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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Independence Day – Are We All Celebrating the Same Thing?

As I begin to celebrate the independence of the United States of American, I wonder… how many of us really know what we’re celebrating? What does this day mean to the different people I see in the store or on the street? For some of us who enjoy the rights and privileges of being US citizens, has this day morphed into just another excuse for a party?

Also, as a nation, how does our condition today compare with what was envisioned 241 years ago, and then codified in our Constitution several years later? What has sociatial evolution, along with the strife that currently chokes many aspects of our lives, done to our countries original values? How far have we drifted from some of the things we should probably be celebrating?

Here are a two things that are different today from what the founders fought for, and died for:

  • Free speech is under attack. 241 years ago, we fought for free speech, not against it.
  • The United States is far from being united—with division, conflicts, and even hate being the norm. Well, there was indeed division 241 years ago, but there were also common goals and ideals that helped keep us together. Maybe we’ve lost that common vision of “United States.”

The shackles on speech, along with our fractured unity has fed the plague of dysfunctional government, fear, mistrust, and more hate. And this all continues feeding upon itself.

So, what’s behind all this? Well, I’ll tell you my opinion. And if you disagree, please, please, please… speak out. Express your opinion, allow my opinion, and in that small way, allow free speech to have a small victory.

Anyway, here it is: at the heart of these problems is arrogance and selfishness. Arrogance is not willing to listen to an opinion different from its own. Arrogance demands that everyone agrees with it, and if you don’t agree, then arrogance will declare you a bigoted idiot. And such idiots should not be allowed to speak—so demands arrogance.

Selfishness is all about self (duh), at the expense of others. This is at the core of the division within the United States. Selfishness, being a sibling of arrogance, abhors the same things that arrogance does, but selfishness suffers in a different way. Selfishness is very weak and fragile. Selfishness cannot listen to opinions other than its own because selfishness is easily offended. Selfishness is the little toddler who has a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Selfishness demands safe zones on college campuses so it has a place to be insulated from different ideas that it does not want to hear.

To give strength to those who suffer from selfishness, soothe the angst of those who are arrogant, and re-unite our country, we need humility. Humility will heal the wounds, ease our fears, nourish trust, and give us the courage to let go of “me” and wrap our arms around “us”. And we will again be united.

Humility accepts the rights and opinions of others, whether it agrees with them or not. Humility is willing to listen to other opinions, without getting offended and throwing a tantrum.

Humility does not always require its way. Humility is willing to compromise. In fact, true humility desires compromise. For humility sees that with compromise, all sides win something—there are no losers with compromise, there are no losers with humility. Humility is kind and compassionate and desires that others do not feel the pain of losing. In this way, the only path to civility is walked in the shoes of humility.

Again, please, what do you think? Speech is free… use it. Let us at least be united in this—to willingly allow each other to express our opinions.

On this 241st anniversary of what may be the most amazing event in democratic history, I will humbly pray for humility.

 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire (or maybe his biographer)


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Trust? I Guess So

Trust is being able to predict and count on another persons response to things that happen. It’s knowing they will be there to hold your hand when a crisis consumes you. It’s knowing they will satisfy their promises and commitments to you. Trust is knowing they will do what you expect and need them to do.

So, whom can I rely on with absolute, pure, undiluted trust? Well, please don’t take this as cynical, but I don’t feel I can trust anyone, not with absolute trust.

Look, as humans we all have weaknesses and flaws. It’s nothing to fret about, it’s just a reality to accept. Our weaknesses and flaws are like pits along the road of our personal journey—sometimes we fall in and can’t get out in time to be there for someone who needs us. Sometimes the pit that holds us back is not a flaw or weakness, but our own personal crisis.

I certainly trust other people. I just accept their human nature and the fact that my trust will not always be supported by their actions. And that’s all okay with me. I try to remember, if someone in my life doesn’t respond as I need them to, as I trust they will, it’s just because they are a flawed human, like me.

Anyway, I then thought about my relationship with God. No flaws. No weaknesses. And His responses to me are predictable as far as my feeble mind can imagine He might respond. I can trust God completely, without any hesitation, and always. And I’m really grateful for that.

How do you feel about trust? What does it mean to you? How does it feel when you can’t trust someone?


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Cooking With God

God is like the dad about to fix dinner. If he does it by himself, it will turn out perfect. But God takes the harder route, by asking for help from his children. The kitchen will get real messy, and the food will be somewhere between barely edible and mediocre. Yet the child will not only learn how to cook, but be excited to help dad in the kitchen.

God could achieve His mission without our help. Yet He seeks our help not for him, but for us. It’s all for us.

 


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Politics From the Pulpit

Churches are now free to speak out on political issues. What do you think of this? Is it good, bad, or are you indifferent to it? In addition to being very curious about your opinion, of course I’d like to share my opinion.

