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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Susan Boyles – a hero just when we need one

Have you seen the video on YouTube? If you haven’t seen Susan Boyles bring shock and awe to the judges and audience of the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent”, then follow this link and I hope you find joy in it… (YouTube video).

I watched for the first time last night, and tears came to my eyes. Not rolling tears, but the kind you can just feel welling up and making your nose sniffle. Then this morning, as I read the article in the newspaper with a bit more information about Susan Boyles the person – the tears flowed this morning. For me, Susan Boyles is a true hero, or rather heroin, just when I need one.

This is not the kind of thing I normally write about, but I am so move by Susan and her story, that I just had to express some of my feelings. The world is a mess, and lately it just seems to be getting messier. Military conflicts, pirates, lost jobs, the grim economy and vaporized savings; it all takes its toll. But then comes someone like Susan Boyles, who for me is a bright ray of sunshine. I think we all need heroes. Thank you Susan for just being you – the best kind of hero there is.

I think that concept of simple heroism kind of caught the judges and audience off guard. We are so used to our hero’s being glamorous, but then someone like Susan Boyles reminds us that it’s the unpretentious hero’s who are the most endearing and captivating.


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Out of work and in despair? – a follow-up

Do you believe you aren’t good enough for God to care? Well, God does care, just like a loving parent. But like a parent, God knows when to hold back and not interfere in your life.

A wise parent, when observing their adult child struggling with a problem, may themselves struggle with the desire to jump in and help find a solution. But the wise parent will hold back and wait. They wait for their child to either find their own solution, or admit they cannot, and finally ask for help.

God is the wisest of parents. He will not interfere; He will not help you until and unless you ask. The real power behind asking is this: in asking you exhibit a humility that admits you cannot do it alone, and you exhibit a faith in God that shows you believe in Him. Of course, asking is power-less unless you ask with humility and faith. I once wrote a post on asking God for help. I really hope you check it out (see it here).

And no matter what you may have done in the past, no matter how “good” or “bad” you think you may be, God loves you and He wants to help you. Yet it’s critical that you realize what’s important is faith, not how good or bad you are.

“A person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

Help from God does not come from obedience to His laws, but rather by faith in His son. We do not become “right” by doing right; this is because none can do right always, there are none without sin. Therefore, our only hope is faith.

Being right in God’s eyes; being “good” in God’s eyes comes from faith in Jesus Christ, not obedience. Do you feel you are not good enough? Do you feel you are not worthy of God’s love? Being “good” and being “worthy” are not what’s required. The only thing that counts is faith.

During this holiday season, if you are down and in despair, please look to God and put your trust and faith in Him. And with humility and faith, ask Him to help you out of your despair.

I wish you a truly Merry Christmas.


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Out of work and in despair?

Do you find yourself out of work this holiday season? Are you in despair and feeling like you don’t know where to turn for help? Maybe the idea of seeking help from God has crossed your mind, but you’ve ruled it out for some reason. Maybe you feel like your past is too dark for God to be willing to help you. Maybe you feel like you’re just not good enough. Or maybe you feel like you just don’t know God well enough for Him to be willing to help you. Do you feel like you need to be “special” before God will answer your prayers?

I may have news for you: God is more gracious and loving than that. Today I wish to give you a Christmas card of sorts. Today I give you God’s words, dedicated to you.

Please read these words as your prayer to God…

“Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:7)

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.” (Psalm 25:16-18)

“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)

“Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,” (Psalm 25:2-3)

And please read these words as Jesus Christ responding directly to you…

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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

“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)

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)

“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)

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

“Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

My Christmas wish for everyone who reads this post is this: may you feel God’s presence and feel His love, more than ever before. And may you feel freedom from the things that cause you to worry; may you feel the un-wavering peace that can only come from Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


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Money – Can you always rely on it?

Over coffee this morning, a friend told me about the layoffs that had just taken place at his job. He asked for prayers for several friends who were now out of work – more victims of the crumbling economy. We talked about the condition of the newly-unemployed, and reflected on how much we all tend to rely on money. And that’s what I want to talk about today…

What does money do for you? Off the top of my head, this is what money gives to me:

  • House, plenty of food, health care, toys, stuff
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • If used in the right way, it can help find happiness and joy
  • Sense of security, freedom from worry (about financial things anyway)

What’s it boil down to? What are the key, foundational benefits of money and material wealth? Well, I don’t think it’s the material things that money can buy – those are just intermediate benefits. Those material things contribute to the foundational things, which are all emotional, rather than material, such as:

  • Sense of security
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Freedom from worry
  • Peace

But as we are seeing in today’s economic mess (and some of us in a very personal way), money is not a very reliable thing to rely on. Here yesterday, and gone today. Upside down mortgages (where you owe more on your house than it is currently worth), vaporized investments, lost jobs – these are the realities of today. And no one is immune, no matter where they are on the corporate or social ladder. Just look at any days newspaper headlines.

Jesus Christ told a parable that I believe can relate to our tendency to rely on money and material wealth for our safety and security.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

To really hear what Jesus teaches us, to have faith in Him, to love Him and put our hope in Him; to put our reliance in Jesus is like building our house on a firm foundation. But to rely on things other than Jesus, like money, is like building our house on sand.

My message for today is this: if you find yourself a victim of these hard economic times, where the ground seems to be falling out from under you, where your financial foundation is eroding away, please try to let go of your dependence on money; that will only lead to despair. Instead, put your reliance on something that will never change, will never go away, and will never diminish. Put your dependence on God.

