#Lovethesinnerhatethesin (aka, On Homosexuality and The Overall Attitude Towards Sin)

In light of today’s’ historic events, I would like to state this as simply possible. Even though this is a long post.

Loving people does not mean we lessen truth.

God loves ALL people. This is true.
God hates ALL sin. This is also true.

As a Christian, a follower and disciple of Christ, I am to attempt to do the same. It’s cliche, but I do try to love the sinner, hate the sin.
Hashtag. But it is quite applicable here.

I love everyone, with a deep compassionate love as friends and to see them come to know the saving power of Christ.
But I do hate all sin. Sin is sin is sin, it separates us from a loving God who wants nothing more than to hold us close and be with us. I hate my sin. I hate the things I do that I shouldn’t. As Paul says,

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:15, 18-19).

I sin. You sin. We all sin. This feels uncomfortable to read, I’m sure, but that’s because it’s’ TRUTH. And truth is not a comfortable topic nowadays. We as humans hate to be told we are wrong, because we live in our own broken world.
It’s like if you were always only given puzzle pieces, but never the box. And are punished every time we try to put them together. That’s society. We like our puzzle pieces, we like having a chaotic order. But we need to see the big picture. We need to put the pieces together to realize what we are missing in our lives.

Alas, since Adam, we all sin and fall short. We all have some…desire..some longing deep within us for answers. For a reason to exist. For something more.

And that more, is God.
And while yes, God loves all of us, God also is pure Truth. and the truth of the matter is, that while I can love all people, I cannot condone the sins they do, mine included.

So do I support the decision of the Supreme Court today?
No. Homosexuality is a sin, against God’s design for humanity.
But also against God’s plan is lying. Manipulating. Sadness. Bitterness. Gossip. Stealing. Murder. I could write article upon article on each of these, because they are all things that take humanity away from God.

Unfortunately, a lot of people like to put homosexuality and other such issues apart, as if they are different or worse sins. The only thing that makes them different is the popularity level. I hate the sin of adultery as much as I do homosexuality.

To those of my friends who are in such a place, hear me.
I love you. Dearly and deeply, and you are good friends to me. That will never change.
But if I say I love you, and I believe this so strongly, then wouldn’t the loving thing to do be that I tell you the whole truth? That I love, and have dialogue, and understand, and explain, and not condemn, and not spew hate, and not base my opinion upon emotion but upon the foundation of who I am as a person? I will love you until the end, and I will live my life in such a way as to demonstrate that the love of Christ is truly compelling to any human heart.

To those of my friends in the church, hear me.
Love is good. Love is God. But God did not intend for love to be separate from His other attributes. God’s love is intertwined with His justice, His righteousness, His law, His perfectness, His holiness. We cannot just love people. We must love them in truth, or else we are just giving a false God to people.

You want to love like Jesus loved? Fine. But Jesus did not love in a politically correct manner. He loved fully, and hard, and deep, and if love meant telling someone the WHOLE truth? If love meant that He took a stand upon the truth, and didn’t move just to make someone feel loved? If love means that Jesus called out people who were sinning because of His desire for them to see the love of God in their life?

That’s love.
We need to love fully, not partially. Don’t be willing to love people without truth. Because of the issue at hand, I say this. Homosexuality, and the like, is a sin. It is. And I will stand by that. I will stand by adultery being a sin. And murder and lying and stealing and so on and so on and so on.
It does not mean I hate homosexuals or any other people group. It does mean I love people and I will do my very best to show the love of my God to this world in as true a fashion as I can. There is no hate in God for people. There is no hate in me for people. God is love, and because of that love I will make this stand. God doesn’t stand for sin, so neither will I. I will talk just as much about the hypocrisy of the church as I will the homosexual lifestyle we see now in open legal rule. No sin is good. No sin is more than another, this is just a pressing issue of the times. And so I write because I love, as God loves.

Because the Truth Can’t Be False. (Is There Relative Truth?)

This is a topic that I could (and probably will) spend the rest of my life debating for and talking about. But I am going to try my best to present three, simple points that help to explain why truth isn’t just something we can make up and choose as we go along.

1) The statement refutes itself.