I think as time goes on, this new freedom for churches will produce more harm than good. It gives churches one more excuse to preach something other than what they should be preaching. Many churches have already drifted away from the purpose intended by their founder. Yes, that would be Jesus.

Did Jesus talk politics? Nope. He preached about higher things, things that touch the human soul. I think churches should follow their leader, not politics.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Please share, if you like.


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More Than a Battlefield

Do you ever feel like there is an ongoing battle raging within you? Do you feel two sides of your personality fighting it out? Each side has opposite purposes, and each is trying to win control over you—right? Does it feel like those old cartoons, with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, each trying to convince you to go their way?

Does it sometime feel like YOU are a battlefield?

I’m listening to an audio version of the book The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis. Have you ever read it? Great book. And fun, as well as a bit weird. But it definitely has gotten me thinking. I think I’ve believed in the reality of Satan for as long as I’ve believed in the reality of God. And at times I’ve believe in the battle between the two of them.

But now I’m convinced that I am one of their battlefields. And I’m tired of it. Oh, I know—it’s part of life. Whether we believe or not, the battle rages on. And I think not believing is the most dangerous policy, for it gives the advantage to Satan.

Anyway, I want to see if I can affect the game a bit. I want to be more than just the battlefield. I want to make more of an effort to join the fight, on the side of God.

What do you think about this battle idea?


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The End, of Sin

It was nearly dawn when they dragged him out and took him to the Roman fortress. A growing crowd was now following, so I no longer needed to hide. I just became one of the many curious. The priests were talking to the Roman governor—very strange. I thought they hated that man. And then some Roman soldiers grabbed Jeshua and took him away.

Again I followed. They took him to the barracks, where I cringed when I saw the flogging post in the center of the courtyard. They chained his hands to the metal ring hanging from the top of the stone post. As they did this, other soldiers gathered around.

My eyes saw only broken glimpses of Jeshua, in between the shuffling frames of the leather-clad soldiers. But then I saw the whip, the whip of many tails, with the shards of bone and metal tied into the leather thongs.

And it began. And I watched. The whip struck, the bone dug into the flesh of his back, and then was ripped away, bringing flesh with it. The blood began to stream down his back. The whip struck again, and again. Every strike made my bowels quiver and seize. I felt sickness rising up in my throat. Yet I still watched. When his knees buckled, he hung from his arms, the blood now pooling at his splayed feet.

Finally they stopped. Professionals at torture, they whipped him near death, but not to death. The soldiers unchained him from the post and dragged him into the barracks. When they bought him back out, Jeshua had regained enough strength to walk, barely. The mob took him back to the waiting Roman Governor and the religious leaders. And then the final verdict was declared. Crucifixion.

By now it was approaching mid-morning. The entire city was awake and word had spread of Jeshua’s arrest. The crowd of curious was growing. I can’t tell you of the crowds’ mood—my concern was for Jeshua, and Anna, and all of us followers who were losing our source of hope and a man we dearly love. Those of us brave enough or gruesomely curious enough watched as he was agonizingly dragged to his death. The rest hid, I suppose. I’d hoped Anna was safe, and his mother.

Again, I was shocked out of my thoughts. The crowd began stirring as the soldiers pulled Jeshua to his feet and forced him to carry a heavy cross. The march to his death is not clear to me. My mind kept drifting in and out of my thoughts. Maybe I was trying to look at something other than Jeshua’s torment. I prayed almost the entire way through the city, out the northwest gate, and up the hill. I was guided along by the flow of the crowd, not really paying attention to where we were going.

Along the way someone else started carrying the cross, for when I approached the top of the hill, I noticed Jeshua lying on the ground, collapsed from weakness. Another man was still dragging the cross up the hill.

My mind cleared from the scattered thoughts and I stared at him, face to the ground, his blood-crusted back bare to the sky, and that crown of thorns jammed onto this skull. I found myself hoping he was already dead—he looked dead. I hoped he would be spared the ultimate torture of the cross. But he was still alive. I saw slight movement as he struggled to breathe.

When the man carrying the cross reached the top of the hill, two of the soldiers took the cross from him and dropped it on the ground next to Jeshua. As it crashed down, I saw him open his eyes, and look at his fate lying next to him. One of the soldiers kicked him in his side, but not very hard… curious.

That’s when my dry eyes started flowing. For looking like an obedient child, Jeshua crawled over to the cross, turned onto his back and lay on it, as if he were crawling into bed—his death bed, with his arms lying out on the cross beam. He was a picture of absolute surrender to his fate. I wept.

I didn’t watch them drive in the spikes; I couldn’t. But the strike of the mallet sent shudders through my guts. And the sound changed from soft to hard as the spike moved through his flesh and into wood. That sound I will never forget. And mixed in with the strikes of the mallet were Jeshua’s pain-racked groans. Finally it stopped.

