a longing for something.  It’s a longing for completion, it’s a longing to be whole.  It’s a longing for something else, something we can’t quite put our hearts on, or understand.

I think it’s a longing for heaven, a longing to be restored from our sinful tendencies to what we were meant to be.  We were not meant to be alone, or to have this lonely feeling, but I think that we were meant to experience completion and wholeness, but sin robbed that from us.  I think that this loneliness pang that we all feel is just another reminder that this life is not what it was intended to be, and it is a residue left behind to remind us of what we were supposed to be.  I think it’s a longing for peace.  I think it’s a longing for communion with other people, deep communion, that’s why we are so adamant to finding someone with whom we won’t be alone with.  I think it’s a longing for community, friendship that doesn’t hurt, love that doesn’t die.  It’s a longing for an absence of fear, and continual trust that things won’t go wrong, but they will go for the better.  I think it’s a longing that we have to see the real self, and who we were meant to be, and not what we are.

I think we can learn from loneliness.  Rich did.  Obviously, he struggled with loneliness, and throughout the duration of his life, he tried to fill up that loneliness with other things.  But finally, he accepted it as a symptom of his human condition, a side-effect of humanity.  I admire him for that.  It takes a lot of strength, strength I don’t currently have, to face your loneliness and realize that you’ll never be un-lonely.  That loneliness is a current state of being that is permanent, until death and restoration.

My prayer is that when you are lonely, you take a lesson from Rich and deal with it, and let yourself experience it, and find solace in the love of Jesus.  Don’t take a lesson from me, where you’re stubborn and you pass the blame and you cry yourself to sleep without seeking the guidance of God.  Hopefully, I’ve made a turning point with this, and will learn from Rich, and will learn from his life.  And hopefully, one day, I will befriend my loneliness and accept it as what I say it is, pulsings to remind me of my heavenly connection.

Love and peace to you all in these lonely times,

mb





New Year, New Goals

24 09 2017

Well, hello there!

Grab yourself a chair!  Pull up a comfy blanket.  Maybe your favorite hot beverage.  Oh?  What’s that you say?  You don’t have a hot beverage?  Well, gimme just a second here.

Okay let me see.  I’ve got some assorted teas here, I’ve got a ton of coffee.  Oh I know the can feels a little on the light side.  Trust me, I have another bag in the freezer.  I’ve also got some of this delicious hot chocolate.  Trust me, it’s super tasty.

You’ve chosen, have you?  Let me get the water.  You go on over there and sit down, make yourself comfy.  I’ll finish up over here.  What mug do you want?  It doesn’t matter?  Okay, I’ll grab my favorite for you.  I’ll grab you a spoon and you’re almost all ready to go.

How’s my year going so far?  I’m so glad you’ve asked.  Honestly, last year was so very good.  It truly was so very good.  I felt like I was growing so immensely much.  I’m honestly excited for this year!  There’s so many good things that I feel are going to happen!  It’s partly all because of you.  Your endless support, reading all of my posts, facebook comments, seeing my pictures, the texts of encouragement….it’s all been so super helpful.  It reminds me that others are supportive and encouraging me.  Seussical was the best musical I’ve directed, and it was so fun!

Your water is ready dear.

Now that you’re back, my current year is going well.  I have a few hiccups, but I’m sure I’ll get them all trained like I want them to be.  But I do want to tell you of my goal for the year.

This year, I’m doing a few things differently than in the past.  I’m going to be finding a new church to attend.  And I’m sure I’ll tell you of those adventures as I go about that.  But my theme for this year, my mantra so to speak, is going to be one single word:  GIVING.

No, I’m not just talking about money, but I’m going to be giving of my time and my efforts.  I’m going to try to not be so selfish with myself and invest in others.  You and so many other people like you have been investing in me, and I haven’t been that encouraging person, that person that is giving and helping.  Where you’ve been helping me and reaching out to me, I want to start doing that for you and for all the people like you that have been loving on me and encouraging me.  Thank you so much.  You have no idea how much each text or phone call meant.  Each offer to help and each reaching out to love on me.  It’s all been so super amazing, and I’m so very fortunate to have as many people loving on me as I do.  But I need to start loving back on others.  Start giving words of encouragement and start reaching out and offering hope.  Letting others know that I care about them.

