A Little Context For Me

Sunday, November 29, 2015

For He Is Good - Psalm 107

Well, I haven’t totally forgotten our study of Psalms 107. If you are just joining us or if you need to refresh your memory, here are the links to the past three posts: Oh, Give Thanks To The LORDDigging Deeper Psalm 107, and What's In A Name?

Oh, give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD says so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy say so. Psalms 107:1, 2

Today, we are going to take a part the phrase “for He is good.” The first thing you want to do when making a serious study of anything is to define your terms, and let’s face it, good is a rather subjective term. Often we tend define “good” as anything we like and bad is anything we don’t like, but when we are studying Bible we need to define our terms according to how they are used within the Bible. We do this by finding other passages of the Bible where the same word is used.

The easiest way to do this with your English translations is to look up the word good in a Strong’s Concordance. If you do not have one, don’t worry it is available for free online, but if you are going to do any amount of serious Bible study I recommend you grab one for your library. When you do this, remember our rule of first mention, and go to the first verse where we find this word. You should be turning to Genesis 1:4.

“And God saw that the light was good.”

Obviously, we are in the creation account. God is going to continue creating the universe and after each creation he is going to see that it is good. From the dry land and the creatures that inhabit to waters and the skies and beasts that will live there, all of it will be seen and all of it will be found good. Then we get to the creation of man, (Genesis 1:26 – 31), and you see that there is no declaration that man is good.

This leads to an interesting question, why is everything else God created good but man isn’t?

Really, stop there and think about the question. Consider the possible answers. When you encounter something like this in the Bible don’t just rush by it and say, “That’s just the way it is.” Remember this book is crafted with the intent and purpose to hold as much truth as possible in very finite space, everything in here was included to teach us something. While you are rolling that around in your mind, let’s skip ahead a millennium or more, or few books as it may be, to the story of Jesus and the
Rich Young Ruler found in Luke 18: 18--30. As always, go look it up and make sure I am not ripping anything out of context because I am only including the key verse here.

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Did you catch that? “No one is God except God alone.” Go on and read the rest, and you find that Jesus is making a point about what is required to follow him. Sure there are some rules like honoring your mother and father, and not bearing false witness against your neighbor, but the it all boils down to one final step – you have to follow him. Nothing in this world must come between you and being in his presence for when you are in his presence you are in the presence of God, (John 1:1-7, John 14).

Jump on over to see one instance of how Paul uses this word good:

And we know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first born among many brothers. Romans 8:28, 29

We could go on with other examples, but for the sake of time, space, and the average adult attention span, let’s just put together the pieces we have collected so far.

God calls his creation good, with the exception of man, but why is it good? To answer that question we have to look at the purpose of creation. God did not need an earth. We did. Everything he placed within this grand creation we inhabit was perfectly designed to house, feed, and shelter us. Everything he called into existence fulfilled its purpose perfectly and without flaw.

Man, on the other hand, is created with potential and that potential lies dormant within each of us until we choose to activate it by become conformed to the image of his son. And we don’t do this by works, we do it through relationship, by coming to know him, and through a process of renewing our minds through the words of truth. The earth was given to us as place to walk through this process and deeper into this relationship, even in its fallen state it still serves this purpose.

God’s greatest desire is to be known by humanity. The wonders that he done so that we might know span throughout history and continue today. Jesus declares that no one is good except God, and when we look at the things that God calls good we see that they are the very things that facilitate our ability to know him.

When I realized this a few years back, I tried to redefine my understanding of good. I came up with this working definition:

Anything that draws me closer to God is good. Anything that drives me from his presence is evil.

This radically changed my perspective of everything. Because when I step back and look at this world, I see how so many of the things we call good are driving people away from God. Money, health, relationships, family, technology, work, and leisure have lured people away from him. At the same time, how many times has disease, heartbreak, and hardship driven us to our knees to seek him? I realized that I have the authority determine what is good and evil in my life by my choice to draw nearer to him or to reject him, and in making that decision, I am also defining my intentions to be good or evil.

The only thing outside of my ability to redefine by this choice is God. For his intent is always that I draw nearer to him, he never changes, and he never waivers in that desire. Everything he has done or will do is for the singular purpose of knowing him. In this he proves that he is always good, and for that reason, giving thanks is the appropriate response in all things.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Importance of Shame

Yesterday, I shared an interview that Charisma Magazine did with my friend Dennis Jernigan. Not that I was too fond of the way Charisma decided to twist his words into a click bait headline, or that they did a pretty hard cut and paste of what Dennis said within the article itself, but rather because I know Dennis and I believe that there are people who need to hear his story.

As I expected, there was an immediate reaction, and most of it was negative. There were several comments, but most of them revolved around the concept of shame. The idea being that even in telling his story he was and is, and if I know Dennis, will continue to heap shame upon others by declaring his victory over homosexuality.

All of this got me to thinking, which is always dangerous, when did shame become a bad thing?

Seriously, why do we automatically reject anything to do with shame? I know that there are times when shame is unhealthy and damaging. I know that it is always painful and that it can drive people to do some really awful things in their lives, but does that mean that shame should be avoided at all costs?

There is a part of me that would love to think that shame is a horrible emotion that we should just outright rejected in our lives. I never liked being ashamed and shame was what kept me from seeking help when I was in the middle of an abusive marriage. The weight of it all left me self-destructive and suicidal, and I only learned how to speak up when I managed to free myself from those feelings. Part of what I do now is help other women to free themselves of the shame that has kept them quiet so that they can walk towards healing and with confidence of God’s love for them. There really would have never been any need for my book Scandalous if so many women had not been bullied into silence by the destructive power of shame. So, yeah, I am not a big fan of that particular emotion.

But there is another story, one that I haven’t told all that often – probably because I have been, well, ashamed.

Sometime after my divorce, I found someone who made me happy. There are no words to describe how complete I felt with this person or how they eased all the wounds I carried since leaving the warzone of my marriage, but there was one problem. This person was unwilling to commit to loving only me. I knew I could never be happy hanging out on the fringes of their life. I wanted to be the center of their world, just like they had become the center of mine. So I did everything in my power to facilitate that. I began bending and twisting the rules, reinterpreting the decrees of my faith to make allowances for my lust, and justifying my actions under the guise of love.

