Charleston Tragedy: Race, Religion, & Mental Illness

The tragedy in Charleston, SC this week was horrific. Regardless of who the shooter was, what his background was, what color his skin was….he was a disgusting individual. Notice I didn’t say sick. A sickness can be cured, it is something that one recognizes and treats in order to get better. This young man was not sick. He was deranged and cruel.  There is no sugar-coat for that type of person.

I have read an article and seen one news story so far that has tried to analyze his mental state and it appears these sources are leaning towards the “mental illness” card. To that I say, STOP IT! Working with those on a daily basis who are suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, and life trauma, I’ve seen someone who is sick and ill. If I’m being honest I can even say that there are some who come seeking “help” for their illness who, after assessing their circumstance, are really just cruel and malicious like this boy. These are the ones who give the mentally ill a bad rep.

For this young man  to walk into a “Black” church (more on that in a minute), where he was definitely out of place, and for him to still be accepted and welcomed to join them at the table. For him to sit there for an HOUR and listen and participate in discussion surrounding Christ….and then to say he wanted to kill Black people and open fire on these innocent people….that is not mentally ill. That is mean. Call it what it is. We have to stop allowing these types of people to hide behind a label. A label that millions of people actually deserve, and for those who do suffer, the stigma is increasingly negative. This guy is the reason why.

As humans we are really bad about judging others. It’s a part of our sinful nature, and it’s never going away. But it can be controlled. The only way for this to truly happen is to get to know others of opposing cultures. However, sometimes this makes things worse because the stereotypes are true. We all have to stop living out the stereotypes and learn to become our own person. If we don’t want to be perceived a certain way, we have to stop acting that way! Otherwise, when people meet us, they will only be let down to know that we are “just like everybody else”.

Another way to stop enhancing the stereotypes is to educate ourselves on what the perpetuating force is for the judgement and alienation. I saw a discussion online between two individuals were multiple studies were cited. One stated that those who had more ethic names were shown to be less productive on the job. Also, young black males were shown to be least productive on the job. Therefore, many find it okay for employers to base their decision of hiring on such studies. If two individuals have the same qualifications and research shows that the young black male with the ethnic name will STATISTICALLY not do as well, they probably won’t be the one hired. Which from an employer standpoint, makes sense. But from a life standpoint, it doesn’t allow those males to beat the stereotype and prove the research wrong. There are two sides to every coin.

So what can we do about it?

I say, assimilate. Don’t give up your home culture or cultural identity completely. But when you are in public in the United States, make sure you are able to fit in relatively easily. Culture is very important, but so is a good job and having the means to be able to provide for a family.

Many parents don’t think about this the day they give birth to a beautiful girl. They want people to know their child is unique and special, so they come up with a name that is hard to pronounce and not phonetically correct. Down the road, this could ultimately be a disservice to the child. After all, most people who become of very high importance have names that are easy to pronounce and easily recognizable. Do you want your child to be the President one day? Give them a name people can say and will remember. Even if your child doesn’t become President….it would be nice to be able to remember the name of the car mechanic as well. In the society we live in, especially those of us in the South, so much of our collective culture relies of being able to greet individuals with a smile and by name. Think about that next time you want your child to have a special name.

The same premise applies to those who learn English as a second language. Bilingual and multilingual individuals are extremely valuable in our country. It would be ideal if every business establishment was able to employ at least one multilingual person. That way more people can be reached! Because odds are, if you can’t talk or communicate with the person, not much business will get done. However, many individuals where I live who are bilingual don’t even utilize it. I’m not sure if they don’t think they are valuable or there is a market for them, or if they just want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Either way, these individuals could educate themselves and capitalize on their value to our country.

Third, parents must have responsibility for the way others perceive their children. People are judged not just by their names, but on the way they talk and dress. Children begin to develop language skills at a very young age, even prior to entering school. Parents and caregivers are their primary source of education on language skills. If parents are not educated on the proper way to pronounce words, read, or speak…their children won’t be either. Some say that their way of talking is just an accent. However I think the accent is not the problem, it’s the ignorance on how to actually speak, or the laziness not to care to learn or carry out what they know. This not only perpetuates the stereotypes but sets the children up for failure as well. An accent is the way words are said, the sound of a long A or short O. However, leaving letters off the word or changing the letter within the word is not an accent. This is a learned behavior that becomes a choice once who learns the alternate way. Children who learn to say “axe” instead of “ask” go into Kindergarten at a disadvantage. It makes them the target of bullying if their classroom primarily consists of those who say it properly. It makes it a lot more difficult for them to learn to read and write. Because children are taught to sound things out. And they will sound them out and spell words the way they say them. That’s just a fact.

