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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Prisoner of Fallacy

prisoner of fallacy

I was twelve years old when my mom married my second stepfather. I still remember his mother telling him he was going to hell because he divorced his first wife. That was over 40 years ago and my stepfather, now in his 80’s, still carries around the guilt piled onto him by his devout Catholic mother. He is a prisoner of that guilt. He is a prisoner by holding onto falseness that he believes just might be true. Whether you call yourself Christian or not, you may be a prisoner of lies – for lies are like shackles on our hearts and minds, hindering us from truly experiencing life.

We are all prisoners of the lies we believe to be truth. The most dreadful prison is the one where you don’t realize you are a prisoner. Did you ever see the movie The Matrix? People were prisoners without knowing it. So it can be with us. We can only be free, free to make choices based on truth, when we know the truth.

As Paul warned, “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)

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Under attack from within

Truth

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” It’s often Christians who push people away from Christianity. That’s why I stayed away for much of my life – what I saw didn’t appeal to me. I initially rejected Jesus because of Christians who were not a good reflection of His truth.

National surveys show Christianity declining in the United States. The published reasons are varied, but they all point to this: Christianity is crumbling because of a lack of truth. Truth is healthy and strong; untruth is sick and weak.


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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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Seeking Truth

Please, tell me your story of truth. If you’ve read any of my posts on this site, you know that the theme is all about contrasting false images of Christianity we see in our world, with the truth. Sometimes what we see is not anywhere near what the founder of Christianity, Jesus, had in mind.

I haven’t written anything on this site for a long time. The reason is that I’ve been spending my writing time working on a book. But instead of getting back to writing posts for this site, I find that I’m now more interested in hearing the experiences of others. What have you experienced in your exposure to the Christian church that may have been a false image of Christianity? Please share your story.

I know a lot of people who have been wounded by false messages coming from some churches. And I have a growing passion to help people find freedom from the pain of lies and deceptions. It occurred to me that maybe simply providing a forum to vent might be helpful. So please vent. Have you been wounded by a so-called Christian church, or so-called Christian? Then please, tell us about it, if you want to. Just comment to this post.

And if this kind of sharing becomes popular, I’ll try to find a better way to help facilitate it.

Thank you


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Christianity – Its Own Worst Enemy

Christians are driving people away from God, according to a recent survey. If you’ve visited my blog before, you might have picked up on the fact that I definitely believe that Christianity is its own worst enemy. Yesterday I discovered that other people feel the same way.

In the editorial section of yesterdays newspaper was an article by syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts. The title, “Religion is driving people away from God” immediately caught my attention. The article sites the results of the recent American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), conducted by researchers at Trinity College (find it here).

The survey results show that Christianity, along with other religions, is on the decline in the United States. Mr. Pitts mentions that he believes the cause is simply that “religion has become an ugly thing.” I agree.

In the highlight section of the ARIS survey, the following claim is made: “The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.” Organized religion is pushing people away from Christianity and away from God. Is that pathetic or what?

This “organized religion” is not the kind of Christianity that Jesus created. Jesus had something else in mind when he launched the apostles off on the mission to make disciples of all nations. But the bright side of this story is that there remain glimmers of hope and truth within Christianity. There are some churches that remain true to His word. And my hope and purpose for this blog site is that here too will be found the truth of Jesus Christ.


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Is all evil from God?

I once read a blog post that claimed that God created evil, and therefore God is evil. One thing that was interesting about this post is that it was written by an atheist who also stated, “I do not claim to know God because God is a lie, an invention of men.” I often find it interesting how atheist bloggers spend so much time writing about something they don’t believe in.

There are several things I want to say about this concept of God creating evil. First of all, the atheist blogger made several references to the bible in stating his case. But in the end, he judged God based on taking very small bits and pieces of God’s history. If you want to accurately and fairly judge someone, you need to look at their whole story. But only fools and atheists endeavor to judge God. For who are we to judge the one who created us?

And another thought on this idea of judging God… to judge someone, you also need to know something about their motives. In a murder trial, the judge wants to know if the crime was pre-meditated or not. Who of us could possibly know God’s motives? And did you notice, the atheist blogger stated he does not know God, but he apparently knows God enough to judge Him as evil.