God is the God of love, I told myself, and so he must want this for me. God would never allow me to feel such passion for something he did not bless. He would have never created me this way if he knew it would cause me to sin in his eyes, so I must not be sinning to do what was so incredibly natural for me. This was his design, everyone knows this, and only a fool would say that it is evil to experience the bliss I felt only with this person.

Looking back, I can see the flaws in my logic. I know now that what comes natural to humanity is very often the very things that God does call sin. He has no use for my happiness when it comes at the expense of who he declared me to be, and his greatest desire is that I would love him above all others. If that means putting aside my own desires as a demonstration of that love, I need to do it, and if I am allowing my happiness to be pervert his word to serve me then I am declaring that my happiness, not God, is the one I am worshipping.

I won’t lie to you. It wasn’t easy turning loose. I can’t tell you how devastated I was when I finally walked away, and what was worse, I had no clue as to who or what I was walking towards. Sure, I knew I was chasing Father, but what that looked like this side of eternity, I didn’t know. And the idea of living my life alone terrified me as few other things ever had. I had become so enmeshed in my dream of being with this person and finding my fulfillment in a life with them that I did not even know how to define who I was or who I could be without them because every image of the future I possessed had them at my side.

How did I do it? How did I find the courage to finally make that cut? Well, it didn’t start out as courage. It started out as shame. Big, ugly, nauseating shame. The type of shame that makes you doubt if you are worthy of life. The type of shame that rubs salt into the wounds of loss by demanding that you admit how stupid you had been, how you had let yourself be played, and how you had sold out everything you believe to be true so that you could have a few moments of fun that left you utterly unfulfilled and tormented.

But shame becomes something amazing when presented to Father. Shame stops being that ugly worm that gnaws at your guts and finds wings as it transformed into repentance, and finds its true form in faith. I think this is the step so many of us are unwilling to take, and why shame paralyzes us or propels us to do horrible things to ourselves, we don’t trust the process of repentance. We buy into the lie that if our walk to Father begins in pain that it will continue in pain. So we recoil before he can lead us through the process. All we can focus on is what we are losing, and when we shift our gaze to him we see our sins laid bare before a God who loved us so much he withstood the shame of the cross on our behalf. Knowing that so much ugliness was heaped upon one so perfect makes your soul bleed. Everywhere we turn is nothing but pain! Giving up seems to be the only option where we don’t have to hurt.

Having faith means that we learn how to trust the process, and sometimes the process means embracing the pain. I think there is reason for this, and I don’t think it is because is some celestial sadist. I think he wants us to know the depth of the wounds we carry within us. I think he wants us to feel our sickness has invaded every part of our being and how it has warped us into something that he never desired us to be. I think he wants us to learn how to hate our sin, but more importantly, I think he wants us to know our sin does not define us. For how will we ever celebrate the grandeur of his love and forgiveness if we are unable to acknowledge the depths of the healing?

No, shame is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing, but something should only last for season – a tool to be picked up and then cast aside as we celebrate God’s redeeming love that was given when we were still lost in our sin.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Readers' Questions: Why Wasn't The Book Of Enoch Included In The Bible?

My Study Tools

Readers’ question: Why wasn’t the Book of Enoch included in the Bible?

I don’t know if you caught it in the sentence above, but several of you have asked me to answer this question. It seems that lately the Book of Enoch, otherwise known as Enoch 1, has been getting a lot of attention. I cannot begin to count the number of YouTube videos and articles that have flooded the internet either praising this book as prophecy or condemning it as blasphemy, and the controversy over it seems to be heating up as experts on all sides are chiming.  And since this is the internet, a lot of non-experts have been happy to join in too!

The question, as most of you presented it to me, is easy to answer. “Why wasn’t the Book of Enoch included in the Bible?”  One of the Jewish tests for canonicity (read that worthy of being included in the Bible) is that a book had to be written to all generations. Now if, we read the first two verses of Enoch, we will find:

The words of the blessing of Enoch according to which he blessed the chosen and the righteous who must be present on the day of distress which is appointed for the removal of all the wicked and impious. And Enoch answered and said, “There was a righteous man whose eyes were opened by the Lord and he saw a holy vision in the heavens which the angels showed me. And I heard everything from them and I understood what I saw, but not for this generation, but for a distant generation which will come.”

So pretty much, the Book of Enoch excludes itself as it was not written for all generation, “but for a distant generation which will come.” But I don’t think that this is really what y’all wanted to know, so I am going to answer the question I think you meant to ask: Should we, as Bible believing Christians, be reading the Book of Enoch?

Hold on to your seats, this is where it starts to get a little more complex.

We know from other writings that the Book of Enoch was a pretty big deal. Ancient writers often referred to it in their work, and when I say ancient writers I am talking about some pretty big names in Church history. Names like: Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and Ambrose. However, times were changing, and not unlike today, the main attack centered on the supernatural elements within the Bible. “Why were grown men reciting fairy tales, and believing in ghost stories? Hadn’t they figured out that this was modern age and that we needed to be rational and stop putting credence in such outdated texts?” If any of that sounds familiar, it is because it is the same arguments running around the internet today. It seems that in over 2000 years of existence, the opposition to the Christian faith has yet to come up with any better arguments either, but moving on.

So in an effort to tone down the more fantastical elements of the Bible certain stories were explained away, and the main one is found in Genesis 6.

When man had begun to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men of old, the men of renown.

If you continue reading, you will see that we are looking the events leading up to the flood. When we study this passage in the church, we often skim by it and talk about how evil people were being at this time and that is why God had to flood the earth, or you are told that the “sons of God” were the sons of Seth and the “daughters of men” were the daughters of that wretched murderer Cain.

Well, uh, yeah, about that? That isn’t what the text says.

A rule that every serious student of the Bible should follow is “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This simply means that when a word or phrase is used in one passage and it has an ambiguous meaning, you should look at other passages where the same word or phrase is used to determine what it means. When we encounter the phrase “sons of God” in other parts of the Bible, we find that is always refers to angels. Now, go back and reread that passage, but this time use the word “angel” instead of “sons of God”. See why it is so disturbing? And why some might want to tone it down?

