Tolerant Liberals

Discrimination or Freedom: Agreeing to Disagree

So today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed Christian business owners the right to refuse to provide services for gay weddings. Brewer, who spent several days considering whether to sign the bill or not, said, “it had the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways that we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.”

For those of us here in New Mexico, we saw this issue rise up a few years ago when the New Mexican photographers refused to photograph a gay wedding. And more recently, a Christian bakery in Oregon was found to have violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 when they refused to bake the cake for a gay wedding.

In the Oregon case, the subsequent investigation found, “that the bakery is not a religious institution under the law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Bureau of Labor and Industries. Under state law, the complaint against the bakery now moves into a period of “reconciliation”. If they can’t reach an agreement, formal civil charges could be filed and the Kleins (bakery owners) could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said their desire is to “rehabilitate” businesses like the one owned by the Christian couple. “Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.” Aaron Klein said there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.

Widespread praise and celebration over Brewer’s decision to veto the bill has erupted all over the internet and social media. Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have written their support for Brewer’s decision and have cited the need to love and accept everyone as a valid reason to veto the bill. People are calling for the “discrimination, segregation, oppression, public shaming, and hatred” of gays to stop.

And that’s where I have a problem. Do we use these terms too loosely? Our society does not hate, oppress, shame, segregate, or discriminate against the LGBT community. The last time I went into a restaurant, I did not see a section labeled “gay section.” I do not see water fountains with signs posted “for straight people only.” We don’t require homosexuals to pay different taxes or to sit in the back of the bus or prohibit them from a certain career field or from pursuing a college education. We embrace people of all colors, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and religion and encourage them to pursue the American dream.

We are told to be “tolerant” and “accepting.” That’s fine. We shouldn’t hate anybody. And, yes, we should love everyone as Christ loved us. But to love and accept people doesn’t mean you have to agree with or condone every single decision they make. Yeshua loved everyone He came across but He also told them “go and sin no more.”

We are told to be tolerant and accepting but where is the tolerance and acceptance for those who believe homosexuality is wrong? Because I think it’s wrong I am somehow hating and discriminating and oppressing the LGBT community? Where’s the love and acceptance, people? You don’t have to agree with me, but you do have to respect my decision and view-point….just like I respect yours.

Which brings me to my next point. If we must respect everyone’s personal decisions on how they live their lives, why is it that this private-business’ decisions are not being respected? One of the benefits of owning your own business is that you get to set your hours, make your own rules, and decide how you will operate your business. You also get to decide with whom you and your business work. If a consulting firm, for example, decided that they and their potential clients would not work well together, they have the right to turn down the business deal.

I mean, really, if we let the free-market system work and enough people simply stop frequenting these business who refuse to be a part of gay weddings, then won’t they go out of business all on their own? It’s economic Darwinism. Let it happen.

So here is the question: Where do we draw the line? At what point are privately-owned businesses exercising their religious liberties or violating the civil liberties and “discriminating” against potential customers?

I am concerned that the message being sent is that civil liberties trump religious freedoms. And that’s a dangerous and slippery slope to go down. If one liberty trumps another, what’s to stop our other liberties from being taken away? Free speech? Freedom to practice religion the way we see fit? The freedom to own a gun? The freedom to choose how we raise our own children? And who gets to decide which liberties take precedence over another? The government? Is that really the best solution?

Now, to all the believers out there who feel guilty or embarrassed about their belief that a business has a right to refuse to participate in gay weddings: Don’t let others bully you into thinking that you are somehow a bad Christian and that you are not “showing the love of Christ.” That’s not hate…it’s simply a choice to disagree. Sharing the love of Messiah means that you don’t judge the LGBT community. That you don’t hurl hate-speech at gay people. That you don’t condemn at every opportunity. It is not our place to condemn or judge anyone. 

However, showing people love doesn’t mean you now have to participate in or agree with their life choices…whatever they may be. When did “love” come to mean “approve?” You don’t have to agree with my decisions and I don’t have to agree with yours. We do, however, have to respect each other’s beliefs and sometimes, that simply means agreeing to disagree.

