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In past posts on this blog, I have emphasized the fact that I am NOT an evangelical. In short, I am NOT interested in converting anyone. As ...

Friday, March 17, 2023

Life was imparted to mankind!

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' -John 20:19-22, ESV

Unfortunately, most Christians are oblivious to the fact that the New Testament was written from the perspective of a GREEK translation of the Old Testament commonly known as the Septuagint. Nevertheless, even most casual students of the New Testament are aware of the fact that those documents were originally penned in Greek. Now, with this background, we are prepared to look at a particular Greek word which was employed in two critical passages in the Greek version of both Testaments, Genesis 2:7 in the Old and John 20:22 in the New.

In the Blue Letter Bible entry for emphysao, we read: "The Greek word here used is employed nowhere else in the New Testament, but is the very one used by the Septuagint translators of Gen 2:7: 'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.' There, man's original creation was completed by this act of God; who, then, can fail to see that here in John 20, on the day of the Saviour's resurrection, the new creation had begun, begun by the Head of the new creation, the last Adam acting as 'a quickening spirit' (1Cr 15:45)!" (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, p. 1100)."

Emphysao literally means "to blow at or on - breathe on." (Same source) Hence, we can see that just as God blew into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul at that moment; Jesus also blew upon his apostles and imparted to them the spark of eternal life through the Holy Spirit! Notice, that the Gospel of John says that Jesus commanded them to "receive the Holy Spirit" after he had blown/breathed on them. Contrary to what many Christians believe, THIS was the occasion when Jesus first gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples - this was the beginning of the new creation in Jesus Christ.

In both cases, God breathed on humans to impart life to them - on one occasion, physical/mortal life - and on another spiritual/eternal life! And this knowledge makes what happened on that first Day of Pentecost following Christ's ascension to heaven even more meaningful. You remember, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit..." - Acts 2:1-4, ESV God blew/breathed on them, and they were made alive!

What significance does all of this have for us? Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11, ESV) Breathe on us, O God!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Confession of Patrick, Apostle of Ireland

 The following excerpt was taken from St. Patrick's Confessio:

"there is no other God, nor will there ever be, nor was there ever, except God the Father. He is the one who was not begotten, the one without a beginning, the one from whom all beginnings come, the one who holds all things in being – this is our teaching. And his son, Jesus Christ, whom we testify has always been, since before the beginning of this age, with the father in a spiritual way. He was begotten in an indescribable way before every beginning. Everything we can see, and everything beyond our sight, was made through him. He became a human being; and, having overcome death, was welcomed to the heavens to the Father. The Father gave him all power over every being, both heavenly and earthly and beneath the earth. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God. He is judge of the living and of the dead; he rewards every person according to their deeds. He has generously poured on us the Holy Spirit, the gift and promise of immortality, who makes believers and those who listen to be children of God and co-heirs with Christ."

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

CGI's Bill Watson: A FALSE Teacher!

The Church of God International's Bill Watson delivered Part 4 of his continuing series of sermons on The Prophetic Advantage: The Israel Paradigm this past Sabbath to his Medina, Ohio congregation. For Pastor Watson, the completely discredited teaching of Anglo-Israelism is the key to understanding today's headlines in the light of Biblical prophecy. As the title of his sermon series suggests, Bill believes that this understanding gives him and his church a prophetic advantage over all other Christians in their attempts to interpret Bible prophecy and explain what is currently going on in the world. Indeed, Bill and his allies have repeatedly proclaimed their commission as a "watchman to Israel" (meaning the United States and other English-speaking nations).

In this latest installment of his series, Watson proclaimed that "This is a very important subject, especially in light of what we’re going through today. Many people don’t understand what is going on around us in this country, and it is getting very disturbing. Some of the things that we’re witnessing today are unlike anything that we have witnessed ever in the history of the United States."