Cut back to Enoch. The book of Enoch contains what is essentially a retelling of the Flood narrative with greater detail, and he doesn’t pull any punches. He plainly states that the “sons of God” were angels. He recounts conversations that he had with both angels who remained in service to God and with the fallen angels. He records the fallen angels’ punishment, and how he relayed messages between them and God. To be honest, it’s some pretty out there stuff that will blow your mind if you believe that the “sons of God” were really the sons of Seth.

Accepting what was then a new view of Scripture, and the flood in particular, people stopped reading the Book of Enoch, reading it was eventually banned by the church, and for awhile, it seemed to have been lost altogether. Enter James Bruce, and explorer in Africa, who made his way into Ethiopia. The history of the Ethiopian church is fascinating, but for now all we need to know is that they developed essentially without any outside influences after the fifth century AD. This meant they didn’t get the memo that they should do away with the Book of Enoch. During his time there, Bruce managed to secure three copies of the Book of Enoch. All of this went down in 1773, but it would take almost fifty years for the first translation to be made.

Since that time there have been many who claim that the Book of Enoch must have been written by Christian due to all the typically Christian references that are in the book. Others claim that it was, in fact, originally a Hebrew text but that Christians had inserted various passages in order to make it appear more Christian and less Jewish. However, some of this controversy is dying down as at least ten fragments from the Book of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls verifying those passages as authentic to the original text.

I know, great history lesson, but that still doesn’t answer the question: Should we, as Bible believing Christians, be reading the Book of Enoch?

My answer is yes, but with caution. Here is why.

If you read the book of Jude, that single page book right before you get to Revelation, you will find this:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes down with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgement on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds and ungodliness that they have committed, in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Nowhere else in the Bible to learn that Enoch prophesied. In fact if you read his story in Genesis 5:21-23, you are going to find one of the shortest and most amazing stories recorded of man. He lived, had a son, walked with God, and then “he was not for God took him.” What crazy, but utterly fascinating way to be remembered!

But here in Jude, we do see that he prophesied, and we have reason to believe that his prophesies were credible and respected. If that is not enough for you flip back a few pages 2 Peter 2:4, 5:

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them down into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until judgement, if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Nowhere else in the Bible do you find anything close to this, but you do find it in the Book of Enoch. Some scholars believe that these verses are just the tip of the iceberg that proves that the Book of Enoch is a valid record of a supernatural revelation given to Enoch.

But before we jump to that conclusion, let’s consider a few things. Throughout this piece I have used various expressions common to our time and culture. You skimmed right by them because you are familiar with these expression, because they are everywhere, and they did not signify any type of connection to another writing. Why would we suppose that every time an ancient writer used the same words as his contemporaries he was doing more than I? So I think we should use restraint when using similar words to prove a connection between Enoch and the Bible. That being said, neither should we dismiss almost exact quotes of any significant length. It’s called balance, and that is always a good thing.

The second thing we should consider is the fact that the Book of Enoch did not enjoy the same protection that the canonical books of the Bible did. The text may well have been tampered with. For if the original story was an actual account of what Enoch said, then his account is thousands upon thousands of years old, and even our oldest manuscripts do not come close to the time of authorship.

The third thing to consider, if knowing Enoch was necessary for the practices of faith and salvation, it would have been included in the Bible. So in reality, it has little bearing on Christianity today.

So back to the question: Should we, as Bible believing Christians, be reading the Book of Enoch?
Yes, but with caution.

My personal beliefs are that the text we have today is based on an earlier work. I believe that Enoch did prophesy, and I think his words carried weight and authority as attested to by Jude. I believe that by studying this book we learn much about the culture preceding and during the time of Christ’s life. I think it shows how willing the ancient audience was to accept the supernatural and divine intervention in this life, and I think we can learn from that. After all, our God is supernatural, our salvation is supernatural, and our entry into his eternal presence will be amazingly supernatural, why would we deny that it can be seen in this world?

I urge caution because, honestly, I haven’t taken the time to pick the book apart or to thoroughly examine it for ideas or beliefs counter to the teachings within the Bible – the book that we have been commanded to honor and obey as God’s holy word. I urge caution because we should never put an extra-biblical text above the Bible. I also urge caution because most of you need to dive deeper into the Book you can trust before you start tampering with something that may not be fully trustworthy – for how will you know a lie if you don’t first know the truth?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

So What If You Were Not Called To Seminary?

A few posts back, I shared with you that many of our seminaries are cutting their language requirements in many of their degree plans and why they have chosen to do so. I also briefly addressed why the knowledge of these languages is important to understanding our faith.

As I said at the end of that post, not everyone is called to spend their lives dissecting these languages. We all have different gifts, aptitudes, and callings that should be honored. For instance, I cannot begin to convey how grateful I am for those of you who staff church nurseries, because if it were left to me…well, let’s just say it isn’t my calling nor do I have the aptitude for it. We need everyone to play their part to have a functioning body, and a good elbow makes a horrible foot. (Trying to envision that, aren’t you?)

However, just because you haven’t been called to study dusty old texts doesn’t mean you can’t help keep them alive. Here is a practical list of things you can do to encourage and support those who have been called. Trust me, we need it!

1. The obvious – money. I hate to start out sounding crass, but this is just a reality. To learn this stuff you almost have to go to a private school, and private schools are expensive. Most students end up with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of student loan debt, and to complicate things further, with the amount of time required for study even a part time job isn’t really an option. And if you have a family, forget it.

And I know what I am talking about on this one, I managed a semester and half of juggling work, school, and family before my body rebelled and I wound up in the ER. In the end, I lost my job because I was unavailable to work the required hours, and I was forced to take out more loans.

So consider sponsoring a seminary student, you have no idea what the price of a tank of gas could do for them. Or a roll of quarters, so they don’t have stare wistfully at the vending machine or they can experience the luxury of a turnpike! (For me, getting to take the turnpike meant thirty more minutes of sleep! Priceless!)

2. Speaking of sleep – if they have kids, babysitting so they can study or sleep is a blessing beyond compare. So often people think that if you aren’t in class then you must be lounging around at home, but the truth is you are *supposed* to study three hours for everyone hour in class. Of course, no one actually does this, but when you are wrestling with Greek verbs you are probably doing more so it evens out.

