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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The Power of Jesus’ Forgiveness

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you will see a brief glimpse of the power of Jesus’ forgiveness, from the perspective of a woman who, after years of judgment and scorn, needed forgiveness more than she could have imagined. We call him Jesus; they called him Yeshua.

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– Lydia –

When we reached the square, vomit tried to push its way up my throat. I nearly collapsed as the men flung me against the mud-brick wall next to the synagogue. I hit hard and tried to stifle a yelp of pain. The mob spread out in front of me, some bouncing stones in their hands. They were waiting for something. Who would be the first to throw? How much would it hurt? How would it feel to die? How much longer did I have to live?

A ray of sunlight shot out through a gap in the clouds as a man strolled casually across the square. At first, I thought he was going to join the stone-throwers. But he walked past, never giving them notice, and stood against the synagogue wall next to me. Then I realized—it was the prophet who had brought Zach to life.

“Teacher,” the lead Pharisee said in obvious mock respect, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery.” Right, but that was two years ago. “The law commands us to stone such women. What do you say?”

So, this was what the mob had been waiting for. They weren’t out to punish me. But the prophet just stood there, looking at the mob, his gaze roving from one to the next. Each man shuffled his feet and looked away whenever the prophets’ eyes landed on him. The prophet then knelt down and began writing something in the dirt with his finger. The sun burst out full from behind the clouds.

“The law commands us to stone this woman!” the Pharisee shouted. “Now what do you say!?”

Still, the man didn’t respond. Didn’t even seem interested.

As I stared at his finger tracing in the dust, sweat dripped down my forehead and into my eyes. I whispered, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I really didn’t think God was listening, but … I was desperate.

Then, the prophet rose to his feet, again glanced from man to man, and declared, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bent back down to the ground and continued writing.

If anyone were without sin? Well, that would be the Pharisees. They obsessed over God’s law and the hundreds of manmade rules. They wouldn’t dare sin.

Then, I heard it. A dull thud. I looked up to see a man from our village, his stone lying on the ground. Several heartbeats later, another thud, followed by another. Soon, the only men holding stones were the Pharisees. As I’d feared.

But they weren’t looking at me. They were staring at the man still writing in the dirt. Their faces blazed with an intense hatred, the kind of hatred that kills. But whether he realized his own danger or not, the prophet seemed focused only on his writing.

I don’t know what those zealots were waiting for. They weren’t going to back away now. What chance did—

I jumped at the sound. Slowly, I lifted my eyes from the writing to discover the youngest looking Pharisee had dropped his stone. His eyes were on the patch of ground before his feet. Time slowed. And then, another stone fell to the ground.

After what felt like several minutes, the last stone still remained tight in the hand of the head Pharisee, the one who’d done all the talking. My eyes locked on that hand, its veins bulging, its knuckles white. And then, as if in slow motion, the fingers relaxed and opened. The stone rolled free and slowly tumbled through the air, raising a tiny cloud of dust as it hit the ground. The early morning sun glistened off the dust as it drifted back down.

The mob silently broke up, with the village hypocrites’ guild leaving first. The Pharisees hesitated. Then, they too shuffled out of the square.

When the last one rounded the corner of the synagogue and disappeared, the man at my feet lifted his head, looked up to me, and smiled. I felt that smile, so warm and full of kindness.

He glanced around the square and brushed his hands together as he stood. “Woman, where are they? Is there no one who condemns you?”

“No one.” My voice trembled.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I collapsed to the ground as tears poured down my dusty face. “Sir!” It came out as a hoarse whisper. “Why?”

Kneeling down, he cupped my chin in his hand and lifted until my eyes met his. “Please, call me Yeshua.”

He took my hands, lifted me to my feet, and folded his arms around me in a warm hug. I nearly collapsed again, but he held me steady. And then I realized something. He touched me! This man, more righteous than all those religious leaders, more godly than all the rest, had touched me. An adulterous woman like me and he didn’t seem afraid my sins might make him unclean.

“Sir. I mean, Yeshua,” my voice still trembling, “why do you forgive me? Why are you so kind?”

“Because of love. I live by a higher level of love, God’s love. By his love, God keeps no record of wrongs. Neither do I.”

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Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), and see what you think. And if you’d like, the book is currently priced as low as Amazon will allow, but only until this Sunday, as the price will increase starting Monday, April 27.


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The Question Is…

How do you feel about forgiveness? Is it hard for you too? Is it hard for you to forgive other people? What about yourself – is it hard to forgive your own mistakes? For me, my mistakes can ruin a good day.

