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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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)