Hebrews 8:13 A New Covenant Makes the Old Obsolete

Many so-called Christians who would cite the Law of Moses ( found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) as guidance and permission to discriminate, persecute, and punish the LGBT community fail to realize the impact and difference Jesus has on the Law of Moses and the Old Covenant. Never mind the fact that many so-called Christians simply cherry pick their verses from Leviticus or Deuteronomy to try and “win” their arguments against homosexuality or gender variance. Never mind that they form their arguments without an appreciation of historical context, societal perspective of Biblical norms in their times, or understand the anthropology or sociology of Old Testament Orthodox Jewish culture laws.  All that aside, they forget what Jesus Christ had proclaimed and what effect His presence has upon how Jews, Gentiles, and everyone in between.

Jesus established a NEW covenant! He set in motion a new understanding of what it is God expects from us. Jesus came to Earth to re-establish and repair our relationship with God and each other as a collective humanity under God. Jesus defined the new covenant as thus: that we love our God with all our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls and that we equally love our neighbors as we would want to be loved.

Hebrews 8:13 adds some clarification.

“In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Love becomes the primary vehicle for obedience to God. Sacrifices and strict adherence to rituals and rites will not determine one’s merits for salvation and neither will following the Law of Moses alone guarentee you choice seating in the Kingdom of Heaven. Works without faith grants you no bonuses and faith without works gets you no bonuses either. At the core of works and faith though is love for God and love for your neighbor. Love should guide your intentions and actions and prayers.

You cannot love God properly if you choose to antagonize or persecute or demonize His creation. You cannot love your neighbor if you go out of your way to try and punish your neighbor for being sincere and honest. You cannot love your neighbor through segregation or by building barriers and walls either. And if you are not willing to respect a member of the LGBT community as much as you would respect God our mutual Creator or yourself s a creation of God, then you have a serious problem to overcome.

God knows the souls and hearts and minds and thoughts of every single one of His creations. He has the power to open hearts and minds but also the power to set firm what you are thinking and feeling. He also holds the power to judge the open minded as well as the stubborn and hardened heart. If you open your mind to explore the history and society of the twelve tribes of Israel and the culture of idolatry and hedonism and pagan worship they faced in Canaan and Egypt, you would understand the context in which God speaks to Moses condemning ritual prostitution and understand the specific expression of sexuality that is being condemned as blasphemous.  Sex as ritual to pagan gods and goddesses for their favor– sex as an expression of idolatry– is the subject of that particular passage in Deuteronomy LGBT-haters love to use– but misuse as weapon.

The word of God cannot be a weapon. Not when God has given something of Himself to save all humanity and redeem each and every one of us. God created all of us in His image and declared us all good. It is when we rebel against God and do harm to each other or ourselves and reject God’s love that we get into deep, hot water. But at no point in the Bible is God asking us to betray our identities and souls and sincere hearts to appease Him. God will not accept lies and deceit from us. And God would know the truth of us! For those who have felt their closeted lives were lies, God understands.

God understands the risks and challenges when it comes to trying to live sincere and honest lives in face of discrimination and persecution. God is no stranger to persecution!

God cannot be the instrument of persecution or discrimination. God is all-loving and all-merciful. He is also the most patient and most understanding and comprehending. He has the power to deal with the perverted and corrupt and criminal. He also has the power to change lives and transform souls. If the LGBT community needed to be changed… believe that God would enable or make that change possible, if He felt it necessary. Perhaps it is not the LGBT community that needs to be changed, but the rest of society that needs to be more openhearted and open-minded?

Food for thought.

 

Posted in Deuteronomy, Hebrews, Judaism, Leviticus, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Old Testament | Leave a comment

Ezekiel 17:24

Ezekiel 17:24 NRSV

“All the trees in the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.”

Reflection:

God will humble the haughty and arrogant who flaunts and boasts. He will humble and bring to justice those who exploit and manipulate. Those that think and act as though they are above the law and above justice and fairness… those that think and act and behave as though they are immune to judgment and justice will be dealt with. And those who are humble, who struggling day-to-day to meet their most basic needs, God will find a way to nourish and protect and uplift you. God has the power to see to your needs and can provide for the struggling and needy. God can provide or deny anyone. God is sovereign and judge and Creator. And what God takes away, God can also restore in abundance. God can make just what was once unjust and unfair. God can make equal what was once unequal.