When I was in middle school, we were forced to wear uniforms beginning in the 7th grade. I’m not 100% sure of the reasoning but I can guess two things…1. To keep children from focusing on name brands and alienating children who could not or chose not to afford such things and 2. To keep children from wearing suggestive or vulgar clothing. This trend has trickled all the way down to Elementary School now, but stops in high school and children are again allowed to wear whatever they choose, within reason. I know there are many children who become involved in adult activity how are “good” kids, however, it’s safe to say the majority of kids who become gang members or teen moms didn’t begin their behavior overnight. It all starts when children believe they are older than their age. They want to dress, act, and talk as if they are the age they wish to be. Therefore, parents who think clothes are just a fashion statement are SADLY mistaken. Teens today are already developing more quickly than in past generations. A fourteen year old today looks nothing like I did, that’s for sure. And if this girl wears a low cut V neck shirt, or a tight or short skirt…she definitely doesn’t look fourteen. What parents must remember is that you are in control of what your children wear! If you don’t want your daughter to be perceived as a slut, don’t buy her clothes that resemble a street walker. That’s common sense.

What does this have to do with the tragedy in Charleston? Children, regardless of race or religion, are a product of their environment. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Teach your child what is right and good. Help educate them and nurture their creativity and independence. Ensure that YOU as a parent have done everything in your power to make sure they will be a fully-functioning and productive citizen once they are an adult.

Tis the Season

Tis the season….to be jolly….for giving…

How often are we not jolly and giving? Or either we are not jolly while we are giving?

This holiday season, don’t let your heart be hardened and stingy with your giving and cheer. Everyone needs a blessing and if you are reading this you are sitting in front of a computer or on your phone, you have stable housing and clothes that are free of holes, you probably even have a sustainable source of income. Let me tell you something friend, you are blessed. You may be down on your luck or going through a rough patch, but you are so EXTREMELY rich compared to others around the world and within our own country.

I myself have been guilty of giving sparingly to strangers and even sometimes those whom I know. I justify it by saying “I don’t think they are really homeless” or “I know they’ll just use the money for drugs and alcohol”. That is me!! And that is probably you too. Our society has grown accustomed to those who seem to mooch off the system and get something for nothing. And people like you and me don’t think it’s fair and so we choose to be resentful and stingy when it comes to giving to these people. After all, they already get more than they worked for (since they don’t work) and I am already paying them with my tax dollars.

Today, December 17, 2014 I am telling you that we have to stop this. We must begin to give of ourselves to others as God lays it on our hearts. This could be with our time, money, or resources. But if God is calling you and tugging at your heart to do so and you don’t, that’s an act of disobedience. And we should always strive to be obedient to God in every way, every day.

We must not hoard our riches here on Earth. It is pointless and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Luke says in Acts 20 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (v. 35). Regarding this passage, Angela Thomas says, “When we are aware of where everything comes from, who it belongs to, and why it has been given to us, then it seems foolish to hoard anything that God has given.” We must not give to receive. Be that in the form of gifts or recognition. That MUST NOT be our motivation.

When you give to those who will forget to say thank you, all of heaven stands to applaud you. The Lord is omnipresent. He sees it all. And he knows you, inside and out. He knows your motives. In this life we will encounter those people who take from us and do not appreciate or acknowledge what we have done. Although that makes us feel really crappy, know that God has seen you and He loves you more for giving freely. The hardest part about giving is having no expectation of how the person will receive it. Even if we do not strive for recognition, we all strive for appreciation.

Angela Thomas says, “I am supposed to give as I am led by God. How my giving is received is not mind to determine.” Wow. That’s good stuff! There will be times where you give and it will be used for the wrong reasons. There will be times you will be taken for a fool by the person you give to. But we can’t let our pride get in the way of giving. We have to stop caring how we look to others and we absolutely can not put stipulations on the gifts we give to others.

