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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Is God Santa Claus?

How generous is God? Why does He appear generous with some, yet not with others? Since yesterday’s post about asking, (read it here), I’ve been thinking more about the generosity of God.

If you like, take a look at what I wrote yesterday, specifically at the words of Jesus? What kind of picture do His words paint for you? What kind of image of God do you get from these words?

I’ll tell you the image that came to my mind as I went walking during lunch today: I see God kind of hovering over me, with His arms full of great gifts. Gifts such as health, joy, healing for friends and all who I love, salvation for friends and loved ones, peace in troubled spots of this hate-filled world, prosperity; and my list goes on and on.

Yet God isn’t holding the gifts as if He’s hoarding them. The gifts are kind of over-flowing, ready to spill out and fall into my waiting hands. And He has a huge smile on His face and a twinkle in His eye. He’s excited and filled with anticipation; waiting for me to just ask. Now that I think about it, God is starting to look a lot like my image of Santa Claus. But maybe that’s not too far off the mark.

Here’s another way to think about it: what earthly parent doesn’t love to give their child gifts (in that question I’m only considering parents who are worthy of actually being parents)? Since we are made in His image, I strongly suspect God loves to give us gifts even more so. And the joy a parent experiences when giving to their children, is exceeded only by the joy God experiences when He gives to His children.

What do you want from God? Ask… and believe with certainty and expectation; and I believe the gifts will come tumbling forth, into your waiting arms. But as is often the case, the real question is; what do you believe?

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Anything you want – just ask

What’s holding you back? Why don’t you have everything you want? Are you taking Jesus at His word?

“Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Judging by how often Jesus encouraged us to ask, I don’t think He wanted us to be timid about it.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

Ask… ask and believe… ask in His name. So why don’t you have everything you want? Why don’t I? I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days. I ask for quite a lot, and I sincerely believe I’m asking for things that are in line with what God wants; like healing for friends, salvation for loved ones. Yet what I ask for is not always granted. Why?

Did Jesus lie to us? I don’t believe that. Did He really not mean what He said? I don’t believe that either. The only thing that makes sense is that Jesus told the truth. So if my prayers are not being granted, I need to look at me for a fix.

The answer is simple, and we all know it: we need to ask with faith. We need to believe that God will give us what we ask for, and we need to ask in Jesus’ name. Okay, I believe and I ask in His name – but I still don’t have what I want.

Yet, do I really believe? That’s the real question I’ve been pondering the past couple of days. Do I really believe that God will give me anything I ask for? We’re talking anything here? Not just trivial stuff, but big stuff as well.

When I ask God to heal my friend of cancer, do I believe He will do it? I believe He’s capable, but I have to admit, most times when I ask for prayers of healing, deep down inside I don’t really expect God to do it. What kind of belief is that?

It’s like my son who recently came to me at 10:30 in the evening and asked, “You wouldn’t be willing to let me spend the night at David’s, would you?” He asked for what he wanted, but he didn’t expect me to give it to him (and I didn’t). Is that how we sometimes ask God for the things we want?

I ask you, next time you go to your Father in prayer, ask with certainty, ask with expectation. Don’t just believe, but expect God to answer. Don’t just believe, but depend on God to give you what you want. Rely on Him.

One final thought. It’s not just you I am thinking of; I’m also thinking about those who are not Christian. What kind of message do they see in how we pray? What kind of image of God do we paint for others to see? Do people see an all-powerful, gracious and generous God? Or do they see a weak, stingy God? Imaging if you will what the impact would be if all Christians asked and received whatever they asked for. What a powerful statement of God’s love, power and reality.

I’ve given one example of why I think we don’t receive what we ask for (we ask without certainty and expectation). Please add to this with ideas of your own.


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No more Pastors, No more Priests

Did Jesus really mean what He said? Check it out for yourself in chapter 23 of Matthews’s gospel…

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples (v1):… But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (v8-12)

It looks to me like Jesus was calling us to all be servants and brothers (and sisters) of each other, with none above another. I suspect Jesus knew how a title can be a temptation to our prideful nature. Maybe that’s why He stressed humility in this message.

What kind of model for a church is represented by Jesus’ instructions? Did He have something different in mind than the type of church many of us frequent? What would your church look like without that one person up front every week? I’m very interested in what others think about this topic. Please comment.


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Excommunication – getting kicked out of the country club

“The Vatican insisted that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding females from the priesthood as it issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated.” I’ve quoted this statement before, from an article that appeared in my local newspaper (see “Ban on Women Priests“). Today I want to look at this idea of excommunication.

Does the Catholic Church consider their denomination exclusive? Break their roles and you’re out; is that it? Look, this is how I see it: the Grand Imperial Masters of the Catholic Club have little tolerance for those who break their rules. Break a rule, and you’re out of the country club.

But how I see it doesn’t matter, especially since I tend to be biased and sometimes un-graceful (I never said I was flawless, and please forgive me for any harsh sounding remarks). What matters is how does Jesus look at this issue of excommunication? What does He think about this practice of kicking people out who don’t follow the rules? What might He say to the Catholic Church?

