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STUDY THE WORD

Bible Study, Character Study, Word Study

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Asian History, Black History, Church History, First Nations History, Latino History, Women's History

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New Subscription Info: The Blog is Moving!

Hey! It's been a while since I posted--not because I ran out of things to say but because I decided to try something new. I've been hosting the blog through Blogger since 2012. That's 10 years!!! Blogger is free, and if you know a little code (which I do), you can do some pretty nifty things. However, I found that I there were 2 things that bothered me greatly about the blog.
  1. I have a lot of content and it's really hard to navigate. Separating out the poems from the Bible studies from black history is bad enough, but within the Bible studies I had studies on specific chapters and studies on topics and commentary about different denominations... How do I create a landing page that is both informative and not overwhelming?
  2. Every post requires a picture. If you go back to my posts from 2015 or so, you'll see horrible graphics and random photos that have nothing to do with the post, just to avoid the dreaded "image not found" message. Eventually, I started creating branded photos so newer posts are more streamlined, but that takes time. I learned, I don't like graphic design, and I don't like creating images for the posts when they don't add value to the content.
So, I've decided to move the blog to Notion. I've been using Notion to organize my life for about 4 years now, and as I've gotten better with it, I've realized it could be used for a blog site. The con is that I have to move posts over individually. Which has actually been a blessing because I get to see the growth I've had since I began this blog, and I get to clean up A LOT of typos and spelling mistakes ๐Ÿ˜‚.

What does that mean going forward?

For now, www.psalmstogod.com, is going to remain pointing here so you can still access this content. However as I move things over, I will not be adding new posts to this site. New content will be uploaded to that site.

If you are subscribed and want to continue receiving content and updates please visit the new site and subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of the home page. I appologize for the inconvenience but hope the new site will be better for all of you as well as myself.

Thanks!!

Why As A Christian I Disagree With Overturning Roe V Wade

First and foremorst, this post isn't about whether it's right or wrong to have an abortion—This post is about law, love, and choice. We could spend hours and days arguing opinions and feelings, but I want to call our attention to a singular (albiet multi-faceted) point from scripture. The reason we're only going to talk about this point, is because it's foundational and the only one that really matters.

The Covenant

There are several covenants made between God and man throughout the Bible, but the two people focus on the most are the old covenant, given to Israel through Moses in Exodus, and the new covenant, brought to us by Messiah's death and resurrection on the cross. The first Covenant is Judaism and the second is the foundation for Christianity.[1] The old and new covenant's aren't as different as people think, and often we can find examples of people in the Old Testament opperating in the new covenant.

The key difference between these covenants is where the law of God is written. In Exodus, God writes the law in stone; stone is immutable and rigid. In both the Old and New Testaments, though, God talks about creating a new covenant where the law is written the hearts of his people (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). Notice, there is still a law, but there's something different about having a law in the heart versus in stone.

There's an anime-style CGI movie called Appleseed in which an A.I. was placed in charge of making decisions for a utopian society. However, because the A.I. can't understand or account for emotions, it is connected to a group of people who lend it the emotional capacity needed to make balanced decisions. This A.I. alone is stone; the A.I. plus emotion is heart.

The Mosaic Covenant was about following the rules, but allowed people to forget the point. The point wasn't to stone people for messing up or sacrifice all your cattle because you committed some trespass against God (Isaiah 1:11). It was always about the heart. It was always about the choice.

The Choice

In Genesis 2, we find out God put a tree in the Garden of Eden that He didn't want mankind to eat from. He could have never put the tree there. He could have set thorns all around it (I'm totally envisioning the scene in Sleeping Beauty where thorns and a dragon threaten to keep him from the princess). God could have made it impossible for them to eat from the fruit but He didn't. He gave them a choice.
Each one must do just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB
One person values one day over another, another values every day the same. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5 NASB
But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NASB
The passages above are about offering, feast days, and idolatry, respectively, but the principle holds for all that God has said. Each person is to be decided in his or own heart what they will do.

Imagine for a second that parallel universes definitely exist. In one universe, you are married to a man who does not love you. He does not enjoy your company, nor does he appreciate you. However, because the covenant of your marriage is set in stone, he is faithful to you. He does not cheat and he does not leave. He provides what you need and goes through the motions of all the things a husband is supposed to do. In the other universe, you are married to a man who adores you. He relishes in you and has surrendered his whole heart to you. But once, he faltered; he made a mistake. He came to you ashamed and repentent, begging for forgiveness, promising to be better. Which of these universes do you want to live in?

The Word of God often uses marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with Him, and that relationship is a lot more like the latter. The first marriage I described is what we call legalism.[5]

Only God knows why a person makes the decision they make, and only God can forgive or condemn.
...for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.1 Samuel 16:7 NASB
Exodus 20:13 forbids us from murdering someone; it's punishable by death (with a few exceptions).[2][3] Yet in Matthew 5:22, Christ says we aren't even to be angry (without cause![4]) at a person or it is equivalent to murder. The focus isn't on the act, but the heart. Exemptions were given for people who killed someone on accident (Joshua 20:7-9), and even David who killed someone very much on purpose, was forgiven. Why? Because God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.

Consequences

Genesis 9:6 says that if a human kills a human, that human has to be put to death. Obviously, there are caveats because otherwise whoever killed the person who killed someone, would then need to be killed and we would enter a nasty round of recursion that required all humans to die. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of people doing the same things, but receiving different consequences and outcomes.

For instance, when Dinah is raped in Genesis 34, her eldest brothers slaughter and entire town (both the innocent and the guilty), but no one puts them to death and God still allows them to become tribes of of Israel. David kills a man for his own gain and Paul was notorious for killing God's people. Both were able to repent. God's people perform miracles and it is a show of their relationship with Him; others commit sorcery and witchcraft. In all these cases we see people violate commands God has given them, but we also see God exempt them from the penalties of that law either because their motives are pure or because of the relationship He has with those people. Mind you, with the exception of Paul, all the examples I listed are Old Testament, under the old covenant, where blood was technically required to atone for sin (your own blood in the case of murder). So if God allowed the choices and did not condemn them then, why should we be so quick to dole out punishment with our limited perceptions today when Messiah has already paid the blood price?