Are you done?  Another?  No?  Okay, let me take this to the kitchen.

So how are you?  How’s life?

You’re a fantastic person.

I’m so glad that I have you in my life.

Do you know that you’re underappreciated for what you do?

You are worth the extra mile.

I grow so much from you.

Thank you for all you do for me.

How can I help you?

Do you want another?





15 06 2017

Today’s Scripture is Amos 2.

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Moab,
    even for four, I will not relent.
Because he burned to ashes
    the bones of Edom’s king,
I will send fire on Moab
    that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth.
Moab will go down in great tumult
    amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet.
I will destroy her ruler
    and kill all her officials with him,”
says the Lord.

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Judah,
    even for four, I will not relent.
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord
    and have not kept his decrees,
because they have been led astray by false gods,[b]
    the gods their ancestors followed,
I will send fire on Judah
    that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.”

Judgment on Israel

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Israel,
    even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
    and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
    as on the dust of the ground
    and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
    and so profane my holy name.
They lie down beside every altar
    on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
    they drink wine taken as fines.

“Yet I destroyed the Amorites before them,
    though they were tall as the cedars
    and strong as the oaks.
I destroyed their fruit above
    and their roots below.
10 I brought you up out of Egypt
    and led you forty years in the wilderness
    to give you the land of the Amorites.

11 “I also raised up prophets from among your children
    and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?”
declares the Lord.
12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine
    and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

13 “Now then, I will crush you
    as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
14 The swift will not escape,
    the strong will not muster their strength,
    and the warrior will not save his life.
15 The archer will not stand his ground,
    the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
    and the horseman will not save his life.
16 Even the bravest warriors
    will flee naked on that day,”
declares the Lord.

Taken from:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Amos+2 

Just to give you some context of why I’m mentioning these scriptures, I am reading through some of the Old Testament prophets, and Amos is my current stop.

To give you some biblical context, let me turn back to Amos 1, to tell you about the writer.  Amos is a shepherd in Tekoa, and while he’s tending his sheep one day, he saw a vision for Israel from God.  Amos’ name means literally burden-bearer.  I haven’t finished reading the book of Amos yet, but just from chapters 1 &2, he’s got quite the load on him. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to share this message to the people.  He’s calling out the people for what they’ve done wrong and how they’ve wronged the people of God and how they’ve disrespected God.  I imagine that his audience would have rather killed him than to listen to him tell them how much they’ve done wrong.  Often, when you do expose the wrongdoings of the world, you are shunned or disliked.  But share it anyways, if you are so led to do so.  But don’t share it to highlight how awesome you are, but to push someone else closer to their awesomeness.

Anywho, let’s dig into Amos, shall we?

Chapter 2 has two very different groups of people.  And really, Chapter 1 and verses 1-3, is all about how the “outsiders” to God have desecrated God.  And then the rest of chapter 2 focuses on how God’s people are going to face judgement.  So I’d like to divide them in two contrasting sections.

1. God’s Judgement unto the nonbelievers.

First, I’d like to examine what God says he’s going to do with those that don’t believe in them.  God has called out these people for what they’ve done wrong.  There are many wrong doings in Chapter 1.  In almost every incidence, God is bringing down fire upon these people, and destroying pillars of their strength, whether it be a wall, a gate or fortresses.  I don’t think this is without symbolism.

When I was young, one Sunday morning at like 7:00am, my dad woke me up in a start.  He told me to put on my shoes, put in my ears and get outside.  My dad was panicked.  I hurried through everything, as my dad tried to get my sister up, and get her shoes on.  My whole family stood on the front yard as we watched my next-door neighbor’s house catch on fire.  It burned for hours.  When it was over and the fire was put out, nothing was usable anymore.  Later, we walked through the rubble, and the smell of burnt things, it penetrated the air.  We stepped on wood that evaporated into black dust and ask.  Wood that once was strong, and it was now dust.  Crumbling.  Fire destroys matter.  It burns it away until it is no longer any worth.  I was so moved, by the realization that my neighbors had literally lost everything.  It had been burned away.  Useless, worthless, ash.  In the same way, God says he’s going to destroy these entire cities.  He would leave people homeless, hopeless, with nothing.

