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Loving the Sinner

“How can we love the sinner, but hate the sin?”

“God does.”

That answer did not explain anything. The woman asking the question needed practical advice. The phrase “God does” did not tell her how God does. More importantly, it did not tell her how she could. She needed a road map.

Christianity is often thought of as faith alone. Yet, faith alone cannot tell us how to love someone the world considers unlovable. It is not enough to know we need to love the sinner. We need to know how.

Prayer is not only a valuable asset in our quest for the ability to love others. It is a necessity. We need to realize we cannot do this on our own. The only way we can possibly manage to love the unlovable is to allow God to love them through us. We need to become God’s vessel.

One of the hardest things to do is accept that the sinner is not the sin. Sin is a choice. Sin does not have feelings, cannot make a choice, and has no chance of salvation. The sinner can do all this.

We will never be able to love the sinner but hate the sin until this distinction is clear in our minds. This is not easy to do. The sin and sinner become so intertwined in our minds that we may not be able to see the sinner apart from the sin. The distinction is still there. We just have to find it.

One such time occurred for me when I was in college. Milton (not his real name) decided I should be his. I had other ideas.

Like so many people today, Milton did not know how to take “no” for an answer. He thought if he hung around long enough, I would give in. He would make such a pest of himself that I would have to say “yes”.

Milton justified his actions by claiming that women went to college “to get their M.R.S. degree.” He also made such statements as “God has no use for women” and “a woman’s place is in the kitchen and the bedroom.” In his mind, women were on this earth for the sole purpose of pleasing men. We should not have opinions of our own. Only men are allowed opinions.

This was an example of misstating what the Bible truly says. Women were put on this earth as a “helper”[1] for men, not as their slave. Each has his or her own special purpose. This attitude does not glorify God.

It could be easy to be deceived by someone like this. They know all the right things to say. They know just what to quote (or misquote) in the Bible. But if we continue to go to God in prayer, we will not be deceived. We will know God has a purpose for us, because we will know God. Of course, we will not completely know God. We cannot hope to do that while on earth, but we can know Him as well as anyone else. It doesn’t matter whether we are male or female.

Anyway, at first all Milton did was make those incessant phone calls. If you did not answer, he would let the phone keep ringing until you did. If you hung up, he would call right back. He would talk for hours at a time. God bless whoever invented call blocking. I wish it had been available then.

Things slowly escalated. Milton got hold of my class schedule, and would be waiting to walk with me whenever I got out of class. He would sometimes walk with his face inches in front of mine, staring. If I turned, he turned. The only way not to see his face was to close my eyes. I was not about to do that. There was no telling what Milton would do.

One thing to remember is that when something like this happens we need to pray, but we need to act as well. We need to be responsible for our own well-being. God wants to help us, but He does not expect us to roll over and play dead. Prayer is only a part of the whole. It is never the whole.

At some point, Milton started waiting in the lobby for me to come down in the mornings. I got around that one by using the stairs. They did not come out in the lobby. I would walk up and down them. I got to be in good shape. I lived on the seventh floor.

I would sometimes duck into the restroom just to get away from him. I went to the restroom a lot during this time. When I came out Milton would be leaning against the wall, waiting. I began to wonder if this guy ever went to his own classes. One of my friends knew I was trying to avoid him, and a couple of times she diverted his attention long enough for me to slip away.

I walked into the Baptist Student Union one day, and the secretary congratulated me. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked her. She told me Milton had told her we were secretly married. I told her it must be a secret. I didn’t even know about it. Then I told her to consider us secretly divorced.

I was talking to one of my male friends later, and found out why I could not get any dates. Milton had warned them off. He told them I belonged to him, and to keep their hands off. None of them was willing to take someone else’s girlfriend, so I couldn’t get any dates.

The only way I managed to maintain my sanity during this time was to take it to God daily. I had to keep turning the situation over to Him and trust He would take care of me. During the entire time I was being stalked, Milton never tried anything. I believe it was because God wouldn’t let him.

As hard as the situation was, it would have been a lot harder if I had not had the Lord to turn to. People without Him have to rely on the law and others for help. At the time this happened, there were no anti-stalking laws. Victims were often told the stalker wasn’t dangerous, just a nuisance. Without God, I would have been totally alone.

One thing this also shows is that just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean they can be trusted. We are not to listen to what everyone else tells us God says. We need to talk to Him ourselves. We also need to study His word to make sure what we think we are hearing is from God, and not something Satan is trying to pass off as the being from Him. The Bible tells us Satan will try to deceive even those who belong to God if that were possible.[2] In order to make sure it is not, we have to have a relationship with God, so that we can recognize His voice.