And if you have kids, when do you study? If you guessed when they are sleeping, you win. Prime study time for me was 9 pm to 3 am, and then it was up at 5 to be on the road by 5:30. God grants sleep to those he loves (Psalms 127:2), so share some of his love.

My mom says she deserves part of my degree as she watched my kids so often, but in reality if she hadn’t I would have never have made it through.

3. Food. Please notice I did not say ingredients. Things ready to eat, no prep, and preferably eaten with one hand so you can hold a book with the other. Carrot sticks, pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower, or prepackaged salads, and of course, chocolate!

Gift cards to restaurants close to their school are also a great choice, or stuff they can toss in a lunch bag and eat in the car like granola bars and trail mix.

4. And travel mugs? Yes, please! They may have a couple, but odds are they are in the car with yesterday’s cold coffee. They can always use another one.

5. Haircuts and manicures are another way you might be able to use your gift to help a seminary student. As I said money is tight, but everyone there is trying to make a good impression. Recruiters are constantly roaming the halls, and who knows which one of these people might wind up being your boss? But guess what the last thing a serious student is going to spend money on?

And work them in an appointment on Sunday afternoon, or 9 o’clock at night – they will love you forever.

6. Mow their yard. Seriously. I eventually just gave up on mine. My uncle wound up baling it.

7. A massage! I know this sounds decadent, but after hours slumped over a computer, the ache begins to wear at you. And a hand massage – dear, sweet, baby Jesus, I will still take one and I am not in seminary. Hands throb after hours of typing.

8. If you do any type of medical/dental/optical services, donating those to a student can make a huge difference in their lives. I don’t remember how many students I saw with throbbing teeth they didn’t have the money to fix, in need of new glasses, or walking around with sinus infections they couldn’t shake and with no money to get any of it taken care of.

9. If you want to be specific in meeting a financial need, commit to buying books for one or more of their classes. However, I should warn you a lot of these books can cost over $100 apiece and you may need three or more for a single class.

Don't have that much to give? A ream of paper, a pack of post-it notes, highlighters, notebooks, or their favorite pens says you care and is a major blessing! And we always need another printer cartridge.

Want to go big? A church collection for a laptop or printer can be the difference between staying in school or not.

10. Offer to type up papers for them. I always wrote mine long hand first and then typed them. A friend of mine typed up many of my papers for me during my years of college. I never would have graduated without her.

11. Good at English? A writer can always use another set of eyes, offer to proof read their work. You get a chance to learn something new, and you might save their grade.

12. Ask us to share what we are learning/have learned. Remind us of why we are doing this, and give us a taste of what it is like to share all this amazing stuff with someone new. It is easy to get discouraged, and a lot students drop out when faced with how hard it really is. There are days when you know that you are attempting the impossible, but then someone comes along, asks  about something you just learned, and you realize that you love it too much to give up. And that's how we get through it, because looking back, you will wonder how many miracles God did just so you could survive.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Scares Me More Than ISIS

You would have to be hiding under a rock not to know that there is a war brewing. The lines have been drawn, declarations of each sides’ agenda have been made, and shots are being fired.

No, I am not talking about the events in the Middle East or Europe. I am talking about the war that is being waged across the United States and throughout our world, a war that is threatening to rip apart our country, our homes, and our churches apart if we do not find a third option.

I am sure you have seen the rhetoric from both sides. It is plastered across the internet on every social media site you visit.

Everyone is screaming for you to take a side. If you are not in support of accepting the Syrian refugees, you are a cold-hearted monster, unfit to be called a Christian. If you do support accepting the Syrian refugees, then you are an ignorant, bleeding heart, fool just asking for terrorist to invade this country also unworthy to be called a Christian.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the verses that are being used to bolster each sides’ position.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. Hebrews 13:2

When the stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:33, 34

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of the foreigners, who mouths speak lies and whose right hand is the right hand of falsehood. 
Psalms 144:1, 7

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

I could go on, and anyone with an ounce of intelligence could make an effective counterargument to either position. Both sides can demonstrate from a Biblical perspective why their side is right and why you are wrong.

So which is it? What is the real Christian position in all of this? Who right and who is wrong? My side, their side, your side?  Well, allow me to make everyone mad. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong. And I say this not based on my personal emotional reaction to this crises, I am saying it after spending hours studying new story after new story, and Scripture after Scripture. There simply is not a clear cut Biblical answer – if we accept the “either/or” narrative of our culture, a culture that has rejected every shred of Biblical authority in making public policy until it could use our Holy Text to manipulate us into viciously attacking our brothers and sisters.

So what do we do when there is no clear cut answer to be found in Scripture? I would ask you to consider that we are looking at the problem from the wrong direction, and we seek a new one. For there is nothing that ever was or ever will be that God’s Word does not address, and we should rise above the conflicting voices of our world and listen to his voice, so that we might see his perspective.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you they may be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me that they may become perfectly one so the world may know that you sent me and them even as you loved me.  John 17:20-23

The truth is we need each other, now more than ever. We are a body, a unit that only functions with truth and power when we are whole. Lopping off our arms as we demand security, and severing our feet as scream for compassion, serve no one but an enemy who wants us torn to bits – for who is easier to overcome than a wounded adversary?

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

These are the words of Jesus to his apostles, as he released them into a world where they would meet with bloody deaths. They would sacrifice everything, even their lives, to share what he had given them, but he did not ask them to go blindly or foolishly into the fight. He commanded them to arm themselves, to buy a sword, and be aware of the dangers they faced. Does he ask any less of us? Does he require more? Or is his command eternal, sufficient even for this day?

Those of my family calling for the acceptance of the Syrian refugee, thank you, for reminding us that we are to have a heart and that we are to move with compassion towards those in need. For my brothers and sisters who urge us to be aware of the danger, thank you, for reminding us that we must be alert and wise in our decisions. We need to be operating all aspects of who we are as believers and followers of Christ. One without the other will destroy us by killing our hearts or taking our lives. I urge you not to forget that we are to be unified, respecting the strengths of the other, learning from their perspective, and heeding their counsel. It is how we stay strong and how we stay true to the decree of our King.

