A Doss of People For Your Health

Did you know that there is something called “Touch Starvation” which can lead to depression?

The quote below is from an article entitled “Touch starvation is a consequence of COVID-19’s physical distancing” written by Shanley Pierce, published May 15, 2020 by Texas Medical Center. 

“Touch starvation increases stress, depression and anxiety, triggering a cascade of negative physiological effects. The body releases the hormone cortisol as a response to stress, activating the body’s “flight-or-fight” response. This can increase heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and muscle tension, and can suppress the digestive system and immune system—increasing the risk of infection.”

Did you know that confinement away from social interaction can be considered a form of torture and can lead to depression?

This is a quote from an article entitled “United States: prolonged solitary confinement amounts to psychological torture, says UN expert” published by United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

“The severe and often irreparable psychological and physical consequences of solitary confinement and social exclusion are well documented and can range from progressively severe forms of anxiety, stress, and depression to cognitive impairment and suicidal tendencies.”

Now, I’m not bring these things up to make you mad or stress you out. I’m bringing up these points because I think it’s important for us to recognize that the feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress that many, if not most of us, are experience these days can actually be overcome by something God designed us to given and receive. 

You see God wired us to be relational, to touch, to talk, to see each other’s facial expression, to interact in a way that gives health. So, maybe it’s time for us to start focusing on keeping ourselves healthy in all ways, and in ways that actually work.

Challenge: Mental health is just as important if not far more important than physical health. So please, when making decisions about your health, don’t forget to value and pursue what is healthy for you: mind, body, and soul.

2Ti 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

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Is the Old Testament still Important to Read?

Throughout the years I’ve heard a variety of opinions about what’s important to study in the Bible. One mindsets that has always disturbed me is the opinion that the Old Testament is no longer relevant to today’s church and that we don’t really need to bother reading it. Skipping over the Old Testament as Christians, however, I think is very detrimental to our understanding of the New Testament.

For instance, I came across this passage the other night while reading which seem harsh and confusing until considered within the context of the nation of Israel’s history, then all of the sudden it read very differently.

Jesus has been teaching and healing people all over the place, and this one particular afternoon His disciples ask Him about the way He’s teaching the people. “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answers His disciples, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:10-12

Now just reading this, it sounds kind of like Jesus is very bias toward His few chosen disciples and that He thinks they are the only smart people who will understand what He’s saying and that the rest of the population just won’t get it, therefore He’s not going to bother trying to tell them it at all. But is that’s actually what’s happening and what He’s saying? No! Jesus isn’t saying His disciples can grasp this and no one else can; rather, Jesus is putting the situation into the larger context of the history of Himself and this nation, a context we can find in the Old Testament. 

Now, it’s interesting because Matthew the scribe of the passage and one of the disciples does try to take us to the context of this.  Mat 13:14-15 “ . . . the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’” (This passages that Matthew quotes comes from Isaiah 6:9) 

Now what’s interesting is, if you go and just read that one chapter in Isaiah you might still be confused about God’s mindset on this. Because even here it almost sounds like God doesn’t want to save the people, and you might still be asking, “Why is He being so harsh?” because all we have is God’s response to the people. Let’s add a bit of the fuller view though on what’s happening in this period when Isaiah is hearing from God and what the context actually is to God’s statements, shall we? 

Isaiah 30:1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin”

Isa 30:8-11 “Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.’”

Little bit of a different perspective, right? Israel has actually asked to not be told the truth. They asked for God (The Holy One of Israel) to cease from being before them. At that point, God would have had every right to be done with them and walk away, which would have meant no Jesus showing up and teaching and healing or dying for our sins. But what is God’s response, even way back in the time of Isaiah the prophet?

Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

Now let’s go back to Matthew. What does Jesus says next to His disciples?

Matthew 13:16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

God waited all that time, far longer than anyone expected, so that He might yet save all of us rebellious people by sending Jesus, who in His death and resurrection fully revealed the gracious justice of God.

There is a lot for us to learn by knowing the Old Testament context to the New Testament passages. 

Challenge: Read the whole Bible!

