June 11, 2018

There Go I

One of the biggest reasons  that the prosperity gospel is flawed would be ‘the come up.’ Most people do not do well with a drastic and/sudden change in resources and lifestyle. There is something to be said for working and earning what one has over time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a more comfortable lifestyle. But the truth is that too many become ugly inside from how having money changes the individual.

If too much is given or obtained too quickly, there is a lack of appreciation for what one has and nothing is sufficient or enough. But there is also the lack of empathy for those around the one who feels that they are now removed from their previous situation. It manifest in many ways but in most cases it makes one a great consumer and not a producer.  The money is not the problem, the true refection of the heart is the problem.  I would even go so far as to say that money can have a negative affect on a person's prayer life. This is why Christians often times dont do well with wealth, the wealth comes at the cost of having a heart, toward God and others.

 Consumers are those who love to use their spending power on things that they didn’t have before. How one spends their resources is the easiest way to tell old money from new money. New money makes poor spending decisions on items that are mostly for bragging rights and with very little or no asset value, and most often to impress people who are not impressed anyway. It is the fear of depravity wearing a mask of abundance.  It is a facade.

The sudden ability to have what one never had before becomes overwhelming and even can lead to poor decision-making and gluttony.  Being a consumer becomes addictive..... it becomes the high of being able to obtain what one never had, therefore leading to overspending,  and poor decision making in purchasing more than what is needed. This is exactly why most professional athletes and lottery ticket winners, and drug dealers end up in the exact financial state with a few years.  There is little to no knowledge about saving, investing, sound purchasing, or philanthropy.

When fear controls the individual it will cause a level of selfishness that leaves no room for investing in vetted causes or charities, and definitely not becoming a resource by founding a charitable or philanthropic organization. When Christians forget to help others, they risk missing out in the greatest way to be like Christ, and that is to become a giver and a producer.   When Jesus fed the people, he did with no expectation of return or compensation.  As a matter of fact, most of the time, Jesus told those that he did something for not to tell others. This is because the nature of God is to give.  We learn to be like Christ in the way that we treat others. How we treat others is a direct  reflection of how we see our relationship with God.  When we have a positive outlook on our relationship with God, there is an openness to share not only the Good News of the Gospel, but to overall have a positive impact in the lives of others.  We can truly be living examples of Christ on earth.      

 It has been proven that giving and affinity go hand-in-hand. A person will invest in what they have some emotional attachment to. Therefore, it can be said that those who suddenly obtain too much too fast become detached and lose their ability to care or to love others.  Their affinity goes toward the obtained material wealth or objects obtained. This is why loving people,  those you can see, is essential because it is a reflection on one’s relationship to God. And it can only be faked or pretended for a short span of time. The state of one’s heart will eventually be shown for how it truly is.

 At the core, the basic need is a sense of  resolve that  comes only from right relationship with God. Therefore it can be said that the individual is seeking a form of peace that will never come from the material that is bought/purchased, but can only come from an internal peace. Like any other addiction the issue is not the outward manifestation,  but is in fact the internal turmoil that is causing the outward affect. A lack of peace and the inability to see what God has gifted the person with besides material objects and economic ability will always leave the person to rely on what they can grasp and that is material and superficial. This all leads to a person who is shallow and superficial. 

Money or material gain is not a guarantee of happiness.  The most current events of the past few years where more and more famous/rich individuals are committing suicide is proof that one's internal state of being is much more important than tangible material gain or wealth. There are some things that every human being needs that money can not buy.

 God wants us to have abundant life, including nice things, but as good stewards of that abundance, not wasteful and overindulged. Because we live in a culture that loves amenities and creature comforts, it’s hard to imagine living a life with less than the newest most fashionable and most desired objects. This is what capitalism is built on, the reliance on human beings to fulfill their depravity with objects instead of seeking internal peace.  People in sales love hurting people because they purchase, they become repeat spenders. As a matter of fact, if more people had the Peace of God, the spending patterns of our entire world would change.

 This is exactly what religious vows of poverty are about, not becoming consumed with being a consumer but actually becoming comfortable enough in the sufficiency of having basic needs met that one becomes productive both spiritually and naturally. Christians should be producers, should be people who seek out ways to help others find peace through sharing the gospel, the good news, but should also live a lifestyle  that reflects the internal peace and the strength to not always needing to follow the trends of obtaining the newest object.

