Marriage: What's Love go to do with it?

Sadly, the President and V.P.'s stance on marriage is a continuing erosion of the sanctity of marriage.  Many (like myself) believe marriage is a God ordained, lifelong sacred act between a man and a woman.  As such, those who support a traditional view of marriage see same sex marriage as a profane assault on that institution.  Because of our beliefs, we are labeled as archaic, small-minded, bigoted, homophobic, and anti civil rights.  
The President and his supporters have redefined marriage as an act between “two loving, committed and faithful adults.”  As Joe Biden says, it's all about, "Who do you love?"  However, I wonder why they are being so judgmental and narrow minded in their definition of marriage?  If it is only about who you love, then shouldn’t fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, and brothers and sisters, be allowed to get married as long as both parties are of legal age and do so willingly?  However, why limit marriage to only two people?  Isn’t that somewhat narrow-minded?  So maybe the President should advocate for the changing of the laws against bigamy.  After all, as long as these people love each other, isn't that all that matters? 
But wait, what's love got to do with it anyway?  What right does the President, or anyone else for that matter, have in limiting marriage to only the "committed," "faithful" and "loving"?  Isn't that just a little judgmental?  Shouldn't anyone, for any reason, be able to get married?  If you disagree, then you must have some preconceived idea of what a marriage entails.  And thus begs the question: “What ultimately shapes your ideas regarding marriage?”  Dare I say, if you are offended by the broadening views I speak of, is that an indication of a marriage phobia, fueled by small-minded bigotry aimed at the heart civil rights? 
The good news is you need not despair.  There is hope.  If you have an open mind and a willingness to evolve, you can shed your limited views on marriage and become more enlightened.  You can learn to embrace the institution of marriage as a great temporary bastion of self-satisfying happiness, centered on civil rights for the promotion of societal benefits.  Isn't that what it is really all about anyway?  I'm sure that one day many will come to embrace that belief.  Oh wait, silly me, that day has dawned.   : (

You Can't Handle the Truth

In the 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson's character) is grilled on the witness stand by a young lawyer, Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise's). An excerpt of their engagement goes as follows:
Jessep: “You want answers?”
Kaffee: “I think I’m entitled to them.”
Jessep: “You want answers?”
Kaffee: “I want the truth!”
Jessep: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“You can’t handle the truth!” went on to become one of the most memorable and quoted movie lines of the 1990’s. It was most often used in a joking manner when someone was questioned about whether or not they were being truthful. Ironically, there is “Truth” behind the words, “You can’t handle the truth.”

Like Lt. Kaffee we think we are entitled to the truth. From an early age parental and authority figures tell us how important it is to be honest, and to tell the truth. We grow-up expecting and even demanding it from others. However, we are seldom, if ever, taught how to receive and handle the truth, which is the main focus of this article. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we really “can handle the truth.” First, in order to receive truth we need to understand how difficult it may be for a person to tell the truth. Secondly, we need to prepare ourselves to hear the truth when we ask for it, so that we can respond appropriately. Lastly, once we hear the truth we need to filter it through love and grace. Let me explain.

Truth be told (pun intended), lying, deceiving and betraying others comes naturally to us. Think about it, even very young children will frequently lie when faced with the possibility of unpleasant consequences for their actions. Young children develop this behavior, which they carry into adulthood. Whether we are young or old, the reasons for lying are as varied as the persons themselves. Some lie about trivial matters, such as when being asked their opinion regarding a friend’s new haircut or outfit. Small wonder than that even the most honest of people will lie or attempt to deceive when faced with significant consequences like, legal matters, loss of a friendship/relationship, or job. As we further examine why people lie, it seems these behaviors may be rooted in one or all of the following categories. We feel ashamed of our actions, we are afraid of how others will see us, or judge us, we are afraid of the consequences we could face, we are afraid of how the truth may affect others, or we are afraid of not being liked. What is apparent is that fear is oftentimes the driving force behind the propensity to lie.