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Finding Ways to Connect

During this season of cancelations and health concerns many of the normal and routine ways we would normally spend time with others have been discontinued. We, as human beings and particularly as Christians, need to still be finding ways to connect with others for encouragement and hope. Because this season is not an easy one for many, and when we are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes we just need someone else beside us saying, “It’s okay, God’s got this. We will make it through.”

Have you found yourself discouraged a lot in this season?

Have you found yourself questioning your purpose?

Have you found yourself wondering if God is listening?

When we’re disconnected from other people and believers it’s easy to start feeling hopeless. But instead of getting stuck there, we need to intentionally seek out and find ways to be filled up with life and love by connecting with God and people so that we can be encourage in our life and faith and also encourage others in the same.

Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Challenge: As you go forward in this unusual season, start actively doing two things: reach out to someone and find a way to connect and encourage them, and pray for and seek someone you can connect with to encourage you.

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Needed Refreshment

Jesus sent out the twelve to go minister, and after traveling and teaching, they returned. What does Jesus say they should do next?

Mar 6:31 “And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”

How do they respond? 

Did they tell Him they did not need to rest? Did they say, “Resting is ungodly” or “No times to waste on a sit-down meal or sleep, we must get going on our next trip”?

Their actual response: Mar 6:32 “So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.”

They went to a quiet place
They went by themselves

They try to get rest. But what happens? Jesus is saying they need rest and time to eat. Do they get their rest? How about time to eat?

Mar 6:33-34 “But the multitudes saw them departing, and…ran there on footfrom all the cities. They arrived before them… And Jesus…saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them…”

Instead of peace and quiet, the needy follow them.
Ever have this happen when you’re hoping for a quiet meal and some rest?

The disciples don’t get their alone time, but what about refreshment? Do they get that?

Mar 6:36 “When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send [the multitude] away, that they may go…and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”

They are all now in a deserted place with no bread (no refreshment).

Mar 6:37 “But He answered and said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said to Him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?’”

Basically: What! We don’t have extra food to give them. We came here for rest, we don’t have anything more left to give.

Mark 6: 38-41 “But He said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’ And when they found out they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’…”

NOT Enough, Jesus, clearly!

Yet, what is Jesus’ response?

Mark 6: 42 “…when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.

Jesus gives them what they need to feed the people. They didn’t have what they needed. They needed rest, BUT He provided the food they needed to serve and help the unexpected multitude of needy people who had come to them.

And what happens after Jesus gives them enough for the needy multitude?

Mar 6:43 “And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.”

He provides them not just with enough to be filled but also with each their own basket of refreshment.

Challenge: When you are in need of rest and food but are instead unexpectedly surrounded by needy people, remember, Jesus will provide not just for them but also for you.

(Originally posted on December 5, 2016)

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Standing Up For Others

Have you ever noticed how when someone is being oppressed or bullied by someone else and a third party steps in and calls to account the oppressor/bully, it can often shift the balance of power back to a position of equality?

As Christians we are not called to stay in the background and do nothing in the face of evil. We are told, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom 12:21

It’s easy to say, “It’s not my problem” or “I don’t have the skills to help,” but these words should never be our excuse for letting evil prosper or to let evil continue. 

“Do not be overcome by evil”  What does this actually mean?

I think we think of these words only as if they mean we are not to become evil, but what if these words are also about not letting evil control or overcome our good words and actions?

Fear of something is a powerful force. I think during this time of Covid we can see the power of fear even more clearly than we ever have before. Our lives have been radically changed because of the fear of a virus that could possibly kill. 

Our fear of all kinds of things like what could happen and what does happen is a powerful force that evil can and does use that can overcome us and keep us from doing what we should be doing. Fear can stop us from helping others, speaking the truth, standing up for the mistreated, etc. Evil can be very frightening, but we are called to not be overcome by it.

When you encounter someone else being oppressed or bullied by evil, what do you do? Do you keep your distance and let the fear of what that evil might do to you overcome you and keep you from helping the oppressed and bullied? Or do you overcome that evil with good and stand up and bring God’s power to that encounter by speaking the truth and doing what is pleasing to God regardless of that fear? 