This one is pure logic. Think about it. If we all are supposed to agree that truth is relative, what are we saying? WE ARE ALL AGREEING THAT THE STATEMENT “TRUTH IS RELATIVE” IS TRUE. so that means there is at least ONE thing in the world that holds true for all men. If this is true, then the entire argument falls apart. It’s a self-defeating statement.

On the other hand, if truth is relative, that makes it okay for me to say that I don’t believe that truth is relative. According to logic, I am saying that “truth is relative” isn’t true, you are saying “truth is relative” is true. Such a statement does not leave room to be both true and false; something must give way. If I am correct, then truth is relative is wrong. If you are correct, please see part one of this proof.

As Christian rapper Lecrae says in his song “Truth”, “what if my truth says yours is a lie? What then?”.  You cannot have your cake and eat it to.

2) Humanity presents evidence to the contrary.

Again, I could write papers and dissertations and sermons for years on this, but for now I will give you some simple logic to think about.
There are some things that we call universal.
A smile is a smile, no matter where you are.
We all know tears (generally) mean sad.
We all understand poverty,
We all know anger and hurt and pain. These emotions transcend culture.
I realize these are big generalizations, and the extent to which/the context in which these emotions occur may vary from country to country. But to recognize that we all smile. We all laugh, we all cry.

I did find some research for the hard-fact minded. In his article “How universal is happiness?” Dutch Sociologist Ruut Veenhoven says that “The available data suggest that all humans tend to appraise how much they like the life they live….Consequently, conditions for happiness appear to be quite similar across the world. The consequences of enjoying life are also largely universal. There is more cultural variation in the valuation of happiness and in beliefs about conditions for happiness. The greatest variation is to be found in how happy people are.” (Veenhoven, 2010)**. While how we view it differs across the board, reading through it became clear that we all do, in some way, understand the concept of “happy”.

3) “Because the Bible Tells Me So”

While this answer seems cliche, it is in fact true. We first of all recognize that Jesus Himself is the Truth. John 1:1 says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. The word “word” there in Greek is λόγος (logos), which among other things means “reason explained by words”. Christ is the reason, and He Himself says “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life-no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The word Truth here is ἀληθείᾳ (alethia), which when broken down means roughly “to not be hidden/unaware of-true, truly, verity”. God has not hidden himself from us. The reason that we have these universal, seemingly deep ingrained morals is because they have been placed in us by a God who made us in His image, because He is truth.
To say that you can be moral without religion is a contradictory statement; if there is no God, where did the morals come from? Ourselves? The laws and morals that seem to govern humanity are true, because the One who made them is true. If we created our own laws and morals, this becomes impossible. If truth is relative, then there is no point in society creating non-relative guiding morals for society. When the truth is relative, all things become permissible. There is a lot more that I could begin to say, but I was trying to keep these arguments simple and basic. Perhaps I will explore this more as I move forward in my learning, but I hope that it is at least thought provoking. God bless you!

  1. **Ruut Veenhoven, 2010. “Greater Happiness for a Greater Number,” Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 11(5), pages 605-629, October.

The Valleys Can Be Pretty, Too

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke andrebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

-Mark 4:35-41

Hello to you all!
I do apologize for the small sabbatical I took from writing. It started out as a good little break, and then slowly tumbled downhill as I became overwhelmed with school, work, and my own personal struggles.

Over the past month or so, I have slowly become increasingly busy as I prepare for the summer. School became MORE demanding (what a shock). I am helping plan a youth retreat for my home church. I had to turn down a trip to Tennessee, because of school, I haven’t been reading my Bible as much, because of school, I work during the few days I don’t have school…I’m broke because I don’t spend my money wisely, so I’m stuck not being able to enjoy time with others because I have to still pay bills and such things.
One might think that school is the problem here. Or money. Or a huge workload.

But in fact, it’s not. Because I’ve discovered lately that no matter the circumstances of life, that it’s my response that determines how things are going to go. The passage above describes the well-known story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves, and reading it brings to mind a few lessons I’ve learned over the past weeks.

