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)


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Are you a wounded Catholic?

Healing wounded

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

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

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

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

 


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

Creepy Christians?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1 Comment

It’s a Cold, Cruel World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 Comments

Non-Catholic denominations are not “true” churches. Really?

The Catholic Church is the one and only “true” church, or so some believe. According to a July 10, 2007 article I stumbled across (see it here), “Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.”

The Vatican document said. “The other communities cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.” Specifically, if a church cannot trace the succession of its leadership back to the apostle Peter, then it cannot be called a true church of Jesus Christ. Since the Catholics claim Peter as their first Pope, then that makes the Catholic Church the one and only “true” church.

You see, when Jesus stated that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), the Catholic Church took that to mean that Peter was the starting point, the true cornerstone of the foundation of Jesus’ church. Was Jesus’ intention to have Peter as the one foundation from which He would build His united church? What else does the bible say?

At one time, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles to, “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-9) Another time, He sent out 72 others to, “heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near you.” (Luke 10:1-20) Does this sound like the act of someone who would place the responsibility for His church on the shoulders of just one man? It appears to me like Jesus intended to spread the responsibility around.

There was another time when the 12 apostles got rather ticked off when they discovered there was someone outside their inner circle who was doing their job. So they went to Jesus and blew the whistle on this guy… “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’ (Mark 9:38-40) Does this sound as if Jesus is trying to establish some kind of exclusive club? It sounds to me like Jesus doesn’t care who is doing the work, as long as they are doing it “in His name.”

And what about Paul, who was not one of the original apostles? The Catholic Church appears to ignore him. So the churches he started were “defective”, I suppose. I’m sure that would come as a surprise to Paul, especially since Jesus himself gave Paul the assignment. As evidenced by the calling of Paul, Jesus was not exclusive. Why would He be? Such an approach would limit the growth of “His” church. Why send the church off in one direction, with Peter as the lead runner, when you can start off in multiple directions?

***************************************

Yet, the Catholic Church originally had worthy intentions. For a time, the Catholic Church was indeed the one true church, assuring and enabling the unity that Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-23). Their motives were noble. Jesus wanted unity, and the Catholic Church provided a way. Then, in the early 1500’s, the reformation happened and the church split into pieces; no more unity.

However, maybe having all believers belonging to the same organization is not what Jesus had in mind when He prayed for unity. Maybe he meant united in beliefs, rather than united in affiliation. Maybe it wasn’t that He wanted us all to belong to the same religious establishment, with the same human leader, but that we all look to Him and Him alone as our leader.

Jesus wasn’t praying for all believers to be united by man-made things, such as religious bureaucracies, ceremonies, traditions, and “holy” relics. Jesus was talking about being united by spiritual things, such as love for God and faith in the saving power and love of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus asked His Father God, “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). The unity that Jesus prayed for is modeled by His relationship with God.

Were God & Jesus unified by a common membership in some kind of organization? No, their unity was much higher than some human standard. The Catholic Church has set a human standard for unity; membership in their organization. But Jesus’ standard is a heavenly standard – a shared communion with the Holy Spirit of God. We are to be united as Jesus and God are united. How can a man-made religious establishment bring such a thing about?

I do not believe that Jesus intended for a man-made institution to bring about such spiritual unity, for I think that would be impossible. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, His presence in each of our lives, to manifest the spiritual unity of love and faith. By our mutual connection to the Holy Spirit, we are all connected to each other. We may all be one by our common bond to the Holy Spirit. We are all branches, and we are unified by our common bond to the vine, which is Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-17).

By the way, Jesus never even mentioned a human-made and run organization as the foundation for our unity. In fact, setting the Catholic Church as the standard for unity is a distraction from our true foundation, our true cornerstone – Jesus Christ.

And another thing: Jesus was the origin of His church, not Peter. Jesus is the vine, not Peter. Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter. Jesus is the one true church, not the Catholics.


Leave a comment

Distractions from the truth: more thoughts on the “Catholics Come Home” ad campaign

Yesterday I wrote about the newest Catholic advertising campaign, “Catholics Come Home” (find it here). Since writing that post, I keep wondering why the church has selected Madison Avenue as their ad agency, instead of Jesus Christ.

In pursuit of an answer, I want to look at what the Catholic Church thinks is the root problem. As mentioned in the newspaper article I referred to in yesterday’s post, one of the key people behind the ad campaign said, “There is no doubt that the glitter and glamour of pop culture has distracted people from God and his church and family.” Okay, so dwindling attendance is the fault of our culture. Interesting.

