Maria Yeager

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Should We Blindly Follow Government Authority? Trump, the Evangelicals, and the Immigration Problem

During the past week or so, I have been in long and very interesting discussions with followers of Franklin Graham on Twitter. As these discussions continued I realized several things:

  1. I was dumbfounded by their lack of knowledge of scripture.
  2. I realized that they blindly follow Trump even when proof of his lies are presented to them.
  3. I realized that in order to push their narrative, they quote only one or two scripture passages and take them out of context.
  4. I felt like I was talking to modern-day Pharisees.

I will address each of the above in more detail.

  1. Lack of knowledge of scripture – Over and over again, they insisted that Jesus never broke the law. When I told them this wasn’t true, they asked for scripture references. Now, if these people really followed Jesus and spent time reading the Bible, they would know that Jesus broke the law…many times. Again, I was dumbfounded. First of all, why do they think Jesus was crucified? I reminded them that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman and that he healed on the Sabbath. I reminded them that Jesus defended his disciples when they plucked grain on the Sabbath. An additional time was when he overturned the tables in the temple. All of these actions were illegal.
  2. Many of Graham’s followers insisted that most of the people crossing at the border were criminals that had kidnapped children and/or who were involved in drug cartels. They used this as justification for child separations at the border. I know where they are getting this false info – it comes directly from Trump as he has stated many times that those crossing the border are all “bad people”. I checked the facts. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection website reports the following numbers: From October, 2017 to June, 2018, there were 286,290 unaccompanied minors and family units apprehended at the border (37,450 unaccompanied minors and 68,290 family units for a total of 286,290). During that same time period, 4,886 of those were criminal aliens. This means that 1.8 percent of people crossing at the southern border were actually “bad people” as Trump calls them. When I posted these stats on Franklin Graham’s site, I was insulted so much by one woman that I ended up having to block her. She clearly didn’t like to be proven wrong.
  3. The scripture passage that some of Graham’s followers use over and over again to justify their support of Trump’s zero tolerance policy is Romans 13:1-7. I would like to spend a little more time on this one. This verse tells us that we should obey our leaders and government. That part is true. However, should we blindly follow government and follow all rules without question? Here’s a better question – are we expected to blindly follow dictators like Hitler and Stalin? The answer is no. Here are some facts:
  • The word “governing” in this passage was translated from the Greek word “hupercho” which  means “morally excellent.” This word does not refer to a person who is corrupt or who is morally lacking.
  • Hitler used Romans 13 to force church compliance during World War II.
  • We have to remember that Jesus broke unjust man-made laws, and so did Peter and Paul.
  • There are many times in the Bible where civil disobedience was honored by God. Examples can be found in Exodus 1 (midwives not following the command of the King of Egypt, and God rewarded them), Daniel (he did not follow the rule to not pray, yet God saved him from the den of lions), Acts 4-5 (Peter and John arrested by the Sadducees for preaching about Jesus, but they were released because they were performing many miracles), and most terrifying, Revelation 13:13 (the dragon gives all AUTHORITY to the beast, and everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life will follow it).
  • The bottom line: We are to obey JUST laws and follow MORALLY EXCELLENT LEADERS. We must take Romans 13 in context with the rest of the scripture. There are many cases of civil disobedience in both the Old and New Testament. The disciples were imprisoned for civil disobedience. How can we tell when it is OK to rise up and resist against authority? The answer to that is easy…when man-made law is in conflict with God’s law. Some of those on Franklin Graham’s page insist that we must obey all laws, and they use this as a justification for separating families. When I told them that God calls us to be compassionate and that He also calls us to treat the foreigner as a native of our land, they insist that we must follow the law. I think you get the point by now. We must follow man-made law if and only if it agrees with God’s law. If it conflicts with God’s law, it is OK to resist authority.

4. During these conversations on Franklin Graham’s Twitter feed, it became apparent to me that these people appear to be modern-day Pharisees. No matter how many times I tried to explain everything that I have written in this blog, they kept going back to “we must follow the laws all the time no matter what.” This is exactly what the Pharisees did in the gospels. It’s as if they are deaf. Then I realized that Jesus told us that there will be those who won’t listen…those who will not hear because they are not of God. I, of course, accept this teaching, but it does make me sad. I really wish people would at least try to understand scripture. I keep posting on his site because you just never know what kind of impact it may have….some who remain quiet may be taking this all in and may be listening closely. I sure hope so!

Have a wonderful and blessed weekend, everyone!

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 7

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

This is a verse that I hear many evangelicals repeat over and over again. Another popular one is Romans 10:9:

“…because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

These are wonderful passages. How comforting it is to know that if you truly believe in Jesus, your sins will be forgiven and you will be saved. In this Easter season, we should never forget that Jesus suffered tremendously and gave up His life in order to save us from our sins. How wonderful!! I am so incredibly thankful for the free gift that Jesus gave to us!!