God wants to restore souls, restore relationships, restore families, and restore hope. God wants to restore balance in our lives. God wants to restore justice and fairness and equality. We all have a part to play in making that happen. God puts us to work. God calls us to be His instruments of justice, equality, and fairness. We must speak out against injustice and inequality. We must be models of fairness and justice within our communities. We must be our own advocates and advocates for others as well– especially for those less fortunate and for those who are most vulnerable to exploitation or persecution or discrimination.

God will guide us when we pray and keep ourselves open to guidance. God will have a mighty hand in the work towards fairness, justice, equality, and balance.

Posted in Equality, Ezekiel, Hope, Inspiration | Leave a comment

Psalm 3 – Trust in God Under Adversity

Psalm 3 – NRSV

“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, ‘There is no help for you in God.” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from His holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Rise up, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on your people!”

Reflection:

Even when it seems like an entire society would like to set God against you for being LGBT, the truth is, God has already made His decision about you. God has made you in His image and Jesus has decided that He has found you worthy to be heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has taken upon Himself all condemnation and punishment and paid the price for the redemption of ALL MANKIND– which includes you and me and everyone else who is willing to step forward and confess Jesus as their savior and advocate. God can decide for Himself who He loves and who He has turned His back on– but in the case of the LGBT community as a whole, Jesus is clear about what is asked of all humanity! He asks that we love God with all our hearts and minds and souls and to love each other as we would love ourselves. Jesus expects us to love the stranger, the neighbor, and even our enemies as well as our God.

God loves us at least as much as we are willing to love Him as our Creator. God did not create us just for the sake of having something to hate and torment or torture and destroy. God is not petty. God is profound! God seeks to instill in our hearts compassion, love, kindness, and empathy– why else would He send a part of Himself down on this Earth for us? God sent us a model to follow in Jesus and made love the overriding Law in which to love by.

So when it feels like the whole world is set against us for who we are and how we live and love, never forget that it is love that trumps all things and if we live with love in our hearts for God and for each other, God will see fit to protect us and have our backs!

 

Posted in Love, Psalms | Leave a comment

Thoughts on False Christians

When I hear politicians and especially the U.S. President claim Christian identity, I become all the more observant and critical of them. I hold them to a standard that is pretty high– because I would expect anyone who is Christian to be an example of one who follows the teachings of Christ and one who strives to live according to Christ’s example and lessons.

Under no circumstance do I claim that the Christian life is an easy life. It is not. True Christians as well as any human being is vulnerable to sin and temptation and depravity and hardship. But Christians especially seem vulnerable to persecution or ridicule for their beliefs. Christians must bear the burden of bearing unfair and unjust reputations born from those who have used Christianity as a weapon or tool or means to inflict harm or oppression over others.

I become very skeptical of any so-called Christian who, rather than engaging their neighbors to understand and empathize with them, decides to build a wall between them and their neighbors. I become skeptical of any so-called Christian who would deny sanctuary, safety, security, food, shelter, and humanitarian aid to someone based on their country of origin, their culture, their religious views, sexual orientation or gender identity, or legal status within a country. Any Christian who puts the finances of their ministry ahead of the spiritual health and physical well-being of others is suspicious in my book. Any Christian who would intentionally obstruct justice or oppress the fundamental human rights of any individual or group of people is not following Christ’s example.

I see a lot of hypocrisy in Christianity. I see a lot of false religion within politics. I see religion being used and followers being exploited and manipulated for political points and for the furthering of personal agendas and personal power games. I see so-called Christian politicians and political action groups using Christianity as a means of imposing social policies upon others who do not share their views and are unfairly demonized because they do not hold to a particular ideology or theology. I see so-called Christians trying to monopolize social dialogues about social values, morals, and belief systems. Rather than fostering a democracy built on diversity of thought and ideas, they would seek to homogenize and silence dissent or debate or critical thinking and discussion that challenges tradition and orthodoxy or preconceived notions and ideas.