Our law is set up the same way today when it comes to murder. You are not immediately hauled off to the electric chair; there is due process. We have different categories of murder (e.g., murder 1, murder 2, manslaughter, etc.) which have different sentencing requirements and are based on motive, intent, and culpability. A four year old who gets hold of a gun and kills someone is not going to jail or be convicted of murder. Someone who kills in self defense may have to go to trial to prove it was self defense (though some times its obvious and not required), but they are likely to be acquitted.

Both God and the US government have a history of looking at things on a case by case situation...

The Real Problem

I am a strong believer that my responsibility as a follower of God is to bring us closer to Kingdom living, not by inacting strict laws that mirror the ones God set for us, but by bringing us back to an Eden-like society where it's easy to do the right thing. In Eden, there was no rape. There was no such thing as sickness or death. There were no taxes or healthcare fees. There were no jobs to attend to. There was no danger. There was no shortage of food.
Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this: not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way. Romans 14:3

As believers our priority is to fix the problems and remove stumbling blocks, not force people down one path and judge them when they trip over the stumbling blocks we didn't bother to remove.

For more on the how this pertains to abortion, please see my previous post (which has audio!): "Roe v Wade VS the Church."

TL;DR

From the very beginning, God gave people choices—He was the founder of being pro-choice. Most importantly, no choice (save the Mark of the Beast and blaspheming the Holy Spirit) separate you repentance and salvation—that's how committed He is to letting you find your own way. Yes, there are consequences for our choices, but the consequences aren't the same for every person, because God looks deep into the heart, not the surface of the matter.

References and Footnotes

  1. I use this word loosely because language is hard. The word technically refers to followers of Christ, however, over the centuries since His death many people have put on the mask of Chrisitianity (wolves in sheeps clothing, as prophesied in Matthew 7:15) and distorted the meaning. There are people who claim Christianity that have no clue what the Word of God says and there are many people who associate Christianity with teachings and ideas that are not from YHWH/Adonai/Creator/God. Here, I mean followers of Christ, followers of the Word of God.
  2. Genesis 9:6 - "Whoever sheds human blood, By man his blood shall be shed"
  3. Joshua 20:7-9 - "whoever kills a person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation."
  4. Some traslations omit the phrase "without cause," but if you look at an interlinear Bible such as Blue Letter Bible, you will see the word ฮตแผฐฮบแฟ† which means in vain, or without cause.
  5. Yes, God laid out a moral law, but ultimately He is looking at why you did something not what you did (or didn't do), and He knows you aren't going to be perfect.

Burnout Confessions

I have half finished blog posts, partially created notebooks for a give away, video content that needs editing, and a whole list of ideas for more content. So why don't you see it? Burnout. In a previous YouTube video, I shared a little bit about how crazy the past few years have been, but it isn't just the past few years, it's all of life!

I got my first summer job at 14 years old and have been either working or in school (or both) ever since. In 2014, while I was in grad school, my doctor said I had low iron. This is normal for women and seemed logical to me. Since 2014, most doctor visits have the statement "you have really low iron levels" or "we really need to work on your iron." My ferratin levels have not risen past 4 since doctors first started telling me this in 2014. (Ferratin deals with iron stores within your body, and to my knowledge the lower-bound for "normal" is 11.) Eventually, doctors started telling me I had "weird" shaped blood cells. A few months ago I had a doctor decide to figure out why my blood cells "look weird" and he confirmed that I have Hemoglobin C trait. Turns out 33% of my red blood cells are duds...

Nonetheless, I managed to work 20 hours for my advisor, a few hours a week as a tutor, and crank out a PhD while I was "severely iron deficient." I went straight to work after defending my dissertaion (didn't even wait for graduation), was cranking out a podcast episode a week, became a leader in a young adult ministry, and ended up involved in trying to better the community. I got laid off my job, interviewed every day until I had a new job, got sick from the stress of it, had 2 family members die from COVID within a month of each other, sold my house, moved 2000 miles away from my family to a place I'd never even visited, and am still going... All while being "severely iron deficient."

The number one symptom of iron deficiency is fatigue. If this is how I opperate at a deficit, I feel like I could solve world hunger if I were firing on all cylinders.

But I'm not, and I realized that I need a vacation. Not a trip to some exotic place or a fancy hotel. Just a responsibility free, break from pushing through life like super woman. So, I'm taking the summer off. Well, I'll still be going to work cause I don't have a rich uncle who died and left me enough money to pay for gas, but I'm not going to worry about the blog. I'm not going to worry about keeping my house spotless. I'm going to play video games. Journal for fun. Play laser tag with the cats. Sit outside and watch the birds—if the temperature drops below 100, that is.

See you in August.

Mediate Like Abigail


The life of Abigail is given in 1 Samuel 25. In our introduction to her, we are told that she is intelligent and beautiful, a description that should not be taken lightly. Growing up I heard about Abigail maybe once or twice, but we never really discussed her in detail nor the implications of her behavior on the expectations of being a woman of God.

Beauty and Brains

Each translation has a slightly different word choice in the description of Abigail, but using the context of the passage I believe she was being described as wise and clever. When it comes to Abigail's beauty, I think it's interesting that the author creates a juxtaposition between intelligence with beauty and being mean and surly. It almost implies that one cannot be intelligent and mean or mean and beautiful. This implication hold with other passages in the Bible that tell us man looks outward while God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and that beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). Since it is the Holy Spirit that is inspiring this passage, I opften wonder if the word beauty is describing her heart or her physcality, or possibly both. Another interesting point about her description is that her intelligence is mentioned first. Usually the first thing listed is the most pronounced or the more important matter.

