Maria Yeager

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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!

 

 

“Love One Another as I Have Loved You”

Wow, it has been a while since I posted on this blog! I have been working hard on my next book, Estill County, which hopefully will be done some time this year. But I have also been deep in thought about my Christian beliefs. This has been a time of deep introspection as I have struggled with what is going on in the world today. Today, I would like to pretty much “bare my soul” and explain my thoughts over the past few months.

I was raised as a Catholic and attended a Catholic grade school. During my younger years and in my twenties, my Christian beliefs were pretty much black and white – follow all the commandments, all abortion is wrong, etc. etc. No gray area whatsoever. Since that time, I married and divorced (due to an affair on his side) someone who was Baptist, and we were married in a Presbyterian church. During my marriage, we attended Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even non-denominational churches. I’m glad I had these experiences as I learned how people praise God in different ways. I still loved my Catholic faith, but I found myself becoming more open-minded about other faiths.

During those years, most of my encounters regarding religious differences were fairly positive, but I did run into a few problems. First of all, when I asked a priest to be a part of our wedding ceremony, I was met with a stern “no” because we were not getting married in a Catholic church. He went on to lecture me about my “weak” Catholic faith. Another example involves a guy that I dated long ago. His Catholic mother said that  her son was not going to heaven because he was engaged to a Baptist girl.

On the other hand, I have met many people who have actually said that Catholics are going to hell. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that Catholics worship Mary. I went to a Catholic school, and I was never taught to worship Mary – only to ask her to pray for me. I also am very hurt and irritated when others claim that Catholic teachings are not biblically based.

Right after college, I joined a Right to Life movement. At that point in my life, I would have gladly taken part in a protest outside of an abortion clinic. I remember getting all kinds of newsletters from them explaining how they were fighting against abortion. I specifically remember how this group would get involved in “protecting the life of the baby” when a mother’s life was in danger or if the fetus had a known defect. I didn’t think too much about that at the time.

I went to work in a genetics lab (my degree is in Microbiology). After several years of work, my views on abortion started to gray a bit. I performed prenatal testing, and I saw many really sad cases during those years. One genetic defect was particularly disturbing – a disorder called anencephaly. A fetus with this disorder has malformed brain development. Sometimes the entire skull is opened with very little to no brain development. At one point, my boss asked me if I would like to watch a fetal autopsy on a fetus with this disorder (the woman had miscarried). I said “yes” because I wanted to see what I was testing for in the lab. I was shocked when I saw the fetus. The brain was completely opened up. The baby almost looked like an alien – there was no forehead. The top of the head was just above the eyebrows. Anyone without a strong stomach couldn’t have handled that sight, but I could for some reason. Don’t get me wrong – it affected me in a way that words can’t describe, and I felt so horrible for the parents. But I am a scientist, and I believe that God gave me the ability to do this work to help others – just like some people can handle the sight of blood while others can’t. After witnessing several of these autopsies on fetuses that women had miscarried, it suddenly dawned on me the emotional toll that this sort of thing would take on the family. This was a child that was wanted desperately, but something went terribly wrong – something that was completely out of their control.

As I continued my work in genetics, I learned about several other genetic abnormalities – specifically trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. I learned that most of the time, after these children are born and if they survived, they would probably never leave the hospital and would most likely die within the first year of life. Their lives would most likely be spent in agony while they were hooked up to multiple machines. I hated when I analyzed a case and found it was trisomy 13 or 18. HATED it!! I knew what the parents were about to face. I knew it was going to be awful for them, and I wondered if their marriage would be able to survive such an ordeal. One day, when I analyzed one of these cases, I left at lunch, went to McDonalds, ordered carryout, sat in my car, and cried and prayed. Here is basically what I said to God:

God, I don’t know why this happens. I’m just a human, and you are the all-knowing God. I don’t understand it, but I know there is a reason. God, these parents are about to go through hell. You have said, “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” Therefore, I will not judge these parents if they decide to terminate. This decision is between you, them, and their doctor. I can’t judge something like this. I certainly don’t want to be judged with the same stringency as the Right to Life group uses in situations like this. So, all I will do is pray for them. I pray that they will somehow come out of this stronger, and I ask you to comfort them in this horrible time.