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7) I’m not saying those who break the rules are always innocent, but I believe Jesus is telling us to be merciful.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13) Yes, to me many modern day churches resemble Pharisees, in that it sometimes seems their “traditions” are more important than God’s laws and His direction for our lives.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners? And I wonder, does God consider it a sin if a woman becomes a priest?

Even Paul has something to say, “Take special note of those who do not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as fellow believers.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

And here is a message for anyone who finds themselves kicked out of the club:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4)


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Ego – The Nasty Equalizer

Ego lowers people to the same level. Strange premise, you say? Please bear with me on this one.

What does a sizeable ego do to people? Well for one thing, it makes them think they are right and the other person is wrong, always. But mainly ego makes people blind to both sides of any issue. With ego, all a person can see is their side. Let me give a fictional example of what results from this…

Fred is a Christian who frequently demeans homosexuals. He believes all homosexuals will go to hell, and he doesn’t hesitate to express this opinion. Gail reads Fred’s blog and leaves a comment stating that all Christians are homophobic, insensitive, narrow-minded bigots.

Ironically, Gail has lowered herself to Fred’s level, by making her own narrow-minded, bigoted remark. Now I realize my example is not perfect, since Gail was provoked. But I hope you get my point, which is: Ego causes us to loose perspective and enter any situation seeing only part of the issue. And that gives those with bigger egos a huge disadvantage in that they are missing so much of the truth that resides in any issue. And I believe that without truth, there will be failure.

What does Jesus have to say about egos?

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

Humility is incredibly underrated in our society. And most, if not all, of the worlds problems are because of egos. Do you want to help solve social problems? Then look for the ego in the problem, and humbly keep your ego out of it.


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Unfamiliar Territory

I have recently been venturing into unfamiliar territory; an atheist blog. I followed a link to an interesting looking post on the site. The post was about Jesus and indeed presented an out of the ordinary perspective. So I decided to submit a comment, where I made it clear I am Christian. I didn’t disagree with the assertions of the author; I just made an observation about Jesus’ purpose while on earth. Thus began a thread which has now exceeded 26 comments.

I seemed to become a target for the other readers of the atheist blog. Even though these readers know nothing about me, other than I’m a Christian, some of them proceeded to accuse me of being dishonest, insincere, gullible (they may be right with this one), a lair, and a slippery fellow.

My initial urge was to lash back at them. It would have been easy, since as it seemed to me, their arguments, statements and claims were illogical, and full of holes. But thanks to Jesus and His presence in my life, I resisted the temptation. I also found help in a new little phase I came across on another blog: What Would Jesus Have Me Do? (find it here)

The comment thread then became a learning experience for me; a lesson in patience, humility, and anger management. And I learned a lot about myself. For example…

The other people on the comment thread, who were so tempting me to verbally explode – I was once a lot like them. For about ten years of my life, I was an atheist, though I never considered myself a “radical” atheist. Yet I found myself uncomfortable around Christians. I was afraid they might try to convert me. I also held a low opinion of Christians; they appeared weak to me. I basically thought they were all weird.

Consequently, a shock came to me as I read the harsh and uncivil remarks directed at me and my comments; I grew to easily see myself making the same remarks, back when I shared their beliefs. I used to be as insensitive as they appeared to be. In fact, I might have been worse, for all of them seemed rather intelligent by how well they wrote, and they utilized words very cleverly. I believe I would have been clumsier with my words, and therefore harsher still in spewing venom towards my target.

In the course of the comment thread, I frequently went to my bible, looking for guidance, and this is what I found:

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matthew 5:11)

I found it actually easy to sincerely care for my enemies, once I realized I had once been one of them. Maybe we cannot always see ourselves in our enemies, but we should be able to find some reason to love and pray for them. And if for no other reason, than do it for yourself; for you will be blessed.

What is the benefit of not fighting back, yet accepting the persecution? What is the benefit of sincerely caring for our enemies? I see two: I know that I felt better and more at peace than I would have if I had lashed out. I also know that I was a better representative for Jesus. One of my prayers throughout the experience was that the readers of the atheist blog would not see in me, an ugly Christian. I wanted them to see Jesus, through me. And I wanted to do it without preaching.

Only God knows how well I held up in the unfamiliar territory. But I know I’m better for the experience. And perhaps God was glorified.


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An Appeal and a Prayer to Christian Churches

Church-bashing is not my desire, though it may appear to be when you look at some of the posts I’ve written. One of my strongest desires is for unity within the churches of Jesus Christ. And in the name of unity, today I offer up an appeal to all Christians, and a prayer.

An Appeal

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, 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)

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. (2)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (3)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (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. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (5)

A Prayer

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one. (6)

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. (7)

I pray … 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. (8)

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (9)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (10)

1: (1 Corinthians 1:10)
2: (Ephesians 4:2-3)
3: (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
4: (Romans 15:5-7)
5: (Colossians 3:12-17)
6: (John 17:11b)
7: (John 17:23)
8: (John 17:20-21)
9: (John 17:17)
10: (Ephesians 3:14-21)