Saving the Day

We only get one chapter about Abigail but it's pretty powerful. When her husband, Nabal, is rude to David, Abigail sets things right by doing going behind her husband's back to do the right thing. She provides the hospitality that David desereved, intercedes on her husband's behalf—complete with an appology where she takes the blame for her husbands rude behavior and an isult to her husband's character—and tops it off with a little chastizing of David, as well. Abigail's actions are bold and very different from what the church typically teaches about the Godly woman's behavior.

Prepared

So, one thing the church pushes on women that Abigail does display is hospitality. The amount of food Abigail just has lying around to be given away is astonishing. Even with a grocery store 5 minutes from my house, I don't know that I could acquire that much food in the time Abigail did. Of course it is importatn to point out here that Abigail had servants to help her with this task. She did not prepare all this on her own! It is this preparedness, however, that allows her to make ammends. If I were in Abigails shoes, everyone would have died, because even if I'd thought to do what she did, I would not have had the means. It is important for us as believer to anticipate what is needed. A simple example is leaving the house early because you anticipate traffic to cut down on road rage and crazy driving.

Behind Her Husband's Back

Where things get interesting is that Abagail did not submit to her husband's decision. The way the church harps on submission, you would think the "appropriate" action would have been to stay out of it, or to ask for permission to to give David the food. Abigail does neither and is praised for being intelligent. Also, her actions save the lives of many people, since David's reaction was to kill Nabal's household. Personally, I believe this goes back to something I said at the beginning of this series: we're only required to submit to a Godly husband. In Ephesians 5, where women are told to submit, the whole relationship is compared to that of Christ and the Church. Christ is the perfect husband, He would never lead you to harm, nor ask you to do what is wrong. Christ loves His bride. Nabal did not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and thus wasn't Christ-like, and we see Abigail praised for chosing Christ-like behavior over submission to her husband. That says something.

Correction

Not only does Abigail go behind her husband's back, she corrects David. David's revenge scheme wasn't Godly either. Abigail reminds him that vengence is for the Lord. She says o in a polite manner, but she is in fact correcting a man, the future king of Israel no less. She was not silent by any means. Upon being corrected, David—the man after God's own heart—thanks her for her correction. He recognizes his wrongness and acknowledges that she is correct. Think about that.

Happily Ever After?

After Abigail saves her household, she tells her husband what she has done—no secrets!—and upon hearing this news, he has a stroke or heart attack. Within a few days Nabal is dead. Remember, during this time, women weren't afforded many rights, so with her husband dead and seemingly no son to take care of her, Abigail was possibly placed in a difficult predicament when Nabal died. It's posssible that she had family who would have seen to her needs but likely she would have been destitute. Fortunately, David was impressed by Abigail (or felt obligated, the Bible doesn't say exactly). When he hears that Nabal is dead, he sends for Abigail and makes her one of his wives. The Bible names another woman as also being taken as a wife for David so I'm not sure if Abigail was his second or third wife, but at this point in David's life, Saul had taken David's first wife, Michal, from him. Therefore it is possible that for a time Abigail served as the first wife (meaning she would have had the most influence and power). That being said, we know David had many many wives, so I'm not sure this was a love marriage.

SOAP Method | Study the Word

I wasn't always a freestyler when it comes to studying the Word. In the begining it can be hard to figure out how to study the Word (or even what to study). There are a ton of mnemonic devices to help you study the Bible. I plan to do a video summarizing 5 of them, but I also wanted to show you examples of them in use. The five mnemonics I will be covering are:
  1. S.O.A.P.
  2. F.E.A.S.T.
  3. R.E.A.P.
  4. H.O.P.E.
  5. E.A.S.Y.

The S.O.A.P. Method

S.O.A.P. stands for scripture, observation, application, and prayer. I may be biased because this was the method I used as a newbie to Bible Study, but I think it's the most popular of all the methods. Although I have one nitpick about this method—I believe you should start with prayer (which I'll discuss later)—it's a great way to start out studying. Below, I'm going to take you through Exodus 36:1-7 using this method.

Scripture

The first thing you want to do is read the scripture. If it's a shorter scripture, I like to write it out. For longer passages, I have a "special"[1] Bible I write in, which I may use to underline, circle and otherwise call attention to the parts that sick out to me. Neither of these are required, though. The more you study, the more you'll find what works for you.
1“Now Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with everything that the Lord has commanded.”

2Then Moses called Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it. 3They received from Moses every contribution which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him voluntary offerings every morning. 4And all the skillful people who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which they were performing, 5and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” 6So Moses issued a command, and circulated a proclamation throughout the camp, saying, “No man or woman is to perform work any longer for the contributions of the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing any more. 7For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it. Exodus 36:1-7

Observation

Observations can be made mentally or recorded, depending on your style. If you record them, you can write out sentences and paragraphs, map from the written out verse, or use a bulleted list—whatever works for you; don't be afraid to try out different methods. Below is a bulleted list of observations I made while reading this passage:
  • The Lord gave certain people specific talents for use in building the sanctuary.
    • Did He give them talents on the fly?
    • Or did people have the talent before, either something they picked up in Egypt, or had always possessed?
  • They had already taken up one collection/offering, but people still came back to give more.
  • Giving was voluntary.
  • They gave so much Moses had to stop them!
  • God gave to them in such a manner that they were able to give enough for the sanctuary and still have more left to give.

Application

Applications take us from in the passage to our present day life. How does this passage speak to me, what does it say about our current society, etc. During this step we can come up with pracitcal ways to improve oursleves and our community based on what we have observed. For me, this usually starts with questions. Below is what my thought process looked like for Exodus 36 applications.
  • What are my God given talents and skills?
  • Am I using them for His kingdom? Is He calling me to use them for His Kingdom?
  • What does giving in abundance mean today?
    • Moses stopped the people from giving at some point, so there was a clear boundary at which point it became "excessive" giving
    • Moses stopped them when they had enough for what God needed
    • So, we should give freely with an open heart, but be mindful of God's voice or messenger telling us when we have given enough.

