14 Aug

That “Love Your Neighbor” thing…

   

After the events in Charlottesville, VA (and similar in other cities) I have had so many emotions swirling within that I struggle to put them away to get on with the mundane activities of a usual Monday. Truthfully, I was even having a hard time praying because of all that I was feeling (and continue to feel).

The best place for me to escape is Scripture and the wisdom there. What immediately came to mind is Romans 12:2 and Paul’s plea to “be transformed and renew my mind”! Of course it worked! Our God is faithful to answer prayer even when we can’t seem to find the words. Gotta love it when the Holy Spirit provides a means of prayer by groaning (Romans 8:26). While walking our Chuck, it came to me and thus the title of this post.

I live in a very diverse part of the country. While walking the dog I see a wide variety of skin colors and yes, even hear other languages besides English. When I look at various family photos I see Jewish, Catholic, agnostics, atheists, new ager or two and secular humanists. I see pink skin, brown skin, Mexican, Korean, and perusing Facebook I see photos of friends who are also native American, Indian, Pakistani, Russian, African and well, I think you get the idea which is THESE ARE THE NEIGHBORS JESUS TALKS ABOUT in what is called “the Greatest Commandment” found in Matthew 22:34-40.

So, what does loving your neighbor look like? First, let me state that “love” is what is called an “action verb”. When you are doing love it means you are purposefully DOING something.
Paul gives quite a good description of what this looks like in Romans 12:9-21.

 

Love in Action (Romans 12)
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”  says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

OK that is what the Bible says-and that is how I desire to view society. That being stated first, I’d like to add that the hate groups that rallied DO have a right to free speech and PEACEFUL protest and assembly as do those of opposing views. That is in our governing document, the Constitution, right there at the very beginning of the Bill of Rights! I personally find their views extremely distasteful but also respect that they have the right to espouse what ever they wish. Even to calling themselves “God fearing” though I have to justifiably question who their god is. Let me add that those who do have opposing views have the exact same rights. NEITHER GROUP has the right to inflict violence of any kind… or even come dressed in such a way as to be prepared to do bodily harm with guns, sticks, bats, chains and other weapons. And IMHO covering your face with bandanas and sunglasses is just plain cowardly and shows that while you are with the group physically you don’t necessarily want your mom and friends to know!!!

I watched a video today that was produced in the 1940s by the United States about fascism. It was a thoughtful piece that sadly, may be just as relevant in these times we live in. Also, via Wikipedia (and Southern Poverty Law Center) I located a list of groups that are considered “Hate” groups. I mention it primarily because of the brief descriptions of each type of group and the ideology they represent.

I personally believe we all have prejudices. That is human nature unfortunately. However, as JESUS followers we also have, through Christ, the power and LOVE to overcome them as we continue to grow in grace and His Truth.

I hope you’ll take time to click on the links provided today. They are both worth your attention. If you are a Jesus-follower or call yourself a Christian, I pray that if you truly desire to be more like Jesus-consider what love really is.

07 Aug

But to Do Justly…

Again it’s been a few weeks. And it is good!

One of the many activities during my absence was reporting for jury duty. I know many may consider this a real pain and a disruption to routine. I admit I wasn’t really looking forward to it myself. Generally, it means sitting in a huge room waiting to be called for jury selection. In the past, I’ve been called only once in 20 years, so the odds of even getting this far are unlikely. Well, this time was different. For two days I was in a court room while potential jurors were selected and either chosen or excused. Well, I was the last one called and was awarded the final chair in the jury box!

I freely admit that while it was tedious at times I was really excited! As the saying goes “The wheels of justice turn slowly” but I learned that they DO turn! I found the entire process fascinating! From selection, to opening statements, to listening to testimony and evidence and closing remarks and then being one of eight to render a just verdict of sorts. It was a civil case and as such we were responsible for determining any fault, if any, in a traffic collision. Deliberating with seven other people was relatively easy in this case. It took under two hours!

As I considered our system of justice here in the U.S. of A., I was also reminded of one of my favorite guiding scriptures and my responsibility not only to the court, but to God.

As I was preparing today’s post I had a few thoughts…

First, that in this short but powerful verse God says that He has (already) told us what is good and what He requires of us. At the top of the list-DO JUSTICE.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like life isn’t fair! I’m thinking you know what I’m talking about. Interruptions in plans and routines, sudden illness in the family, and so many worse things. In my life, the death of my two oldest sons within 18 months was definitely one of those “Life sucks” seasons. It is during these times that we may choose to strike back, or refrain from doing anything that is kind or merciful! I know it has been true for me more often than I’d care to discuss!

So what exactly IS justice?  According to the definition(s) at dictionary.com:

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:to uphold the justice of a cause.

2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
to complain with justice.

3. the moral principle determining just conduct.

A much simpler way of putting it is doing what is right (even if you don’t want to). Notice that it’s more about how we treat others. And to love mercy and kindness! Throughout the Gospels our Lord talked much about these things.
  • We are to turn the other cheek ( Matthew 5:39)
  • Love our enemies and pray for them. (Matthew 5:44 )
  • Don’t go through the motions of religious practice (Matthew 23:23 Luke 11:42 )
  • Let go and let God! (Luke 18:6-8)
These are just a few passages about how to do what the Lord requires of us when we are asked to render a verdict as well as what to do when we are judged unfairly.
That being said (and being the “original language” geekgirl that I am) I also did a brief word study on “justice”.
A few interesting facts:
In the ESV there are 136 verses where JUSTICE is mentioned.  EIGHT different words in the OT/Hebrew and five in the NT/Greek.  If you’re interested in exploring a bit more, I’ve got a little spreadsheet(in PDF: JUSTICE in ESV  that you can study. If you would like it in Excel click here: Bible Search for justice
And last but not least a little “ear worm” for your day!
06 Jul

I Married an Atheist…and its OK!