But is that the end of the story? Is that all we have to do to be saved? Well, not exactly. Yes, the evangelicals are correct in saying that if we truly believe, we will be saved. However, the key word here is “truly”.

First, let me address several evangelical teachings that are correct. First of all, Paul does say that we are no longer under the law.

“But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” Romans 7:6

In addition, Paul does say that we are not justified through deeds:

“For no human being will be justified in his sight by deeds prescribed by the law; for through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

However, some evangelicals have a tendency to cherry pick scripture. They like to point out the passages they like but then they seem to ignore what else Paul said. The above scripture passages are beautiful; however, without reading the rest of Romans, you could be easily misled. Here are some statements by Paul in the book of Romans that counter evangelical beliefs:

“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:31

“What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” Romans 6:1-2

“Therefore do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies to make you obey their passions.” Romans 6:12

“What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one who you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:15

The point I am making in this blog is that you cannot cherry pick scripture. Yes, Paul says that a person is not justified through deeds, and he also said that those who truly believe in Jesus are no longer under the law. Like I said earlier, the key word here is “truly”. Remember what I pointed out in my previous blogs – just because a person says “Jesus is my Savior” does not mean that person TRULY believes. Remember that Jesus said that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is all about what is in a person’s heart and if a TRUE SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION has taken place. If you really take the time to read Romans….really read it slowly…you will see how Paul makes this exact point. If a person has TRULY accepted Jesus and is a TRUE Christian, his/her actions will automatically follow – he/she will do their best to avoid sin and to act in a Christ-like manner.

So how do we know if someone is a true Christian? Well, none of us really know because only God knows what is in a person’s heart. However, Jesus taught us how we, as human beings, can begin to distinguish between true and false Christians when he said, “By their fruits you will know them.” We are not to judge others; however, we are also not to condone sin. The only way for us to discern good from evil is by watching a person’s actions, and it is up to us, as true Christians, to rebuke sin when we witness it.

I think it is obvious that by cherry picking scripture, some evangelicals have gone off track. Some of these people support Donald Trump, and if you look at EVERYTHING that Paul says in Romans, not just select scripture passages, you will see that true Christians should be rebuking Trump for his immoral/unethical behavior. True Christians should never, ever support a person who says he never ask for forgiveness and who is waist-deep in sin. We should pray for Trump, but we should never condone his behavior.

Have a wonderful Easter! God bless!

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 6

I learned something after writing Part 5 of this Bible study.

I learned that the book of James is not accepted by all mainstream religions.

Why? Because James doesn’t talk as much about faith as in other books of the Bible. His focus is more on works. Remember that James said “faith without works is dead.”

Some people don’t like this. Some believe that faith alone will get us into heaven…that what we do here on earth doesn’t matter. I even read that some religious groups don’t accept the words of James because they contradict what Paul said in his letters.

But do they?

Since Christians in general accept the words of Paul, I decided to move to Romans in Part 6 of this Bible study. I wanted to see if Paul’s words contradict what James said. Let’s take a look.

“They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:29-32

Let’s apply those verses to Trump and evangelical leaders today.

Trump is guilty of covetousness. One perfect example are his multiple affairs. Especially compelling today is the Stormy Daniels story.

Trump is full of deceit. He lies on average of 5 times per day. A recent example of his deceit are the lies he told to Justin Trudeau about the “trade deficit” with Canada. He even ADMITTED his deceit, and even laughed about it.

Trump is a slanderer. He calls people names on almost a daily basis. Just take a look at his Twitter feed.

Trump is haughty and boastful. How many times have you heard him brag about how he is the best President ever, that he has the largest crowds ever, and that we should feel lucky that he decided to run for President?

Now, let’s read Romans 1:32 again: “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them, but EVEN APPLAUD OTHERS WHO PRACTICE THEM.”

Who applauds Trump even though he practices these sinful behaviors? That’s right – some evangelicals and even the preachers. Tony Perkins gave Trump a “mulligan” over the Stormy Daniels affair. Franklin Graham, even when confronted with all of Trump’s sinful behavior, says that Trump is “a good person.”

Moving on…

“For [God] will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil.” Romans 2:6-9

It is very clear from those verses that Paul is saying that actions DO matter. This is in agreement with what is written in the book of James.

Now let me stop here and make it very clear that faith is extremely important. Belief in Jesus is very important. Our sins will be forgiven if we turn from sin and repent. His death on the cross will cover those sins. But some evangelicals want to believe that faith is the ONLY thing that matters, and it doesn’t matter what we do here on earth. Both James and Paul have said that by doing evil, we are sinning and we will be held accountable if we don’t turn from that sinful life – we have to leave it behind, pick up the cross and follow Jesus. That means turning away from sin. That doesn’t mean that we will be perfect – no one is. But we can’t do just anything willy nilly and not even try. That’s not going to work either.