Prayer

The final step is prayer. Personally, I believe this hsould be the first step in a Bible Study, and to be honest, I get annoyed when I attend Bible Studies that wait to pray until the end. There are four ways to incorporate prayer into a Bible study:
  1. Pray before the study
  2. Pray after the study
  3. Pray before and after the study
  4. Pray randomly throughout the study
While there is no Bible verse that instructs on this, I would strongly sugggest method #3. The reason I prefer this method is based on John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:14, and 1 John 2:27. The Holy Spirit interprets the Word for us and opens our spiritual eyes. To understand the Word we need to put away flesh and read in the Spirit, which for me means inviting the Holy Spirit in before I start studying. Then at the end of the study I ask the Spirit to help me implement what I've learned in my life and to continue working on me in the areas in which I struggle. Some people feel like diving in and then asking the Holy Spirit to sort out the wrestling between Spirit and flesh afterward. I concede that there's nothing inherently wrong with that method but if I had to only have one prayer during my study I would pray before the study. Nonetheless, as you study and grow your relationship with God you will find what works for you, and who knows, you might be a method #4 person and pray midway through the study. As long as you're studying and leaning on Him for understanding, I'm proud of you!

References and Footnotes

  1. I say special because it's the only one I write in; there isn't acutally anything special about it.

What Can Separate Us from the Love of God?

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 KJV
Have you ever had moments where you feel like you can't face God? For me, it's usually when I'm angry. In those moments I feel like I've been cut off; it's a weird combination of shame and pride—shame that I'm displeasing my Father, and pride because I don't want to let go of whatever it is that displeases Him. It's comforting to know that even in those moments, we are not truly separated from God's love. As I've grown in my faith, I have repeated Romans 8:38-39 to myself when I feel this distance and that is what has pushed me away from sin and toward the Father.

Let's take a look at all the things Paul lists as not being able to separate us from the Father's love:

Death

The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). If we had to atone for our sins ourselves or through animal sacrifices, we would never earn eternal life. We all deserve death, but our Father has proven His love for us by providing a perfect sacrifice for us in His Son. The Messiah won the victory over death and now, if we accept Christ—His sacrifice and His teachings—we, too, are granted victory over death!

Life

When I first read life in the list, it threw me for a loop. Why would life separate us from the love of God? Almost instantly I realized this is a reference to temptation. We live in a fallen society; everything in life is temptation. Not only are the things of the world temptations against God's Word, but it's so easy to get distracted. There are days when I put all my time and energy in to things I need to survive (my job, fixing something at the house, chores, etc.) and when I finally get to sit down, I'm too tired to give the Father quality time. Sometimes days like this come back to back, stacking on top of each other. However, the Word says for every temptation He gives us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Simple things like listening to gospel while I clean or praying while I work help me regain my focus on Him. He will not let us get lost in the distractions of life.

Angels

Presumably, Paul is referencing fallen angels here. Like Satan, the other fallen angels would love to see us turn away from the Father; but He has not given them power over us. Arguably, since angel means messenger, Paul could be referencing the message itself, but I believe he means fallen angels.

Principalities

We are subject to the powers that be. Whether you are a 5 year old who has to obey teachers and parents, or an adult who is bound to the laws of your government, there's ablways someone calling the shots. These people can easily require of us something we feel is displeasing to God. However, just as He appeared in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he will come to us as well.

Time

interestingly, Paul doesn't mention things past, which I think would be most people's concern. Of course the entire concept of baptism and salvation discusses things past. The real pressure is on now and the feature. Onve we have chosen to follow and obey the most High God, however, He will work out our future. Amazingly, we can make that choice at any moment, meaning our present state cannot stop us from expereincing the love of God.

Distance

When I first read this, I assumed Paul was referencing physical distance. The Israelites had feasts that required them to go to the Temple; not to mention sacrifices were to be done at the Temple. This is my mind, Paul was saying it doesn't matter where you go because God goest with you. Though now as I type, I see this less literally. He loves us when we are at or worst (valley or depth) and He loves us when we are at our best (hills or height).

Creatures

This was the one that made me scratch my head. If it could, how would an animal separate us from the love of God? I thouhgt of job in the beally of the some sea creature and then I thouhgt of Leviathan and Behemoth... Perhaps these are the creatures He means.

Quirks Can Show Your Purpose

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14 KJV
When I was a freshman in college, I relished in being able to have my tiny dorm room to myself. Any time my roommate was out, I made excuses to stay in. People would stop by to ask if I wanted to go the cafeteria, or the movies, or some cool event being hosted on campus, and I always had a reason not to go. At the time, I didn't realize that I was an introvert; I couldn't explain why I did this. I liked my friends and when I did hang out with them, I had a good time, so why was I so eager to not hang out with them?

This is a good time to explain what introversion actually is. A huge pet pet peeve of mine is that majority of people I meet think introvert = shy and extrovert = outgoing. What they associate with introversion is actually closer to social anxiety. Introversion and extroversion are not about how anxious you get around people, they're about what recharges or drains your energy. When an extrovert is feeling down, they might attend a concert or go out to eat with friends. An introvert, on the other hand, is more likely to stay in and play video games or read a book. Extroverts get energy from being around people (re: having external stimuli) while introverts get energy from time alone (re: having internal stimuli). You can be shy and an extrovert (I know a shy extrovert, actually) and you can be an outgoing introvert (if I'm in a room of people, I'm going to talk, but I'm going to have zero energy the next day).