The pastor then proceeded to identify some of the circumstances which he finds so disturbing. He mentioned the recent failure of the Silicon Valley Bank and followed with a lament over the "palpable" corruption of the government of the United States. He claimed that the United States government has currently incarcerated over one hundred innocent citizens without legal rights or representation and said that he had recently seen a video of them gathered together singing the National Anthem and praying. He continued: "Allegedly they are the men that were involved in the insurrection What insurrection? It wasn’t an insurrection. It was a protest that was aggravated by, actually, FBI agents." Later in the message, he said that these were just "a bunch of unarmed Americans walking down the halls of the capitol." Sound familiar? Think Tucker Carlson on Fox News! He went on to decry the "disastrous shift in morals," and talked about boys claiming to be girls as symptomatic of that trend. For Bill, these current events validate his narrative that Israel (the U.S.) is suffering these maladies as a consequence of its national sins.

Watson's narrative, however, is NOT consistent with the past statements of CGI's Vance Stinson on this subject. In Ezekiel's Timeless Message, Stinson wrote: "According to some, the work of the watchman involves 'watching' for prophetic fulfillments in the daily newspaper and assuming prophetic significance for every earthquake, drought, flood, or other disaster that makes the headlines. Incredibly, even when a particular 'watchman' has a long history of failed predictions, people will continue to follow him, claiming that he has some special 'anointing,' which is reflected in his oratory skills and 'gift' for analyzing news events 'in the light of Bible prophecy.'" He continued: "Beware of those who come along and, with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, attempt to read prophetic fulfillments into the headlines. Such are the tactics of the false teachers Jesus warned His disciples about." Hence, by Vance Stinson's own standard, Bill Watson and his allies are identified as FALSE TEACHERS. The question then becomes: Why does CGI continue to provide a platform for these false teachers?

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Living Church of God's War Against Normal?

A friend recently brought to my attention an article which appeared in the January issue of LCG’s Tomorrow’s World. The War Against Normal by Wallace G. Smith asked “Is there any hope of a normal life in a society in which all ideas of ‘normal’ are under sustained and persistent attack by those seeking to make perversion the new reality?” Apparently, Smith and LCG believe that traditional moral values are under attack by the advocates of “Queer Theory.” Of course, in order for their narrative to work on any level (even to an ACOG audience), a great deal of what it means to be “normal” is ignored.

Smith begins with a vague assertion that it wasn’t that long ago that everybody clearly understood what constituted “normal” notions about marriage, gender roles, and sexuality. You may have already noticed that this nostalgia for a time of uniformity is a common theme for more conservative/traditional Christian communities. For these folks, the reality that society was NEVER uniform (or moral) is alien to them. The notion that minorities were actively shamed and oppressed in times past is either rejected by them, or they simply dismiss it as the way things should have been – the good folks keeping the bad folks under control or at bay! In other words, it was much more pleasant when homosexuals and transgender folks were in the closet where they belonged!

For Smith and his associates, the attempts of these minority communities to find their own voice and assert their rights to equal and fair treatment within society constitutes a direct attack on their values. He wrote that “we are living in the final stages of a long-running war against normality. Social engineers have mounted an aggressive campaign over multiple decades, seeking to eradicate any idea that some things should be seen as normal and some as abnormal.” Moreover, in Smith’s opinion, his side is clearly losing in the “war against normal.”

However, the problems with this narrative will be immediately apparent to anyone with an ounce of objectivity and fairmindedness. What is “normal” or “natural” for the average heterosexual is abnormal and unnatural for the average homosexual person! In other words, whose “normal” is really under attack here? Who is really trying to impose their normal on others? Moreover, if the traditional “normal” heterosexual narrative about sexuality, marriage, and gender is so great, why does that community have so many problems/aberrations extant within their own ranks? Why were women denied full legal rights and citizenship until well into the Twentieth Century? If everything is so hunky dory within the heterosexual community, why are things like abortion, domestic violence, depression, substance abuse, child abuse, and divorce so prevalent? Are there specific occupations or roles that should be exclusively the purview of men or women? If so, where is the agreement regarding that to be found within the heterosexual community? Is gay marriage a greater threat to the institution of marriage than heterosexual divorce and remarriage? Really?