Paul clarifies this even further:

“For it is NOT the HEARERS of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the DOERS of the law who will be justified.” Romans 2:13

Again, Paul drives home the point that the ones who will be justified will be those who ACT.

The last thing I would like to address today is the specific action of accepting Jesus as our Savior. Clearly this is very important as the Bible teaches us. But sometimes, I hear far-right evangelicals go as far as to say that those who have never heard about Jesus and who were never given an opportunity to accept Him will not go to heaven. I have always had a problem with this. God is love. Why then would God punish someone who was never told about Jesus? That just never seemed right to me.

Well, I found a passage in the gospel that refutes this thinking and I will share that at a later date. But today, I found yet another passage in Paul that refutes this idea.

A long time ago, my mom asked a priest about the fate of someone’s soul if they were never baptized. That priest told her not to worry – that there is something called the “baptism of desire”. He explained that if the person had a good heart and acted in a Christlike manner here on earth, God will take that into account, and just because he/she wasn’t baptized does not necessarily mean that they are not going to heaven. Well, when I read the following verse, it sounded like the “baptism of desire” that the priest explained to my mom all those years ago.

“When Gentiles who do not possess the law, do INSTINCTIVELY what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is WRITTEN ON THEIR HEARTS, to which their own conscience also bears witness.” Romans 2:14-15

Paul goes on to make it even clearer:

“Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law.” Romans 2:27

Think about that for a moment, and then apply it to today. Paul is saying that those who have the Bible, know what it says, and goes to church but break the law will be condemned by those in who the law is “written on their hearts” but may not be able to go through all the rituals that people think need to be done in order to be fully Christian. Paul solidifies his point in Romans 2:29:

“Rather, a person is a Jew who is one INWARDLY, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal.”

So what does this all mean? Well, it means first that we need to trust Jesus as our Savior. But it also means that when we accept Jesus, there will be an inward, spiritual transformation that will cause us to turn from our sinful ways. Our actions will change as a result. We will no longer go out and sin freely and then just ask for forgiveness that night. That is not the change that God wants or expects from us. He wants a spiritual transformation….one in which we turn from sin and try to live as Christ taught us to live according to the commandments.

Also, if people are not told about Jesus, that does not necessarily mean that they are doomed to hell. The law can be “written on the heart” even without the knowledge of Jesus. By saying that a person is going to hell just because they have never heard of Jesus is one of the reasons Jesus told us not to judge. We have to remember that we do not know what is in a person’s heart. The only one who has that information is God; therefore He is the ONLY ONE who can say whether or not someone is going to hell.

Have a great Saturday! God bless!

 

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 5

Today, I am going to take a little break from Matthew and jump to the book of James. It is only a few pages long but it is full of direction on how we must be “doers” and not just “hearers”. I think we need to take a good hard look at this little section of the Bible today.

Again, I hear many evangelicals say that actions don’t matter – all that matters is grace, and that if we confess “Jesus is our Savior” with our mouths, that is enough to get into heaven. Now let me make this very clear – we DO need to accept Jesus as our Savior. We DO need grace to get into heaven. By all means! But the point I am trying to make is that actions are also important, and that the teaching that we are to get into heaven by grace alone….without any work on our part….is incorrect.

In my search for answers, I found James to be quite enlightening. Many people focus on the gospels which are so important, but if you go further into the New Testament- into the letters of Paul, John, James, etc., it really clarifies things. This is where it clarified for me that actions do in fact matter.

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” James 1:22

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. But let’s keep going:

“But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who ACT – they will be blessed in their doing.” James 1:25

These passages clearly refute the beliefs of some evangelicals who say that our works on this earth don’t matter, and all that matters is grace. These passages also directly apply to those evangelical preachers who turn a blind eye to Trump’s immoral behavior. They are not “doing”…they are not standing up and saying that Trump’s behavior is unacceptable.

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10-11

Let’s think about that for a moment. Some of the evangelicals and even other Christians constantly speak out against abortion. But these same people are quiet about Trump. Some even give Trump a “mulligan” for his adulterous affair with Stormy Daniels. Now, read the above passage again. Clearly James is telling us that this kind of behavior is wrong. We have to call out ALL sin, not just the sin that “fits” into our little box. You can’t pick and choose.

Going on, James clearly states that faith without works is dead:

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:17

Then James makes a statement that should make everyone think long and hard. He states that even the demons believe that God is real….and they shudder:

“Even the demons believe – and shudder.” James 2:20

Then he goes on to reiterate that works are a part of accepting Jesus fully:

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” James 2:24-26

Now, as we read the next verse, let’s think about the evangelical preachers who are giving Trump a “mulligan” and who teach that we don’t have to act or to follow the Ten Commandments:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Kind of scary, huh?