I know of a non-denominational church that is growing, even in the midst of the “glitter and glamour of pop culture.” I’ve visited them, and there is no pretense, no traditions, no catechism that is larger than the bible itself. There is only the untarnished truth of Jesus Christ. From one Sunday to the next, the pastor preaches the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. And the people keep coming, and the empty chairs seem to be fewer and fewer each week. So much for the effects of culture.

The article also described one of the TV commercials that has people watching scenes from their past with “examples of their own poor or embarrassing behavior.” This sounded odd to me, so I went to the “Catholics Come Home” web site (find it here), where I found the video (click on the “Movie” TV ad and see for yourself). I was sadly astonished at the nature of the ad; the focus is on the flaws of the individual. The church is trying to put the blame on those who have drifted away.

Another commercial, called “Testimonials,” has people apologizing for having drifted away from the church. Again, the fault is apparently with them, not the church.

So, the church is blaming society and those individuals who are no longer sitting in the pews. Blaming others, that’s easy. That must be why they are going with the TV ads. Yet, this is nothing but a distraction, though perhaps non-intentional.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, the root cause of their attendance problem is inside the Catholic Church, not outside. The TV commercials put the focus on the outside, on those who have left the church. Yet in doing so, the church is hiding from the real problem. Why? Why not make internal changes that would address the real issues? Because doing so would be to admit fault, and egos have a difficult time admitting fault (I speak from personal experience here).

It’s beginning to look to me like the Catholic Church is more motivated by full pews, than the spiritual well-being of those sitting in the pews. Someone once said something like, “We have found the enemy, and they are us.” The Catholic Church needs to find the humility to admit their faults. Blessed are the humble.

So why am I so critical toward the Catholic Church? After all, who am I to judge? But I care. I care about those who have been deceived by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. I know too many “wounded” former Catholics, and several of these have totally lost their faith.

I know that nothing is impossible with God, but it’s still hard for me to envision real change in the Catholic Church. There’s just too much baggage and history and “rules taught by men.” So for now, my prayers are more focused on the people, rather than the organization. May God help them all.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)


4 Comments

“Catholics Come Home” – another ill-advised ad campaign

The Catholic Church has joined the Methodists in their belief that you can bring people to God with Madison Avenue advertising techniques, with an ad campaign called “Catholics Come Home.” (to see my post about the Methodist ad campaign – click here). According to an LA Times article that was recently reprinted in my local newspaper: “Using a strategy straight from the secular playbook… the (church) is preparing to air several thousand prime-time TV commercials.” You can preview the commercials here: http://www.catholicscomehome.org/

The article opened with: “Catholic church leaders using TV ads in attempt to lure back lapsed followers.” The target audiences are those who call themselves “Catholic” yet do not attend church, and those who call themselves former Catholics.

According to the article, some of the reasons people are no longer attending the Catholic Church include:

  • Many Catholics don’t have “a sense of belonging,”
  • Many believe they can be “good members of their faith without attending Mass regularly,”
  • Many do not believe missing Mass is a sin, (Missing mass is a sin? Really?)
  • Others are too busy with family or work; “as analysts point out, (people) are more interested in material happiness than spiritual fulfillment.”
  • “About 1 in 4 former Catholics cited the church’s priest-abuse scandal as a factor.”
  • “People oftentimes lose sight of what is most important in their lives,” says a Sacramento Bishop.

I wonder how TV ads are going to address these issues. You typically cannot resolve circumstances like these with advertising, though maybe they can try to “guilt” people into going back to church by reminding them that missing mass is a sin.

My sincere concern is that the Catholic Church has been deluded into believing that advertising will fix the root cause of their attendance problems. How will advertising get people more interested in spiritual fulfillment rather than material happiness? How will advertising heal wounds caused by the priest-abuse scandal? How will advertising give people a clear vision of what should be most important in their lives (this sounds like a job for the pulpit, not the TV)?

***************************************

If advertising is not the fix, what is, and what is the root cause of the “lapsed followers?” I’ve watched some of the commercials, and they say nothing about what has contributed to runaway members. Based on what’s in the newspaper article, along with some of my own personal experiences, here are some guesses for why people leave the Catholic Church:

  • Lost trust: How can you trust a system that harbors abusive priests?
  • Lack of knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ: Knowledge of the truth will help grow a hunger for spiritual fulfillment, rather than material happiness.
  • Lack of knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ: With a true understanding of the magnitude of the love of Jesus Christ, comes a hunger and thirst for more. This is what brings people to church, and keeps them coming back.
  • Lack of knowledge of what truly should be the most important thing in our lives, which is: a one-on-one, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I wonder; does the Catholic Church promote such a relationship between each member and Jesus?