You see, ISIS does not scare me. Terrorist do not terrify me.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both our body and soul. Matthew 10:28

However, I am afraid of church torn apart. I am afraid of friendships destroyed and relationships lost as we grew embittered over a situation that no one individual can control, but even more than that I am afraid failing to believe the words my God have given me. Right now, I don’t know what the answer is in dealing with Syrian Refugees, but I do know that we are to be unified in love. I know that we should stand against division, and I know that God does have an answer to every question we could ask. So maybe if we stopped screaming at each other we could all walk towards him, believing that he will guide and protect us as we draw near to him.

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Unless You Read Hebrew and Greek"

“There are so many translations of the Bible you really can’t know what it says unless you read Hebrew and Greek.”

And there it was, the conversational hand grenade designed to shut down any further dicussion. I don’t know how many times I had been blasted with it, but I was getting tired of picking shrapnel out of my skin. So I did the obvious, I went to seminary and I learned Hebrew and Greek.

Going to seminary was not the smart decision. The hours were long, and I was dividing my time between classes, work, two kids, and a 19 hour a week commute. Sleep was something I got to do in my car between classes, food was whatever the vending machine offered, and I got really good at studying vocabulary flash cards as I sped down the highway at 65 mph. As if the personal sacrifice was not enough, I was (and am) getting to pay for the privilege to the tune of over $100,000 dollars in student loan debt. Additionally, I got to do it all without one single hint of a clue as to what I was going to do with my degree once I finished.

Unlike most seminary students, I did not go with any hopes or intentions of pastoring a church. I never felt that calling, and frankly, I am glad as I have seen so many of my former classmates grow embittered when they were unable to find work in the field they studied so hard to enter. I had one goal – learn the Biblical languages.

Most churches today are not looking for full time pastors, and that is especially true in places like rural Oklahoma. Churches want someone who preach a sermon that will attract new members without offending the old ones. They want someone they can call at two in the morning because grandma is in the hospital, do the janitorial work, and building maintenance while holding down a full time job that actually pays their bills. In the meantime churches throw mere pittance to their bi-vocational pastors so they feel they have the right to grumble about how lazy their pastor is when the men’s toilets are leaking. And amazingly enough, so many of the men and women behind the pulpit still manage to actually love the people who put all these unrealistic demands on another human being. (Starting to see why I am glad I have never felt called to a *real* ministry position?)

The idea that ministers get a fancy degree so that they can live a life of luxury is one of the silliest myths ever foisted on the American public. Most of the men and women I know serving our body are working hard to provide for a family, spiritual and biological, while attempting to pay back all the student loans they took out so that they could teach with knowledge and integrity.

And I would be willing to wager that 98% of those glitzy preachers you see on TV have never darkened the doors of a seminary other than as a guest speaker. One of the sad truths of our day is people are more than willing to throw money at anyone who is willing to tickle their ears with unfounded promises passed off as Biblical. Charisma and blindingly white teeth gets you far more followers today than solid teaching. Boys and girls, that should scare and sadden you because that type of pseudo-Christianity always crumbles under the burdens of real life and that is all the world is going to remember about these charlatans when their day of reckoning comes – not that these men and women taught a false gospel, but that gospel is false.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one who knows that American church looking for slick packaging. The leaders of the second biggest money making Christian enterprise do too. Seminaries know that many of their perspective students want one thing, a degree that legitimizes their place behind a pulpit. They, like their students, know that hanging a diploma on one’s wall is all the validation most congregations will look for. So the answer? Cut the hard programs. Cut the subjects that require the most dedication and time to master. Offer classes that teach their students how to run the business of church, marketing courses, and retain just enough Bible classes to still warrant the title of Christian. Those are degrees that people will pay for, and that is what will allow seminaries to keep the doors open.

On the surface, it seems like a good plan. Seminaries are struggling to stay alive, and survival is only going to become more difficult when religious institutions lose their tax exempt status. By offering easier course material, they can attract more students. Cutting the hours required for a degree makes seminary an option for those unwilling or unable to devote years and thousands of dollars in getting an education. Lightening the educational load would save future pastors thousands of dollars and make entering the ministry less cumbersome, at least in the financial realm. Pastors might actually be able to make it on a pastor's salary if they didn't have to pay back a mountain of student loans, and going to school while pastoring a church might be an option if it didn't take up so much time. In some ways, it seems like dumbing down the curriculum is the lesser of two evils – people still get a Biblical education even if it is of a lesser quality than the education of previous generations and it beats shutting down all together. 

However, this is short sighted at best and fraudulent at worst. We need men and women who are willing to commit to doing whatever it takes to learn more about this amazing revelation of God we call the Bible. We need people who are willing to wrestle through the intricacies of Greek and try to pin down the abstractions of Hebrew. We need people who will stand against those who pervert God’s word for personal gain, and we need people who know a lie when they hear it because they have been so immersed in the text that any twisted message sends shivers down their spines like cat claws on a chalk board. But most of all, we need people who love the Word and want to share that love the Word with the world.

Sadly, by cutting the language requirements and offerings in seminary we deny these men and women the chance to learn and, in turn, teach about their passion. And this is not merely the problem of perspective students, this is problem that will ripple throughout the church as leaders are allowed to lead in ignorance while professing to have knowledge, congregations will not have access to the informed teaching. Perversion of Scripture will go unchecked, and there will be no one to hold the leaders of tomorrow’s church accountable for their handling of the Word. Christianity will simply continue its downward slide into pop psychology and arm chair philosophy, as we love only those whose teachings bring them pleasure.

And what happens one day, in the very near future, when someone spouts off, “Unless you know the Hebrew and Greek you have no idea what the Bible really says”? Will we just keep picking shrapnel out of our skin? Or will we have someone in our midst who can stand up and say, “I do. I know those languages, and I can testify to the integrity of God's Word”? 

*Not everyone is called to devote their lives to this type of study, but you can help those who are. I will be sharing some ideas in an upcoming post on how you can be a part of persevering our heritage of faith.

Photo from Photopin

What's in a name? Psalm 107

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD for he is good.” Psalms 107:1a

In the past two posts, we have looked at the background for this Psalm and the first word.. In this one we are going to look at the next key word in the verse, “LORD.”