There are so-called Christian voices tying to force apolitical people to choose a side in political arguments. There are so-called Christians who are trying to move peoples’ focus towards more worldly, materialistic theology where prosperity is measured not by spiritual growth but by financial health at the expense of others who will be exploited.

There are so-called Christians who do not believe that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are some who believe there is a caste system among humanity where some are more deserving than others of a good standard of living. There are some so-called Christians who seem to thrive on the notion that they are the sole holders of “The Truth” and that they hold a superior position in society and that only they are deserving of a good life.

Among these so-called Christians, I see no compassion, no empathy, and certainly no sense of humility. I see they lack an appreciation of Jesus. I see a vast gulf between their claims and their actions. I see a lot of rhetoric based on ignorance and false or incomplete understandings of Scripture and the context or history or significance of that Scripture. I see religion being used for personal gain.

I also see true Christians having a hard time standing up for their beliefs and getting the word out against these false Christians trying to hijack and hold hostage our belief system and faith. I don’t see very many religious organizations mobilizing in defense of compassionate, Christ-based humanitarian causes. I feel like there is more silence than outcry against this hypocrisy– or complacency.

In face of all the ways Christianity is being misused, misrepresented, and manipulated, it comes as no surprise to me that so many choose to leave the church or choose to give up on religion and Christianity completely. The negatives seem to outweigh any of the perceivable positives. There are not enough positive depictions of what true Christianity is and what true Christian living should be about. We have sent mixed messages about what our core values are or should be. We have allowed false Christians and false Christian leaders to change our values or lead so many astray with false notions of what’s valued and valuable.

Something to seriously think about.

Posted in Editorial, Opinion, Self-Reflection, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Ephesians 4:25-32

Ephesians 4:25-32

Reflection:

Basically Paul is spelling out the expectations, rules, and new guidelines for those committing to live Christ-like lives. These days, when so many claim to be Christian, it is important for Christians new and old and in-between to take stock and actually evaluate just how truly Christ-like they are. And when politicians and political leaders act and pass legislation or public policy based on their beliefs, it is important to note what those beliefs are as well as what their intentions are with those beliefs.

In Ephesians, Paul is reminding us to refrain from being greedy and manipulative. We must give up our former sinful lifestyles and embrace a new life of compassion for neighbors and strangers– including those especially seeking refuge. We must also try and speak more truthfully to our neighbors as well.

It is also important to note that we must channel our angers productively and do not let our angers leads us into hate-inspired sins. We must also refrain from stealing and exploiting from those around us. We must try and live and work honestly so as to have something to share with those in need who are less fortunate than ourselves. We must not let evil talk come from our mouths too.

Ultimately if we wish to be true Christians, we need to be kindhearted and forgiving. I also see that we must be humble and modest.

There are so many qualities I see in being in a Christian that are simply glossed over or weaseled around by political leaders and even evangelists and religious leaders. They skirt around the requirements or play games with them– picking and choosing what suits them and how they apply what Jesus asks of them. The hypocrisy of some is astounding. They care about their neighbors so long as they aren’t Muslim or LGBT or perhaps undocumented from Mexico or Venezuela or elsewhere. They will gladly support politicians who would deny working families their healthcare insurance under the impression that somehow these politicians will have a better plan… yet these politicians accept special interest lobby money from insurance companies that would deny their clients coverage to ensure bonuses for themselves and other executive compensation and huge profit margins to pay massive dividends to shareholders.

There are so-called “Christian” politicians who take money from pharmaceutical companies who do not want to reduce their costs or invite competition from outside the United States. There are politicians who simply do not get the struggles of the average working class family just trying to get the most effective and efficient healthcare their meager wages can afford. They don’t get the struggles of the poor and under-employed or unemployed. They don’t get the struggle of the homeless in crisis either. They do not believe in government subsidized single-payer healthcare for all. They believe in a free-market privatized healthcare system where corporate America profits from the misfortunes of others.

Not every Christian seems to be in agreement over how best to love thy neighbor or which neighbors to love and which to shy away from. It seems many Christians are applying certain conditions on what should be unconditional love and respect for all.

