Loving Our Neighbors Well

This seems like a beautiful, simple way to love our neighbors well.  Perhaps we should put a turquoise table on our south lawn?

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Non-Essentials v. Christian Essentials

The rallying cry of the apostle Paul in the book of Galatians is Freedom!

He saw the converts of Galatia, both Jews and Gentiles, submitting themselves to the demands of the Law of Moses, including the act of circumcision, in order to earn righteousness in God’s eyes.

He goes on to say that circumcision is irrelevant when it comes to walking in relationship with God.  It is a non-essential.

One student of the book has written that legalism is, “…treating that which is good as though it were essential.”  He goes on, “Whenever Christians turn something valuable into something ultimate, legalism is at work and freedom is forfeited…we preserve our freedom in Christ when what is essential to God is essential to us, and everything else is kept in place.”

I like that a lot.

So I decided to make a list of non-essential things that in my experience as a Christian have been put forth as an essential of the ‘true’ faith.  I follow my list of non-essentials below with a few true essentials of the faith.  What would be on your lists?

Non-essentials:

  • Mode of Baptism (sprinkled? dunked? poured?)
  • Speaking in tongues
  • Particular view of inspiration, eschatology, evolution/creation
  • Political party or ideology
  • Abstinence from tobacco or alcohol
  • Diet – vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc.
  • Exercise – keeping one’s temple in top shape
  • Education – spiritual people can read/write well
  • Sexual identity – can a gay or transgendered person be righteous?
  • Whether one is mentally ill or mentally fit
  • Whether one is physically ill or physically fit
  • Whether one is single or married
  • Whether one lives under a bridge or in a nice home
  • Being pro-life or pro-choice (I am pro life, but I believe one can be pro choice and go to heaven, therefore this stance as a non-essential)
  • Wealth or poverty (both have been touted as more spiritual than the other, or even necessary for true spirituality)
  • Views on virginity, masturbation, divorce, remarriage – these matters speak to character, not Christian essentials
  • Playing, or not playing: board games, card games, dice games or games of chance
  • Long or short hair, long or short skirts, and long or short sermons

Essentials:

  • Loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Actually, we can stop here. (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37)
  • Walking in a trusting, prayerful, Spirit-led, flesh-crucifying relationship with Jesus. (Romans 8:5-17)
  • Walking in unity, humility and peace with all those who profess Christ (John 17:20-23; Romans 12:18; Phil 2:1-5)
  • Forgiving those who harm us (Matthew 6:9-14; 18:15-35)
  • Bearing witness to Christ and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)

I think it is a great exercise for each of us to make a list of non-essentials that we have submitted to, or have seen others submit to that were harmful, as well as developing a short list of essentials.

Something else here is critical — We should not judge one another in the matter of non-essentials.  We should set people free to follow the Spirit in these matters…even if we believe they are in error.

This will also set us free from a judgmental spirit…which is also a form of spiritual slavery.  Can you shout it with me?  FREEDOM!!

–geno

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Austin Drive-Through Prayer

What a GREAT idea!  I’d like to see a prayer tent at outdoor events staffed by Hopefolk.

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The Template Prayer

Dearly Beloved,

I recently concluded a two-part teaching series expounding what is commonly called ‘The Lord’s Prayer” or “The ‘Our Father’.”  This is the prayer which Jesus gave his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray (see Luke 11:1-13).  The text of the prayer is also found in Matthew 6:5-15.  

One important point I attempted to make in this sermon is that Jesus was not giving his disciples a set of words to memorize and repeat back to God.  Rather, Jesus was telling his disciples the manner in which they should approach God and the appropriate subject-headings which should be used by his disciples in prayer.  

As part of my concluding remarks on both Sundays I wrote out a contemporary response to Jesus’ teaching on the template prayer.  Below you will find the prayer(s) I shared at the end of each sermon, combined into one text.  I feel compelled to say that my words are an example of how I work through the template, not some kind of definitive example.  Please feel free to write your own.

–geno

P.S.  The recording to the first teaching may be found here.  