The emotional trauma of being stalked for about two years kept me from being able to separate the sinner from the sin. Every time I thought of Milton, I remembered the sin. Every time someone refused to take “no” for an answer, I thought of Milton. They were so intertwined in my mind, that I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to separate them.

For nearly fifteen years I wasn’t. The memory interfered with every other relationship I had. It affected every part of my life. I knew I had never forgiven Milton. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how.

I had been praying to God during this time, but I had never asked Him to help me forgive Milton. In some ways, I thought what had happened was my fault. I hadn’t handled the situation properly. Maybe I deserved it. Milton wasn’t sorry for what he had done, so why should I forgive him?

Forgiveness isn’t for those who sin against us. It is for us. If we do not forgive, we allow whatever it is to control us, in some ways. Yet, forgiveness isn’t a choice. It is a commandment. We are to ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.[3] They don’t have to deserve it. We didn’t, and yet God has forgiven us. (If we have answered His call and become Christians.)

Forgiveness isn’t something we can do on our own. We have to ask God for His help. We do this through prayer. Sometimes our prayers feel hollow, but we have to continue praying. God will point out why, in His time. Often the question is, “But are you really willing to forgive, or just going through the motions?” Sometimes, we don’t want to let go of what is holding us back. We just tell God we do because it is expected of us. We are not sincere.

When something has hurt us deeply, we cannot expect to get rid of those feelings overnight. Even though we forgive, the pain is still there. We may still be afraid. That is not always bad. It teaches us to take care. Yet, that fear cannot rule our lives. We have to ask God to help us with that as well. There may be a feeling of guilt. We may not want to forgive ourselves. We have to give ourselves over to Him, a layer at a time. We have to spend time with Him in prayer.

 

[1] Genesis 2:20

[2] Matthew 24:24

[3] Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4

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Reaching Out to the Unloved

Warning! This post is going to make some people angry. Still reading? Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Several years ago, I served with an interdenominational missions group who worked with immigrants. Were they illegal? Probably. No one asked to see their green cards. That wasn’t necessary. Jesus never asked for a green card, or the equivalent, before he served others. So, neither did we.

No, it wasn’t something I got paid for. It was voluntary. We were called to serve, not to get paid. It was our Christian duty.

” Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

Matthew 25:34-36 KJV

Today’s Christians often think they are doing the will of God when they say “Get your own drink,” “It’s your own fault you are naked,” “I shouldn’t have to help with someone else’s healthcare,” or “I don’t want to visit those in prison. They’re bad people.” What does the Bible say about this?

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and  his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”

Matthew 25:41-43 KJV

Does this sound like Christians today? Where in the Bible does it say to shoot someone when they come into your yard? Where does it say to tell them to heal themselves because it isn’t your problem? Where does it say to cut out their food stamps because you want to keep your money for yourself? Where does it say it’s okay to be selfish? It doesn’t.

“Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.  And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.  32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.  33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.”

Luke 6:30-33 KJV

What’s that? “Give to every man that asketh of thee?” Is that a collective scream of “But it’s mine and I want to keep it!” I hear from the Christians? Read the verses above again. What does God have to say to those who refuse to help others?

“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Matthew 25:45-46 KJV

“Everlasting punishment? But we’re Christians! We’re going to heaven.”

Are you sure?

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Matthew 7:21-23 KJV

What does this mean? Just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you are one.

“But I believe. That’s all there is to being a Christian. Right?”

Wrong!

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

James 2:19-20 KJV

Whoa. That sounds serious. How does it relate to Christians today?

What works do Christians do today? They cry “Shut the borders! They’re not one of us!’ (Remember the parable of the good Samaritan?) “Let them fend for themselves.” “Mine! Mine! MINE!” When is the last time you saw one of them out in the field, doing good works? Those are the ones doing Christ’s will. The others have little right to call themselves Christians. Christ looks at the so-called Christians today and cries. They are taking his name in vain.

“Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?  5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?  6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? ”

James 2:4-6 KJV

What will God say to you when you reach heaven? Will it really be what you think it will?

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Prosperity Preachers

You may have seen them on TV but never knew what they were called. You know the ones. They claim God will bless you if you just send them money. God wants to make you rich. You just have to invest in their ministry first.

Does God really work that way? Absolutely not! What does the Bible say?

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.    Mark 10:25 KJV

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 KJV

Who, or what, is mammon? Mammon is sometimes depicted as an ancient god, other times as a demon. The actual word mammon means riches, but is used in the connotation of riches being the master. Worshiping money makes it a god so, I guess, mammon really is a god. It is just not the true god.

