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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Catholic Rule #82

8-8-14 Catechism 82

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Catechism 82 of the Roman Catholic Church, emphasis added) The Catholic Church considers God’s word, as recorded in the Bible, and Catholic tradition, as equally valid and important.

Jesus might say in response, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8)

Moses might say, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

And the apostle Paul might add, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Catholic tradition verses the word of God – I’ll choose God.


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Episcopal Church wants a divorce…

… from Jesus Christ. “The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to open the door to consecrate more bishops who are openly gay.” So says the opening statement of a New York Times article that was reprinted in my local newspaper on July 15th. This vote took place at the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. This is perhaps not big news to you, but I wish to dwell on the implications.

First I would like to comment on several of the more choice statements that appear in the Times article, along with a follow-up article that was published two days later.

To begin, many convention delegates, “… note that the church has hundreds of openly gay laypeople, priests and deacons, and that its democratic decision-making structures are charged with deciding who merits ordination.” So they are saying, the majority rules, but what Jesus says doesn’t matter. I would like to think that Jesus’ vote counts for something.

Choice statement #2: “It’s an attempt to deepen relationships with the rest of the communion, because real relationships are built on authenticity.” What about being authentic with Jesus? Maybe because the Episcopal church doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, authenticity with Him doesn’t matter.

Choice statement #3: “But some at the convention warned that the Episcopal Church could pay a price for snubbing its international partners.” What about the price for snubbing Jesus?

Choice statement #4: “‘It is time for our church to be liberated from the hypocrisy under which it has been laboring,’ Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Ky., told his fellow bishops on Tuesday.”  Indeed! Like the hypocrisy of calling themselves “Christian” when they refuse to even acknowledge Jesus Christ.

Choice statement #5: In interviewing a particular convention delegate, the article states, “… he said he believes that the church can grow by emphasizing ‘inclusivity,’ the favorite buzzword of Episcopalians.” I’d like to propose a new buzzword for them: “Jesus”. They seem to have forgotten that one.

Choice statement #6: Referring to many of the attending bishops, “Above all, they are concerned that the Episcopal Church has jeopardized its place in the Anglican Communion, the international network of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.” What about being concerned about jeopardizing their place with Jesus?

And finally: “To theological conservatives, these are signs of a church that will ultimately collapse because it has sold its soul to secular political causes.” What a sad statement, but apparently all too true.

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Yet, what is the official documented position of the Episcopal Church? Since newspaper articles can sometimes contain errors, I went in search of an authorized statement. Resolution DO25 defines the issues that were voted on and approved. You can check it out for yourself (find it here), and you will find that there is no mention of Jesus Christ. It appears to boil down to their buzzword, “inclusivity.” That word is more important to them than Jesus’ word. To me, no mention of Jesus is proof they no longer care about Him.

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I suppose you could say there is nothing overtly wrong with the Episcopal church failing to make any mention of Jesus. I don’t think I buy that, but now I want to look at the issue that was voted upon, the ordination of gay bishops.

It’s widely known that Jesus did not directly say that homosexuality is a sin. But look at His definition of marriage:

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 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.” (Mark 10:6-9)

Marriage, being exclusively between a man and a woman, at least hints at Jesus’ view of homosexuality.

However, the rest of the bible is clear. For example, Paul succinctly states that, like many other common lifestyles, homosexuality is indeed a sin:

“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. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Therefore, in God’s eyes a homosexual is no different from me. I happen to be heterosexual, but I am also a sinner. In God’s eyes, the only difference between a gay person and me is the nature of our sins. Some of our sins are different, some we may share.

But the real difference between a gay Episcopal bishop and me, is our personal response to our individual sins. I repent, they don’t. I acknowledge which behaviors of mine are sinful, and I constantly ask God for help in changing my ways. The gay Episcopal bishops see nothing wrong with their behavior, as evidenced by the fact that they deny homosexuality is a sin.

