Oct 9, 2016

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10 Things You Can’t Vote For While Following Jesus

by Mark Sandlin

Being a “Christian” means “being a little Christ.” Put even more succinctly, it means “following Jesus.”

Can you actually do things on this list and call yourself a Christian? Well, of course. Sadly, people do it all the time.

Are you following Jesus when you vote for these things. Nope.

1) Anti-LGBT laws

Ask yourself: “Who would Jesus discriminate against?”

As you think about the answer, keep in mind that while the Pharisees encouraged discrimination against women, tax collectors, the poor, and even Samaritans, Jesus went out of his way to radically include them all.

Now, “go and do likewise.”

2) Turning away immigrants.

Christian heritage runs through Judaism. We are an immigrant people.

Even our religion began in other lands.

Our spiritual ancestors, Abraham and Sarah were told by God to pick up what they had and start traveling. Moses, Miriam and Aaron led a nation out of Egypt, into the desert and ultimately to new lands. Even Jesus spent part of his childhood as a foreigner in a foreign land.

As Exodus says, we know how it feels to be foreigners in a foreign land. If you don’t think being foreigners in a foreign land is still our story, ask the Native Americans. At best, turning away immigrants makes us hypocrites; at worst, it makes us betrayers of our ancestors and our God.

3) Letting people go hungry.

Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Politically, hunger causes problems with education, production and civil behavior which are all necessary for a successful nation. More importantly for Christians, Jesus said when we feed the hungry, we are feeding him.

4) Favoring the rich over the poor.

Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life, and his teachings.

In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let’s just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money.

5) Advocating for War.

There’s a reason why Jesus was called the Prince of Peace.

Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don’t hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking.

Most of Jesus’ teachings come back to one thing, “love.”

It is way far away from loving a person to kill them.

I guess there’s a reason why we say, “God is love.”

In the end, love wins.

6) Limiting access to healthcare.

Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader”?

If you don’t do what the leader does, you are out.

Following means you should imitate as closely as possible.

When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them.

If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, the government can’t repeat the miracles he did but I’ve seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get. While the government can’t do miracles, it can supply modern medicine.

Every year, 20,000 to 45,000 people die in the U.S. because of lack of access to heath care.

We Christians like to talk about “saving” people. Well, I know of about 20,0000 to 45,000 people who’d love for us to do it and we should – because that’s how love works.

7) Devaluing education.

We learn in Proverbs that wisdom is something in which God delights daily.

As a matter of fact, according to Proverbs, wisdom is better than gold.

When you look at the percentage of our budget which goes to education and at what little help Congress is giving around student loans, it’s pretty clear that delighting in wisdom is something our government no longer does.

To follow Jesus, we need to make education a priority. After all, he was a rabbi – a teacher.

8) Supporting capital punishment — execution.

Jesus died by execution.

He was an innocent man.

Every year, innocent people die by execution in our nation.

It’s time to be a shining city on a hill. It’s time to express the fullness of love, to express the value of life. It’s time to stop the government-sanctioned killing.

9) Forcing your religion on others.

One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught about was its meekness.

The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that’s how love works.

Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying.

This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part.

10) Donald Trump.

See 1-9.


Forbidden Archeology: Secret Discoveries of Early Man

Scientists Find Evidence Of Catastrophic Flood Of 4,000 Years Ago

Children's bones, soil samples point to deluge around time of biblical story of Noah

Scientists have made an eye-opening discovery in China that may point to a catastrophic biblical flood nearly 4,000 years ago.

Archaeologists uncovered and dated the bones of children found in the Yellow River Valley. The children are believed to have been trapped by a massive flood around 2000 B.C., around the time many Christians believe the biblical story of Noah and the Flood took place.

According to Chinese legend, a great flood deluged settlements, spilled over hills and mountains and even reached the heavens. It’s said that King Yu made the waters recede by constructing large ditches, and he founded China’s first dynasty, the Xia. However, no evidence of Yu or the Xia Dynasty has been uncovered.

Nonetheless, researchers have now published an Aug. 5 study in the journal Science indicating a massive flood submerged large swaths of China. The team, led by Wu Qianlong, believes an earthquake triggered a large landslide and dammed a waterway in 1920 B.C. The scientists believe 4 trillion gallons of water submerged the North China Plain. They used radiocarbon dating and soil samples to reach their conclusion.

But Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis told One News Now the new find is just the latest in a number of stories about a great flood event.

“Whether it’s the American Indians or the Fijians, Hawaiians, the Eskimos, Australian Aborigines … back to the Babylonians, there are flood legends in cultures all over the world,” Ham said.

In fact, the Chinese legend is quite similar to the others.

“And this particular flood legend from China – when you read it – it talks about it was basically a global flood, the way it was described. And there was a man in particular associated with that flood,” Ham explained. –WND

I Don’t Blame Terrorism On Muslims, I Blame It On Religion

by Manny Schewitz

France experienced another horrific act of terrorism today in Nice. Thousands of innocent people turned out to celebrate Bastille Day, and dozens were murdered by what appears to be an Islamic extremist who ploughed a truck into the crowd and then started shooting.

All over social media, the usual bigots have emerged to spew hatred towards Muslims. Donald Trump will almost certainly use this latest act of terrorism to further his message of isolationism and banning Muslims from entering our country.

There is absolutely no doubt that Islam has a problem with terrorism and extremist beliefs. It is a very conservative religion that has some fundamentalist sects like Wahhabism which have gained power over the past century.

The mistake that people make is blaming terrorism on Islam, rather than extremism. As a former Catholic of Jewish heritage who is now an atheist, I believe that all religions have both good and bad in them.

Religion gives people an excuse to act in horrific ways because they claim it is the will of their religious texts and their imagined deities. Religious extremism and terrorism is nothing new, it has been used since the beginning of recorded history to justify genocide, wars and greed.

Christianity was used to justify the subjugation of native peoples in the Americas by settlers and the Conquistadors. It allowed the Catholic Church to persecute, torture, kill and exile Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition. As the prominent religion of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church used its power to suppress scientists like Galileo and launch multiple crusades which killed Muslims, as well as fellow Catholics. In American history, acts of domestic terrorism by groups like the KKK have almost always been committed in the name of religion.

Judaism has allowed right-wing Israelis to avoid making peace with their Palestinian brothers, while Hamas and Hezbollah have used Islam to excuse attacking innocent Israeli citizens. Even though members of all three Abrahamic religions have more in common than they have differences, they continue to be separated by their most vocal and extreme clerics.

Terrorism isn’t born in a vacuum, but religion certainly helps people justify barreling a truck into a crowd of innocent people, or flying a jetliner into a skyscraper. It allows warlords and clerics to maintain political power and resist secular society in order to keep their territories or followers poor and ignorant.

The difference between Saudi Arabia or Iran and Western governments is theocracy versus secular government. If right-wing Christians like Kevin Swanson who promote bombing abortion clinics and executing LGBT people were allowed to control our government, we would see radical Islamic terrorism in a different form here in the United States.

Our human history is full of terrorism that was committed in the name of religion, but we didn’t always have the modern media to make angry young men famous. We can make these attacks less frequent, but only by leaving religion behind. –Modern Liberals

Being Chinese

by Chan-Lui Lee, Ph.D.

Honorary Life Member & Past President, AFS-Melbourne, Australia

Why do Chinese people work so hard to succeed in life? Chinese people do not go about bombing, terrorizing others and causing religious hatred. We live peacefully with everyone on Earth.

Here is the plain truth about being Chinese.

#1. There are over 1 billion of us on Earth. We are like photostat copies of each other. You get rid of one, and five magically appear (like ballot boxes). Yes, it is scary, especially for us. We acknowledge that we are replaceable, thus we do not feel that we are particularly 'special'. [Chinese believe that] if you think you are smart, there are thousands more people smarter than you. If you think you are strong, there are thousands more people stronger than you.

#2. We have been crawling all over the Earth for far more centuries than most civilizations. Our DNA is designed for survival. We are like cockroaches. Put us anywhere on Earth and we will make a colony and thrive. We survive on anything around us and make the best of it. Some keep migrating but others will stay and multiply.

#3. NOBODY cares if we succeed as individuals or not. But our families take pride in knowing we have succeeded. Yes, some will fail. We take nothing for granted. We don't expect privileges to fall on our laps. No one owes us anything.

#4. We know we have nothing to lose if we try to succeed. Thus, we have no fear trying. That is why Chinese are addicted to gambling. We thrive on taking risks. All or nothing.