As has already been noted, Mr. Smith sees this “war against normal” as a natural outgrowth of what he refers to as advocacy for “Queer Theory.” He wrote: “Like other critical theories, Queer Theory seeks to ‘deconstruct’ common ways of thinking, to challenge widely held norms, and to recast elements of societal structure into a paradigm of power: some cast as the ‘oppressed’ and others as the ‘oppressor.’” The very act of calling attention to the fact that your community has been oppressed or mistreated is cast by Smith as illegitimate and an attack on the very people who have been perpetuating those circumstances! In other words, how dare you bring attention to the fact that you’ve been oppressed or mistreated! In this way, instead of demanding that society treat a gay relationship in the same way that it treats a heterosexual one, the demand becomes an attack on the heterosexual one! Instead of demanding that society acknowledge that some folks are conflicted about gender and may need help in fully recognizing their gender identity, the demand becomes an attack on the notion of binary genders!

In what is arguably his most egregious use of fallacy, Mr. Smith unashamedly taps into the good old slippery slope argument. He wrote: “Among the final boundaries to remain—defining one of the final lands yet to be conquered by the war against normal—is the age boundary. Many people still consider childhood a time for protection from the incursions of modern sexual ‘liberty,’ yet our self-appointed social and academic superiors deem that this boundary, too, must fall. And disturbing signs indicate that it is, indeed, falling.” In other words, if you give into those queer and transgender folks, the kids are going to be next! Societal acceptance of pedophilia is right around the corner!

This, of course, whether deliberate or subconscious, taps into the old stereotype that all or most gay folks are also pedophiles. These wicked folks are just trying to groom your children for sexual relations with them! They can’t wait to exploit your children! They are “grooming” your children for their “perverted” uses/behaviors! Never mind, that things like pedophilia and bestiality are almost universally regarded within the gay community as perverse – as violating the fundamental principles of love and consent! And heaven forbid that gay people would like to see the next generation to be more tolerant and accepting of folks who are different from them! Green eyes aren’t “normal” either – does that mean we should label folks with green eyes as “abnormal” and exclude them from our fellowship or mistreat them?

Mr. Smith went on to assert that “The societal chaos created by the normalization of perversity and the perversion of normality does not reflect the mind of Almighty God, the Creator of human life, who established the institution of marriage as the foundation of family.” He pointed out that God “deals with chaos by creating boundaries.” Smith also noted that God had pronounced everything he had created to be “very good.” In Smith’s narrative, however, that apparently doesn’t include homosexuals and transgender folks. Despite a plethora of same sex behaviors in the natural world and an enormous lack of uniformity within the ranks of ALL living things, these occurrences are apparently somehow abnormal and unnatural – NOT good!

At least, Mr. Smith has the good sense to acknowledge that the traditional notions of “normal” are NOT consistent with what is predicted for God’s Kingdom! He wrote: “The Kingdom that Jesus will establish will not look like 1950s America, nor the Judea of Jesus’ day. Nostalgia for a better past is no substitute for the fullness of transformation called for in His Gospel, and the life to which Christians are called transcends what was ever lived in ages throughout history.” Finally, there is something in the article that I can give a hearty “Amen!” Mr. Smith and his associates within LCG may not understand homosexuals and transgender folks, but God does. Moreover, God’s Kingdom will wipe away all oppression, suffering, and confusion (including Mr. Smith’s).

In the meantime, I think that it would be both wise and Christian to NOT be so judgmental (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, John 7:24). Moreover, I would also like to suggest that it is an extremely desirable goal to encourage love and fidelity in both the heterosexual and homosexual communities. We need to ask ourselves: Why would a Christian wish to encourage or sustain promiscuous behavior within any community? Why would a Christian demand that someone go against their own nature or force them to remain alone in this life – without the companionship and support of a special someone? Why would anyone want to promote mental illness and perversity by ignoring and/or suppressing the things which make them human? I submit that these are questions which deserve consideration and answers! What do you think?

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Confusing Good and Evil

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5:20, ESV

Herbert Armstrong and his followers have always loved to apply this passage to Traditional Christianity and the society which surrounds them. The thought of applying it to themselves would never cross their minds. After all, they have God's TRUTH!

For these folks, the EVIL is plain to everyone who has God's Holy Spirit. They believe that things which have been traditionally associated with Christianity like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Sunday observance, Trinitarianism, the notion of an immortal soul, etc. are EVIL! Likewise, on a societal level, they believe that things like abortion, homosexuality, socialism, transgenderism, humanism, feminism, environmentalism, Black Lives Matter, and illegal immigration are EVIL!

