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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Same-sex Marriage – Allowed by God

Supreme court gay marriage

My opinion about same-sex marriage has no meaning and doesn’t matter. But since I’ve posted some thoughts that attracted a little attention (see it here), I feel the need to add some clarification about my beliefs and opinion.

First: God’s opinion is what counts in my life, far more than my opinion. And God’s opinion is that same-sex marriage, and homosexuality, is wrong. Just like all sins. In God’s eyes, the only difference between a homosexual and me is the nature of our sins.

Second: no matter what God thinks about homosexuality as a life style, He still loves homosexuals as people. Just like all sinners.

Third: just because God loves homosexuals, doesn’t mean that God will save homosexuals and bring them to heaven in the end. Like all us sinners, salvation requires we have true faith in God and Jesus and that we repent of our sins (i.e., express sincere sorrow for our sins and ask for forgiveness). And homosexuals have the same ability to have faith and repent as I do. For just because we believe and repent does not mean that we magically stop sinning. My life is proof of that.

Finally: regarding the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, though I don’t think it is the Supreme Court’s responsibility to make such decisions, I also don’t think it’s any of our responsibilities to deny freedom of choice. God has given us all the freedom to make our own decisions about how we will live our lives. If someone decides that they are in their heart a homosexual, and they fall in love with someone of the same sex and, like most people truly in love, they want to get married – well, I don’t think any of us other sinners have the right to take that freedom of choice away from them.

Yet again, though God gives us freedom of choice, allowing for things like same-sex marriage, He still does not condone such acts. This tells us a lot about God – our compassionate and understanding parent.


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God Loves Homosexuals

The Bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality as a life style – God despises all sins, including homosexuality. Yet the Bible also makes it abundantly clear what God thinks of sinners. Though God despises sin, He loves sinners… as His children. Though God despises homosexuality as a life style, God loves homosexuals… as His children.

Look, I’m a sinner. I happen not to be homosexual, but I have plenty of other sins that I seem to daily re-visit. These sins are just part of who I am as a person. But my sinful personal nature does not affect God’s love for me. Even in the midst of my sinning, God loves me just as I am.

Are you homosexual? God loves you just as you are. The pain comes from too many of us focusing all our attention on the sin, and forgetting about the love. Let’s all hold onto God’s love, a love that heals all pain.


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Episcopal Church wants a divorce…

… from Jesus Christ. “The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to open the door to consecrate more bishops who are openly gay.” So says the opening statement of a New York Times article that was reprinted in my local newspaper on July 15th. This vote took place at the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. This is perhaps not big news to you, but I wish to dwell on the implications.

First I would like to comment on several of the more choice statements that appear in the Times article, along with a follow-up article that was published two days later.

To begin, many convention delegates, “… note that the church has hundreds of openly gay laypeople, priests and deacons, and that its democratic decision-making structures are charged with deciding who merits ordination.” So they are saying, the majority rules, but what Jesus says doesn’t matter. I would like to think that Jesus’ vote counts for something.

Choice statement #2: “It’s an attempt to deepen relationships with the rest of the communion, because real relationships are built on authenticity.” What about being authentic with Jesus? Maybe because the Episcopal church doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, authenticity with Him doesn’t matter.

Choice statement #3: “But some at the convention warned that the Episcopal Church could pay a price for snubbing its international partners.” What about the price for snubbing Jesus?

Choice statement #4: “‘It is time for our church to be liberated from the hypocrisy under which it has been laboring,’ Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Ky., told his fellow bishops on Tuesday.”  Indeed! Like the hypocrisy of calling themselves “Christian” when they refuse to even acknowledge Jesus Christ.

Choice statement #5: In interviewing a particular convention delegate, the article states, “… he said he believes that the church can grow by emphasizing ‘inclusivity,’ the favorite buzzword of Episcopalians.” I’d like to propose a new buzzword for them: “Jesus”. They seem to have forgotten that one.

