Discretion Holds the Church’s Virtue

a bride leaving

The Bible is called the “Good Book” because it reflects the will and character of a good GOD. The Bible must be interpreted with that in mine, meaning, it must always be interpreted from the perspective of that which is virtuous and good. The perversion of the gospel occurs when evil people try to justify wicked deeds by citing scriptures out of their true context. It is always destructive to the conscience of men and detracts from the integrity of the bible. It is one of the main reasons many people do not trust the bible as an authority. Many people go by what they have heard without ever verifying the facts for themselves. The deceiver, also known as Satan, uses ignorance to perpetuate lies.

An example of the misuse of scripture is how people in power have tried to use Roman 13 to get citizens to accept or submit to unjust and wicked government policies. A student of the bible would only have to recall the over throw of Egypt for the oppression of the Israelites, the deliverance of the three Hebrew men who defied the government of Babylon, or the deliverance of Daniel from the lion’s den for defying the King’s decree to commit idolatry. The author of Romans 13 himself was charged not to preach the gospel of Christ by the governing authorities of his day, yet he defied the decree and was imprisoned and beaten. After his release, Paul continued to preach the gospel, until his eventual execution. The obvious application of Romans 13 is where government policy does not conflict with the principles of GOD.

I see people conflicted and contradicted, as they call themselves Christian, and then try to reconcile their political party views with the teachings of Christ. It can’t be done. There are places where the policies of both republicans and democrats go against the teachings of Christ. If you really know Christ then you know this is true. I am not saying that a person shouldn’t exercise the responsibility to vote. Dr. Martin Luther King put it best, “laws do not change a man’s heart, but laws can govern the heartless.” That may not be Dr. King’s quote verbatim, but it captures the understanding he was relaying. I pray, preach the gospel, and I also cast a ballot, but I do not claim any political affiliation, because none of them align enough with my values as a follower of Christ. I would never adulterate myself by joining a political party, whose loyalty is to the tenants of its policies more than the word of GOD.

The teachings of GOD fortify us against the spoiling of our Christian morals and ethics, by steering us away from compromise. The word of GOD teaches us not to love the world. The world in this context does not refer to creation in general, but rather the social system of man which has orphaned him from the values established by the righteousness of love. Society today is governed by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. As children of GOD, we are called to be in this society but not a product of this society. The bible puts it this way, we are to be in this world but not of this world. As the word of GOD teaches, the only way to come out of this world is to be born again; to be born of the will of GOD, instead of the will of man. Many people say they love GOD, yet have the values of this world, they are deceived. They are deceived because the god they love is the god of their imagination, but not the true and living GOD. As the book of 1st John teaches, you can’t love the light but continually walk in darkness. You can’t abide in the Spirit of Love and actively hate your brother. You can’t be joined to the is world, and joined to GOD also, it is adulterous. In this context, the bible teaches that you can’t have to masters, you must love one and despise the other. Another way to say this is that you can’t have two governors, you should be governed by one and resist the other.

James 4:4 says it very clearly, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Though the call for a separation of affection is clear in scripture, you will seldom hear it taught in churches, or encouraged by people who say they follow Christ, especially not during an election year. Why….because people still love the world. People still love the world because their mind has not been renewed. Their mind has not been renewed because they spend more time focused on the things of the world than they do the things of GOD. Add to that, when most people do turn their focus to GOD, they draw from a source that has been adulterated by the values of this world, like most large churches (not all, but most). If your church leadership endorses a political party, it has been adulterated with the cares of this world. There is only one government that should have a platform in the congregation of believers, that is the Kingdom of GOD. Also, your main source should be the Spirit of GOD with in you. The congregation of believers are there to confirm and bear witness to what the Spirit is revealing to you in your own studies. I am not encouraging the forsaking the body of Christ, I am promoting uncompromised intimacy with GOD, that we each may become members of His body.

I will end with this; the Church is called the bride of Christ. As we are His bride, to stay pure, we should be joined to no other. We have been espoused to a jealous GOD so keep your heart pure. Remember the parable of the wise virgins that awaited the bridegroom in Matthew 25, how the bible says they made themselves ready and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Part of the readiness of the bride is a going forth, a separation, to be closer to Christ. Also remember the love letters sent from the Spirit to the bride in the book of Revelations chapter 2. There were key warnings for her to return to her first love, and to repent of adultery, and fornication. All of these deal with being vigilant to make sure we keep our hearts pure, and that we don’t unite ourselves with anything outside of Christ.

