Friday, July 30, 2010

Expelled For Being A Christian

This week I read a story about a woman who was expelled from a graduate program in counseling because of her Christian beliefs.  Sound unlikely?  Read that article at this link, because not only is it true, but a federal judge upheld the expulsion after a lawsuit was filed.  To summarize the situation, the student had previously stated that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice, and not something innate.  She also stated that she felt that according to her Christian beliefs that homosexuality was immoral.  According to the university officials and the judge, the expulsion was a rational decision.

“Furthermore, the university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values,” he wrote in a portion of his ruling posted by The Detroit News. “In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs – including homosexual relationships.”

Apparently her opposition to homosexuals violated the American Counseling Association's code of ethics, even though there is never any mention that she specifically acted against homosexuals or condemned them.  Merely that her beliefs found this lifestyle objectionable.  Then, she was apparently told that she could stay in the program if she changed her beliefs.

Ward’s attorneys claim the university told her she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system about homosexuality.

I find this whole story very disturbing. Here we have a woman who is trying to pursue a career that will let her help people in difficult situations.  Because she happened to have a belief system that was opposed to a particular behavior, officials and a judge have acted against her.  All of this merely because she held to her Christian beliefs.  And unfortunately, this sort of thing is becoming more common.  It seems that we in modern society are expected to accept all ways of life except Christianity.  Muslim sharia law is being adopted in many non-Muslim countries because we're supposed to accept Islamic beliefs; some Muslims are trying to do this in the US.  Homosexuality is now merely another lifestyle, and one as acceptable as heterosexuality.  Promiscuity and premarital sex are a routine and accepted part of daily life.  Adultery is used as a common device in many TV shows and few consequences come of it.  All of these activities and beliefs are "normal" for society.  Criticizing these sorts of things is becoming less and less acceptable.  In fact, if you talk against homosexuality, Islam, or other things, you are labeled as insensitive and a bigot.

Yet Christianity is fair game for criticism.  If we are supposed to accept "alternate" beliefs and lifestyles, why can't they accept ours?  If everyone's beliefs are supposed to be treated equally and respectfully, why can't anyone respect Biblical beliefs?  Supposedly "open minded" and liberal people are only accepting of teachings and beliefs that agree with theirs.  Start paying attention to when they talk.  They speak a lot of "acceptance", "equality", and "tolerance".  Yet the minute you disagree with them their tolerance suddenly goes away.

If we're not careful, Christian beliefs will continue to erode.  We have to make a stand and not back down from our beliefs.  Yet we also have to understand that what is happening was already spoken of in the Bible.  Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted like He was.  But if we are firm in our beliefs and don't compromise, we can delay the complete degradation of our society.

Ms. Julea Ward, my prayers are with you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Being Effective And Productive

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
2 Peter 1:5-8

As I was reading my Bible today this passage stuck out to me.  I've been reading Peter's epistles because I really relate to him and find him my favorite Biblical figure.  I've been seeking ways to become closer to God and to handle certain disappointments in my life.  I've been wanting stronger faith in trusting what God wants of me.  Then I read this passage.  So let's break it down.

"Make every effort."  God knows that we're not perfect and we will fail at times.  However, He also expects us to strive to do our best.  We're not supposed to give a half-hearted try, but are expected to make EVERY effort.  Every single way we can think of to accomplish what He wants.

"Add to your faith goodness..."  We start with faith.  That is the basis for everything else.  Faith in God and what He can do.  Faith in Christ and what He did.  Once we have that faith we should add "goodness".  The exact definition of this can be open to interpretation, but I take it to mean being good.  Doing good deeds, treating people nice, and so on.  No, we're not saved by our works.  But our faith is shown by our works, and God calls us to treat others with love.

"And to goodness, knowledge..."  We need to know God and know the Bible.  We need to study His Word and understand it.  By having knowledge of God, we increase our ability to know Him and defend ourselves against Satan.

"And to knowledge, self-control..."  Now I find this an interesting addition.  Self-control against what? Anger.  Lust.  Envy.  Hatred.  Just pick your sin.  Whenever we find ourselves in situations that go against God's wishes, we need to control our own urges.  Following sinful impulses can lead us into big trouble, and that's not what God wants.

"And to self-control, perseverance..." Tough times are going to happen, and we're going to have struggles.  We need to keep trudging on and persevere in these times.  When hardships hit them the Apostles didn't give up.  We shouldn't either, no matter how difficult things may get.