Over time, I realized that anytime I didn't get adequate time alone each day, or rather, the more time I spent in a crowd, the more exhausted I was the next day. In Sabbath school, my peers would often remark how humans were created for relationship and community, which made me wonder about my introversion. If God wanted me to enjoy being around people, why did I feel so drained after potlucks and game nights? Was something wrong with me? Introverts around the world are forced to take on extroverted traits to succeed in the world and often we are ostracized and misunderstood. It's very easy to slip into the feeling that introversion is something that needs to "fixed." Even recently as I discussed the desire to make meaningful friendships in my new location, someone repeated it back to me as "hoping to be less introverted"—no, I don't want to hang out every week and have girl chat every night; I just want a few people that I'm willing to drain my battery for once a month or so... I don't want to get my energy from these people.

When COVID-19 forced us home from work, I realized that I was born for a time such as this. I witnessed people struggling with isolation, but after only a week, I couldn't fathom how I had been going in to the office and talking to people every day. I spent those first few weeks thinking about what life will be like during those finals moments described in Revelation. Most of the world will be corrupt and true believers will have to be comfortable holding their own. COVID-19's forced isolation showed me that I would not be bothered by such an existance. During that time I found reassurance that the Father did mean for some of us to be introverts and others to be extroverts. Both have purpose in our society and while introverts may feel drained in large crowds, we're really good at meaningful conversations in more intimate settings, which is also important in a community!

Jeremiah 29:11 says He knew us before we were created in the womb. He knows all that we will have to bear in life and all that He has for us to accomplish and thus He creates us to be successful in that purpose. Esther was placed in the position of Queen to save her people, but it wasn't by chance. Everything from the way she looked to her personality was just so. That is why the king chose her over all the other women. She was created to fulfill that mission. I was created to be comfortable in solitude. You were created for such a time as this as well. Where-ever you are, whatever quirks you have, they have purpose and so do you!
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11 KJV

Ethics and Morality

The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and just is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4 NASB
Back in college I took an ethics class. We discussed different methods and philosophies for determining whether an action is right or wrong. We discussed theories from Immanuel Kant, René Descartes, and Friedrich Nietzsche—but no religious philosphers, regardless of religion.

One topic of conversation was on if the end justifies the means. An example that came up in class was World War II; many of my classmates eagerly suggested that stopping Hitler (end) justified the war (means). That conversation got murkier when it was revealed that one classmate was a descendant of Holocaust survivors and another was a descendant of Hiroshima survivors. Don't worry, this post isn't about the politics of World Wars, I only bring it up to illustrate how perspective and experience made the conversation more difficult.

Another conversation required us to choose our action in a given scenario, where the scenario became increasingly more personal. Let's say there is train track that splits. There are five people standing on the right track and a single person on the left. You are standing too far away to signal to anyone, but you are able switch the track. Do you guide the train to the right or to the left? What if there's an equal number of people on each track? What if the 5 people are criminals? What if the one person is a family member? What if the 5 are the people who bullied you in high school? And so on, the discussion continued.

I enjoyed the class, as it forced me to analyze the larger picture of how I decided what was morally right in a given situation. However, there was one question that never came up...

If scientists are right, and all life is a happy coincidence, what really is ethics?


Human beings are the only species on the planet that concerns itself with the concept of morality. On my family's farm, we've had to separate chickens because they were fighting each other—the chickens don't have a "police chicken" that steps in to break up the fight, nor do they have "judicial chickens" who deliberate whether one of the chickens should be tried for assault. Similarly, my cat shows no remorse when some unfortunate bug finds its way on the screen porch and she kills it mercilessly despite having all the food she could eat inside the house. Buzzards eat roadkill, they don't stop to wonder how or why the animal died. Squirrels steal fruit from our fruit trees and don't concern themselves with whether another animal had lain claim to the tree. So, why is it that human beings—thiest or athiest—have any sense of right or wrong?
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:17 NASB

The Life of Leah

The Bible doesn't give us much to work with when it comes to the life of Leah, first wife of Jacob, but there are definitely tidbits to be gleaned. As one of the most relatable women in the Bible, I think it's important we look at her story and try to understand it from all angles.

Was Leah Ugly?

Many people assume Leah was ugly because when she is introduced, she is contrasted to her sister's beauty.
Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. Genesis 29:17 KJV
There are actually several reasons the author could have made this contrast, some of which don't end with Leah being "ugly." In fact, it might not even be a contrast! Below are some thoughts and research on this particular verse.

Dominant Attributes

Have you ever been in an interview where they ask you to describe yourself? Or better yet, they ask you how your friends would describe you? Think of someone you know well; what is the first word that pops in to your head to describe them? Now, thinking more broadly, if you did this exercise for everyone you know, how many times would beautiful be the first word that came to mind? Just because that isn't the descriptor that first comes to mind doesn't mean the person is ugly; it simply means other adjectives are more prominent. Even for someone as high profile as Beyoncé, this first thought that pops in to my head is not beautiful (it's along the lines of her dedication to putting on a high quality show). What we can say for a fact is that the most distinguishing feature for Rachel was beauty, but something else shined brighter for Leah.

Comparisons

Speaking of Beyoncé, can you imagine being Solange? I could definitely see someone penning a sentence like "Beyonce was beautiful, but Solange was deep." Both women are beautiful and perhaps both women are deep, but Solange is known more for her sound than her looks. Most people are average looking (that's the definition of average after all). Each of us would be the Solange to Beyoncé, but that doesn't mean we're ugly. Fortunately, most of us aren't surrounded by models, which means it's not as obvious how average we are.

What Was With Her Eyes?

Granted, a lot of speculation hinges on just want Leah's descriptor means. There's no ambiguity in the description of Rachel as beautiful, but what does it mean to be "tender eyed" (KJV)? Some translations render this as "weak eyes" (NIV, NASB). One translation actually says "Leah had lovely eyes" (Good News Translation). So what does that actually mean?

Weak eyes sounds like someone with vision trouble to me. Someone in my Sabbath school kept saying she had a lazy eye (I'm not sure where the person deciphered that). Tender eyed makes me think of someone who is gentle and meek being contrasted with someone who is more "in your face." Of course I wouldn't be me if I didn't suggest we go straight to the source!

