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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There is no Death

Death

Another groggy morning. But the coffee’s working… slowly. Bible open, though my eyes keep closing. Come on coffee – work harder.

Anyway, been reading John’s gospel again. I think John’s is my favorite gospel. In chapter 11, John records that Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:26) Really? As Jesus then said, “Do you believe this?”

You know, when a flower dies, it turns to dust and ceases to exist. By saying that we who believe will never die, Jesus is saying that we will always exist. When our body stops working, though it turns to dust, our person lives on. We just change form. There is no death for those who believe.

What do you think about this?


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Looking for God?

We look in nature, we look in churches, we look in sermons and songs and books. We may think we see God there, but it’s really just a faded image.

As Brother Lawrence once said, “God alone is capable of making Himself known as He really is. God Himself paints Himself in the depths of our souls.” *

Do you want to see God as He really is? Then look inside yourself to His Spirit who lives with your soul. And believe that God will reveal Himself to you.

As Brother Lawrence also said, “Because God’s perfection is infinite, He is consequently indescribable; no words of man are eloquent enough to give a complete description of His grandeur. It is only faith that makes me know Him as He is. By means of it, I learn more about Him in a short time than I would learn in many years in the schools.”

 

* The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence.

 


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Don’t be Afraid; Just Believe

Job interview today. I really want this job. Nervousness keeps trying to drown me in fear. I feel the waves of anxiety crashing over me whenever I think about the interview. I try to run from the waves; sometimes I stumble and the wave knocks me down. But I look up and there’s Jesus, reaching down to help me get back on my feet again.

I was reading chapter 5 of the gospel of Mark this morning. A synagogue ruler’s daughter was sick, and then she died. At that, Jesus looked at the ruler and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And of course, Jesus then brought the little girl back to life.

Today I hear, and feel, Jesus saying that to me… don’t be afraid, just believe. As long as I focus on what I believe – that the Spirit of Jesus is within me, even during the interview – the waves of fear recede and vanish. I won’t be alone in that interview; the Spirit of Jesus will be with me. And I’m so grateful.


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Non-Christians in Heaven

I’ve been thinking about people who don’t believe in Jesus. What do they think of certain hot-button Bible verses, such as when Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)?

Well, there’s no way I can know what anyone else thinks. But I still remember some of my thoughts about such things, before I started believing in Jesus and when I thought I was an atheist.

First, if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus because they don’t trust the Bible, well… they won’t care about anything in the Bible. It’s all fiction to them. Oh, they might get annoyed by some verses – I did before I started believing. But something you don’t believe in isn’t going to have much power over you.

But I’m more interested in those people who get really upset by such verses as John 14:6. I’ve known many people, even Christians, who refuse to believe what Jesus says in that verse. And I’ve struggled with it myself. How will heaven possibly be joyful for me if people I love aren’t there with me? Though I don’t understand, I choose to just trust God. He’ll work things out somehow.

But back to non-Christians who get really upset at the Bible when it tells them they’re not going to heaven: what is it that gets their emotions stirred up? Well, maybe they hope everyone will go to heaven, no matter what they believe. Or at least “good” people will be let inside.

But wait… that would mean that they believe in heaven, even if they don’t believe in Jesus. That thought gets my mind churning a bit, and this is what has been spit out as what I believe…

I believe the Holy Spirit of Jesus speaks to our soul, deep down below the surface of our mind. It’s our soul that hears and believes the truth of Jesus, God, and heaven. And it’s our soul that feeds our heart and mind with the belief in and craving for heaven.

So I’m happy for those people who get really upset at certain Bible verses, for it tells me they are listening to their soul. And it also shows me that Jesus loves them, for He’s reaching out to their soul in His own special way.

What do you think?


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From Death to Life

Indy at bridge

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

God has built a bridge between us and Him – from death to life. This bridge is open to all. Yet, only those who choose to believe the bridge is real will get to the other side.

In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy needed to walk across an invisible bridge. The bridge led him to the presence of God, in a way. All he needed was the ability to believe in something he couldn’t see and have the faith to take that first step. So it is with us.


