June 13, 2009

Saturday Mini-Concert 6/13/09--Michael W. Smith

As you can tell, we're making music a big part of this blog. Another way we're doing that is presenting a mini-concert of songs by a popular Christian artist recorded live. We'll start today with Michael W. Smith:

June 12, 2009

Music of Encouragement 6/12/09-Salvation is Here

How Do We React To Violence?

With all of the violence we have heard about lately, I've been thinking a lot about how to deal with it.

I mean, we've got two wars in the Middle East, Dr. Tiller being killed in his church, Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns (the security guard at the Holocaust Museum who was killed today), and all the other horrible things that are going on.

Dr. Tiller was an abortion provider who specialized in late term abortions. Now, I'm a pro-life person and didn't like what he did for a living. However, it doesn't mean that killing him is okay! Didn't Jesus say to love our enemies? Didn't God tell us to forgive 70X7?! What happened to that? Every life is precious. What gets into peoples' heads that makes them think it's right to kill someone? Yes, some of us believe that abortion is morally wrong, but when we take the law into our own hands, we are no better than the people we're upset with.

The latest killing of Officer Johns really affected me. I've wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum many times, but for one reason or another, I never got over there. I've lived in the DC area most of my life and yet I can't seem to get downtown to honor all those who were killed by the Nazis. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had visited only to have this crazy man walk in and start shooting!

Now, how should I react to these things? Let's see... Proverbs 20:22 says: "Do not say, 'I'll pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you."

Micah 7:18-19 says: "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

Matthew 5:24: "Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

Then there is Matthew 5:44-45: "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..."

God commands us to forgive. There is no choice in the matter! Is it easy? No, but it's what we are called to do as Christians. I forgive these people for doing such evil as taking another's life, especially those who kill in the name of God. They will no doubt have a lot to answer for when they meet their Maker!

In response to the latest act of violence, I intend to make a donation to the Holocaust Museum. I hope you, dear reader, will consider doing the same.

June 11, 2009

Music of Encouragement 6/11/09--Holy Is the Lord

Reports Show That Relgious Voices Are Critical to Gain LGBT Equality

The NGLTF (National Gay & Lesbian Task Force) has released two reports that I believe you will find of interest:

Although examining different campaigns in different states in different years, the two reports draw remarkably similar conclusions about the need for partnerships between religious and secular supporters of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The Task Force's report, A Time to Build Up: Analysis of the No on Proposition 8 Campaign and Its Implications for Future Pro-LGBTQQIA Religious Organizing, examines last fall's Proposition 8 battle in California, highlighting religious-secular partnerships relevant to marriage equality. The report was written by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, program director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Institute for Welcoming Resources, and funded by the Arcus Foundation.

The Center's report, The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows: A Profile of Michigan's 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality, examines the role that religious groups played in support of and opposition to Proposal 2, the ballot initiative on marriage equality in Michigan. It was written by Sally Steenland, senior policy advisor, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress; and Jonathan Duffy, senior political science major, Kent State University, and intern, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress.

Similarities in the report findings include:

* Anti-LGBT ballot initiatives are often rooted in conservative religious rhetoric. Effective responses require faith voices and messages to counteract these claims in order to show religious diversity in support of marriage equality and to disprove the notion that conservative religious voices are the sole guardians of morality on these issues.
* Secular-religious partnerships are crucial to the success of legislative campaigns and to the broader goals of social justice and equal rights under the law for LGBT people.
* Advocates should not write off certain religious communities as impossible to win nor overlook any "unlikely" allies, be it the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church or African-American churches. While some communities may have official pronouncements against marriage equality and campaign against it, almost always there are members within that community who by conscience have different views.
* A narrow political campaign frame hinders effective collaboration with religious communities. LGBT faith advocates and supporters must work within their denominations for full support of LGBT rights, including marriage equality and adoption by same-sex couples.
* Media work that takes seriously the language and culture of religious people is critical. It is crucial to quickly rebut inaccurate religious arguments and misleading statements from anti-equality forces. Furthermore, the message of LGBT rights should be framed in a mainstream way so that people feel connected to the issue. In addition, non-LGBT organizations, such as civil and human rights and faith groups, should be sought as campaign allies.
* It is important to have both a robust on-the-ground organization and an effective media campaign, especially in larger states where much of the battle is fought over the airwaves.