My apologies that it has again been awhile since I’ve posted. It’s all part of that “set back” thing! Add to that – my mate is on vacation for 2 weeks-with a short work schedule too. Once you’ve read todays article, you’ll know more about the “why” behind my lack of consistency 

This is something I’ve wanted to share for a long time. So, to kick off my return, this might be the perfect place to start!

Over the years I’ve had a number of sisters share their trials because of “mixed marriages” . Additionally, some sisters feel torn because their husband doesn’t share the same denomination, doctrine or faith. Thankfully Scripture has provided ways to deal with this!

First, let me share a bit of my history…
I met and started dating my beloved unbeliever during a time when I was not walking with the Lord. I knew Him, believed, but didn’t attend church, pray or even read/study Scripture. Think “prodigal daughter”!

We were in a long-distance relationship for a few years, then I moved east to live with him. At that time in my life, I didn’t want to make a marriage commitment. Truthfully, I was leery as my first husband was very abusive and my second marriage, I became widowed after 10 years. After about four years of sharing our lives and ups and downs-he asked and I said “Yes”. We were married in Las Vegas seven months later in May of 1998.

After the events of 9/11 and maybe even a little before then, I re-dedicated myself… got involved in a local church for awhile but was still trying hard to overcome a number of health and emotional issues. A few years later I got involved with Life.Church and Church Online. I was, and still am involved in this awesome online ministry… check it out? http://live.life.church Right now we’re in the last message of a series on marriage called “The Vow” 

During these years of service I’ve been fairly open about my beloved’s atheism. I’ve even been told I’m not saved because I married an unbeliever in disobedience to Paul’s admonition to not be “unequally yoked” ( 2 Cor. 6:14). I’ve also been comforted by his words found in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 which essentially says that if one finds themselves in this situation and the mate accepts this… stay! I do want to say that in this passage, Paul was referring to those who were already married and one or the other spouse became a believer during the marriage!

In both the Old and New Testament, it is plain the God didn’t approve of mixed marriages, whether by race and culture as found in the Old Testament, or religion-specifically Jesus followers in the NT. It is plain that I went contrary to scripture…and yes, violated a tenet of these teachings. Right before our marriage, I prayed a lot about this. I scrambled around looking for a way around this command. I definitely didn’t find it. All that being said, I love my husband (even after 20 + years!) even more today than I did when I had stars in my eyes and hearts and flowers were the order of the day. Our ceremony was both Jewish and Christian – sorta. A former pastor of mine performed it, fully aware of my husbands unbelief in God etc, but also aware of the importance of his Jewish traditions. While I didn’t notice it at the time, he also mentioned Jesus’ first miracle and that it took place at a wedding. Years later my honey mentioned it and how bothered he was by it. I think it was because so many of his friends and family members in attendance were Jewish…and we DID break the glass afterward : ).

In the many years since then, I’ve struggled with this disobedience, sought God’s grace and forgiveness and believe with all my heart that He has blessed our marriage greatly! Yes, we have some loud discussions at times! Evolution vs creation, science in general, and being a “Christian nation” just to name a few. Gay marriage and abortion are in there also. Overall his biggest issues is the whole “legislating morality” thing where politics and religion collide. These are all issues that I’ve personally wrestled with as well and it’s ok! Above the fray is our willingness to accept each others differences in such matters when they exist. For myself, I’ve come to the wonderful conclusion that my personal relationship with God and following Jesus guides my choices day by day… and compromise in our marriage can surmount any difficulties.

In my service at Life.Church I often encounter believers who are in relationships with unbelievers, whether married or not. My personal experience with this situation has proven invaluable in praying with others seeking practical guidance as well as biblical. So, I’m going to share a few of the things I’ve learned …

1. Continue to pray for your unbeliever! It’s something I do daily. My hope is in our Lord that someday my mate will see and believe!

2. Don’t constantly spout scripture as a means to justify anything! In other words-DON’T PREACH AT YOUR SPOUSE!!! I can’t emphasize this one enough. This action is more likely to make him/her even less interested. Check out 1 Peter 3:1–6 for some wise advice!

3. Don’t be so involved with church, Bible study etc that your mate feels ignored or otherwise isolated from you. Some time ago, I decided to give up ALL television for Lent. After a few days my beloved told me that our usual evening TV time, to him, was one of the ways we shared each others’ company and not having this time together made him sad. So, after apologizing I adjusted my “fast” to not watch ONLY when he wasn’t home. Being willing to compromise on these things matters not just to the marriage but also to God.

4. In line with the above, I also generally pray, study and participate in church activities when he’s not home. Keep in mind that his work often entails some LONG hours so I already have an abundance of time for these important things. When he’s on vacation or we’re away from home-I get up earlier, before he does, for my quiet time.

These are just a few things to consider if you find yourself in this situation. We still have some pretty boisterous talks about faith vs atheism-and it too is OK! Over the years there are times when I’ve been able to share what I believe and the teachings of my Christian faith. I’ve also learned a phrase that, at one time, was not in my vocabulary… I DON’T KNOW!

He is cognizant of how important my faith is…and that he’s my “#2”.  I think he also knows that so much of what he loves about me is a result of my Christian faith.  I’d like to add that my husband, while not a believer, often is more like JESUS than some I’ve seen in church! I’d like to think that the Lord’s guidance has encouraged me to encourage him!

There are a number of books out there about those who are “unequally yoked” … a few Facebook groups as well. Let me know if you’d like some recommendations and feel free to share your own experiences and how you deal with it!