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I’m Convinced

There were two separate times in my life, over 20 years ago, when I held my fresh-out-of-the-womb sons, moments after they were born. Even though I didn’t believe in Jesus at the time, I was convinced there is God. For I held miracles in my arms.

I fear that anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is going through life with their eyes, and heart, closed.


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A Faith Stronger than Mine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(warning: what follows is the attempt of a non-poet to be poetic… proceed with caution)

Pushed up through the virgin crust by tectonic forces. Millennia go by. Seeds appear from nothing. Or was it the tree that came first? Chicken or egg? Oh well. Life spread. Trees covering the lower slopes. Snow came and went. The river carved it’s way along the valley floor. Then fish. Then animals crawled out of the river and lakes and made home with the dry ground. And then early man arrived… from nothing?

And finally modern man is here. My vacation. Hiking. Marveling at the mountains. Rafting down the aged river. Enjoying visits by the moose and elk. And all this happened by chance? All this happened without any special guidance or planning or boost from above? All this happened without a God? I just can’t believe that. I don’t have faith that strong.


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Playing with God

Watch a group of young children at play sometime. Made-up games, with few rules. One game may morph into another game. Full of fun and giggles. Spontaneous, out of control and unpredictable.

I just started reading the book, “The Good and Beautiful Life,” by James Bryan Smith. Just a little ways into it, he introduced the idea of play and how it relates to our life with God.

I think I’ve had times of playing with God, without realizing it. Spontaneous, out of control and unpredictable. Like the mornings where He and I get together in thought, and I just relax my mind and ask Him what He wants to do. In a way, maybe I’m letting God choose the game. And it’s in these moments of giving control to God where some of my best writing has sprouted. It’s a blast!

Playing with God: what does this mean to me? Just relax, trust Him as a child would trust, and have fun. Humbly let go of the desire to control and happily follow the Leader, wherever He may lead. And I believe that when you’ve found the fun, the joy, of playing with God – then you have found the true presence of God within you.


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Trusting my Ghost Writer

trust

All I need do is show up – He’ll take it from there. I’m working on revision 10 of a book I’m writing, with help from my ghost writer, the Holy Spirit of God. I’ve written about my ghost writer before (here).

This past weekend, as I found a moment in-between to-do list chores, I sat at the dining room table and began to try to clear my mind of the distractions around me. This can be the hardest part of my writing – getting focused. It can be painful for me to concentrate on my editing, and find and fix the troubled spots in the latest draft. I feel the pressure of not wanting to miss anything.

The answer then became suddenly clear. All I need do is open the binder holding revision 10, grab a pencil, and read. The Spirit of Jesus within me will show me what needs changing. I can just relax and trust Him.

At that moment, I truly felt the trust – not just a promise of trust, but a true and tangible reality of trust. It felt great to relax, read, and wait on Jesus to point out the weak spots in my writing. I so love writing this way, with absolute trust in the Holy Spirit. Thank you dear Jesus.


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Heaven is for Real?

I watched the movie, “Heaven is for Real” last night. I had read the book, but that was a few years ago. What hit me in the face from the movie was the struggle the pastor dad went through… his struggle when faced with compelling evidence for the existence of heaven. Such evidence can really have you questioning your faith, for you would then need to decide whether to accept or reject the evidence – which is to accept or reject everything you believe about God.

After the movie, I started questioning my own beliefs. If faced with similar evidence, how would I react? Is my faith strong enough to excitedly accept such evidence? I think so, but I don’t feel safe in assuming so. I guess I’m just not certain. It’s weird. I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, even as I write these words. But that’s based on faith, which is believing in things despite the lack of evidence. What happens to our faith when faced with undisputable evidence? The thought is scary to me.

Yet I see evidence of God all the time, as long as I have my eyes and mind open. I’m confused. Sorry for the weird post – it just felt right to put it up on the site. I hope you all have a great day.