Some of this is common sense, but it is always good to have that verified by objective data gathering and analysis.

LGBT equality will not be achieved by either secular or religious forces. Only when the two align together for the common good will laws be changed and, much more importantly, attitudes moved beyone tollerance into acceptance, where equality is no longer an issue but simply a fact of life.

Click here to read more of the analysis and to download the complete reports.

June 10, 2009

Music of Encouragement 6/10/09--East to West

"Making Peace With Ourselves"

As I have done some extensive reading and studying of the Bible and teachings based on it, several central truths about effective Christian living have rung true. One of them is "you can't give something you don't have." This can take many forms, but perhaps none more clearly than love. After all, how can you love someone if you don't truly love yourself?

That question is addressed in this essay by Lincoln Rose at Whosoever magazine.

But here's what I do know: the past year and a half has shown me, in thousands of ways, that living at peace is tied firmly to loving your neighbor. And the Bible teaches that loving your neighbor is tied to loving yourself.

Often in my journey as a Christian, I haven't had it in me to get along. And I felt bad about it. But I've realized, how can one do something they've never really experienced? Examining myself has finally given me a framework for looking at others. But even then, my skills will still fall short. I will have to keep learning, watching, and listening. That's an essential thing I found out this time around. That often, listening yields much more good fruit than asking endless questions.

And as Christians, we are working on following the example set before us by the life of Jesus anyway. And Jesus listened - to everyone. Even the people He knew were out to get Him. Perhaps that's a core component of loving neighbors and living peacefully. Giving a fair ear to people, even when we know (or suspect) that they might not have good intentions. Who knows? God just might be out to surprise us.
Listening can seem like a lost art today; people are usually too busy trying to make their point to listen to anyone else's. As this esssy points out, though, it is still a valuable skill and perhaps one we should use more often.

Click here to read the rest of the essay at Whosoever.org

June 09, 2009

Music of Encouragement 6/9/09--Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

One African-American Minister's Fight FOR Gay Marriage

As somewhat of a rebuttal to yesterday's post, here is the story of Rev. Mark Wilson, a pastor in Berkely, CA and his fight for marriage equality. From The Berkely Dailey Planet (hat tip to Planting Affirming Churches):

Rev. Wilson has spent a lifetime in this polarized Christian debate on homosexuality. From as far back as Wilson can remember, he’s known two things about himself: he has a natural gift for preaching the gospel, and he is gay.

Wilson grew up in a devoted Christian family. He started directing the choir at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Oakland at age 12. By age 14 he was preaching from the pulpit. As a kid, he knew he was special, and he knew he was different, but he never thought his sexuality was a sin until he was 12 years old, when he heard his minister say, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

By high school, Wilson was tormented by the division between his sexuality and what he was being taught about it. He prayed for deliverance.

“I would say, ‘God, take this away from me. I don’t want to be damned’,” he said.

Preaching quickly became an avenue for Wilson to repress his burgeoning teenage hormones.

“I thought, if I’m this way, you can’t damn me if I preach your gospel and I’m the most knowledgeable on your gospel. I felt I had to compensate to get into heaven,” he said.

Wilson described himself as a sexist and a homophobe in college. He tried to form a ministers’ association on the campus of Howard University but was denied because he wouldn’t allow women. He said it was a sin for women to preach. Eventually, he was overburdened by the weight of his denial.

He remembers sitting alone behind the dormitories for an entire weekend, fasting and reading scripture. He finally came out of the closet to a professor whom he considered a mentor. Wilson said his mentor simply told him that God loved him. Soon after, he started to reinterpret the scriptures, he said, finding love rather than sin. And he embraced the love he found.

