“Why Did I Get Married?”

My husband and I are very different. I like to vacation at the beach, while he likes camping in the mountains. He is a big meat eater, and I am a vegetarian. He loves to watch television, and I love to read. He is very outgoing, and I am quite an introvert. After one year of marriage I feel worn out and not sure I want to spend another year in this very difficult marriage. I welcome your advice. —Veronica—Tampa, Florida

 

Thank you for your very brave and direct question. Your situation is far from unique. Our experience is that most married couples we have spoken to during the early stages of their relationship tell us how much they have in common, and can’t imagine being with anyone else. Three months into marriage, however, a significant number of these couples say they have so little in common they are not sure why they married their spouse.
The marriage literature confirms what we know from anecdotal experience from working with many premarital and post marital couples. Before marriage, couples are attracted to each other’s differences, and after marriage, couples are repelled by the very traits they were attracted to when they first met.
Marriage scholars suggest that when people first meet and find each other attractive, the strong emotional experience is like a literal high. Hormones such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters, produced by the human body, get dumped into the limbic system of the brain during this “attraction” moment. People feel like they are having a real high. It is this euphoric feeling that often blinds individuals to the differences they have with the person they have “fallen in love with.” It allows them to feel that their love can conquer any obstacle in their way.
Unfortunately, the literal high produced by these neurotransmitters is not sustainable. And just as the high produced by illegal drugs tends to wear off, this euphoric feeling also tends to wane when confronted by the realities of daily life. Having the responsibility of paying bills, the dirty dishes in the sink, and mowing the lawn with another person, usually makes people who are “in love” confront the stark reality. Life is much more serious than simply having a party.
This moment of reality we call the “what was I thinking stage” opens the eyes of married people. They can clearly see the differences between them and their respective partners. To be sure, if allowed to run its course, this stage of marriage can become a real curse, unless you change your self-talk with the help of professional coaching.
We believe you are experiencing this very stage right now. However, if you are willing, you can turn things around by taking a walk down memory lane, and reminding yourself of all the reasons you fell in love with your spouse.
Once you examine the good traits in your spouse that factored into your decision to marry him, you may feel good about your marriage again. You may realize that reasonable people can have different likes and dislikes, and still enjoy spending time together. If you tell yourself you want to try enjoying camping in the mountains, you just might. Human beings are not static. We can be dynamic in our likes and dislikes, and choose to try something we thought we would never do.
As a vegetarian you may never be interested in eating meat, nor is there any reason for you to do so just because your husband does. The point is, nevertheless, that people with different tastes can have great relationships if they choose to live with those differences. They can learn to  manage them, especially if the differences are not based on moral values that are non-negotiable.
You must also keep in mind, if you are a Christian, that God is clear about His expectations of marriage, and that it should not be dissolved except for sexual immorality (Matthew 19:3-10).
Please keep in touch and let us know how things work out once you implement what we have suggested. You can also be assured that you and your husband will remain in our prayers. We encourage you to trust God and plan to remain faithful to His Word.
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What Faith Looks Like Now

Playwright and former minister, Craig Wright drew inspiration from his past in penning Greenleaf.
“I was born Jewish and went to synagogue and Hebrew school every week. My mother died when I was seven, and once she was gone I wasn’t as exposed to Judaism as I had been. When I was 14, I became a Born-Again Christian. That ended when I was about 20. I started writing plays when I was 21. When I was 29, I decided to go to seminary. So I went to United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities to get a Master of Divinity degree, I thought I was going to be a minister.”
Wright was earning his Master in Divinity degree when his career as a writer took off. He later met Oprah Winfrey and after talking they decided that this sounded like a great series idea.
Americans are attending church less, and more people—particularly Millennials—are experiencing and practicing their faith outside of its four walls. Based on a large pool of data from this year, the Barna Group-an evangelical Christian polling firm—conducted analysis on the state of the church, looking closely at affiliation, attendance and practice to determine the overall health of Christ’s Body in America.
Not only do most Americans identify as Christian, but a similar percentage (73%) also agree that religious faith is very important in their life (52% strongly agree and 21% somewhat agree).
“It’s encouraging to see how many Christians still feel optimistic about the positive role their faith can play in society today,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “So it makes sense that Christians feel frustrated when they possess something they feel is so good for the world, that ends up being marginalized.”
“We see an inclination among Christians to either respond by forcing their beliefs or shrinking back from offering them, but living with good faith is the true way forward into an uncertain future,” continues Kinnaman. “This means being the people of God who, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, help the world and the people in it to flourish.”
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Brittany Winkfield is editor and publisher of the online millennial faith platform Back2Basics Magazine.