Now, there have been volumes and libraries written on this particular name of God, and there is no way that I could begin to share everything this name has to teach us about the nature and person of God. However, we can get a glimpse into the significance of its use here, and in doing so, we can establish some principles for understanding when we encounter it in other passages.
Before we go any further, I would ask you to take the time to grab your Bible and to simply read this verse. As you do look for anything that you might consider strange.

Do you see it?

If you have a newer translation of the Bible, you probably noticed that the word LORD is in all caps. Did you ever wonder why the translators chose to do that? After all, none of the other names for God get this treatment, so why this one? To find the answer you have to dig back into the Hebrew, or know someone who will do it for you. (You’re welcome.)

If you were to read this in the Hebrew the name you would find is יהוה, sometimes referred to as the Tetragrammaton or the unspeakable name of God. So what do you do if something is unspeakable? You come up with a code word, a substitution, and the substitution in Hebrew is Adonai. So when you read the text in Hebrew, you see the name of God written out as יהוה but when reading it out loud you simply say Adonai in its place. The reader is fully aware of which name is being used, but it is just not spoken.

This posed a bit of a problem for English translations. How do you convey what is in the original text while still honoring the command that would Hebrew readers would have followed, not to speak this name? Translating it as Adonai would not work since adonai is a rather a generic term of respect that simply means lord. We find it used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures: Abraham is called lord, there are Philistine lords, and Jael even called Sisera lord - right before she pounds a tent peg through his skull. So there is no guarantee that when we see this word in the English that the Bible is talking about God. The solution? Translate adonai as lord, but when the Tetragrammaton is used write LORD in all caps so that the English readers would know the real name being used.

Now, back to our text, and we begin with a question: Why did the Psalmist use this term for God? There are a multiplicity of names that he could have chosen from. Elohim, for instance, is the name Moses used for God when he wrote Genesis, so why not chose that name? You know, one were allowed to say or sing in this case? This is a song lyric after all.

In Biblical theology there are rules for interpretation, and one of these is known as the “Law of First Mention.” Basically, it boils down to the way are to understand a word, term, idea, or even the letters of the Hebrew alphabet is to look at when it was first mentioned or appears in the text. Elohim, for example, is first mentioned in Genesis 1:1 when God is creating the heavens and the earth. So when we see this name we are to think of Creator God, and if we were to look at every passage where this name of God is used we would find that is somehow connected with the concept of creation.

In contrast, we do not encounter the Tetragrammaton until Exodus 3 when Moses encounters God at the Burning Bush. Think about what is going on at that time. God’s people are trapped in slavery.
There is no hope for them aside from his direct intervention. They need a miracle that will change not just the circumstances of their life. They need a new identity, or more accurately, they need to be returned to the identity God had given them so long ago as the children of Abraham and live as people of promise once more. To use a theological term, they needed to be redeemed, and it all begins here with God revealing himself to Moses with name יהוה, “I am that I am” or more precisely, “I will be what I will be.” And as the story unfolds, we see God revealed as redeemer and king. A God who can change realities and give identity and purpose. A God who changes slaves into a nation, and the oppressed into the means of deliverance for the whole world in the person of Jesus.

So what is the Psalmist trying to tell us? He wants us to think of God in the context of redemption. He wants us to remember that burning bush and the revelation of God’s loving response to his people. He is asking us to recall how God fought on behalf of his chosen one, and how through his love they became something so much greater than who they were. He is uniting us to a history that testifies of God’s goodness. He is reminding us that this history is our history, and we serve the same God as those who witnessed the plagues of Egypt and the miracles in the desert.

I think that we could all stand to be reminded of this truth. I know I have days when I am standing somewhere between the Red Sea and armies of Pharaoh that try to destroy my life, terrified there is no way out, and that is when I need the reminder. The God who split the Red Sea is the same God I serve. He did not change. He is still in the business of deliverance and redemption. He is just waiting for me to call out, to confess that I need him in my world and circumstance, and allow him some room to work. The history of Israel’s redemption is the story of my redemption, and it is the stories of others that we are encouraged to believe there is redemption for all who seek him.

I, too, am nothing more than a runaway slave. Each and every time, I make my escape it chases after me trying to drag me back to a place where I am defined by sins decrees. I need a God who will who will part the waters and make a way for me into the wilderness, a place where I become something new in his presence, and do what only the free can do – sing the praises of the LORD whose lovingkindness is everlasting.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Digging Deeper Psalm 107

Well, I bet you thought I was done writing about Psalms 107:1, 2, but yesterday's post barely scratched the surface. One of the really amazing things about the Bible is that has been so perfectly crafted that each and every part ties in with every other part. How deep and far you go with a Bible study is determined only by your strength of character and will. I can honestly say that I have never fully exhausted the significance or beauty of a single verse no matter how many times I have dissected it. There is always something marvelous to discover.

Let’s begin with the first words, “give thanks”.  In the Hebrew this is a single word, הֹדוּ, which conveniently enough means “give thanks”, but one the things you quickly learn about Hebrew is that is rarely that simple. It is a language of pictures and images that take us beyond the abstract and move us into realm of action.

Allow me to demonstrate. If I were simply to list the definitions provided in the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB), you would find that the root of this word means to throw or to cast, confess, or to shoot an arrow as well as to give thanks. When you find such a diverse definition you have to fight off our rather English speaking tendency to focus simply on one while ignoring the rest. For someone who grew up speaking Hebrew all of these images would have been brought to mind even as they understood the primary meaning intended by the speaker or writer. It was in the multiplicity of images that the nuances that escape the translators grasp that the original audience would have understood the directive within this word.

To cast or to throw and to shoot an arrow are terms of warfare and precision. Remember that this song was commissioned by David, and what is he best known for? I believe it had something to do with a stone cast at a giant. Do you think it was an accident that a Psalm written at his behest included this term? Neither do I. We could pause here and consider the Hebrew word for sin, חׇטׇן, which includes a definition of “missing the goal or way”. Is there the implication that giving thanks is how we strive to hit the mark? Maybe. I think a case could be made, but I will let you ponder that while we move on.