I cleared the tears from my eyes and looked up as the guards strained to lift the cross and swing the base to the waiting hole in the ground. Then they rose the cross up vertically and its base slid into the hole. With a shudder and a groan from Jeshua, the cross slammed into place.

And then I heard him speak, for the first time since the torture began. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Oh my God! Even drowning in pain, nailed to a cross and on the edge of death, he forgives. Truly he is the Son of God!

I looked away and there, beside me, stood his mother.

———————————————————

Searing, constant pain. I feel like I’m on an ocean, with waves of pain crashing over me. I lift up on my legs to breathe, but the waves crash into my feet and up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back and my dislocated shoulders and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood. There is no escape.

My friends, my family and my children all call me Jeshua—you know me as Jesus, the Christ.

Oh my poor children, so afraid as they still look to me for hope. My heart breaks to see them in such pain, such agony. Their pain is my pain. I feel the agony of all my Father’s children. I feel their suffering. I feel their sins. Their pain has been nailed with me to this cross. Yet the only way I can bare this mounting agony is knowing it’s for them, for all my Father’s children. Oh how I hope they believe.

I see them out there, scattered around my cross—my children, my friends. Some are trying not to be noticed, trying to act indifferent to my death. They are so afraid. I see below the surface to their weeping hearts. There’s Mary, with her heart so full of love, and misery. There’s Lazarus, alive again yet wondering about my fate. There’s John, the young one. Oh, there’s my mother, so strong yet so sad.

I see my accusers also, with those evil smirks on their faces. They seem delighted as they ridicule me and mock me. Yet in them too I see fear. Their souls know their error. But its God’s will.

I’m glad they are all here, for it reminds me why I’m here. If it were not for my love for all of them, I would not be on this cross. It’s not these spikes that hold me here; it’s my love for all my Father’s children, my love for all my friends.

But this pain is devouring me. Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing me. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But it’s being overpowered by the agony of aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me.

Until last night, my humanness has been so sweet. Yet it’s always contained a touch of pain—the pain of fear, the pain of temptation, and the pain of love. But now I feel more human than ever before. I feel fully human, and full of the sins of humanity. Oh, my humanness is being shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is now collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

I know; it’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me. I feel its weight pulling me down.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

As the light fades, the colors are turning grey. No more color. I still see those who are near. Beyond them, all is growing dark and fading into nothingness. Now those nearest are fading… oh, they are gone. All is black. I wish I could see my friends again, one more time. But the children are gone. My Father is gone. I’m all alone.

No, not alone, yet. I see him down there. I hear his evil laugh. I feel his dark breath drawing me closer. Lucifer, Satan, Devil. He knows what I see. He knows what I fear. His only hope is in my fear. He hopes my fear will call forth the waiting army of angels to save me and lift me free of this cross. That’s the only way he can keep the children in his prison.

But his laugh is filled with fear, for he also knows the truth, and he knows of my love. My love that holds me fast to this cross. He fears my love the most. For my love is more than the love of God. My love is also the love of a man, born of a woman.

It was a man, the man Adam, who took that first step on the path to hell, leading all humanity into the prison of sin. Generation after generation has followed. Enslavement became part of the human inheritance. Yet that slave master Satan knows well that only another man can break the pattern and shatter the chains that have held humanity in bondage. Only I, son of man and Son of God, can set the captives free. Not by war, but by death—my death, paying the penalty of the sentences for all humanity held in this worldly prison.

He laughs still. But his laugh is more fear than ever. He knows the end is near. Not my end, but the end of his reign. As I die, so does his power. Oh, he’s so close. His hot breath burns. Yet now… he too is gone.

There, opening up before me is the dark, lightless, pit. Empty. Alone. Devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. His creation is nowhere. But this pit before me—there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone. Oh Father, you have done it. You have fulfilled your promise. Thank you. I love you.

“It is finished.”
The End


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Opening Our Eyes for Easter

He was accused a sinner, then judged guilty of sin, and not just any sin… ALL sin. He was then sentenced to death—the ultimate penalty for all the crimes of humanity. Then, He was executed.

But who accused, and judged, and sentenced, and executed? It was humanity who executed the Son of God for the crimes of all humanity. Some of those who committed the crimes were the ones who did the accusing, judging, sentencing, and executing.

And Jesus humbly took the place of those who carried out His punishment. He took our place too.

Oh I know it was His fate. I know the justice of God had to be carried out somehow. And I understand why the penalty had to be laid on Jesus. But in thinking of the irony that Jesus suffered at the hands of people He was sacrificing Himself to save—well, it magnifies my gratitude.

Easter approaches, and maybe that’s why my mind is questioning the circumstances of Jesus’ death. I think my prayer for this Easter is that God opens our hearts and minds a little more to see how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Jesus. I hope you have an eye-opening Easter.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)