His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Expecting God to Change

God does not change, His laws do not change, and nothing He has taught us through His Son will ever change. If change is to happen, it must be within us. Jesus calls us to be reborn; to let go of our old self-driven life, and take on a new life driven solely by love for God. But our “self”, our ego is a stubborn beast and does not want to change. Many of us actually expect God to change instead.

Take Pastor Jane Spahr, for example. In her effort to promote same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church, she not only invites the church to change and support her opinions, but she seems to believe God has already done so: “I invite the church to understand and expand its view of marriage to incorporate all. I believe that God has said yes and the church has said no in its judicial court.” (April 30th issue of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

In the April 26th issue of the same newspaper, a supporter of Spahr’s position, in referring to the Presbyterian commissioners, is quoted as saying, “I hope, pray and believe that the spirit will move their hearts, and they will realize that now is the time for change.” Many of us advocate change, as long as the change goes our way; as long as others change to match our opinions and values.

Should God change His opinions to match ours? Should God proclaim our personal values higher than His own? To place our values above God’s, to place our opinions above God’s, to place our beliefs and views above God’s, is to exalt ourselves above God. What do you think Jesus would say to people like Jane Spahr, who apparently claim God has changed his views to match hers?

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind.” (Psalm 110:4)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Yet how about the claim that God has said “yes” to same-sex marriage? Does the Bible say this is true? Does Jesus say this is true? “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

It sounds like Paul might have been referring to people of similar views as Pastor Spahr, when he said, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:25-27)

Why do we not only expect other’s to change to match our opinions and beliefs, but we also expect God to change? Such is the power of the human ego. Pride and selfishness plague us at every turn.

Yet we all have a choice; to form our own opinions or confirm to others, or to agree with God. I choose God. Does that make me close-minded? Well, Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted on account of Him – bring it on.


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Whom do You Choose to Obey?

Given a choice, whom will you obey, men or God? The Presbyterian Church appears to give more authority to men, than God. At least according to what is quoted in the April 26th newspaper article in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat. An attorney for the church, in referring to the behavior of pastor Jane Spahr, states, “As a community, no one in this church is above the law, above the constitution of this church.”

Yet what about God’s law and his written constitution, the Bible? I’ve mentioned it many times in my series of posts about the recent conflict between the Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Jane Spahr, who chooses to conduct same-sex marriages. The casual reader of the newspaper accounts of the conflict will see no mention of God or His word, as if God has no say in the issue.

God does have a say. What might Jesus say to the Presbyterian Church, who apparently put their own laws, their own constitution, their own book of order, above the laws of God?

He might say, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” (Mark 7:6-7) Where are the rules taught by God?

Yet not even Jesus presumed to teach His own rules. “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24b) As in all aspects of our lives, we should endeavor to follow His example.

Another example was set for us, in the lives of the first apostles. When brought before the church leaders of their day and challenged, “Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.'” (Acts 4:19) “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)
Whom do you choose to obey? Pastor Spahr has made her choice. The Presbyterian Church has made their choice. I invite you to defy them both and make a higher choice.


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Dangerous Thinking

Just because I have never actually told my children to not torture someone, doesn’t mean I’m for torture. I expect my children to think for themselves and take everything else I’ve taught them and apply it to all aspects of their life, whether or not I’ve given strict instructions about particular issues they may face. I believe God expects the same from His children.

Today I want to get back to the topic of the three newspaper articles I’ve already written about; the articles about the Presbyterian pastor, Jane Spahr, who chooses to conduct same-sex marriages, though the Presbyterian church has told her not to. In the second article in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat, dated April 26, 2008, Spahr’s attorney “said she argued Friday that since there is no ‘strict prohibition’ against performing same-gender marriages, no offense can be established.”

I believe the attorney was referring to the Presbyterian Book of Order, in claiming there was no “strict prohibition”. Yet since the newspaper article wasn’t clear, and since some of us would like to think that the Presbyterian Church actually takes it’s instruction from a higher book than the Book of Order, some might think the attorney was referring to the Bible. So for the sake of discussion, let’s say people like Jane Spahr and her attorney, believe the Bible has “no ‘strict prohibition’ against performing same-gender marriages.”

Though I’ve read the Bible several times from cover-to-cover, my memory is poor. So please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember ever reading about God telling us to not torture other people. And I don’t remember seeing instructions such as “thou shalt not sexually abuse your children.” So, those Catholic priests should all be let off the hook, right?