Christians, and non-Christians alike, value the truth when it benefits them. However, when the truth hurts we can be far less receptive. This especially holds true when we feel victimized by someone’s actions, such as when areas of trust have been violated. We start questioning someone regarding a matter, and when they tell us the truth we react inappropriately. By that I mean, we may withdraw from them and shun them. We may also become so angry that we lash out, using degrading and disparaging comments towards them (unbridled anger is considered a basic/primitive response and can be provoked by emotional pain). If we begin heaping insults, guilt or shame upon someone when they tell us the truth, our actions will likely not encourage their honesty. We could conceivably shutdown any opportunity for forthcoming information. Consider this, would you want to tell someone the truth if you knew they were going to excommunicate you from their life, insult you or explode in a rage? The bottom line is we can allow our feelings or victimization to get in the way of our hearing the truth. Sadly, our response may not only squelch the truth, but may impede working towards a solution and finding healing as well.

So, where does that leave us? Are we supposed to deny our feelings and sweep them under the rug? Are we not allowed to get angry when we’ve been lied to, or deceived by someone? O contraire, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and yet do not sin; don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” It’s perfectly okay to feel hurt and angry when we are lied to or betrayed. It’s part of our God given emotions. However, it is not okay to retaliate through uncontrolled anger and demeaning comments. While the person who told the truth should not expect to escape all consequences or receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, they are still entitled to be treated respectfully. If we can learn to filter our hearing of the truth through love and grace, we will be people who encourage truthfulness in all our dealings with others. Jesus solicited the truth from others because of the way he handled their truthfulness. He received it with seemingly an open and non-judgmental mind.

In conclusion, our demeanor when we are told the truth can have a huge impact on whether or not people are truthful with us. As Christians, we will serve our Master well if we receive the truth from others with love and grace. Remember earlier I mentioned how lying is rooted in fear. Well, conversely, perfect love cast out all fear, and the truth can help set people free from shame and guilt. How we receive the truth from someone could not only encourage them to be truthful now, but also in the future. Therefore, let us ask ourselves, am I someone who encourages others to be truthful and “Can I handle the truth?” Then let us ask God to give us the grace to do so.

The Journey is Part of the Destination

Well, we are in the Lenten Season, that six-week period of time leading up to Easter. For Christians, this is often times a period of reflection as we remember what our Lord has done for us. It is also a time to examine ourselves and how our lives match up with Jesus’ intent for them.

During this time of reflection and introspection, I have been fortunate to participate in a group study utilizing a book written by John Indermark, entitled, Traveling The Prayer Paths of Jesus. I thought I would share a couple of things from the book with you, as well as some personal insights.

Although I have been a Christian for many years, sadly I miss some of the simplest truths and messages from our Lord. A case in point is the example of prayer given by Jesus, often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-12)

While I have prayed this prayer for years, I never thought of how it is an inclusive prayer, one that acknowledges and inspires unity. It is about community. Notice how the words, our, us and we, are woven throughout the prayer. It does not say, My Father, and give me…, forgive me… Jesus undoubtedly knew our propensity for self-centeredness. His example helps us to include others. It’s not about just making our lives better and providing for our needs, but providing for the whole human race. God is the Father of all creation and thus the Father of all people. Whether or not some people recognize Him as their father is another issue. The prayer seems to cover all the necessities of life. It’s short and to the point. We would do well to remember it is the heart behind the prayer that moves God, not the length or floweriness of it. With that said, it does not mean we are not to pray for our own needs, or refer to God as our personal Father. But, it does open our eyes to the needs of all people. The book I spoke of earlier suggests praying parts of the prayer and then meditating on the meaning of those parts. It’s a good exercise.