Now think about the obvious hypocrisy that we are witnessing in some evangelicals today. Remember, they jumped all over Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but now these same evangelicals are mysteriously quiet about Trump. Also, a recent poll showed that during the Clinton administration, the percentage of evangelicals that said that moral behavior of a President wasn’t important was in the 20s. Today, under Trump, that number is in the 70s. What happened? Is it hypocrisy, or do the rules change depending on whether you are a Republican or Democrat?

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of PARTIALITY or HYPOCRISY.” James 3:17

James is very clear. These teachings and behaviors of evangelicals who still support Trump are not in line with true Christianity. My hope is that they will read this, pray about it, and return to the only path that leads us to Jesus.

I implore preachers like Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Andrew Wommack and others to rethink what they are teaching and to call out Trump on his immoral behavior.

I will close with this:

“Anyone then who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin.” James 4:17

Have a wonderful weekend! God bless!

 

 

 

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 4

This weekend, I have been talking with some people on Franklin Graham’s Twitter feed. Graham’s support of Trump has been a big part of the discussion. So today, I want to once again look at Trump’s behavior and policies in relation to what Jesus tells us in the gospel of Matthew.

I will start with Matthew 15:

…”Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matthew 15:11

Think about Trump’s Twitter feed. In a previous blog, I listed some of the names that he has called people – Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Liddle Bob Corker, Crooked Hillary. Someone on Graham’s Twitter feed says he just “tells it like it is”. Calling people names is “telling it like it is”? Jesus never said it was OK to call people names.

The New York Times published a comprehensive list of all the insults that Trump has lodged at people in the past year. It is pages long. In addition, it is known that Trump lies an average of five times per day. The New York Times also has a comprehensive list of all the lies Trump has told since taking office – over 2,000 proven untruths. Let’s also remember that Jesus tells us that Satan is the “father of lies.”

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” Matthew 15:18-20

Let’s remember what Trump said about women on that bus. Let’s also recall the multiple affairs that he had while he was married.  Jesus has made it very clear what defiles a man, and Trump’s behavior falls into that category.

Now let’s remember that Trump admitted that he does not ask for forgiveness. This means he has not repented. You can’t be forgiven if you don’t repent. Therefore, Trump is not in good standing with God. He will never be in good standing with God until he repents.

Let’s look at Matthew 18:4:

“Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Is Trump humble? Absolutely not. He is the opposite of humility. How many times have we seen Trump boast himself up as “the greatest President ever” or “how lucky are you that I ran for the Presidency?” or “We had the largest crowd ever”, etc. This is truly the least humble man that I have seen/heard in my 52 years on this earth.

Next, let’s look at Matthew 19:21-26:

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”

Instead of Trump giving up his possessions (billions), he gives a tax break to the upper 1% of the country. The middle class will eventually pay for this. He travels almost every weekend to Mar-a-Lago to play golf and spends millions on the tax-payers’ backs. He wants to throw poor people out of the country, he failed to help the poor people of Puerto Rico after the hurricane, and now they are looking at cutting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Those on these federal programs are generally those with the least money, and this administration is looking to make it even harder for them. In addition, we see some in his administration that are using tax-payer money for extravagant flights and vacations. This behavior is the exact opposite of what Jesus calls us to do in the above passage.

Matthew 13:22 says it nicely: “As for what was sown among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of WEALTH choke the word, and it yields nothing.”

Jesus tells us in the gospels that a person cannot serve both God and money. He goes further in the above passage saying that a person may hear the Word, but the Word is choked out of him because of the lure of wealth. Trump falls into this category. We see him pray in public, but the lure of his wealth causes him to ignore what Jesus says. Remember also the passage that I talked about in a previous blog – some who say “Lord, Lord” will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, this goes back to ACTION. We must ACT on God’s Word, not just say the words. Just because Trump prays in public does not mean he is a true Christian.

The final passage I would like to discuss is Matthew 12:25. This weekend, some evangelicals said to me (and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this) that God uses imperfect people to do His will, and they give the example of King David. Yes, that is true. None of us are perfect. However, there is a difference, and that difference is repentance. King David repented. St. Paul repented. We KNOW that Trump has NOT repented because he said so. These evangelicals don’t seem to comprehend the difference. Keep this in mind as you read the following verse:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” Matthew 12:25-26

Jesus is basically saying here that He cannot use evil to advance the kingdom of God, and Satan cannot use a good person to promote evil. A kingdom divided against itself will fall. So, the idea that God will use Trump, a non-repentant, sinful man to do His will is nonsense. God only uses those who truly repent of their sins, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and lives according to His Word by following the commandments and all that is taught in the Bible.

Hope everyone has a great week! God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 3

Today, I will continue to look at New Testament passages and how Jesus calls us to action.  He doesn’t want us to just say “Jesus is my Savior”. He wants us to act on those words. Let’s start with Matthew 7: 24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and ACTS on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not ACT on the will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!”