Not long after this, I quit the Right to Life group. I am against abortion overall – as a form of birth control, partial birth abortion, or in cases where there is an abnormality but the child can survive and live a productive life (Down syndrome, spina bifida, etc). However, I know from my experience in the lab that there are horrible cases where there is pretty much no chance of survival or limited survival where the child suffers terribly. For me, I choose to stay out of those situations. This also goes for cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Instead, I just pray for them – for comfort, for healing, and for the love of God to surround them.

This is just one example of when gray areas began to interject into my beliefs. But things really got tough – a deep introspection – since Trump took office.

I have always been Republican. I have voted Republican in every presidential race until this last one. I have voted Republican probably 98% of the time in all other elections. The abortion issue was a major reason. But what I have seen over the last few months has really bothered me, and after much thought, I have now become an Independent.

As you all know, there has been a lot of mean and vicious banter regarding this past presidential election from both Republicans and Democrats. However, a large portion of the Republican base are the evangelical Christians. Although I do agree with a lot of the Republican views on major issues, I became disheartened by the enormous number of mean memes and Facebook posts from some Republicans who have portrayed themselves to be good Christians. The posts were not at all Christian, and I honestly viewed them as highly hypocritical. This really bothered me. I also noticed that churches were promoting Trump based solely on his anti-abortion stance even though disturbing news came out about his behavior, especially the remarks about women while on the bus. I expected these evangelical Christians to stand up and denounce his behavior, and some did. But a lot didn’t as apparently they focused solely on the anti-abortion issue. This disturbed me even more, and hypocrisy was becoming increasingly clear to me. I hated this and struggled with it since that time. I believed in a lot of the Republican views but I didn’t want to seem like a hypocrite. I did not like Trump either and didn’t approve of his behavior.

During all of this, I prayed…a lot…and asked God for direction. I felt an uneasiness in my soul. I was confused.

Each time I prayed, I kept going back to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Several times, I opened the Bible to this exact passage. At first, this made me think about the abortion issue. If we stand outside of an abortion clinic and tell someone who they are going to hell if they abort the baby, how do we know the details of that pregnancy? We don’t know if that baby has anencephaly. Maybe those parents are having to make an incredibly difficult decision and really wanted the baby. We are judging a person without knowing the details. Do we want for God to judge us with the same stringency? I sure wouldn’t. I think God is telling us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We need to love those people, not judge them. They need comfort, not judgement. It is not up to us to judge others, and Jesus himself told us that. If we judge someone else, we are playing God. This thinking can also be applied to everyone who says that someone is going to hell if they don’t belong to a certain religion as my example above shows.

On Easter Sunday, I went to mass with my mom. We arrived quite early (because we knew the church would be packed). As we waited, I continued to pray and think about the behavior I had seen this year when I looked up at the front of the church, and once again, I saw “Love One Another as I Have Loved You” on the stained glass window. I thought about how all life is sacred. I thought about how disturbed I was that funding to the NIH was going to be cut which would affect all those who were sick – cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes – the list goes on and on. If funding is cut, those people would suffer. How is it that those that are pro-life only consider the life of a fetus but seem to forget about all the other people in the world that would be hurt by cutting funding to the NIH? and the EPA? Millions of people would be hurt, but that isn’t a consideration for those who are strongly pro-life? Why? Why can’t they see this? Again, I looked at the stained glass window.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You.

I believe God expects us to love everyone, not just the unborn. All life is sacred. All life.

A few days later, I went to a physical therapy session. Several of us watched the television as we saw that the “mother of all bombs” was dropped in Syria. While we were talking, a woman turned to me and said “All life is sacred.” She was right, and it confirmed for me that we have to look at how things affect everyone. Focusing purely on the unborn may ultimately harm those who are already here. Don’t get me wrong – the abortion issue is important…extremely important…but by focusing on that and only that, is not a good thing to do. We have to remember that all life is sacred.

Hypocrisy – I have seen so much of it in the last several months and am getting so sick of it. So-called “good Christians” that don’t practice what they preach. I am stunned that after all the things Trump has done, he still has die-hard followers. I have even seen recently how some people still consider him a good Christian even after all the lies (numerous), bad behavior (bus, making fun of disabled reporter), not keeping his word (numerous), pointing his finger at other while doing exactly the same thing (golfing!!), etc. Why, after all that, do people still call him a good Christian? Can’t they see the hypocrisy? Again, maybe they are focusing just on the anti-abortion issue only. I don’t know. I don’t get it. It bothers me so much to see all the hypocrisy yet people still say he’s a good Christian. Jesus speaks of hypocrisy all throughout the gospels. Are these people just turning a blind eye to that?