Neil Anderson says, “We should never give people what they deserve- we are called to be merciful…We are to be gracious and give people what they need- the gift of love.” As children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ, we are called to give. Give, give, give. Everyone needs to be loved, even if they don’t deserve it. You must never forget, we don’t deserve it. We deserve the most brutal wrath of God, but it is by grace that Jesus has saved us through faith that we are no longer to receive that wrath. He gave, knowing that he was being viewed as an idiot, being taken advantage of by many, but he gave to you and me his life. And every day we are to strive to be more like Him. Therefore we must give. Happily and freely.

Tis the season to be jolly while giving, for JESUS is the reason for the season!

Merry Christmas! May God continue to bless you in abundance in the coming year.

WWJD?!

Do you remember the popular phrase in the past decade “WWJD”? There were bracelets, bumper stickers, and t-shirts galore with this acronym on them. You could buy it at the gas station or get it for a prize at the arcade. But when is the last time you really stopped to think about what that means?

WWJD. What would Jesus do?

……Well……any thoughts?!

As Christians today I think we have become way to concerned and consumed with social media and “winning” some theological, political debate. We are too busy defending our beliefs instead of just living them. You see if you are truly walking a strong and confident walk with Jesus, you won’t need to quote scripture every day. You won’t need to constantly tell people you are a Christian and you are different. Because if you are doing things right, people will know. They can look at you and see a difference. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person”.

Too often today we get caught up in the endless cycle of trying to be perfect, blameless, and blemish-free. However, that is impossible here on Earth. It’s never going to happen. Lisa TerKeurst says, “Am I trying to prove I am right or to improve the relationship?” Are we living out WWJD?! Tony Nolan says, “There is a difference between the God we know and the God we show.” Are you showing the character of Christ in your life?

Jesus did not spend his time surrounded by priests. He did not seek out the important people in the hierarchy. Jesus loved the unlovable. He surrounded Himself with thieves, whores, tax collectors, lepers, impoverished individuals. Why did the King of Kings do such a thing? Because these are the people who needed to know they were loved and could be forgiven.

Jesus did not push His agenda on people. He shared what he came here to share. He listened to others who agreed and disagreed with His teachings. He did not constantly quote scripture from the Old Testament. No, he LIVED the scripture. That is what made Him different and set Him apart from other priests who always had an underlying agenda based on money or worldly morals. That is the example set before us. That is what we should always strive to do. Even upon His death, when Jesus had told the people over and over who He was, they still chose not to believe. They were still so full of sin. And yet He still forgave them, he still loved them, and still died to save them. Jesus died to save us all, not just the few who go to church every Sunday, never cuss, and don’t have a tattoo. He died for us ALL.

Luke 7:47 says, “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Those who were the most sinful were most grateful for the grace.

As Christians we tend to focus a lot of our time and energy keeping certain individuals away from the church. We may not SAY that’s what we are doing, but we shun them in little ways. Do you go to a “white church” or “black church”? Have you ever noticed the way members of the congregation look at and act towards people who “look” gay, have tattoos, or are not dressed “appropriately”? At that exact moment, I have to think, WWJD. Sometimes it is hard, because it may make me uncomfortable. But I am living in this world for Jesus and Jesus would never cringe or shy away from that person. Jesus would embrace and love. And that is what our Father has commanded us to do as well. The whole premise of our existence can be broken into two requirements, loving God and loving our neighbor. That is all we are here for.

We need to stop all this stereotyping and hatefulness. Is this judging? Yes. Is that our job? No. Now I know the Bible tells us that if a person is in-Christ and is blatantly sinning, we are not to stand by and condone it. But we can find a kind way to point it out and still be loving that person. Lisa TerKeurst says, “if a person criticizes me without ever having built me up or said a kind word to me, it hardly feels like constructive criticism.” We must speak in love first and criticize second.

There are certain things the Bible instructs is against God’s will and is sinning. There are other things that our society has determined is a sin, and is found nowhere in the Bible. For example, tattoos. Just as a disclaimer, I do not have a tattoo, but that is ONLY because I don’t want one. Most people feel that their tattoos are an expression of themselves and is a form of artwork. If that is the case, they may believe that by having tattoos they are simply decorating God’s temple. And when you look at it that way, what’s wrong with that? We paint the walls of the church. We change the color of the carpet.