Also, I happen to be a degenerate; I like chains, whips and torture. So I’m going to come to your house, tie you up and have some fun with you. After all, I don’t see anything in the bible that strictly prohibits that kind of thing.

By the way, nothing in the previous paragraph is true – I’m just trying to get a point across. That point is this: we need to take ALL of what God has taught us and apply it to all aspect of our lives. We cannot just take pieces of God’s instruction. And another point, this time directed to the Presbyterian Church: the Book of Order is NOT the Bible, and should never be regarded as having anywhere near the same authority as the Bible!!! (just felt like throwing that one in)

Now I realize that I base this post on a quote from the attorney, not Spahr. Yet the attorney represents Spahr, and minister Spahr supposedly represents God. My concern is that some who have read the newspaper article might come to the dangerous conclusion I tried to illustrate above. Yet when people take the word of God as recorded in the bible, for granted; then they will indeed be lost in a quagmire of un-truth. And as you may know, I’m all about the truth; not my truth or your truth, but God’s truth, as recorded in the bible. And what is that truth?

“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.'” (1Corinthians 4:6)

Just for the record, the Bible does say something about homosexuality, a lot actually. Here is just one example: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Corinthians 6:9-10)

…but as Jesus would add, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

And… “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)


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In Whom do You Trust?

In our lives we have choices about what or whom we want to trust. Many of us place our trust in Jesus and God. In addition, we place some of our trust in other things, such as money, other people, ourselves, civic leaders, laws that protect us, or maybe even traditions that help us feel like we’re staying on the right track. What does this look like, this sharing of our trust between Jesus and these other things?

Picture an old fashioned balance scale, with the two bowls hanging from either end of the cross arm. Let’s say you have a pocket filled with 100 pearls, with each pearl representing a bit of your trust. All of the pearls together make up all of the trust that is within you. Your task is to place the pearls into either or both of the bowls on the scale.

World…………………………..Jesus

One of the bowls represents things you are used to placing your trust in, like money, other people, ourselves, traditions, etc. Let’s call this bowl “world”. These things of the world sometimes help you make it through your life. You count on certain people to help and protect you; you trust in the civil laws to protect you; you count on doctors to heal you; you count on yourself to use your cleverness, knowledge and wisdom to solve your life’s problems; you count on your paycheck to provide you with the things you need; you count on your traditions to help give you a sense of wellbeing. So depending on the amount of trust you give to each of these worldly things, you place the appropriate amount of pearls into the “world” bowl.

The other bowl represents Jesus and the things of God. Let’s see, you trust Jesus with your eternal salvation; that’s a biggie, so maybe you put several pearls in His bowl. You trust Jesus to answer your prayers, so a few more pearls in His bowl. Continue placing the pearls in the two bowls until you have emptied your pocket.

Yet, as you go through life, you may move your trust from one bowl to the other. Let’s say you just got a raise at your job. Congratulations! With this increase of money coming in, maybe you decide to get a better car instead of that clunker you’ve been driving, or maybe you just feel you can now take on more debt since your raise will allow you to make higher monthly payments on your credit card. Basically you decide to put more trust in your money. But where will this trust come from? You’ve already emptied your pocket of your trust pearls.

Whenever you decide to place more trust in the “world”, you end up taking trust away from Jesus; that’s the only place where you can get more pearls. And the scale leans a bit more to the left, to the world. And your focus is drawn more to the world as well, since that is where more of your trust resides. What does your scale look like? Are there more pearls on the left or the right?

Now the all-important question; what does Jesus think about all this? Does He want only a portion of your trust? Maybe He would quote from Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

Please consider this; would you regard trust as an expression of love? And what kind of love does Jesus want from us? Does He just want a portion of our love? “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37) Jesus wants All your trust, All your love.

Yet do you believe that you can rightly share your trust and love between Jesus and the world? What might Jesus say about that idea? “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Please give some thought to how your trust is divided, and, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1


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Time to Look in the Mirror

I’m going to take a short break from the series I’ve been posting, to look in the mirror. What kind of image of Jesus Christ do I reflect to my friends, family and co-workers? They all know I’m Christian, so I suspect the non-believers in my circle of acquaintances may perceive Christianity as being what they see in me. And it doesn’t always look good.

Take yesterday for example; I experienced a “mild” loss of temper at work yesterday, with my venom aimed at my boss no less. In retrospect, I totally over-reacted. Yet the vision of a Christian living in the peace given by Jesus, the peace beyond human understanding, was no where to be seen.