1) Just because you don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When life is swirling all around us, it’s easy to focus on what’s immediately happening. I have had to juggle school, work, bills, and life all at the same time and it is so easy, so natural, to give in to the misery. “woe is me,”, I cry, “for life has taken me into its depths!”. I felt like I was drowning, I felt like I had come up against the side of a very steep mountain, and had no energy to climb. I didn’t see where God was in the midst of my mess.

But as we see in the story, even though the disciples are focused on the storm, Jesus is still in the boat. Jesus, the incarnate living Son of God, was in the boat. He controls the waves they were so concerned about! His very will allowed for the storm to even exist! God is there in the middle of our struggles, in the midst of the arduous climbs we have to make. We need to keep our focus on Him-not on the storm surrounding us. Because when we recognize that God is always there, it makes storms more bearable. When we know that the Almighty God is in our boat, holding our rope, it allows us to calm down. Step back. See a bit of a bigger picture than what is immediately before us.

2) We can’t learn all lessons on silent seas.

This is the harder one to take in. Let’s say I’m a nautical kind of guy, and I’m teaching my son about sailing. I would like to start on a sunny day, clear, nice breeze…laying a foundation for his knowledge. But if I only teach him, all the time, during perfect weather, what about when a storm comes? When the wind is a bit strong, and dad doesn’t happen to be there? That could be potentially dangerous. Instead, as he grows in knowledge, I take him out when the winds are a bit strong. I let him experience some rough sea, get wet a time or two. A hiker can only learn so much going on small state trails. If He wants to tackle Everest, more of a challenge is needed to build up his skill.
The disciples had Jesus, they had His teachings, but to put what they learned into practice was another ordeal. Sometimes, the storms in our lives are meant to teach us. I messed up big time financially, to the point where I barely had $50 to my name with bills to pay. It was my fault, yes. But it taught me about responsibility, and it taught me to trust in God to get me through-and He did, with just what I needed to get by. I was in a rut spiritually, and God has used this rut to show me that it’s because I’ve been negligent of the discipline required in school for me to continue on in faith. God will send the storm not to shake our faith, but to test us and to grow us. As James says, we are to rejoice in our trials because they produce perseverance in us. They allow us to put into practice the things we have heard and talked about, and they teach us new things both about ourselves and the God we serve. I’ve learned over the past few months that God always has a means to provide; even when it isn’t what I expected or hoped.

3) The valleys can be pretty, too.

Being in a low place in life is never a fun place to be, let’s be honest. Over the past month or so the journey has not been fun. I’ve been stressed out and beat up and tired all the time, slacking in work and trying desperately to figure out what’s going on.
However, looking at the situations that I’m in, there are a lot of things that have gotten better because of my time away. I’ve realized how much I love to write for God. I have a growing family (shoutout to the Brunos for that one) that keeps me centered on Christ. I have a potential writing opportunity with a local company, I’ll be working more hours as school lets out, and just a series of recent events that have given me a new sense of conviction about my faith. Because even when you’re in the storm…even when you’re looking up at the mountain in front of you. It can be quite beautiful to see what lessons, what beauty can be brought out of tough situations. I still don’t have lots of money. I have bills, and I need to clean my room, and I need to keep doing well in school at the end here. But the outlook is different. I recognize now that God really never left me, that I just couldn’t see Him. I realize that I’ve learned some good lessons that I can now apply to the life that’s ahead of me. I see the beauty of the valley, and I look forward to the climb ahead.

So I’m back for a good while now, to continue to share the lessons and stories and teachings God puts on my heart. I love you all, dear readers, and I look forward to what the future has in store. God bless.

More Than Enough-and Yet, Exactly Enough

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 
-2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m taking a break from the devotionals for a moment, because yesterday was a huge day for me.
I have some sort of acute anxiety and depression. It’s gotten better over the years but it’s always around, and yesterday was a breaking point for me. I had a big mental breakdown, and one of my friends helped me through it.
For years and years, I realized, I have been living in a way that is trying to pay for the grace that is given to me by Christ. I was trying to re-earn it. And it was causing me to be anxious and depressed, always hating myself because I felt like I was never good enough for God. Never good enough to be used, I always messed up so why should He bless me? I felt like I was a burden to everyone around me.