Americans Divided on the Importance of Church




Faithful Few – Food, Flip Charts, and Fundamentalism

Our lives were shaped by the strict views of our parents. Intending, originally, to simply find a more devoted way to live while getting away from the harmful influences of society, they ended up creating a life that was nothing less than radical and extreme.
Our family—dad, mom, two older brothers, and me—lived under harsh conditions often, and without modern conveniences such as electricity, telephone, radio, television, and indoor plumbing because we believed the world was about to end. I was isolated, home schooled, and taught to wear long dresses, and broad-brimmed bonnets.
At age 16, I had to face a world in which I was not prepared to live. I struggled to adjust and find a way forward in life without casting away my faith along with the extremism. It took many years, a lot of heartbreak, and many mistakes, but I eventually found a full, balanced, and vibrant life.

The Softer Side of Radicalism
It’s good, and important to take care of our health and to be vigilant about what we put in our bodies. It’s great to have high standards and to stand up for what is right. However, it is possible to go beyond good to extreme. My family started out trying to follow worthwhile practices for health and Christian living, but somehow ended up becoming unbalanced in our pursuit of what was good, and veered off into extremism. Our religious extremism, though not violent, was still harmful. Under the guise of standing for right, it disposes one toward inflexibility, and dogmatism. It undermines love and healthy relationships.
The background to this story is that my family and I were invited to the home of a kind lady who had taken great pain to prepare a meal for us, doing her best to honor our very strict beliefs. I was 15-years-old at the time.
Joyce happily announced, “There’s no eggs, no cheese, no milk in anything. I think I got it all right!”
However, Mom and Dad countered, “Yeah? But now, did you use butter, margarine, or oil in preparing the food?”
The lady had thought better than to use butter, so she had used margarine in some things, and oil in others. We told her we did not eat margarine and, upon questioning further, found out that the oil she used was Canola oil, instead of Corn, Safflower, or Olive oil, and so those two things effectively eliminated everything she had prepared. Crestfallen, but still wondering if the meal would have been suitable to our standards if it were not for those things, she asked, “Well, what if I hadn’t used margarine or Canola oil—could you have eaten it?”
“No, we still could not.”
“Why?”
“Because—what kind of salt did you use?”
“What? Salt! I used salt!”
“That’s the whole point—you used salt. Show us your salt.”
She got the salt off the shelf, and as expected, it was the regular rock salt available in grocery stores. She was informed, “No, you’re supposed to use sea salt.”
She asked, “Okay, if I had gotten sea salt, could you have eaten the food?”
“No,” was the reply. “We still couldn’t.”
“Why?”
“What kind of water did you cook the vegetables in?”
“What are you talking about?” she asked incredulously. “I used water!”
We gave her a study right on the spot about regular tap water and the dangers of drinking it with all its added chemicals. We carried much of our communication materials—books, flip charts, and self-published pamphlets—with us knowing that we had to be ready at a moment’s notice to instruct on a wide variety of issues, and so we were well prepared.
Overwhelmed, the lady asked wearily, “So if I had done all of that, could you have eaten the food?”
“Well, there’s still one problem left.”
“What’s that?”
“What kind of pots did you cook it in?”
Incredulous, she went and got her pots and—no surprise to us—they were made of aluminum and Teflon. She learned that we used only stainless steel and cast iron because the aluminum and Teflon released dangerous chemicals into the food during the cooking process.

