Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Does Your Friendship Depend On A Lie?

This could prove to be a rather lengthy one, so grab a cup of hot apple cider and pull up a seat :-)

It's been a few weeks since I felt compelled to blog commentary regarding one of the discussions that we've had on the Gospel Girls Group forum on Facebook, but one of the exchanges that we had today ignited a desire inside of me to share. The conversation sparked from a quip I read that was posted on someone's Facebook page. It said, "True friendship is a blessing from above, and true friends don't ask questions, they just help you dump the body bag in the river." In a twisted humorous way, this quote was saying that a true friend would cover for you no matter what.

My challenge to the group was: What does God say about it? Does He intend for us to cover for friends, even in their wrongdoing? When a friend lies, commits a crime, is unfaithful in a marriage, etc.; is God okay with us covering for them in the name of friendship? Well, the sisters of the 3-G Network are deep thinkers, and as with most of our conversations, this particular discussion went far beyond its original intent. I LOVE the way we interact on this group. We have so many personalities and dynamics, that no discussion is ever predictable or boring.

Most often when we are asked to share what we believe the Lord would or would not be pleased with, the first reaction for Christians is to refer to the Word, which we define as a roadmap for our lives. If we follow it to the letter, we can't go wrong. But what happens when there is no "clear" direction in the Bible that we can site and apply to the question about which we have lingering uncertainty? Let's look at what we do know. Proverbs 17:17 defines a friend as one who loves at all times. Therefore, I must ask myself: Am I truly showing love (Godly love) by helping my friend lie or steal or cheat? In my opinion, what I'm helping my friend to do is sin; which means I am also sinning, which means both of us are out of God's will. With that in mind, I would have to say that helping a friend to do wrong or cover his/her wrong is not God's desire for us.

As our online conversation deepened, the question was also raised as to whether Friend #1, who knows that Friend #2's spouse is being unfaithful, should divulge that information to Friend #2. Several of those on the group described this as meddling and/or indicated they would not do it because it could result in the dissolution of the friendship. My questions with that are: Does God only want us to tell the truth when the truth will be accepted? Does He only require us to be honest when it won't hurt? Are we only to be truthful when it won't result in the loss of friends? Our greatest example is the Son of God. We often hear Christians claim that they want to be more like Jesus, but do we really? Jesus lost followers and garnered enemies because He preached the truth. He spoke the truth, revealing the sins and wrongdoings of others, all the way to the cross. He sacrificed His life for the truth, yet many of us are not even willing to risk sacrificing a friendship. Think about that for a minute.

In a more carnal example, I am reminded of an eposode of a show wherein the producers pulled a prank on actress, Meagan Good, on hidden video. They arranged it so that she would walk in on a friend's boyfriend and catch him passionately making out with another girl. They set it up so that the "other woman" would be straddled over the boyfriends lap, half-dressed, as they kissed and groped each other in a hungry fashion. When Meagan walked into the room, the two "cheaters" jumped apart and scampered to re-dress themselves, all while begging her not to tell her friend. Shortly thereafter, Meagan's friend walks into the room, and the boyfriend greets her as normal, kissing her and telling her that he's happy to see her. Meagan stood off to the side quietly for a few moments, obviously struggling with whether to tell her friend what she knew. But it didn't talk long for her to do what she felt was right. She interrupt the casual conversation of the other three and told her friend what she'd walked in on just minutes earlier. An "argument" followed wherein the boyfriend and the other woman vehemently denied everything, but a very angry Meagan stood her ground, pleading with her friend to believe her, reminding her of their friendship, and telling her friend that she wouldn't dare lie to her. Eventually it was revealed that it was all staged, and of course, it became a laughing matter between the four of them. As the "set-up" came to a close, Meagan's friend said she was so relieved to know that she had the type of friend who would be honest enough to tell her something like that. The prank actually proved to her that Meagan was a true friend.

At the end of the day, the decision to tell the truth about anything is a choice. Truth is ALWAYS right...even when it's not popular. We can choose to do the right thing, or choose to do the comfortable thing. And when it comes to the answer of "What does God say about it?" I believe He requires us to do that which is righteous and trust Him to handle the consequences.