Okay, now what about God? How do you feel about His forgiveness of your sins? Do you believe all your sins will be forgiven? Well, all the mistakes you’ve ever made have already been forgiven by God. God’s forgiveness is immediate and unconditional.

So the real question is not about what God’s reaction will be when we make mistakes (His reaction is a given), but what will our reaction be? Knowing about God’s forgiveness is one step; accepting it is a bigger step. That’s where faith comes in.

So let’s say you have the faith to accept God’s forgiveness of every mistake and sin that has infected your life – past and future. What will be your reaction to that vast amount of unconditional forgiveness? God hasn’t asked anything of you, except that you believe in and accept His unconditional gift. God accepts you just as you are. Will you accept Him, and His forgiveness? And by accepting, how will that make you feel? (Okay, I’m trying to lead you down a path to overwhelming gratitude. Please forgive my awkwardness.)

Oh, and when you accept God’s forgiveness, you’ll finally be able to forgive yourself, and others. Isn’t it a bit ironic that one of the biggest burdens in our life can be our lack of ability to forgive? God wants to free each of us of this burden.

Final thought: Our sins were forgiven a long time ago, by Jesus dying on that cross and paying the penalty for all sins. How do you feel about that? (Okay, looking for profound gratitude again.)

 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

 


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The Heaviest Load

A grudge is a heavy thing. You can sometimes recognize people who have been carrying a grudge for a long time – they look weary. But our natural human pride resists efforts to forgive. Pride likes to show off its bulging muscles by carrying heavy grudges all day.

Yet forgiveness comes from humility, the enemy of pride. And humility, not being a natural human trait, comes from outside ourselves. True humility is the humility of the Spirit of Jesus, shinning out from within you. It’s not your humility people would see, but His. And maybe Jesus’ humility can spill out of you and shine on those around you – those who carry heavy grudges. Maybe His humility can lighten their load.

Is there someone in your life who cannot forgive you for something you did or said? I wonder how heavy their grudge is. Do they look weary to you? For anyone who cannot forgive you, consider for a moment the weight of the un-forgiveness they carry.

And if you like, please share you thoughts on this in the comments below. Thanks


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The Last Guilty Man

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, am the last guilty man. For I became guilty of the sins of all humanity. I carried the burden of all sins through the streets of old Jerusalem and up that hill, where I paid the final penalty… the death sentence for my guilt.

Guilt died with me. There is no more guilt. It was my guilt that set you free of your guilt. I am the last guilty man. This is the truth.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

 

 

(Originally posted on Dec. 4, 2015)


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Thank You

I’m a sinner.

It’s who I am.

I try not to, but fail.

Just a typical, weak human being – that’s me.

But He forgives me.

And more than forgive, He picked up the penalties for my sins and carried that burden Himself…

… all the way to the cross.

Dear Jesus, you paid my debts.

And left me free.

And I’m so grateful.


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The Spirit Speaks – of the Death of Sin

Sins dead

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, died on the cross because of sin. Yet my death was also the death of sin, all sin. The sins of all humanity were nailed to that torturous cross with me. So when I died, your sins died too.

If you accept this truth for your life, then in God’s eyes, it’s as if you have never sinned. This is how God’s forgiveness of your sins works. With God, forgiveness is truly forgetting. Oh, I know you still sin – it’s part of your human nature. But when you accept the truth of the death of your sins with me on that cross, the sins you commit today are dead as they happen… stillborn. They have no power over your soul.

That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sin. If you truly love me, would you want to sin? Oh, but that’s a question for another day. For today, please be at peace with yourself, knowing that your sins are dead… powerless. And feel the power that comes from me living within you.

Now let’s go have a great day together. Show me your life, include me in your conversations with your friends, feel my presence with you as you go about your day. Forget about sin for a while.

And remember what God said… “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)


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The Spirit Speaks – of Freedom from the Past

Past

Some of God’s children carry around a heavy burden… their past. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, weep over the children who cannot let go of painful memories. They believe God will not forgive their past. So their memories become a barrier between them and me. They cannot let me in because they believe they are just not good enough… because of their past.

Is your past a burden for you? Please, open your mind and hear this truth: your past is no longer real. It’s like a vapor, blown away by the winds of time. It’s gone. The only time that is real is now. That’s the time that matters.