How does God feel about preachers using his name to make money? The Bible has something to say about that as well.

13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.   John 2:13-16 KJV

What are we to make of these preachers? Are they merely misguided men who think they really are preaching the word of God? Or are they just in it for themselves? It is difficult to believe they think they are preaching the word of God, when the Bible contradicts them in so many places.

What harm can it do if you send in your money to them? Can you afford it? If you can’t, it is obvious. If you can, then what does the Bible say? Are you blameless?

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.  2 Peter 2:1-3 KJV

If you follow “pernicious ways”, are you not going against God? Are you not supporting them in their blasphemy? Do you think God will be happy with you? Do you really want to follow them into hell?

At the end, the choice is yours. Do you want to hear God say, “Well done my good and faithful servant”? Or will you be satisfied to hear, “I never knew you.” Who do you want to worship, God, or mammon?

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The Rapture

The first time I heard of “rapture practice” I was in college. Someone would jump up and down, while calling out “rapture practice”. I thought it was fun and wondered why I had never heard of this “rapture practice” before.

Apparently, it was a new idea. Some soul had read through the book of Revelations and decided the Bible said Christians weren’t supposed to go through it. Wrong! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we will be raptured before the tribulation. In fact, the only places I could find the equivalent of the rapture said that Jesus came immediately after the tribulation.

20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

Mark 13:20-27 KJV

There are those who say that Christians are missing in the Book of Revelations. They aren’t. If they were, why would tribulation writers like Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins find the need to have some new ones show up after the original Christians were raptured?

Why would people think that God is going to rapture us pre-tribulation when the Bible never says that?  Some people claim that God wouldn’t let us suffer through the tribulation because he loves us too much. Whoa! Where did that come from? Certainly not the Bible. If God doesn’t let us suffer because he loves us, why did he allow Jesus to suffer? Certainly he loved him.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Every few years, someone comes up with a new date for the end of the world. Even some non-Christians might be fooled from time to time. One good example is the alleged Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy. It is past December 21, 2012, so this “prophecy” obviously didn’t come true.

No, there will be no pre-tribulation rapture. The Bible is clear about that.

The entire answer to the question “when shall these things be” can be found in Mathew 24:3-31. I won’t quote the entire selection here. You can read it yourself. There is, however, one part everyone needs to be familiar with.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Matthew 24:11-12 KJV

I have written about love before. I won’t go into it again here. Suffice it to say, love is prevalent in the Bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV

By all means, be prepared for when the world ends, but don’t expect to be raptured before it does.

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Self-Image

While working with my cousin on the local National Eating Disorder Association walk, which she is organizing, I became passionate about a subject that I had only thought a little bit about before. When I was growing up, we were taught to say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We need to be careful how we talk to people, especially the young ones who are still developing their self-image. What we say can scar them for life and lead them to decisions that can ultimately kill them. As Christians, we are often taught to preach condemnation, not the fact that we were made in God’s image. Is God male or female? Black, White, Native American, Chinese, or any other race? Is God fat or skinny? Does God have pimples?

While God is referred to by masculine terms in the Bible, how can we be sure that God is really male? Does God really have a gender? Hebrew has no neuter form, so a gender had to be assigned to God. Is it any wonder that the male form was used? It was a patriarchal society. In that time, it would have been almost blasphemy to refer to God in the feminine form. Sure, other religions had female goddesses, but the main god was always male. Zeus. Odin. Jupiter. Osiris. ShangDi. These are some of the “gods” that were considered the greatest in various cultures. The Chinese ShangDi was similar to Yahweh, in that he created the earth and all that was in it. They also have a story of the great flood, which closely resembles the story found in the Bible.

So, does this mean God was Chinese? Hebrew? Could he have been both as well as every other nationality, all rolled into one? If God is all things, are we limiting him by referring to him as male or white? How can we be sure what God looks like? The Buddha is shown as a fat man. Yet, many consider him beautiful. It is said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but what does it mean to God? How can we possibly know?

When we tell someone they are fat, ugly, stupid, or any other number of things we say to put people down, are we being Christian? Would Jesus put people down, or love them? Too often, we condemn others without realizing the harm we are doing. Yes, we are supposed to tell others the truth about God, but we are not supposed to tear them down. What does the Bible say?

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  Matthew 7:1 KJV

Would you want people constantly condemning you, never saying anything good? Would you want to be torn down? Would you want people to make you think that, not only are you not worthy of God’s love, you aren’t worthy of anyone else’s either?