#5. From young we are taught to count every cent. What we take for granted like money management, I have found out recently, is not something other cultures practice at home with their children. It surprised me. But truth is not all societies or cultures teach their young this set of skills because it is rude to them. Yes, most of us can count because we are forced to and the logic of money is pounded into us from the beginning of time (when mama tells us how much she has spent on our milk and diapers).

#6. We acknowledge life cycles. We accept that wealth in a family stays for three generations (urban myth?). Thus, every 4th generation will have to work from scratch. i.e. first generation earns the money from scratch, second generation spends the money on education, third generation gets spoiled and wastes all the inheritance. Then we are back to square one. Some families hang on to their wealth a little longer than most.

#7. It is our culture to push our next generation to do better than the last. Be smarter. Be stronger. Be faster. Be more righteous. Be more pious. Be more innovative. Be more creative. Be richer. Be everything that you can be in this lifetime.

#8. Our society judges us by our achievements...and we have no choice but to do something worthwhile because Chinese New Year comes around every year and Chinese relatives have no qualms about asking you straight in your face...How much are you making? When was your last promotion? How big is your office? What car do you drive? Where do you stay? You have boyfriend? You have girlfriend? When are you getting married? When are you having children? When is the next child? When you getting a boy? Got maid yet? Does your company send you overseas?... etc...etc... etc. It never ends! So, we can't stop chasing the illusive train -- we are damned to a materialistic society. If you are not Chinese, consider yourself lucky!

#9. We have been taught from young that if you have two hands, two feet, two eyes, and a mouth, what are you doing with it? "People with no hands can do better than you !"

#10. Ironically, the Chinese also believe in giving back to save their wretched materialistic souls. Balance is needed. The more their children succeed in life, the more our parents will give back to society as gratitude for the good fortune bestowed on their children. Yes, that is true. And that is why our society progresses forward in all conditions.

Nobody pities us. We accept that.

No one owes us anything. We know that.

There are too many of us for charity to reach all of us. We acknowledge that.

But that does not stop us from making a better life. This lifetime.

Opportunity is as we make of it. So, pardon us if we feel obliged to make a better place for ourselves in any country we call home. It is in our DNA to progress forward for a more comfortable life.

But if history were to be our teacher, look around the globe.

Every country has a Chinatown (seriously) but how many governments or countries have been 'taken over' by the Chinese people? Don't be afraid of us overwhelming your majority, we are not looking to conquer. If we have moved away from China and Chinese governed countries, we are not looking for another country to administer. Our representatives are only there to look after our collective welfare. They are duty bound.

We prefer to blend in and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We enjoy the company of like-minded people of all races. After all, we are only passing through a small period in the history of time... so, use our skills and we can all progress forward together. –Contributed by Ralph

Earth Has Captured A Second Moon, Says NASA

Well, this is awkward. Earth’s relationship with the moon is no longer a monogamous one. Scientists have identified a second, mini-moon orbiting our planet that has probably only been around for about 100 years, reports NASA. This second moon looks to be a recently captured asteroid, and like a mistress, its subtle dance with Earth may be fleeting, only sticking around for a few centuries. Still, it’s a remarkable event that proves just how dynamic our gravitational relationship is with near-Earth objects.

The video above showcases in detail the path of the new moon’s orbit as it bobs up and down like a tiny float in choppy water. As said, it’s small, measuring in at only around 120 feet across and no more than 300 feet wide, which is probably why it has taken so long for scientists to spot it. (It was only just spotted last April.) Its distance from Earth varies from between 38 and 100 times the distance of our planet’s primary moon.

The quasi-satellite was given the label of asteroid 2016 HO3, though surely it ought to be in line for a more charismatic title sometime soon. Scientists also assure that the space rock is no threat to our planet or to our main squeeze, the moon.

“The asteroid’s loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth’s gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth.”

“Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth’s companion for centuries to come,” he added. –Mysterious Earth

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Why My Morality As A Christian Doesn’t Just Come From The Bible

by John Pavlovitz

My new friend sat across the coffee shop table from me and within a few minutes of our introduction, cut right to the chase: “So if you don’t believe the Bible can be objectively read or that it isn’t absolute Truth—where does your authority come from?”

“Lots of places.” I responded quite matter-of-factly.

I could tell by his gobsmacked countenance that this was not a reply he deemed sane, sensible, or morally acceptable coming from a professed Christian and pastor. He was looking and hoping for the Sunday School response from me; the one he and I had both grown up learning, believing, and reciting; the one all decent, card-carrying Christians are expected to brandish: that the Bible and the Bible alone, was my moral compass.