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Be A Lighthouse In the Fog

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Gray is the greatest darkness because of its tendency to hide light, through blending light with darkness. Gray can be compared to being warm, a blend of hot and cold. Christ calls for His followers to be either hot or cold. He says if you are warm, he will cast you out. We can’t be warm people. The culture of the world today calls for us to be tolerant of darkness. To tolerate means to accept, without contradiction or prohibition. We are expected to blend in. We can’t be gray people. This is the exact opposite of the work of sanctification, being carried out by the Holy Spirit, in those that follow Christ. GOD commands us to love Him with “all” our heart, mind, and strength. He even says we should love one another “fervently”, which means with plenty of heat. GOD wants us to be on fire for Him, just like a torch, giving off bright light. GOD’s spirit is a consuming fire. GOD’s essence is pure and fervent love. Only through our connection with Him, can we love fervently, and fulfill His commandments. Love is not a warm and cuddly feeling we have toward someone. Love has nothing to do with fondness. We are commanded to love our enemies, but we are not expected to be fond of those who persecute and abuse us. Love is the righteous behavior of treating others the way you would want to be treated. Love is living to please our Heavenly Father above anyone else, as well as above ourselves.

Trying to please both GOD and man leads to gray. There is so much darkness in the world today, we need the glorious light of Love. This requires singleness of heart, in devotion to GOD. If we believe and trust that allowing GOD’s love to flow through us is best for all those around us, then we find inspiration and motivations to be obedient to His word. We find that His commandments are not grievous. This is something we must ask our merciful GOD to help us with. We don’t always see things as He does, so we have to be taught, and counseled, and transformed, by His Holy Spirit. It is a glorious process, but He is faithful to complete the work of our salvation. The work of making us faithful vessels of His love.

We have the treatment of Christ for a witness that the world cannot receive the love of GOD. Holy scripture says, He came unto His own and they received Him not. Christ was despised and rejected of men. Christ forewarns us that we will experience the same. Christ tells us this to protect our hearts. Don’t take it personal when people reject His love through you. All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This means people will more often base love on having their desires filled, more so than having their needs met. The prevalence of gray makes desires and needs almost indistinguishable, to those outside of Christ. The book of 1st John says it is easy to see who is in Christ and who doesn’t know Him. Those who say they are in Christ, should live as Christ lived. He testified that He came to do His Father’s will. He lived to please the Father…not people. Christ taught that if your eye is single, then your whole body will be filled with light. Those who walk in love, in obedience to GOD, are in the light. Those that hate others, living is selfish disobedience, are in darkness.

The truth, also known as the sword of the spirit, divides between light and darkness. The truth has the power to make people free. When we speak the truth in love, we create opportunities of freedom, opportunities for those seeking the light to renounce darkness.

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

( 2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

 

Through the Pain to Real Healing

I came across this expression recently which says, “We are born to be real, not perfect.”

How warm, accepting, and relieving are these words. They are bound to resonate with anyone feeling pressure to be more than they think they are. However, there are key components in this statement that should be looked at closer…What is being real? What is being perfect? Being real does not mean simply accepting or acknowledging things as they appear, it involves looking into things until you find what is true. The only way to be sure what is real and what is false is by seeking knowledge from the Creator; the one who has made all that is real. If you can surrender to that Truth, then there is a path for you to learn what is real and to incorporate it into your being, so you can be real as well. Acceptance is only the first step toward becoming real. After acceptance, we must then be prepared to leave the false to enter that which is true. This is also known as sanctification. The cleansing by the Creator from that which has been inbred from the cultures of this world, to what He made us to be from creation. Holy scripture encourages us to be in this world but not of this world. This path will actually bring you to perfection, because everything that the Creator has made is good and perfect in its unadulterated form. The Creator has promised that if you seek, you will find.