Looking back at the verses from 1 Corinthians above, in the behaviors of those who will not “inherit the kingdom of God;” I’m in there, along with the homosexual bishop. But, because I continually strive to repent and change my ways, “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The singularly principal theme of the New Testament is this: have faith and repent of your sins, and you will be forgiven. By looking at the Episcopal church and their recent decisions, it’s safe to say there is no repentance. And based on the apparent absence of Jesus Christ in the Episcopal church, I would also say there is no faith.

So what’s my bottom line here? The Episcopal church has “sold their soul to secular political causes.” They have divorced themselves from their founder Jesus Christ, so they can marry anyone they choose. They are no more “Christian” than a Buddhist or Muslim.


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To those who claim God hates sinners – follow Jesus

There are many loud voices in the news who declare that God hates you, and me, and all kinds of other people. To them I say come, follow Jesus.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19:21

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Forgive others as God forgives us. In all things, do as Jesus did. Speak Gods words, not our own. Jesus being both God and human while He walked the earth; we will do well to speak as Jesus spoke while we still walk the earth. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is how we should act, feel and speak, if we are to truly follow Jesus.

And this brings me to what has been on my heart. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone that He hated them? He chastised people, to be sure. But He never once told someone He hated them. Nor did He tell anyone that God hated them. And neither should we!

To those who choose to proclaim that God hates sinners, please heed His warning:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

To all at the Westboro Baptist Church and to everyone else who believes in a God of hate, please honor your savior. I beg you to open your hearts and see the truth behind your actions. But don’t listen to me; listen to Jesus, and follow Jesus.


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It doesn’t matter what California says, re: same-sex marriage

As I write this, the outcome may be inevitable, though the polls have yet to close. The votes for California proposition 8 are being cast, and the numbers against it may have already surpassed the threshold. But whatever the final outcome, it doesn’t matter. California may change their definition of marriage (if that’s how the votes tally), but they cannot change Gods definition.

I’ve made my decision and mailed in my ballot. The only other decision remaining to me is this: if the vote goes against Prop 8, which definition of marriage will I choose to honor, Gods or California’s.

As Peter boldly proclaimed when brought before the judges of his day, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19) I choose God.


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What inspires you to obey?

They threaten eternal damnation in hell, if you don’t obey God. They claim that God actually hates you, unless you obey Him. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of them on the Internet or in the news, with their picket signs that say “God hates you,” and other such vulgar declarations. Promoting obedience through condemnation and fear; how effective is that I wonder.

Personally, I never responded very well to threats. If my parents threatened me with punishment when I was a misbehaving child, I might end up obeying them, but it was rather reluctantly. My obedience did not come from my heart – it came from fear. I wonder; is that the kind of obedience God desires? Or does He want our heart, as well as our head?

How did Jesus promote obedience?

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” (John 14:12) Obedience appears to come from faith. Jesus preached faith, knowing that love and obedience will be fruits of that faith. Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells us that it is faith that leads to salvation. Not once did He say, “Your obedience has set you free.” With Jesus, it was all about faith. Why? Perhaps because He knows that it first requires faith to follow His command of love. After all, how can you love if you really don’t believe in the one who is calling you to love?

Now what does Jesus have to say about the relationship between love and obedience?

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21)

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)

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

And what does Jesus command? “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Back to my original question: how did Jesus promote obedience? The answer is to first promote faith and love. Our sincere love for God and Jesus will grow from our faith in God and Jesus. And out of our love will blossom obedience. Why did I obey my mother when I was a teenager? It was not out of fear (my mother never used threats); it was out of love. I loved her too much to hurt her by being disobedient. I believe it’s the same in our relationship with God.

Also, please consider Jesus’ response when asked what the greatest commandment is. Did He say the greatest commandment is to obey? No, He said the greatest commandment is to love God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Jesus knows that out of love, obedience will follow.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” “I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (1 John: 7-8, 11-12, 15-21) (2 John 5-6)


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Voting against God

“The Episcopal bishops of Los Angeles and the Bay Area are opposing a November ballot initiative to overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.” In fewer words, these Episcopal bishops are for same-sex marriage, (according to the article in yesterday’s newspaper, where I found this quote).