The bottom line is, just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they are wrong. It doesn’t mean they are going to Hell. And it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be welcomed in the church. A church is a building FULL of sinners. And as I seem to point out in every post, all sins are the same and equal in the eyes of our Lord. Therefore, we should welcome these people with open arms. We should treat them gently and love them. It is not up to us to cast them out and seal their fate with our judgement. We don’t have that kind of power, and we don’t need it.

Stop and think about what WWJD truly means. Ponder on Jesus’s friends, his disciples, and what he was able to do in their lives. If we do not expose ourselves to such individuals, we may be missing an opportunity for blessing to take place in our lives. It is never too late to help disciple a lost soul. It is not our job to save, that is Jesus’s job. Our job is to love, and in loving, instill the Word of God in each person we meet.

Why you gotta be so mean?!

Why are people so mean? More specifically, why are Christians so mean?

Those who do not follow Christ have somewhat of an excuse, because there has been no standard or bar set for how they should act. This doesn’t mean these folks won’t have to answer for their meanness, they just don’t want to believe it.

Christians, as the hands and feet of God, people look at us differently. We are constantly under scrutiny from the outside world, yet we still give into the Devil’s qualms. Look around you; there are people in your life who do not attend church or do not follow Jesus. There is a reason for that. Nonbelievers look at “us” and see God. As His hands and feet, doing all things “to the glory of Christ”, WE are a representation of him. And to a nonbeliever, how we act is how God would act. They associate our actions, morals, and emphasis with that of our God. And though we are not sinless and are constantly falling short, that doesn’t stop people from looking at us and thinking this way. Therefore we must be VERY careful in what we say and do to others and to each other.

Christians persecuting other Christians is the worst kind of dispute. We are to LOVE one another and build each other up, not point fingers, name names, and slander our Brother or Sister in the community. The sickest part about this is that some who do this think they are doing it in “good faith” and that it is the right thing to do. No WONDER people don’t want to come to church with you! Good grief! Who in the world would think that doing such mean, hateful, and ungodly things would be a positive representation of Christ?!

The Devil is a liar and a thief who’s purpose is to destroy this world and pit us against one another. He does this in multiple ways, and one way is through an individual. The Devil can be working in you and you not even know it. In fact, he may even trick you into thinking you are doing “the Lord’s work”. Be careful of this my friends. You may be able to point the finger at someone whom you think he is using, only to realize later that YOU were that person all along.

Matthew 19:19 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This phrase is no coincidence. God knew how selfish and self-centered we were. He then instructs you to take that very self-righteous love you have for yourself and give it away. Give it to someone else. Can you say you have done that today? Loved someone else as much as you love yourself? And I am not talking about your mom or dad. They’re easy to love. I am talking about your “enemy”. Your adversary.

Love is the only way to overcome such meanness and hurt. Love and forgiveness.

In the last month, my home church (that little old Southern Baptist one I have mentioned before) has lost its pastor, 4 deacons, a pianist, choir director, treasurer, and 40 members. During the last month there have members within those 40 who have lied, slandered, accused, stonewalled, disrespected, and hurt other members. This has been a rough month. Some have questioned how could Christians treat others in such a way. I believe that Perry Noble says it best when he points out that God has His hand in all things. ALL things, not just the good. God either makes things happen or allows them to happen. This has come as no surprise to God. He allowed the Devil to do this to our church, just as he allowed the Devil to test many in the Bible. However, the Devil does not rule. God owns the Devil and the Devil only does things to the extent that God allows. Therefore, there is no real reason to worry. Yes, we have “lost” a lot this month. But we are promised that whatever we give, we will get back ten-fold. So I have no worries at all about the stability of our church.

Now we are not focused on hurrying up and getting out of this situation we are in. We got here and here is where we are. Instead we are seeking how we can walk through this stressful situation well. Because this is where God put us. This is His will. And it WILL be for the good. Perry Noble says, “As our view of God increases, our worry and stress decrease, because it’s only then that we begin to believe that all the things that are over our heads are under His feet.”

Joseph shows us in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, the importance of forgiveness. The power of forgiveness is greater than the pain of our circumstances. Someone may intend to harm you, but God intends it all for good.