High-Cost High-Standards
Joyce sat down in complete defeat—she finally had gotten the point: no matter what she did, it was never going to be good enough to meet our high standards. Of course, we thanked her for trying, and she, the wonderful person that she was, did not become angry or insulted, but she did not invite us to come back.
I secretly felt ashamed of what happened that day. Though the exchange was carried on with some degree of good humor, the fact that she tried so hard was scarcely noticed as far as I was concerned. It was, but only in a beside-the-point way; the real point was sticking to the standards, to what we thought and believed, no matter how minor, no matter what was disregarded in the process.
The incident made me wonder how anybody could truly want to follow this kind of a religion—if, indeed, it was real religion. How would it make the majority of the people in this world feel about being able to be a part of it?
Of course, I immediately found these thoughts confronted by answers my training supplied: “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14), and “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). So, my religious logic told me, the answer is that there have always been only a faithful few.
I had no answer for that, but somehow it seemed to me to be an extreme, faithful few.

Balance and Alignment
Even though I sensed at the time that something was wrong, it took many years and painful adjustments in my way of Book: Born Yesterdaythinking to truly understand what had been wrong. First, of course, I was misapplying scriptures speaking about salvation matters to minute details of diet. Furthermore, we were completely out of balance with our religion, which led us to do exactly what Jesus said some of the religious leaders of His day did: “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). Actually, Christ’s description points out what is at the heart of extremism—becoming so consumed by a particular concern or belief as to be blinded to everything else, especially the things that count the most—the “weightier matters” of “mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23). When love for God and one another is the source and motivation for what we do and how we relate, religious extremism is far less likely to exist!

 

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Rachel Williams-Smith is a married to a professional tailor and fashion designer, and between them, they have four mostly grown children. Rachel serves as a Communication professor at Christian University in the Midwest.

Excerpts taken from the book: Born Yesterday




The Grace Greenleaf Effect

How TVs new drama lucked-up on the truth behind disruptive gospel

“Satan we’re gonna’ tear your kingdom down/You’ve been building your kingdom/ All over this land/Satan we’re gonna’ tear your kingdom down.”

Television’s new original series Greenleaf on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) marks the first scripted show depicting what some are calling “Megachurch Drama.” Greenleaf humanizes church leadership by providing a behind-the-scenes look into the struggles, desires, and flaws of bishops and pastors, assistants, choir directors, and even first ladies. Greenleaf centers on estranged daughter Grace “Gigi” Greenleaf’s return and her disruption of her family’s and church’s carefully managed image of perfection.

      As Response Pastor, Grace can’t help but break her promise to her mother not to sow discord. Instead, she works tirelessly to expose her uncle Mac as the pedophile and rapist he is, completely disturbing the family’s peace and business as usual, not to mention that of the church. And, it is in this disturbance that we find a discordant gospel, one that repels and one that heals all at the same time. The Grace Greenleaf Effect.

Stay to Play

Grace Greenleaf doesn’t leave to start her own church, center, or organization to help victims of sexual violence. No, Grace stays at Calvary Fellowship World Ministries to work for both the healing of the oppressed and transformation of the oppressor. It is in staying and forcing Calvary to acknowledge that it has both protected and perpetuated violence against its own church members, yea even family members, that Grace gets vindication for the victims. But her presence also creates an environment where her family and Calvary can practice repentance.

In staying and accepting the job as the Response Pastor, Grace positions herself to have enough influence to change church culture at Calvary. It’s not enough to call out injustice and create new communities that protect those who have been wronged.

The work of justice requires that we challenge the cultures and systems that inflict violence, but that we also help reshape the culture of existing communities that protect and support violence so that silence and complacency are a thing of the past. The Grace Greenleaf Effect then is a contemporary prophetic oration of Isaiah 59:4 where God tells the prophet Isaiah that “no one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth” and he considers such to be the reason why “we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (Isaiah 59:9).

Grace stays at Calvary to help her family and church repent for the sin of silence. Her staying promotes a change in Calvary’s culture so that they cease to be a community that protects and perpetuates violence, but they become a community that works for healing and vindication.

Grace preaches precisely on the importance of talking about things we typically “hate talking about in church.” Calling the congregation into a moment of silence Grace says, “let’s take our moment of silence this morning and when we’re done let us promise ourselves and all the abused around us, all those victims, that we will never be silent again. The silence ends today!”