The same old story, but it got me thinking about this issue in a different way. Yet I’m not talking about the same-sex marriage issue; I’m talking about the issue of being for something that God is against. Because my purpose in today’s post is not to discuss God’s opinion of same-sex marriage, I would just like to say that I believe God is against such marriages, because Jesus said …

“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) Marriage is defined as being between a man and woman.

Yet if you wish to discuss your beliefs about same-sex marriage, please comment.

In the mean time, I will get to my point: I try not to be “against” anyone, including same-sex couples. I rather try to be against things, such as same-sex marriage. But in the end, I endeavor to be “for” obedience to God, and adherence to His word, the Bible. I find being “for” something feels more positive that being “against” anything, (call me silly if you will, but it’s how I like to look at things, though I’m not always successful).

Anyway, we are faced with decisions all day long; to be either for or against the issues that come our way. Some of these decisions are formalized, like in the California ballot initiative mentioned at the beginning of this post. In all cases, we have the responsibility to choose how we will vote; are we for, or against. And it is naturally implied that to be “for” an issue, means that you’re “against” the opposing side of the issue.

I submit to you now that those who are “for” legalization of same-sex marriage, are therefore “against” God. Yes, I consider the Episcopal bishops as being “against” God. As Jesus said…

“Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

It’s rather severe of me, wouldn’t you say, to proclaim supposed representatives of God as being against God. But they’re not alone. After all, they’re only human, and we all do it. We all take sides, every day, and for most issues that confront us, one side will be against the decisions of God.

Fortunately we are offered forgiveness. I can only hope that in being for things that put us against God, that we all will realize the true meaning of our actions and beliefs. If you believe in God, who created the universe and all things in it; do you really want to be against Him, in any way?


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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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Your Choice – Sexuality or the Bible

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), bitterly divided over sexuality and the Bible, set up another confrontation Friday over its ban on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians.” So reads the opening statement of a recent AP article about the outcome of last weeks Presbyterian General Assembly meeting.

“… bitterly divided over sexuality and the Bible…” I believe that about sums up the issue that plagues not only the Presbyterian Church, but many others. I realize this quote is from the author of the article and not a church leader, yet perhaps it accurately reflects reality within the church. And what a harsh reality it is; our church leaders are divided over following the Bible or opinions about sexuality.

I must say, I’m feeling rather frustrated about his whole issue. Maybe it’s just my mood today. The more I look at examples of how various churches are not following the truth of Jesus Christ, the more depressed I feel about humanity. Our arrogance is overwhelming; constantly putting our own personal opinions above the commands of God. Sorry, just feeling the need to vent a bit.

Normally at this point, I would ask what Jesus might have to say. Yet I believe I’ve already captured His opinion in other posts, about another sexually charged issue within the Presbyterian Church (see “Getting Back to Jesus“). However, please forgive me; I’m going to continue to vent as I draw from more pieces of the AP article…

“My biggest concern is, ‘How does the church move forward?'” said the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the General Assembly. “There’s great disappointment in some folks and great joy in others, but it really does go back to how do we as a church model for the world a way to live together amid great diversity of opinion?”

Jesus gave the answer to Mr. Reyes-Chow’s question, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35) This is how you model the way to live together. Minimize personal opinions and maximize love.

“‘This week the General Assembly voted from faith rather than fear,’ Lisa Larges, minister coordinator of the advocacy group That All May Freely Serve, said in a statement. ‘They voted for a vibrant future of our church …'”

How about casting a vote for obedience to God? True faith expresses itself in obedience, not in letting go of God’s word and following personal opinion.

“Paul Detterman, executive director of Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterians for Renewal, which opposes changing the ordination standards, said the debate is not about homosexuality but following the Bible.”