CJ


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Faith Journey – My feet are tired but my soul is on fire

faith journey

It’s a worn out phrase, “faith journey,” but it’s accurate. It’s been a long, hard struggle for me, at times. Often I’m trudging along, with my eyes focused on the path ahead, ever vigilant for obstacles. There can be big boulders, some so large I have to climb over them. Like my prideful selfishness. It just keeps getting in my way.

Sometimes I get tired of this journey, ever looking out for and dodging potholes and roadblocks. Sometimes I just want to step off the path, set up camp, and crash for a while. But then I look up, and there ahead is my goal, always bright and visible. Jesus is right there, forever in front of me, encouraging me onward. His love is so powerful. It gets me back on my feet and moving again. Almost like a magnetic force, pulling me onward. When my feet get tired, Jesus’ love lights the fire in my soul, and gives me all the energy I need.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)


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Does God love only good people?

Gods love

As usual, Tom sat quietly during the first part of our small group bible study, just listening and thinking. Eventually, Tom would start talking, and what he had to say was always well thought-out, inspiring, and intriguing. I looked forward to the moment when Tom decided to join the conversation. But on this night I found myself not ready for what he had to say. “I just know I’m not going to heaven. I’ve done too many bad things in my life. God can’t love me. I’m just not good enough.”

Tom is a victim of a scam of guilt promoted by some churches. Tom and others like him have difficulty in believing that God can in fact love them; they just don’t feel good enough. Does God love only good people?

First, the “goodness” Tom believes he lacks does not come from past behavior, but from faith: “This righteousness (goodness) from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) It’s not the amount of goodness or badness that matters – it’s what you believe.

God doesn’t care about our past; He cares about now. No matter how dark your past may be, where are you now? Do you feel distressed about past sins? Do you wish you could erase the sins of yesterday, and resist the sins of today? I know Tom does; he said so. To such a show of repentance Jesus would say, “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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Opening Your Mind

open mind

After Jesus was crucified and came back to life, his disciples had a hard time believing what they were seeing. They thought he was a ghost, still dead. They saw with their eyes, yet still did not understand. Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty understanding what you read in the bible, for even eyewitnesses had trouble.

Yet, as Jesus did for His disciples, He can do for us…“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) Understanding does not come from our own intellect, cleverness, or imaginations. Understanding comes from only one source, the Holy Spirit. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

If you are willing, the Holy Spirit can open your mind and show you the truth. As Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12-13)


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Learning the hard way

learning hard way

The most effective lessons are the ones you figure out yourself.

Almost daily, I earnestly ask God to show me how to do something, like solving a writing problem in the book I’m working on. Though I feel His presence with me, and at times, He does seem to give me the answer, He doesn’t solve all my writing challenges.

It just occurred to me that maybe God has a good reason for not showing me the solution to all my problems. Like any good parent or teacher, maybe God is telling me that for some problems, I need to figure out the solution myself.

What do you think?


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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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It’s a Cold, Cruel World

It’s difficult and often dangerous out in the “real” world. As I raised my children, I protected them, fed them, taught them, cared for them, and loved them. I did my best to create a safe, joyful and loving environment at home. Yet they left.

Well of course they left; that’s the way of our society. Raise your children and then send them off on their own, to fend for themselves and put what you taught them into practice, hopefully.

It’s part of our nature to want to go out on our own, and live independent of our parents. We want to make our own decisions and direct our own life, without having to report to someone else. And along with this comes the responsibility of dealing with our own problems, on our own.

Of course for many of us, mom and dad are no farther away that the other end of the telephone, and they are often willing and able to help us deal with our problems. We may have left them when we moved out of their house, but they never really left us. Loving parents make themselves always available to help and guide their adult children.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I think this little scenario illustrates our history and relationship with God.

Humanity, in the persons of Adam and Eve, were lovingly raised by God, who offered them a home with Him, forever. He would protect them, feed them, teach them, care for them and love them. But the independent nature kicked in. Adam and Eve wanted to leave home and go out on their own, make their own decisions and direct their own lives.