 Let’s be honest money changes a person. There are very few people that are not affected by gaining wealth. or even a higher salary. But the important thing is to remember that the higher salary or the wealth is not the issue,  it is a matter of what this does to the internal workings of the individual. One of the most grounding things that a person can do to remember who they really are is to remain a giver.  Giving to others allows one to remain empathetic, if the individual allows their thought process to remain open and clear about the difference between self and the other person. Spending time around one's old neighborhood and staying connected to everyday life of everyday people can keep one open to receive the realization of how powerful God's sufficiency really is in keeping one resilient (Philippians 4:13).  This is how you learn to be content and remain grateful. One of the things that I heard quite often growing up was the saying “but for the grace of God, there go I.”




May 13, 2018

URIAH

In the story of David and Bathsheba, we have a very interesting person who seems to get the short end of the situation.  But I often wonder if this is the only way to look at this portion of text.  I say that because Uriah the Hittite represents one of my greatest fears.

Before I explain my views on this portion of text, let me give just a bit of background information about myself. My father had 5 brothers. I lived in the house with my dad and my oldest male cousin who was 12 years older than myself. So you can say almost all of my childhood was one of feeling very protected, affirmed, and loved.  I was my dad's only child so I was destined to be treated a certain way, better known as spoiled. With this many men in my childhood I was destined to not only get most anything that I wanted, because if one uncle said no, another uncle would either say yes, or find some way to compensate by offering something else that I might want. For example, if one uncle would not give me ice cream from the gas station up the street, all I had to do was to come back and make an announcement that I didnt get any ice cream.  This would be followed by the men having conversation about why I was denied ice cream or what ever it was that I wanted.  And not much time would pass before another uncle would invite me to go for a ride with him, only to end up at Kay's Ice Cream shop which had a whole bunch of flavors on display for me to choose from.  This understanding of how men treat those they care for and love has framed my understanding of relationships in general.  It has also set the bar for how I measure the behavior of men as an adult.

Growing up in a small town, during a time when people actually sat around and communicated with each other gave me a lot of insight from the perspectives of my aunts while they were stringing and breaking green beans or something.  And many times, I got to hear the conversations (while I was supposed to be playing in the yard and not listening) of my dad and his brothers talking about community issues, political events, but also to hear a lot of conversation about women and relationships. By the time I got to be a teenager, my dad started to really talk to me about relationships directly. And those conversations helped me to understand how and why he treated some of the women that he dated differently from others.


Now back to Uriah, in 2 Samuel 11, we are told the events that lead to his death in the hottest battle. But before he died, he was given a chance to go home to his wife. Now upon reading the story, this was not as any favor to Uriah, but it was truly a set up to cover up what was going on with David and Bathsheba.  So this is where I am going to talk briefly about Bathsheba's perspective, and how it reflects one of my greatest fears.

We really dont know anything about  Bathsheba and Uriah's relationship. We have no idea what Bathsheba shared with King David about her relationship or home situation. We are not given any insight into the pillow talk that Bathsheba had with Uriah or with King David. So what we have to go on are just the facts that are presented in the text.   I have heard it preached from a lot of different angles, and most of the time those angles portray  Bathsheba as having negative behavior and motives, which I am not completely  sure are presented in the wording or the tone of the text. But I am not going to debate that at this time.  I want to really get to a woman's perspective of  Uriah's decision not to go home to his wife.

Human behavior is very telling. Regardless of what a person says, their behavior tells the much larger portion of the truth. This frame of logic is how we are going to view Uriah's decision to sleep outside and not go home to his wife.  I am going to simply say that he didnt want her, he didnt want to go home to her.  He was a soldier who knew that he could die in battle any day, and he is given a chance to go home for a few nights to his wife and he would rather not, and says that it is his loyalty to the other soldiers who are not able to have this same opportunity to visit home.

A man in love, doesnt usually, really doesnt operate like that because love makes a man want to take every opportunity to spend time with the woman that  he loves, even if it means returning to battle and his death the next day.....  That is even more justification for him to take the opportunity to spend the night with the woman he loves. A man in love is caring and attentive, and willing to do his best to make sure the woman that he loves is happy.  It was not as if  Uriah was sneaking away to visit home, but he told to go home.  Now we dont know if he suspected something, or even if he had heard gossip, because that is not given to us in the text, all we have is the excuse that he uses to not go into his home to his wife.