Confess, now there is an interesting definition. As a reader, we should ask how this fits into the theme of the verse. If read further, we find that “the redeemed of the Lord (should) say so.” When you start putting the pieces together you begin to see that thanksgiving requires an acknowledgment of what has been done, and in this case God has been in the business of redeeming what was lost – the Ark of the Covenant and his people. So what did they have to confess? That they had been lost, that in a symbolic way they had lost him and his presence, that they needed redemption, and without that component they have nothing to be thankful for because God would have had nothing to do.  

If we do some more digging, we find that this word is used again in the Proverbs. (And who wrote Proverbs? Solomon, David’s son. Do I detect another connection?) Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his faults will never succeed. He who confesses (הֹדוּ) and gives them up to the LORD will be shown compassion.” Compassion, lovingkindness…I think I beginning to see a theme.  

And all of these things would have been communicated with that single word! To anyone who grew up speaking this amazing language, and they would have never needed all the two hundred and seventy six study guides I have my shelves or the five years I spent in seminary to figure it out.

Now if you still think you aren’t digging deep enough, let’s look at the letters for a moment. Remember Hebrew was not always written the way we see it today. It originated in pictographs and each letter has not only picture that is associated with it, it also has a concept embodied by that picture.

Let’s take the first letter of the word, ה. (Oh, and you should know that with Hebrew, we read right to left.) It is pronounced “hey”. To explain how we get to this letter’s meaning, we would have to make two trips around Katy’s barn and one to Egypt, so I’ll just let you look that up if you are so inclined, but it means revelation or breath – both concepts bound up tightly together throughout the Bible.

The second letter in our word is the ד, and it represents a door. Doors are places of entry, and the guest that we would desire to enter into this life and world is God. We invite him in through our actions and prayers.

The final letter is the ו, pronounced vav. It is a hook. Some say it is a peg or a nail, but the principle is the same. It is used to join things together.

Now that you know what each letter symbolizes, you can put them all together. God reveals (or manifests) himself, to enter into our lives and world, so that we might be joined with him.

(This is where I totally geek out.)

What else has the power to move a person to give thanks than God’s manifest presence? What could be more natural than to be thankful that he has enter our world? Could there be a more compelling reason to sing our thanksgiving than God joining with us? What else could drive us to confess our need of him than a revelation of our redeemer and king, and do so not in abject despair but in joyful thankfulness?  

But it is not a one way street, for intrinsic to the design is God’s response to our thanksgiving and confession. For as we move towards him, he is moving towards us. The lovingkindness that we had only glimpsed from afar, perhaps a vague memory of time before our birth, floods into this world as he enthrones himself on our praise. The goodness that had been a mere shadow before now manifest in dazzling splendor as he joins with us to redeem us as his own. As our outpouring of love pierces his heart like an arrow, he responds according to his nature causing us to delight in presence ever more deeply.

All the opposing, complimentary, completing, and balancing concepts bound up so tightly in a single word! Everything affirming that God’s ultimate desire is to live among us, to move and be moved by those who love him. At once, he gives us the action and result so that we can know they are but two sides of the same coin, concurrent and indivisible is his presence and our thankful confession of his love.

*There is so much more to go with these two verses. If you are interested in more of what I am learning in this homework assignment, let me know in the comments so I will know to keep sharing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Oh Give Thanks To The Lord"

Oh, give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy say so.  Psalm 107:1, 2

You don’t have to hang around my friend, Dennis Jernigan, very long to realize that this is probably in his top ten of favorite Bible passages. So I wasn’t surprised when he gave us this passage as our homework two weeks ago.

Now, I will be the first to admit that when I think of an in-depth Bible study Psalms is one of the last books I turn to. I mean, after all, its songs, right? How much analysis does a song really need? Either it speaks truth or doesn’t, case closed. And these verses seem pretty straight forward to me. So with a barely suppressed eye-roll, I dove in – more out of obligation than enthusiasm.   

But guess what? It seems I had a thing or two to learn after all. (Don’t make me start naming names of people who need to stop being so smug. I can feel your smirks through the computer, and you don’t know it all either.)

First of all, we were asked to look up the writer and the circumstance that lead to the writing of this particular Psalm. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Unlike many of the Psalms there is no intro included for this one, and if you go to the popular commentary sites you are going to find something that has run amuck in Biblical scholarship – the attempt to suppress anything prophetic within the Scriptures. Most sites are going to tell you that this was written sometime after the return of Babylonian exiles to the land of Israel. However, there is a major flaw in this argument, and if you take the Bible as a reliable source of history you have to dismiss what all the cool kids are saying and go by what is in the Word.

Which leads us to 1 Chronicles 16. I won’t type it all out here, but if you go and read it yourself (which I always recommend) you will find that David has just recovered the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. The man is stoked. He is dancing in what is roughly the ancient equivalent of his tighty-whites, he has offered up sacrifices to God, and he is dishing up some sweet raisin cakes for the ladies. If this wasn’t enough, he decides that old tunes just aren’t going to cut it anymore and he commissions Asaph and his kinsmen to write up some new songs – the first of which is recorded right there in 1 Chronicles 16.

If you take some time and do some deep reading the first thing you are going to discover is this is a medley of Psalm 96, 105, 106, and 107. The Psalms and the passage from Chronicles share verses that are similar and some that are verbatim. Time and space prohibit me from going over them all, but let’s just look at one verse:

O, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Ring a bell?

So why is this important? I am so glad you asked. The reason is that it shows us the magnitude and greatness of Scripture. This Psalm was written in celebration. The Ark of the Covenant was home! The importance of this cannot be overstated. God’s presence was manifest over the Ark as he led them through the wilderness, the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments were inside of it, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna – all the things that reminded them of God’s redeeming power demonstrated in the Exodus from Egypt and in the birth of their nation.

Yet, even as they sang these songs in the time of their joy, it would function as a prophetic word for the time to come. When Babylon swept in and stole, not only the Ark of the Covenant, but the people of the Covenant. God’s true treasure on this earth, and where he desires to be most manifest, in the hearts and lives of his people. It was in remembering God’s promises that the people found the courage and strength to keep going and to cling to their identity in a foreign land. They would sing these songs in their homes, over themselves, and each other reminding them of what God had done in the past and would do in the future.