It is very clear in this passage that God is calling us to do more than to just listen to His word. He is calling us to ACTION. Again, it is very easy to say the words, “Jesus is my Savior”, but it is an entirely different thing to actually ACT on those words. Recall in a previous post in this Bible study where Jesus said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Take that with the above verse, and it becomes very clear that God expects us to act. Words without action just simply isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s look again at those evangelical preachers that say we don’t have to follow the commandments and/or say that our actions don’t matter. Again, Jesus refutes this in Matthew 15:3:

“And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

And again in Matthew 16:27:

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been DONE.”

And again in Matthew 19:17-19:

“If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus has made it very clear what we need to do to enter into eternal life. Any preacher who claims that it is easy to get into heaven and/or says that we do not have to follow the commandments and that our actions in this world don’t matter is a false prophet.

As we get further and further into the New Testament, you will see that there are many, many more times, including in the letters that the disciples wrote after the gospels, where it is very clear that we must follow the commandments. This is why I ask people to open up the Bible and read it instead of relying on a preacher to tell them what is in the Bible.

Hope everyone is having an awesome day! God Bless!

 

 

 

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 1

I have decided to do an in-depth bible study of the New Testament regarding current Christian beliefs in the United States today. I think this is desperately needed these days. This series of blogs will probably end up in a book at some point. I really want to see exactly what Jesus taught us along with what the disciples said about following Christ.

The reason I decided to do this is because I am seeing a movement in this country, particularly among the evangelicals, where the belief is that you are saved purely through grace. I have heard evangelicals say many times in the past few years that “we are not saved through works”. They go on to say that it makes no difference what we do in this world. All that matters is that we believe that Jesus is our Savior. Some evangelicals, such as Andrew Wommack, go on to actually say that we are no longer under the law (the Ten Commandments). Today, as a result of these beliefs, we have a group of evangelical Christians that support Trump even though he has admitted that he never asks for forgiveness and leads a highly immoral life.

I have read the New Testament many times, and I believe these evangelicals are only partly right in their beliefs. Yes, we need grace to be able to enter into heaven because we are all sinners. That point is very clear in the Bible. But I think they have gone astray in their belief that our actions have no impact on are ability to get into heaven. From what I have read in the Bible, there are many, many passages that counter this belief. And I believe that this false belief system is why we are seeing the division and hypocrisy in the Christian faith today. I feel compelled to do this because I don’t want to see people led astray through these evangelical beliefs that aren’t quite correct. I am afraid that what I am seeing today will lead people to leave the church. So I want to delve deeply in what is actually said in the Bible as opposed to the erroneous teachings of some evangelical preachers. This is what I am going to focus on in this multi-part bible study.

Today, I am going to start in the gospel of Matthew.

Let’s look at Matthew 5:19.

“Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus is telling us here that He expects us to act…to work at being righteous. So let’s apply that to today. The idea that we don’t have to do anything – that actions don’t matter – is debunked in this passage. We have to work every single day to do what is right. Now, as far as the President who leads an immoral life, Jesus clearly says that if a person’s righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees, he/she will not enter heaven. Trump’s “righteousness” clearly does not exceed that of the Pharisees.

The next section in Matthew addresses the Ten Commandments. Instead of saying that we don’t need to follow them, Jesus actually made them stricter!! The following is just one example:

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’…but I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement.”Matthew 5: 21-22

So yes, we must follow the Ten Commandments. Andrew Wommack is clearly wrong in his teaching. In addition, as you can see, Jesus is once again calling us to action.

I encourage you to read Matthew 5 and pray about it. You will see how Jesus is telling us that we must follow the commandments with even stricter rules.

Moving on to Matthew 7 – Jesus never said that it would be easy to get into heaven as per the following passage:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are  many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Think about this. If being saved was as easy as saying “Jesus is my Savior” without any requirement to follow the law or to do good works or to work toward righteousness, it would be fairly easy to get into heaven. If that was the case, the above passage, which Jesus said himself, would be a lie. But we know it’s not a lie because Jesus said it; therefore, the belief that actions don’t matter is the lie.

The final passage today is Matthew 7:21. As I read this passage for the millionth time, something hit me. Something I had never seen before.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Read that again.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

In order for someone to call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’, they have obviously said that they have accepted him as Lord and Savior. Jesus is saying here that not everyone that says “Jesus is my Savior” will enter the kingdom of heaven! Think about that. It is only those who do the will of the Father. He is saying that those who will enter heaven will not be the ones who say the words but the ones who ACT on those words. This is where I think some evangelicals are missing the mark. They SEE someone who SAYS the words, and even if his/her actions don’t match up with his/her words (for example, Donald Trump), they still believe that person is saved. This passage refutes that belief. Jesus is clearly saying that it comes down to actions, not words. Anyone can say “Jesus is my Savior” but the real test of what they truly believe will show in their actions or their lack of actions. Jesus has more to say about this which I will address in a future blog.

