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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Buffet for my Ego

buffet

Life is a smorgasbord for my ever-ravenous ego.

So many choices, all feeding my ego’s need for attention.

At work, the buffet sometimes overflows.

At home, there are snacks on every table.

Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, my ego finds something to devour.

Yet my ego is not my friend.

It resists my desire to wrest my eyes from the buffet,

and look more to the Holy Spirit of Jesus within me.

My hearts desire is that Jesus become greater within me,

and my ego becomes less.

It feels like the never-ending on-again, off-again diet.

Yet my diet coach is the very Son of God.

My ego against Jesus – guess who’s winning.

My ego keeps fighting for attention,

but Jesus in my heart is stronger.

And I’m so grateful.

For life is limitless without my ego holding me prisoner.


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My Prison of Pride

prisoner of fallacy

Pride is my self-imposed prison. Pride ties me up with strict rules and expectations. Pride wraps me in a straightjacket of stress when things don’t go MY way. Pride pushes my heart, soul, and mind to me, rather than God.

Pride is misery.

Yet Jesus has set me free from my prison. He has opened the door and shown me the path to humility… and love… and others… and our Father. There are still traces of pride clinging to me, but it’s not the prison it once was.

And the Holy Spirit within holds onto me, stopping me from returning to my familiar prison cell. And I’m so grateful.


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The Shark within Me

shark

Ever circling. Lidless eyes, ever searching. Jagged teeth, ever ready to devour innocence. Ever within me, part of me, torturing me. Ever my ego, my pride, my self, my shark.

My ego is the shark within me, always searching for something to capture and make its own. For example, since I started posting again on this blog after taking a long break, my ego has become intoxicated over things like number of page views and number of followers. I keep telling my “self” that none of that matters, but I often lose the argument.

Whenever I win the argument, it’s because I walk away from the argument. I win when I ignore my yammering ego and instead focus on the Holy Spirit within me. The shark has no chance against the Spirit. Dear Jesus, thank you.


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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.


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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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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)


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Misrepresenting Jesus

The outcome of the vote on California Proposition 8 will determine if same-sex marriages will still be considered legal. Today’s newspaper contained a brief article which concluded with the following quote:

“Everybody understands that Jesus, in his own culture, was notorious and persecuted for consorting with outcasts,” said the Rev. Peter Laarman, a United Church of Christ minister who opposes the gay marriage ban. “When Jesus said all are welcome at the table, I think he really meant all.”

First of all, I’m not totally sure which part of scripture Mr. Laarman is referring to. My guess is that he may have been alluding to communion, or maybe it was the following: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

I do agree with the statement, “When Jesus said all are welcome at the table, I think he really meant all.” What I disagree with is the implied meaning. Mr. Laarman is apparently implying that Jesus meant that same-sex couples are invited to get married. I really don’t know how he could connect the two. There is no evidence of this anywhere in the bible.

The truth in what Jesus said is this: All are welcome to the salvation He has offered us. None are excluded. The only requirement is that we have faith in God and what He has told us, and that we repent of our sins. Therefore, all sinners are welcome. That means I’m welcome, and it means homosexuals are welcome. We just need to believe and have the desire to change our sinful ways.

And this brings me to my second concern for the day: this tendency of so many “Christians” to reshape the meaning of what is recorded in the bible to support their own personal agenda. In effect, they are putting their own words in Gods mouth, or twisting what God has said and changing the true meaning! Think about that for a moment. It’s called spin. Do we really want to play that game with God?

What motivates people to substitute their “truth” for God’s truth? I believe the answer is ego. Pride gives people the audacity to think that they know better than God. After all, isn’t that what’s going on when someone changes the meaning of God’s truth? We all need the humility to accept God’s word as it stands, without any modifications. And it takes humility, especially when our personal feelings are in conflict with what God has stated. Instead of fighting the conflict and trying to eliminate it by changing God’s truth, we just need to humbly accept the conflict, and pray for help in dealing with it.

I fear for Mr. Laarman. He may find himself in front of Jesus some day, with Jesus saying, “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoer.” (Matthew 7:23)


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More Lessons About Ego

Jesus Christ sure understood the human condition. He knows us for what we really are; all the warts and blemishes have not gone unnoticed. Just read what He taught and you will see this for yourself. He seemed to focus His teaching on those areas we humans have the most trouble with. The more we struggle with it, the more Jesus taught about it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote yesterday (see it here). I remembered a couple of Jesus’ lessons that seem to apply to yesterday’s topic; our frequent inability to read the Bible objectively, because our pride and ego get in the way. Jesus talked a lot about this, but not always in these terms. Yet His lessons often boiled down to the problem of our ego; the problem of our “self” getting in the way. Please bear with me as I ramble on…

Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Deny your “self”; that’s one of Jesus’ lessons for us. It’s not an easy thing to do, to be sure. And I don’t believe we are expected to do this on our own (I know I can’t) – I believe God will do the hard work, if we only have the desire to deny ourselves. But what does it mean to deny your “self” if not to let go of your ego, let go of your “self” centeredness, and grab hold of humility.

