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)


3 Comments

To Church, or Not to Church, That is the Question

“So, where do you go to church?” I use to hate that question. It’s been ten years since I attended the Presbyterian Church in town, and still, I run across people I sat next to in those pews, but haven’t seen since then. We bump into each other in the grocery store or coffee shop, and they always ask, “So CJ, where do you go to church now?”

I always felt awkward replying to the question, for I haven’t attended a regular church since leaving Presby. Oh, in my early days as a de-churched orphan, I test-drove other churches in town, but for reasons I don’t totally understand, I never felt like going back.

So my answer to the question usually starts with, “Well, um, you see. I don’t go to church. Haven’t since leaving Presby.”

My inquisitor usually gets that look, maybe you’ve seen it. Their face fills with concern and fear for my soul. They immediately believe I’ve left Christianity and jumped into the black pit of heathendom.

“However,” I truthfully add, “I feel closer to Jesus and God now than I ever have before.”

The look changes from concern and fear to confusion. How could that be, how could someone find closeness to God and Jesus without attending church? My fellow pew-sitter from the past and I usually part ways, with them still wondering about my soul (I suspect), and me felling I didn’t get my message across.

But now I have a better answer to the question.

Where do I go to church? Well, my Church doesn’t have a name, and there is no building. For me, Church is not a place—it’s a belief. When do I go to church? Whenever I want, and it’s not just Sunday. I go to church every day, any time of the day, whenever I can wrestle my thoughts away from the outside world and look inside, to Jesus within me.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that Church, the one true Church, is wherever His Spirit lives. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit of God resided in the Temple, in the back room called the Holy of Holies. But Jesus changed all that.

As He said, His Spirit now lives within all who believe in Him and believe what He promised. He promised that His Spirit would be IN us, and we IN Him. You’ve heard the phrase, you body is a Temple. So true, if you believe.

Look inside, to the Spirit of Jesus within you, and you will find the one true Church.

 

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses on the subject:

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

He also said, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)

As Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)


Leave a comment

Independence Day – Are We All Celebrating the Same Thing?

As I begin to celebrate the independence of the United States of American, I wonder… how many of us really know what we’re celebrating? What does this day mean to the different people I see in the store or on the street? For some of us who enjoy the rights and privileges of being US citizens, has this day morphed into just another excuse for a party?

Also, as a nation, how does our condition today compare with what was envisioned 241 years ago, and then codified in our Constitution several years later? What has sociatial evolution, along with the strife that currently chokes many aspects of our lives, done to our countries original values? How far have we drifted from some of the things we should probably be celebrating?

Here are a two things that are different today from what the founders fought for, and died for:

  • Free speech is under attack. 241 years ago, we fought for free speech, not against it.
  • The United States is far from being united—with division, conflicts, and even hate being the norm. Well, there was indeed division 241 years ago, but there were also common goals and ideals that helped keep us together. Maybe we’ve lost that common vision of “United States.”

The shackles on speech, along with our fractured unity has fed the plague of dysfunctional government, fear, mistrust, and more hate. And this all continues feeding upon itself.

So, what’s behind all this? Well, I’ll tell you my opinion. And if you disagree, please, please, please… speak out. Express your opinion, allow my opinion, and in that small way, allow free speech to have a small victory.

Anyway, here it is: at the heart of these problems is arrogance and selfishness. Arrogance is not willing to listen to an opinion different from its own. Arrogance demands that everyone agrees with it, and if you don’t agree, then arrogance will declare you a bigoted idiot. And such idiots should not be allowed to speak—so demands arrogance.

Selfishness is all about self (duh), at the expense of others. This is at the core of the division within the United States. Selfishness, being a sibling of arrogance, abhors the same things that arrogance does, but selfishness suffers in a different way. Selfishness is very weak and fragile. Selfishness cannot listen to opinions other than its own because selfishness is easily offended. Selfishness is the little toddler who has a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Selfishness demands safe zones on college campuses so it has a place to be insulated from different ideas that it does not want to hear.

To give strength to those who suffer from selfishness, soothe the angst of those who are arrogant, and re-unite our country, we need humility. Humility will heal the wounds, ease our fears, nourish trust, and give us the courage to let go of “me” and wrap our arms around “us”. And we will again be united.

Humility accepts the rights and opinions of others, whether it agrees with them or not. Humility is willing to listen to other opinions, without getting offended and throwing a tantrum.

Humility does not always require its way. Humility is willing to compromise. In fact, true humility desires compromise. For humility sees that with compromise, all sides win something—there are no losers with compromise, there are no losers with humility. Humility is kind and compassionate and desires that others do not feel the pain of losing. In this way, the only path to civility is walked in the shoes of humility.

Again, please, what do you think? Speech is free… use it. Let us at least be united in this—to willingly allow each other to express our opinions.

On this 241st anniversary of what may be the most amazing event in democratic history, I will humbly pray for humility.