Jesus is our role model. We should do nothing but strive to be more like him each day. Everyone, whether Christian or unbeliever, know the story of his death. The horrific and gruesome details. But one of the most incredible parts of his story is that he forgave. He forgave the people who were murdering him, and they never even asked for it, he just gave it to them. Freely. I’ve heard people say that they would forgive someone if that person who offended them apologized and then asked for forgiveness. As nice as that would be, it doesn’t always happen. But the example set before us is to forgive freely- even to those who don’t deserve it.

There has been one particular individual who told elders in our church that when she left with our pastor, the Devil would outweigh the Lord in our church. And she was taking God with her when she left.

Have you ever heard such ridiculous statements?

To set the record straight, the Devil will NEVER outweigh MY God. My God is supreme, all-knowing, omnipotent, and in control. He could go to Hell and walk among all those burning in the lake of fire and he would STILL be bigger! He would still be ruling. He is NEVER outnumbered, outweighed, or outmatched. If anyone tries to tell you so, call them a lie and don’t listen to another word. Secondly, to think that a human can “take” God anywhere is just stupid. God is everywhere, all the time, with everyone. Furthermore where two or three gather in His name, He is there in even MORE power. For a lady to think that she is the boss and can order MY Lord around, she is sadly mistaken. I can see her now saying, “Come on Lord, get in my bag, you’re coming with ME!” ……….yeah right.

I will end this lengthy post by saying that as Christians, we should love. No matter what. And I do still love each and every person who has left our church. But sometimes love is done best when it is done at a distance.

I would also like to say that NO ONE or NO THING is going to steal my joy.

Kay Warren says, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

I will not be separated from that joy. Nice try, Devil. Try again later.

Don’t check my box!

Have you ever wondered what our country would look like if we were all truly equal? Are you one of those individuals who believe that it is that way now? This post is going to challenge you to rethink the concept of equality.

 

During my undergraduate career, my two favorite classes were Women’s Studies and African American Literature. Considering that I am a conservative Republican Caucasian female, I was involved in a lot of heated discussions in these two rooms. However, I absolutely loved it.

 

In case you are one of those individuals I mentioned above, let me go ahead and break it down for you…the citizens of the United States of America are not equal in virtually any way. We aren’t equal in the eyes of the law, we aren’t equal in places of employment, we aren’t even equal when we go to buy a car. And you know what, I am completely fine with that. The only time we are truly equal is the second we are born. Regardless of circumstances, at that moment we are all on the same page. Born a sinner, with the same amount of sin as the next person. And we all have to make the exact same commitment to be relieved of that sin. 

Our country has become so consumed with the idea of being equal that we have stopped placing value and emphasis on rewarding hard work and effort. I hate the idea of having quotas in schools, jobs, qualifying for scholarships or assistance, etc. Striving so hard for equality has made it unfair and biased. It’s also made certain people have to work harder and some not work as hard to get the same result. Personally, for me, if the person in the office next to me has more experience, better understanding of the company, and longevity in the company, I HOPE he a promotion before me. I don’t want to take hard work and dedication away from anyone.  

 

You see, I truly don’t believe we are striving for equality. Whether we are Black, White, Asian, Male, or Female we all have our own set of perks and drawbacks. I believe what we are striving for is opportunity. And in case  you are wondering, I don’t believe we are “equal” in that either. Why change the word from “equality” to “opportunity” you ask? Because I don’t believe ANYONE likes being told they HAVE to do something. 

Example: Do I believe women should be allowed to serve on the front lines? If they want to, sure. But personally, I am GLAD that I don’t have to sign up for the draft at 18 years old. That is a perk that I receive just for being a female. Now, I may not get the best deal when it comes to haggling to buy a car, but that’s okay. That’s life. 

I believe that each individual should have the same amount of opportunities as others. What they do with that opportunity is up to them. Some will seize the opportunity and change their course from their family or cultural history. Others will ignore the opportunity and choose to continue down the stereotypical path of their ancestors, be that good or bad. 

Now, I’m not saying everyone has the same amount of opportunity at all times. I am not naive enough to believe that there are not some who are born privileged. Duh. That’s a given. But even a little opportunity can go a long way. An individual may have to work harder than someone else for success, but all they required was a small window of opportunity to get started.