Pro 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

What if the speechless are not just the mute, but those who don’t currently have a voice because of their position or their current situation? And what if the poor and needy are more than just those in need of finances or food, what if they are poor and needy in other areas like emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually? Are we defying our fear (overcoming evil) and pleading their cause (doing good)? Or are we letting evil overcome us (succumbing to our fears of what it might cost us to stand up for them)? 

One of the most beautiful things to see are people joining together to stand in righteous unity to protect each other, the innocent, the needy, the weak, etc. Mat 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Unity has an incredible way of revealing Him because only in His power are we able to truly come together and overcome evil with good. 

Challenge: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom 12:21 Do not be restrained by fear and do not be silenced by it.  2Ti 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

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Are We Allowed to Remove Ungodly Church Leadership?

Over the last two weeks, we have talked about who we are to obey. We have talked about what kind of people God chooses to give His authority to and how some people falsely claim to have God’s authority. 

This week let’s look at little further at what our responses should be to ungodly church leaders. We already know from our discussion two weeks ago (Do We Have to Obey Ungodly Church Leaders?) that Paul’s words were not and are not a commanded for us to obey those who are teaching actions and behaviors contrary to God’s word, but rather a command for us to obey those doing what is good and right in God’s eyes.

The issue of ungodly church leadership doesn’t end when we alone stop obeying them though, so what is our responsibility when we encounter or are faced with such leadership? I ask this because, I’ve heard Christians say things like, “Well, we recognize that he’s not doing what he should be, but he’s the pastor.” As if his position simply strips them of any right to say or do anything.

Does the holding of a position of leadership in the church mean for that person that no other Christian has the right to ever speak against or take action to oppose them, stand against them, or remove them from leadership?

If your answer is “No.” Then I ask you, where in Scripture are we commanded to allow an ungodly person to remain in church leadership?

If your answer is “Yes.” Then I ask you, where in Scripture do we find that we are allowed to remove ungodly church leadership? Because in Scripture there is no doubt that there can be leaders in the church who are not of God.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

What are we to do when we encounter these false apostles?

Ephesians 5:8-11 “For you [saints in Ephesus] were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

Instructions given to Titus by Paul: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you . . .  For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. . . . They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Titus 1:5-16

Titus 3:10-11  Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”

What are the instructions given to Titus about leaderships and the church? Read the above passage again carefully and notice the words Paul uses. “Set in order the things that are lacking.” Meaning there were things lacking. Those who are insubordinate, idle talkers, deceivers are such “whose mouths must be stopped.” They are disqualified for every good work. Reject them.

Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Below are instructions Paul gives to Timothy who is in Ephesus (1Ti 1:3) so “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1Ti 3:15)

1Timothy 5:19-22 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.”

Note: They who are sinning are to be rebuked and if it’s discovered that it’s necessary to do so, laying hands on them was acceptable, if done with proper knowledge and not in hasty action. (“Laying hands on” as an action against someone. Mark 12:12, Luke 20:19)

1Timothy 6:3 “If anyone . . .  does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (spoken by Paul to Timothy about how he should conduct himself in the church at Ephesus)

2 Thessalonians 3:13-14 “But as for you, brethren [of “the church of the Thessalonians” (2Th 1:1)] , do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6 “But we command you, brethren [of “the church of the Thessalonians” (2Th 1:1)], in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”

1Corinthians 5:11-13 “But now I have written to you [“the church of God which is at Corinth” (1Co 1:2)] not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

Just a few definitions of characteristics in this list: 

Reviler—criticizes in an abusive or angrily insulting manner.

Extortion—the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threat.

Hmm, and what are we supposed to do with this kind of a person?

Do not keep company with them and put that evil person away from the church. (Note: “yourself” in the above passage is referring to the church because this letter is written to the church as a whole, not to an individual.) 

Please note that many of these instructions are given to churches, and the reason it does not say, “Remove them from the church” is that there were no physical churches built yet. The Church was the people. If the brethren of the church didn’t keep company with this person, that person was affectively removed from the church. If the brethren withdrew themselves or rejected that person from their midst, this was removing that person from the church. 