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Conquering the World

I hear it calling me. Beckoning me to answer it’s call. Judging me for all the unfinished tasks I have to do. It’s my to-do list….and it seems like it will never end. All the things I have to do. All the things that need cleaning or fixing or hanging. The clothes that need to be washed. The errands that need to be done. The food that must be bought and subsequently cooked. The miles that must be run. The floors that need to be swept.

But then I hear another voice calling to me. Drawing me to Itself. It’s the voice of my Father. “Come to Me all who are weak and weary and I will give you rest.”

“But I don’t have time”, comes my response. “I’ll never get everything finished if I stop now.”

“Come. And draw near to Me. Let Me help you carry the burdens.”

I push on, never answering His voice.

Days go by and the list keeps growing instead of shrinking and I am more tired and weary than ever before. The Voice calling to me remains unanswered: “Come to Me and I will refresh you. I will make you whole and complete again.”

I hesitantly put my to-do list down. I choose to ignore the dishes in the sink. The piles of laundry that are still unfolded (I meant to get to that). I choose to ignore the unswept floors and the nagging feeling that I’ll regret not going to the gym.

And as I choose to ignore the other voices calling out to me, His voice becomes a little louder. Soft and gentle but louder.

“I will fill you up. I will give you strength. I am all that you need.”

And in that moment, nothing else matters. The other voices have died away. The other pressures have faded and the only weight I feel is His glory as it rests upon me. When I allow Him to hold me in His arms, the world around me fades away. There is no to-do list. There are no worries. There are no fears. My confusion and questions all fade away and it’s just me and my Savior….standing face-to-face.

“Who am I that You should take notice? That you should care about me?”

“You are My child. And I love you. I have sought you and found you. You are Mine….and I will never let you go.”

In those tender moments with My Creator, tears are shed, laughter is heard, and quiet songs of praise are sung. My hands are lifted in surrender. His praise is lifted to the heavens. And I am made whole again. In those moments of stillness, not a single thing from my to-do list gets done, and yet, we have conquered the world. 

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Why I Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day

I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I know what you’re probably thinking. “If you had a boyfriend you’d probably feel differently.” Thank you for pointing that out but, no, that’s not why I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. As a Biblical believer, I do not celebrate holidays that have pagan origins. I bet I know what you’re thinking again, besides asking “when did she become a mind-reader”: “But I don’t celebrate it that way so, it’s ok.”

In the spirit of romance, let’s think about it this way. What if your husband had previously dated someone and every year on this former girlfriend’s birthday, he had a celebration? When you ask him about why he celebrates his former girlfriend’s birthday every year, he says, “Well, I am not celebrating her birthday anymore. I redeemed it and now use it to celebrate your birthday!” I don’t know about you, ladies, but this answer would not make me happy. The fact that he still sees this day as any sort of holiday is bad enough but now, add the fact that he has taken my special day and changed it to what is her special day! I would not be thrilled…to say the least. I certainly wouldn’t want to celebrate this so-called holiday. Questions would race through my mind of, “Does he still love her?”

“Does he love her more than he loves me?”

“Does he just see me as a replacement for her?”

“Does he even love me, for me?”

It is the same with God. We all at one time lived apart from God and were joined to other lovers (i.e. the former girlfriend). When we make a commitment to leave our past behind and seek after YHVH with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we must leave behind our past and our former lovers. The same questions we would ask if our husband refused to let go of his former girlfriend are the same questions God asks too. “Do they just see me as a replacement? Do they even love Me, for Me?”

When we just replace the meaning behind the pagan holidays and their rituals, instead of leaving them completely behind, we are doing the same thing as the husband in the analogy. We show YHVH we haven’t left our other gods behind; our former ways are our current ways but in a different form.  