God gives us His grace freely. Not because we deserve it-and that much was true about my thinking. I don’t deserve the grace He has lavished on me. But I continued striving, continued searching for something that could possibly redeem me in His sight, in my mind. That isn’t true. There is nothing I can do to earn what He has given. Ever. I can’t earn God’s favor.

BUT.
What ISN’T true was my mentality that I am too far gone for Him to pour Himself out on me, that I am messed up beyond repair and that I need to do something to fix it. That’s precisely the point! God uses our brokenness to His glory. HE uses me, messed up as I am, to bring an authentic gospel to those around me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. His abundant love is shown in my abundant tears, I feel His grace and mercy when I am just laying broken before Him.

I don’t know how else to say it. God is so good, His grace is way above and beyond what we deserve-but it is also exactly what we need to be able to find new life. It is more than we deserve but it is enough to deliver. I love my God, so much, for what He has done for me. Can you even fathom it? God, as a man, coming to die for us. For you. For me. He DIED so that we could have this free gift of grace.

Our God is so good.

I’m doing better, I’m taking it day by day. But I know that God’s grace is sufficient, and that even when I’m weak-He is able.

Pots and Potters (Devo, February 19)

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
-Proverbs 16:3

     I have mild anxiety and depression. Not clinically diagnosed, but I just know myself well enough to know that it is there. Here’s what happens. I will be fine for a while. Things are going good, and God is good, and life is rolling along. Then suddenly I may come upon a particularly busy period, or something bad will happen, and I will just snap. I slide into a worried frenzy, trying to figure out what’s going on, or what I’m going to do next, or how I’m going to manage all of this, or why do these things always happen to me? Why am I such a screw up? Why do people even trust me or look up to me?

I’m a loser. I’m not worth it. I’m not gonna succeed at anything.
And I stay like this for awhile until God comes along and snaps me out of it in one fashion or another. And so it goes. It’s gotten better, but lately I have been feeling the pressure and the loneliness again.

What does this have to do with working?
Everything.

You see, I get into modes where I think my life is my own to lead. That I am the one that has to direct my steps, that I have to help God orchestrate the next few days or weeks or months or years of my life. I feel like I am responsible for getting myself to where He told me I would be. There is a little truth to this. But it comes with the next part.

I AM NOT IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE. None of us are. At the end of the day, it is God who moves and God who ordains and God who works. This isn’t to say I don’t have choice; but I am not supposed to be in charge. Why should the pot dictate where the potter should mold next? That isn’t my place. Instead, I am trying to get to a place where I can commit everything into God’s hands.

To that place where I can say, “Here, God. Lead me. Take me to where You want me. Shape me. Mold me.I will work hard and I will be diligent to honor You, and to be disciplined, and to follow You, but I will not step ahead of You. I will not walk in front of Your ways, I will not overstep Your decrees. I will operate within the freedom that You give me, and I will allow You to have my life and my works.”

When I do this, He will keep me firm and secure. When what I want in life is for God to move through me, then the things I do will fall into place. He knows my desires. He knows my wants and needs and hopes and dreams. It’s about priorities. When those things move ahead of God, then things fall apart. When God is first, all things follow.

So I will commit my plans to the Lord, and allow Him to establish them as He pleases. He is the potter, I am the clay. I don’t have to manage my life on my own. I’ve got a God who WANTS to take care of me, who wants me to rely on Him and Him alone.

I’m Yours, God.

.http://bible.com/59/pro.16.3.esv

I’m Not That Strong..But He Is (Devo, February 16)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
-Philippians 4:13

“The Lord our God/is mighty in battle/ we are not afraid/ His hand upholds us/ through our trials/ our God is strong to save!”

These are the lines of the chorus to “Strong to Save” by the Vertical Church Band (find the song and more by them here). I think it rings so true with where I am at in life today. This past Saturday, I was in a car accident. On a grand scale, it was quite minor-but for me, it was traumatic. I flipped my car after hitting a patch of black ice and skidded on my roof into a field. By the grace of God, I barely missed ramming a telephone pole, or the other car that was coming towards me, or anybody. I walked away with barely a scratch. It was terrifying, but because of my faith in God I knew I would get through it. I was supernaturally alert, I was calm and knew how I needed to respond to the situation. Yes, later on I broke down a bit, but I know that God was working through me to keep that situation under control. I was scared and confused, but not afraid. I knew God had me in His hand.