That fire would destroy their fortresses, their walls.  He would take away every element of their feeling of safety that they had ever had or felt.  He would take away anything that made them feel like they were safe, and would leave them vulnerable to attack.  Essentially, leaving a lamb in the middle of a pit with a bunch of hungry lions.

At first, my thought was WHY?  Why would a loving God do anything like that?  Why would the God who sent Jesus down in love, destroy people through fire?  Why would he do that?  And I get angry that this is not the God that I love and serve.

But if you look at the first sentence for each judgement, God clearly describes what these people have done wrong.

For example, in the circumstance of the people of Moab, he’s judging them because they desecrated the bones of Edom’s king.  I don’t know what this means, or what this means that they did to deserve this, but it was pretty bad.  Edom’s king was seen, from what I understand, as a king of war hero.  So, to put it in context, I think of someone doing something awful to the grave of JFK.

And as I wonder why he would destroy with fire, and break their defenses, I realize it’s a judgement thing.  But, the hope is that they would use these situations to realize that they have put their trust in the wrong things to keep them safe.  I hope that they would realize that they are living their lives according to a sense of non-morality.  I hope that they would use this to turn themselves and change their lives.  But often, when those who have done wrong are called out and punished, they do not turn and change their ways.

2.  God’s Judgement unto the Believers.

When people are loved by God, I’ve heard the sentiment that they believe that they can live whichever way that they want, because God will never stop loving them.  I’ve witnessed this attitude, and it often doesn’t lead people to being good people.  While it is true, I believe, that when God loves you once, he doesn’t ever stop loving you.  The Bible frequently says that we cannot be separated from the love of God.  But I don’t think anyone gets an exception to the expectation that God’s people will try to live by producing the fruits of the spirit in their lives.

That’s kind of the attitude that I imagine Judah and Israel have towards this grace and belovedness.  According to this passage, they seem to think that their special chosen-ness has exempted them from living right, as you should.

This is not true.

Because they have rejected the laws of the Lord, they have not kept his decrees, because they have worshipped false Gods, God will destroy them with fire, and will eat away at the fortresses of Jerusalem.

Because they sell their people and exchange them in case of money, they oppress the poor and deny justice to those who are oppressed.  Because they use prostitutes and share them amongst family members, because they shame the name of the Lord, because they do not honor the offerings given to the Lord, and take offerings for their pleasure.  Because of all of them, God says he will not relent, he will not hold back on his punishment.

But look at all of the things God did for them!  He destroyed the enemies while they were standing there watching, he destroyed their crops, and made it so they cannot grow their food.  He took them out of Egypt, where they were enslaved, and led them throughout the desert, so that he could give them the land of the Amorites.  Not only that!  But he raised up their children to be prophets, he further showed how special that they are to God, and yet, they neglected their chosen-ness.  They desecrated their specialness.  No wonder he was going to destroy them.  No wonder!

Notice, he never says that he will not love them.  He never says he’s going to leave them.  But he does not say that he will protect them from the consequences that are going to happen because they  have done so many wrong things.

3.  No one can escape the consequences.

If we are honest, we don’t like the consequences that we have to face or that we experience.  We like to get off scot-free.  We like to not have to deal with the natural consequences.  I have this student that I taught this year….and nothing ever seemed to be his fault.  He would get called out for something  and immediately, his response was “I didn’t do it.”  In fact, in the last few days of school, I asked him to come to my desk because I was going to ask him to do something and he immediately said “I didn’t do it.”  A lot of times, I imagine that when we experience a consequence, I bet a lot of us look at God with that same expression.  But really, if we get down to it and break it down, we often do the things that deserve those consequences.

If I get caught speeding, which I have done before, I often liked to blame it on that hill or the traffic or whatever to make myself feel better about the fact that I have a state trooper in my rearview mirror.  But the reality is, I shouldn’t have been speeding.  The reality is, that we all are going to have the natural consequences to whatever we’ve done wrong.  No matter how strong we are, how fast we are or how accurate we are, we will not be able to escape that consequence.  Even though every time that I speed, there’s not always a state trooper nearby, you can rest that at some time or another, I will get caught.  Every consequence to what I’ve done wrong may not happen immediately, but it will happen at some time or another.