Unfortunately, much of their perspective on what constitutes EVIL is derived from their dependence on the provisions of God's Covenant with Israel as outlined in the pages of the Torah. Their focus is on the dos and don'ts recorded there and is naturally colored by notions of paternalism, misogyny, designations of clean and unclean, slavery, conquest and subjugation, genocide, wrath, punishment, curses, and blood sacrifices.

In other words, they have rejected and/or ignored the fact that Christ and his apostles summarized all of those provisions of the Old Covenant and condensed them into two great principles for Christians operating under the NEW Covenant (Love for God and love for neighbor). Jesus of Nazareth said that this was the original intent and purpose of all of the dos and don'ts, and that the broad application of these principles to a believer's life would fulfill ALL of the requirements enumerated there! Moreover, this is the SAME message which his disciples wrote about in their various epistles.

Hence, if love is the standard for Christians, and Paul's definition of love is valid, then the ACOGs may want to amend their Good and Evil lists. If love is patient, kind, satisfied, encouraging, humble, polite, accommodating, peaceful, forgiving, celebratory of the truth, trusting, hopeful, and persistent, then many of the things which they label as EVIL don't fit! Think about it, if abortions are often spontaneous, save the life of the mother and prevent horrible suffering and pain, how can we make a blanket statement that all abortion is EVIL or murder? If a homosexual can be a Christian, follow the law of love and remain faithful to one person, how can that person or their life be characterized as EVIL? How can equal pay for equal work, equal treatment before the law, and demanding that the same rights which are accessible to men be granted to women be considered EVIL? How can loving and nurturing the earth and its creatures and attempting to shelter and protect them from abuse or harm ever be characterized as EVIL? How can it ever be considered EVIL to demand that the lives of people of African descent be valued in the same way that the lives of people of European descent are? How can we characterize a societal responsibility to protect and help the poor and disadvantaged among us as EVIL?

Likewise, if a person is following the convictions of their own conscience on some spiritual matter or is striving in their heart to worship and glorify God, how can anyone characterize any such practice as EVIL? Didn't Paul explicitly tell the saints at Rome that they shouldn't quarrel with their brothers and sisters or destroy their faith over what they think that they know? Doesn't the verse that follows that much quoted verse in Isaiah read: "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!" (5:21) In the book of Revelation, weren't the Laodiceans reprimanded for saying that they were rich, prosperous, and in need of nothing - "not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (3:17) Hence, from my humble perspective, the ACOGs are the ones who have been chiefly responsible for calling GOOD EVIL and EVIL GOOD! At the very least, I'd like to suggest that my ACOG friends be much more careful and thoughtful about the things which they condemn as EVIL! Indeed, it might be more constructive to focus on the things that are GOOD! (See Philippians 4:8) What do you think?

Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Life of Awe and Wonder!

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to see and hear William Shatner promoting his new book on MSNBC's Morning Joe. The book, Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, was written from the perspective of looking back on a life of some remarkable achievements which had spanned ninety-one years! Now, I have always loved to listen to the musings and wisdom of my elders, but I was especially intrigued by the things that Shatner was saying in that interview about being connected to the "vibrating" universe of which we are all a part. Later, when I was telling Darlene about how moved I had been by that interview, I told her that I would have to read that book. Of course, being the kind and thoughtful person that she is, I didn't have to worry about that - she gifted me a copy of the book a few weeks later!

Shatner had achieved fame and legendary status as a consequence of his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on both the Star Trek television series and the series of movies which followed many years later. More recently, he had been in the headlines as a consequence of his brief venture into space aboard Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin capsule. I had always loved both the series and the movies and was intrigued by what Shatner would have to say about the experience after having portrayed a space traveler for so many years. Hence, I had watched the live telecast on television and had witnessed Shatner emerge from the capsule after its return to earth. To my surprise, he seemed visibly shaken and emotional - even humbled by the experience. Needless to say, I wanted to hear more about the overwhelming sadness and grief which he had experienced in space!