The Hebrew text uses two words to describe Leah: ืจַืšְ and ืขַื™ִืŸ.

ืจַืšְ can mean anything from tender to fainthearted. The official definition says that it means tender or soft, which by implication means weak.[1] Note that this isn't weak in the sense of failing, but weak in the sense of gentle. The same word is used in Deuteronomy 28:56 to describe dainty women and in 2 Samuel 3:39 to describe David as vulnerable. Another example is in Proverbs 15:1: the word rendered "soft" is the same in Hebrew.

The second word (ืขַื™ִืŸ) is usually translated as "eye" but it is also translated as face, color, or presence in some places—sometimes it's even translated as fountain or well![2]

The phrase could mean anything from she had a soft presence to she had poor sight (or a lazy eye). What's more is that using Hebrew grammar and the use of the letter "waw" to join the clauses, an argument can be made to tranlsate the verse to use the disjunctive "but" or the conjective "and." Given the latter, the text would read, "Lead was tender eyed and Rachel was beautiful."< a href="#three">[3] Combining that with the ambiguity of the original text, it could actually read "Leah was of soft presence and Rachel was beautiful." We really don't know...

There are several theories about what this phrase actually means, and some of them include a belief that Leah was also beautiful.[4]

Marriage to Jacob

One of the biggest mysteries in the Bible (in my opinion) is how Leah ended up married to Jacob in the first place. There are so many questions:
  1. Israelite weddings have several part—like the marriage feast. Presumably these traditions either date all the way to Hebrew traditions (meaning Laban would have honored them too) or are some combination of Egyptian and Caananite traditions with the Hebrew traditions. Either way, during that time, weddings were more than just the one day of feasting and ceremony, so did Leah have her face covered for every part of the celebration?
  2. Where was Rachel? If you have identical twins and swap them, it makes sort of makes sense that the groom doesn't know the one he wants to marry is in the audience, but if they aren't identical twins, wouldn't Jacob have looked out in the audience and seen Rachel?
  3. If Rachel didn't look enough like Leah to pass as being Leah in the audience, why didn't Jacob wonder were Leah was? Surely the sister of the bride would be in attendance to your wedding, right?
  4. Did Rachel know the wedding was happening? Why didn't she say anything?
  5. Why did Leah agree to marry a man who wanted to marry her sister? Did she have a choice?
I'm sure there are other questions to be asked, but these are the ones that popped in to my head immediately. There are equally as many scenarios that could have lead to this union.
  • Jacob could have known what was happening and chosen to go alog with the cherade, knowing Laban would have to give him Rachel eventually. This would imply he also wanted Leah as a wife.
  • Leah could have had feelings for Jacob despite his desire for Rachel.
  • Leah may not have had any suitors and it may have been her only shot at marriage.
  • The same way Abraham and Isaac sent for wives from among their own people, Laban may have thought the other men were not worthy of his daughters and thus desired both be married to a near kinsman.
  • The Red Tent (a fictional novel inspired by Jacob's family and his only named daughter, Dinah) postulates that Rachel asked Leah to take her place because Rachel was afraid

Getting to Know Leah

Not much is said about Leah, but we do get a glimpse of her thoughts as she names her children.
Birth Order
(to Leah)
Birth Order
(to Jacob)
Name Meaning Leah's Comment
1 1 Rueben Behold a son Surely God has looked on my affliction (Genesis 29:32)
2 2 Simeon Heard Because the LORD has heard I was hated (Genesis 29:33)
3 3 Levi Joined to Now this time will my husband be joined to me (Genesis 29:34)
4 4 Judah Praised Now I will praise to the LORD (Genesis 29:35)
5 9 Issachar There is recompense God has given me my hire (Genesis 30:18)
6 10 Exalted Zebulun Now will my husband dwell with me (Genesis 30:20)
7 11? Dinah Judgment -
There are a couple interesting things here. The main thing is that after all but one of her sons' births she makes reference to her posistion with Jacob. The inference being that she thought Jacob would love her if she gave him a son or that she was being rewarded for not being loved through children. Note that in that time (really even through modern day) a woman's only value was her ability to provide a male heir. The one child she seems to have for herself and simply praises God for without mentioning Jacob is Judah. It is from Judah that we get Boaz, David, Solomon, and eventually the Messiah. It is from Judah that we have the lineage of kings! It is from Judah that the southern region of Israel inherited the name Judea and it's inhabitants would eventually be known as Jews...

Also from Leah is the tribe of Levi, the priests of Israel. All other tribes of Israel were "lost" to Assyria;[5] so we only know of Leah's descendants today and only Leah's descendants are carrying on the legacy.

Happily Ever After?

Based on the expressions she has after each child, it would seem that Jacob never cared for Leah, but when you look at the overall story, I'm not so sure. We know that Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, her second child and Jacob's 12th son. How long after that did Leah live? It's possible that their relationship thrived after the death of Rachel.

I make this observation because it is Leah, not Rachel, who is buried in the family tomb. Jacob chose to be buried with Leah instead of Rachel which I find odd.

Another thing I'd like to point out is that just because Jacob favored Rachel, it doesn't mean he mistreated Leah. The fact that Leah had seven children proves that something was going on between them. Now sure, it could have been "duty," but if Leah was "ugly" and truly hated Jacob could have neglected to sleep with Leah. Do you really think Solomon slept with all 1000 of his wives regularly?

I don't know that we'll ever know the exact situation for Leah, but I like to think that even though she wasn't Jacob's favorite, she still managed to live a happy life.

References and Footnotes

  1. "H7390. ืจַืšְ". Blue Letter Bible; visited May 20, 2022
  2. "H5869. ืขַื™ִืŸ". Blue Letter Bible; visited May 20, 2022
  3. Paul Tanner, ThM, PhD. Hebrew Syntax. 1997-2004; visited May 20, 2022
  4. John J. Parsons. "Leah's Weak Eyes". Hebrew 4 Christians; visited May 20, 2022
  5. I put lost in quotations because there is a verse that says people from the other tribes moved to the southern kingdom during the split, and the tribe of Benjamin also resided there. Thus, technically these tribes still existed, but it is generally thought that they were absorbed in to Judah and Levi.