Choice statement #6: Referring to many of the attending bishops, “Above all, they are concerned that the Episcopal Church has jeopardized its place in the Anglican Communion, the international network of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.” What about being concerned about jeopardizing their place with Jesus?

And finally: “To theological conservatives, these are signs of a church that will ultimately collapse because it has sold its soul to secular political causes.” What a sad statement, but apparently all too true.

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Yet, what is the official documented position of the Episcopal Church? Since newspaper articles can sometimes contain errors, I went in search of an authorized statement. Resolution DO25 defines the issues that were voted on and approved. You can check it out for yourself (find it here), and you will find that there is no mention of Jesus Christ. It appears to boil down to their buzzword, “inclusivity.” That word is more important to them than Jesus’ word. To me, no mention of Jesus is proof they no longer care about Him.

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I suppose you could say there is nothing overtly wrong with the Episcopal church failing to make any mention of Jesus. I don’t think I buy that, but now I want to look at the issue that was voted upon, the ordination of gay bishops.

It’s widely known that Jesus did not directly say that homosexuality is a sin. But look at His definition of marriage:

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 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.” (Mark 10:6-9)

Marriage, being exclusively between a man and a woman, at least hints at Jesus’ view of homosexuality.

However, the rest of the bible is clear. For example, Paul succinctly states that, like many other common lifestyles, homosexuality is indeed a sin:

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Therefore, in God’s eyes a homosexual is no different from me. I happen to be heterosexual, but I am also a sinner. In God’s eyes, the only difference between a gay person and me is the nature of our sins. Some of our sins are different, some we may share.

But the real difference between a gay Episcopal bishop and me, is our personal response to our individual sins. I repent, they don’t. I acknowledge which behaviors of mine are sinful, and I constantly ask God for help in changing my ways. The gay Episcopal bishops see nothing wrong with their behavior, as evidenced by the fact that they deny homosexuality is a sin.

Looking back at the verses from 1 Corinthians above, in the behaviors of those who will not “inherit the kingdom of God;” I’m in there, along with the homosexual bishop. But, because I continually strive to repent and change my ways, “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The singularly principal theme of the New Testament is this: have faith and repent of your sins, and you will be forgiven. By looking at the Episcopal church and their recent decisions, it’s safe to say there is no repentance. And based on the apparent absence of Jesus Christ in the Episcopal church, I would also say there is no faith.

So what’s my bottom line here? The Episcopal church has “sold their soul to secular political causes.” They have divorced themselves from their founder Jesus Christ, so they can marry anyone they choose. They are no more “Christian” than a Buddhist or Muslim.


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It doesn’t matter what California says, re: same-sex marriage

As I write this, the outcome may be inevitable, though the polls have yet to close. The votes for California proposition 8 are being cast, and the numbers against it may have already surpassed the threshold. But whatever the final outcome, it doesn’t matter. California may change their definition of marriage (if that’s how the votes tally), but they cannot change Gods definition.

I’ve made my decision and mailed in my ballot. The only other decision remaining to me is this: if the vote goes against Prop 8, which definition of marriage will I choose to honor, Gods or California’s.

As Peter boldly proclaimed when brought before the judges of his day, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19) I choose God.


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One final word about same-sex marriage – Calif. Prop. 8

God defined marriage…

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “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’?” (Matthew 19:4-5)

Who are we to think we can change what God has established? Same-sex couples in California already have the same civil rights as married couples. But apparently that’s not enough. I’m not gay, but I am sympathetic. If I were deeply in love with someone of my own sex, I too would want to marry them. But that doesn’t make it right.

It’s never right to think we can overrule God. But tomorrow we will find out just how arrogant California really is.


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Same-sex marriage – tearing churches apart

Chatting with a couple of friends over coffee the other morning, they both mentioned how their churches are being torn apart by California Proposition 8 (ban on same-sex marriage). Both of their churches are formally taking a stand for Prop. 8 – against same-sex marriage. The outcome is a mini-exodus of members. Some who are advocates of same-sex marriage have apparently decided they cannot remain in a church that disagrees with them. Presumably, and hopefully, they will find another church they can live with.