AMEN!!!! Thank you Paul.

One final vote for God’s side, from a letter on the pcusa website:

“The assembly left unchanged the definition of marriage found in the Directory for Worship (W-4.9000) – ‘a civil contract between a woman and a man.'” Wow, a small victory for God. The Presbyterian Church has decided to not (yet) change His definition of marriage.


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Ban on Women Priests

“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.” So saith the opening paragraph of an Associated Press article appearing in the May 31st issue of my local newspaper.

A spokesman for the Vatican added, “The church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder Jesus Christ.” This apparently refers to Jesus having chosen only men as His apostles.

Check out the first sentence above, where it refers to “Christian tradition.” If you’ve read some of my past posts, you probably know how I feel about traditions verses the will of God. As far as I’m concerned, traditions that are not backed up by God’s will – flush em down the toilet. But what I feel doesn’t matter. What matters is how Jesus might feel about this tradition that was inferred from who He chose as apostles.

Jesus might explain His position by first reminding us of what Peter said at Pentecost, when he stood up and declared to the gathered crowd…

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'” (Acts 2:16-18)

What does it mean to prophesy? “Son of man, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:…'” (Ezekiel 30:2) Throughout Ezekiel, to prophesy is to pass on the words of God – “this is what the Sovereign Lord says”.

Not only men, but women are called to preach the word of the Lord. So says Joel, and Luke. Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4) Preaching the word of God looks important; and both men and women are called to the task.

What else might Jesus have to say about this topic? What does He think about the rules and traditions around the organization of today’s Christian churches? What does He think about the hierarchy of responsibilities and the fact that some are privileged enough to have more powerful roles than others?

Read the gospels. Did Jesus ever talk about church structures, organizations and responsibilities within a church? Could it be that it is all a man-made hierarchy? My message today is not so much about “What would Jesus say”, but more about what He didn’t say. According to what is recorded in the gospels, Jesus did not provide instruction for church hierarchy. As far as I can tell, all the hierarchy stuff came from men, not God.

Today’s churches provide the foundation and mechanisms for achieving His purpose for our lives; for advancing the commission He assigned to His disciples. Or do they? What does Jesus think about this tool that has been constructed to achieve His ends? Stay tuned – more on this tomorrow.


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How Disturbing – Christian Bigotry

“Anti-gay church to picket funeral” – so proclaimed the front-page headline in today’s local newspaper. Bleary-eyed and still emotional from my youngest child’s high school graduation party last night, I was yet able to focus my attention enough to sense a blog post waiting somewhere within the anticipated dark text of the newspaper article. So, even though I have a strong desire to take a nap (perhaps the first of several today), I have a stronger urge to respond to the claims of the “anti-gay church.”

Brace yourself; here are some choice tidbits from the article:

“Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, Kansas) members have gained national attention protesting at military funerals across the country, where they display signs reading ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers,’ ‘Thank God for I.E.D’s,’ and ‘God Hates You.'”

“The group’s main concern seems to be with gays, who it blames for inflaming God’s rage and triggering divine retribution…”

And the quote that really sent me over the edge, from a daughter of the founder of the church: “You can sum up the Bible in three words: Obey, Obey, Obey.”

Now if these words enrage you, as they originally affected me, please don’t go there. Instead, please listen to and truly hear the words from the only expert on the topic. What would Jesus have to say?

For example, how might Jesus sum up the Bible? As it turns out, Jesus was once asked a similar question. One of the supposed experts of His day decided to test Jesus with the following question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). Since the Bible contains the law of God, summing up the Bible and stating the greatest commandment would likely give you the same result. Did Jesus proclaim the greatest commandment to be obedience to God? Hear His answer…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

How might Jesus sum up the Bible in three words? “Love, Love, Love”

Yet Jesus was concerned with obedience as well. It’s no surprise that He showed far more wisdom than the members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Jesus knows where obedience comes from. It does not come from protests. It does not come from anger or rage. It does not come from bigotry.