Although I was already on the hook, the opening to his new book immediately caught my attention and ensured that I would finish the book. He wrote: "Knowledge feeds me. It's as necessary to my existence as oxygen. It thrills me." I knew exactly what he meant. He continued: "I get a tingle down my spine when I'm presented with an opportunity to learn something new, a daily occurrence for me, even at ninety-one years old. Open your eyes, your ears, your mind, and you'll quickly be overcome by the wonder that surrounds us. I am never so thrilled as when the word 'wow' escapes my mouth." Yes, we have to open our eyes, ears, and minds to learning and to experiencing the wonder which surrounds us! I was immediately reminded of that passage in Scripture: "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear!" In other words, God (Nature/Universe, if you prefer) has given us the equipment, but we have to use it!

Too many of us have decided that we have figured it all out - that we have learned THE TRUTH. We assume a defensive position - we must protect what we have learned! Unfortunately, this has the very real effect of completely arresting the learning process. Instead of growing in grace and knowledge, we find ourselves busily rejecting anything that doesn't fit the conclusions we have reached about things! When this happens, we are no longer on the offensive - actively pursuing evidence and answers to our questions, and the consequence is stagnation and/or retreat into the dark reaches of prejudice and ignorance.

Previously, I had always thought of William Shatner as being somewhat of an egocentric individual - even narcissistic on occasion. This book, however, was a revelation to me. Here was a William Shatner who was humble, searching for his place in the universe, trying to connect with the people around him and the world of which he was a part. Who would have thought that I had something to learn from him? But I clearly had learned something from him! How many times do we quietly say to ourselves, "I have NOTHING to learn from that person"? How many of us get up and turn off the television or switch the channel when Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, Sean Hannity, or George Will is discoursing on some topic? Scripture tells us that there is safety in a "MULTITUDE" of counselors. Do we really believe that?

Likewise, do we really believe that one book contains all there is to know (or all we need to know) about God, our origins, our purpose(s), or the world around us? Didn't the Apostle Paul say that God is even accessible to people who aren't Jews or Christians through the evidence provided by the world around them? Almost two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that God's invisible qualities (his power and nature) could be understood by observing the things which He had created. In other words, we can learn about God separate and apart from Scripture! Once again, when we limit ourselves, we cut ourselves off from growth and greater understanding!

The same humility, awe and wonder which I observed in William Shatner was also evident in King David of Israel. In one of the Psalms attributed to him, we read "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visited him?" Unlike Bill Shatner, David never had the opportunity to "slip the surly bonds of earth," but he was still thinking about those things! Moreover, like Shatner, he was busily setting those thoughts to music (the psalms are beautiful as poetry, but they were originally intended to be sung).

Now, William Shatner is a non-practicing Jew - he doesn't really believe in the Judeo-Christian conception of God; but he tapped into some deep spiritual truths during the course of his long life on this planet. He wrote: "No one knows quite how or why, but every so often, whether it's through prayer or contemplation, meditation or awareness, or even just the suggestive power of our imaginations, sometimes we tap into something. A rhythm, a vibration, a perfect moment where it all comes together." I hope that resonates with you in the same way that it resonated with me!

So, Christians have spiritual things to learn from actors, scientists, philosophers, atheists, the local grocer and garbage collector? YES! Are you aware of the other life forms that share this planet with us? Are you aware of the voices of the trees and the whales? Are you using the senses and brains which God or Nature has given you to explore and learn? In short, are you living a life of awe and wonder?

Sunday, March 5, 2023

I'm A Gay Christian

Although that title will come as no surprise to longtime readers of this blog (or the folks who know me), it may be a bit of shock for those who have only read a couple of my posts or comments on other blogs. Indeed, for many of the folks within the ACOG culture and many more traditional Christians, the title of this post will appear to them to be an oxymoron! In other words, they believe that it is impossible to be both a homosexual and a Christian. This reaction, however, is both unscriptural and irrational.

