Making Lent Real

Image

“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness.”  Napoleon Hill

Lent is about sacrifice.  It has been practiced for at least 1800 years as Christians prepared for the celebration of Easter.  I find it ironic that some churches don’t understand what sacrifice means.

Let me back track for a bit.  About 7 years ago I was with a church that was meeting to define its purpose.  Just what did it want be hold as it’s main standards of living?  What did that church want the community to know about them?  Those who were there split up into groups of fours and fives and talked and discussed what each person wanted.  I’d bet there were close to ten groups that night.  Terms were tossed around like caring, friendly, good kids program, Bible based preaching, good music program and on and on.  But I did not hear sacrifice.  I told my small group that without sacrifice there is no Christianity.  Sacrifice must be the center of everything that we do.  The others in my group eventually decided that sacrifice should be added to our core.  My wife had a similar experience in her group.

All the groups were brought together and each listed it’s ideas of the core values of the church.  My group and my wifes were the only ones that listed sacrifice.  We again had to fight for the idea that sacrifice should be part of the church.  That blew me away.  Then the leader of the meetings said that in the ten years he’d been doing these seminars no church had listed sacrifice as a core value.  I was astonished.

Eventually I got my way and sacrifice was listed as a core value.  However it was only listed as a surface value.  It had no depth.  When you have to fight to put sacrifice or anything into a groups core, the group really doesn’t hold to that deeply and they just let it slip under the rug.

What is Easter if it is no about sacrifice?  Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity.  Without his sacrifice there would be no Christianity, and yet sacrifice is now too hard for the church.  To hard for the church to do for the God they so eagerly say they want to serve.

No man can serve two masters, they cannot love God and safety, they can not love God and their comfortable life.  We can not love the poor without sacrificing our pride.  No one can love the sick and dying without sacrificing their comfort.  Jesus loved the lepers, the poor, the prostitutes, the destitute and more.  How much are you willing to sacrifice to be like him?

From Tertullian we got the phrase “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  What is a martyr but someone who sacrificed everything for God?  You may not give up your life in the name of God, but would you be willing to?  That is a hard question, not easily answered.  No one knows for sure until it’s too late.

Lent as well as life is about becoming more like God.  Giving up our lives to follow the path that God has laid in front of us.  I have found that the more I follow the true path the harder it becomes.  It is not about a life of ease, the nice house, family or job.  It’s about stripping away the things that hold us all back from truly loving those people that we just can’t stand.  Stripping away wants and desires until all that is left is God and nothing else.

Who’s willing to be spiritually naked before the world and let them see your true self.  Not the self that is hidden behind fear, religion, rules, or what society tells us is right.  But the self that God wants the world to see.  The self that God created in the first place.

Advertisements

Answering the Gay Question Part 1

Image

Many people know that I support marriage equality, but many do not know why I could believe that to be OK.  When this issue comes up, especially on Facebook, all I get is scripture quotes.  I don’t get the feeling many people want to listen to anything different than what they grew up with.  I want people to know I did not take this change lightly.  Sure, my wife did have something to do with it because we discussed it for years.  I would share what I found studying the Bible and theological books and she would share things people shared with her (because everyone seems to share things with her) and things she found in books. Ultimately I am responsible for what I believe and no one else, just like you are responsible for what you believe.

“I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality.”  I’ve heard that so much in the last few years. However, I don’t believe the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.  In fact it barely if at all discusses homosexual relationships.  How can I say that being a pastor? Actually, I find it pretty easy today, but just a few years ago I would have had a different view point.  Change in my beliefs did not happen overnight.  It was through a lot of study and learning that I came to my conclusion.  I hope that you as the reader will consider what I have to say and make your own educated decision.  Please look up the verses, read books etc… but maybe most importantly, talk to a homosexual and learn about them.  They aren’t really much different from you.

They want to be loved and to love.  They want to go to church and serve God.  They want to be treated with respect.  They want to be a family and live in peace, go to work or school and hang out with friends.

A few years ago, my eyes were opened to the homosexuality issue.  Up until then, I really had not thought about it much.  My eyes were opened, not by the church, not by my wife, not by the Bible, but by a person.  This person happened to be a homosexual.  Up until this time I believed only what I had been told from my youth.  Homosexuality is a sin and homosexuals will burn in hell.  After all that is what the Bible says.

Though I did not talk in detail about homosexuality, this person really tried to follow Jesus.  They loved God but felt they were screwed because they would be rejected by the church and according to the church, by God.

This did not seem right to me.  How could someone who really wanted to love God and follow the Bible have no chance to make it to heaven?  You might say that they did have a chance.  That is that they needed to repent.  But repent from what?  Their actions were more Christlike than many “Christians” I’d known over many years.  They had a great compassion for people.  Most Christians I’ve met, especially in the past ten years, really only cared about themselves, and what the church could do for them.

So I started doing some research.  What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?  Have we really been taught the truth or are we missing something?  I got out my Greek and Hebrew Bibles and grabbed every book that I could find on the subject.  Wow, there are some differences of opinions, but you probably knew that.  Even on the same sides, people have discrepancies.  But the following is the basics of what I discovered.  Unless otherwise specified I will use the NIV translation.