By encouraging her family and congregation to be vocal about abuse and refrain from protecting false images of perfection, Grace socially and spiritually works to tear down Satan’s kingdom of false appearances, violence, and complacency in the oppression of others.

The Grace Greenleaf Effect then is to have a love for people that causes you to dismantle any structure or system that supports or protects violence against them. Grace Greenleaf disrupts the illusion of peace within her own family so that the victims of sexual and domestic violence that attend the church might have vindication.

During a time when many doubt the intentions of various Christian churches, questioning if they truly care about the social and physical ills that attack their bodies on a daily basis, it seems as though many churches need a Response Pastor like Grace Greenleaf. It seems as though churches need someone who believes that part of the necessary response to social and physical violence is to disturb the church’s silence surrounding such issues, and disrupt their performance of peace and perfection.

Critical Roles Played By the Flawed

But while Greenleaf articulates the importance of disturbing the church’s silence and complacency, it also reveals that the truth of the Gospel is not contingent upon self-proclaimed Christians. While we may be introduced to Christ through our interactions with other Christians, the Bible tells us that it is the job of these flawed beings to bring us to the only perfect Being – Jesus Christ.

David admonishes us in Psalm 118:8 that “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man,” and Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 2:5 “that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” So when you see leaders mimic Grace’s lack of self-control, or Pastor Jacob Greenleaf’s infidelity, or Mae Greenleaf’s anger and inability to forgive, yea, Mac’s sexual abuse and his lack of remorse, do not doubt in the validity of the Gospel. Instead, understand the very individuals called to deliver the Gospel are broken.

Just remember that the brokenness of humanity does not provide us a pass to be silent when they break others. Be vocal! Hold everyone accountable for the pain they’ve caused and challenge them to receive the power of Jesus Christ that they may be empowered to not hurt you or anyone else in that way again.

It is the job of the Christian to disrupt any culture, structure, or system that protects or perpetuates violence by ignoring the pain of people to maintain a false image of peace and perfection. Just as Pastor Grace Greenleaf embodies, we must work with our leadership to call out sin so that those who have been hurt can receive help and healing, but also so that those who have committed the sin of silence, yea inflicted the abuse, have the opportunity to repent and turn away.

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Claudia M. Allen is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Maryland specializing in 19th and 20th century African American literature. She earned her MA in English from Georgetown University and her BA in English with a minor in Leadership from Andrews University. Claudia is passionate about the language of race, theology, and social engagement and how these ideologies and philosophies intersect.




NONSENSE ?- Luke 24

Following Jesus can seem foolish. You talk into nothing and expect something. You read the same words in scripture for years, yet look for different and fresh meaning. You show up—where people may or may not get along—weekly hoping to find inspiration and edification. From the outside looking in, following Jesus can be perceived as nonsense. I invite you to explore how this nonsense can make sense of senseless lives.

Jesus has died but for some reason the women in this story still hold their loyalty and allegiances to him. I wonder why? Have you ever questioned why you go to the church you do? Or, have you questioned why you believe what you do? What kept you? Tell us about it here at Message using the hashtag #MessageMag on social media.

Read Luke 24:3

These women were fully devoted to Jesus, but when they arrived to pay Him respect, He wasn’t there. They had pulled together their resources only to meet disappointment. Have you ever had that experience? Have you done your best to be pleasing in the sight of God but you still ended up disappointed? If you are willing, tell us about it using the hashtag #MessageMag on social media.

Luke 24:4-6

Angels showed up! I don’t know about you but I may have had the same reaction as these women, but it would be mostly shaped in fear! There is something to be said about the presence of the supernatural in times of disappointment. Glorious relief cheered their hearts upon seeing the angel. You may have experienced something that you’ve kept to yourself because it seems too amazing to be true. Why don’t you tell us about using the hashtag #MessageMag on social media?