This simply isn’t my experience and I’m certain that I’m not alone in this.

I went on the share with my friend, that yes my morality is certainly shaped in part by the Bible. I’ve read, studied, prayed through, and preached from it for most of my life, and its influence and impact are undeniable, but it doesn’t encompass the totality of my moral code. That code is a rich, complicated mosaic composed of a billion different influences: the people who raised me, my faith tradition, my personality and intellect, writers and thinkers I’ve read, the experiences I’ve had, the place and time in which I exist, the laws of the land, the communities of faith I’ve lived within, my personal reflection, and my prayerful searching—the sum total of which will not match another human being who has ever walked the planet. It is this way with each of us.

When someone asks you to build an ethical structure solely from the Bible, they are asking you to operate within a potentially self-contradicting system—if you use all of it.

For example, on the subject of war: do I determine that my moral code comes from Moses’ mountaintop dictation listing murder as one of the most grievous of sins, or can I claim such violence to be justified if I view my country’s war cause as righteous? Do I shape my morality around Jesus’ words revealing that in reality the peacemakers are the ones most in God’s image, or do I allow myself wiggle room so I can harken back to a less-benevolent version of God’s people in the Old Testament where the swords were flying fast and furious? Can I defend carpet bombing a middle east village using the Scriptures, even if I have to ignore the lion’s share of Christ’s life and message within them to do so?  Many Christians do. (It turns out we all pick and choose from Scripture’s morality menu, even if we claim otherwise.)

Does the Bible provide a uniform, irrefutable, clarified ethic on when and where violence is acceptable and when it is forbidden? Of course it doesn’t, which means it cannot itself be a compass, it can at best be a helpful traveling companion; one navigational tool among many.

Our personal morality is not fixed, despite our best intentions. It shifts and stretches as we live and move through time and gain new understanding, and this happens within and outside of the pages of the Bible. It simply does. There is nothing evil in this, as everything belongs to God.

At some point you’ve certainly seen and encountered someone doing something you yourself found decidedly immoral, even though they claimed faith and used the same Bible you read as justification. (Same compass, different True North.) Likewise you’ve run across people living beautiful, compassionate, unquestionable moral lives without Biblical knowledge or faith at all.

If the Bible was as clear and absolute a model for morality as many believers contend, then every Christian who ever read it would come away with an identical worldview and personal life expression of that worldview.

That’s not how this works.

I reminded my new friend that he had broken from what many Christians deem an orthodox hermeneutic in one very specific area of his life, and that in the eyes of the faithful who disagree with him, he was veering from the Bible’s authority, he had lost his moral compass. This divergence I reminded him, may in reality have been the result of a more accurate understanding of the original passages on the subject, or maybe it was the fact that what he had seen and experienced and discovered, had created a lens that in some way was not purely Biblical, yet completely moral.

I think if we’re honest, most of us who claim Christianity can admit that while the Bible is an important piece of our moral system, in a very practical and quite healthy way, it does not and cannot contain it.

Would making moral decisions be a whole lot easier if we could just open the Bible by topic, get our clear answer and go? Quite.

However the Bible, as complex and sprawling and enigmatic as it is does not allow this, and so we are left to use the totality of our lives and minds and studies and relationships and experiences and prayers to shape our understanding of the way we are to live and be in the world. –02

There really is no other and no better way.

~John Pavlovitz

Inner Voice Of Love ...

by Pastor Bobby Schuller

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." -John 1:1,14a

John says, "In the beginning was the Word." "Word," in this case, means "logos," which means all of God's ideas, everything he ever spoke. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is actually God's Word in flesh.

Words have incredible power. Yet, with all of our ideas, everything that we have, everything we celebrate; all of it comes from and through words. Our world is inundated with words. On our radios, computers, TVs we hear people talking, singing, selling things with words. These words say eat me, sleep with me, come visit me, think this way, act that way. Being constantly inundated with words forms our worldviews. Still, we treat words cheaply. We speak often without reflection, without regard for the consequence of what we're saying. We speak without intention and too often people are hurt.

Instead, we ought to understand that words have the power to create and destroy and should not be thrown around cheaply.