For us there is an incredible lesson in this. As believers, we live in a land where we don’t belong. We may not even know what our true home looks like, we just know that it isn’t here. Everyone around us wants us to forget, to just give up and fit in. No more fights about abortion, homosexuality, and transgender bathrooms. No more squabbles over red cups, pagan holidays, and legalized marijuana. Life would be easier, simpler if we just forgot who we were and what we believe.

But to do that we would have to forget the God who redeems, the God who delivers, and the God who never forgot we are his. So how do we remember him? How do we remember who we are? We proclaim it, even when we can’t see it. We sing the songs of truth, of his promises fulfilled in the past with faith that we will see them in our future. We have been redeemed once as we stepped into relationship with him, and we will be redeemed again out of this exile in a strange land. So until then don’t stop singing, don’t let anyone steal the truth of your song, and sing for those who have yet to hear the music of his love so that they may know the truth.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Reader's Question: Why Are Unwed Mothers Treated Like Pariahs?

“The research that I have done on Mary turns up different results. Some believe that she was married to Joseph before the birth of Christ, some say that she wasn’t, and others say she was betrothed and that was a good as being married. If she was not married before Christ’s birth, why are unwed mothers treated as pariahs in many churches? Especially churches that teach that Mary was not wed when she gave birth?”

Okay, let me say up front that I love this question for many reasons. First of all, I love that this reader DID RESEARCH! Secondly, I love she is attempting to do what so many of us Christians fail to do, she is trying to make a connection between what the Bible tells us and how we apply it in our lives – and did I mention that she isn’t a believer? (There is an entire lesson in that for those of us who claim the Christian faith.) Third, when she ran into a road block she asked for help.

To begin, let’s break this down because we really have three questions here, and each are important. The first question is: What was Mary’s marital state when she had Jesus?

Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:27 both tell us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph when she is receives the news that she is going to give birth by supernatural means. The difficulty in this for modern readers is that we do not have anything that resembles an ancient betrothal in time, so we really do not know what or how much significance to place on this event. To avoid getting to bogged down in minutia, I will keep it simple.

Betrothal was essentially the legal component of the marriage. This was when all the agreements and promises were made, and the groom would begin the preparing a home for his bride based on those promises. During this time, he proved his commitment by tangibly investing his time, money, and labor into creating their new home. In turn, she would prove her devotion by waiting for him in her father’s home and refraining from any behavior that would dishonor him. What is important to understand is that while they were legally married, they had not yet consummated the marriage. In plain English, they had not had sex nor would they until the day he came to claim his bride and take her to their new home.

It was during this preparation time that Mary became pregnant with Jesus. As believers, we believe the conception was supernatural and that she was still a virgin when this happened. I know, it doesn’t make sense as we all understand that the pregnancy game requires two players, but that is why it requires faith to be a Christian. This is also why Joseph toyed with the idea of having Mary put away. He thought she had cheated on him until God told him otherwise.

So to answer the question more directly: She was legally married to Joseph, but they had not yet had sex.

Now I said there are three questions, but to be more accurate there are two but this one has two aspects that need to be addressed: Why are unwed mothers treated like pariahs?

First, we need to understand the importance of sex within the Christian culture. In the Bible, sex is one of the most vivid metaphors for our relationship with God. Think of it like a physical mirror of what is happening in the spiritual realm. In marriage, we forsake all others to be faithful to one who has committed to living a life that creates a future for the two of you to share together. The expressions of love through sexual intimacy transcend physical and momentary pleasure, and become a declaration of unity and devotion to each other that literally reshapes reality. No longer can sex be selfish or uncaring as true unity in intimacy requires compassion and concern for the totality of the other’s existence.

This should be the aspiration of all Christians in regard to God – that we are walking in love and devotion to every aspect of God we can even begin to comprehend so that intimacy deepens and becomes a life giving force for our world. No other human event encompasses this principle like sex within a committed marriage. For this reason, we place a high value on sex in the physical realm and place our sexuality and expressions of sexuality under the God’s authority which means no sex outside of marriage.

So that is the principle that so many Christians think they are defending when they look at unwed mothers as pariahs, and the first aspect that needed to be addressed in answering the question.

The second aspect is this:

Christians can be stupid.

Too many times we get so caught up in trying to defend God and the things we believe that we forget that God does not need our help. (Unless you happen to worshipping some god inferior to the one presented in the Bible, in which case, that god may very well need it, but let’s be honest about who or what you are really worshipping.) God calls us to compassion.

People make mistakes and they screw up (sometimes literally). People get into bad situations that are beyond their control, and people live in a world that our own Bible tells us is corrupted – so shit happens. And if there is an unwed mother in your church, you should be taking this as an opportunity to walk in the love and grace that has been given to you. Stop acting as if it is in short supply and you need to hoard it all to yourself.

Being a single mom is hard. I know, I have been there. And it isn’t up to anyone on this side of heaven to mete out proper chastisement for a woman’s life choices. God has that covered. And what if she there seeking him, seeking answers, and trying to build a better life for her and her child(ren)? Do you really want to be held accountable for standing in her way or the way of her children? Jesus has some pretty harsh things to say to people who cause “the least of these to stumble.” (Matthew 18:6).

And another thing, church ladies, you need to get over your insecurities and fears. Most women are not there trying to steal your man away, and if he can be stolen you have bigger problems than the woman you want to brand with a scarlet letter. And church men, you need to get something straight too. Just because a woman has obviously been sexually active with another man, it does not mean she hot and ready to put out for you. Believing that just reveals that you need to repent of your pride and lust.

The book of James tells us that true religion is taking care of the widow and orphan. When he wrote that an orphan was anyone without a father. That means that you, the CHURCH, should be stepping up and helping take care of those kids, and you cannot do that if you are cowering if fear or roaring in judgement against their mother. It is time you acknowledge and support her choice to do the right thing, to step up and raise her child in a time when babies are disposable, and being free from the consequences of this life is as easy as trip to a clinic or a call to DHS. You are not being wise or holy for condemning her, you are simply revealing how great your own fears are and how small you believe God to be. So exercise some real faith, demonstrate some real love, and practice that religion that you tell everyone you value so highly because the world has enough hypocrisy it doesn’t need your's.