Some of these verses we don’t need the Greek and Hebrew; we just need to take them in context.

Leviticus: 18; 22 “‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”  Taken by itself it could be very damaging.  However we often neglect to read the verses around it.  Verse 21 states “”‘do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.”  In other words the “sin” of lying with a man is connected with the temple worship of those who worship Molech.  It is not about personal relationships, as the first 20 verses of that chapter.  The next few verses after verse 22 seems to be connected too.  So to me this verse is and has been taken out of its context.  It’s not about relationships but prostitution at the shrines of Molech.

Leviticus 20 is all about the punishments for the crimes.  Previously the writer of Leviticus has described crimes and now he lists the punishment.  Verse 9 – if anyone curses his parents, DEATH, Verse 10 – adultery is DEATH.  Then as you continue through the chapter you find out that sex with mom is death, and sex with daughter in law is death, sex with an animal, death, sex with sister, death.   Then Stuck in the middle of these is verse 13.  “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman,” Death.  So I’m not sure that we can take this into consideration without looking at the other verses about homosexuality.  In the Old Testament there are none that specifically mention homosexuality except the above mentioned verse and a few in the books of Kings that specifically mention temple prostitution.

1 Kings 14:24 And there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (ESV)

1 Kings 15:12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. (ESV)

2 Kings 23:7 He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the LORD, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole. (NLT)

According to many scholars, Leviticus would have been written sometime after the books of Kings so quite possibly the author of Leviticus could easily have been referring to this type of action rather than two people simply having a relationship.

So as far as the Old Testament, I find very little that directly relates to homosexuality outside of cult prostitutes.  We don’t have temple prostitutes today so this is not an issue for us to worry about.

In my next blog I will discuss the Romans 1 and what I have discovered has or does not have to do with homosexuality.

Also if you want my thoughts on Sodom and Gomorrah and Judges 19 you’ll have to read my blog, “Rethinking Sodom”  https://hadespotos.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/rethinking-sodom/

This subject is going be at least 4 blog posts (maybe more) and I’m sure I won’t touch everything I have discovered. so please keep coming back.  I typically post every Sunday and Wednesday.

The Best Present is Forgiveness

grudge

The most important thing that I learned in growing up is that forgiveness is something that, when you do it, you free yourself to move on.
Tyler Perry

I learned that too, Tyler.  Let me explain.  My family influenced me very much because of our problems.  We don’t generally like to talk about our problems.  That’s the problem.  Several members of my family have gotten mad at others and instead of working it out they just cut them out of their life.  Sometimes it is forever.  One example of this was a grandparent got mad at my aunt because of the person my aunt wanted to marry.  My grandparent died never working that out.  Never seeing their grandchildren.   At my grandparents deaths we sneaked our aunt in to see the bodies because everyone was afraid of being cut off from the family.  Eventually after this grandparent died my aunt and uncles and all of us cousins were able to see each other again.  I was in my twenties.  We missed so much time, family gatherings, sleep-overs, birthdays etc… Simply because of one person’s grudge.

This seems to be the way that my family wants to deal with issues.  I have had 3 siblings follow this line of thinking and cut other family members out of their lives, without seemingly any effort to fix or heal the situations.  Some of these I know on a personal basis.  I also have cousins with similar problems.  It is sad when this may be a legacy that we leave to the next generations.

Because of these problems, I was determined to not be like that. There was no way I was going to cause that kind of pain to others.   I started accepting everyone no matter what they were like because I know what it is like to be shunned by people I dearly love.  Any time that there is a disagreement I work hard to make whatever it is right.  I learned to love people unconditionally at all costs, no matter what issues that person had.  I am not perfect in my love for others, but I dearly try.

The hateful grudges my family seems to hold on to dearly will not find a place in my life.  Nor do I believe that it should hold a place in anyone’s life.  Coming from a Christian home I hold on to the numerous and unending verses about loving one another and ask, why can’t we truly love?  I don’t have the answer.  All I can do is love and hope that one day those that I love will love me back.

I know that I am not the only one that has these kinds of families.  No matter what we do to mend the wounds it doesn’t seem to do any good.  We get frustrated and depressed.  We have sleepless nights, we cry, no matter how long it has been.  We wonder if the other party even cares.  Do they even think about us?  What will it take to bring us back together?  Is there anything?  For my family it took my grandparents death, but it still didn’t stop us from continuing the same actions.  Will we ever learn?

If you are one that has been cut out of someone’s life, keep trying, there is always hope that things will change.  If we stop then grudge, division and hate have won.  If you are the one holding the grudge, ask yourself if it is really worth it, because it probably isn’t.  Life is too short to hold on to the anger that seems to be running your life.  It’s okay to disagree.  It isn’t okay to mistreat.  There are people out there that love you and want you in their life.  They want forgiveness and reconciliation.  Hopefully, as much as you want it.

It’s the holiday season.  Hanukkah is about miracles, Kwanzaa is about family and community unity (among other things) and Christmas is about love.  What part does a grudge have in any of those?  The best present someone can get or give is forgiveness.  Let go of those things that hurt one another and hold on to Love.