While some historians believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the death or burial of St. Valentine (there are several prominent saints with this name so it’s uncertain which Saint Valentine is the real one), others claim that it was an attempt by the Christian church to “Christianize” the pagan ritual of Lupercalia. Lupercalia, celebrated February 15, was a Roman fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

To kick off the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The Luperci priests would then sacrifice a dog as a symbol of purification and a goat as a symbol of fertility. The goat skin was then cut into strips and then dipped in sacrificial blood. The fields and the young women of the area were then “gently slapped” (whatever that means) with the dipped-in-blood goat strips in order to make them more fertile in the coming year.

According to legend, all the young women would then place their names in a giant urn, in which the city’s bachelors would then take turns selecting the name of a maiden to be paired with for the coming year. Often times, not always, however, these matches led to marriage. Because of the promiscuous nature of this pagan festival, it was outlawed at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius, even though it had survived the initial rise of Christianity. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day as an alternative to Lupercalia.

So you see, Valentine’s Day is rooted in pagan tradition. YHVH tells us to be set-apart; a nation of priests. How can we be set-apart if we yoke ourselves to the ways of this world? Why is it so hard for us to let these things go? Yes, I know…they are tradition. And yes, I know…you don’t celebrate with these intentions. But does celebrating these holidays sanctify us? Does it bring glory to YHVH?

Many Christians say that they have somehow redeemed these pagan holidays for God and so it’s ok to celebrate them. The truth is that you as a person or we as the church body have no power to do that. Only God can redeem something. But does He really want to redeem these holidays? No, He doesn’t. He never chose these pagan celebrations for His people. Besides that, you can’t redeem something that was never yours to begin with. To redeem something means to release, liberate, deliver, rescue, save, or restore something. There is an implication that the thing you are trying to redeem once belonged to you but has since been lost. These pagan holidays never belonged to YHVH; they were never meant to be part of His system. In fact, He specifically warns us against the pagan ways of the surrounding nations.

         “Guard yourself that you are not ensnared to follow after them [the nations which YHVH cuts off], after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire about their mighty ones, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their mighty ones? And let me do so too.’ Do not do so to YHVH your God, for every abomination which YHVH hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones.” Deuteronomy 12:30-31

YHVH has feasts and celebrations that He has designated as set-apart in order to sanctify us. These are the holidays the people of YHVH should be celebrating, not holidays steeped in pagan and godless tradition. Leviticus 23 outlines the 7 feasts of YHVH as Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruach (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Coverings), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). These were the holidays Yeshua would have celebrated. These are the holidays Jesus guarded and treasured with every fiber of His being.

Does it somehow negate what Jesus did on the cross to celebrate the Biblical feasts? Most certainly not. Yeshua Himself said, “And it is easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Torah to fall away.” We, as Christians, believe that God and His Word stand forever; that they are unchanging. This includes His feasts and His warning against pagan celebrations.

If this day is all about showing love to the special people in your life, then let’s make a conscious effort to do that more than just this one day. We don’t need to designate a day to show those we care about that we love them. Maybe this year we need to get better about loving those around us, instead of needing a designated day to remind us. We can also work on showing YHVH that we love Him and His Word. Let’s show Him that we love Him more than our traditions. More than what everyone else is doing. More than our pride. More than ourselves. Let’s make everyday a good day to fulfill the Torah by loving YHVH and loving others!

 

Young men rejoicing in the Shabbat at the Western Wall. Notice the Torah is the center of their joy.

The Blessing of Sabbath

Shabbat. Sabbath. The Lord’s Day. A day of rest. The seventh day. A holy day. The weekly holiday. These are just a few of the many names Shabbat or Sabbath goes by. But what is Sabbath really? The Torah, or the Word of God, tells us that this day is many things for the people of God. It is an everlasting sign of our covenant with YHVH (God) to be observed throughout our generations, it is a joy, it is a holy day, and it is life-giving to all those who guard it.

My grandmother raised my mom to observe Sabbath, who then taught me and my sister about Shabbat. While I can’t say that we always observed sabbath growing up, we did our best to try and now, because of the faithfulness of my grandmother, her children’s children love and guard the Sabbath of YHVH just as much as she does.

We always knew that the true day of Sabbath was Friday night to Saturday night and this confused me growing up in a church that said it had been changed to Sunday. It wasn’t until I was in college that I would find out the truth behind why this holy day was changed from the Friday/Saturday model to Sunday.