I know some self-proclaimed atheists who make a case that all of the world’s problems are evidence that there is no God, for how could a God possibly allow so much evil. The truth is, God does not allow evil, in His home. But humanity struck out on their own, into the cold, cruel, evil world. We left God to go out on our own, spurred on by our prideful ego, which told us we were smart enough to live independent from God.

Yet we are not alone in this cold, cruel world. God is always just on the other end of the phone, lovingly willing to help us deal with our problems. All we need do is call, and listen.


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Faith of a Child

My sister once told me that she couldn’t believe what was written in the bible because Genesis talks about people living hundreds of years, and she just didn’t think that was possible. All it took was one thing she couldn’t understand for her to discount the entire bible.

I suspect we’ve all come across people like this, maybe even ourselves at times; there’s something in the bible we don’t understand, and since we feel we should be able to understand, we choose not to believe. After all, why should I believe in something (like God), I cannot possibly understand?

I was reminded of this tendency last night, as I was channel surfing on the TV. I stumbled upon a movie where the particular scene had Jewish concentration camp prisoners putting God on trial*. Their verdict was that God was guilty of putting them in the concentration camp (since I didn’t see the whole thing, I may be wrong). They came to that verdict by analyzing God’s actions as recorded in the Old Testament. There was so much about God’s actions that they simply did not understand, so they condemned God because of that lack of understanding.

* (it was a Masterpiece Theater show appropriately titled, “God on Trial”)

What might Jesus have to say about our apparent need to understand all His ways?

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Jesus is telling us that we need to have the faith of a child. Look at it from this perspective: in no way can a child understand all the ways of their parents. Yet, the child still believes in their parents, and loves them unconditionally. So it should be with us and God. True faith is accepting the fact that we cannot possibly understand why God allows certain things to happen. We just accept and believe anyway.

Also, why is it that so many of us have this need to understand all? Simple… ego. Our ego is hungry and wants to understand. And if our ego is not satisfied, it may cause us to act like a child who throws its toy because they are not happy with the answer.

So I guess we all have a choice. We can be a spoiled brat type of child, or a child whose love is not tied to conditions of needing to understand all.

Something to think about on Martin Luther King’s birthday.


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He turned the world upside down

A basic principle in life is that if you follow the rules, you will benefit in some way. If you follow the rules at your job, doing what’s expected of you, then you will continue to get a paycheck. If you follow the rules at school, diligently studying and doing all the assignments, then you’ll get good grades. If you follow the rules within society, obeying the civil laws, than you can enjoy some level of freedom, protection and rights. If you follow the rules in your relationships, being kind and considerate to others, than family, friends and co-workers will be kind and considerate to you. If you follow the rules of whatever religion you choose, then you will gain whatever benefits that religion advertises.

Of course all these examples first require that we believe in the rules and be willing to follow them. We need to first trust that following the rules will provide the expected benefit. If I don’t trust my employer, if I believe they might not actually pay me, then I’m outta there.

So the means to life’s benefits is to first trust, then follow and obey, and then collect the prize; whether it’s a paycheck, or continued civil freedoms, or whatever. Trust, obey, then benefits; always in that order. Your “obedience” comes from a desire to gain the “benefits.”

Now please allow me to put you into a story that mixes up this three-step process…

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Imagine you have lost your job and the bank is foreclosing on your mortgage – for some of you, this may come far too easily. As you sit in front of your TV, trying to find a moment’s distraction from your worries, there’s a knock at the door. You get up to find a man in a three-piece suit standing on your front step. What now? Someone from the bank perhaps, with more bad news. How much worse can it get?

Upon reluctantly opening the door, you discover he’s not from the bank, but he is a businessman and he claims to have a proposition for you. But first he’d just like to chat so you can get to know each other. What the heck; you have nothing else to do.

As the minutes slip by, you find yourself becoming more amazed with this stranger sitting across from you. For someone who at first appeared very intimidating in his clothing and manner, you find his personality quite enchanting. You cannot help but like him.

After chatting for an hour or so, he re-directs the subject back to his original purpose; the proposition.  Without any fanfare, he states that he wishes to give you the money to pay off your mortgage.