Closing Remarks

So, what do we do?

We live right.  We make good choices, and we do the right thing.  Nothing else really matters, does it?





Highways and Hedges

14 06 2017

Let’s look at Luke 14 for our Context today:

Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Sometimes, the scripture that we read, the words that Jesus says, are very hard pieces of scripture to swallow.  This is one of those passages for me.  I first heard this passage when we got one of our new pastors after the pastor who stayed in my church for a long time.  And he preached a message on it that I will never forget.  I remember sitting there, and this pastor was using the month of August, his first month, to focus on evangelism.  And this was one of those passages.  I’ve been visiting a lot of churches lately, which coincides with God’s call for me to go away from my home church to find a new place to serve and be fed.  That’s for another time though.

This passage really has been something that my mind has drifted towards time and time again.  It’s just been emerging in my life over and over again, and so I felt the need to focus on this passage.  When I’m focusing on this passage, I find many parallels in this story.

Jesus is the “certain man”  who is hosting a banquet for many guests.
 He’s the one that has laid it all out.  He has made all of the preparations, prepared the food, found the chairs, clothed the table.  He’s lived the life like we’re supposed to, and he died according to this great plan.  I think we forget sometimes that these stories are not just stories, but they directly relate to the life that we live.

Jesus’ followers make more excuses than actions.  I’m sure you’ve said it before.  You’ve made an excuse, as your reason to not spend time with him.  If you’re anything like me, I make excuses of exhaustion to keep me from doing something.  I make excuses of being tired as justification to be unkind to people.  I make excuses of being too busy to keep me from serving the church.  I’ve heard it and you’ve probably said it.  Jesus hears all of our excuses.  But, let’s examine ourselves for a second.  We’re supposed to be the people that follow Jesus.  We’re supposed to be the worshippers of God.  We’re supposed to be the ones who are learning him and getting to know what it means to be a follower.  We use excuses of other priorities and other commitments to things and people to keep us from being there with God.  We use the excuses of family to keep us from doing the things of God.  If I’m honest, I’ve used my job, my busy schedule and my friends to keep me from doing the things that I am supposed to do with God.

On a corporate level, the church has many excuses too.  We use the excuse of people not being the “right” kind of people for us to love and help.  We say that just because that person is gay or trans, we can’t love them.  Instead, we spew words of hate and hurt.  We rebuke those who need social services, yet the church does not provide meals and homes for those who go without.  The church, us as members, do not invite the homeless in so that we can share our lives with them, like Jesus said to do.  We do not love those who are in prison, because after all, they got themselves there, even though the bible tells us to be there for them.  We excuse ourselves from caring for our neighbor, simply because that neighbor does not meet our standards.  I love the following meme:

Image result for love thy neighbor meme

We like to put qualifiers on grace.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He didn’t say we got a choice in who we loved or how we loved them, he said to love them.  Period.  That’s it.  That’s the way that Jesus lived.  But we are pious and think that we can say who can get our grace and our love, our food and our presence.  What idiots we are!

God gave us no qualifiers.  He met us where we were.  That’s it.  Let us do the same.

Jesus’ response to our excuses.

So, let’s look at the story.  There were all of these excuses, and yet the food was still prepared.  No one who was invited was coming, yet the food needed to be eaten still.

Let’s think of the invited as church members, people who are supposed to be the ones who are eager to be in the banquet.  Those who are supposed to desire the one that made them.

Unfortunately, we often miss the mark, because the banquet table is full and the plates are empty, seats are vacant, and the host is lonely.

So, Jesus told his servants to go out to the city, go get the disabled, and bring them in.  These are the people who are often close by the church, but do not enter.  THese are the people who know about Jesus, but don’t have much experience in the church.  The people who stay home on SUnday mornings, but they watch church on TV.

Did you see what Jesus did there?  He rejected those who were in the church making excuses and went after those who don’t have that church.  He sends for them.  He gets them.  And they come.

But there was still room.