So can you imagine what that must have felt like for Bathsheba? Her husband is in town, but is sleeping outside with servants and refusing to come home to her.  This is rejection, neglect, and disregard. Those are the things that a woman will get from a man who does not love her.  So imagine Bathsheba being married to a man who has so little affinity or interest in being a husband to her.  You might ask, so does this validate the theories that she was intentionally trying to be seen bathing?  I dont know. But what we do see is a married man who declares more loyalty to the army and to the king, than to his wife, or even a desire for her.

To be in a relationship marriage with someone who does not love you and who does not want you is a miserable way to live out your days. Having to pretend to family and friends that everything is ok when there is no real love or passion is hurtful and draining.  God's plan for marriage is for it to be the most loving and nourishing experience that affirms both the man and woman, in such a way that their bond is both spiritually and naturally strong.  So when we see Bathsheba move on with her life after Uriah's death, I cant help but to think that she must have mourned his death, but that she must have also been relieved to not have to any longer pretend that she was loved and cared for my a man who really didnt want to come home to her.  With Uriah out of the way, Bathsheba was free to be loved and cherished.

May 1, 2018

Distortion

Sin causes distortion, both in perspective and logic. This has been the case since the very beginning. From the 'you shall not surely die' to the present, the ways of distortion are the same, but the manifestations are every morphing.

In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve did not drop dead at that exact moment, it began the distortion of timing and urgency. If one of them or both of them had died at that moment, it would have been the most clear message to them to obey, but it would have also been the end of their history. This is why these events were followed with some specific details as to what would happen for them in the rest of their lives as part of the consequences of their disobedience. But even those consequences did not change the outcome that was spoken to them, they would die.... not suddenly at that moment, but slowly aging and deteriorating. 

There has always been and will always be a price to be paid for sin. The pride of life makes each of us think that time is on our side, that we have plenty of time to worry later about living according to God's principles. But this distorted view also means that if we are not willing to live according to the plan of God for our lives, we forfeit the over arching truth of God's plan for our lives. Not just in the context of life or death, but everything in life before one dies. This can mean years and decades of living beneath what was God's plan to bless your life. The distortion of sin is to believe that you can get for yourself better than what God wants to give you. 

This makes some feel like the gamble is worth the risk to get what you can now and worry about the rest later.  In this way, sin has accomplished its purpose to distract and distort not only our perception of God, but of self.  Sin causes one to justify living in disregard to God's Biblical Principles. The distortion is manifested in the lack of urgency to do what it right, to work and strive toward doing what it right. Righteousness at its core is built around an internal desire to be as close to right as one possibly can in word and deed and intentions of heart.  The state of the heart is reflected in one's actions.

Therefore, the distortion of sin is actually a distortion of the state of one's own heart. To see one's ways without wanting to weigh it against God's truth is the internal struggle to justify what is in one's own heart.  The only way that the distortion can be removed so that one can truly see the truth of one's own heart is through God via the Holy Spirit to remove the distortion and giving the individual the opportunity to truly see one's self through the truth of God. What we see when we see our self through the truth of God can be hard to face, but necessary. We have to ask God to show us the ourselves as God sees us.   What will we really see when we become courageous enough to see what God sees? 

We all try to convince ourselves that our actions are justified and that our behavior is not that bad. But what is God really seeing?  What is really in our heart?  It takes the truth being clearly shown to the individual before the individual will realize there is a need for change toward doing what it right according to Biblical Principles. This is why the act of surrender is so important in the context of salvation. The ability to surrender to God and accept that Jesus Christ died for your sins, can have the most liberating effect.

Humbling is the reality that there are some things that one can not do for self. To realize that you can not change the condition of your own soul is humbling. It not only frees one from the bondage related to sinful habits and lifestyle choices, but it also frees one to be completely honest with God about areas of one's life that need to change for the better.  It is in this, that the heaviness of one's heart is no long a weight to carry, but is left at the foot of the Cross.

Surrendering to God means letting go of the facade that everything is alright and the spiritual heaviness of all of the distortion caused by sin. To need God, to seek after God means that you don't have to live outwardly appearing to be OK, but internally knowing you are a mess.  God is the mender of broken hearts.

April 24, 2018

Gender and Salvation

Contrary to what our society wants to tell us, there are some distinct differences in men and women. God created humanity this way for a reason. The differences are to compliment each other, they are not to make one gender more valid than the other, they are designed to work together to create balance in the home, family, community and society.