In Daniel 7:25, we are told, “and it [the fourth beast/the anti-Christ] speaks words against the Most High, and it wears out the set-apart ones of the Most High and it intends to change appointed times and law, and they [the set-apart ones] are given into its hand for a time and times and half a time.” From Daniel’s vision, we are told that the spirit of the anti-Christ is to change the appointed times and the law; change can include adding or taking away. What are the appointed times? In Hebrew, the word moedim means “feasts, appointed times, celebrations.” The word for “law” in Hebrew is Torah. However, Torah tends to get a bad reputation from this translation. Hebrew is a language of depth and rich with meaning. So to simply say Torah is “law”, we miss so much of the fullness of what it really is. Torah is truly God’s instruction book for His people. It is the righteous right-rulings that we are to live by. Just as our earthly father would establish rules for living in his house, our heavenly Father has rules for His house. So when any person tells us something that changes Torah, whether by adding or taking away from, we know this to be the spirit of the anti-Christ trying to destroy the ways of God and His people.

In 325 AD, Constantine, Emperor of Rome, held the First Council of Nicaea. It was through the Council of Nicaea that Constantine established many of the fundamental elements of Christianity as we know it today. Constantine was a relatively new ruler and many riots were breaking out at this time due to religious clashes between the Jews of conquered Jerusalem and the Romans who were now flocking to Jerusalem. In order to quench the riots, Constantine made a compromise between the two religions. He took the Nazarene faith (believers of Yeshua/Jesus) and mixed it with Mithraism (sun worship). He took the Nazarene’s belief in Yeshua and the sun worship of the pagan Romans and created the new “universal” religion of Catholicism. By taking elements of both religions, Constantine hoped to unite these warring factions and bring the people together in unity. We see many examples of this still happening today. We hear messages of “Coexist”, “we all worship the same god”, and “no one’s belief system is wrong.”  One of the elements Constantine kept from sun worship was their most holy day of the week…..SUN-day. This is how Sunday came to replace Friday/Saturday as the Sabbath.        

We can obviously see that the enemy has great motivation to change the system of God and to keep God’s people in the dark on these matters. Genesis 1:14 tells us that the sun, moon, and stars are to be “for signs and appointed times,” meaning that from the beginning there was a system in place that God designed to point us to the times and seasons He had ordained to meet with us. By changing this system, the enemy keeps us from knowing the times to meet with YHVH and keeps us from knowing the times and seasons we are in. Hebrews 4 tells us that Sabbath here on earth is a foreshadow of the ultimate sabbath rest we as believers will enter into one day…meaning dwelling in His Kingdom in the New Jerusalem. But if we don’t understand Shabbat, and more importantly His Torah and all the feasts of YHVH, we will never understand the fullness of the plan He has for us.

I know several people who had said that since they have begun to guard Shabbat, they have seen huge changes in their lives. For instance, they have drawn closer to God, they have seen spiritual blessings multiply in their lives, and they feel the peace of God covering their lives. Isaiah 58:13-14 says,

“If you do turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My set-apart day, and shall call the Sabbath ‘a delight’, the set-apart day of YHVH ‘esteemed,’ and shall esteem it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in YHVH. And I shall cause you to ride on the heights of the earth, and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father. For the mouth of YHVH has spoken!”

So you see, keeping Shabbat is a blessing to those who guard it. We can also see YHVH feels very strongly about Sabbath and that it is to remain a holy, set-apart day. We also see from these verses that we are not to do “our own ways nor find our own pleasure” on Shabbat. This doesn’t mean that you should be unhappy or bored when celebrating Shabbat; it simply means that we are to find our delight in God on this day and not in the common things of life.

For example, keeping the Shabbat holy doesn’t mean you veg out, watch tv and never leave the couch. It means you spend your time with family and friends celebrating all that God has done for you this week. It means setting aside special time with YHVH to tell Him you love Him and in turn, letting Him refresh you and revive you. Setting this day apart as a holy day means not finding your pleasure in the common things of this life but in the holy things of above.