In terms of Scripture, the first thing to note is that the term "Christian" was applied to followers of Jesus Christ by those outside of the Church and is only used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16). In fact, throughout the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the book of Acts, Jesus' followers were referred to as "disciples." That's the English word - the original Greek word is "mathetes," and it literally means a learner, pupil, or disciple. Later, among the "believers," the terms "brethren" and "saints" were used to describe the members of the ekklesia or Church. Moreover, we should also note that the term "saint" <hagios> was originally applied to anyone who had received the Holy Spirit - it was NOT indicative of the miracle working, holy men designated by the Roman Church in later years.

Interestingly, our clarification of the "saint" moniker also gets us closer to a scriptural definition of what a Christian is - or who is/isn't a Christian. First, Scripture makes clear that we MUST believe in Jesus Christ and accept him as our Savior (John 1:12, 3:16, 6:29, 47, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10, etc.). Second, the "Christian" was expected to repent of their sins, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Indeed, Paul told the saints at Rome that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was essential - that anyone who did not have the Spirit of Christ didn't belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). Finally, the "Christian" was expected to live a life which adhered to Christ's teachings about loving God and each other and reflected the new person which his work had created (John 13:35, Romans 8:1, 4, 12, II Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, I John 3:4-9, etc.). According to the Bible, these are the things which identify someone as a Christian.

Now, as for the logic, it is self-evident that a person can be a Christian and simultaneously be many other things. For instance, a Christian can be a male, female, eunuch, soldier, slave, tax collector, fisherman, politician, Jew, Greek, Roman, etc. (and if you doubt any of these designations as being possible for "Christians," you aren't very familiar with the text of the New Testament). It is also intrinsic to the notion of a "Christian" that everyone who claims that name is a sinner (Romans 3:23, I John 1:8-10, etc.). In other words, Christians are people who have broken God's laws - failed to live up to the standards which are outlined in Scripture (and that covers a whole host of bad behaviors - like lying, stealing, murdering, adultery, idolatry, etc.).

Obviously, most Christians will admit that they are heterosexuals and have engaged in heterosexual activities. Moreover, if we could catch them in a moment of honesty, we would probably be able to get many of them to admit that at least some of those heterosexual behaviors which they have engaged in over the course of their lives were illicit (outside of what the Bible defines as acceptable to God). For instance, we know that Paul had to reprimand a member of the Corinthian congregation for having an adulterous/incestuous relationship with his father's wife!

So, we see that it is apparent that sexual orientation alone does NOT automatically make one righteous or sinful. Indeed, in terms of sexual behavior, love and fidelity appear to be the bottom line where the God of the Bible is concerned! Hence, just like my heterosexual counterparts, my sexual behavior can conform to God's will or not! In other words, homosexuals are also capable of love and fidelity.

Unfortunately, the attitudes of many Christians towards their brothers and sisters in Christ is NOT what it could or should be! The TRUTH is that there are a whole host of individual characteristics which we can possess that have absolutely NO bearing on whether or not we are a "Christian." Christians can be a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, Unitarian, Trinitarian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, gay or straight - as long as they meet the scriptural criteria outlined above. We have a tendency to add to the essentials. Many of us make things like sexual orientation, political affiliation, or doctrinal stances an integral part of our criteria for determining who is or isn't our brother and sister in Christ.

And, finally, too many "Christians" forget and/or completely ignore what the Apostle Paul related about the role of individual conscience in the life of a "Christian." He wrote to the saints at Rome: "Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong." (Romans 14:1) He went on to say: "Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval." (Verse 4) Paul continued: "Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall." (Verses 12-13) Sure, Paul was talking about the observance of days, and what members believed about things which were (not) appropriate for Christians to eat; but the context makes clear that he was getting at a much broader principle for the saints to follow. He wrote: "You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right...If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning." (Verses 21-23). In other words, each and every one of us should be practicing what we believe to be God's will for our lives. In the end, you will have to answer for what YOU have done with your life, and I will have to answer for what I have done with mine!

But what about all of those clobber scriptures which explicitly state that homosexuality is a sin? I could say what about all of those scriptures that explicitly state that divorce is contrary to God's will, and that most of the folks who engage in that behavior and then remarry are sinning against God! The point is that each one of us is responsible for the way that we handle Scripture. It is possible for two people to reach different conclusions about the meaning of a particular passage and remain Christians! Thankfully, we don't get to decide who is and isn't a Christian - that's above our paygrade!