Written and Submitted by: Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Friday, July 15, 2011

To Speak or Not To Speak . . . That is the Question

This week on our Gospel Girls Group (Facebook) forum, the primary topic of discussion was regarding speaking in tongues. In the book of Acts, the second chapter, the Bible gives us a picture of what happened on the day that the promise of the coming of the Holy Ghost (or the Holy Spirit) was fulfilled. In scripture, that day is called the "day of Pentecost," and in Acts 2:4, we learn that all the people who were gathered in that one place with one accord were "filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." From this passage, many churches have taught that "other tongues" or "unknown tongues" is the evidence of the Holy Spirit. For decades and even centuries, church leaders have told congregants that unless they have spoken in unknown tongues, the Holy Ghost does not abide in them. The question posted this week was: Because those that were filled with the Spirit in this particular passage of scripture spoke in tongues, does that mean that everyone is required to have that same experience at the moment that they receive the in-filling of the Holy Spirit?

The sisters in the 3-G Network responded with varied understandings and outlooks. Some based their beliefs on their own experience of receiving the Holy Ghost, and others answered according to their own interpretation of Acts 2:4 as well as other biblical references that address the subject of unknown tongues. In each instance in the Bible where the writer of that passage talks about someone speaking in tongues, the Holy Ghost in in the midst. However, in every biblical mention of the moving of the Holy Ghost, tongues are not mentioned. Because of that, my personal understanding is that one must have the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside of them in order to be gifted with the ability to speak in unknown tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, however, tongues is just that: a gift. Therefore, just because a person has the Holy Ghost, that does not mean that he or she is required to speak in tongues. In saying this, I agree that unknown tongues is AN evidence of the Holy Spirit, but not THE evidence.

When we read Acts 2, we see that there were other very specific and monumental things that happened on the day of Pentecost in addition to the people speaking in unknown tongues. The Bible says sounds of a rushing mighty wind came down from heaven in that moment. We also read that images of cloven tongues of fire appeared and sat on each of the people who were gathered there on that day. If we are going to preach that everyone who is filled with the Holy Ghost must speak in tongues because that is the way the Spirit was introduced to the people on the day of Pentecost, then why don't we also make it mandatory for people to hear sounds of mighty winds from heaven or that they see the appearance of cloven tongues that sit on them at the moment they are filled? And what about the deaf-mute? If a person doesn't have the ability to speak, how will they ever be filled with the Holy Ghost if it requires speaking in tongues? Are they expected to speak in tongues with their hands? Is there sign language for tongues? We have to consider all these things and have a ready answer for them if we are going to take a stand that declares tongues a requirement.

At the end of the day, each Christian has to give an account of his or her own walk with the Lord. What was my experience of receiving the Holy Ghost may not be the testimony of the brother or sister who walks beside me. I don't believe any individual has been given authority by God to tell another that the Holy Spirit doesn't dwell in them simply because they have not displayed evidence of having the gift of tongues. Instead of jumping to being judgmental regarding that, perhaps it would be best if we all dwelled more on I Corinthians 13, a full chapter that is dedicated to highlighting the importance of love. This passage starts out by saying, "Though I speak with the TONGUES of men AND OF ANGELS, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." It further goes on to tell us in verse 8: "CHARITY NEVER FAILETH: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be TONGUES, THEY SHALL CEASE..."

Let's possess the evidence of the Holy Spirit that shall never cease. Let's allow the unfailing love we have for our fellow man be the proof that we belong to God (John 13:35). That's an evidence of the Holy Spirit that we can do in a language that everyone can understand.

~ Submitted by Kendra Norman-Bellamy (Group Founder)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

This week, within the Gospel Girls Group (on our Facebook network), we are discussing the topic of marriage and divorce in the Christian community, and it has been a hot one. I think more of the sisters have actively participated in this topic than any of those that we've had previously. The responses from group members have been eye-opening and have shown how prevalent marital discord and divorce is among Christians. Being saved doesn't immune one from the problems that can arise within a marriage, so what we need to know is how does God expect us to handle them?

What does God really think about divorce in Christianity? What is His will for us in this area? One scripture in the Bible speaks of divorce only being acceptable in the case of fornication, but what about women (or men) who find themselves caught in verbally, mentally, and/or physically abusive marriages; or those who, somewhere along the way, find that the river of love has totally dried up? Is it right in God's eyes for a person who finds themselves in an abusive or a loveless marriage to divorce? Or is it His will for them to suffer through the pain, hurt, and misery?

