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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Catholic vs. Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Baptist vs. Presbyterian

[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]

comparing churches

My friend had just been to a potluck dinner, the house filled with good food and great friends. Everyone attended the same church. As the evening progressed, little discussion groups started forming. As my friend later told me, the discussions in each group all followed a similar theme.

One group was comparing Roman Catholicism to Anglican Catholicism. The second group was comparing Catholicism to Protestantism. The third group was comparing the Baptist Church to the Presbyterian Church. Heavy stuff, especially compared to things I usually talk about at a dinner party.

Each discussion was comparing different forms of the Christian Church. But no one was talking about the real Church. No one was talking about Jesus. No one was talking about the Spirit of Jesus living within those who believe. That’s the real Church… the Holy Spirit within you. And no one was talking about that.

My reaction is sadness. I think Jesus and His true Church deserve more attention. Am I making too big a deal out of this? Maybe. What do you think?


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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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What About God’s Opinion?

Far too often, I encounter examples of people placing their opinions, principles and beliefs above those of God. In fact, we all are prone to placing ourselves above God, simply by ignoring His direction for our lives and following our own desires, as if we know better than He does about what’s best for our lives. So today, I will begin a 7-part series of posts, focusing on a series of articles recently published in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat newspaper, about the Rev. Jane Spahr, a retired Presbyterian pastor, who has chosen to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

As stated in the first of the articles, “To the Rev. Jane Spahr, the right of a Presbyterian Church minister to marry same-sex couples is a matter of principle and conscience. To her critics, Spahr … simply broke the law that governs the Presbyterian Church.” In addition, “Spahr … said the case is about the well-being of gays and lesbians, as well as her own principles.” (Press Democrat, 4/22/08 )

We know Spahr’s position, and we know the churches position. On both sides there doesn’t seem to be a care about God’s position. I may be way out of line here, since I’m basing what I write only on what I have seen in three newspaper articles. News articles are not always factual, plus there are likely scores of other quotes that may show a care for God’s opinion. However, my main concern here, as it is in most of what I write about, is what the public sees. For most of us, all we see is what makes it in the paper; and with that said I forge ahead.

What about God’s opinion in the matter? What about Jesus and the principles He taught? What might Jesus have to say about His apparent absence from the discussion? What might Jesus say about God’s opinion not being acknowledged? “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 )

What might Jesus say about those on both sides of the issue, who seem to speak on their own, without relying on God’s words? “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:17-18 )

Jesus even gave us advice for the principles we should preach; the best advice He could give, by being a living example. “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28 ) “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10) Paul also led by example: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) To Paul, his personal principles were not relevant; all that mattered was God. The humility exhibited by Paul appears to be lacking in the Spahr situation.

Why do people like Rev. Spahr preach something other than what is taught in the Bible? Maybe it’s as John stated in his gospel, “…for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43) Are we called to love praise from others? “Jesus replied: ‘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 ) Again, God does not ask us to seek praise for ourselves, but instead to seek God with all who we are.

Jesus’ final words to the Presbyterian Church and Rev. Spahr might be: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33) I invite all who read this to recognize the errors in the thinking of Spahr and the Presbyterian Church, and to look to their own motivations. Do you have in mind the concerns of God, or merely your own concerns?