I spent the evening trying to figure out why I had reacted the way I did. I reluctantly realized that it all boiled down to my selfishness. Things were not going the way I wanted them to, so I got upset. Now what might Jesus have to say to me?

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b) Feeling embarrassed and a bit angry about my loss of temper indeed humbled me. I felt very low. And I just couldn’t get my mind off of the day’s events. Try as I might to focus of something else, my mind kept wrenching me back to my temper tantrum. I was reminded of Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

“But Lord, it’s all so difficult for me. I’ve been striving to find true humility and peace almost all of my Christian life. I know that to keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you is the only true path to peace, yet I find it seemingly impossible in my world of earthly distractions. How can I do it? I just feel so helpless.”

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’” (Luke 18:27)

“But Lord, I can’t help but worry about my lack of control over my behavior. As Paul lamented in chapter 7 of his letter to those in Rome, I know how I want to behave, and I know the image of you that I wish to project to others, but I’m just not able to do it.”

“O you of little faith? So do not worry… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:30, 31, 33)

Thank you dear Jesus.


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A Church Divided

“The Presbyterian Church has been sharply divided over homosexuality, including the question of gay marriages, for more than 30 years.” My series on the controversy around same-sex marriages continues with this quote from the April 26 edition of the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat newspaper. As you may know by now, I am presenting a sequence of posts, focusing on three newspaper articles which told the tale of the latest battle of principles within the Presbyterian Church, with the Rev. Jane Spahr being in the center of the turmoil.

That brief extract from the short newspaper article conveys a very clear message; the Presbyterian Church is a church divided against itself. What does this tell us about Christianity and the relationship of fellow believers? To an outsider, Christians must look like a dysfunctional family. Is that the kind of image we really want to portray? Is that the kind of image that will entice others to join the family? Is that the kind of image Jesus wants us to put forth? Read His words and know the truth about how Jesus feels about relationships within His family.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matthew 12:25)

And Jesus prayed for His family, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) If we call ourselves Christian, yet do not truly love one another, doesn’t that provide outsiders with a false image of Christianity? However, if we indeed love each other, Christianity will stand out as truly different and attractive. Might this be partly why Jesus focused so much on the command of love?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14)

Not only Jesus, but His apostles also had a lot to say on the topic:

“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” (James 5:9)

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” (James 4:6)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Jesus must feel strongly about unity within His church. He provides not only His opinion, but also the solution – humility. A tall order for our egocentric race, yet something to pray about.

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11b)


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Eternally Condemned – Preaching a False Gospel

It’s amazing, the abundance of church leaders who seemingly ignore biblical warnings, when they are supposedly the people who know the most about the bible. I guess knowledge and wisdom don’t necessarily go together.

Today I present to you Part 2 of the 7-part series where I focus attention on the confusion around the issue of same-sex marriages. I draw my comments from a series of newspaper articles that recently appeared in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat, about Presbyterian pastor Jane Spahr, who against the wishes of the Presbyterian governing body, conducts same-sex marriage ceremonies.

According to the 4/22/08 article, at one time a Presbyterian judicial commission which had jurisdiction, “ruled that Spahr had acted ‘within her right of conscience’ in performing same-sex marriages.” The church has since changed its tune and is now apparently not so accommodating. Yet Spahr states that she believes God supports her: “I believe that God has said yes and the church has said no in its judicial court.” (4/30/08 article) I cannot help but wonder where God says yes; I don’t see it in His written word.

My concern today is the responsibility of Christian leaders, such as Rev. Jane Spahr and the Presbyterian governing body. Christian leaders who call themselves ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, elders, deacons, whatever; they have the responsibility to represent Jesus Christ, which means they are obligated to stick to His word. When they change His word or add to His word, Jesus just might say something like what Paul told the Galatians in chapter 1 of his letter to them:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:6-9)

Harsh words I know. And if they anger you, I choose more of Paul’s words: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) To those who support same-sex marriage, are they doing it for themselves, for others, or for God?

Jesus foresaw people like Rev. Spahr: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) “… and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:11) Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.” (Luke 17:1)

What else might Jesus say to Rev. Spahr and others who choose to change His gospel to suit their own personal beliefs? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do what my Father in heaven wants will enter.” (Matthew 7:21) “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Yet with Jesus, there is always hope: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.” (John 5:24)