"And to perseverance, godliness..."  Godliness.  Acting like God.  We're imperfect and unholy and we can't be God.  We're only human, and can't reach the perfection of the human Christ.  However, that doesn't mean that we can't strive for these characteristics, practicing love, patience, forgiveness, understanding, and so on.  Jesus was on this Earth to be an example for us, and we should follow that example.

"And to godliness, brotherly kindness..."  We are to love and be kind to other people.  We are expected to treat them like brothers.  Even when people aren't being kind to us (or maybe especially when this happens) we are to treat them like beloved family members.  When we see someone in need, we are to reach out to them and give them kindness.

"And to brotherly kindness, love."  I don't think it's insignificant that this is the final thing in the list.  God calls us to love each other and all that implies.  The other characteristics in this list all boil down to love...loving God and loving others.

So if we have all of these qualities (faith, goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) we can be productive and effective.  By knowing more about Christ we can emulate Him better.  When we're more like Christ, we can do amazing things in our own lives and the lives of others.  Let's all strive to have these characteristics and be more effective for Christ.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Strength And Joy

One of the songs we sing in church is Chris Tomlin's "Holy Is The Lord God Almighty."  I love Chris Tomlin's songs, and think that he really is blessed by God for the kinds of lyrics he sings.  There is one part of this song that stood out to us this morning.

We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship Him now
How great, how awesome is He

One of the principles behind this song comes from chapter 8 of the book of Nehemiah.

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

One of our congregation pointed out that we are weak, and we have nothing by ourselves.  We feel downtrodden and discouraged, often unable to make it through our days.  I know that I feel like that many days.  My work and the trials of life wear me down and I feel like just laying down and pulling a blanket over my head.  What can help me overcome that?

The joy of the Lord.  THAT is MY strength!

So what is the "joy of the Lord?"  If you read this passage of Nehemiah in context, you'll see that the Israelites are told to be joyful after they have heard God's word and had the meaning explained to them.  In other words, they read their equivalent of the Bible, understood it, and took all of those things into their hearts.  When they were sad and weak, those words would come back to them and give them strength.  The stories and laws of God helped them when they felt they had nothing else.

Look at Jesus' words...

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:11-13)

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (John 17:13)

Jesus' words are the source of Joy.  And since the Bible calls Jesus "the Word" (John 1:1), we can say that Jesus himself is the source of Joy.  Jesus and the Bible are the "joy of the Lord".   When we need strength, where do we go?  To these sources.

Know the Bible.  Know Jesus.  Then you will have Strength.

Friday, July 16, 2010

God LOVES Nerds!

Today I came across this little doozy.  Apparently a church is protesting the San Diego ComiCon by having signs that read "God Hates Nerds". This is the same group that has their home page address as "".  They have become infamous in the media for protesting funerals, celebrating dead soldiers, and other hateful things.  I've been fuming for most of the day because of their latest actions.

My participation in the ministry of Fans For Christ has shown me that there are some good, born-again, Christian people that like sci-fi, anime, comic books, and attend cons.  Heck, I'm one of them.  Interest in these things doesn't exclude you from being a Christian.  A main focus of FFC is to show non-Christian fans that Christianity is inclusive, not exclusive, and that not all Christians are spiteful and hateful.

I went to the church's site and read more about their beliefs.  The more I read the more upset that I became.  Yes, they bring up scriptures to support their viewpoints.  And yes, God does abhor sinful behaviors.  But the message of the New Testament is that God loves everybody and wants everybody to come to Him.  No matter what the sinful behavior, it can be forgiven and you can have a relationship with God.  Yes, sometimes Jesus was blunt and even harsh, but he was also loving, patient, and forgiving.  This group seems to be concentrating on the former and forgetting the latter.

I also have to wonder just how many people will seek Jesus because of signs like "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates Nerds".  As a Christian that turns me off.  If God is really that hateful, I don't want to have anything to do with him.  Now I know that God isn't really like this, so I can see their error.  But what about people whose only exposure to Christianity is groups like this?  What does this group project that people would actually want.  They don't even believe in praying for the salvation of sinners!!!  Yes, that's right...says it right there in their FAQ.

I really wish I could be there when God sits down to have a few words about love and forgiveness with these people.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are You Listening?