Just look at the things money can buy, that I previously mentioned: Peace, sense of security, sense of accomplishment, freedom from worry. This is what God brings us as well. As Jesus said…

“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)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

As the apostle Paul once said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

Money may be able to buy you a temporary peace, a peace that can be demolished by external events beyond your control. But as Paul states, the peace that comes from God is something beyond our understanding. The peace of God is not of our world. As Jesus stated in the first verse above, He doesn’t give us a worldly peace. He gives us a peace that cannot be affected by worldly events. He gives us a peace that can stand firm in the midst of economic calamity.

I know; we just can’t understand such a peace. How can we possibly imagine something that we may have never experienced? My advice to you is this: listen to what Jesus and Paul have said. Just accept that this peace which is beyond our understanding is available to you. Just believe.

So during this time of economic upheaval, like nothing most of us have ever experienced before, you have a choice: continue to rely on money for your well-being, as unreliable as money has proven to be. Or shift your reliance to God. Yes, it takes faith, and that may be the difficult part for you. But don’t you think it’s at least worth a bit of your time and consideration?

And for those of you who already regard yourself as Christian, if this economy has you down as well, please take that as a sign that maybe your reliance is more on money than God. You too have a choice.


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Prosperity Gospel – getting rich through Jesus

Have you heard? Jesus wants you to be rich. Or so it seems, according to the promoters of a different kind of “Christian” message, that critics call the “prosperity gospel.” If you have not heard of the prosperity gospel, perhaps I can enlighten you with some selected quotes from a recent newspaper article I read.

“The idea that God rewards moral people with financial prosperity – dubbed the ‘prosperity gospel’ by critics – has increasingly drawn large crowds to churches across the United States.”

“I don’t talk about money,” Joel Osteen (a “prosperity gospel” pastor who was interviewed) explained. “God wants you to be blessed. And being blessed means having good relationships, having money to be able to send your kids to college, being healthy in your body. That’s what we talk about. I believe God wants you to live a blessed life… I don’t go around talking about God will make you rich.”

“The prosperity gospel, Butler (another pastor) said, means that “God rewards right behavior not just in heaven, but on Earth.” True enough, but don’t count on God rewarding you with money. After all, money is one of the least effective tools for advancing the true gospel.

Yet Jesus didn’t promise us health, money for the college fund, or even good relationships. But before I talk about what Jesus has promised us, let’s look at what He has to say about money…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19) Seems clear: do not pursue treasure.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Think about it. Does Jesus want our heart to be focused on Him, or on our bank account?

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24) I think these prosperity gospel pastors are fooling themselves. They apparently think they can serve both God and money.

What else might Jesus have to say to these prosperity pastors?

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

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23-24)

Why did Jesus tell his disciples such a thing? Perhaps because He knows that those with wealth tend to rely on their money to help them through life’s problems, more than they rely on God. After all, why depend on God when I can buy my way out of my troubles. Have you ever witnessed the faith of someone who has nothing, and compared it with that of someone who has plenty? The faith of the poor, who have no one to rely on but God, is filled with the power of God; it’s downright inspirational.

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What kind of people are the “prosperity gospel” pastors? What motivates them to preach this different kind of gospel?

“Gilbert (another pastor who was interviewed)… said that people who live morally deserve to be compensated for it.” I’ve never seen that in the bible.

“You know why I live in a $6 million house?” Gilbert said during a recent sermon. “Because I’m concerned about what other folk live in.” (I’m still struggling to understand that quote)

Another pastor lives in a mansion in Michigan and flies around in a jet, speaking at churches across the US. And pastor Osteen spent $80 million building a sanctuary.

It almost sounds to me like these guys have come up with a new form of gospel in order to justify their own personal greed. And it pays. It’s naturally so popular that it brings in plenty of money to satisfy their material desires. But is that money going to the right place? Does Jesus want churches to spend the collection basket on $6 million houses or $80 million sanctuaries?

Osteen’s church could have fed a lot of poor people with that $80 million. They could have helped a lot of widows and orphans. I wonder what Jesus thinks about Osteen’s $80 million sanctuary. Does Jesus feel more honored by being worshipped in such a grand place? All Jesus needed was a hillside; not some $80 million mega-temple.

And check the hypocrisy in this statement:

“There is just a lot of idol worship in the United States.” Gilbert said.

It sounds like he’s the idol worshipper, putting too much faith in money. Would he still be so upbeat if his $6 million house went into foreclosure and he was kicked out by the bank?

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The current economic crisis must be amplifying the attractiveness of this new gospel. It’s an age-old evangelism technique; give the people what they want, tell them what they want to hear (with little regard for the truth), make them feel good in the midst of their daily lives. But will it last? What if going to a prosperity gospel church doesn’t pay out? What if my income doesn’t increase? “Well forget this Christianity crap. It just doesn’t pay like those preachers say it will. I’m outta here.” And there goes another lost soul.

The success of the prosperity gospel depends on man-made things. It depends on the economy, money, income, and greed. After all, it’s basic greed that draws many people to the prosperity gospel. So let me ask you this; does it sound like this prosperity gospel has the power to change people’s lives, to set them on a path that leads to holiness, to take them all the way to heaven?

There is only one gospel that can take people all the way to heaven. It’s a long journey and there’s only one guide who can take you the entire distance. Money doesn’t have the legs to make the trip. Only Jesus does. Only the Holy Spirit can take you all the way from the pit of sin, where our journey always begins, to the eternal home He has built for us.

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Yes, Jesus said we would be blessed, but perhaps His blessings go far beyond the material or physical kind. In this way, I think these prosperity gospel folks are selling God short. He promises blessings that are far more valuable than health, money and friends. Though Jesus didn’t promise an easy or bountiful life, He promises so much more. Here is what He promises to you:

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

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

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)

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The only true gospel of Jesus Christ will provide you with a peace that cannot be attained by anything material, a peace that money cannot buy.

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Finally, to all who believe in this “prosperity gospel” I say, as Paul said to the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-10)