To understand this concept, we must know what is being said about us, but not what people are saying about us on Twitter or Facebook, around the water cooler, or in the classroom. What we need to hear is what God says about us. He says, "You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased." It is an inner voice of love, the wellspring of life. And from that wellspring, through that same voice of love, we can choose every word that we say to others.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to choose my words wisely. As you have shared your words of love with me through the Holy Bible, may I choose to share your love with others through every word I speak. Amen.

Reflection: Do you choose your words as you speak? When have you withheld words you knew would hurt because of God's wellspring of love within you?

Sep 25, 2016

Why I’m Over Being Faith-Shamed By Other Christians

by John Pavlovitz   

I am so over being shamed by other Christians for my views on what’s happening in the world and for pushing hard against the bigotry and hatred I see in America.

Really over it.

Friends, my faith is my faith, and it compels me to speak when I do; for equality, justice, compassion, and love. For two decades that always been my work and it’s the work I do now.

The words I share are my spiritual convictions and if those convictions happen to place me in opposition to your particular political views, that is not my responsibility. If what I speak as moral compulsion you take as partisan politics, I can’t do anything about that.

All I can tell you is that this is about far greater things to me than parties or candidates or voting blocks: This is about Life.

The Jesus I see in the Gospels was a loud, opinionated, relentless advocate of people who were marginalized and hurting and forgotten; someone whose words were often offensive to his hearers, especially those with power and comfort and ease.

When he teaches the devout Jews by making a despised, racially mixed Samaritan the merciful hero, was he being political? Yes.

When he announces his life’s work in defense of the poor and oppressed, smack dab in the heart of the Roman Empire’s opulence and power, was he making a political statement? Certainly.

When he calls out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and their abuse of power was he being political? Absolutely.

Jesus message was surely branded “political”, but his heart was fiercely for Humanity and that is the heart I work hard to hold onto. As best I can it is the place from where I write, speak, work, minister, and live.

I believe fully in the separation of Church and State, but I also believe that a Christian shouldn’t be able to separate their personal faith from their political endeavors. Everything is spiritual and every person is the neighbor I am called to love as myself.

Often when we’re uncomfortable with someone’s views, when those view press up against our own, we brand them “political” because that allows us to feel justified in shutting down conversation and dismissing these people as divisive. In the faith community, we add a layer of existential guilt upon people, as if God is somehow embarrassed if our personal convictions deviate too greatly from the accepted party line. We make them feel badly for the deepest contents of their hearts and that is a tragic thing.

In the history of our planet, good, faithful people have been shamed into silence and have allowed some incredibly horrible things to be done in the name of God, and that’s not something I’m interested in being a part of. If affirming my personal faith causes me to lose friends, that’s going to have to be a wound worth sustaining.

I love all people, and my love for all people makes me despise discrimination against, and phobia of people groups. It’s really that simple.

I want my children to live in a world where America and Christianity are measured by hope and not fear.

I want to depart this place knowing that I said everything my faith burdened me to say.

I want to leave a legacy of boldness for the inherent value of all people.

I’m a follower of Jesus and there really is no other way for me to live. There is no other path to walk.

If you can compartmentalize your faith in a way that it doesn’t touch every area of the life you live, you’re doing better than I am.

I’m going to keep speaking into this world as I feel called because that’s what freedom in America and in Christ mean to me.

And I’m going to do it with joy.

If you’re a person of faith, regardless of where that faith places you politically: pray, reflect, listen, learn—and then speak your truth and don’t apologize for it. This is your greatest calling.

Loving one another well is as spiritual, as political, and as subversive as it gets, friends. Be okay being all of the above. –John Pavlovitz

School Boards Must Be Run By Evangelical Christians

Franklin Graham says he wants every school board in America to be controlled by Evangelical Christians within the next few years, because right now “evil, wicked” gay people are running them.

“I want the school boards of America in the hands of evangelical Christians within the next four to six years,” Graham told Fox News religion reporter Todd Starnes on Thursday, as Right Wing Watch reports. “And it can happen and that will have a huge impact because so many school districts now are controlled by wicked, evil people, and the gays and lesbians, and I keep bringing their name up, but they are at the forefront of this attack against Christianity in America.”

“I want the school boards of America in the hands of evangelical Christians within the next four to six years,” he said. “And it can happen and that will have a huge impact because so many school districts now are controlled by wicked, evil people, and the gays and lesbians, and I keep bringing their name up, but they are at the forefront of this attack against Christianity in America.” -The Intellectualist