Challenge: As the church we are commanded to not keep company with ungodly leadership. Therefore, are you as a member of the church rightly speaking up and taking action to see the church withdraw from and reject those “whose mouths must be stopped” and who are “disqualified for every good work.” (Tit 1:5-16)

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Who Is It That Has Authority in Our Lives?

Last week we talked about how no where in Scripture does it say we are to obey a leader when they are leading us in or commanding us to do evil or to do anything against what God defines as good.

How then do we know which people are appointed by God and are doing good and thus have authority that we should submit to versus which people are simply claiming they are appointed by God and saying they have His authority? 

Anyone can come into our lives and say they exist as an authority and are therefore appointed by God, but if they do not hold to the things of God, they do not posses the authority of God. Rather they are a false prophet claiming to speak for God but actually hold no authority whatsoever.

1Jo 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Gal 2:4-5 Paul speaks of how they responded to “ . . . false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”

Paul wrote Romans (see last weeks blog post) and Galatians. And here we find Paul, saying, “we did not yield submission even for an hour.” Why? Because those who sought their submission were false brethren who would have had them act in contradiction to the truth of the gospel.

Mat 7:15-16 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”

When a church leaders is chosen in the Bible there are certain character qualities that are stipulate as being necessary to their selection in becoming those to whom God would give His authority. Why are these qualifications important beyond just leadership selection? They are important because they tell us what we can and should expect from the people who truly hold positions of God given authority. These qualities help us know which leaders truly possess God’s authority and which leaders might in fact be falsely claiming to possess God’s authority.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the stipulations laid out for positions of church authority such as an elder.  Titus 1:5-16  “ . . . appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is . . .”

  1. blameless
  2. the husband of one wife
  3. having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination
  4. a steward of God
  5. not self-willed
  6. not quick-tempered
  7. not give to wine
  8. not violent
  9. not greedy for money
  10. hospitable
  11. a lover of what is good
  12. sober-minded
  13. just
  14. holy
  15. self-controlled
  16. holding fast the faithful word
  17. able to by sound doctrine exhort and convict those who contradict

Notice in this list the words “blameless” and “lover of what is good.” These are small words but they carry a weighty meaning. They should be blameless—someone innocent of wrongdoing.

The qualification “holding fast the faithful word” is also weighty. The church leadership God gives His authority to are those people who hold fast to God’s word, not those who twist it and use it to manipulate for their own desires or to re-define what is good.

1 Timothy 3:1-12 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be . . .”

  1.  blameless 
  2. the husband of one wife,
  3.  temperate
  4. sober-minded
  5. of good behavior
  6. hospitable
  7. able to teach 
  8. not given to wine
  9. not violent, 
  10. not greedy for money
  11. gentle
  12. not quarrelsome
  13. not covetous
  14. rules his own house well
  15. children in submission with all reverence
  16. not a novice
  17. a good testimony among those who are outside

1 Timothy 3:8 “Likewise deacons must be . . . ”

  1. reverent
  2. not double-tongued
  3. not give to much wine
  4. not greedy for money
  5. holding the mysteries of the faith with a pure conscience
  6. the husbands of one wife
  7. ruling their children and their own house well
  8. wife must be reverent, not a slanderer, temperate, faithful in all things.

1Ti 3:10 “But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.”

They are to be blameless — innocent of wrongdoing. But, wait, isn’t it impossible to be blameless before God? Hmm, well, let’s see what Scripture says about this:

Col 1:21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Blamelessness is to continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast. This is how we shall know the leaders who truly possess authority. 

Mat 7:28 “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Challenge: Know what the Bible says and what faith in God really is, because in so doing you will know what it means to continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast. In this way you will know who truly bears God’s authority and should be submit to verse those who are false claimers of authority who you are to overcome with good (Rom 12:21) by saying “We must obey God not men” (Act 5:29) and to whom you shall “not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Gal 2:4-5)

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Do We Have to Obey Ungodly Church Leaders?