Poetic Justice in the Bible

Poetic justice is the thing we all love to see, let's discover why its so satisfying and how it's used in the Word of God
Poetic justice is "an outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate."[1] Essentially poetic justice is what someone gets what they deserve. We love to see this because it's the neat ending we alway want to see: we want to see the good guy lifted up and the bad guy punished. The first secular example that came to my mind while I was studying this topic was Ever After, a realistic version of Cinderella. In Ever After, the stepmother forces Cinderella into servant hood and mistreats her, but in the end Cinderella is married to the prince and the stepmother is forced to become a servant.

Biblical Examples

Jacob & Esau Jacob tricks Isaac into giving him Esau's blessing; Laban tricks Jacob into 14 years of work and marrying the wrong daughter
Death of the FirstbornsPharaoh has Israelite children killed; God punishes Egypt by killing the firstborns in the final plague
EstherHaman tries to get Mordecai and the Jews killed; Mordecai is exalted and Haman is killed
The Whole BibleThe whole purpose of the Bible is the concept of the righteous gaining paradise and the serpent who took it from us being cast out forever

References

  1. "Poetic Justice". Merriam Webster Dictionary; visited May 2022

The Movie Time Trap and Noah Have a lot in Common

If you haven't seen the movie Timetrap, this post contains lots of spoilers.

During Sabbath school, people in my Sabbath school class were discussing what it must have been like for Noah and his family when they stepped off the ark. Listening to the discussion, I started to think of a movie I watched a while back called Time Trap. It's about a professor who goes missing while investigating a series of caves and the grad students who go searching for him. Almost immediately after entering the gave, things take a bad turn and they end up trapped below ground. At one point, they send a scout to the surface via scaling the wall (since they've lost their equipment and not everyone has the ability to climb out). When she reaches the surface it's a waste land, there's no cell reception, and a weird triangular thing is in the sky. It is from this experience that they discover time moves differently in the gave than it does on the surface. It turns out the deeper in the cave they go, the slower time moves for them or the faster time is moving on the surface. There's a lot of plot on why the professor was interested in the caves and what they find down there, but what makes me relate it to Noah is the scene I just mentioned, and the final moments of the movie. In the end, they are rescued humans of the future—humans who live in outerspace (on the weird trangluar thing in the sky ๐Ÿ˜‚). They are given a chance to live in the new civilization where they have healing waters that bring people back to life and cure ailments.

When Noah got on the ark, mankind was thriving in the worldly sense of the word. The Bible says people were eating and drinking and marrying right up to the day of the flood (Matthew 24:38). I imagine one day people were moving about, buying and selling in the markets, throwing feasts, dancing and singing, and then suddenly there was silence and emptiness. I imagine something akin to surviving a tornado—one minute you're running to your basement to seek shelter and when you emerge, your whole neighborhood is gone. Now that we've experienced COVID, imagine the days of early March 2020, and then suddenly the entire world was shut down.

When the students in Time Trap send someone to the surface, they believe they've been in the cave for an hour or so. In their minds, all the person has to do is call for help so someone can come rescue them. However, when the person reaches the surface, gone are the cell phone towers that would have allowed that communication. The terrain is nothing like it was only "an hour" before when they entered the cave. Imagine going into your house, then walking back outside moments later to discover all your neighbors' houses are gone. Forest and weeds have overtaken everything and wild creatures are roaming your neighborhood freely. Or worse (like the movie), everything is a barren wasteland; there are no homes, no trees, no animals, just dust and dirt. I imagine that's how the first days of the flood were for Noah. Everything and everyone (other than his immediate family) was gone, buried under water. Sure God gave him the plans for the ark, and he had been planning for the flood, but in the midst of the flood I wonder if Noah started to fret about what to do after the flood.

Time Trap ends with the people in the gave being rescued and taken aboard a space ship. In truth, the space ship seems a metaphor for Heaven. Part of the mystery of the cave is water that heals (a Fountain of Youth, if you will) and this water is aboard the ship. Injured members of the group are healed and members of the group who were killed are brought back to life. They are the last of their kind as the humans who save them have evolved into a different subspecies of humanoid.[1] Similarly, when the ark comes to rest, Noah and his family are the last of their kind in a very foreign world. Granted, the flood would have damaged much of the vegetaion of the earth so it would not have been Heaven-like, but it was a new start. In theory it had the potential to turn in to a paradise. Noah and his family have been survived the storm and now they have the opportunity to live out the rest of their lives.

Subsequently, Noah get's drunk—did he bring wine with him on the boat in anticipation because you know, it takes a little minute for things to ferment... As we discussed inth the Sabbath school class, Noah was likely overwhelmed by what happened. Though the movie ends on a positive note, you have to wonder how the students felt when they processed that they would never see their friends and family again.

Although both the students of the movie and Noah have much more permanent experiences, living through COVID has brought so much more clarity to what it must have felt like for Noah. Such a sudden shift can be traumatic. What do you think it was like for Noah and his family when they stepped off the ark?

References and Footnotes

  1. This is not an endorsment of macro evolution, just a statement of what is portrayed in the movie

Why I Became an SGRho...and Why it Matters

I went to college with zero interest in Greek life. Having attended predominately white schools my whole life, I decided I didn't want to join a traditionally white sorority, but my perception of black sororities—the Divine 9, NPHC, BGLOs (why do we have so many names y'all?)—wasn't much better. Without offense to my sister greeks, I just didn't see the hype; I didn't see sisterhood and quite honestly didn't see any "works" that I thought were worth joining one of their organizations. So, I walked on campus without any inclination of joining a sorority.