“That feeling of God’s love gave me freedom,” he said.

God's love can give everyone freedom the way Rev. Wilson experienced it.

Click here to read the rest of his story from The Berkely Daily Planet.

June 08, 2009

Music of Encouragement 6/8/09--Second Chance

We're starting a new feature here, a daily music video of a song with an encouraging message. We hope you enjoy and are blessed!

A Minister Plays the Race Card to Promote Discrimination

Bishop Henry Jackson has made quite a name for himself in right-wing circles. He is a fixture on their PR machine, Fox News, is a published author, and is much in demand as a public speaker.

He has also determined that Washington, DC should NOT recognize same-sex marriages from other states and will do whatever he has to in order to prevent it, even playing the race card (he is African-American). From the GLAA blog:

Bishop Harry Jackson, the anti-gay minister leading the push for a referendum on the marriage-recognition bill recently passed by the D.C. Council, offers more lies, distortions, and self-promotion in his recent piece for Townhall.com:

Liberal writers and political hacks in DC revealed early in this struggle the disregard and lack of respect they have for black clergy through their very racist, liberal assumptions.... It’s as though they were saying, “We know that you are not smart enough to develop such a strong strategy on your own.” In addition they were saying, “We own the black voters in this region; they are on our political plantation. How dare you free them from their mental chains!”

The message, “Say No to Same-sex Marriage!” has resonated with DC residents from 13 years old and up who feel as though they were disenfranchised by a pretentious, arrogant group that have claimed media control in our city. The media protests demonstrate the effectiveness we have had in cultivating an awareness of the issue at hand....

It is sad indeed that, after all of the efforts by so many people to heal our city and build bridges of cooperation, a self-proclaimed minister of God would stoop to such slanders and stoke racial hostility in so unscrupulous a manner. I have never heard anyone remotely hint at "owning" black voters. I have never heard anyone express a "desire to turn DC into an east coast San Francisco." (God only knows what fevered fantasies are stirred in Jackson's mind by that phrase.) There has certainly been no need for HRC to funnel pots of money to D.C. Council members to "curry favor" with them. GLAA, which is an all-volunteer, local advocacy group with little money, never gives a cent to politicians — indeed, many politicians give money to GLAA at our annual fundraising reception. Yet GLAA has built and maintained cordial and productive relationships with many Council members, based on our honesty, fairness, reputation for expertise and spirit of cooperation. It may be hard for Jackson to imagine how a group could be influential without spreading a lot of money around, but GLAA is a living example.

Jackson refers to the "'faux' civil rights claims of the gay community'" as part of his ploy to divide Washingtonians, ignoring the fact that the Human Rights Act in this majority-black city has included sexual orientation among its categories of prohibited discrimination for three and one-half decades, and despite the fact that a majority of the city's gay population is itself African American. We are glad at least that Jackson admits his eagerness to obtain national money. As to his "plantation" rhetoric, the closest thing to a plantation hereabouts is the city's subordination to the U.S. Congress — the very body to which Jackson and his cohorts eagerly run the moment our locally-elected legislature doesn't vote their way.

One wonders how Jackson can talk about other people's "media control" in light of the coverage Jackson has received for his inflammatory demonstrations. As to the people of Washington being disenfranchised, we would like to remind Jackson that the members of the D.C. Council who voted overwhelmingly for legal recognition of same-sex marriages were all elected by D.C. voters, whereas the members of Congress whom Jackson has urged to intervene were not. As to biblical marriage being the foundation of our culture, is Jackson now advocating the legalization of Old-Testament-style polygamy?

It's also worth noting that Jackson has never cast a vote in DC himself. From the Washington Blade:
The pastor of a Maryland church who’s seeking a voter referendum in D.C. to overturn a city law recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions did not become a registered voter in the city until April 22, according to voter registration records.