When we surrender our own ideas about life, in order to give way to the knowledge that comes from GOD, we find harmony that yields eternal peace in our soul. The world’s counsel always puts relieving pain as the priority above the cause of pain. The culture of this world always focuses on the temporary instead of the eternal. We can try to appease the yearnings of our truest self, beckoning to be realized…we can try to smother the fire of our potential burning within us by removing the oxygen of hope…we can try to reason away the conviction that comes from living beneath ourselves…we can try to hide from reality by either sensory deprivation or sensory overload…all of these acts will take more effort and be less fulfilling than just surrendering to the Creator and asking Him to save your soul with real Life. If you cry out to Him in sincerity, He will answer in an undeniable way. The Word of GOD says:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Life Minus Drama Makes You Dull

Drama

I hear a lot of people saying today that they don’t need any drama in their life. Have you ever really considered what that means? Consider the meaning of the word “drama”: a composition in verse intended to portray LIFE, a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue, typically for a theatrical performance. I took out some of the repetitive and extraneous verbiage to give you the meat of the meaning. Theatrical drama is a form of art portraying LIFE. It is funny many people say they don’t want drama in their life, however they spend a lot of their life watching theatrical drama. That’s just an observation, and not at all related to my point that being free from drama can make for dull living.

Conflicts and emotions are a part of any healthy relationship. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” In any relationship, where people are being genuine, honest, and transparent about their thoughts and feelings, conflicts will arise. When we commit to relationships, and work through conflicts, and shoulder one another’s burdens, it strengthens our patience, empathy, temperance, kindness, and faith. As our love becomes stronger, we learn to persevere. This enables us to reap the harvest of real and fulfilling relationships. Relationships that have matured and are characterized by liberty, unity, peace, and abounding hope. The drama of real relationships challenges you to stretch and expand in ways that are uncomfortable, yet you are better for it because you experience growth. Proverbs 27:16 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

You can choose to associate with people who let you stay comfortable and surface. People that don’t push you to be your best. People that let your flaws turn into weakness and failure. People you don’t really know, and that don’t really know you, because you all have stayed away from those weighty conversations that expose weaknesses. Relationships without true intimacy because real knowing has been hindered by secrecy. The Word of GOD says he that seeks his life will lose it, and he that loses his life will find it. The just shall live by faith. Trusting GOD means living beyond yourself. Let the drama unfold, and enjoy the liberty of knowing and being known. Real intimacy occurs in the light, not in darkness. Real intimacy only occurs in spirit and truth.

Independence In Perspective

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I was thinking the other day on how much individual success has made us independent. When you look back at our grandparent’s generation, during the 1940s through the 1960s, they relied heavily on one another through necessity. Now in the 21st century, most of that generations grandchildren who have benefited from their united struggle are highly independent. This new independence has resulted in much of the momentum for collective social justice being lost. It’s like if GOD doesn’t allow the wolf to be at our door, we forget who the Shepherd is and that we are all called to be one flock. Many of us in pursuit of our on patch of grass have forgotten about the benefits of living in the flock. I know there is drama in the flock, but drama stretches us and causes us to grow in love. It causes us to draw nearer to the Good Shepherd. Even a lion has a better chance at survival in a pride. I watched a wildlife special about a pride led by three brother lions, and together they were pretty much invincible.

Just for clarity, I am not talking about cleaving to physical family, because everyone like us is not of us, and every one of us is not like us. I’m speaking about those of us who have agreed that following the Good Shepherd is where life is…period; that’s your flock. You can try to sustain relationships with people not dedicated to the Shepherd, but it won’t be intimate. I’m not talking just getting along. That’s what most people today call friendship. Anyone can get along, if you are a professional, you do it 40 or more hours a week with co-workers. Everyone stays in their lane, out of each other’s way, and we get along with them fine. That’s not friendship or family.

If you feel like no one is really close to you because no one understands you, it’s most likely because you are not making any sense. There is nothing new under sun, and there is no temptation that is unique to any one of us. There are occasions when the Lord is doing something new in the earth through someone, and no one in their flock gets it. Like when Noah was building the Ark, when the prophet Samuel was saying Israel didn’t need a king, when Paul was trying to convince the Jews to accept the New Covenant. Now if GOD is doing something in your life of that magnitude, I get it, but if not…admit it…you “trippin”. The bible says faithful are the wounds of a friend. Friends and family step on one another’s toes and collide a lot from close proximity, but underneath they know they are just trying to keep each other on path with the Shepherd. The check, “the Shepherd is clearly going this way, where you think you’re going.” We are never full-grown until we can’t grow anymore. So, let’s continue to grow up and stop acting so grown. I’m talking about maintaining some humility, so we can be corrected and continue to grow in unity. If we all concentrated more on following the Shepherd; stopping when He stops, moving when He moves, turning when He turns, we wouldn’t collide so often.

the shepherd

Let’s be in this world but not of this world and recognize, true freedom comes from working together in dependence, not everyone pursuing their own independence.