Many people ask, “But I’m not Jewish. Does the Sabbath still apply to me?” The answer is a resounding YES! Isaiah 56:1-7 tells us that any son of a foreigner who joins himself to YHVH, who guards the Sabbath, and holds fast to His covenant will be brought to the mountain of God and will rejoice in His house of prayer. God says He accepts the offerings of the son of a foreigner who joins Himself to YHVH. So we don’t have to be Jewish in order to keep Sabbath; we just have to be willing to join ourselves to the house of God.

There are some people who say that say that the Sabbath doesn’t have to be on a specific day of the week because any day is a good day to worship God. Yes, it is true that you can worship God any day of the week and not only on Sabbath but that doesn’t change the command YHVH gave us to keep this specific day holy. Keeping the Sabbath doesn’t negate worship on any other day and neither should it keep us from worshipping Him every, single day of the week or any time He calls us into prayer and worship. It simply means that there is something special about this day; something that can only happen on this day of the week. When we submit ourselves to our Husband, something incredible happens. We are free. As YHVH draws us close to Him on this day, we are made free to live the life that He desires for us. It is through obedience that we gain life and freedom. So when we choose to be obedient and live our lives as an offering to our Father, it is then that we gain a freedom we have never felt before; it is then that He breathes His spirit into us and refreshes our life.

I have heard it said that by keeping the Sabbath and guarding the Torah, that a person is put back “under the Law” and that these things somehow cancel what Jesus did on the cross. However, Yeshua kept the Sabbath. The Word is clear that He went to synagogue, read the Scriptures, spent time in prayer, taught and fellowshipped with His disciples, and even performed miracles on this day. If we are to strive to live our lives as Yeshua did, why don’t we strive to keep Shabbat as He did? I have never heard anyone say that the command “do not murder” is not to be kept because of Jesus’ death on the cross. We have no problem obeying “do not murder”, “do not commit adultery”, “honor your mother and father” and so on. So why do we have such a problem with Sabbath?     

YHVH and His Word are the same yesterday, today and forever. This means He does not change. His Word does not change. His Word does not contradict itself. YHVH is not the author of confusion; the enemy of the believers is, though. The enemy has a reason to keep us from knowing the truth about YHVH’s Torah, the truth about YHVH’s Ways, and the truth about Shabbat. If he can keep us in the dark and keep us from knowing the truth, it’s only that much easier for him to deceive us. We MUST seek the truth with all our heart! And when we find it, we cannot harden our heart to it. It may go against our traditions or what we were brought up to believe, but ultimately, if our hearts are seeking after YHVH’s truth, we have to let those things go. When we come before YHVH, we conform to His ways; we never make Him conform to our ways. We must be like Ruth who said, “Your God will be my God and your people shall be my people. Ba’asher telchi elech. Wherever you go, there I shall go.” It might be hard. Others may not understand or agree with what we are doing, but really, our goal in this life is to be a pleasing sacrifice to YHVH, not man.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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Super Bowl, Pelosi vs. Constitution, ObamaCare Killing Jobs, Shabbat

Hey Everyone!

This is the recording from February 6, 2014! This episode features headlines such as NFL Players Tweeting Support for ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi’s Proposed Changes to the Constitution, and ObamaCare is a Disincentive for People to Work. The Torah Tidbits segment featured in this episode dealt with Shabbat. I discuss what Shabbat is, why it’s important to celebrate Sabbath, who does the sabbath apply to and how are we supposed to observe the sabbath.

I will also have a post up soon that is all about Shabbat! Hope you all enjoy!

P.S. The audio starts about at about 1:20 so don’t think there is an error if you don’t hear anything before that. It was supposed to be the sound of a shofar, but I guess it somehow didn’t end up on the recording.

Voice in Desert - Petra

State of the Union

You can now hear recordings of my radio show Voice in the Desert! This recording is of my last radio show where I broke down the State of the Union address. Let me know what you thought! Did you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on my analysis and/or the State of the Union Address! Can’t wait to hear from you guys!