And please accept that God’s love is not conditional; He does not judge His children as being “good enough” for His love. There is no favoritism with Him. He’s not that kind of parent. God loves all His children equally because your behavior cannot influence His love. God’s love forgives, and God’s love forgets… your past.

Please, if your past weighs heavy on your heart, let go of it. And as it turns to vapor and drifts away, I can enter in.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

“He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:9)


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Welcomed Home… Every Time

prodigal son

Here I sit in my man-cave office – actually, mixture of storage room, cluttered desk, and dust. But it’s my quiet space, isolated from distractions, where I have some of my best one-on-one time with God. This morning is like every morning… coffee in hand and God on my mind, and in my heart. Today I look back over my shoulder at yesterday.

Reflection… looking back I see that yesterday was like most days. More than once, I turned my back on God and abandoned Him. It may seem like nothing, just a typical reaction to life. Like getting consumed by a project at work and venting a bit of frustration at a co-worker. But in that moment, I can’t see God, for my back is to Him.

Yet every time I turn around, there He is. And like the father of the prodigal son, God does more than patiently wait for me to come back to Him. As soon as He sees me turn around, He runs to me, wraps His arms around me, and welcomes me home. Every time. Such is His love for all of us. And I’m so grateful.


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Happy Birthday Dad

happy birthday

As I sat in front of my computer this morning, with coffee in hand, I looked at the date on the bottom-right of the monitor and remembered that today is my dad’s birthday. He died almost two years ago. Some tears quickly came to my eyes. Not many, just one tear actually. I didn’t cry the day he died, or since, until this morning. The tear surprised me.

I felt I should pray for dad, though at first I didn’t know what to pray for. I don’t know where he was in his relationship with Jesus, so I asked God to show him some mercy – that’s always a good prayer. Then my mind went back to the tear. Why was it so hard for me to feel emotion over my dad’s death? Look, he wasn’t a great dad, but he was my dad, and though I believe I’ve forgiven him for past hurts, my emotions just don’t reflect forgiveness.

Then I think God dropped this message into my mind: “If you want Me to show your dad mercy, won’t don’t you show Him mercy? Let go of the pain that’s holding back the tears. There is love behind the damned up tears. Let it all flow.”

I love how God sometimes steps into the middle of my thoughts and shakes me up a bit. Though my dad was only human, with normal human flaws, my heavenly Dad fills in all the empty places… with His love. And I’m so grateful.

Happy Birthday dad.


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Wounded, but Healing

wounds healed

The Facebook group For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing, has me thinking about my wounds lately. What do my scars look like?

Up to my mid-thirties, I believed what most churches had been telling me, that I had to earn my way into heaven with good behavior. For some reason, this turned me off from Christianity. I don’t know why.

Then, someone gave me a book by Billy Graham. I don’t remember who gave me the book. I don’t remember the title of the book. I think I long ago lost the book. But for the first time in my life I read something in that book that shocked me. Billy Graham told me WHY Jesus died on the cross. Billy told me that Jesus paid the price for all my bad behavior. Billy told me that I didn’t have to earn my way into heaven – all I had to do was believe in the truth of what Jesus did for me, and accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers me.

This truly shocked me. It was in direct conflict with all I had heard up to that point in my life. Salvation isn’t a reward for good behavior, but rather a gift, generously offered to all who have the faith to simply accept it.

I still remember that feeling of shock. It was then that my wounds started to heal.


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“Sorry” from the Holy Spirit within

Im sorry

“I’m sorry.” It’s maybe not too difficult to say, but often very hard to sincerely mean. There have been times when I’ve been able to force it out of my mouth, but something leaves a bitter feeling in my heart. I believe that’s the insincerity of my apology, irritating me like an itchy scab.

I came across a good blog post this morning about the difficulties some of us have with sincerely apologizing to God for our sins… repentance. (see it here). Why is it hard for Christians to sincerely repent?

For me, it takes true humility to admit our mistakes and repent, or tell a friend we are sorry. That’s why repentance is so difficult, because humility is not part of our prideful human nature. I believe the remedy for our lack of repentance is to focus our attention on the Holy Spirit, rather than on “self.” And if we can muster enough humility to let the Spirit into our lives, He will show us the path to true humility… and true repentance.

Yet, we shouldn’t stress about our lack of repentance. We should instead focus on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He will then lead us to repentance.