Maybe I’m simple-minded, but the solution seems straightforward to me: instead of investing in TV commercials, the Catholic Church needs to get back to it’s roots, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church seems like a branch that has broken off from the vine. As Jesus said,

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.” (John 15:4-5)

I’m hesitant to be harsh, but it seems to me that the Catholic Church has replaced the reality of Jesus Christ with traditions, man-made Catechisms, man-made rules, and man-made advertising. My recommendation would be to drop the TV commercials and preach the truth of the gospel.

Instead of advertising, the Catholic Church needs to introduce people to the Holy Spirit of God. Instead of relying on Madison Avenue to spread the word, how about relying on word of mouth, carried forward by the Holy Spirit himself? It was good enough for Jesus. Remember how 3000 people joined the fledgling church in a single day (Acts 2:41)? Such is the power of the Holy Spirit.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:23-24 NIV)

Evangelism via TV commercials, or as D.L. Moody once said, “There is no better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit.” I’ll put my faith in the Holy Spirit.

A final message for wounded Catholics:

Though I pray for the Catholic Church, my limited imagination is not able to truly believe that it can change. Yet I know that with God, all things are possible. Maybe one way for the church to change is for the people to change. Maybe if enough “wounded” Catholics follow their heart by leaving the Catholic Church and then finding true fulfillment and purpose in another church, maybe this will open the eyes of the Catholic Church. If you are a wounded Catholic, my prayer is for you. Please do not give up. My hope is for you, that you find another church that lives by the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the life-giving gospel; that you come to know Jesus and His Holy Spirit, and grow into an intimate relationship with them, so intimate that you are never apart. And that you come to feel more alive than ever before, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Leave a comment

Jesus Unchained

Picture yourself in a straitjacket. Your arms are wrapped around you and held firmly in place; you cannot move them at all. Yet, you still have a job to do. Let’s say your job includes working on a computer, or maybe you’re a checker in a grocery store. I guess you could use your nose to push the keys on the keyboard. You might be able to perform your duties, but it sure is going to be slow going, and frustrating. Oh how you look forward to the hour when the straitjacket will come off.

I was recently wondering, while Jesus walked the dusty roads of ancient Palestine, did He feel a similar frustration of limitation? Did He feel trapped in His human body? So many people needing His help, yet He could only reach out and touch one, or maybe a few at a time. He knew His capabilities, for he knew what it was like to not be bound by human constraints. Yet He could not utilize His full capabilities, as long as He remained fully human.

Of course, I have no idea how Jesus felt, but this image of feeling confined is intriguing. So many people calling out to Him, so many people in need of His love and forgiveness, yet His physical limitations shackling Him. Could this be why He looked forward to His death and resurrection, and resulting ability to send His Spirit among all people? The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ has no physical limitations. The Holy Spirit can reach out to all people, at all times.

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 26:7)

And in praying to His Father for all believers, Jesus said:

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)

“Jesus unchained;” also known as the Holy Spirit.


3 Comments

The fall of the Lutheran church

The Lutherans have joined the ranks of the Episcopals, by voting in favor of actively gay clergy. This news hit the media over the weekend, and there’s a good chance you’ve seen it by now. I offer no additions to the news, just some thoughts on the implications.

First of all, homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, the Lutheran church has given approval for openly active sinners to be clergy. If you would like to see the reasoning behind this statement, please check out the following post: “Episcopal church wants a divorce.”

I have friends who will reluctantly agree that homosexuality is a sin, but they are quick to point out that it is a minor sin, with no real victims. Yes, it’s easy to come to that conclusion, but how does God look at it? What is God’s perspective on different sins?

A friend of mine once gave me the following illustration: draw a straight line one mile long, adding hash marks every 10 feet. The beginning of the scale, at zero feet, represents absolute evil; the far end of the scale, at the mile marker, represents absolute good. God is standing at the mile marker – absolutely good.