“The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others…They have the place of honor at banquets…” Matthew 23:4-6

I urge you to read all of Matthew 23 as he directly deals with hypocrisy…“Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites…

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I thought some more about these issues. And it suddenly came to me…in the dead silence in the middle of the night. Something quite disturbing. I have talked to many people over my lifetime who have left the church because they have witnessed hypocritical behavior. Some of these people have gone on to become atheists. Hypocritical behavior in Christians is extremely damaging to the church. We have to remember that Satan is very devious and sly. Could he be using the hypocritical behavior of these so-called Christians to his advantage? I believe so. Then I remembered what Jesus said:

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes.” Matthew 18:6

Is hypocrisy a stumbling block? Is this hypocritical behavior by some so-called good Christians a stumbling block to those who are wanting to know Jesus? That’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? This morning, in preparation to write this blog, I read a devotional in my Bible. The following excerpt came from St. Catherine of Sienna, a mystic who conversed with God. Again, she talks about her conversation with God regarding loving your neighbor as yourself. This is what God said to her as recorded in her book, The Dialogue:

“It is your duty to love your neighbor as yourself…In love you ought to help them spiritually with prayer and counsel…If you do not love me, you do  not love your neighbors, nor will you help those you do not love. But it is yourself you harm the most, because you deprive yourself of grace. And you harm your neighbors by depriving them of the prayer and loving desires you should be offering to me on their behalf. Every help you give them ought to come from the affection you bear them for love of me…This lack of charity for me and for your neighbors is the source of all evils, for if you are not doing good you are necessarily doing evil…You harm your neighbors by not giving them the pleasure of the love and charity you owe them, the love with which you ought to be helping them by offering me your prayer and holy desire on their behalf.”

In conclusion, I have seen a lack of compassion and a need to judge others from the evangelical Christians during this presidential election and during his first days in office. In addition, I have seen incredible hypocrisy. I would like to suggest that we move away from judgement and condemnation and move more toward a spirit of compassion and empathy for our neighbor. Pray for those around you without judging. After all, we are not the judge. We do not know the details of their situation.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You.

 

 

 

 

Does God’s Grace Give You Permission to Sin? (Part 2)

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As I read one of the letters that Paul wrote today, I was once again reminded that God’s grace does not give us permission to sin. I felt the need to address this topic once again.

As I watch the news and other shows, I am constantly bombarded by stories of betrayal, murder, theft, greed, etc. If that’s not bad enough, I also see some of these same people refer to God and His importance in their lives as they speak. I find this incredibly disturbing.

Paul addresses this issue over and over again in his letters in the New Testament.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” 1 Corinthians 5:11

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-17

“The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21

I would like people to think about this. Why are there so many people out there who don’t believe in God because they feel like Christians are hypocrites? Because that is exactly how some people live! Have you ever considered that because of the behavior of some of these hypocrites, others might turn from God and not be saved? Not only are these people putting their own souls at risk, but they are actually hurting Christianity as a whole because they AREN’T living according to the Bible. Yes, we all know that God forgives our sins, but the Bible also tells us that we must live in the Spirit. If we truly live in the Spirit, we cannot live in constant sin. Galatians 5:16-17 clearly states that living in the Spirit and living in sin are in direct conflict with each other. I would like to propose that not everyone who says they are Christian are truly Christian. Remember, the Bible also states that Satan himself parades around the world as an angel of light:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is  not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

The Bible says many times to “not be deceived”. Know the truth about God. Yes, we are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ if we TRULY accept Him in our heart. This means living in the Spirit and putting aside our sinful nature. Yes, we all will make mistakes, and if we are truly in the Spirit and have left our sinful ways, we will be forgiven. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that just because you speak the words, “Jesus is My Savior” but do not leave your sinful life, that this is sufficient for God. You MUST put aside your sinful behavior, for one cannot truly believe and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior without turning from his/her sinful life.

For those of you who are sick of seeing the behavior of so-called Christians living smack in the middle of a completely sinful life, know that this behavior is not what God is calling us to do. The best advice I can give to you is to open up and read a Bible. That is the only way to know the real truth in God.

 

 

 

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