Within this understanding there are some things that are part of the personality of the individual, but for the most part at the core there are certain things that are key characteristics. God's creation is intentional, with so much attention to detail that some times it is hard to even wrap one's mind around all of the intricate care that God lovingly set in order to create the world that we live in and our human bodies designed just right for the atmosphere and gravity of the Earth.

There are some cognitive differences in men and women.  I wont bore with too much scientific fact, but I will say that in many cases men and women process information differently, and they respond to that information differently. Again, I will state that personality in the individual does play a key role in this, because each person has some unique qualities, as God did not create us as one clone, but part of the beautiful variety that is throughout creation. For example, all trees have the same basic features, but there are multiple varieties of trees, the same can be said of birds, flowers, on and on.... God clearly loves variety because it is expressed throughout creation. In this way, each individual is unique, but with some sameness of humanity.

Salvation is defined in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms as follows:

"God's activities in bringing humans into a right relationship with God and with one another through Jesus Christ.  They are saved from the consequences of their sin and given eternal life. Biblical images for salvation vary widely." 


This definition uses some very active words. It also clearly states that salvation is more than just the relationship with God, but also with one another.  This is very important to understand the Christian community of faith that develops among those who are saved.  No where in this definition is a distinction of gender, which means that salvation is for both men and women.  But when we look at the  Christian community of faith, in almost all cases there are more women than men within congregations.

Salvation is available to all.  How men and women process information can be very different, especially when it comes to self introspection. This is important because when presenting the Gospel to men and women, there is some need for intentional use of facts, because men get details and facts in a very different way than women do. This is often reflected in communication styles.  Men want the bottom line fact first, and women can navigate through the details and eventually get to what should point to the facts.

For salvation to take place, one must be aware that one's relationship with God is not right. ... That one is a sinner. To acknowledge this fact in one's spiritual state of being requires conviction. Our legal system has lead us to think about conviction in a certain way, that relies on how the information is understood by others.  But the type of conviction that leads one to realize they  are in need of Jesus Christ and salvation, is internal. In other words, the facts have to be presented to the individual, not the group of peers.  The group of peers may see the facts without a shadow of a doubt, but for salvation to take place the individual must see one's own sinful nature as based on the facts presented to one's own self.  This level of self honesty means that the person must be humbled by the Holy Spirit of God opening ones eyes, to be honest with one's self about one's own actions and motives.

Conviction of sin is defined in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms as follows:

"The sense of the reality of sin in one's life as known by the work of the Holy Spirit ( John 16: 8-9)."


When a person is unwilling to face the facts of their own wrong, it takes the Holy Spirit to show the individual how far way from God they truly are, how are away from doing right they truly are in their own way of being. Sinners and backsliders, are able to justify their ways, or the even ignore reasoning.  But once one truly becomes aware of the fact that one is wrong, in word and deed, something has to change. Either the individual will take the "Romans Road" or will continue to reject God, Jesus Christ, and salvation.

In recent years, the preaching of the Gospel has become quite docile when it comes to stating the facts. And this is reflected in the lack of men who are active participants in church. This is reflective of the lower numbers of men who are accepting salvation in Jesus Christ.  Maybe the "hell, fire, and brimstone" type sermon of the past seems a bit harsh, but some time the facts are harsh. Sin is harsh. The consequences of sin are harsh. What sin does to one's life is harsh. What sin does to one's physical body is harsh. What sin does to the state of one's soul is harsh.

Men must be presented with the facts. The church can not follow the trends of the world and sugar coat the truth. Men respect truth and honesty, even when it is not what they want to hear. No one  will receive the truth or the facts, until they are willing to surrender their own self sufficiency and realize that what is needed can not be supplied by self. But salvation is available to everyone, both men and women.   God is not hiding salvation from anyone, nor is God trying to make it an unsolvable riddle. The truth of the Gospel is plain and clearly states the facts.

Men may not like asking for help or directions, but when a man realizes that his soul is at stake, in danger, the urgency will become real.  A sin sick soul can only be healed by the Power of God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. A man can not save his own soul, a woman can not save her own soul.  We all need Jesus.