“What? Why?” you ask (these are the only words you can muster, being a bit in shock as it were). His only response, “Do you believe that I would do this for you?” You don’t quite understand why; maybe it’s because of the sincerity, honesty, integrity, and even love that he conveyed while chatting to you, but after thinking for just a moment you say yes, you do believe. He immediately responds, “That’s why. That’s the reason I’m giving you this money. Just because you believe I will.”

Without a pause for effect, he pulls out of his inside coat pocket a certified cashier’s check, already made out in your name and for the exact amount of the balance on your mortgage. The state of shock intensifies as you stare at the check in your hands.

As the man now gets up to leave, you ask him, “What can I possibly do to thank you for this?” He smiles and quietly reaches into the same inside coat pocket and this time pulls out a business card. Handing the card to you he says, “I would like to give you a job. If you want it, be at my office next Monday, at 8:00. And by the way, your salary will be double what you got at your last job.”

When you look up from staring at the card, you find he is gone, but the personality that he exuded seems to remain.

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Trust, benefits, and then obedience. In this story, obedience comes from gratitude for benefits already received, rather than a promise of benefits yet to be collected.

Most religions adhere to the more typical path; first trust and have faith, then obey the laws and rules, and then you will find the peace, joy, happiness, eternal life in heaven, 40 virgins in heaven, or whatever else the religion is offering to you. But Christianity, with the exception of some notorious denominations, follows the upside down path. To illustrate, here’s another story for you, this time not made up by me…

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:51-52)

In Jesus’ day, people believed that someone was blind as punishment for sins they had committed. Jesus didn’t first ask for obedience. He didn’t even ask for a commitment to obey. He just looked for faith in the blind man, and finding it in the certainty of the man’s desire to see, Jesus gave him sight. Having received the “benefit,” the man out of joyous gratitude, followed (i.e., obeyed) Jesus.

The truth of Christianity is contrary to the ways of our world. Jesus has turned the world upside down. All you need do is believe. And as your love for God grows, so will your obedience; obedience out of love and gratitude…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

And during this time of Christmas celebrations, when the distractions reach a peak, please remember that God gives first, and God loves first.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

…and Jesus died for us first…

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

…and Jesus was born FOR us…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

May this Christmas find you surrounded by the love of Jesus, the man who turned the world upside down. And more than surrounded; filled with His love, to where the love is spilling over and splashing onto others in your life.

Merry Christmas


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Out of work and in despair? – a follow-up

Do you believe you aren’t good enough for God to care? Well, God does care, just like a loving parent. But like a parent, God knows when to hold back and not interfere in your life.

A wise parent, when observing their adult child struggling with a problem, may themselves struggle with the desire to jump in and help find a solution. But the wise parent will hold back and wait. They wait for their child to either find their own solution, or admit they cannot, and finally ask for help.

God is the wisest of parents. He will not interfere; He will not help you until and unless you ask. The real power behind asking is this: in asking you exhibit a humility that admits you cannot do it alone, and you exhibit a faith in God that shows you believe in Him. Of course, asking is power-less unless you ask with humility and faith. I once wrote a post on asking God for help. I really hope you check it out (see it here).

And no matter what you may have done in the past, no matter how “good” or “bad” you think you may be, God loves you and He wants to help you. Yet it’s critical that you realize what’s important is faith, not how good or bad you are.

“A person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

Help from God does not come from obedience to His laws, but rather by faith in His son. We do not become “right” by doing right; this is because none can do right always, there are none without sin. Therefore, our only hope is faith.

Being right in God’s eyes; being “good” in God’s eyes comes from faith in Jesus Christ, not obedience. Do you feel you are not good enough? Do you feel you are not worthy of God’s love? Being “good” and being “worthy” are not what’s required. The only thing that counts is faith.

During this holiday season, if you are down and in despair, please look to God and put your trust and faith in Him. And with humility and faith, ask Him to help you out of your despair.

I wish you a truly Merry Christmas.