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Forgiveness or Misery

scale

It takes humility to really forgive, to take your eyes off your SELF long enough to waive goodbye to the hurt. I found myself thinking about forgiveness yesterday – don’t know why. I guess I was just struck with the thought that everyone needs forgiveness of something. And it seems like there’s not enough humility to counter the hurtful acts needing forgiveness.

Then this new thought crashed into my Sunday-slumbering mind: humanity, by our sinful and prideful human nature, is all messed up. It’s just part of who we are. Therefore, by our nature, we will all hurt others, intentionally or not. And we will all create a need for forgiveness.

Then this thought hit me: for those who cannot learn to forgive others, they are doomed to a life of unforgiving misery, for there will ALWAYS be hurt needing forgiveness.

Maybe look at it this way: visualize an old-fashioned scale with the cross-arm and a bowl hanging off each end. In one bowl are all the hurtful acts that need forgiveness. In the other bowl is our capacity to forgive. The hurtful bowl is overflowing – again, it’s just who we are as humans. The forgiveness bowl is often nearly empty. Our life is out of balance, unless we are able to increase our capacity to forgive.

God can give us that capacity, if we desire. God can show us the futility of holding a grudge, since humanity will always create hurt. God can bring balance to our life.


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Healing the Pain of Sexual Abuse

healing the pain of sexual abuse

My first stepfather sexually abused me when I was 7 years old. A typical situation, I suppose – he threatened harm if I told anyone. Fortunately, there were other problems with the marriage, and my mom divorced him after only a year together. But we all had scars from that experience.

My scars fed my strong desire for revenge. As I grew older and came to understand what he had done to me, I grew angrier. In my late teens, I fantasized about running into him someday. I planned each move, the first being a fully energized kick square in the source of my suffering, sending him to his knees. There were times when I even dreamed of killing him. The hate was strong and painful.

About 20 years later, I met Jesus Christ and He started teaching me about love and forgiveness. It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson, but I finally let go of the hate. I wholeheartedly forgive my stepfather. I feel sorry for him, for he was a very troubled person. And I’m now free of my own troubles – free from the pain of hate and memories, freed by forgiveness. Thanks to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.


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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.

 


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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.

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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.


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How to really live by first committing suicide

So is it possible to commit suicide, but have the outcome not be death, but rather a better life? Please bear with me on this one, though the premise may sound kind of wacko. To get to my point today, I first need to back-track to something I wrote yesterday (see it here).

“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:7-9)

As I mentioned yesterday, I do not believe Jesus intended for us to take Him literally, simply because the actions He proposes will not fix the true root cause of the problem. Sin does not originate in our eyes or hands; it originates in our heart and mind. Okay, so am I supposed to cut out my heart or brain, and thereby quite effectively bring an end to my sin, as well as my life? Did Jesus intend for us to commit suicide?

These questions bring me to today’s point, which is: I think Jesus is telling us to “spiritually” (not physically) cut out our sinful heart and sinful mind. Check out what else Jesus said, that I believe is relevant:

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

What does it mean to you, to “deny yourself?” To me it means to turn my back on my sinful self, to not allow my sinful self to have sway over my life, to starve my sinful self of attention until it becomes so weak that in effect, it dies. Suicide of my sinful self; that’s what I believe Jesus is asking of me.

Another way to look at it was expressed by Paul, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6)

If you believe, your old sinful self has been nailed to the cross; crucified in the body of Jesus. He took your sinful self upon Himself, and along with Him, your old self died on the cross. If you believe.

And if you believe, then you are no longer a slave to sin. Did you realize that you once were, or maybe still are, a slave? That’s not life, that’s not living. Just ask someone who feels like they’re a slave to their job. But you can have yourself freed from slavery; just believe and Jesus will free you. And then you can begin to truly live.

Death to your old self, then a new life for your new self; this is what it means to be “re-born,” this is what it means to really live.

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What do you think about all of this? If you’re interested, you can read about Paul’s experience in trying to deal with his sinful self in his letter to the Romans:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-25)

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)

Amen.


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Excommunication – getting kicked out of the country club

“The Vatican insisted that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding females from the priesthood as it issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated.” I’ve quoted this statement before, from an article that appeared in my local newspaper (see “Ban on Women Priests“). Today I want to look at this idea of excommunication.

Does the Catholic Church consider their denomination exclusive? Break their roles and you’re out; is that it? Look, this is how I see it: the Grand Imperial Masters of the Catholic Club have little tolerance for those who break their rules. Break a rule, and you’re out of the country club.