Rev. Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Christian Hope Church in Beltsville, Md., and the lead proponent of the marriage referendum, lists his D.C. residence on the city’s voter registration rolls as an apartment in the upscale Whitman Condominium at 910 M St., N.W.

The city’s election law requires that persons proposing a voter referendum be a District resident and a registered D.C. voter. People participating in the signature gathering process to place a referendum on the ballot must also be District residents and duly registered voters.
I bring this story to your attention to remind everyone that someone preaching such hatred against those who disagree with him, who distorts (and sometimes completely ignores) facts, and who works around and manipulates the law to serve his purposes, is not acting in a manner even remotely consistent with how Jesus lived on Earth.

Just being the loudest one to claim "the truth" doesn't give your words and actions moral authority, only acting consistently within the scope of the Bible and the example of Jesus' life does. Again, discriminating against ANYONE is wrong because we are ALL God's children.

Remember, John 3:16 (KJV) says WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. My GLBT brothers and sisters, you are just as much a part of the Whosoever as I am, regardless of the hateful rhetoric spewed by people like Bishop Jackson.

I'm really tired of God's name and word being so badly twisted and used to manipulate people into behavior and attitudes so clearly at odds with His will and His word. Please share your stories of love and acceptance and work toward marginalizing hatred like that Bishop Jackson is attempting to spread. At some point I pray he and those like him take a breath and listen to people like you and actually consider that your stories might be valid and might represent the will of God better than what he's trying to sell. Then he could help people move closer to God instead of trying to drive a wedge between people and between those he discriminates against and the Lord.

As a positive footnote, you can read the Washington Blade's report on the 130 ministers who signed a declaration supporting marriage equality. Many of those ministers happened to be black.

June 07, 2009

Sunday Worship 6/7/09

If you don't have a welcoming church near you, or you just can't make yourself step into one, we're bringing worship to you. Here are links to some worship music and services from open and affirming ministries (all times eastern). I hope you are blessed and take time out of your busy schedule to enter into the Lord's day.

Don't forget to click on the tab on the upper right of this blog and leave your prayer requests in the comment section so we can petition the Lord for your needs.

We appreicate all of the positive feedback we've received for our Sunday Worship series. If you know of a service we should add to our list, please send an e-mail and share it with me. We've added several new live services this week and a new audio archive.

Worship Music--sing along and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Live Sunday Services (all times Eastern)
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham, 11:45 AM
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa, 11:00 AM
VA-Believers Covenant Fellowship, Vienna, 11:00 AM
NC-Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, Winston-Salem, 12:00 PM
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa, 1:00 PM
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach, 1:00 PM
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, 1:30 PM

Canada, Vancouver-Christ Alive Community Church, 10:15 PM
FL-Beacon of Hope Ministries, Dunedin (Living the Good Life radio program) 4:30 PM

Video Archive

AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach
FL-Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Ft. Lauderdale
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa
GA-Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta
MI-Christ Community Church, Spring Lake, MI
NC-Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, Winston-Salem
OK-Expressions Community Fellowship, Oklahoma City
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa
TX-The One Church, Garland, TX
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore

Audio Archive
AZ-Community Church of Hope, Phoenix
AK-Open Door Community Church, Sherwood
CA-Christ Chapel of Long Beach
CA-Christ Chapel of the Valley, North Hollywood
FL-Beacon of Hope Ministries, Dunedin (Living the Good Life radio program)
FL-New Hope Christian Center, Pensecola
GA-New Covenant Church of Atlanta
MD-Kittamaqundi Community, Columbia
NC-Revolution Charlotte
OH-Emmanuel Fellowship Church, Akron
OH-All Saints Community Church, Cortland
TN-Covenant of the Cross-Madison
TX-New Hope Fellowship Church-Dallas
TX-White Rock Community Church-Dallas
TX-Community Gospel Church-Houston
TX-Through Him Fellowship-Houston
South Africa-Deo Gloria Family Church