I wonder; is God using this effect of Proposition 8 to separate the sheep from the goats? The sheep being those who are willing to humbly accept what God teaches us. The goats, by their pride and arrogance, are unwilling to accept God on His terms. They can only accept God on their terms. If God won’t accept their terms, they leave. Yet I hope they come back again.

The general mess that’s illustrated by this example of the effect of Proposition 8 is that we human beings are not always willing to accept God on His terms. Yet how many people are you willing to accept, even when you disagree with them on significant issues? It’s considered a virtue to be accepting of others. Should we be accepting of people, yet not accepting of God? Should I welcome a gay friend into my home even though I consider homosexuality a sin, yet not accept God because I disagree with Him about the fate of sinners (for example)?

Fundamental Christians are often labeled as intolerant; not willing to accept people who are different from themselves. Well, that sounds a lot like the same-sex marriage advocates who leave churches that disagree with them. But look at the difference: a fundamentalist Christian may be unwilling to accept the ways of other people, while the same-sex advocates are unwilling to accept the ways of God.

Now I could also add that some fundamentalist Christians, by their behavior, clearly illustrate that they too are not willing to accept the ways of God. You see this in their bigoted and hateful response to those who don’t stand up to their criteria. This is not the way of God, who showed us a way of love, not of hate.

But the bottom line of all my blabbering is this: we tend to be willing to accept other people on their terms, but many of us are not as willing to accept God on His terms. Our top priority relationship should be with God.

I pray for the goats, that they may find their way back to the truth of God, on His terms.

For some related thoughts on Proposition 8, please see the following post: “Putting Words in God’s Mouth – talking same-sex marriage”


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Putting Words in God’s Mouth – talking same-sex marriage

Many opponents of California’s Proposition 8 (ban on same-sex marriage) try to use the bible to present their case, claiming that God and Jesus actually support same-sex marriage, or at least that they aren’t against it. Note my emphasis of the phrase “use the bible.”

I’m not going to try and convince you that God and Jesus are against same-sex marriage. God did a perfectly good job of that already, as is recorded in His book. If you are a Christian and you also believe same-sex marriage is a good thing; well, your personal beliefs are just that, personal. I’m not going to argue with you.

After all, none of us are “perfect” Christians in that we usually have a hard time accepting everything that God and Jesus tell us in the bible. For example, I have a hard time accepting that people I dearly love, who do not know God and Jesus, will likely not make it to heaven. But I still love God and Jesus with all my heart (my mind just gets in the way sometimes). I believe that someone else can love God and Jesus just as much or more, and yet still believe that same-sex marriage is a good thing.

But if you are such a same-sex believer, and if in your efforts to convince others that you are “right” in your belief, you choose to “use the bible,” my post today is for you.

If you are so sure that same-sex marriage is good and “right,” I wonder why you feel you need to rely on God’s word to make your case. After all, marriage as defined in this context is not a religious union, but a civil union. Everything I read from advocates of same-sex marriage centers on civil rights. So why bring religion into it? Could it be that in your heart you know that God does not approve, and therefore, by your ego you feel it’s necessary to make it look as if God does approve? Does your ego require that God agree with you? (Now there’s an absurd thought: is it more important that God agree with you, than you agreeing with God?)

If God doesn’t agree with you, the solution is not to distort His word. Just accept it as is, and accept the fact that you believe in something that is not accepted by God. This is not a message for advocates of same-sex marriages only; this is a message for all of us who may succumb to the temptation to tweak God’s word a bit.

My request to those who distort the bible in order to make a case for their personal beliefs is this: humbly accept that you are on your own in your beliefs. Accept that God does not agree with you. I’m not asking you to let go of your beliefs (though I suspect God is). But please, do not be so arrogant as to put your own words and beliefs into God’s mouth. Do not misquote God or spin what He has said. And ask for forgiveness for any times where you may have misrepresented His word; He’ll forgive you.