 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire (or maybe his biographer)


Leave a comment

Cooking With God

God is like the dad about to fix dinner. If he does it by himself, it will turn out perfect. But God takes the harder route, by asking for help from his children. The kitchen will get real messy, and the food will be somewhere between barely edible and mediocre. Yet the child will not only learn how to cook, but be excited to help dad in the kitchen.

God could achieve His mission without our help. Yet He seeks our help not for him, but for us. It’s all for us.

 


1 Comment

Opening Our Eyes for Easter

He was accused a sinner, then judged guilty of sin, and not just any sin… ALL sin. He was then sentenced to death—the ultimate penalty for all the crimes of humanity. Then, He was executed.

But who accused, and judged, and sentenced, and executed? It was humanity who executed the Son of God for the crimes of all humanity. Some of those who committed the crimes were the ones who did the accusing, judging, sentencing, and executing.

And Jesus humbly took the place of those who carried out His punishment. He took our place too.

Oh I know it was His fate. I know the justice of God had to be carried out somehow. And I understand why the penalty had to be laid on Jesus. But in thinking of the irony that Jesus suffered at the hands of people He was sacrificing Himself to save—well, it magnifies my gratitude.

Easter approaches, and maybe that’s why my mind is questioning the circumstances of Jesus’ death. I think my prayer for this Easter is that God opens our hearts and minds a little more to see how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Jesus. I hope you have an eye-opening Easter.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)


2 Comments

The Christmas That Lingers

The house is brightly decorated: nutcrackers, wreaths, red ribbons, mistletoe, a goofy looking reindeer made from a sock, memories brought back to life by tree ornaments once made by child hands, and the glistening lights with the colorful ornaments bringing life to the tree. The gifts encircle it all. Cheery wrapping paper and gift bags brighten the floor around the Christmas tree.

And then, all that colorful wrapping ends up in the trash. And the decorations are all packed away, forgotten until next year. The gifts are soon absorbed into our everyday life and just become another possession. Or they are totally forgotten in the back of a drawer, or the top of a dusty shelf.

But there’s one piece of Christmas that lingers. There’s one bright and lively Christmas gift that remains, and is not forgotten.

When all else is packed away or is put on the curb in the trash can, the Spirit of Jesus can still fill the house, and your heart, with His life and love and joy.

Happy Christmas to you – all year long.


2 Comments

A Love in His Image

Painfully obvious fact: being a parent isn’t always easy. A parent’s love for their children can be so huge, it almost hurts. And as I think about it, this parent-child relationship is really unique.

Yesterday was my younger son’s 26th birthday, and I thought about our relationship a lot during the day. I thought about the bond we have. I believe this bond is partly rooted in the mundane fact that he is biologically made up of parts of his mom and me – his DNA comes from us. I think it’s that biological bond that feeds my emotional bond… somehow.

Whether it’s the DNA thing or something else that creates this bond, the feeling is real and often intense. I sometimes don’t know how to express the love I feel for my sons, a love that I think gets a lot of its strength from this bond we have.

But why does this kind of love sometimes hurt – where’s the pain come from? Well, for me the pain comes from this bond that craves closeness. And as my sons have grown into men and launched off into lives out on their own, we’re never close enough. My love wants my little boy back, where I can cradle him in my arms, toss him in the air, and delight in his infectious giggle.

Being a parent can be difficult and painful and weird… and absolutely fantastic!

Okay, now what about God… our spiritual Parent? Since we were made in His image, our love is an image of His love – a blurry and weak reflection of God’s true love. Imagine the strength of the bond He feels with us. Imagine the love He feels for His children, and the pain of that love. Imagine the magnitude of His craving for closeness.

How does that make you feel?


4 Comments

Thinking God into Existence?

I think I had fallen into another trap; a trap baited by my own natural pride.

I’ve been feeling and believing that I need to be thinking of Jesus and consciously aware of His presence in order for Him to influence my actions and the words that come out of my mouth. And to a lesser degree, I’ve been feeling that Jesus’ Spirit is within me only when I’m thinking of Him.

On the surface, this may seem fine and make some sense. But while driving home from work the other day, it hit me – the truth of what I believed punched me in my shoulder, like a tough-loving friend. And I woke up to the truth of what I was doing.

The truth is, Jesus is within me whether I consciously think of Him or not (same goes for you). This is more than a belief or a hope. How could I possibly control the presence of God by my own thought? How could I possibly dictate when God will act or speak through me, just by thinking of Him?

My pride was trying to take control again, thinking It could control God.

But my hearts desire is to absolutely surrender to the Spirit of Jesus within me. And I now realize my pride was getting in the way. And my prideful self is clever, seeking all kinds of ways to gain a sense of control. Yet as Paul said, “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

Surrender; leaving control of my mind and self to Jesus’ Spirit within me. I choose to give control to Jesus, rather than my prideful self. Oh, my pride will fight back – I don’t think it will ever give up. After all, I’m just a normal human. But I believe Jesus is stronger than my pride. Wow… that’s for sure. And I’m so grateful.