The second part of this letter has to do with the above heading, “The Journey is Part of the Destination.” Sometimes in life we can become so goal specific that we fail to enjoy the journey toward accomplishing the goal. As we reflect on Easter we are reminded of God’s goal through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was aware of this goal as He stated He had come to do the will of His Father. That goal was to be born, sacrifice himself on a cross for the sins of the world, and be raised from the dead. What happened in between - well that was life my friends. While salvation through death on the cross was His goal, He remained in touch with, and available to, those He encountered along the way. They were not a nuisance, or interruption or distraction; rather, those encounters were opportunities to meet needs and save the lost. Jesus could have gone to His crucifixion without ever having engaged with the disciples or without having ever healed the sick. His dying on the cross and resurrection would have still accomplished the specific goal for which it was intended. However, a relationship with Christ and faith in Him would have likely suffered severely had He not taken time for others. The disciples would have not been developed in their personal walks with God the Father, had they not gotten a chance to know the Son. Countless people would have remained sick, blind, and lame. Those lives so deliberately and delicately touched by Jesus, would have continued to suffer with their ailments. It is evident, therefore, that Jesus not only came to save lives in the eternal sense, but in the physical sense as well. Trying to get someone to focus on eternal things can be difficult when their most basic of needs go unmet.

In our quest to share Jesus with the world, let us embrace some of the seemingly distractions of life. Allow yourself to embrace and engage people and places, even when they disrupt your goal or routine. By doing so, we are following Christ example and are a more powerful witness of His love. While being with God for eternity is most assuredly our goal as followers of Christ, the Lord made it a journey to be enjoyed. Its not a game of Monopoly where we draw a card and get to Pass Go, and collect our $200 (i.e. Heaven), or spend our time and talents buying up real estate and commodities in an effort to ultimately become rich. No, it’s a journey. One in which we use our time, talents and assets to minister to others. In doing so, we live life to its fullest. We put a humane face, on Christ so to speak. And along the way, we get to enjoy those we meet and the beauty of God’s creation.

We at Sword and Spirit Ministries wish you a blessed Easter.

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

Advent is upon us, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time of anticipation as we eagerly await the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the most blessed of events. The Almighty creator of the Universe, driven by incomprehensible love, humbles Himself on behalf of those He loves and longs for. Fully God, yet fully man. Our Redeemer personified in an effort to save and restore His people. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the ultimate gift of God to the world.

While Christmas is most certainly a time of celebration, for many it is a time of loneliness, bitterness, strife, envy, greed, and seemingly anything but “Peace on Earth.” People continue to suffer. Although love and good will are practiced during this season, wars are still being fought, people are dying, loved ones battle cancer and other ailments, and families are torn apart. From a secular view, Christmas can seem like anything more than a time to “shop till you drop.” Hope is not in the gift of Christ, but in the gift purchased for someone and the anticipation they will like it, coupled with the impending dread they may not. Sadly, the world seems to operate as if Jesus never came.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled, "Christmas Bells." He wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863, amidst the time of the American Civil War. Two years earlier, he had lost his beloved wife Fanny, after she was fatally burned. Then, his son Charles Appleton Longfellow suffered wounds as a soldier in the Battle of New Hope Church, VA during the Mine Run Campaign. It seems for a couple of years Christmas held no joy for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. However, his son having survived must have caused him to muse over the thought of Christmas. The result, a thoughtful poem, and beloved Christmas carol. Notice the lyrics of the song.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s despair, Christmas had lost its joy. There seemed to be no peace on earth. War and hate mocked those words, and good will to men was in essence a joke. Then he heard God through the bells. Their ringing grew more loud and deep. As he continued to muse, he realized, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” In Christ, the wrong shall fail and right will prevail. It is then that a voice, a chant sublime will sing out, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

As we celebrate Christmas let us be both mindful of the tragedies of human frailty, the loses of loved ones, the pain of war and the inequity of this world, but also of the Gift of God, the coming of the promised Messiah, and the joy that Gift of gifts can produce. In a willing and open heart, God creates joy unspeakable in the midst of the harshness of life. As Christians, may our hands not wring in despair, but instead, ring with the resounding love of God. May our hands, words and deeds be a balm that heals, nourishes, encourages and proclaims the Joy of the Lord.

May God whisper to you this Christmas season through the carols, as he did to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow through the bells. May the bells and songs remind you of how much Jesus loves you, and may that love transcend the world, filling you with joy, peace, and comfort. Then we can sing with belief, the Christmas carol...

Good Christians all, rejoice
with heart, and soul, and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave;
Jesus Christ was born to save,
Calls you one and calls you all,
to gain his everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

We at Sword and Spirit Ministries, along with our families, want to wish you a Merry Christmas.

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