Read Luke 24:7, 8

Isn’t it amazing how much God has taught us that we have forgotten? Just like these women, you and I have had Jesus tell us some things that if only we would keep them at the front of our minds, maybe we wouldn’t experience so much disappointment. I challenge you to either re-read all those highlights in your Bible or review a book of the Bible that you have not explored in a while.

Read Luke 24:9-11

We are slow to believe that God still moves in miraculous ways. Even the disciples who had seen Him raise people from the dead were apprehensive. Have you ever been told something you didn’t believe but God had to show you that it and He is real? Think and tell us about it, using the hashtag #MessageMag on social media.

I find it interesting that God pre-destined the news of the resurrection to be communicated by women in a male-dominated society. God employs the smallest voices (at least, then) and grants them the loudest messages. No need to share; I just invite you to pray about the “small voices” that may be trying to guide you in your life.

Read Luke 24:12

Peter listened, even if just out of curiosity. He then went to the tomb and confirmed for himself that something indeed had happened to Jesus! He couldn’t make sense of it, but at least he now knew that Jesus was no longer in the grave. He was a witness. The “nonsense” of a few women led this man who walked side by side with Jesus for years, to see something he otherwise would not have. They caused him to think about things he might have never pondered. I pray that you keep up with the “nonsense” that Jesus has for you so that someone may come closer to seeing how alive He is.

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.




What Glass Ceiling?

NO matter what cultural traditions convey to you, whether through the glass ceiling, by a hurling fist, or at gunpoint, you have purpose. Regardless of how they stifled your salary, or attempted to degrade or objectify you; and if have sold your body, been driven to do unspeakable things; and even found yourself under the control of evil spirits, your life can have greater purpose.

True Devotion

It was the women who pressed their way through the early morning’s yielding darkness to the garden. Their hearts warmed in the recollection of how Jesus saved them. It had been unusual to have the connection they had with their Teacher.

Teachers usually limited interactions with a woman in public; they would not even engage their wives in conversation. Jesus disregarded that custom. He not only spoke with them, He also healed them. His discerning eyes steered past their outward appearance into their very inward thoughts and feelings. He welcomed them as disciples, and embraced them as faithful followers.

As the women neared the burial ground where Jesus lay, the reality of the stone boulder sealing the tomb did not deter them. Thoughts of political and religious tensions could not stop them. Even death would not deter their devotion to Jesus.

They stayed close when He served more than 5,000 men (not counting women and children) free fish and bread. And, they stayed close in His humiliation when He hung dying on the cross. Among them was Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons. They stayed when the men ran.

Now, they determined to honor their Lord by bathing his body in spices, as was the custom.

First Witness

As they pushed through early morning’s dim light the ground suddenly rocked and reeled beneath their feet. Brilliant light beamed from the sky. The stone boulder had been rolled away. The tomb lay empty. Jesus was gone!

In dizzied astonishment and disbelief, Mary Magdalene wept. Mary was standing outside of the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”2

Mary’s past reputation left her public opinion rating low. She had been completely dominated by demons, however Jesus loosed her, made her whole, and embraced her as His follower. Now, she just wanted to honor her Lord, even in death, but He was gone.

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him.

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought He was the gardener.

“Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (Which is Hebrew for Teacher).

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them His message.”3

Her Purpose

This woman, with a questionable past had within more than her medical record, psychological profile, and societal expectations could predict. Her reputation was repairable, her character renewable.

It is significant that Jesus delayed ascending to His Father in Heaven not only to comfort her, but also to give her a greater purpose. In light of all that Jesus had endured, He could have immediately ascended to His father upon His resurrection, but instead He waited to not only speak to Mary, but to teach her.

   In a time when it was taught that women were incapable of profound religious instruction,4 Mary Magdalene was instructed and sent by Jesus Himself to be the first to share the profoundly good news that He lives.

   Why was this so significant? Jesus resurrected Himself from the dead. He indeed laid down His own life, and had the authority to take up His own life.5 Reality of Christ’s divinity was now hereby undoubtedly revealed.