People who harm themselves by eating disorders, alcoholism, cutting themselves, or shutting themselves off from society, are often those who are bullied by others. Do Christians bully? Some Christians are the worst offenders. How many churches teach that, if you love someone, you will preach at them and condemn then until they repent? That isn’t love. That is just the opposite.

Notice I didn’t say preach “to” them. When you preach to someone, you tell them the news that God loves them and wants them to come to him and accept him, not that God hates them and if they don’t repent and become perfect, God won’t ever love them.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:    Romans 3:10 KJV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   John 3:16 KJV

We love him, because he first loved us.   1 John 4:19 KJV

Remember to show God’s love to others through your words, as well as your actions. God wants you to lead the children to him, not drive them away.

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The Russian Olympics

This blog was going to be about something else but, in light of Russia’s announcement that gays would not be allowed to participate in the Olympic games next year, I am holding off on that one and doing this one instead.

As Christians, many of you may be applauding Russia’s decision. As Christians, that is exactly what we must not do. Why? Because it spreads a message of hate and God is love. Spreading hate in his name is hypocritical. God is not about hate. God is about love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV

Many wars have been fought in the past in the name of God, but all they did was spread violence and death. No one can be forced to believe in God. They may say they believe to get past the oppression, but that doesn’t mean they really believe. What would you do if confronted by someone with a gun in your face, threatening to kill you? Would you agree with them, or would you refuse and die for you faith? Most of you probably say you would, but is that true? If you have never been tested, you may never really know the answer.

Many people would say anything to stay alive. Many more wouldn’t, resulting in war. People don’t like being oppressed. As Christians, we have to ask ourselves “Are we oppressing others?” The answer might surprise you.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV

In later translations, charity becomes love. Love and charity. Can we really have love without charity? And just what is charity? The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists, among others, these definitions:

:benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

:lenient judgment of others

How can showing hate toward a group, any group, possibly be considered charitable? What does the Bible say again?

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Corinthians 13:2

But shouldn’t we hate those who do evil? you ask.

“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 KJV

So, if the Bible is so clear on this, why are you still hating?

God gave us the freedom to choose. Who are we to deny it to others?

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What is a Family?

FamilyWhen I was growing up, it was said that an average family was a husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog. My response? I would like to see that .5 of a kid. Many Christians still have that view of a family today.

Times have changed and we have to change our worldview to keep up with them. No longer does the average family include a husband and wife. According to the Business Insider, 72% of adults were married in 1960, compared to only 51% today. According to eHow, in 2000, the average family size was 2.59. The number of one parent households is increasing. No longer is the mother and father household considered the “norm”.

If we condemn single parents for being single, we lose our ability to witness to them. We have to accept them for who they are before we can hope to have them listen to our witness. Condemning them only assures they will never listen.

We have all seen Westboro Baptist Church in the news, boycotting everything and everyone because they believe God hates them, but are we really any better? Do we secretly believe the same thing, but are gutless enough to not say it? Are we hypocrites? Should we even believe this way?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV

“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 KJV

If God loves the world, who are we to preach his hatred for the world? If we do that, we make him out to be a liar, and we know he is not a liar. If we are to act like Christians, we have to love everyone too. That includes those we think are living a sinful life.

Why do I say “think”? Because Jesus said, in Matthew 7:1-3,

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” ASV

We are not perfect, so we have no right to judge.

The Pharisees judged everyone. Do you want to be a Pharisee? No? Then don’t judge. The Pharisees preached a strict adherence to the law as the way to salvation. Do you want to be a Pharisee? No? Then don’t preach the Deuteronomical law as the key to salvation. Jesus is the key to salvation.

Gasp. Why do you say that? What is the law there for, then?

“(for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God.” Hebrews 7:19 ASV

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’” John 8:7 ASV

Those who, for whatever reason, don’t fit into our perception of what makes a family, may still be a family. Yes, there are times when people live together without a commitment, but those who do have that commitment are still a family. Even homosexuals who live together with a commitment should be considered “family”.

Heresy! The Bible says homosexuality is sin.

We are not talking sin here, but family. Family does not have to be related by blood to be family. If that were the case, husbands and wives would not be families. Adopted children would not be family. We don’t believe these things, so why do we believe homosexuals cannot be family? We don’t have to approve of a couple’s lifestyle in order to consider them a family. Again, if you condemn them for what they have done, you will never be able to witness to them. Only those who don’t judge them will be able to witness to them.

Does that mean they will quit being a homosexual once they become Christians?

Quit judging people. That is God’s job, not yours. If they are homosexual, it is between them and God. Your job is to love them. Quit hating people because you think they are sinful.

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