The responses from the women in the 3-G Nework varied. Most said that the grace of God would allow for a woman to break free from an abusive marriage wherein her safety (and sometimes, her life) was put in danger. Others disagreed. Marriage vows say "for better or for worse," so they felt that a woman must find another way to deal with an abusive husband other than divorcing him. On the matter of cheating spouses, some said the Bible covered that one, so a man or woman has God-given permission to sever marital ties if there is infidelity. Others said divorce shouldn't be the first option; a person should first seek God, forgive the unfaithful spouse, seek counseling, and try to make the marriage work. The scenerio of couples simply falling out of love or growing apart wasn't really capitalized on by the group. The other two issues were the prominent ones that were addressed.

One of the things that this discussion taught us (well, me) is that as Christian women, we should never be judgmental and say what one should or should not do. We can approach them with biblical principal about a matter, but it is never our place to tell them what to do or to make them feel condemned for the decision they make. That decision must be her own; after all, she's the one who is going to have to live with it. Because of that, she must allow the Holy Spirit to minister to her and to guide her in the way that He desires. Some marriages may be salvageable, while others may not. In any wedded union, both subjects must be willing to work out the differences. If only the husband or only the wife has a desire for the marriage to heal, it won't; no matter how much praying the spouse does. The couple must work together as one in order for wholeness to be found again.

Marriage is honorable, and I believe that is something that we all agree on. God loves marriage, and He hates divorce. It was never His intent for marriages to fall apart. However, it was also not His intent for marriages to become violent or for spouses to be unfaithful, deceptive, and unloving toward one another. Because these unrighteous things are happening more and more, even in the church, it is our duty as women of God (and as people of God, in general) to hide the Word of God in our hearts ever the more. At the end of the day, heaven and earth (and even marriages) may pass away, but the Word of God will stand forever.

~ Submitted by Kendra Norman-Bellamy (Group Founder)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Cut it Down and Plant Again"

I've grown up in the church my entire life. Nothing should surprise me when it comes to the enemy's desire to disrupt and destroy works that are put in place for the purpose of bringing increase to the kingdom of God. But I must admit, that the spirit that tried to creep in the midst of Gospel Girls Group this week actually blindsided me. There is such harmony and spiritual bonding within this family of Christian women, that I didn't see it coming. Who would have thought that we would have an ememy within? Who would have guessed that one of our own would copy heartfelt information posted in the form of a prayer request by one of our 3-G sisters and take it back to the sister's family as a means of causing division in her household? How devious! BUT GOD!

What I learned through prayer is as bad as it was, it could have been so much worse. The enemy comes but to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Well, he came, but God didn't let him destroy us. I'm very grateful for the spirit of the targeted sister. She didn't lower herself to the level of the enemy. She could have put the "enemy within" on blast and publicly posted something on the 3-G forum that could possibly have been distasteful and improper. Instead, she sent a private note to me, informing me what was going on. The only problem now is that she's not sure who the culprit is. When you don't know which branch is diseased and threatening to kill the entire tree, it's difficult to determine which branch needs to be removed. A half-good tree is a no-good tree. In time, if left undetected, the disease that may have started in only one branch of the tree, can grow to kill the entire tree. In my time of prayer and medition, God said, "Cut it down and plant again."

Initially, it seemed to be such a harsh command, but the Lord reminded me of why it was necessary. If I didn't do it, I risked the chance of the tree dying altogether, and a dead, leafless, fruitless tree would be of no good to anyone. It can't provide shade (comfort), it can't provide fruit (life), it can't provide anything. It's just a barren object with withered branches lifted toward the sky . . . a worthless praise.

When God first gave the nod for me to organize Gospel Girls Group, He directed me to make it a closed organization so that it wasn't open for just anyone to jump in to. Because of the strong purpose of ministry that this group is designed to have, each woman should be led by the Holy Spirit, and she should only join if He directs her to us. From the very beginning, God placed it in my heart to set up Gospel Girls as a group that only those who desired to be a part of it would be a part of it. I only followed a portion of that order. I did make it a closed group, but as members joined, they would arbitrarily draft others, and I would freely accept whomever was drafted, not even knowing whether that person genuinely wanted to be there. As a result, some of those drafted into the group deleted themselves because they hadn't given anyone permission to place them there. Those were the ones for which I'm thankful. At least they were respectful enough to walk away. However, someone in the batch decided to stay...and not for the good of the fellowship. Instead, they stayed to be an instigator and to cause problems. For that, I take the full blame, because had I followed God's full order at the onset, the chances of this happening would have been slim to none.