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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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Voting against God

“The Episcopal bishops of Los Angeles and the Bay Area are opposing a November ballot initiative to overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.” In fewer words, these Episcopal bishops are for same-sex marriage, (according to the article in yesterday’s newspaper, where I found this quote).

The same old story, but it got me thinking about this issue in a different way. Yet I’m not talking about the same-sex marriage issue; I’m talking about the issue of being for something that God is against. Because my purpose in today’s post is not to discuss God’s opinion of same-sex marriage, I would just like to say that I believe God is against such marriages, because Jesus said …

“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) Marriage is defined as being between a man and woman.

Yet if you wish to discuss your beliefs about same-sex marriage, please comment.

In the mean time, I will get to my point: I try not to be “against” anyone, including same-sex couples. I rather try to be against things, such as same-sex marriage. But in the end, I endeavor to be “for” obedience to God, and adherence to His word, the Bible. I find being “for” something feels more positive that being “against” anything, (call me silly if you will, but it’s how I like to look at things, though I’m not always successful).

Anyway, we are faced with decisions all day long; to be either for or against the issues that come our way. Some of these decisions are formalized, like in the California ballot initiative mentioned at the beginning of this post. In all cases, we have the responsibility to choose how we will vote; are we for, or against. And it is naturally implied that to be “for” an issue, means that you’re “against” the opposing side of the issue.

I submit to you now that those who are “for” legalization of same-sex marriage, are therefore “against” God. Yes, I consider the Episcopal bishops as being “against” God. As Jesus said…

“Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

It’s rather severe of me, wouldn’t you say, to proclaim supposed representatives of God as being against God. But they’re not alone. After all, they’re only human, and we all do it. We all take sides, every day, and for most issues that confront us, one side will be against the decisions of God.

Fortunately we are offered forgiveness. I can only hope that in being for things that put us against God, that we all will realize the true meaning of our actions and beliefs. If you believe in God, who created the universe and all things in it; do you really want to be against Him, in any way?


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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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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.


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Dangerous Thinking

Just because I have never actually told my children to not torture someone, doesn’t mean I’m for torture. I expect my children to think for themselves and take everything else I’ve taught them and apply it to all aspects of their life, whether or not I’ve given strict instructions about particular issues they may face. I believe God expects the same from His children.

Today I want to get back to the topic of the three newspaper articles I’ve already written about; the articles about the Presbyterian pastor, Jane Spahr, who chooses to conduct same-sex marriages, though the Presbyterian church has told her not to. In the second article in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat, dated April 26, 2008, Spahr’s attorney “said she argued Friday that since there is no ‘strict prohibition’ against performing same-gender marriages, no offense can be established.”

I believe the attorney was referring to the Presbyterian Book of Order, in claiming there was no “strict prohibition”. Yet since the newspaper article wasn’t clear, and since some of us would like to think that the Presbyterian Church actually takes it’s instruction from a higher book than the Book of Order, some might think the attorney was referring to the Bible. So for the sake of discussion, let’s say people like Jane Spahr and her attorney, believe the Bible has “no ‘strict prohibition’ against performing same-gender marriages.”

Though I’ve read the Bible several times from cover-to-cover, my memory is poor. So please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember ever reading about God telling us to not torture other people. And I don’t remember seeing instructions such as “thou shalt not sexually abuse your children.” So, those Catholic priests should all be let off the hook, right?

Also, I happen to be a degenerate; I like chains, whips and torture. So I’m going to come to your house, tie you up and have some fun with you. After all, I don’t see anything in the bible that strictly prohibits that kind of thing.