A Disciple’s Prayer

Father we commit ourselves to make you famous in all the earth in our generation as we follow you and help those far from you to do he same.

Father, we are a dependent people in need of your daily provision, hungry again, empty again, broken again. Would you grant today, again, your daily bread? I am grateful for your provision, for your sustaining word and for the way you put food on my table. I am grateful to be reminded that you are truly good, a mercy-filled provider eager to bless your children.

I stand in need of forgiveness. I have sinned against you. I am broken and failing to live according to your ways, what I know to be right. Thanks for your mercies, new every morning. Thank you for listening again to the confession of my sins and my failings. Thank you for forgiving me and drawing me near.

I want to live without holding grudges. Help me to let go of the wrong done to me, to forgive the one who has injured me. Let me live without demanding my rights, willing to suffer loss to walk in mercy and grace with those around me. Teach me to forgive like you do.

Father, keep me from the day of trial and testing, but if I must go there, I want to go there with you. Strengthen me. Help me to stand, to pass the test, to say ‘no’ to the tempter and His offer. Rescue me. Deliver me. I also pray for those around me who are being tempted to give up, to give in, to go down the road to destruction. Help each one to make a godly choice, a wise choice, however difficult.

May your name be praised. May you be famous and followed, known as the One who provides, the One who forgives, and the One who rescues.

Amen.

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The Prayerful Mind

(Editor’s Note:  Following last Sunday’s sermon on November 19, Liz Morgan sat down and penned this response.  It is a lovely, artful reaction to a message on common obstacles to becoming a praying person.  It is published here by permission.  Thanks, Liz.  –geno)

The Prayerful Mind

by Liz Morgan

The mind, on occasion, kind
Even refined;
Yet its roller-coaster wander-ways
Lead me astray
Every day.
Until, when sane,
I cry, “Lord, show me your way!
For I lead myself down the fool’s highway.”
Trapped be one-way signs to External Distraction
Not seeing it disguised in the distance
Around twisting-truth bends,
Its dead-end desperation
Separation from genuine wisdom & consolation.

Conversely, God-glancing leads to quietude,
Mental calm, solitude,
Where I relish His discipline:
Daily devotional delights,
Waiting, wondering at His wise
Forever-welcoming, without restriction,
Blessed benediction
Meeting my mind’s eye, I desire Him more, me less;
I turn prayerfully toward Spirit-truth-touch,
Choosing to seek that attention,
Gazing God-ward.

 

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On Dreamers and DACA

Dearly Beloved,

I recently came across a document called ‘Evangelical Statement of Principles on Dreamers’ which I like very much.  You can read it here.

For multiple decades our national leadership has failed us as a people by their impoverished actions with regard to immigration policy.  Our borders are not secure.  Undocumented criminals are not routinely expelled from our country.  There is no guest worker mechanism to allow sizable numbers of people from other nations to legally and easily participate in our economy.

There is currently no national consensus on how to address these matters.  However, there is a clear consensus on how to deal with so-called ‘dreamers’–the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to our nation who now seek higher education, service in our military or good jobs…adult children who have no criminal record and want to live out of the shadow of uncertain citizen status.  Most Americans agree that these children should not be punished for the illegal actions of their parents.

This is the intent of the statement drafted under the leadership of Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religions Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I am a fan of the work of Dr. Moore and have been for some time.  I recommend his blog ‘Moore to the Point.’

Until now I have not seen any document with regard to U.S. immigration policy with which I could wholeheartedly agree and recommend.  For the record, I have signed the Evangelical Statement of Principles on Dreamers in solidarity with its principles.

The Bible is clear that God’s people are to care for the orphan, the widow and the sojourner (the alien) in our midst.  Caring for the future of the ‘dreamer’ in our midst is one way we can follow God’s way in our world.