The shift in this perception happened when both a friend of mine and a cousin of mine crossed Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. in Spring 2007. I had never heard of the organization before then. My cousin had grown up surrounded by women of Delta Sigma Theta, so I was shocked (as I'm sure they were too) when I logged on to Facebook to see she had chosen differently. For those not familiar with Greek life, specifically black Greek life, most people become what we call legacies. A legacy is someone who joins the same organization as their parent (or family members). For instance, my grandfather is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, so are two of his sons (my uncles); they are legacies. Many times you will see a clustering where mom, daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousins, etc. all join the same organization. So I expected my cousin to become a Delta if she became greek. This reveal was the first to make me wonder what Sigma Gamma Rho (SGRho) was about. It is what prompted me to attend the SGRho neophyte (new member) presentation at my own school.

My freshman year of college there were no SGRhos on campus. The neophyte presentation or probate (at Clemson we weren't allowed to use the word probate officially) was the resurrection of the chapter. I didn't know what to expect. At that point I had only been to a Delta and a Kappa show; both of which had a large (for a predominately white campus) number of new members. I was shocked to see that only one person had joined SGRho and was doing a show by herself—I was further shocked that this one person was a friend of mine, one of the first people I met all the way back at orientation, who lived down the hall from me. When you watch 20 people spit information and perform complicated steps it's entertaining, but when you see one person command an audience and do the same thing alone it's mind-blowing. My first thoughts were along the lines of "that takes guts" and "I want to be able to do that."

Now, as I researched the organization and fell in love with the motto "Greater Service, Greater Progress," I didn't think I would actually be doing a show by myself. There were actually a couple mutual friends I thought might also join. However, I agreed with the focus on service and education; I trusted they didn't do anything too crazy because both my cousin and my friend were Christian women I trusted; and I wanted the strength, boldness, and leadership skills that my friend exhibited in her show. So, even though I was the only one who showed up at the interest meeting that next Spring, I pressed forward and I found myself learning just what it took to earn those skills as I, too, stepped out to do a solo performance.

So why on my Christ-centered blog am I telling you about my experience joining a sorority? There are at least two posts on this blog relating the things I learned from joining the sorority and what I thought should be learned in Church communities (you can check them out here and here.) Today, however, I want to focus on that first step. Christians are often asking the question of how to convert a non-believer, and 9 out of 10 times the methods used backfire only to create more non-believers. What "converted" me from not interested in Greek life to being a member of sorority is the same thing that converted countless non-believers during the early church: action.

Anyone can talk the talk. Take a look at the missions of the four sororities that comprise NPHC[1]:
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority's aim is to enhance the quality of life within the community. Public service, leadership development and education of youth are the hallmarks of the organization's programs and activities. Sigma Gamma Rho addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically, and economically. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of "Service to All Mankind". Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Zeta‘s national and local programs include the endowment of its National Educational Foundation community outreach services and support of multiple affiliate organizations. Zeta chapters and auxiliaries have given untotaled hours of voluntary service to educate the public, assist youth, provide scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Did you notice anything? Despite having very distinictive cultures and images in the black community, the mission statements are not that different. Every organization is essentially about service, scholarship, and sisterhood. What makes them different is not the words written on their websites; it's the everyday action of the members in the organization. While I would hope every member read the mission statement of their organization before joining, no one comes to an interest meeting and says they want to join because the mission statment really got to them. It's always something they witnessed. As I mentioned, for me it was the rock solid solo performance that exhibited traits I wanted to have. One of the girls who came after me said she was drawn to us because she saw us recieving academic excellence awards (our chapter maintained a ~3.8GPA average giving us the highest chapter GPA in Greek life for both black and white organizations). Some people talk about interactions with a favorite teacher. Others are impressed with the person who mentored them their freshman year...

SGRho isn't associated with education simply because our founders were educators or because our mission statement says we care about it. We're associated with education because the members of the organization are scholars! I have to scratch my head to start naming sorority sisters (sorors, as we call them in NPHC) who stopped pursuing education after undergrad and I can't think of any that didn't graduate. Most of my sorors have higher degrees and even those who did not become teachers/professors, some form of mentoring or teaching is involved in what they do. We didn't just write it on a piece of paper and then keep repeating it until people believed it, we are out doing it.

This is precisely why the church fails to convert non-believers. Galatians 5:22-23 says "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." How often do we show these traits? How many people can say they experienced peace when around a group of "Christians?" How many people can say they truly felt loved (see 1 Corinthians 13 for God's definition of love)? How many people can say they see joy in life of "Christians" or experienced joy from being around these "Christians?" Are we patient? Do we exhibit self-control? Are we kind? Are we gentle? Do we panic with the rest of the world or are we seen to have faith fueled by hope in times of need?

Can you imagine standing in the crowd in Babylon to see these three men refuse to obey the king even though the punishment was death (Daniel 3)? Can you imagine witnessing Daniel praying even though he was told not to and being thrown in the lion's den (Daniel 6)? What about Esther, approaching the king without being summoned and facing the possibility of death? Or Ruth following her mother in law to a strange land not knowing how they would survive? The Bible is full of people demonstrating their faith. They did not knock on people's door and say "Can I tell you about our Lord and Savior today;" they simply lived according to the faith.

6“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NKJV
When the your actions (hands) match the words (thoughts from your forehead), you are truely sealed and it is then that others will endeavor to follow the path you've chosen.

As Sigma Gamma Rho turns 100 years old, I reflect on how I became a member 12 years ago and how I influenced others to join. I also reflect on those same questions as it pertains to my faith in the Most High God. Do the things I claim to believe match my actions? Do I live life such that people interact with me and think "wow, I want to be like that, I want to learn how to do that?" I hope so.

References and Footnotes

  1. The mission statements of the other three organizations were taken from their national websites. I couldn't find a mission statement for Zeta Phi Beta on their national website, so I substituted a paragraph from their page on the history of the organization which clearly demonstrates what the purpose of the organization.

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