By the way, nothing in the previous paragraph is true – I’m just trying to get a point across. That point is this: we need to take ALL of what God has taught us and apply it to all aspect of our lives. We cannot just take pieces of God’s instruction. And another point, this time directed to the Presbyterian Church: the Book of Order is NOT the Bible, and should never be regarded as having anywhere near the same authority as the Bible!!! (just felt like throwing that one in)

Now I realize that I base this post on a quote from the attorney, not Spahr. Yet the attorney represents Spahr, and minister Spahr supposedly represents God. My concern is that some who have read the newspaper article might come to the dangerous conclusion I tried to illustrate above. Yet when people take the word of God as recorded in the bible, for granted; then they will indeed be lost in a quagmire of un-truth. And as you may know, I’m all about the truth; not my truth or your truth, but God’s truth, as recorded in the bible. And what is that truth?

“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.'” (1Corinthians 4:6)

Just for the record, the Bible does say something about homosexuality, a lot actually. Here is just one example: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Corinthians 6:9-10)

…but as Jesus would add, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

And… “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)


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A Church Divided

“The Presbyterian Church has been sharply divided over homosexuality, including the question of gay marriages, for more than 30 years.” My series on the controversy around same-sex marriages continues with this quote from the April 26 edition of the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat newspaper. As you may know by now, I am presenting a sequence of posts, focusing on three newspaper articles which told the tale of the latest battle of principles within the Presbyterian Church, with the Rev. Jane Spahr being in the center of the turmoil.

That brief extract from the short newspaper article conveys a very clear message; the Presbyterian Church is a church divided against itself. What does this tell us about Christianity and the relationship of fellow believers? To an outsider, Christians must look like a dysfunctional family. Is that the kind of image we really want to portray? Is that the kind of image that will entice others to join the family? Is that the kind of image Jesus wants us to put forth? Read His words and know the truth about how Jesus feels about relationships within His family.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matthew 12:25)

And Jesus prayed for His family, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) If we call ourselves Christian, yet do not truly love one another, doesn’t that provide outsiders with a false image of Christianity? However, if we indeed love each other, Christianity will stand out as truly different and attractive. Might this be partly why Jesus focused so much on the command of love?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14)

Not only Jesus, but His apostles also had a lot to say on the topic:

“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” (James 5:9)

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” (James 4:6)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Jesus must feel strongly about unity within His church. He provides not only His opinion, but also the solution – humility. A tall order for our egocentric race, yet something to pray about.

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11b)


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Eternally Condemned – Preaching a False Gospel

It’s amazing, the abundance of church leaders who seemingly ignore biblical warnings, when they are supposedly the people who know the most about the bible. I guess knowledge and wisdom don’t necessarily go together.

Today I present to you Part 2 of the 7-part series where I focus attention on the confusion around the issue of same-sex marriages. I draw my comments from a series of newspaper articles that recently appeared in the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat, about Presbyterian pastor Jane Spahr, who against the wishes of the Presbyterian governing body, conducts same-sex marriage ceremonies.

According to the 4/22/08 article, at one time a Presbyterian judicial commission which had jurisdiction, “ruled that Spahr had acted ‘within her right of conscience’ in performing same-sex marriages.” The church has since changed its tune and is now apparently not so accommodating. Yet Spahr states that she believes God supports her: “I believe that God has said yes and the church has said no in its judicial court.” (4/30/08 article) I cannot help but wonder where God says yes; I don’t see it in His written word.

My concern today is the responsibility of Christian leaders, such as Rev. Jane Spahr and the Presbyterian governing body. Christian leaders who call themselves ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, elders, deacons, whatever; they have the responsibility to represent Jesus Christ, which means they are obligated to stick to His word. When they change His word or add to His word, Jesus just might say something like what Paul told the Galatians in chapter 1 of his letter to them:

“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!” (Galatians 1:6-9)

Harsh words I know. And if they anger you, I choose more of Paul’s words: “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 1:10) To those who support same-sex marriage, are they doing it for themselves, for others, or for God?

Jesus foresaw people like Rev. Spahr: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) “… and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:11) Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.” (Luke 17:1)

What else might Jesus say to Rev. Spahr and others who choose to change His gospel to suit their own personal beliefs? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do what my Father in heaven wants will enter.” (Matthew 7:21) “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Yet with Jesus, there is always hope: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.” (John 5:24)


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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?