–geno

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Turn Your Back On White Supremacists

(Editors Note: Below you will find a guest column I recently submitted to our local newspaper, the Austin American Statesman.  I will let you know if it gets published.  However, I wanted you all to know of my settled opposition to the ideology of white supremacy, which I find disgusting and hateful and anti-gospel.  –geno)

[Update:  The Statesman published an edited version of my guest column on September 3, 2017.  Unbeknownst to me, the Confederate Militia had called off their protest the day before saying they were too busy helping with Hurricane Harvey rescues. –geno]

Dear Counter Protesters,

I think there may be a better way than a show of force or numbers to make your point that racist white-supremacy ideology is unacceptable and disgusting.

Turn your back on it. Shun it all.

In my opinion the very best thing would be for no one to show up at all in counter protest.

In fact, religious leaders are being urged to open their houses of worship from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 23rd, to encourage people from their local communities to pray for peace and justice during the so-called Dixie Freedom Rally. In this way, hopefully, there will be something very constructive for people to do during the time of the demonstration and, thus, fewer folks for the police to police.

It seems to me that if no one were there to hear the race-baiting exaltation of Confederate history…that would send a more powerful message to the larger public than a massive show of force that could spiral out of control.

Sure, you could attempt to intimidate the neo-Confederates into silence, as some of your Facebook posts have urged. But that would make you more like them than not because the ideology of white supremacy was upheld by precisely such tactics—suppressing the voices of the oppressed and the opposition. Intimidation by numbers was a KKK tactic in the deep South and by others elsewhere. Let it not become yours.

However, I understand how oppressive, racist, white supremacy-fueled ideology can make one’s blood boil to the point that getting out and letting the world know how one feels just feels good. It is also a great thing to meet up with others of like mind.

So please, let me urge you, all of you, to turn your backs on the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis and the alt-right, and all the others who want to intimidate people of color by simply spewing their message and getting in the press.

Let them march behind police barricades keeping them safe as our law demands, but let them see a larger society that has turned its back on their hateful ideas and harmful words…literally.

I also thought an idea on your Facebook page should get some serious attention: sing! Sing songs to counter their thuggish talk. Just sing. There are a number of great songs that have come out of the civil rights movement. Someone also suggested ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’. Great idea.

My dear friend, Pastor Joe Parker, recently urged white religious leaders to speak out against the rising tide of white supremacy, that our silence is now deafening. I was stung by his remarks.

I have urged our congregants at Hope Chapel to oppose displays of white supremacy, both public and private, teaching that such an ideology is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus who will one day be worshipped by some from ‘every tongue, tribe, people and nation.’ (Revelation 5:9, ESV)

In biblical Christianity there simply is no such thing as a superior race.

I would love to see you all gather with many thousands of others in some house of worship and in that place turn your back on white supremacy and your face toward the One who “…made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,…” (Acts 17:26a, ESV)

You will be welcome to join us at Hope Chapel.

Geno Hildebrandt, Senior Pastor

Hope Chapel, hope.org

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Women Also Use Porn

Following Sunday’s sermon no less than half a dozen people came up to me with a singular concern: that a significant number of women also watch porn.

As part of my talk on the 7th commandment, God’s prohibition against adultery, I had zeroed in on the sinful use of porn by men. My exhorters were simply saying that I probably should have at least mentioned female porn use is on the rise.

According to a recent survey, that number may be as high as one in three women using porn once per week. The survey was conducted by Marie Claire, a women’s magazine. Discovering such information is pretty easy on the internet, but I recommend caution in going to look for such data because some of the sites may lead viewers into unwanted experiences. If you are going to conduct a search look only for data published by recognizable, quality media companies.

I remain grateful for a congregation that can hear a sermon on such a difficult subject and respond with empathy. My prayer is that we will continue to be a faith community where we encourage one another toward sexual purity, living out the sexual ethic Jesus taught, while doing so without shame-filled judgment or condemnation.

Peace,

–geno

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‘No Other Gods’ is not so easy…

(Editor’s Note: Following my sermon on the First Commandment I had a conversation with one of our congregants. Because I thought this person shared an important insight I requested a follow-up email expressing those thoughts. I am publishing it here with only a few, minor edits. This person was responding to my teaching that the first commandment essentially requires us to push aside things that help us cope with life’s difficulties if those things take precedence over seeking God’s help. I also noted that it is often difficult to seek God. I hope you all can see, with me, the helpful truth in this response. –geno)

Our reluctance in coming to the Lord, and turning to other things instead…is because the “other things” allow us to escape….escape from pain first and foremost.