So he sends out the servants to get those people who are on the highways and hedges, and tells them to get over here, and enjoy the feast.  These are the people who are the “lowest of the low” those who are out there and we typically ignore.  He tells them to come on in, pull up a chair and eat plenty.  They’re foreigners to the gospel, and he tells them to come in.  He tells them to go for it and to come on by.  And everyone ate and enjoyed themselves.

Those are not the people of our modern churches.  These are the homeless, the smelly, the prostitute, the rejected….all of the people that we pretend don’t exist, they do at the table.  All are welcome to the table, but that doesn’t mean everyone is there.

Who do you want to be?

I don’t want to be the invited, who give an excuse for missing out on God.

I don’t want to be the adjacent ones, because they’re the ones that don’t have a relationship in the first place.  They know about Jesus, but don’t have a relationship.

I don’t want to be the highways and hedges, because they’re the ones that have no clue who God is.

I want to be the servant.  In the story, it’s the servants that go out and call everyone to the table to invite them.  It’s the servants who are reporting back to the master.  That’s who I want to be, inviting everyone to the table, because there is more than enough.

Are you a servant?  Are you the invited who miss out?  Are you the adjacent ones who don’t have a relationship?  Are you the highway or hedge?





2017-Looking Forwardresp

2 01 2017

This won’t be too long.

As you can probably tell from my recent posts, I’ve been busy writing!  I have a few goals to share with you for 2017!

  1. I am going to read 20 books throughout the year!  I’m about a third of the way through my first book!  Let me know if you have any recommendations as to what I should read!
  2. I am going to write on here more.  Often what happens, is that nice thoughts happen to me, but I either cannot write right away, or I do not record them so that I can write about them later.  So my thoughts get lost in it.  So my plan is to write more, and to keep a notebook or scrap piece of paper so that I can record them all.
  3. I want to become more faithful to take out time daily with God.  I used to be so faithful, but then I got busy, which is an excuse.  So I want to re-add that time back into my life.
  4. I want to be brave.  I have a specific way that I need to especially be brave, and so I want to continue to grow in my courage.  I also am being called away from a comfort zone, and I need the bravery to close the door on that, and the courage to open a new door.  The first is a continual process of bravery.  The second will most likely take place late August, early September.

What are your goals for the new year?

Peace and blessings to you all!





Watch and See

31 12 2016

Author’s Note:  The source for this reflection comes from 2 Chronicles 20:10-30.  Please feel free to peruse this scripture at your leisure, as I think an understanding of the scripture that this comes from is crucial to getting the entire meaning of this entry.  


If you know me, you know that there are a few things that I struggle with in my life.  One of those things is very personal and private.  In the age of the internet world, we often reveal so much behind this anonymous screen, and many people will feel so free to just word-vomit everything that’s going on in their lives.  If you don’t believe me, scroll through your facebook feed, twitter tweets or instagram posts.  You’ll see some pretty honest reflections of how people feel, and sometimes, they’re honest to the point of being too honest!  And if you’re like me, it’s almost eye-opening, to see what that person posts, because you do learn a lot about people.

I mention that, because this is not the case with me and this particular issue.  You’ll never see a facebook post about this content or this particular obstacle that I am facing, and the only way to actually find out about what is going on and through my head, is not to read the hashtags or scroll through my feed, it’s to have a conversation with me, to ask me, and to talk to me about it.  Which in this day and time, can seem like an extremely vulnerable thing for me to do, but I trust you, as a person sitting in front of me, than I do a computer screen.  So let’s talk!


Okay, so what’s the deal?

The deal is that in dealing with this mystery circumstance/difficulty, I have received an answer.  I have specifically received an answer for this situation, and I am so excited about it, that I surely need to tell someone!

That’s where you come in.  So that’s the purpose of this.  I guess you can already see what the answer was by the title, but let’s just humor me for a moment.  Pretend the title isn’t there, and pretend that you don’t know anything, except that I’m going to tell you all about the answer to some unknown circumstance.  Deal?

So let’s look at King Jehoshaphat, shall we?  So he took the throne at the age of 35 and would reign for 25 years.  In general, his reign is praised because the kingdom enjoyed mostly peace and prosperity during his rule.  However, he messed up once.  He pursued an alliance with another king, King Ahab, who is the king of the Northern Kingdom, and the way that he did that was to have his son marry Ahab’s daughter.  One thing we need to know is that King Ahab and his people were idolitors and they worshiped many other things beside God.  So of course, by creating an alliance with this kingdom, and because Jehoshaphat indirectly indicated that he approved of the way that the subjects of the Northern Kingdom lived their lives because he didn’t object to it, God got upset.