Have a great day. God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

God Works in Mysterious Ways

Have you ever gone through something horrible and thought “Why me?” Have you ever wondered why God allows us to walk through the “valley of death”?

I’ve certainly been there. And I’m quite sure you have too.

But I have also learned that no matter what we go through, somehow good always seems to come from it. One example in my life is my ordeal with adenomyosis. While I cried my way through some of the most painful nights of my life, I questioned why God was putting me through it. But today, I can look back and see why He put me through it – to help other women who are suffering through adenomyosis today. I have written one book on the subject and am working on a second book. I sell about one book per day, and I get constant “thank you” messages from women desperate to find help for this terrible medical disorder.

As many of my readers know, I don’t like Trump. Since Trump took office, I have heard over and over again from some on the far-right that “God put Trump in office”. I don’t believe this. Why? Because God gave us free will. He doesn’t dictate what we are to do in this life. He invites us to follow Him, but He doesn’t dictate. If he put Trump into office, then He also put Obama in office, and those on the far-right aren’t going to like that much…haha! Also, if God puts someone in office, why would we have elections? The truth is that we, the American people, voted Trump into office, and God ALLOWED it to happen.

Now, I don’t presume to know what God is thinking. But what I have witnessed this year personally is that those on the far-right are not nearly as Christian as they say. I see a lot of people (not all, but some) point their fingers at the left and calling them evil. However, the behavior of these same far-righters is not at all Christian. In fact, some of these far-righters turn around and do exactly what they tell others not to do. Hypocrisy has become blatantly clear in some on the far-right.

So, what if God allowed Trump to get into office in order to shine a light onto the hypocrisy in the far-right evangelical movement? What if He allowed Trump to become President in order to show the hypocrisy and non-Christian behavior in the Republican party? Like I said, I don’t presume to know what God is thinking. What I do know is that God works in mysterious ways, and many times, he will use something meant to hurt us for good. After all, in the Bible, it says “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

I used to be Republican, but I am now just completely embarrassed and disgusted by the Republicans. What I now see is some on the far-right that loves to point fingers at other while acting in a non-Christian manner. I see white-washed tombs. Jesus said “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” This means some love to talk all about Jesus but they live in continual sin, and this is hypocritical. These people are all talk, but there is nothing Christian inside them. That’s why I have always said that words aren’t enough. You have to truly believe in Jesus in your heart, and your actions will follow. If you truly believe in Jesus, you will turn away from sin…not to say that you won’t ever sin again (we are all human), but you won’t live in continual sin.

I don’t agree with some of what the Democrats believe, but I now see that the Democrats actually act on helping the poor and welcoming the stranger. The Democratic party welcomes immigrants and is outraged when Trump and his administration didn’t adequately respond to the disaster in Puerto Rico. The Democrats are ACTING in a Christian manner regarding these issues. Jesus said “By their fruits you will know them” meaning that by ACTIONS, you will know them. I see more Christian actions this year from Democrats than Republicans.

For me, God opened my eyes this year. He opened my eyes to hypocrisy. I now understand the meaning of “white-washed tombs”. I now know that I can’t vote for a candidate based only on one issue – by doing that, we can end up in the situation we are in today. I have learned that pro-life addresses life at ALL stages, not just the unborn. Those who voted for Trump based solely on the abortion issue are knee-deep in hypocrisy as well. Why? Because they fight for the unborn, but once they are born (and many will have disabilities because a lot of abortions are done because of medical issues), they want to take healthcare away, specifically by cutting coverage for pre-existing conditions. So, we bring these children into the world, but the Republicans don’t want to take care of them once they get here. See the hypocrisy?

I think we should look back on this rough year and listen to what God is trying to show us. I listened and learned. Will you?

Nature’s Dance

Last week, I attended a writer’s conference in Kentucky. I went there to learn how to write from my heart as I am a scientist and am used to writing in terms of facts, not feelings. I absolutely LOVED this retreat, and I learned more in one week than in all the years I have been a writer. The retreat was led my author Paula D’Arcy. She has written many books, and I highly recommend them.

While there, I wrote a little poem about nature and dancing. I have since added on to this poem and wanted to share it with you. This is my first attempt at poetry. Hope you enjoy it!

Through the open, time-worn window,

I watch as a lush willow tree sways in the gentle wind

Like the delicate movements of a ballerina

As she moves gracefully across the open stage.

Two squirrels dance the pas de deux

As they swiftly chase each other across the dense emerald grass

Performing an allégro of frappés, chassés, and assemblés.

A cat performs an energetic pas de chat

While trying to catch its elusive prey.

As the angelic sounds of songbirds fill the air,

Small moss-green leaves drop to the ground in mini-pirouettes.