Take a mass murderer and place him somewhere on the scale, say at about the 10 foot mark. He’s not absolutely evil, since he did something good at one point in his life. Next, have an adulterer take their place on the scale, maybe say at 50 feet. Now how about someone who is very arrogant, selfish and uncompassionate; put them at about 75 feet. And finally, have someone who is actively homosexual stand at about the 100 foot hash mark; they are not nearly as bad as the other sinners on this scale.

The relative location and spacing of these different sinners is not actually important. What is important is how they look from God’s perspective. As God looks back at these sinners, almost a mile away, can He really see much of a different in how far away they are from Him? Now the length of my scale is most likely way off. Instead of one mile distance, God’s goodness probably places Him over a hundred miles from us sinners. To Him, we are all at the same level.

This is what He meant when Jesus said; being angry with your brother is as subject to judgment as murder.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

And if that message is not clear enough, thinking of sinning is the same as the sin…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

From God’s perspective, all sinners are the same. Now do me a favor and visualize an actively arrogant and selfish Lutheran minister. Not very appealing, is he? You know where this is going… Now, visualize an openly active adulterer as a Lutheran minister. Some clergy have been kicked out of the church for less. Next, visualize the openly active mass murderer as a Lutheran minister. Time to run to another church. But finally, visualize the openly active gay person as a Lutheran minister. There is no difference. From God’s perspective, all sinners are the same.

What the Lutheran church has forgotten, and what the Episcopal church has forgotten, is that it’s God’s perspective that counts. But these churches have chosen to ignore God, in favor of the world.


Leave a comment

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.

*****************************************

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.

*****************************************

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.


Leave a comment

What is love?

When I was young, inexperienced and foolish, I had a very cloudy concept of what love was. In my search for the meaning of love, I didn’t realize I had to first experience it in order to understand it.

My concept of love gradually clarified and grew as I worked my way through a succession of girl friends, until I finally met the young woman who would become my wife. My feelings for her were like none I had ever experienced before. The emotions were intense. I was totally distracted from other things going on around me.

Love felt great. I became totally immersed in the emotions. I smiled almost all the time. Friends at work would tease me when they spotted me smiling while doing tiresome tasks. “He’s thinking about her again,” they would groan. But is this all that love is meant to be, some euphoric roller coaster ride? What is true love? What is the truth about love?

Now that I’m older and full of wisdom (that’s a joke – I’m still foolish), with help from God I believe I finally know the truth about love. I no longer look upon love as a goal, but rather as a journey. And I see two main stages of this journey.

The love of my youth was the first stage of the journey. As much as I am reluctant to admit it, the love of my youth was selfish love. Even the love for my wife was initially selfish love. Yes, I was very considerate and did any kind thing I could possibly think of. I so wanted to make her happy. But in digging down deep inside my self, I now realize that my foundational motivation was all about me. Making my wife happy makes me feel good. My love for her was actually rather self-centered.

Yet on the journey of love I believe it’s a very short step from this selfish stage, to the next; the self-less stage. True love, love as God would have it, is other-centered love. How might a relationship look with this kind of true love?

Image a relationship where the motivation behind each person’s actions has to do exclusively with the welfare of the other person. The husbands’ only focus is on the wellbeing of his wife. And her only purpose is looking after his wellbeing. In this way, they take care of each other’s needs. I don’t need to be concerned about my self; my wife is doing that for me. Can you imaging any better relationship? This kind of love feeds on itself, gradually and continually growing, for each person is constantly giving, rather than taking.

Paul saw this and defined it quite clearly in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

This is other-centered love. This is a love rooted in humility. This is true love.

Looking at the last line in the verse above, the divorce rate would have us believe that love indeed fails. Yes, selfish love fails. Why do people get divorced? Because, “my needs are no longer being met by my spouse,” as someone once told me. Selfish love breads divorce.

But true love, the love that is focused on the other, that love that gives rather than takes; this never fails. God’s love never fails.


3 Comments

Christianity has gone commercial

“Shrinking mainline Protestant denominations are turning to marketing to help stem decades of membership losses and stay afloat.” So begins an Associated Press article I recently read in my local newspaper. It seems churches, such as the United Methodist Church, believe large amounts of advertising dollars will help fill the pews again. The Methodists are spending $20 million on their ad campaign.

I can’t help but wonder, what would Jesus do if he were in charge of filling the pews? Would he throw money at the problem of dwindling attendance, or something else?

Jesus and his apostles were faced with a similar challenge around 2000 years ago; how to increase attendance. And yet in a single day, the church in Jerusalem added 3000 new members (Acts 2:41). Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean in a phenomenally rapid manner, and without the help of television, the internet, or pesky telemarketers. How did they do it? What was their “marketing” secret?