Indulging in food, alcohol, working out, porn, TV or just general business…numbs the pain.  I mean this is no revelation…but relationship costs me time, and heartache.  It costs me that with Jesus, too.

When we quiet ourselves before Him he unveils the secret places in our heart.  These things will begin to “bubble up” to the surface, and healing can “begin”.  But it is the beginning of healing.  

…sin will be brought up, and pain will be brought up…sins done to us that have laid dormant for a long time and so on.

Having walked through the “Shadow” a few times I have learned it is best to face grief straight on…to run towards it.   BUT recent events really made me want to escape.  

Praise God for Downton Abby, ice cream, chocolate syrup and the occasional BEER!  As I binged on that mini series…I felt the Lord say…”It’s okay….I know you need this right now…the mind needs the escape.”

Sometimes we fear we may be overwhelmed with the pain we may experience,  that somehow we will drown in it, so we never allow it to the surface.  It is much easier to go grab ice cream and a bottle of choc. syrup! :)

But eventually…I had to go and face the loss, anger, the images and death–before the Lord, and “with” the Lord.  I had to wrestle through my thoughts about it and about God in it.  I had to wrestle with the “WHY”, and that’s exhausting.  But if you want true relationship it’s hard work and exhausting…but the fruit is worth it, more than worth it.  

Anyway, in a nutshell, I think we go to other things because coming to God is painful sometimes…and we, to quote another song writer “Haven’t got time for the pain.” :)  We have to sit in pain sometimes and wrestle with it, we don’t want to do that.  But when we don’t do that we also miss out on the “Peace”…the peace that passes all understanding. 

It is priceless how everything around us is falling absolutely apart, but He…in His mystery, wonder and gentleness…brings peace…because we have chosen to draw near. It isn’t the absence of the difficulty…but we know that He is with us…even in the dark. 

Grace and peace,

Anonymous

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Transgenderism

(Note: The following information comes from The Weekly, which is “…a rundown of news by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission highlighting the week’s top news stories from the public square and providing commentary on the big issues of our day,” as per their website.  I found it helpful to begin sorting out various unfamiliar terms and concepts.  –geno)

 5 Facts About Transgenderism  (2-24-17)

On Wednesday the Trump administration issued a notice withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance regarding transgenderism in public schools that was issued by President Obama last year (for more on this story, see here).

Here are five facts you should know about the increasingly controversial topic of transgenderism:

  1. Transgenderism is an umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender identity that does not match a person’s physical/genetic sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation, and those who self-identify as transgender may consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Approximately 700,000 individuals in the U.S. identify as transgender.
  1. Transgenderism differs from intersex, a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition. The vast majority of people with intersex conditionsidentify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. (The term “hermaphrodite” is now considered outdated, inaccurate, and offensiveas a reference to people who are intersex.)
  1. The terms transgender, transsexual, and transvestite are not synonymous. Transsexualismrefers to a specific condition in the transgender realm. Transsexual is a narrower term used to refer to people who identify as the opposite of their birth gender designation, regardless of whether they have undergone or intend to undergo hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery. A transvestite is a person who cross-dresses, or dresses in clothes of the opposite sex, though they may not identify with, or want to be the opposite gender. All transexuals identify as transgender, but transvestites do not necessarily fall into either of the other categories.
  1. In the 1960s Johns Hopkins University became the first American medical center to offer “sex-reassignment surgery.”But they later stopped performing the procedure after a study on transgendered people in the 1970s. The study compared the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as “satisfied” by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. As Dr. McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, explains, “at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a “satisfied” but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.” At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered, says McHugh. “’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” he adds. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”
  1. When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70-80 percent of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25 percent did have persisting feelings, notes Dr. McHugh, but what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned. Despite such studies several states—including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—have passed laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.

See also: Transgenderism in public schools: What the latest news means for Christian parent

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