February 14, 2018

LOVE IS MIGHTY

The holiday that is celebrated as Valentine's Day is completely made up by the materialistic and capitalistic agenda. There was a historical martyr who was killed for secretly marrying Christian couples during a time when it was forbidden. And this is significant for several reasons, because I can see our culture drifting towards attempting to make it illegal once again for Christians to marry, but that truth is not what is discussed on the holiday celebrated by this name. The world likes the money making aspect of the holidays, but wants to remove the Christian significance. And this holiday is no different.   Mostly started by greeting card companies and embraced by jewelry distributors because it stands to bring great profits to their companies by simply selling a desired concept - Love.

The truth of the matter is that love is much greater and stronger than any card, flowers, candy or jewelry can represent.  Yes, we all like to receive gifts. Yes, we appreciate that someone thinks enough to invest in showing how much they care.  There is no question about that at all.

Love is spiritual. Love is a spiritual act. Love is about positive impact in the life of another person.

Love is essentially at the core of the human ability to understand how much God considers humanity (John 3:16).  God's love can be gentle and kind, but God's love can also be redirecting and correcting.  This is not the way that the marketing world wants you to see God's love.  The little fat angels with arrows are completely different from the might angels that move at God's command.  In this same way, the world shrinks love down to a materialistic expression.  When in truth everything about God's love is mighty.

In this way, when God becomes the binding force in a relationship it becomes unbreakable. (Eccl 4:9-12). To love and to be loved is a beautiful thing that allows one to flourish in every aspect of life. The companionship is different from any other type of interaction. Love that is grounded in God's Love is nourishing. The love that the world markets at its core is like a leech, always looking for opportunity to deplete and take more and more without regard for return.  But when God is at the core of love, there is a freedom to give and be what the other person needs without any  consideration for the return, because the entire experience is enveloped in mutuality. 

Mutuality is not the same as equality. Men can handle physical things that a woman was not designed to handle, and women can handle physical things that a man was not designed to handle.  Here again, the secular world attempts to rebrand what God created.  Men and women are designed by God with specific intention, and there are some distinct differences both in physical characteristics and skill sets.  For example: A man's body is not designed or equipped to bring a living breathing life into this world, but a woman's body is built receive the seed,  to carry the developing life, deliver the person into this world, and to feed the new person until the person is able to eat from other food sources. God designs with intention.

Each gender brings something complementary to the characteristics of the other.  This is by God's design.  Men and women were never created to contradict each other nor to be in competition with each other, but were created to contrast each other in a way that draws emphasis that displays the other. Men and women were designed to compliment each other.

The secular world screams for equality, but God's economy of love was created for us to bring to the other person what they dont have within their own self.  This is what physical attraction is about and is at the core necessity of intimacy.   Society attempts to devalue what is the most priceless part of how God created male and female, with distinction.  Yes, there are plenty of things that a man can do just as well as a women, and there are plenty of things that a woman can do just as well as a man.  But, when it is all said and done, we were not created for sameness, so even in having some of the same skill sets and many features in common, we are different and where created for the purpose of being what the other needs, but does not contain within self.

We must be careful not to allow similar skill sets to appear to be signs of compatibility. Team members often have the same strengths and the same passion, but each also has to bring something that the other does not have or possess.  This is what makes the team a well functioning unit and a couple is a well functioning unit, a team.

This is why it is important to be equally yoked, for the productivity of the team (2 Corinthians 6:14).  Both spiritually and naturally, this is important. When your life is connected to the life of another person, you have to agree on which direction and for what you are working towards.  Common sense would tell you that you cant have one person wanting to go North and the other person wanting to go South, because then all of their energy is depleted in the internal struggle of the team not going the same direction. When there is a tug of war in a relationship, sadly, someone wins. And this means that someone is losing ground on the direction they want to go towards. This changes what should be a win-win into a win-lose.  This is why it is so important to attach your life to someone who is spiritually going the same direction as yourself. When both individuals are determined to go in the same direction, then there is an agreement of effort that become empowering, because both are using their strengths and skills to move forward. The team wins together.

Traditional marriage is attacked because it is evident how strong a well working unit is in accomplishing anything that the team sets its mind to accomplish.  God created marriage that way, and God designed it so that LOVE is central to motivate the individuals to withstand the most challenging of times and situations to stay focused on the end result of the family.

Growing together in God is empowering. With the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost, the Christian couple is unified and formidable .

Godly love has a ripple affect of blessings in the life of the Christian.