 

Empathy: The Power of Greater Vision

 

greater vision

I wrote a piece recently about hoping empathy will rise in this New Year, looks like it is beginning with my own heart. Due to all the exposure of racially motivated violence in the past couple of years, I have heard many white people saying they didn’t realize black people still had it so bad. I have also had many white men say to me that they are just realizing that male white privilege is not just a mythical politically motivated assertion. Initially, my reaction to those having these epiphanies was – C’mon really.

I am beginning to see how when you are immersed in something from birth, it is hard to recognize it as unnatural, foreign, or harmfully infectious. I have advocated for the better treatment of women through writing and through speaking directly to men. I have spoken to women about their immeasurable value, above and beyond physical beauty. However in all that I have come to understand, I know that I have not fully grasped the depth and scope of the mental and physical impact centuries of oppression has had on women. By accepting that fact, hopefully I have increased my ability to hear and understand my sisters unto deeper and more fulfilling relationships.

When you consider that from the founding of America, most of the information propagated in this society from the imagery, writings, entertainment, public policy, education, and so forth has been generated out the oppressive source. Our social environment is so thoroughly contaminated with certain biases and prejudice ideologies that it is almost impossible not to normalize some of it in your psyche. That goes for those who are oppressed, as well as the oppressors. This is true in every instance where America has historically practiced injustice and inequality.

Our moral compass has to align with an influence higher than just the survival instinct, if we are to reach the promise land of liberty and justice for all. Creatures like jackals and snakes know how to survive, but it has been ordained for man to have Life. To “have”, is defined as to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement. Every person is entitled to the freedom and means to realize the potential of their being. Anytime someone purposely hinders another person’s progression in this sacred right it is reprehensible. We have to respect everyone else’s entitlement to live as we do our own. That is why the golden rule is so vital to humanity. The commandment of GOD, to love our neighbor as ourselves, invokes the power of empathy. The power of empathy gives us the ability of greater vision through the use of many lenses. This why hate blinds us but love shows us the way.

Secure Your Life By Securing Your Heart

 

Heart-shaped_lockThe kind of life you live is determined by what you value. Your values are determined by what you treasure. The scripture says in Matt 6:21,

“Where a man’s treasure is there his heart will be also.”

A man will set his aspirations, his affections, and his focus around that which he treasures. Your heart becomes filled with what you focus on and that consequently affects everything that comes out of it. Proverbs 4:23 says keep your heart with all diligence, because out it flows the issues of life. What this looks like lived out is making every effort to ensure that the things you set your heart on add “real” value to your life.

Would you agree that having peace of mind and good health adds extra value to anything you can experience in life? I think so. Peace of mind comes from living harmoniously with the one that governs all things. This means seeking the knowledge of GOD to understand your purpose, the provisions He has made for you to live, and what He expects of you, as well as what you can expect from Him. Here is what Proverbs 8:11 says about the wisdom of GOD:

“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”

This knowledge should be your treasure and primary focus. The book of Matthew chapter 6 speaks to this when it concludes that we should seek the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness first and foremost and everything else we need will flow into our lives.

If we will make our treasure the knowledge and wisdom of GOD, then our hearts will be focused on that which is truly valuable. This heavenly focus will enable our hearts to produce many blessings in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

For all of this to make since, we first have to realize that we are living souls placed in vessels of flesh. Just as these physical vessels have needs, so does our eternal souls. Most people live focused on the needs of the flesh while their eternal soul languishes. Since the true longing of the soul isn’t satisfied through carnal pleasures, the tendency is to seek carnal pleasures even more intensely. This disconnect from understanding the source of the true longing causes many to treasure the physical things of the world more than the spiritual things. The strongest and deepest longings come from the thirst of the soul. The soul has an innate thirst for righteousness, peace, and joy. This thirst can only be filled by the love of GOD.

So keeping our hearts with all diligence means making sure our focus and values stay aligned with the kingdom of GOD instead of being subverted to the things of this world. The treasures of this world tend to be temporal, unstable, corruptible, and destructible. If your heart is set on worldly things, consequently you will have little peace in your life and unstable rest. There will always be the nagging feeling of there has to be more.

Yeshua speaks to the dissatisfied and weary soul in Matthew 11:27-29:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Don’t become enslaved to this by the deceitfulness of riches. Follow the guidance of Yeshua in John 10:10 and live well.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”