People are individuals. Bottom line. 

Some cultural diversity class teach certain “characteristics” of an ethnicity. These characteristics can also be labeled as stereotypes. In the very class that we are taught not to stereotype, we are taught the means through which to do so. In this country, we are so concerned with placing people in boxes. Boxes that are predetermined based on their race, ethnicity, sex, whatever. No matter what the professor tells you, that is still wrong. 

Instead of having preconceived notions about a group and placing each individual in that box, how about we just get to know the person and let them form their own box, or circle, or star-shaped place to be put in.

Going along with this, can we please agree that children, and individuals in general, are not “color blind”? True, children before the age of 3 may not verbally differentiate between skin tones. Some say it is around that age that they learn the idea of “color” from the adults in their life. Has anyone ever thought maybe this is the time when kids start learning their colors? Having two degrees in child development I can tell you, kids aren’t as dumb as you think or hope them to be.

 Kids can look at one another and see their differences, be that skin tone, hair color, or an attribute such as glasses or a physical deformity. Kids can see that stuff. And when they get the words to know what to call it, they will call it out. And you know what? That’s okay! 

Children are wonderful at letting people create their own boxes to be put into. They ask lots of questions, gather information, and then use that to form their opinion about an individual. 

We could learn a lot from a 3 year old. 

Hope in the Darkness

Tonight I feel convicted to discuss a certain topic. Suicide. Now don’t see that word and shy away from this post. It may not be what you think. I’m not sure if the conviction comes in lieu of the Robin Williams tragedy or a recent discussion I had with my dad or the sermon preached this past Sunday. Either way, here goes.

Suicide by definition is taking one’s own life. Whether this is by accident or intentional, the end result is the same. Permanent separation from your earthly body.

First off let me say that feeling complete loneliness has to be the absolute worst feeling in the world. You see, as humans we are made to need a relationship with others. In Genesis, Adam and God walked together in the Garden. However, even though Adam had a perfect environment, all the resources at his disposal, and adequate power; the Lord himself said that it was not good for man to be alone and therefore made him a companion (Gen. 2:18). Humans need interaction with one another. It’s how we were made. That being said, when a person feels alone, of course depression will set in. And when a person feels that way for so long, I can understand how it would be hard to see your way out of that dark hole.

In the Bible, Paul is a perfect example of someone who had every opportunity to give up on his life. Having endured trial after trial and prison sentence after prison sentence; I would understand it. If I were Paul, I would be TIRED of the fight. The struggle. The race.

However, looking in 2 Timothy 4:6, when Paul is nearing the end of his life he doesn’t give up. Paul NEVER stopped living. He knew his fate. He said, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). Even then, he kept going. He kept the faith up until the very end. He fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished the course (2 Tim. 4:7)!

When writing to Timothy, Paul begged him to come visit him in prison. He details the whereabouts of all his friends to Timothy, and out of 4 of them, only 1 remains by his side. The other three have left him. Took off to other countries, following their worldly desires while their mentor in Christ sits in a jail cell awaiting his beheading. Paul pleaded with Timothy. Paul needed his friend. He needed that human contact in order to survive in his grim circumstances.

Paul, when previously writing to the people of Philippi said some of the strongest words in the whole book. He said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). When Paul wrote these words, he was already imprisoned for his Christian preaching. Another version says, “Everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose” (Phil. 1:20-21, Message).

You see folks, if you keep this conviction in your heart, you will NEVER have to question what is the reason to live. If you do this, your world will be in focus. If not, you may very well begin to worry and debate what’s the purpose of life. The answer is Christ. CHRIST is the reason to live. The Great Commission was given to us all, not just a select few. We are all put on this earth to make disciples of the Lord. To cultivate another’s spirituality and inform them of the works of God and Jesus Christ.

In the second part of this post, I want to address my thoughts on a suicide victim in Heaven. Now I will say, this is merely my informed opinion. I am in no way in authority to say such things. There is an ultimate judge that will do this.

Historically, the church has preached that a person who takes their own life can not be granted access into Heaven. This is because it is a sin that has been committed that they have not repented for. Since you can’t ask forgiveness for an act before you commit it, and once you commit it, it’s too late to ask forgiveness; you blew your chances.

