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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Oregon College Massacre – Ignoring the True Root Cause

oregon college shooting

I opened the paper this morning to the tragic news. You’ve probably seen it yourself. Ten people dead, shot by a lone gunman on a small college campus in Oregon. And the politicians are already blaming gun laws, lead by Obama.

oregon college shooting - 2

Oh how I wish gun availability were the root cause of the problem. If it truly were, that would be easy to fix. But people like Obama are ignoring the more difficult truth. The true root cause of these shootings is not gun availability, but the deterioration of our society.

Morals, compassion for others, integrity, humility, … Love. These things and more are fading away. Yet it’s these things that are the glue that holds humanity together. When the glue disintegrates, humanity falls apart. It is falling apart, as seen in these shooting tragedies.

Yet tackling our crumbling social glue is a lot more difficult than blaming gun laws. Ignoring the true cause of the problem will definitely not fix the problem. And the shootings will continue.


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Prayer vs. Judgment

do not judge

I’ve been reading The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith, just finishing the chapter about judgment. I learned a seismic truth while reading this chapter and then talking about it in our small group last night.

Smith gives a quote by Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Being judgmental can come so naturally for me. It’s often irresistible. But when I look at my target, and realize that the behavior I wish to judge may be battle scars – my judgment melts into compassion. And given time, compassion feels a lot better than judgment.

Where judgment can lead to criticism, compassion leads me to prayer. And from my experience, prayer is far more helpful than judgment. Where feelings of judgment eat at my soul, compassion and prayer feed my soul. And my hope is that prayers will lead to healing of battle scars.


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A Hug for Halloween

hugs

I came across a blog post that asks; if my blog site could hand out treats, what would it be? I’d like to hand out hugs; nice, warm, sincere, compassionate, and gentle hugs. There is power in a gentle touch.

In the gospel of Luke, there is a story about a man suffering from leprosy. “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (Luke 5:12)

Who knows how long he had the disease, but we know those stricken with leprosy were outcasts. Everyone avoided them. So this man, covered with the soars of the nerve-killing illness, had not touched or been touched by another human being for possibly many years. No one had hugged him, no hand had touched his, and no arm had gone around his shoulders in a moment of comfort – until Jesus came along.

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” he said to Jesus. The man had the faith, yet his sense of kindness in others had been lost in the years of isolation. He doubted not Jesus’ ability, only His willingness to be kind. It had been that long since this man had felt compassion from another. What did Jesus do next? We know from other stories that He could have healed him right off. Yet Jesus did something better. He first gave the man what he needed most. Out of love and compassion, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” (verse 13) For the first time in perhaps years, another person reached out and touched this lonely, leprous human being.

In the midst of the emotion that may have begun to swell within the man, Jesus then said, “I am willing. Be clean.” And the leprosy left him.

 

So now I’d like to give you a virtual hug … nope, just doesn’t cute it. Oh well. I hope you have a great Halloween Friday.


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Truth and Peace

truth and peace

 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: … love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)

Truth and peace – I have to admit that I sometimes find it hard to include peace with my blog posts about truth. I indeed love the truth. When I write about truth in a way that confronts some false message within Christianity, I tend to get passionate. Yet I am sometimes a bit harsh in my response to deception. I have a hard time including peace while I lash out at some religious doctrine that is contrary to the truth of Gods word. The truth is so important to me – I lose sight of the need for compassion. My prideful human nature often closes my eyes to the peaceful approach.

The peace I wish to bring doesn’t come from me – it comes from the Holy Spirit within me. So if you read a blog post of mine that includes just the right mix of truth and peace, then you will know that I stepped out of the way and let the Holy Spirit of God speak through me. And if the peace is missing from my message, I sincerely apologize to you, and God.


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Ferguson, Mo. – in need of compassion

Ferguson Mo

Yesterday coffee with the usual Wednesday morning guys. Rick brought up the stuff happening in Ferguson, Mo.: The agitators from outside the community, and even outside the state, stirring up trouble. The celebrities, like Al Sharpton, also feeding the anger. And the store owners, staying up all night guarding their shops, trying to protect their livelihood from looters. Then Rick asked a question that was hard to consider, especially since I had barely started drinking my coffee: “As Christians, what should be our response to all this?”

It would be so easy to get sucked into the anger, and lash out at one side or the other. But I really don’t think that’s what Jesus wants me to do. Look, everyone involved is just a normal, broken human being. We are all messed up, full of sin and selfishness. Things like compassion don’t seem to come naturally. It’s the ugly responses, the judgment and harsh words, that seem to naturally ooze out of us. What should be my Christian response? I choose compassion and love. For how could I judge those who are no different from me – a typical screwed up person?