But how I see it doesn’t matter, especially since I tend to be biased and sometimes un-graceful (I never said I was flawless, and please forgive me for any harsh sounding remarks). What matters is how does Jesus look at this issue of excommunication? What does He think about this practice of kicking people out who don’t follow the rules? What might He say to the Catholic Church?

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7) I’m not saying those who break the rules are always innocent, but I believe Jesus is telling us to be merciful.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13) Yes, to me many modern day churches resemble Pharisees, in that it sometimes seems their “traditions” are more important than God’s laws and His direction for our lives.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners? And I wonder, does God consider it a sin if a woman becomes a priest?

Even Paul has something to say, “Take special note of those who do not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as fellow believers.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

And here is a message for anyone who finds themselves kicked out of the club:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4)


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ALL Sins are Forgiven!

Mary, being raised Catholic, was taught that there are different levels of sinning, and that some sins are not forgiven. Mary attended a small Bible study group I was part of, and she once made a statement that sounded like a mixture of assertion and question. It went something like this, “God doesn’t forgive all sins… right?” Mary had left the Catholic Church, and maybe she was inwardly hoping for an answer different from what she had been taught.

Now, I really don’t know much about the Catholic hierarchy of sins, but I do know what Jesus had to say on the subject…

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, … Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (aka, Jesus) will be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

Jesus doesn’t seem to exclude much, when defining for us which sins are forgiven. I wonder; what part of “every” does the Catholic Church not understand?


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Getting Back to Jesus

In the name of Christianity, don’t we often get involved in issues that actually serve to distract us from what is most important; Jesus Christ? For example, take a look at the three newspaper articles that have been the source of several posts I’ve written over the past couple of weeks. For the last time I will refer to the articles about the Rev. Jane Spahr, who defies the Presbyterian Church and conducts same-sex marriage ceremonies.

To the casual reader of the articles, the Presbyterian Church and Rev. Spahr have no concern for Jesus, God and the Bible. Instead their only concerns are “Presbyterian law” and personal principles. My concerns about this perception can be found in the following collection of past posts:

May 19: “What About God’s Opinion

May 20: “Eternally Condemned – Preaching a False Gospel

May 21: “A Church Divided

May 24: “Dangerous Thinking

May 26: “Whom do You Choose to Obey?

May 29: “Expecting God to Change

In our own personal religious journey’s, who should we look up to? Who should we take advice and guidance from? Pastors? The “church?” Or Jesus, and only Jesus? What advice might Jesus have for us; we who are so frequently distracted by “issues” and misguided notions?

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a)

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)

“But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.'” (Acts 4:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14)

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’” (John 8:31)

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

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


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Are You Good Enough for Communion?

“New York Cardinal Edward Egan says Rudy Giuliani should not have received Holy Communion during the pope’s visit because he supports abortion rights.” So said the three paragraph blurb in the national section of my local newspaper. Apparently the cardinal and Giuliani had “an understanding”, that Giuliani was no longer to receive communion because of his views. What would Jesus say to this?

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) I see no conditions, except for the condition to remember Jesus as we take communion.

Look at what else Paul said to the Corinthians, who perhaps had personal problems far surpassing those of Mr. Giuliani: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28 ) Did Paul say we need approval from the church before partaking in communion? “A man ought to examine himself…” Whether or not an individual is worthy of taking communion is strictly something between themselves and God, or so it seems to me.

Yet maybe I’m misunderstanding the motives of the Catholic Church. Maybe the issue for them is that Mr. Giuliani has in effect sinned against them, by having views different from the views of the church. Immediately following Jesus’ instructions on how to pray to God, where He told us to ask for forgiveness, “…as we forgive our debtors”, He added: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Or, if the church contests that supporting abortion rights is a sin in God’s eyes, and if those who sin should not take Holy Communion within the Catholic church, then the line up to the alter would be short indeed. “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one'” (Romans 3:10) Again in Galatians 3:22, “But the scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.” If none are without sin, who can take communion?

Yet thanks to the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. But are the actions of the Catholic Church implying that Jesus’ atoning death on the cross did not provide for the forgiveness of our sins? Was Jesus’ death for nothing? I don’t believe it. Yet the important thing is: what do you believe?

We are forgiven and there is nothing between us and communion, except maybe the Catholic Church. It’s not your sin Rudy that comes between you and communion with Jesus Christ; it’s the church. Step around the church and embrace your Lord. If he had “examined himself” and found himself worthy, then I applaud Mr. Giuliani for doing what was right, in Gods eyes.