The guidelines are clear in Ephesians and elsewhere in the Bible… yet folks seem to prefer to even exploit the Bible and apply loopholes.

Don’t be that kind of Christian who treats core values like a buffet menu where you only pick and choose what you like and skip the rest. Christianity is not a game either. Folks have got to stop trying to cheat Jesus. Jesus is far more inclusive and far more just and far-reaching than this profit before people mentality most of these politicians want to apply.

Posted in Ephesians, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Opinion, Truth | Leave a comment

Ezekiel 34:11-16 God, the True Shepherd

Ezekiel 34:11-16(NRSV)

“For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among the scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.” 

Reflection:

Our Lord God takes a personal interest in our well-being and care. If He did not, why then would He have sent us His only begotten son, Jesus, who healed the sick, fed those in need, and ministered to the less fortunate? God doesn’t intend for us to suffer and live under oppressive tyrants. God did not intend for there to be victims of social and economic injustice and disparity. God did not intend for us to live in poverty or in fear that we may not afford our basic needs like food, shelter, health care, and clothing.

God sent something of Himself in Jesus to guide us and lead us to safety and sanctuary. God provided Jesus to be our good shepherd. God Himself is also our good shepherd– whether we realize it or not. God finds ways of providing for us. We need to be trusting in God and faithful to Him. We need to be observant and obedient. We need to prepare ourselves to receive His blessings too. When God is trying to steer us away from trouble and when God is giving us an opportunity to better our situations, we need to be alert and receptive.

God sees to our fundamental needs and is watchful and observant when we seem lacking. God is also aware of current events and also observant of our environments and where we find ourselves. He knows the challenges we all face and knows what obstacles lie before us. He knows Satan is poised to take us away from where we need to be. God will lead us if we are willing to follow. And when God is present, injustice can only shy away.

Posted in Ezekiel, Hope, Inspiration, Spirituality, Truth | Leave a comment

Matthew 11:28-30

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

“Come to Me, all 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.”

Reflection:

An invitation no different than, what you would find on the plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus. The promise of sanctuary and rest and freedom is one we all seek from across all cultures, races, nation-states, and religions. We seek a release from the burden of oppression and degradation. We seek freedom from bondage and slavery. We seek relief from our struggles with poverty and hunger and strife. We all hope to find a place where we can all prosper as equals.

Jesus offers this promise, even when nations and governments turn their backs on the less fortunate or the persecuted or marginalized. When even just a portion of the United States government seeks to ban immigrants or refugees from various countries whether they are predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East or South American countries, Jesus’ invitation is above politics. Looking out for those among humanity who are suffering, Jesus looks beyond borders and nationality or race and culture. He sees each person as God sees them, one of His creations and someone worthy of salvation and redemption through faith and grace.

The hypocrisy of white Christian Republican Americans who claim to uphold and defend Christian values as their own while denying hospitality and safety to the foreign stranger or refugee in need is astounding! They seem to blatantly ignore Jesus’ teachings and promote exclusion and the denial of respect and dignity and human rights in favor of preserving the sanctity of white upper-middle class Christian America. The Islamophobia and xenophobia among some Republican Christians is disturbing and runs counter to the fundamental teaching of Jesus who asked us to love our neighbors, love the strangers among us, and even love our enemies! By denying those unlike us a chance to lay their burdens down and to find peace from oppression or war, these hypocrites are reinforcing age old arguments of racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural superiority. They are declaring by their actions that some are entitled to more than others and that not all are equally valued creations of God.

Whether we are talking about Syrian or Yemeni refugees, or children fleeing human traffickers in South or Central America, or Mexicans fleeing the violence of well-established drug cartels… or LGBT refugees from Chechnya fleeing genocide in a death camp, we have to act on the promise of Jesus and be willing to love these people as much as we would want to be loved; and would we not want hospitality and safety and sanctuary if the tables were turned upon us and we were in need?

Posted in Christian Generosity, Equality, Hospitality, Jesus, Love thy Neighbor, Mathew | Leave a comment