Most people look at this verse and think, “Yea! With God on my side I can do anything! Nothing can stop me!” and this is true. With God for us, there is none that can ultimately stand against us. But I want to talk against the thought that, because we have God, NOTHING will stand against us. This simply isn’t true. Jesus proclaimed again and again that if we were to follow Him, our lives would actually become increasingly difficult. Paul quoted in Romans that “As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom. 8:36). This life is going to bring suffering. God is with us, sure, but we are going to suffer. Life is going to suck sometimes. That is the truth.

So when I look at this verse, I see a God that is so great that He can overcome all the obstacles of our lives. We humans, marred by sin as we are, live in a world where bad things are just bound to happen. It’s the curse of sin. But again, our Savior is bigger than our sorrows. We have a God who doesn’t give us a free pass in life but helps us to pass into the freedom that His life brings. We have a God who, through ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We have a God that can take a young kid from a mediocre school and transform him into a speaker who sees lives changed. He can take a car accident and turn it into a testimony, a financial crisis and turn it into humble dependency, a broken family and turn it into a proclamation of His love, a prostitute and turn it into the message of the Gospel. When I see that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, it doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to conquer every obstacle or climb every mountain. Rather, it lets me know that no matter what the circumstances of my life, I have a God who is alive and active inside of me-a God that can give me strength to endure, hope that is eternal, and joy that is unexplainable. I know that He is there to guide and to lead and to comfort and to exhort me on to greater measure. He may not always change the situations (although He clearly can and does) but He does change my response to them. God uses situations and people and all sorts of means to work His strength through us. Because of Him we have the ability to change the world.

The bottom line is this:

My strength doesn’t come from
the change in the reality
of my situation,
but in the change in the response
to my Savior.

http://bible.com/59/php.4.13.esv

Who Steps In? (Devo, February 14)

 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
-John 15:13

     I’d like to apologize for my brief hiatus. This past week I was equal parts busy and distracted-it was a long week. But I back, dear readers, and I shall stay this time.

On this odd day on which we celebrate love, it seems only appropriate to look at a man who showed the ultimate love. Scripture says that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for his friends. There are two things on this earth that I can think of that speak to this kind of relationship, and they both point back to Christ: the military, and marriage.

I will start with the latter. We have clearly all heard the oft-quoted line from Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands, but what about the rest of it? It says

 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). 

Do you know what that means? Christ loved the church unto the point of death-He gave Himself up for the church. Husbands are supposed to have that same mentality-meaning that there isn’t anything (within being a good, Christian man) that a man should not be willing to do for his wife, even to the point of dying for her. In marriage, the sacrifice that a husband makes for his wife-leaving his father and mother to become the head of the household, to provide and to give a good life…that requires much from him. Even more so, Christ gave His all for His bride. He made sure that she would have every opportunity to be presented white and clean, blameless, even if it meant giving up His own life so that she could have hers. We are that bride, and I know that I am personally so thankful to have a groom as faithful as Jesus is. I couldn’t do any of this on my own.

Now to the former. In the military, you are brothers. You are closer than family. The guys in your platoon, in your squad, your group…you all depend on one another for your very survival. And there is nothing you won’t do for them, and they for you. It’s one of the only institutions in the world I can think of where people willingly die for each other, and even for those back home they don’t even know.Your life, while valued, is expendable if it means others will survive. It’s the attitude built up in the military and I see Christ completely in it.Christ is more than just a brother in arms. He is the commander that leads His troops, that would-and did-jump in front of us to take the bullet, the one to jump on the grenade, the one to die so that we don’t have to.  His life, while clearly valuable, means so much more in His death than it ever could have in life. Because of His willingness to die for us, we have the opportunity to continue to live full, abundant lives. Christ is the ultimate soldier.

So i ask you. When things fall down around you, who steps in? Friends? Family? Sure, at times. But when your life feels like it’s crumbling, remember: There is One who is constantly stepping in for you, a man who already has faced death and despair so that in your darkest moments, you don’t have to. He took our punishment-cling hard to His salvation.

http://bible.com/1/jhn.15.13.kjv

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