Second, I don’t believe that God created evil, but I do believe that He allowed evil to be created, and I believe that all evil originated with Satan, as recorded in the creation story in Genesis.

To better understand God’s relationship with evil, consider a human analogy: A parent has something to do in the creation of their child. Let’s say that despite all the parents’ efforts to lovingly raise their child, the child becomes a chainsaw murderer. In our society, will the parent be tried and found guilty of murder? Is the parent in any way blamed for the child’s crimes? Usually not. Yet the atheist blogger wants to blame God for the evil acts of His children. How convenient.

But WHY did God allow evil to be created and proliferate. The bible seems to indicate that it’s because God allows freedom of choice. Satan chose evil and enticed the human race to choose to follow him. Now the atheist blogger stated that he didn’t believe in free will. Again, how convenient (if I have no free will, I’m obviously not responsible for my actions).

And finally, why is it that some people choose to blame God for evil? Again, a common human characteristic is that we don’t want to take responsibility for our own actions. Like the person who sued McDonalds when she spilled a cup of hot coffee in her lap. Some people want to blame God for all the evil in the world, simple because they don’t want humanity to take responsibility for it. And they solidify their case by claiming there is no free will.

Yet again, how convenient… evil is from God, humans have no free will, so when someone does something evil, it’s not their fault, it’s God’s. What a cop out. What childish denial.

Not only does the truth set you free, but it sometimes might hurt.


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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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Putting Words in God’s Mouth – talking same-sex marriage

Many opponents of California’s Proposition 8 (ban on same-sex marriage) try to use the bible to present their case, claiming that God and Jesus actually support same-sex marriage, or at least that they aren’t against it. Note my emphasis of the phrase “use the bible.”

I’m not going to try and convince you that God and Jesus are against same-sex marriage. God did a perfectly good job of that already, as is recorded in His book. If you are a Christian and you also believe same-sex marriage is a good thing; well, your personal beliefs are just that, personal. I’m not going to argue with you.

After all, none of us are “perfect” Christians in that we usually have a hard time accepting everything that God and Jesus tell us in the bible. For example, I have a hard time accepting that people I dearly love, who do not know God and Jesus, will likely not make it to heaven. But I still love God and Jesus with all my heart (my mind just gets in the way sometimes). I believe that someone else can love God and Jesus just as much or more, and yet still believe that same-sex marriage is a good thing.

But if you are such a same-sex believer, and if in your efforts to convince others that you are “right” in your belief, you choose to “use the bible,” my post today is for you.

If you are so sure that same-sex marriage is good and “right,” I wonder why you feel you need to rely on God’s word to make your case. After all, marriage as defined in this context is not a religious union, but a civil union. Everything I read from advocates of same-sex marriage centers on civil rights. So why bring religion into it? Could it be that in your heart you know that God does not approve, and therefore, by your ego you feel it’s necessary to make it look as if God does approve? Does your ego require that God agree with you? (Now there’s an absurd thought: is it more important that God agree with you, than you agreeing with God?)

If God doesn’t agree with you, the solution is not to distort His word. Just accept it as is, and accept the fact that you believe in something that is not accepted by God. This is not a message for advocates of same-sex marriages only; this is a message for all of us who may succumb to the temptation to tweak God’s word a bit.

My request to those who distort the bible in order to make a case for their personal beliefs is this: humbly accept that you are on your own in your beliefs. Accept that God does not agree with you. I’m not asking you to let go of your beliefs (though I suspect God is). But please, do not be so arrogant as to put your own words and beliefs into God’s mouth. Do not misquote God or spin what He has said. And ask for forgiveness for any times where you may have misrepresented His word; He’ll forgive you.


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What’s your perception of Christianity? Please comment…

This post is for you. Please tell me what you think about Christianity. What is your perception of Christianity? What aspects of Christianity don’t make sense to you? What don’t you like about it? What do you like about Christianity? What messages do Christians convey that appear to conflict with other things you may have heard about Christianity? What are some misconceptions about Christianity that you believe you or others may have? What are some questions you have about Christianity?

If any of these questions stir up feelings within you, please follow those feelings and submit a comment. If you would rather not comment in a way that becomes public, you can always just send me an email (see my email address at the top of the right-hand column of this page).