God speaks to us.  Yes, we probably realize that but do we really understand it?  Personally, I'm often waiting for Hm to write in flaming letters on the wall or move the clouds around into a picture of what He has in mind.  When that happens we have the tendency to wonder if God is really speaking to us.

I think the real question isn't whether or not God speaks, it's whether or not we're listening.  And I think that listening can be the hardest part.  How many times during our day do we not really hear what someone has to say.  We think we heard one thing when the person said another.  Or maybe we didn't quite catch what the person said and ask them to repeat it.  We're distracted by things around us such as noises, other events, our own thoughts, and so on.  If it's hard to hear someone that's physically close to us, how hard can it be to hear the quiet voice of God?

I'm a veterinarian by profession. When I'm listening to a pet's heart, there are a number of things that can prevent me from hearing clearly.  If the pet is panting or purring, those sounds can overwhelm the heart.  If there are a lot of background noises they can drown out what I'm trying to hear.  And there are some heart murmurs that are very subtle and take very careful listening.  In cases like that we may have to try to get the pet to breathe more slowly or go into a quiet room.  We are trained to try and eliminate outside distractions so that we can focus just on the sound of the heart.  When a murmur is soft, those distractions can affect whether or not we catch a problem.

Listening to God is similar.  Many times those outside distractions overwhelm His voice, preventing us from hearing what He wants to say. And to our detriment, we allow ourselves to be distracted.  We concentrate so much on things around us and even our own thoughts that we fail to hear God.

So what do we do?  The same things I do when I'm trying to hear a dog's heart.  Make ourselves slow down and relax.  Mentally eliminate all other "noises" of the world.  And physically move to a quieter location where there is less to distract us.  Once we've done all of that, we need to actually listen.  So much of our prayer time is us talking to God.  He loves that, but sometimes we need to stop talking and just listen with all of our heart and mind.

Then we will hear God.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Less Of Me

Something hit me today (no not literally).  My quest to do The Love Dare with God has been all about focusing on Him.  Each of the task has had me think of God and how I relate to him.  The idea behind it is that God becomes the most important thing in my life and not myself.

John the Baptist thought similarly.  As recorded in John 3, when he was recognized as coming before the Messiah he downplayed his own importance.  He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)  John recognized that emphasizing himself was the wrong thing to do.  God is infinitely greater than we are, and we are nothing compared to Him.  When we want to see Him working, often we get in the way.  We spend so much time trying to do things ourselves and forget that God is the one who really gets things done.  Whether it's in our lives or in a ministry, in prayer or in a specific need, we work hard to reach a goal or accomplish a task.  The less that happens, the more we put effort into it.  Then we get frustrated when it doesn't happen.

Too many times I concentrate on me and my needs.  Me, me, me.  My, my, my.  I, I, I.  What I really need to do is focus on God.  As hard as it is, I need to let go of my problems and turn them over to Him.  I need to keep Christ the primary focus of my life.  My thoughts and prayers need to be more about Him than about myself.  It needs to be less about me and more about Him.

If we change our focus, we can see God at work.  It's like emptying a vessel.  When we pour ourselves out, God can pour Himself in.  And when we let God be the main thing in our lives we will see things happen that are impossible through ourselves.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Good Read

Something interesting has happened in the last few days.  I've started really wanting to read my Bible.  Yes, this may seem like a no-brainer for a Christian, but I'll admit that reading it has often been something I know I should do and not something I want to do.  But a few days ago when I did my Love Dare about putting other distractions aside, I started reading the Bible before getting on the computer.  Since then I find myself looking forward to reading scripture, and spending more time really paying attention to what I'm reading. 

This is a good thing!

As I near the end of the 40-day Love Dare (yes, for those keeping track I missed a few days so I'm a little behind) I feel like I might just be succeeding in being closer to God.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting Rid Of Distractions

Lately my Love Dare challenges have had to do with eliminating distractions in my life, especially sin.  Sometimes that's not as easy as you would imagine.  There are so many things in life that can distract us from God:  work, family, bills, TV, computers, books, and so on.  We spend so much time on these other things and comparatively little time reading the Bible and praying.  Our true priorities are reflected in how we arrange our time.

So today before getting on the computer I read my Bible and prayed.  I read my next challenge in the Love Dare and spent some time with God.  This was backward from my normal routine but felt really nice.  It was more relaxing to spend those moments in the Word than on my laptop.

So as I go into my last week or so of the challenge, pray that I continue to put Him first.