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

And another thought: we are shaped by our upbringing and life experiences. Likewise, our worldview, how we look at the things that go on around us, is equally shaped by our past. Yet this past is often filled with ego-centered events; be it either our ego or the ego’s of those around us. Just look at the baby-boomer generation, of which I belong: we have been called the “me generation”. Is that an image of self-centeredness or what? The society in which we live helps mold us into the selfish individuals we have become. If you can look at yourself objectively (not easy for some of us self-centered people, of which I am definitely one), you will see that this is true.

So maybe as much by genetics as by our life experiences, we have been born into a self-centered life. Could this be why Jesus calls us to be reborn (lesson #2 for today)? “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)

For me, to be born again is to deny my “self”, in effect putting my “self” to death; and then becoming a new person – a humble, other-centered person.

Referring back to yesterday’s topic: next time you read the Bible, if you have not done this before, try to consciously put your “self” in the background, and read with a humble, open heart. You just might see things that you’ve never seen before.


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Ego – The Nasty Equalizer

Ego lowers people to the same level. Strange premise, you say? Please bear with me on this one.

What does a sizeable ego do to people? Well for one thing, it makes them think they are right and the other person is wrong, always. But mainly ego makes people blind to both sides of any issue. With ego, all a person can see is their side. Let me give a fictional example of what results from this…

Fred is a Christian who frequently demeans homosexuals. He believes all homosexuals will go to hell, and he doesn’t hesitate to express this opinion. Gail reads Fred’s blog and leaves a comment stating that all Christians are homophobic, insensitive, narrow-minded bigots.

Ironically, Gail has lowered herself to Fred’s level, by making her own narrow-minded, bigoted remark. Now I realize my example is not perfect, since Gail was provoked. But I hope you get my point, which is: Ego causes us to loose perspective and enter any situation seeing only part of the issue. And that gives those with bigger egos a huge disadvantage in that they are missing so much of the truth that resides in any issue. And I believe that without truth, there will be failure.

What does Jesus have to say about egos?

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

Humility is incredibly underrated in our society. And most, if not all, of the worlds problems are because of egos. Do you want to help solve social problems? Then look for the ego in the problem, and humbly keep your ego out of it.


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Expecting God to Change

God does not change, His laws do not change, and nothing He has taught us through His Son will ever change. If change is to happen, it must be within us. Jesus calls us to be reborn; to let go of our old self-driven life, and take on a new life driven solely by love for God. But our “self”, our ego is a stubborn beast and does not want to change. Many of us actually expect God to change instead.

Take Pastor Jane Spahr, for example. In her effort to promote same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church, she not only invites the church to change and support her opinions, but she seems to believe God has already done so: “I invite the church to understand and expand its view of marriage to incorporate all. I believe that God has said yes and the church has said no in its judicial court.” (April 30th issue of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

In the April 26th issue of the same newspaper, a supporter of Spahr’s position, in referring to the Presbyterian commissioners, is quoted as saying, “I hope, pray and believe that the spirit will move their hearts, and they will realize that now is the time for change.” Many of us advocate change, as long as the change goes our way; as long as others change to match our opinions and values.

Should God change His opinions to match ours? Should God proclaim our personal values higher than His own? To place our values above God’s, to place our opinions above God’s, to place our beliefs and views above God’s, is to exalt ourselves above God. What do you think Jesus would say to people like Jane Spahr, who apparently claim God has changed his views to match hers?

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind.” (Psalm 110:4)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Yet how about the claim that God has said “yes” to same-sex marriage? Does the Bible say this is true? Does Jesus say this is true? “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

It sounds like Paul might have been referring to people of similar views as Pastor Spahr, when he said, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:25-27)

Why do we not only expect other’s to change to match our opinions and beliefs, but we also expect God to change? Such is the power of the human ego. Pride and selfishness plague us at every turn.

Yet we all have a choice; to form our own opinions or confirm to others, or to agree with God. I choose God. Does that make me close-minded? Well, Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted on account of Him – bring it on.