My purpose in asking these questions is not to draw out questions from you that I would then endeavor to answer myself. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t be able to answer many of your questions. I just want to know what people think about Christianity, and what kinds of questions they might have. However, if I see a question I believe I can answer, I just might write a post about it sometime in the future, (though I would write it in a way that keeps the originator of the question anonymous).

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


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How do you read the Bible?

It’s so hard to be objective. As much as I try to look at something without a preconceived notion, I still end up having some kind of bias. It works like this: we first get an idea or belief in our heads, and then look for evidence to prove our belief is correct.

This is not the scientific method of objectivity. In science the method is to first come up with a theory and then by way of experiments and research, objectively look at the evidence to see what it tells you about your theory; finally drawing conclusions from the evidence, not from the original theory itself. The objective scientific method is NOT coming up with a theory and then looking for specific evidence that proves your theory; that would be coming to a conclusion before looking at the evidence.

Yet we all do this – it’s not unique to scientists. For example, I have a friend at work who is a vegetarian. He told me that he was in the process of searching through the Bible, looking for passages that support his theory that God calls us all to be vegetarians. An apparently harmless example, yet it illustrates a dangerous approach to reading the Bible.

I’m not immune. I recently went on a similar quest of my own. It pains me to believe that many people who I dearly love are doomed to eternity in hell, because of their lack of faith. So I came up with a theory, which goes like this: what if hell is not the end? What if hell is more of a refining process, where impurities are finally and totally burned off? Then once clean, the formerly lost soul can come to heaven? Yet as much as I loved the idea, I could not find supporting evidence in the Bible. But I looked… long and hard. Fortunately for me, I was objective enough to admit that the evidence I longed for was not to be found. I reluctantly accepted the truth.

Not everyone is able to be so objective. For example, consider the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who believe and loudly preach that God hates America, and “fags”, and all kinds of other people who they do not even know. And they believe that the Bible supports them.

In trying to be objective myself, and realizing that I can definitely be wrong in my thinking, I went on a search of my own, looking for the evidence that is claimed by those at the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). This is why I haven’t written in this blog for a while; I’ve been busy pouring through my Bible.

Well, as you may already know, I could not find the evidence – I guess I just don’t read the Bible like those at the WBC. However I found something other than evidence; I found some understanding. I feel I clearly understand why people come to their own conclusions about what God has to say, and about whom God may hate, without objectively looking at the evidence. In reading the Bible, many people do so not with their eyes and ears open, but with a mind closed by ego, arrogance, pride.

Out of their arrogance and pride, people tend to want to make God into their image. Hate-filled people will want to make a hate-filled God. People who believe homosexuality is not a sin, will want to make a God who believes as they do. Some are more blatant than others, but we are all susceptible to this temptation of effectively placing ourselves above God.

What might Jesus say about succumbing to this temptation? As Paul told the Corinthians: “Do not go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) And as Jesus said to Peter, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)


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Does God Hate You?

…If you’re the “wrong” sexual orientation, He does – according to some very outspoken individuals. Unfortunately for my parents, they recently encountered a group of people who believe that “God hates fags,” as their picket signs proclaimed.

While heading to our house for dinner last weekend, my parents came across a scattered group of bicyclists, strung out over about a half mile of roadway. When rounding a corner, those on the bicycles as well as my parents in their car, were confronted by a gang of protestors, with picket signs that read, “God Hates You!” and “God Hates Fags!”, and other such slogans of hate.

Needless to say, my parents were rather upset by the whole thing. When they arrived for dinner, the first thing my step-father asked was, “Where’s the vodka?” (not really – I just felt like injecting some humor).

So what is the truth behind the claim that God hates homosexuals? If you know anything about God, you probably already know the answer. And by that it’s clear that the protestors, who pretend to know the mind of God, really know nothing about Him.

The truth is found in Jesus’ own words…

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)

Love your enemies; be kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Jesus is only calling us to live as He lived, to behave as He behaved, to love as He loved. Does it look like God hates anyone? I don’t think God considered homosexuals His enemy, though He may consider them wicked since I believe the bible tells me that all who sin are considered wicked. So at the very least, Jesus is asking me to be kind to homosexuals.

It’s too bad that those who profess to know the mind of God apparently don’t take the time to read His word. If you’re one of those who are a victim of hate, by either giving or receiving hate, then find freedom from your hate by embracing the truth of Jesus Christ.