    Jesus could have first appeared to Peter, the known leader of the disciples who wallowed in despondence at his denial of His Lord. Jesus could have appeared first to John His Beloved, of whom it was rumored that he would not die. Instead, and by no accident, Jesus appeared first to this woman belonging to the class in society relegated to being less—less in importance, less in significance, less in value. Jesus first appears to a woman, the class society muzzled from religious preaching and teaching, to be the first of His followers to proclaim that Jesus is indeed divine—Jesus lives!

Your Life Matters.

Though you may fit the demographics of a group within society deemed as “less,” your life is not “less” to Jesus. You matter. Even if others have relegated you to being unimportant, your purpose and future will be greater if you follow Jesus. Your race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or past does not diminish Jesus’ love for you, nor weaken His plan for your life. He shatters glass ceilings, realigns preferences, expunges past records, and empowers those who follow Him with great purpose.

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TRICIA PAYNE, M.DIV, pastors the Tabernacle of Hope and Muncie Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Muncie, Indiana. Pastor Payne is happily married and resides in Indianapolis Indiana.

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1 Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 124). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

2 Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (John 20:11-13). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

3 Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (John 20:14-17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

4 Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 124). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

5 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (John 10:18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.




God’s Love Letters To Humans

In God’s second “Love Letter” to His people as recorded in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), He says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

When we read this directive, we may be tempted to presume we don’t have to be immersed in its application. After all, how many people actually bow down to a graven image in our contemporary society?  Yet, beyond our worship posture, God is admonishing us that if we’re going to love Him, we are not to worship or deify anything or anybody other than Him.  Hence, a graven image is not limited to a figure, likeness, or illustrative icon—it could be money, a house, car, or desired possession.

This love letter also contains God’s clear statement that He’s a “jealous God.”  When reading this, however, it is important to understand that the divine application of jealousy is far different than human comprehension of the same.  Remember, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

When we think of jealousy, we often think of it in a negative sense as an individual who cannot tolerate the thought of someone else having something they don’t have. Such jealousy is rooted in envy, a self-absorbed loathing of someone because you want what he or she has. Nevertheless, there’s a distinction between jealousy and envy.  Jealousy can be good or bad depending on the object of the jealousy, and the reason for the jealousy.  Envy, which is nearly always bad, is a feeling of displeasure over the blessings someone else is enjoying. Jealousy makes us want what others are enjoying, while envy makes us want to deprive them of that enjoyment.

God, however, is not envious of us.  He wants us to experience the joys of life! (See Psalm 16:11).  So when the Bible says, “God is a jealous God,” the correct interpretation of this is that God is “fiercely protective” of us.  There’s a big difference between being jealous of someone, and being jealous for someone.  God is not jealous of us, but rather He’s jealous for us.  True love is never jealous of someone you love, but it’s always jealous for the person you love!

In this “Love Letter,” God is saying, “I’m jealous for you!  I don’t want you worshipping, or bowing down to anything or anyone else. I’m a jealous God!”  In other words, God is not jealous or envious of us, but God has a holy zeal for us.

What a blessed assurance to know that God loves us so much that He’s intensely protective of us!  Why?  He’s our Creator!  We are His creation! (See Genesis 1:1, 26.) He’s our Shepherd!  (See Psalm 23:1.)  We are His people!  The sheep of His pasture! (See Psalm 100:3) And one day soon, God will redeem His creation, His people, from this earth! (See John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.) 




Mystery of the Last Prophet, Solved.

It may come as a surprise to learn that followers of the prophet Muhammad make use of the Bible to bolster their claims to be adherents to the “true” religion.

Deuteronomy 18:18 is one example of an effort to use a biblical passage to validate prophetic claims for the prophet Muhammad: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him”

As Moses neared the end of his life and ministry, we find God preparing Israel for life without Moses. The prospect of losing their go-between with God caused nervousness among God’s people. Therefore, He admonished them not to follow the practices of neighboring tribes. Many of them when in need of guidance, or knowledge of the future, sought out witches, soothsayers, sorcerers, or mediums. God’s clear counsel warned Israel to avoid turning to the occult for the answers to life’s puzzles.

Additionally, God provided them with the blessed assurance that He would provide them a living connection between heaven and earth. So, smooth operations would continue because God would raise up another prophet just like Moses.