So now I must cut down the tree, and plant again. I have announced to the Facebook group that as of Friday (June 17), anyone who has not responded to a particular posting that I made on our group page will be cut. It was wonderful to see the group grow so swiftly in such a short time, but what I have learned is all growth is not good growth. If there is disease within the branches, even if the tree continues to grow, the fruit it bears (if it bears any at all) won't be worth eating. Not only that, but in the horticultural world, pruning is a regular practice. Though many buds may show early on a plant, pruning (plucking of some of the buds) is often done so that the fruit that is produced will be healthier, bigger, and more tasteful. Sometimes you have to take away some of what is there, so that the plant, flower, fruit tree, etc. can be allowed to grow to its fullest potential. That is what's going to happen with 3-G . . . I am fully convinced of that.

Knowing what I know now, I'm actually excited about the reorgnization of Gospel Girls Group. The challenge that we faced didn't kill us. In fact, it made us stronger. And although our numbers will be smaller, our faith will be greater and the fruit we bear will be more beautiful and more nutrious for the soul than ever. To God be the glory!

~Submitted by Kendra Norman-Bellamy (Group Founder)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Praise God for Gospel Girls Group!

Kendra ~ It's curently 3:51 a.m. and I'm up; I just couldn't hold in my Praise & thanks to God for you and how you have impacted my life over this past month since I've joined GGG/3-G. The blessing, the encouragement, the tears shed, the new Christian friendships made, and most important to have received the opportunity to have met you.

It blesses my heart to have a Christian/Spiritual avenue to worship God and freely discuss His Goodness and His Word. This has been put in place by no one but Him for He knew what so many of us needed and desired. God is so Awesome and Perfect in EVERYTHING He does and I am just full. I have detoxed my FB page and I continue to do so, I find myself deleting friends that are not of the same mindset that I am. God then sent Gospel Girls Study Group, and again I say that I have been so blessed and I am continually blessed by many of the postings [on the Facebook group page] throughout my day as they resonate in my spirit and I KNOW that my communication with God has increased and is on a higher level.

Being in the church all of my life and at the same church all of my life, I know God rewards Faithfulness. Oh how I Praise Him for you and your vision and I will pray that He will forever keep GGG/3-G continually.

Love you much and blessings...

~ Submitted by TaShona Bowie-Hayes (Group Member)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A New Kind of "3-G" Network!

Welcome to the Gospel Girls Group blog! Upon the establishment of Gospel Girls Group, I had no idea of where the Lord would take us. The seed for this unique fellowship was planted in my mind by a small group of women who are supporters of my writing ministry. One of them posted the question of, "Have you ever thought of starting an online women's Bible study group?" on my Facebook wall, and her inquiry was followed by responses from three or four other ladies who chimed in to say what a great idea they thought it was. I told them that I'd take some time to pray about it, and would let them know if it was something that God gave His stamp of approval. That was some time in the month of March (2011).
On April 15th, after much prayer, I officially launched Gospel Girls Group (sometimes called Gospel Girls Study Group), and the first ten members to join me in this fellowship were Donna McAfee Williams-Freeland, Tam Solomon, Brittney Holmes, Anita Tann, Keenya Allen-Loveday, Paige Williams-Stewart, Tea Ratliff, Shalanda Herring, Brenda McKee, and Sherry Atkins Motes. Since that time, Gospel Girls has grown to over 300 members, and I am eternally grateful for each of them. Of course, as with all online associations, some of the members post more often than others, but whether the members post or simply read the posts, my prayer is that they are blessed beyond measure by being connected to this Christian network.
The primary mission of Gospel Girls Group is to become a spiritually charged fellowship wherein women can motivate other women. With our busy lives and the discouragements that we constantly face in life, we need an outlet where we can feed and be fed the Word so that we may continue to grow thereby. On a daily basis, the women of Gospel Girls Group not only discuss the Word of God in scripture form, but we also talk about His will for our lives, and we pray for each other and encourage one another to continue in the faith.
I have been very blessed by the women of this online fellowship, and if the Lord has done this much for us in the early weeks of our existence, I'm excited to see where He will ultimately take us and what He will ultimately do in our lives as we diligently seek Him in our efforts to be better wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and Christians. In a recent telephone conversation that I had with a brother by the name of David Francois, I told him about Gospel Girls Group, and he gave us the nickname of "3-G." I immediately fell in love with it, because in my opinion, it fits us to perfection.
Gospel Girls Group...A new kind of "3-G" Network! To get connected, become a follower of this blog...and look us up on Facebook to fellowship with us there as well.

(Submitted by: Kendra Norman-Bellamy, Founder)