I’ve heard way too many stories of church leaders who are clearly not walking out their leadership in a godly manner, yet for some reason the Christians in their church feel like they must continue to follow and obey that church leader. Why?

Why do people think this is what God intended? No where in Scripture does it says that we are to obey a leader who is leading us to do or commanding us to do evil or to do anything against what God defines as good. (Any leader is capable of taking and re-defining what is “good” themselves, hence the need to clarify the definition of what is good.)

I believe this belief that Christians must obey and not contradict or stand against church leadership, comes from several key verses that are utilized by ungodly leadership to try to falsely manipulate people into obeying them. Verses like Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

I mean, wow, that does sound scary accurate to the whole “obey no matter what” and “don’t interfere or try to change things” mentality, right along with the ominous warning of “or else you’ll be the one bringing judgment on yourself” warning attached. That is, until you keep reading. 

Romans 13:3-4 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Oh, and let’s back up to the verse right before the comment “Let every soul be subject.” That’s right, what does the verse right before it say? Rom 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

What are we to do?  Romans 13:3-4  “Do what is good.” Rom 12:21 “Overcome evil with good.”

Who do we answer to? Romans 13:1-2  “There is no authority except from God.”

Ephesians 5:23  “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body . . . the church is subject to Christ.”

Col 1:18 “And [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

If what God says in the Bible differs from what your leader says, Biblically you are to obey and do what God says in His word not what the leader says. God is the authority and God has preeminence.

How do we know this is what this means?  Act 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles answered and said [to the religious leaders]: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’”

Challenge: Please do not think God has mandated you to follow ungodly leaders or obey them in their evil. If you are being told by a church leader that you must obey them even when what they say contradicts the Bible, it’s time for you to say as the apostles did, “I must obey God rather than you.”

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Are You Living Out the Golden Rule?

The world is in an uproar. People are angry about Covid, about quarantine, and about an abuse of power. Now, what these three realities all have in common is not the color of someone’s skin. It’s how we treat the people around us, no matter what color their skin is.

A few years ago, I was summoned for jury duty. Many of the prerequisite-questions asked of us potential jurors were about race and skin color. I was confused by this until I realized the man being prosecuted was African American. The questions then made more sense to me, they were intentionally making sure he got a fair trial, which I appreciated. But what really stuck with me from this experience was how different my perspective on skin color is than a lot of people’s.

See, to me skin color is no different from hair color. It’s just an element of someone’s outward form that makes them individual. I wouldn’t treat someone differently because they have brown hair instead of blond hair; in the same way, I wouldn’t treat someone differently because they have skin that is darker or lighter than mine. 

Now maybe you’re thinking, well that’s probably because you don’t have much experience with racial issues. In one sense this may be true but not in others. We need to keep in mind  that what we are actually talking about when we refer to racial issues, isn’t skin color. We are talking about people’s mindsets and behaviors towards others in regard to their skin color. 

My personal stance is that skin color doesn’t and shouldn’t make any difference to a person’s inherent value or how we should treat them. Now in case you think I hold this position in word only, you should know my family has different skin colors in it. My older brother and I don’t share the same genetics, skin color, or race, but he is and will always be my brother, who I love. I also have cousins who are Native American and African American, and for many years I babysat for a couple, a Caucasian mother and a Filipino father with five children: three biological bi-racial kids and two adopted African American kids. I have been friends with and/or fellowshipped with people from all difference races: Russian, Native American, Welsh, Canadian, German, English, Swedish, Scottish, Australian, Nigerian, Cameroonian, African American, French, Argentinian, Honduran, Haitian, Hawaiian, Indian, Mexican, etc. So I would consider my perspective decently well rounded.

People are people, and the real question is: Do we or do we not treat others as we would wish to be treated? 

Do we do as God commands us to do? Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NIV) Or do we act like somehow we’re better and more deserving than other people? The issue isn’t skin color, or even skin deep, it’s what’s in the human heart. The issue is our pride. Pro 13:10 “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”

Jesus gave us wisdom to live by in His commandments. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mat 22:37-40

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a command we like to twist around to just mean the neighbors that are like us, the neighbors who we like, and the neighbors we don’t have any prejudices against. This issue of definition was true even in Bible times. Do you know how Jesus addresses it? 