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

Obedience comes from Love. To all who hold to bigotry and yet call themselves Christian: please follow the One who you supposedly call your leader – let go of hate and take hold of Love.

That’s enough from me. It’s now nap time.


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Getting Back to Jesus

In the name of Christianity, don’t we often get involved in issues that actually serve to distract us from what is most important; Jesus Christ? For example, take a look at the three newspaper articles that have been the source of several posts I’ve written over the past couple of weeks. For the last time I will refer to the articles about the Rev. Jane Spahr, who defies the Presbyterian Church and conducts same-sex marriage ceremonies.

To the casual reader of the articles, the Presbyterian Church and Rev. Spahr have no concern for Jesus, God and the Bible. Instead their only concerns are “Presbyterian law” and personal principles. My concerns about this perception can be found in the following collection of past posts:

May 19: “What About God’s Opinion

May 20: “Eternally Condemned – Preaching a False Gospel

May 21: “A Church Divided

May 24: “Dangerous Thinking

May 26: “Whom do You Choose to Obey?

May 29: “Expecting God to Change

In our own personal religious journey’s, who should we look up to? Who should we take advice and guidance from? Pastors? The “church?” Or Jesus, and only Jesus? What advice might Jesus have for us; we who are so frequently distracted by “issues” and misguided notions?

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a)

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

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)

“But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.'” (Acts 4:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14)

“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.” (Colossians 3:17)

“Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’” (John 8:31)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

“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.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


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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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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)


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What About God’s Opinion?

Far too often, I encounter examples of people placing their opinions, principles and beliefs above those of God. In fact, we all are prone to placing ourselves above God, simply by ignoring His direction for our lives and following our own desires, as if we know better than He does about what’s best for our lives. So today, I will begin a 7-part series of posts, focusing on a series of articles recently published in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat newspaper, about the Rev. Jane Spahr, a retired Presbyterian pastor, who has chosen to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

As stated in the first of the articles, “To the Rev. Jane Spahr, the right of a Presbyterian Church minister to marry same-sex couples is a matter of principle and conscience. To her critics, Spahr … simply broke the law that governs the Presbyterian Church.” In addition, “Spahr … said the case is about the well-being of gays and lesbians, as well as her own principles.” (Press Democrat, 4/22/08 )

We know Spahr’s position, and we know the churches position. On both sides there doesn’t seem to be a care about God’s position. I may be way out of line here, since I’m basing what I write only on what I have seen in three newspaper articles. News articles are not always factual, plus there are likely scores of other quotes that may show a care for God’s opinion. However, my main concern here, as it is in most of what I write about, is what the public sees. For most of us, all we see is what makes it in the paper; and with that said I forge ahead.

What about God’s opinion in the matter? What about Jesus and the principles He taught? What might Jesus have to say about His apparent absence from the discussion? What might Jesus say about God’s opinion not being acknowledged? “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 )

What might Jesus say about those on both sides of the issue, who seem to speak on their own, without relying on God’s words? “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:17-18 )

Jesus even gave us advice for the principles we should preach; the best advice He could give, by being a living example. “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28 ) “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10) Paul also led by example: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) To Paul, his personal principles were not relevant; all that mattered was God. The humility exhibited by Paul appears to be lacking in the Spahr situation.

Why do people like Rev. Spahr preach something other than what is taught in the Bible? Maybe it’s as John stated in his gospel, “…for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43) Are we called to love praise from others? “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment’.” (Matthew 22:37-38 ) Again, God does not ask us to seek praise for ourselves, but instead to seek God with all who we are.

Jesus’ final words to the Presbyterian Church and Rev. Spahr might be: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33) I invite all who read this to recognize the errors in the thinking of Spahr and the Presbyterian Church, and to look to their own motivations. Do you have in mind the concerns of God, or merely your own concerns?