Personally, I believe that a Christian who commits suicide can still be found in Heaven despite all that. You see, the Bible teaches that all sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Equal in severity? No. Equal in punishment? Yes. Equal in forgiveability? Yes.

This being said, that means there is really no real difference in a Christian dying before repenting of stealing and committing suicide. For both acts, the Christian was not able to repent before their death. Yet for some reason our society believes that suicide is the ultimate sin. These two are equal. Suicide is equal to murder, adultery, coveting, gluttony….in the eyes of God, they are all equal to the same punishment and same forgiveness if the person is saved. You see, once you are saved, that’s forever. It is by grace through FAITH that you are saved. God never moves people. He is always in the same spot. If you feel you are getting further away from God, it’s not him moving. It’s you. And once you recognize this, it’s your job to get back in line where you belong. But distance from God doesn’t mean you won’t go to Heaven. The only way I believe you truly won’t be in Heaven once you are saved is if your heart changes and you no longer believe Jesus is God’s son and he died for your sins. Then, you got yourself a problem.

This has all been written to bring awareness to the sore topic of suicide. This has meant to put a positive biblical light on it and provide some hope to those who have experienced this in their lives. This is in no way condoning suicide or excusing it. Just trying to make you aware.

If you don’t take anything else away from this, remember that people need people. You need people. They need people. Be kind to people. Everyone is struggling with something. Reach out and extend a hand to those people in your life.

God Bless.

Manna is Mercy

In John 6:31 Jesus equates himself to manna to the crowd. Manna is the bread that was given from God when the people of Israel were complaining of hunger. Though the Lord provided this bread for the people, it only lasted one day. After 24 hours, the manna would spoil and was no longer edible.

                At first you might think, why would God only give them bread to last for one day? What’s the use in that? The purpose was so that the Israelites were made to trust God each day for food. They fully relied on God. There was no use trying to save some manna for later. They were forced to divide it up and devour it in a single day.

How does this correlate with modern times?

                Christians receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God. These things are given freely. All we have to do is ask. His forgiveness is not finite. Each day, if we repent our sins of the day, they are automatically forgiven. It doesn’t matter the size, big or small sin is the same in the eyes of The Lord.

                Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

                As humans, sometimes we default to trying to stockpile our mercy and forgiveness. We think it would be best to save it for a rainy day; a day when we might be extra sinful. We may need all the mercy and forgiveness that we can get.

                Because of this, we find it hard and sometimes even refuse to give that mercy and forgiveness away to others. This is not how it should be. If our Lord’s mercies are new each morning, we should give away each bit of it that we have for today. We can trust that more will come when we wake.

                As Christians, we serve the one true God. The one who selflessly sent his ONLY son to die. For you, me, and each individual that you are reluctant to give forgiveness and mercy to. He could have kept his son on his rightful place of the throne. But instead he sent him down to earth to live as a human, a man who would work with his hands for a living. A man who would receive the worst treatment imaginable, only for telling the truth and trying to help those in the world.

                Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Our God gave it all. Christ gave it all.

                There is no other religion that I know of that can say such a thing. To have a leader so selfless and giving of himself. What a blessing that is.

                And all we are asked to do is to love the people we love, and the ones we don’t. Respect the people we already do, and those we don’t. Educate ourselves in His Word, and tell others so that they may receive the same gift we have.

We have it easy. So very easy. All we have to do is want it. The gift is there for the taking.

God never moves. He remains a constant help and presence within our lives. If you find yourself drifting away from God, or not as close as you should be, it is not because he moved. You need to bring yourself back to where you belong in your Father’s arms.

If you think your life is hard, when you have a bad day, when you know you have been treated unfairly and gotten the short end of the stick…think of Jesus. Think of all he went through. As unbareable and unimaginable as it is. He did it for you. And me. He did it for those who whipped him, beat him, spat on him. In his final breaths he forgave them.

When you think you can’t forgive, when you are holding a powerful grudge…remember Philippians 4:13 and know that Christ’s power is in you. You have the ability to forgive and show mercy. You may not want to think you do. You may deny them because they don’t deserve it. But remember, neither did you. You have the strength of Christ that allows you to forgive, just as he did. Therefore you must exercise that strength.