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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“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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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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Scary Christians

scary Christians

I’ve commented on a couple of blogs recently, where the topic was Christians who scare others away from Christianity by their behavior – judgmental, hypocritical, arrogant, etc. I agree that the biggest hindrance to Christianity is Christians. And I relate to something Ghandi once said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ.” Yet the truth is, none of us is like Christ. Some get close, but none lives the completely humble and love-filled life Jesus lived.

I can be quick to criticize ugly Christians. But that just brings me closer to their level. And the truth is, we are all broken humans, with a human nature that is so unlike Christ. For our nature is filled with pride and selfishness, some more full of themselves than others. But it’s who we are as humans. For me to criticize ugly Christians is hypocrisy.

Might an ugly Christian be a sign that the person doesn’t know Jesus very well? Could be. But who am I to judge?

By the way, most Christians I know are not very scary. Except maybe for my friend who is a Third Day* groupie, chasing their concerts all over the country. Happy Birthday dawg.

*Third Day = Christian rock band

(btw, my Third Day groupie friend isn’t scary in the context mentioned in this post. His friends just like to tease him because of his obsession.)


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Creepy Christians?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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What is love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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