A red bird catches my eye.

He performs a demi-plié before launching into an elegant flight

Gliding gloriously through the air in a grand adagio

Against a backdrop of breath-taking azure.

The dance of nature.

Beautifully choreographed.

In perfect harmony.

 

©Maria Yeager, 2017

 

Heavenly Mourning Doves Bring Peace

“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34

What a wonderful passage from the gospel of John! Today, the dove is widely regarded as a symbol of peace and reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When I see a dove, either in a picture or in nature, it always brings me comfort.

Red cardinals also bring me comfort. I have written a blog about these birds as they are widely believed to represent a loved one who visits us from heaven. Victoria McGovern says it perfectly in her quote:

“May you come to find comfort in and remember cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside and drink your tea. Keep a look out for the little red bird – it is there, your loved one will be.”

If you want to read about my experiences with red cardinals, just read my post, The Red Cardinal – Love From Heaven.

A couple of weeks ago, I posed a question on my Facebook page regarding Christianity and the hypocrisy that I have been noticing regarding Donald Trump. Here is the actual post:

OK, after thinking about this, I want to put this out there. I am asking for help from my Christian friends. For several months, I haven’t been attending church (except when I am with my mom – we attend Catholic church together). There is a reason for this that I haven’t shared with anyone until today. I have chosen to spend time with God on Sundays by myself. Here’s why – this whole thing with Trump has caused me to have bad feelings toward going to church. You see, I have seen hypocrisy like I’ve never seen before in my lifetime. I’ve seen Christians who post something religious every day but then support Trump unconditionally. I cannot understand how a Christian can support him after all the lies, the remarks about women, the lack of compassion, making fun of the disabled reporter, his constant attacks on anyone who disagrees with him, the name-calling, etc. I don’t get it. It is causing major depression, frustration, and incredible disappointment in those who are Christian yet still support Trump. I have had many long talks with God about this and how I am feeling, many times bringing me to tears. I don’t want to be part of any church right now. I just want to spend time alone with God. I feel alone. I know there are good people in the church who don’t support what Trump has done, and I keep telling myself that. But I have this strong urge to stay away right now. I have just seen so much hypocrisy. Who can help me out on this?

I did receive replies, some of them more helpful than others. I decided to continue with my alone time with God on Sundays, but a family member also gave me the idea to attend church during the week when there were fewer people there. She had done this, and she found it to be a source of Christian “nourishment”. I liked this idea, so I decided attend Catholic Mass during the week. She was right. I am also finding this to be a source of Christian “nourishment”.

During my first visit to Catholic Mass during the week, I prayed hard. I begged God for direction. I told Him once again of my concern over Christian hypocrisy and how it seems like some in the faith are being led in the wrong direction. I prayed for Donald Trump and his administration even though I don’t like what they are doing. I told God that I wanted to write with His direction, not my own. I begged Him to save our country and told Him that there were good people “down here”. I asked for His divine mercy on us, and by the end of the prayer, tears were filling me eyes. I looked up at the crucifix at the front of the church as a tear streamed down my face.

I struggled to go to Mass because one of the problems that I see currently, mostly in the Catholic church, is the pro-life issue. In politics, many Catholics are focusing solely on this one issue without thinking about anything else. I have heard people say that they MUST vote Republican because they are pro-life. There is even a priest out in California who has stated that it was a mortal sin to vote for anyone but Trump. However, these same people support cuts to disability that is in Trump’s current budget proposal. So here is something to think about: A child is born disabled, and according to these pro-lifers, this is a good thing. The child wasn’t terminated. OK, fine…but what now? He/she will need medical care for the rest of his/her life, but he/she can’t get that help because disability benefits are cut. That makes absolutely no sense. Pro-life should mean pro-life for everyone, not just the unborn.

Back to the Mass…when the prayers were said for others, I was really encouraged as they prayed for “all life, from the unborn to the elderly”. I smiled and thanked God for this small but very important change in this particular Catholic church. I hope that this change will take place in all Catholic churches.

After church, I went home and continued on with my daily chores. A few hours later, as I walked in my kitchen, movement outside caught my eye. I looked through my patio door only to see two beautiful mourning doves, one of which was digging in my flower-pot that hung off the side of my patio railing. As I walked closer, I watched as one of the doves stepped on the back of the other one who was digging between my begonia and verbena. I realized at that point that they were making a nest. I couldn’t believe it!! I thought back on my visit to church and my prayer. Was this a sign from God?

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I felt so comforted. What are the chances that two mourning doves would nest just outside my patio door right after I begged God for help and mercy at Mass?