The answers to these questions illustrate the differences between them and today’s mainline churches. The first church leaders devoted themselves to the truth. They were passionate about spreading the truth of the gospel. Their message was not always popular, and many lost their lives because of it, but that didn’t stop them from sticking to the truth.

Today’s mainline churches take a different approach. Many of them preach whatever they think would be a popular message, the politically correct message, with little regard for the truth. They have lost touch with Jesus. That is why they continue to shrink; they are no longer attached to the true vine. When a branch is cut from the vine, it shrivels up and dies. That is what is happening to many mainline churches today, and no amount of advertising will help. What they need to do is become re-attached to Jesus.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

I dare say that the $20 million from the Methodist Church would be better spent feeding the poor, rather than feeding Madison Avenue ad agencies.


5 Comments

Do you remember Jesus?

Some churches celebrate communion, the Lord’s Supper, every Sunday. Yet, most churches I’m familiar with celebrate only once a month. Was this what Jesus had in mind? What is the truth of His intention for what we call the “Lord’s Supper?”

I was reading about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 this morning. There, and in the account of the supper in Luke, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In Paul’s account, Jesus says, “…do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

Jesus wants us to remember him. He wants us to remember his body that was broken on our behalf. He wants us to remember his blood that was spilled as a penalty for the sins we have committed. But does he want us to remember only once a month? And does he want us to remember only when we go to church? And does he want us to remember only with the help of a duly ordained minister?

I choose to believe something other than what is commonly practiced in modern Christian churches. I choose to believe that Jesus wants us to remember him at every meal. That first “Lord’s Supper” was Jesus’ way of establishing a memory trigger for us. Jesus knew we would need help remembering what he went through for us. For me anyway, it’s easy to remember to pray and ask for help. But I don’t often focus my thoughts on Jesus’ sacrifice, and in doing so, offer prayers of thanks along with my prayers for help.

From now on, I choose to treat every meal as a “Lord’s Supper.” I choose to respond to the trigger I believe Jesus intended, and remember what Jesus did for you and me, at every meal. For the more often I remember, the more I will be grateful. And the more I am grateful, the stronger will be my love for Jesus. And the stronger my love, the better servant will I become.

Please share your thoughts on the Lord’s Supper. Am I way off base here? I want to learn the truth. Thank you.


11 Comments

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.


13 Comments

Imagine a new kind of church

I have often wondered about what kind of church Jesus had in mind, when He first set things in motion. I try to imagine how the church would look like today, if Jesus had physically stayed around to direct the growth of His church. I find myself looking back to the earliest churches, described in Acts. The church that I imagine looks something like this:

Small groups of people meet in houses. There is no paid staff and there are no church building mortgages or other expenses. Yet there is an offering. The offering from each small house-church goes into some kind of central pool. Whenever an attendee of the church has a financial need, their needs are provided for out of the church pool. And likewise, non-financial needs are also meet by the church, primarily the small group which is really an extension of the family.

I also envision no formal membership process; if you attend even once, you are considered part of the family. When the “house churches” meet, their purpose might simply be to worship God, study His word, and learn about and pray for the needs of each other. This would leave no room for “traditions” (I have a strong aversion to traditions, which tend to get in the way of having a true relationship with Jesus).

Imagine a church whose only purpose is to worship God and help each other. Imagine the magnetic power of a church that is publicly known for lovingly taking care of the needs of those who come to it, looking for help. All “members” of the church are cared for by the church. No condemnation, no guilt, just love. And the “church” would no longer be thought of as a gothic-looking building somewhere, but as a family of loving people. Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by our love for each other, not by the opulence of the building we meet in.

It seems to me that a model like that would work. Sure there are all kinds of opportunities for unscrupulous people to take advantage of such a model. But that’s where faith comes in; with the faith that Jesus would honor and care for such a church.

In this time of economic turmoil when such a loving, self-supporting church is truly needed; I still imagine, and hope.


84 Comments

Weird Catholic Rules

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]


 

A few years ago my father, who was never really a church-goer, decided to join the Catholic Church, the church of my step-mother. I was pleased my dad was showing signs of faith, but my pleasure turned to dismay after I got the call from my mom. As part of my fathers’ application process, or whatever you go through to join the Catholic Church, the church mailed a stack of forms to my mother for her to fill out and sign. What the forms boiled down to was the annulment of the marriage of my parents. Since this would have resulted in my sisters and me being effectively declared illegitimate, my mom respectfully declined and tossed the forms in the trash.