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Healing the Pain of Sexual Abuse

healing the pain of sexual abuse

My first stepfather sexually abused me when I was 7 years old. A typical situation, I suppose – he threatened harm if I told anyone. Fortunately, there were other problems with the marriage, and my mom divorced him after only a year together. But we all had scars from that experience.

My scars fed my strong desire for revenge. As I grew older and came to understand what he had done to me, I grew angrier. In my late teens, I fantasized about running into him someday. I planned each move, the first being a fully energized kick square in the source of my suffering, sending him to his knees. There were times when I even dreamed of killing him. The hate was strong and painful.

About 20 years later, I met Jesus Christ and He started teaching me about love and forgiveness. It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson, but I finally let go of the hate. I wholeheartedly forgive my stepfather. I feel sorry for him, for he was a very troubled person. And I’m now free of my own troubles – free from the pain of hate and memories, freed by forgiveness. Thanks to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.


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My Father God

To me, God is my perfect parent. God, my Father, loves me unconditionally. He may not always like some of the things I do, and He may even get angry at me sometimes. But like all really good parents, there is nothing I can do that will affect the love He has for me. And like all loving parents, what He may desire most is a close, intimate relationship with His children. “Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

I am so grateful to be a child of God.


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Are you a wounded Catholic?

Healing wounded

Sometimes I rant about the dealings of the Catholic Church. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone. But I have seen the effects of the shortcomings of the Catholic Church up close. I know many wounded Catholics, those who had belonged to the Catholic Church, maybe even since birth, yet left with bad experiences. My stepfather, stepbrother, and many close friends are among them.

Yet in the case of my stepfather, he didn’t leave by choice; he was kicked out because of the sin of his divorce from his first wife. It distresses me that though Jesus has forgiven my stepfather, the Catholic Church cannot.

My heart breaks for those wounded Catholics, like my stepfather, who are not able to find their way to another church. All his life my stepfather was told that the Catholic Church is the only one, true church. And when that church failed him, where can he go? He has gone nowhere, and remains lost.

If you are a “wounded” Catholic, having given up on the Catholic Church, please don’t give up on Jesus. He still loves you, and always will. God, as our ultimate and perfect Father, loves all His children, no matter what church they may go to.

 


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Creepy Christians?

Here are some of the ways I used to feel around Christians; see if these sound familiar to your experience:

  • I felt like Christians were constantly judging my behavior and actions.
  • It seemed to me like Christians thought they were better than everyone else.
  • I felt like Christians disliked me and everyone else who wasn’t a Christian.
  • I thought Christians were flat-out weird whenever I saw them praying in public, and I’d stay far away from them, as if I didn’t want to catch whatever sickness they had.
  • The worst was that I always felt like Christians were trying to pressure me to convert and take on their beliefs. Just leave me alone and let me be how I want to be!!! – that’s how I felt.

Than I became a Christian. I remember my sister saying, “Oh no, are you now a Jesus Freak?” The answer was yes. Yet even though I had become crazy about Jesus, I sure didn’t want to become creepy. Ever since I decided that I really like Jesus and believe in Him, I’ve been searching for the truth of what a real “Christian” should look like. In other words, how would Jesus have Christians appear to non-Christians?

For all who call themselves “Christian,” here’s some advice from the experts (note, I like to put Jesus’ words in red, since He’s the best expert on the subject):

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)

“But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:5, 6)

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men.” (Hebrews 12:14)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 1:22)

All Christians should pay attention to the advice of the experts.


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Jamie’s Lessons in Humility and Love

As I came out of the restaurant, he was walking by. It wasn’t at first obvious to me that he was homeless, though he pulled on a small cart carrying all his belongings – I can be dense sometimes. He paused and said something about how tough life is. I now feel ashamed that I required him to speak first, but at least I responded, and we were soon talking freely. Jamie likes to talk, quite a lot as I presently discovered.

Jamie is an alcoholic – he told me all about it. When he asked me for money and I declined, he understood my resistance and pointed out that most people like him would spend it on drugs or alcohol anyway. Jamie is 50 years old and he’s been drinking for 38 years.

Jamie is incredibly humble and honest about his situation. He told me about waking up that morning, covered in dirt, leaves, vomit and urine-soaked pants, in some weeds behind a church; the ragged end to a 3-day drinking binge (yet by the time we met, he had been to the mission where he got cleaned up and was given a new set of cloths).

Jamie told me about the mission that feeds the homeless old food that makes him sick and gives him diarrhea. And he told me about how he loves Jesus.

Jamie mentioned he really wanted a radio. I was very resistant at first, but I finally said I’d be willing to buy him one if there was a store near by (thank you Lord for Jamie’s persistence). The idea of giving a homeless person a ride in my nice, clean minivan did not appeal to me, as Jamie asked if I had a car nearby. I finally relented, again, and we loaded Jamie’s cart of belongings into the back of the van.