In the Bible, there are passages where doves are mentioned when people are in despair:

“My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelm me. And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.” Psalms 55:4-7

“I cry for help until morning, like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end. Like a swallow or a crane I clamor, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security!” Isaiah 38:13-14

“We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation,, but it is far from us.” Isaiah 59:11

I again thought back on my tearful prayer that day. I knew God was telling me that he had heard my prayer. As I watched the doves work, I once again remembered how the Spirit came upon Jesus like a dove when he was baptized:

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were  opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:16-17

“And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'” Mark 1:10-11

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized, and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'” Luke 3:21-22

I continued to watch the doves work as I felt a sense of peace come over me. At one point, they saw both me and my cat, and I was afraid that they would abandon the nest since we were probably about 4 feet away from them.

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But they didn’t. They stopped and looked for a minute, but then kept working. Several times, I saw one of them with a bunch of debris hanging out of its mouth. I was mesmerized as I watched them prepare the nest for their young.

I did some research on the behavior of mourning doves. The male will get twigs and debris for the nest, and when he brings it to the female, he will stand on her back and give it to her as she makes the nest. I saw this exact behavior. It was so much fun to watch. Next, I learned how to tell the difference between the male and female as it is quite subtle. The male is larger, and he has a little bit of blue on his head with some pink on his throat. Each time I checked on the dove that was sitting on the nest, she was all brown so I assumed it was the female. Then one day, I realized that the male was sitting on the nest. He had a very light blue on his head and very light pink on his throat, just as described in my research.

I also noticed that these birds have a beautiful teal color that surround their eyes. I can’t seem to get a good picture that actually shows how gorgeous this color is around their eyes, but it can be seen on other pictures of these birds on the internet. When I saw the male close up, I realized that I could now tell the difference between the two birds just by their eyes. The female has the teal color that surrounds the entire eye, whereas the male has the teal under his eye while his upper eyelid covers the rest of the teal color.

Later that night, I slowly went over to the patio door to close the shades, hoping once again that I wouldn’t scare them off. Amazingly, they stayed.

The next morning, I slowly opened the shades, and both doves were there – mama on the nest and papa with debris in his mouth.

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A few seconds later, two other birds flew up and landed on the patio rail right next to the two doves. I immediately recognized them as cardinals – one of them (the male) had a bright red chest. I could not believe it! Two mourning doves and two red cardinals standing just feet from me, doves signifying peace and the cardinals signifying a visitor from heaven!

The next day, as I worked in the house, I noticed that the dove was not on the nest. I walked to the door and looked out to see one big white egg. I was so excited! The mama bird came back to the nest within about ten minutes and sat on her egg for the rest of the day.

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Still so happy about the one big white egg, I went to my mailbox to pick up my mail. I was so happy to receive a card from my aunt as she knew I was struggling with Christian hypocrisy. Inside the card, there was a bookmark with a quote by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

This added to my sense of peace. The statement, “I believe the desire to please You does in fact please You” gave me great comfort. I realized that for me, I was doing the right thing by going to church during the week when it was quieter and spending alone time with God on Sunday. I knew that since I desire to please Him and only Him, that is enough. I believe that God sent those doves to me as a sign of peace and as His way of telling me that He will lead me down the right road.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

A couple of days later, I noticed once again that the dove had left the nest, so I went to look at it. This time there were two eggs! It is just so amazing to watch. I learned through research that mourning doves typically lay two eggs.

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Each day, I walk up to the patio door and talk to the doves, telling them that they are safe here. When I talk to them (not sure they can hear me…haha!), they just look at me, but they don’t seem to get upset at all that I am so close to the nest. I’m pretty sure they know now that I won’t hurt them. I don’t go out on my patio because I think I may scare them off. I don’t want them to abandon the nest.

I have since looked up many passages in the Bible that mention doves. As I read the following passage, I remembered when, in my prayer at church, I asked God to direct my writing:

“See I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:16-20

I knew that God would help me in my writing. I want to write what is true according to His word. I know he heard my request.

The dove as a sign of the Holy Spirit is so incredibly comforting. These birds are so peaceful, and they bring a great sense of serenity. God tells us in the Bible to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:13-14

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control….If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25

As I read more passages about doves in the Bible, I realize that they are also a great sign of hope:

“For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted, the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, the joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks, until a spirit from on high is poured out on us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.” Isaiah 32:14-15

“For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:11-14

This brings to mind another great quote from St. Teresa of Avila:

“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God only is changeless. Patience obtains all things. One who has God wants nothing. God alone suffices.”

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Even though it is tough to do, God tells us not to worry. There are terrible things going on in this world, and it is so hard to not get mad or irritated. It is also incredibly difficult, at least for me, to see all this Christian hypocrisy. I believe that these doves are a way of telling all of us that only God is necessary for peace and that things will eventually change for the better. In the Catholic church that I attend, it appears that things are already changing. The things that happen in this world are passing, but God never changes. Hold on to Him and stay in His Word. As he sent those doves to me, he will also send peace to those who truly believe in Him and who ask Him for it. So I will leave you with this:

“Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

 

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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