Luke 10:27-34 “[An expert in the law] wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”

Which person are you in the story of the Good Samaritan? Because I think we are all in this story. We’re either the person beaten, the robber who beat the person, the priest or levite who walks by without doing anything to help the person, or the Samaritan who does help the person. What kind of person are you choosing to be today? (If you recognize you’ve made the wrong response, please know repentance and forgiveness from God are always available to you.)

Jesus doesn’t define the neighborly one as having similar skin color, racial origin, or cultural identity. Jesus defines “Loving your neighbor” as setting aside any distinction you think there is between you and simply caring about the other person as a person.

Challenge: Don’t be a race, be a Christian.

(All Scripture unless otherwise indicated was taken from NKJV, emphasis added.)

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Homosexuality and the Church

I have a friend from the LGBT community. She and I have been friends for twenty years, and though we disagree on so many things we have kept a strong friendship and taught each other many things.  For instance she has opened my eyes to the way many Christian churches respond to people from the LGBT lifestyles/backgrounds.

Far too often there seem to be one of two extremes in the church’s responses to people struggling with these things: 

1. Accept them and act like their sin isn’t a sin at all.

2. Reject them and act like their sin is the unpardonable sin.

Both responses propagate lies. 

Churches that respond the first way, I believe, do so because they have been told/taught that to “love” someone you must not address anything they are doing as wrong or exhort them to change anything that they are doing. This response is a lie, because these versions of “love” and “sin” are not what the Bible teaches.  (see my posts “True or False: Jesus Is All About Love” “What Unconditional Love Is and Isn’t” “Saved From What?” and “The Missing Piece to Salvation”)

Churches that respond the second way, I believe, do so because they are incredibly uncomfortable with this kind of sin and don’t know how to interact with these people or address their sin in a truly loving way. This propagates the lie that these people and their sins are somehow so much worse than our people and our sin, which is so incredibly not the case. 

1 Corinthians 6:8-11 “No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Not only does this verse show us that homosexuality isn’t the only sin that’s an issue, but it also reminds us that even in this church setting Paul is bringing to their attention the reminder that “such were some of you.” We are not different from those who sin, we are those who sin. We also need to be reminded that it wasn’t because we are different that we are considered righteous. No, it’s because we were washed, sanctified, and justified by the Lord Jesus. Which is the same thing He offers to everyone who has committed sin! To act like homosexuality is somehow so much worse and unforgivable than any Christians’ past covetousness, fornication, drunkness, or reviling, etc. is to disregard and dishonor the Bible.

Or how about some of the other sexual sins out there? Here’s what the Bible says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

In relation to the above verse, why are we not holding every person struggling with sexual sin to the same standard? Why is struggling with homosexuality a sin we shun people for, while people struggling with pornography addiction is something we tend to ignore? 

If you ask me, we have become a church that cares only about looking good. (Therefore the hidden sin of pornography is acceptable while the visible sin of homosexuality is unacceptable. Let me tell you: Neither one is acceptable!)

Instead, we should be a church that should care about repenting from ALL sin and living in a way that truly pleases God who is our Lord and Savior.

Unconditional love is the invitation that God makes to us for us to receive new life. His love remains unconditional, but the accepting and living out of the new life He offers us is not unconditional. Many want to believe that they should be able to receive life and Salvation while their sin is overlooked by a loving God. “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” said Jesus in Luke 13:3.

Challenge: Do you truly care about the person who is in sin? Do you want to help and disciple them, or do you care only about removing what makes you uncomfortable? Are you loving those searching for the truth of God by speaking the full truth, or are you guarding your social circles from having to deal with discomfort, while meanwhile hiding away the ongoing sin in your own life? If you acknowledged out loud what you’re struggling with, might you be what makes your friends uncomfortable? Sin is sin. Let’s be and allow each other to be honest. Let’s help each other repent and accept the forgiveness and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the newness of life He offers us all.

(Scripture taken from the New King James Version, emphasis added)

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