Islamic scholars have appropriated the promise of Deuteronomy 18, and declared that its prophetic insights referred to the coming of Muhammad as God’s prophet. This, they maintain is proof of the truth of Islam for all and to all who believe the Bible is God’s Word. In concurring with this misapplication of Scripture, Dr. Jamal Badawi, writing for islamicity.com states, “There were hardly any two prophets who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad.”

With those words, Dr. Badawi asserts that, because Moses and Muhammad were so much alike, the birth and life of the prophet were the fulfillment of God’s Deuteronomy 18:18 promise. However, we find Muhammad nowhere in Scripture.

Furthermore, since God was speaking to Israel, when He said He would raise up a prophet from among their brethren, such a prophet would of necessity have to have been a Jew. Unquestionably, the prophet Muhammed was not Jewish.

Nonetheless, there is One whom the Bible indicates is like Moses, spoken of by God. Of course, that is Jesus, and He had much more in common with Moses:

• Moses was born a Jew of Hebrew parents (Exodus 2:1, 2). Jesus was, too (Matthew 1:1-16, John 8:42).

• Moses was targeted for death by royal decree (Exodus 1:15, 16). Likewise, Jesus (Matthew 2:16).

• Moses lived his early years in Egypt, and divine intervention miraculously saved him (Exodus 2:10). The same is true for Jesus (Matthew 2:14, 15).

• Moses fasted forty days and forty nights without food or drink (Exodus 34:28). Jesus also fasted forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2).

• Israel received bread from heaven through Moses (Exodus 16:14, 15). Israel received through Jesus the Living Bread from heaven (John 6:35).

• As a shepherd, Moses led Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 3:1). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus leads His followers through the wilderness of sin (John 10:10, 11).

• As Savior of Israel, Moses delivered God’s people from slavery to Pharaoh (Exodus 6:11). As Savior of the world, Jesus deliverers God’s people from slavery to Satan (Romans 6:1-6).

• Moses offered his own life on behalf of Israel’s sins (Exodus 32:30-33). Jesus sacrificed His life on behalf of the sins of the world (John 17).

These passages and many others aptly identify Jesus as a Prophet like Moses. Because, like Moses, Jesus was a Jew, of Jewish parents, a Leader, a Prophet, a Lawgiver, the Savior, a Teacher, a Priest, a Healer, a Mediator between God and His people, and a speaker of God’s words.

Thus, Jesus is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18 and that’s no surprise. The only real surprise is that having claimed to have read the Bible, so many have not yet come to recognize that as the Word of God, Jesus is the Prophet raised up like Moses. Still, He is much more. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, and the Messiah for all mankind.




Eye on the Times

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem at NFL games to draw attention to racial injustice–particularly in light of the police shootings of unarmed black men.

Martin Luther,  on trial in 1521 at  the Diet of Worms, “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”

The 2016 release of the Mel Gibson movie, “Hacksaw Ridge” put personal conscience in the spotlight recently. The movie traces the heroic war efforts of Seventh-day Adventist World War II army medic Desmond T. Doss. Though he was a conscientious objector—he refused to kill and insisted upon keeping the Sabbath—Doss received the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of his comrades in the heat of battle. Doss was credited for helping up to 75 wounded soldiers and was himself wounded in the process. Doss died in 2006.

 




Boycotting That Brand of Gospel

Last year I handed civil rights icon John Lewis a copy of his own book—one in a trilogy about his civil rights engagement in the 1950s and 60s. The image on the back cover depicted the colorful illustration of Jesus on a stained glass window inside a church. It had an ugly, white, square void through His face.

“Did that really happen?” I asked Lewis. “Uh huh,” he said, explaining that to get to black parishioners inside the church white demonstrators outside the church threw a brick through the face of Jesus. He told me how the KKK sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” as they marched to Stone Mountain every Labor Day. The most vicious attacks, Lewis said, came from so-called Christians fighting to preserve their privilege and artificial place of superiority, all in Jesus name.