Fortunately for my dad (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the Catholic Church still allowed him to join, even without my moms signature – I guess my dads signature was enough to wipe from the record his divorce from my mom.

You see, that’s what the process was all about… the church had to first cleanse my father of his divorce record, before they would allow him to join. But the message goes beyond just divorce. The implication is that you cannot join the Catholic Church unless you have no visible sins attached to you. Since divorce is a sin, you have to void the divorce by voiding the marriage. I’m sure I’m over-generalizing, but you get my point.

***************************

I have several concerns about this whole episode. First of all, maybe my parents’ marriage didn’t happen in the eyes of the Catholic Church (after all the forms were filled out), but God witnessed that first marriage; a marriage that began with oaths to Him, and produced three children. The Catholic Church may choose to ignore the truth, but God certainly will not. My real concern is this: does the Catholic Church believe that God will close His eyes, just because they choose to?

Second, divorce is clearly a sin – Jesus said so. We all sin – Jesus said so. But the story of our sins is not twisted in a way that makes it look like there was no sin (as the Catholic Church has twisted the story of my parents’ marriage). With Jesus, acceptance is far simpler than that. With Jesus we are accepted into His church not because of some manipulated image of sinlessness, but because of our faith – Jesus said so.

Third, so we are accepted into Jesus’ church not by being sinless, but by having faith and being repentant of the sins we do have. Yet the Catholic Church appears to have a higher standard.

The fourth thing that bothers me is this concept of the Catholic Church cleansing my father of past sins. There is no action by man that can clean someone of their sins, or hide their sins, or pretend their sins never happened. Jesus is the only one who can do this, and he’s already done it, by dying for our sins on the cross. Yet the Catholic Church appears to believe that they are the ones who must clean us of our sins before we can be presented to Jesus.

And finally, all of my concerns boil down to this: the Catholic Church appears not to believe in the grace of God. They appear not to believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. They appear not to believe that we are forgiven because of our faith, not by anything we may do.


6 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

The “ME” Generation Gone Wild

“City council drops moment of silence” – so stated the headline of the lead article in today’s local newspaper. The article went on to say, “The City Council has dropped its ritual moment of silence at the start of meetings, and some members questioned whether the Pledge of Allegiance should go next.”

As I read on, I wanted to know why. Why get rid of the moment of silence? The answer came two paragraphs later…

“The change came at the request of one of the council’s newest members, who said the practice could be seen as a form of prayer and might offend those who don’t want to participate.”

It didn’t really answer my question, yet there were clues. But it got me thinking about a more general issue which goes far beyond whether or not to observe moments of silence in small-town council meetings. There is a movement underway endeavoring to wipe out anything religious. Our country which was founded because people were looking for freedom of religion, is now a country where there is a strong push for freedom from religion.

Again I ask why, yet regrettably I think I already know the answer, and the answer actually goes far beyond the anti-religious movement. Why are people anti-moments-of-silence? Why are some anti-anything-religious? Why are others anti-(name any group of people, political party, belief, etc.)?

It’s all about selfishness and arrogance.

The new city council member either wants to exert new-found power because of his arrogance, or he just cannot stand the idea of other people believing differently than he does; again, because of his arrogance.

Arrogance is why the minority side of any issue thinks they should have it their way. People in our society are just unwilling to loose. They are unwilling to accept something they don’t happen to personally support. It’s the “me generation” gone wild. There is an epidemic of arrogance, selfishness and even bigotry, on the rise in our generation.

The anti-religion movement is rooted in selfishness as well. An atheist wants to make a name for himself, and becomes intoxicated on the power of his influence. Or maybe because of their bigotry (which is another form of self-centeredness and arrogance), they despise those who are different from themselves. Had you ever considered attacks on religion by atheists as an act of bigotry? Think about it.

And the “religious” are not immune. No one is immune from the diseases of the ego. All of the world’s conflicts, whether among nations or married couples or just two co-workers, are rooted in self-centeredness and arrogance. Get over it people!

We need to all grow up and stop acting like spoiled brats. We cannot always get our way, and we just need to accept that. And we need to start thinking more about others, and less about our selves.

What our society needs more than anything is a good old-fashioned dose of humility. And this actually gets me back to the bible, where humility is held in high esteem. For as Jesus said,

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)