Meanwhile, the enemies of King Jehoshaphat assembled together to create  coalition against his kingdom.  They wanted to take over the kingdom.  So King Jehoshaphat assembled the people together, for the purpose of speaking to God and addressing him directly about what was going on.  So what did he say?  Well he first reminded of how God brought them out of Egypt and that he protected his people.  He reminded them of his faithfulness and how he helped them.  Previously, the people had a chance to take over these people and to attack them, but they didn’t, and King Jehoshaphat personally probably felt a little gyped because they had now turned on him.  So he called for God’s judgement, and he expected some sort of response because he had the faith that God would be good and he would give them strength.

So as they were waiting, this guy Jahaziel was used by God.  Now it’s important to note that this dude is never mentioned another time, so we don’t really know anything about him.  We don’t know where he was in the crowd, we don’t know if he was a trusted advisor, or a member of the poor, or an afflicted person.  We don’t know.  But I can tell you what probably did happen, and who Jahaziel was…and that was that he was an insignificant person.  God used an unknown person to speak to the King, and he told the King several things.

He told them that they don’t need to be afraid of the numbers, and that this is God’s battle, not the battle for King Jehoshaphat or his people.  He said that God was going to use this and that they were to march towards their enemies the next day.  But, God told them that the purpose for them to go was not to attack, but to observe.  They were gonna go and watch, and their eyes would see their enemy to be attacked for them.  And they were to just stand still and watch God deliver them from the threat of the enemy.

I can imagine after he was done speaking, the people just stood there, and they made plans for the next day.  They left the mountain that they talked to God and went back into their own houses.  I imagine that they were left with wonder and curiosity, and the thought of God fighting their battle for them.  What was he going to do?

The next morning, they got up and prepared to go. King Jehoshaphat, I’m sure was tempted to worry through the night.  If God didn’t come through, then the people would surely die.  Honest!  So as they were preparing to leave, King Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to be ready to watch God.  So before they left, they appointed a choir of people that would lead the group towards their enemy.  That choir was appointed the task of singing praises to God.  Which was contrary to any battle plan, because if you know the movies, they always shout out this war cry before they attack.

Now, it’s not clear as to what happened, or what went on at the battlefield, but the enemy was ambushed, and they were defeated.  I don’t know if it was angels or if it was some sort of herd of animals or what, but the clearest thing is that the people of God just stood there and watched, praising God.

The news spread throughout the area, of what they had done while their enemy had been vanquished.  The story of God protected King Jehoshaphat’s kingdom and the people of God.  Even though King Jehoshaphat had angered God, and did against him, he still protected them from the enemy, probably because his response had been a cry of help, and not a cry of “Why God?”


That was a long summary there, with a little commentary thrown in.

My point is this, when I began reading this scripture, I had previously prayed about this whole situation and circumstance, I prayed for some sort of resolution and I prayed for some kind of answer as to what I should do.  I prayed that if my heart was wrong, then that God would change me, but if it wasn’t wrong, that he would show me what I needed to do.  And then I found this scripture.  Then a few weeks later, I actually taught this scripture in my Sunday School lesson.

My answer is this, to wait and see, watch and see what will happen.  Watch and see what God will do, but in the meantime, lead in praising and praying.  Live your life in continual dedication and spend that time on God.  Don’t approach God, saying woe is me, but continue to pray for deliverance and continue to live your life just as you had before.  Wait and see.  Watch and see, what God will do.

I don’t know if any of you can relate to this issue, I don’t know if you can learn anything from this response, or if this even makes sense.  Maybe I seem crazy.  Delusional.  Whatever you might think.  That’s okay.  But here’s the thing, I’m told to wait and see.  I’m told to spend my time doing just as I’ve done and wait and see what God will do.

I don’t know what he’s going to do.  For all I know, he may be changing me!  He might leave the opposition the same and change me!  Or he might change them!

But the instruction I got was clear.  Wait and see!