Throwing Bricks

After this year’s election we feel again the whirl of a “sanctified brick” headed straight for its target—the body of Christ. Racial, gender and faith-based wedges have splintered us, with Donald Trump wielding the ax. That said, more shocking than his victorious campaign, is the tool through which he gained the presidency, the evangelical religious right.

Exit polls estimated 81% of the evangelical vote went to him. Polling had indicated that in the last five years, voters, especially evangelicals, just didn’t care whether their candidate had high moral character anymore.1 And, any fears other evangelical voters may have had were probably pacified by the endorsement of high-profile evangelical leaders.2 They gave him their virtuous stamp of approval.

What Did They See In Him?

President-elect Donald Trump got a pass on his family life by his religious backers. His braggadocio about his ability to force himself on any woman he wanted, slipped under the wire. “[W]hen you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump had said. “You can do anything,” he said on that infamous “Access Hollywood” video. His brash comments about immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, the disabled and women—eerily similar to the nationalistic rhetoric of Nazi Germany—is celebrated as truth that needs to be articulated. This, apparently is a “truth” many evangelicals support. So, as Trump so aptly predicted, if evangelicals voted, he would win.3

“When you look at the issues, he ended up being the dream candidate for conservatives and evangelicals” Jerry Falwell, Jr. opined after the election.4

More Than “Whitelash”

So, I like many, am tempted to conclude that the dog whistling and racial politics simply signal a “whitelash” to America’s first black president. As evidence of this we have witnessed threats to black people, churches and property again. Defaced property bears the tag “Trump Supporter.” It certainly looks as though America’s original sin, racial oppression and the fruit of its poisonous tree—white privilege—are rearing their heads for one final gasp. I’m suggesting that what’s at stake is even more than this, however. The isms and centricities we embraced for expediency signal complex prophetic implications.

Hypocrisy

It’s hypocrisy to tout religion while coalescing with repressive ideas for political gain. In the Bible the apostle Paul criticized the apostle Peter for being a hypocrite. Peter, like Paul, believed that one didn’t have to be circumcised to be a Christian, and that all Christians—born a Jew or a Gentile—could fellowship side by side. However, when friends of another disciple visited Peter, he gave his Gentile friends the old brush-off. Paul considered the hypocrisy shameful. “I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down,” he said (Galatians 2:18). Our evangelical brothers and sisters—in spite of disagreeing with racial intolerance—helped rebuild another old system of relating to each other. Truly, laws and walls were key planks in the campaign rhetoric.

Evil communications corrupt good Manners

How unfortunate it is that the person so strongly supported by the faithful also draws the support of the hateful. How can this be? If the faithful don’t intentionally attract the hateful, why don’t they intentionally and loudly repudiate them? “God knows my heart,” you may say, and “I’m not a racist (or just fill in the blank).” Or, “that rhetoric was just used to fire up the base. It’s not real.” Another gem of the apostle Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 15:33. “Stop being deceived: ’Wicked friends lead to evil ends.’” (ISV*)

Sweet Fruit of Control

In the story of the crucifixion of Christ it was the priests who baited the crowd to ask for the pardon of the notorious murderer Barabbas rather than Jesus (Matthew 27:20, 21). This move furthered their limited interest in control, rather than the spiritual well-being—salvation—that their people needed so badly. Likewise, the limited interest in control, rather than the evangelical end is at work now.

The union of three factors (1) the blessing of the church, (2) state cooperation and, (3) dominance as part of “God’s plan” is a dangerous combination. You may recall, like Peter (see Acts 4:28), that the coalition of church people and government officials effected the crucifixion of Christ. So, that they work together is no guarantee the plan is spiritually sound or God’s perfect will for His people. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, God is in control. His followers, however, have a certain responsibility to participate with Him in harmony with what He has revealed.

Finally, those of us who belong to groups who’ve felt the cold chill of oppression, remember that our strength flows not from our own identity but by God’s grace and power. Time to return to that in truth. As for those Black Lives Matter protesters about whom so many feel uncomfortable and angry, the fact that they exist at all is a prophetic warning: Our best solutions with a professed but ineffective gospel have fallen short.

No need to solicit me in prayers of unity and healing just yet. I’m scared to close my eyes and bow my head.