We talked about Jesus and God. Jamie’s knowledge and memorization of scripture was amazing. I think he knows far more than I about Gods word. And he kept giving God credit for the blessings in his life, like actually waking up alive that morning, after his 3-day binge.

There were other stories Jamie told, where he again praised God for the blessings in his life – like still being alive even though he’s been vomiting up blood lately; and still being alive even after he called a bunch of black youth “nigger” while he was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing; or still being alive after getting extremely drunk and waking up to find himself literally hanging over the edge of a short cliff, over a stream. I don’t know if Jamie recognizes that God might be keeping him alive for a reason, but he does recognize that it’s God who’s keeping him alive. And he never hesitates with the words of praise.

Jamie appeared to talk with strength when he talked about Jesus. Jamie was about as low as you can go, but he still had a firm hold on Jesus, and he drew strength from his faith in Jesus.

After buying the radio and batteries, I was beginning to warm up to my task. I was getting much more relaxed around Jamie, almost feeling like buddies. I asked Jamie where he wanted to go next. We then headed toward another mission-type place where Jamie could see some friends, and maybe get some free cloths.

Jamie was much more generous than people like me who actually have stuff to give away. He offered to give me some brand new gloves that someone had given him. This reminded me of what Jesus said about the poor woman who gave her only two pennies to the temple. She who had nothing gave more than the richest. Jamie and I talked about that story.

We sat in the van, parked at the mission, and talked for probably 30 minutes. Jamie told a lot of the same stories over again. Before I left, we prayed together. Jamie asked for forgiveness of his selfishness – he sees it’s selfishness that’s keeping him drinking and on the streets; selfishness that’s keeping him from changing his ways. This man who has nothing sees selfishness as one of his biggest sins. How much more selfish are we?

Jamie helped me be a little less selfish and a little more loving. But I have a long, long way to go to get up to Jamie’s level. Jamie taught me a lot that day. Though he may think that he benefited most from our encounter, I would disagree.

Jamie and I spent an hour and a half together. In looking back at the encounter, there were so many times when I didn’t live up to God’s expectations: I resisted buying him food and the radio; I resisted giving him a ride in the van; I didn’t give him a hug when we parted; I didn’t offer to actively help him to get into some form of rehab; and there’s more if I look.

In looking at my experience with Jamie, what might Jesus say to me? Perhaps, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

… and to Jamie?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3, 5)


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New Orleans Freak Show?

Today, on our regular Saturday morning phone call, my mom told me a story about some friends of hers who recently took a trip to New Orleans. While there, they looked into taking a tour of one of the more hurricane-devastated areas. At the tour office they witnessed a bus returning from such a tour, accompanied by two police cars and I believe one or two motorcycle police. Was this tour going into some kind of war zone? My mom’s friends quickly gave up on the tour idea.

What broke my heart about this story was not the apparent need for police to make sure the tour bus made it back safely, but the idea of the tour itself. Are the ravaged areas of New Orleans some sort of circus freak show, where people find some morbid sense of entertainment by seeing sights they could barely imaging? I hope the motives are nobler than that.

I wonder; what would Jesus have done if faced with the reality of the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina? Would He have opted for the tour bus ride? What follows is a message of the truth of the compassion of Jesus Christ.

There is a story in the gospel of Luke, about a man suffering from leprosy. Who knows how long he’d had the disease, but we know from historical accounts that those who were afflicted with leprosy were considered total outcasts. They were not allowed contact with other people, except for those with the same affliction. There was a fear that a mere touch would serve to transmit the disease. And so this man, covered with the soars of the nerve-killing illness, had not touched or been touched by another human being for perhaps several years. He had not been hugged, no hand had touched his, no arm had gone around his shoulders in a moment of comfort.

Until Jesus came along. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” The man had the faith, yet his sense of kindness in others had been lost in the years of isolation. “…if you are willing”; he doubted not Jesus’ ability, only His willingness to be kind. It had been that long since this man had experienced a compassionate act. What did Jesus do next? We know from other stories that He could have healed him right off. Yet Jesus did something better. He first gave the man what he needed most. Out of love and compassion, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” For the first time in perhaps years, another person reached out and touched this lonely, leprous human being.

I suspect that was not at all what the man expected. And in the midst of the emotion that may have begun to well up inside of him, Jesus then said, “I am willing. Be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

This is a story about the truth of the compassion of Jesus Christ. We would all do well to take it to heart and follow Jesus’ lead. When confronted with need, don’t just stare; reach out and give a hand.

Please read this story for yourself, in Luke chapter 5, verses 12-16.